5 Simple Ways Your Site Can Be More User-Friendly

written by Georgia Schumacher 6 August 2014

Nowadays, how your website looks and performs is every bit as important as what it actually says. If your site is easy to navigate, with text that's easy to read and sharp images that load quickly, visitors are much more likely to hang around and partake in whatever it is you offer -- whether it be your art school portfolio, your resume, or a blog for your photography class. Keep reading for ideas on how to make your site as user-friendly as possible.

1. Keep it short and simple

Today's Internet users have an attention span that's one second shorter than that of your average goldfish (no joke!). If you want to get and keep their attention, you're going to have to keep your content short and sweet. There's still room for personality -- just keep in mind that the shorter the text on a given webpage, the more likely it is that somebody will actually read it.

2. Break it up

Internet users love content that's easy to scan -- so ditch the long, continuous blocks of text in favor of short paragraphs, with headings, subheadings and bullet or numbered lists to make the page scannable. Use white space on the page to set off key elements.

3. Keep it speedy

Multimedia is tops -- unless it slows your website's load time so much that your visitors get bored and click away. Remember: shorter attention span than a goldfish. Minimize your multimedia to maximize its impact -- try choosing and showcasing only the best of the best. Once you've selected your showpieces, compress the image and video files for faster loading.

4. Update regularly

Nothing sinks a user experience faster than broken links or out-of-date content. Check your site for broken links at least once a month (more if some links prove problematic), update your FAQs, and refresh seasonal or time-sensitive content in a timely manner.

5. Be mobile-friendly

A site that looks great on a desktop computer might be impossible to read or navigate on a smartphone or tablet. Optimizing your website for both mobile and desktop use is a sure way to drive more traffic your way, and keep the visitors happy once they're there.

There's no denying that an eye for art and design can help you design an attractive, user-friendly webpage (and attending art school can help you improve that already existing talent)-- but if you're stumped for ideas, all you really have to do is log out of your admin panel and browse the site as if you've never seen it before. Ask yourself the questions a first-time user might ask. If the answers aren't readily (and obviously) accessible, you've found a great place to start improving the overall user experience.

How to Choose the Right Typography for Your Next Project

written by Georgia Schumacher 18 July 2014

Typography

Choosing fonts for a project can be an overwhelming task if you don't know what look you're going for. Typography is just as important as a logo, so choose one that echoes your brand's personality. Here are some tips on how to choose the right font for your next project.

Define your style

Are you creating content for fashion, technology, or children? Your style will greatly depend on the subject matter of your content. For instance, if you're doing graphic design for a hip fashion marketing company, you may want to go with something bold and modern.

Choose professional fonts

There are many free resources for fonts on the web. It's very easy to download a few and make choices from there. However, only a few resources offer well-made fonts that are fit for professional use. Some sites that feature high-quality fonts are Fontsquirrel and Myfonts. You can also check out Google's Webfonts and Typekit for fonts intended for web-based projects.

Get opinions

Choose two fonts you are considering to use and create samples using both. Print them out and show them to friends, colleagues and anyone else whose opinion matters to you and ask which one they think looks best. Make sure you provide some basic information of the project you're using them for. Sometimes getting second, third and fourth opinions on a certain design can give you more insight and help you make a final decision.

Research

Look around for similar projects that have great exposure. Billboards, magazine ads and posters are great things to observe when gauging the appropriateness of certain typographical styles. Sticking with the fashion marketing example, find out what type of font what other fashion companies are using. What gets your attention? What fonts make sense when used with similar content?

Use licensed fonts

You may not be aware of it, but certain fonts are protected by copyright. Whether you plan to use a font for personal or commercial use, be sure that you are doing so without infringing on the creator's work. While some fonts may be free to use for personal use, there may be some restrictions on where and how they can be used professionally. To get more details, check out The Law on Fonts and Typefaces from Crowdspring.

