All posts tagged “Understanding”

Understanding WordPress Custom Meta Box

In the previous post, we have talked about the WordPress custom field, which allows you to add and output a new entry in a post using the Custom Field box that WordPress provides in the post editing screen. If however you are not comfortable using the custom field box (we all have our individual preferences), here’s an alternative: you can create a meta box.

A meta box is a customized box that we create on our own, which may contain input or other interactive UI to add new entries of posts or pages. You can use the meta box instead of the Custom Field box to do the same thing. Let’s see how to create one.

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Creating a Meta Box

WordPress providse an API function, called add_meta_box, which lets us create a meta box straight away. This is it in its utmost basic form.

 function add_post_reference() { add_meta_box('post-reference', 'Reference', 'referenceCallBack', 'post'); } add_action('add_meta_boxes', 'add_post_reference'); function referenceCallBack() { echo 'Hello World' } 

The add_meta_box takes four parameters: the ID, the meta box title, a callback function that will call out ‘Hello World’, and the post type we want to display. In this case we assign a new meta box in a post editing page (this also works with pages).

In the post editing section, you will find a new box, as follows.

WordPress basic meta box

The new meta box, as you can see above, would appear below the WYSIWYG editor. If you want to add it in the sidebar you can add ‘side’ after the post parameter, and along with ‘high’ if you want to put it at the very top of the sidebar.

 function add_post_reference() { add_meta_box('post-reference', 'Reference', 'referenceCallBack', 'post', 'side', 'high'); } add_action('add_meta_boxes', 'add_post_reference'); 

You will now find it above the Publish box..

WordPress meta box position

Now to replace the ‘Hello World’ text in there. Let’s add elements like an input field for a new entry.

In this example, we will add two input fields that consist of one for adding the Reference Name and another for Reference Link:

 function referenceCallBack($  post) { wp_nonce_field( 'reference_meta_box', 'reference_nonce' ); $  name_value = get_post_meta( $  post->ID, '_post_reference_name', true ); $  link_value = get_post_meta( $  post->ID, '_post_reference_link', true ); echo '<label for="reference-name">'. 'Reference Name' .'</label>'; echo '<input type="text" id="reference-name" name="post_reference_name" placeholder="Example" value="'.$  name_value.'" size="25"/>'; echo '<p class="howto">'. 'Add the name of the reference' .'</p>'; echo '<label for="reference-link">'. 'Reference Link' .'</label>'; echo '<input type="text" id="reference-link" name="post_reference_link" placeholder="" value="'.$  link_value.'" size="25"/>'; echo '<p class="howto">'. 'Add the link of the reference' .'</p>'; } 

Refresh the post editing page, and you should see these two inputs added.


The $ name_value and $ link_value variable will retrieve the entries from the database and populate them into the input fields. To get the entries into the database, we will need to create a function for that.

We need to add a few lines of code that will populate the entries added through these input into the database safely. “Safely” here means a legitimate and authorized entry (not the one coming from hackers or other unauthorized personnel). To save the entry, we will have to create a new function. Let’s name the function: save_post_reference, like so.

 function save_post_reference( $  post_id ) { } add_action( 'save_post', 'save_post_reference' ); 

As we have mentioned, we need to verify a few things for security purposes:

(1) We will need to check whether the user has the ability to edit a post.

 if ( ! current_user_can( 'edit_post', $  post_id ) ) { return; } 

(2) We also need to check if the Nonce is set.

 if ( ! isset( $  _POST['reference_nonce'] ) ) { return; } if ( ! wp_verify_nonce( $  _POST['reference_nonce'], 'reference_meta_box' ) ) { return; } 

(3) Then, we need to prevent the data from being auto-saved. Saving can only be done once the “Save” or “Update” button has been clicked.

 if ( defined( 'DOING_AUTOSAVE' ) && DOING_AUTOSAVE ) { return; } 

(4) We will also have to ensure that our two inputs, post_reference_name and post_reference_link, are set and ready before we submit the entries.

 if ( ! isset( $  _POST['post_reference_name'] ) || ! isset( $  _POST['post_reference_link'] ) ) { return; } 

(5) And the entry should be free from any unexpected characters that may compromise website security. To check this you can use the WordPress built-in function sanitize_text_field.

