All posts in Useful tools

5 Astronaut Attributes To Propel Your Business To New Heights In 2014

 

Mathematically speaking you have a better chance of growing up and winning an olympic medal, and then getting away with murder than you have of becoming an astronaut – and that’s just to be accepted into a space program, not to actually explore the most hostile environment known to man, in what is essentially a tin can that has to return home safely in one piece.

The insurmountable odds astronauts constantly encounter during their career and their ability to somehow overcome them is truly remarkable, this is in part a testament to their unique character.

The exemplary character traits and attitude of the humble astronaut and the usefulness of adopting and applying these attributes to our daily business dealings, is something that has perhaps been underexplored by modern self-development literature. Read more…

Content overload and the rise of the aggregators

 

 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed folks but we’re facing a little bit of an epidemic. Content overload. There is more information than ever before and the rate at which this is being created is only gaining pace. According to ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt this is the scale of the problem we seem to be facing.

“Every two days, we create as much information as we did up to 2003.” –Eric Schmidt

Read more…

How to make your online portfolio stand out.

Whether you are a graphic designer, photographer or illustrator, creating an impressive online portfolio is essential to showcase your best work and get you hired. But with so many freelancers vying for attention online how do you make you and your work stand out? I’ve put together these simple tips to help you get your portfolio noticed:

Read more…

Learn the language of the Web: HTML

The web is made up of a diverse and complex array of programming languages that are always interacting with each other. To get anywhere on your path to mastering the web though, you’ll need to know Hypertext Markup Language or HTML as it is more commonly known.

From building your very first landing page though to developing a complex financial trading web application you need to have the basics nailed.

Woah, woah, woah I may hear from some of the less technical readers , ‘I’m not a programmer’, but don’t worry. I’ve compiled some of the resources and tips that I have used to learn the language of the web (I wasn’t born typing lines of code I promise).

These days it is easier than ever for you to learn how to code. You can go out and buy a fancy and expensive textbook if you like but there is such a vast array of knowledge on the subject of HTML on the web that all you really need is your browser. Your going to be spending a lot of time there anyway if your planning on learning to code. So here are the places you should check out for some of the best in tutorials, quizzes and everything you need for some HTML knowledge.

W3Schools



This is the first place I ever looked at when I decided I wanted to be able to start creating websites. I cannot recommend this website enough to you. It covers everything that a beginner would need in order to get up and coding pretty quickly. As well as laying out all the various HTML tags, for example <p>This is a paragraph</p>, the site also allows you to test your skills on the site and you can start to reverse engineer the code frameworks that have been laid out for you to see what different things do.

The website also has tutorials and run throughs of all the other web programming languages that you would ever need to use, just have a crack at the HTML first though.

Make sure to take a look at the site here.

Tizag

Tizag follows in a similar format to that of W3Schools but it does need a mention in this post as a great alternative. Again, it contains everything a beginner would need as well as other resources that aren’t provided by W3Schools.

There is a great resource on the website that allows you to practice coding your own website and hosts everything for you so that you can get programming right away. Their HTML viewer can be found here.

Look at other websites

You can learn a lot about how things work with HTML by simply looking at the source code behind a website.

Seeing a website in all its coded glory will show you the structure and formatting you should use whilst coding as well as seeing what you do and don’t know by seeing if you recognise the HTML tags on display.

This is where you’ll usually find the option to view it:

Then you should be seeing something like this:

Get practising!

Now all you need to do is start creating your own website, app or whatever you fancy once you’ve got some rudimentary knowledge under your belt. At this stage you don’t need to buy a domain, hosting or any of the more technical stuff; just a browser and a text editor.

To help with the markup of your HTML code I would recommend using jEdit, which is a free text editor that will help you distinguish between all the different tags and elements that your going to be writing. Just make sure to save the file with the extension .html so that it doesn’t just think your writing a note.

You really don’t need dreamweaver and the latest computer to get coding so get out there, get stuck in and enjoy learning something new!

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FREE online tools that can help your business fly

freeonlinetools1

On Friday I presented at the Technology for StartUp Britain event held at the new O2 store (with dedicated working space) on Tottenham Court Road. It was a day long session focusing on how businesses can “Harness the Power of Technology & Social Media.”