Most importantly, choosing a font for your project is a personal journey. The typography you select should make a connection with you, your vision, and what you want to tell the world. While these tips can get you started, only you can decide where your font-hunting quest ends and your project begins.

Quit Procrastinating Today (Not Tomorrow)

written by Georgia Schumacher 16 July 2014

If you have 2 weeks to complete an important project, do you find yourself waiting until the last minute and pulling an all-nighter to finish it? Is your attitude, “Why do today what I can put off until tomorrow?” Sound familiar? You’re probably a procrastinator.

The problem with procrastination is that a rush job probably doesn't result in your best creative or technically sound work. You’ll enjoy your studies — and get much more out of them — if you quit procrastinating once and for all! Here are 4 time-management tips to help you fulfill your potential in any creative field, from game development to fashion marketing to web and graphic design.

1. Make a schedule and stick to it.

Taking courses online is like working from home: Self-discipline is critical to success. When you’re working from home or studying online, you don’t have peer pressure in your favor. Online students must motivate themselves. The easiest way to improve your time management skills is to make a schedule and follow it.

First, make a weekly schedule listing upcoming deadlines and due dates. Break each project into smaller components and commit to completing each by a certain date. Post this list in front of your computer screen so you’ll see it each day.

Next, make a daily schedule. Designate blocks of time during the day to crossing items from your list. Set an alarm. Make a commitment that, regardless of what the alarm interrupts, when you hear it you’ll stop what you’re doing and complete the task you assigned yourself.

2. Set achievable goals.

Failure won’t stop procrastination, it will perpetuate it. It may be overwhelming to read four chapters on game development techniques, but you can probably handle two. Trying to design an entire brochure in one sitting would be daunting, but tackling the cover of a brochure would be reasonable. Set goals you can meet so you can taste success. Success is motivation to continue a good habit.

3. Reward yourself.

Whether it’s working out, playing video games, or watching TV, it’s hard for procrastinators to resist activities they enjoy in favor of work. Instead, use whatever keeps you from school work to motivate you. When you prioritize work over play, you’ll be able to play without the guilt of unfinished projects weighing you down.

4. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Remember why you're taking classes. It’s probably because you to pursue a career—in game development, design, culinary fashion, photography, animation, or one of the many other exciting creative fields--that you love. Snap a picture of something that represents your end goal and tack it to your bulletin board as a reminder of why work should come before play.

The 5-Step Guide to Making Your Home Office a Creative Space

written by Georgia Schumacher 12 July 2014

Home office

Your home office should be more than a place of style and comfort. The right office can help you to harness your creativity and fully enjoy the fruits of your mind. Following these easy and effective suggestions will let you tap into your inner creative genius in no time.

1. Personalize your space

Creating a home office setting that supports your personal aesthetics is an excellent way to cultivate creative growth. Surround yourself with décor you enjoy, pieces you created in your art school classes, and quotes that inspire you and offer motivation. Pictures of family, friends and pets can also make a workroom feel more cozy.

Keep in mind that color has a powerful effect on creativity. Research has shown that blue surroundings improve a person's imagination, while green can boost creative prowess. Adding these colors into the design of your office in even small accents is an excellent way to improve a creative environment. Listening to music is another proven way to reach deeper thinking. Researchers have even dubbed music's influence on creative thought the so-called Mozart Effect.

2. Get organized

Even among the creative community, many people work best amidst clean, organized surroundings. Securing ample space for paperwork and files, loading related content into binders and arranging commonly used items (such as jump drives, staplers, paper clips, phones, cameras, and chargers) in easy-to-access places can help create a calm office environment. Not having to search sporadically for your pen or sticky notes affords you more time for creativity to bloom. On the flip side, some people simply cannot operate without a few cluttered piles nearby. One way to maintain creative clutter while allowing for desk room is to use post-its or keep a white board nearby.