 $  reference_name = sanitize_text_field( $  _POST['post_reference_name'] ); $  reference_link = sanitize_text_field( $  _POST['post_reference_link'] ); 

Alright, now we are ready to save the entries into the database:

 update_post_meta( $  post_id, '_post_reference_name', $  reference_name ); update_post_meta( $  post_id, '_post_reference_link', $  reference_link ); 

Now you can try it out: input some content into the input fields, and click the “Update” button to save them.

WordPress meta box final


We have just created a meta box that comprises of two inputs. You can further extend the box with other types of inputs such as the radio button or select box. This example may be very basic but once you get the hang of it, you will be able to use this meta box for much more complicated uses. Let us know if you will be using this and what you will be using it for.

Understanding Google Helpouts [Infographic]

Google being the main internet search provider worldwide always emphasises its aim to make its search engine a great user experience. We see this regularly as part of their widely-feared algorithm updates like Penguin and Panda which are used by them to promote better web content.

Understanding Google Helpouts [Infographic]

Perhaps through their experience of seeing people’s search behaviors and queries, they spotted an area that could be exploited commercially. A 2012 study found that Google earns $ 100million a day from AdWords so it is fair to say that they understand the commercial side of their business very well.

Google launched Helpouts in 2013 following attempts at solving the question and answer divide that they had noticed. This followed on from services called ‘Answers’, ‘Questions and Answers’, and ‘Knol’. Helpouts aims to match experts in specific areas with people who need the knowledge. Some helpouts are free but many require a fee. This infographic by explores the area of Google Helpouts and examines the advantages, disadvantages and some interesting facts along the way.

instantShift - Understanding Google Helpouts

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6 tips for understanding colour theory

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Colour, more than any other element of a designer’s work, has the greatest influence on how viewers feel. Understanding colour, its cultural symbolism and the relationship between colours is necessary to becoming a better artist and designer. It’s always better to learn the basics before striking out to develop your own colour language. We are surrounded by colour every moment of our lives and certain things become ingrained on our consciousness, so we immediately understand what the colour is supposed to make us think or feel.

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Understanding Media Queries in WordPress Responsive Themes

You’re reading Understanding Media Queries in WordPress Responsive Themes, originally posted on Designmodo. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+!

Understanding the media queries to build responsive themes in WordPress

The way customers are viewing your website is evolving every day. The only way to see a website few years back was through a desktop or a laptop with a large screen. Websites had to be designed for only large screen sizes. This has drastically changed. Customers have devices of various sizes – mobile phone, tablet […]

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Understanding The Phase of Website Design

Design phase consists of all the activities that ensure that page elements, colors and graphics all work together to provide an enjoyable experience for the customers while projecting a professional image for the business.

Understanding The Phase of Website Design

Design of a Web project is the next most important and popular Web development phase. The focus of the design phase is to determine how the Website application will meet the objectives, to answer the question, “how it will do what it must do?” Design is all about communication. Web design is no different. The sale process starts from the very moment the visitor looks at the Website. First impressions are very important. If the site has weak design, users create a bad impression of the business or Website.

Design is the process by which a Web designer, working within the Web’s specification, makes decision about how Web components will accomplish the Web’s objectives. Web design is the process by which a designer or a team of designers create a concept with a Web’s specification and make it appealing and unique. In this phase, the design team takes information from all elements of Web development and combines them to produce a concept that speaks the purpose of the Website. In this phase, the structure, look and feel of the Website is defined.

Website Design Phase

Design phase involves creating the functionality of the site, i.e., how the pages display the information to the user. The goal of Web design is to create a look for the Web that has the “right stuff” information at the right level of detail and an arrangement of pages that efficiently guides users to needed information. There are many factors that can make the difference between a successful Website and the one visitor never returns to. Complex, flashy layouts may look great but are impractical if the site’s visitors cannot find what they are looking for. Similarly, a site with endless blocks of text and little interactivity would not compel anyone to stick around long enough to find out what Web has to offer.

A well designed site not only adds depth and richness to the Website but also can assist in the purchasing decision-making through good customer usability.

Design decisions include decisions about:

  • How to design the Website.
  • Contents of the Website, organization of the Web content.
  • Site navigation.
  • Font and style.
  • Artwork/photo scanning, etc.
  • Security measures to be incorporated.

During this phase some questions to consider are:

  • What kind of browser or platform are the anticipated visitors on?
  • What are the overall “look and feel” of the site?
  • What is the navigation scheme?
  • In what ways will the Website interact with the visitor?
  • Who will develop or attain the informational content?
  • Who will develop or attain the graphical content?