Here are some of the online tools that we think your business should be using:

  1. Woopra
  2. Knowem
  3. Social Mention
  4. Mailchimp
  5. MOO
  6. WordPress
  7. Theme Forest
  8. Dropbox
  9. Google Analytics

Woopra logo

Woopra

What is it?
It’s a real-time web traffic reporting tool. Imagine being able to see who is on your website at this very moment, where they are from, what they are looking at, etc.

Why is it so good?
Google Analytics gives you past data, which is of course extremely useful. Woopra is however real-time and perfect to monitor if you are launching a campaign or have a piece in the press landing. It is highly addictive so you have been warned.

Favourite feature
There is a built-in chat feature allowing you to open a chat window with visitors to your site. That isn’t to say you have to use it all of the time. We use it if someone spends a long time on our “how it works” page or tries to reset their password a few times.

Getting started
Woopra operate a freemium model so you can register and get started for free. You’ll then get a bit of code that you’ll need to add to every page of your website. It doesn’t clash with Google Analytics so you can have both.

knowem logo

Knowem

What is it?
It is a social media reservation tool that allows you to register your business username on sites such as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn etc all in one go.

Why is it so good?
You don’t need to trawl through lots of sites trying to find out if your ideal username is taken. It shows you availability across hundreds of channels on one page. Easy.

Getting started
Visit the site and enter the username you’d like to register. You can then pay them less than $100 to register everything for you or you can do it yourself by visiting the sites directly.

Social Mention logo

Social Mention

What is it?
It is a real-time social search and analysis tool.

Why is it so good?
You can basically search for any term you like and get a snapshot of what people are saying and who might be saying it. You can also see how influential those people are.

How we use it
Here are just of the few ways you might use it:

  • Test the water and see if there is a demand for your product or service. Before you even launch you can find potential customers and even get them involved in the early phases of your business. For instance if you wanted to launch a coffee shop in Brighton you can find the key influencers talking about coffee in that area and reach out to them.
  • Keeping an eye on what people are saying about you and your competitors. It is a great way of trawling through blogs and forums for mentions of your company. You can also use the Alert feature to do this too (which is very similar to Google Alerts).
  • Seeding with bloggers. You may notice through some research on Social Mention that there are 1 or 2 bloggers who are experts in your business area. This tool will help you identify them.

Getting started
Just visit the Social Mention website and have a play with the search terms.

Mailchimp Logo

Mailchimp

What is it?
MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results.

Why is it so good?
Even someone who has no knowledge of HTML or email campaigns can produce stunning campaigns that deliver great results. There are best practice guides, design templates and tutorials to guide you through the process. It is also all done online and with their apps you can access reports on the move.

Favourite feature
The reporting is incredible. Mailchimp gives you such rich and detailed information as well as tips to improve your next campaign. You also get benchmarked against industry standards and your previous campaigns so you really know where you stand.

Getting started
You can register and start using Mailchimp for free. Start by reading the best practice guides as they will give you the inspiration to get started.

MOO logo

Moo (not FREE, but extremely good value)

What is it?
Moo help you print stunning Business Cards, Stickers, Postcards and Mini Cards.

Why is it so good?
Their website is incredibly helpful, the design process is very easy and the end products are of such a high quality.

How we use it
We are Moo addicts. We have business cards, mini cards, stickers and postcards. The postcards were the latest things we printed. For about £20 we printed 20 x postcards that we sent out to people who helped us launch Concept Cupboard. They were extremely well received. So much so that Dan Martin from Business Zone wrote an article about them.

Getting started
Visit the Moo website and have some fun.

WordPress Logo

WordPress.com / WordPress.org

What is it?
WordPress is an open-source blogging platform that allows you to easily create your own blog and/or website. Due to its Content Management System you are abe to easily amend the content on the blog or site with little HTML knowledge.

Which one to use
WordPress.com – This version is hosted on WordPress servers which means it is very easy to get started and you don’t have to worry about the additional costs that come with hosting a blog. To begin with your blog would have a URL like businessname.wordpress.com, but you can change the URL to anything you like for about $50 a year. The downside of this approach is that you have a smaller number of plug-ins available to you. Plug-ins are like useful apps for your blog or website. There are also only so many themes to choose from, but it is a good starting point for someone looking to start a blog for the first time.