3. Design for intended uses

When it comes to a home office, you're using it to accomplish something. Whether it's budgeting, documentation, art school projects, freelancing or creative pursuits, the space should cater to your individual needs. When it comes to fostering creativity, ensure that the space is tailored to help you meet your goals. For example, calendars can help keep track of deadlines and appointments for work projects. Those who use the space for writing or brainstorming may find that a giant chalkboard or dry erase board can capture thoughts and ideas quickly. With the advent of chalkboard paint, a bare wall can instantly become its own workstation.

4. Create adequate space

It's crucial to separate your pursuits. Having a writing station that's covered in oil pastels can interfere with progress when inspiration strikes, so make sure that each of your interests has some space (at least a drawer or corner) to itself. If you have multiple purposes for your home office, consider installing a second monitor at your desk for a dual display set-up. This conveniently allows you to work on two separate projects or perform various research endeavors at the same desk. If the space allows, having a large table for artwork is ideal, particularly if most of your desk is taken up with a desktop or laptop computer. Extra space allows more freedom to experiment freely without getting frustrated at a lack of elbowroom.

5. Don't neglect comfort

Anyone who has suffered through an all-day training or meeting atop an unforgiving metal chair knows firsthand that a comfortable environment can make or break productivity. No matter the setup, a good workspace must include comfortable seating, a cozy temperature and adequate lighting. Noise-cancelling headphones block out irritating background noise and allow you to hear your own thoughts. Comfort can also come through your sense -- through pleasing visuals like plants and flowers, a coffee-brewing station or mini fridge, and candles. Interestingly, fragrant candles can do more than just add to an office's ambiance. Some studies indicate that cinnamon-vanilla and orange scents have a positive effect on creativity.

Ready to get started in art school? Explore The Art Institutes today!

7 Things to Never Do in a Job Interview

written by Georgia Schumacher 3 July 2014

Many people say that first impressions are the most lasting. In a job interview, this is doubly true. Job interviews are your chance to make a stellar first impression in person. At this point, the interviewer knows a lot about your art school education, technical skills, and work experience from your resume and application, so it's time to put a face on that information. Make it count by avoiding these pitfalls.

1. Don't leave your cell phone on.

Before the interview, turn the phone off, or, if possible, don't bring it at all. Receiving calls or texts during an interview tells the interviewer that you have better things to do and that the job you're looking at isn't a priority.

2. Don't badmouth current or former employers.

First of all, ranting about a previous employer is unprofessional. Second, you never know how this company might be related to your former employer. Perhaps that company is a valued client, or maybe the interviewer's spouse works there. Play it safe and stay professionally neutral about entities with which you had a bad experience. It'll show that you're above emotional reactions in the workplace, as well as avoid starting off with any poor relations.

3. Don't forget to research the company.

Solid candidates do their due diligence before the interview by getting acquainted with the business, their products or services, what makes them unique in the industry, and other pertinent information. Go in with a good idea of what the company does, how they do it, and where they are headed.

4. Don't be late.

Being late sends off a bad vibe. The perfect time to arrive is about ten minutes prior to the appointment time. This tells the interviewer that you are punctual but not desperate.

5. Don't lie.

It's tempting to tell a little white lie to land a job you are confident you can excel in. Don't. Even if your job performance is outstanding, a company can fire you years later for lying on your initial resume, application, or during the interview.

6. Don't talk about money or benefits.

The interview is the midway point of the hiring process -- between the initial contact of submitting your application and the end point of receiving a job offer. Keep the interview about your qualifications and what you have to offer the company, as well as what they have to offer you in experience and upward mobility. Save the negotiations on pay and benefits until they have extended you an actual job offer.

7. Don't forget to bring an extra resume.

Always have an extra resume on hand in case the interviewer didn't get a copy, misplaced theirs, or needs a clean copy without their scribbled notes. Even if your resume includes a link to your online portfolio, don’t forget to bring a physical copy if at all possible so that you can better discuss your natural talent as well as show the creative work you completed in art school and past jobs!