WordPress.org – This version requires your won hosting and doamin but gives you much more control and plenty more customisation options. There are hundreds of plug-ins to take advantage of and there are a huge number of themes you can adopt too. The downside with this approach is that you need a bit of HTML knowledge or need to work with someone who can get you set up. Some hosting providers do offer 1-click install which makes life a lot easier.

Getting started
Once you have decided which route to take visit the site to get started for free.

Theme Forest

Theme Forest

What is it?
An online marketplace selling a raft of stunning WordPress & HTML website templates. For around $35 (AUD) you can buy a template that you can base your business website on. Saving you lots of time and money.

Why is it so good?
It is incredibly good value and provides lots of choice.

Getting started
Visit the site and take a look at all of the templates available. The live preview options make it really easy to imagine how your site might look.

Dropbox Logo

Dropbox

What is it?
Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. This means that any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website.

Why is it so good?
Just imagine never having to use a USB stick again. Never forgetting an important file. Having a backup of all your important document.

Getting started
You can get a 2GB account for free plus an extra 250MB by visiting this link.

google Analytics logo

Google Analytics

What is it?
Most people know what Google Analytics is, but just in case you don’t – it’s a website analytics tool alowing you to track your website activity.

Why is it so good?
Not only does it provide you with an incredible amount of data about the people visiting your site, but it is very easy to set up and use. Plus it is completely free.

Favourite feature
The custom email reports you can set up are fantastic and a real time-saver. Spend a bit of time upfront creating your favourite reports and then have them sent at specified times. For instance I send myself a weekly detailed report. I also send the Concept Cupboard board a monthly report that shows how this month’s traffic compares to previous months.

Getting started
Set up a Gmail account. I’d recommend setting up a new one specifically for your business and then go to www.google.com/analytics/ and register. You’ll then get a bit of code that you’ll need to add to every page of your website.

Using tools like the ones mentioned above really can help you create a huge competitive advantage and in the current climate free resources should be leveraged as much as possible. It saves you money that you can spend on attracting new customers or improving your product or service.

We’ll be writing about more FREE online tools over the next few weeks so feel free to share any you think we should mention. Equally if you’ve used any of the tools above and have something to say (whether it is good or bad) then leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Must Listen Podcasts #1 : Creative

Podcast

Here at Concept Cupboard we’ve brought together some of our favourite podcasts covering design and creative. We’ve tried to provide a balance between the useful and entertaining so hopefully there is something for everyone in this list!

#1 – London’s Design Museum

An eclectic mix of content from interviews with creatives through to showcasing some of the very best in design. The best aspect of this podcast are the stories that are told by some very inspirational people and allow you to see the trail they took to where they find themselves today.

London’s Design Museum (iTunes)

#2 – InDesign Secrets

This rather upbeat blog brings (you guessed it) all things InDesign right to your ears. From general tips and tricks through to  covering some of the more obscure aspects of InDesign; this podcast can help you whether you’re a beginner or even a pro if you can get past their sometimes scatty broadcast. Their website is also worth a visit as well. (InDesign Website)

InDesign Secrets (iTunes)

#3 – Design Matters with Debbie Millman

Debbie plays host to a multitude of interviews with some of the best from industry-leading graphic designers, change agents, artists and writers. The show covers topics from the importance of branding through to  entrepreneurialism. Content from these discussions was informative and would even be of interest to those not from a creative background.

Design Matters (iTunes)

#4 – TED Talks (Various)

We always enjoy a TED talk here at Concept Cupboard but in terms of getting the most diverse and wide ranging of views and ideas on creativity you will struggle to find another resource that matches on this scale and quality. Follow this link through to their theme on ‘Design That Matters‘ to find a whole medley of video talks on the subject.

#5 – Cool Hunting (Video)

This video podcast series provides bite-size episodes featuring designers, artists and innovators that gives you the inside view of their processes and inspiration. Whilst brief, each podcast lasting no longer than 5 minutes usually, the quality of production and content is truly great.

Cool Hunting (iTunes)

Get Broadcasting!

Whilst most of these podcasts are featuring American designers and creatives maybe this is your opportunity to create you own British creative podcast! Get out there, get sharing and let us know if you decide to start up your very own creative podcast!

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