A well designed site not only adds depth and richness to the Website but also can assist in the purchasing decision-making through good customer usability. Sophisticated Website design allows the small business to compete on equal footing with larger better financed companies.

Considerations for Creating a Web Design to Offer Services

Website is basically a series of pages wit in s to other pages or sites. Website is the interface between the e-business and consumer. It enables the business to display its products and services as well as to sell On-line. It is the place where consumer actions take place. A Website may contain text, banners, graphic, ate dio and video. A major step to do business on the Internet is building a Website. A Website is a gateway to the Internet. Together, the Internet and the Web make e-commence possible by allowing computer users to access product and service information and to complete purchases On-line.

Website Design Phase

All publicly accessible Web Sites in existence comprise the World Wide Web. The pages of a Website can be accessed from a common root URL called the homepage; and usually reside on the same physical server. The following factors must be duly considered while creating a Web design:

  1. Build associative meaning: Web should provide information which can be used by visitor. Power of hypertext can be used to link related information.
  2. Maintain competitiveness: Web designers must ensure that their designs include the lowest possible costs to the users. User costs include download time, information-retrieval time, and the effort required to use and understand information.
  3. Efficiently use resources: When designing and implementing a Web, those features should be selected that meet the user’s needs with the least amount of space, access time, graphics, and long-term maintenance requirements. Only those features should be incorporated in the Web that are efficient to operate, elegant to use, and easy to maintain.
  4. Focus on user needs: A Web should not be built for the personal taste of the designers, the convenience of the implementers, or the whims of the planners. Instead, the Web serves the audience for which it is designed. Therefore, the first priority of the Web should be to meet the needs of the users. The Web designer focuses on user needs by using the purpose statement and audience information to make decisions about page organization and layout. By working with the Web analyst, the Web designer can evaluate how effectively the design meets the needs of the audience for the Web’s purpose.
  5. Recognize piousness: The Web designer should recognize that a user may enter a Web from any other point of the Web. After entering a Web, a user might not be able to interpret cues that depend on a Web’s linking structure. For example, up, down or next labels would mean very little.
  6. Create a consistent, pleasing, and efficient look and feel: The Web design should aim to give users an impression on all its pages of a common, coherent organization and consistent visual cues. Each page of the Web should cue users to the Web’s identity and page purpose. The Web’s overall appearance should help users in accomplishing their objectives through interfaces that strike a balance between simplicity and completeness and aim for an aesthetically pleasing appearance. In fact, a consistent page design is one of the best design principles to alleviate the fractured experience of users due to piousness.
  7. Support interactivity: Interactive components such as real-time chats, message boards, On-line events, and similar opportunities should be added in the site to enable visitors to network and communicate with others of similar interests and/or to express their opinions and comments.
  8. Support user navigation: Although navigation aids related to browser functions such as hot-list, session history, built-in directories, annotations, file management and visual aids might be employed by users when navigating a Web, a Web designer can support these in a Web by supplying navigation and information links. These links provide hints to the users about how to use the information on a page (information cues) and how to get further or contextual information (navigation cues). All pages should allow customers to navigate within the site from any page to any other page.
  9. User control and freedom: A good Web design should provide control and freedom to the users in the sense that the users should be able to undo or redo those path which they might have taken by mistake. The users should be able to get back on track within the site.
  10. Recovery from error: Error messages should be displayed in simple language and indicate the source of the problem and the ways to correct it.
  11. Help desk: The Website should have a help desk where the user can go for help on activities related to the product, service, how to order, etc.
  12. Customer service option: Site should stay current with customer service options such as accepting credit cards, shopping cart capabilities, understandable return policies and other methods to stay competitive while serving faithful visitors and customers.
  13. Feedback procedure: Customers’ feedback should be encouraged. After analyzing their comments, the best of their suggestions should be implemented to better respond their needs.

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Improving Your Research Understanding Can Improve Your Bottom Line

This article is the second in series of articles on how better understanding your clients. With this series of articles, I hope that by better understanding the client’s business decision-making process that you can increase your profitability.

Improving Your Research Understanding Can Improve Your Bottom Line

Graphic designers often view client-conducted research as a black box decision-maker. In many cases, they feel research undervalues their creative contributions. Some of these feelings are appropriate, but by better understanding research quality and its role in decision-making, the graphic designer can provide better solutions and make more profit.

Reserch: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

When a graphic designer submits an array of solutions to a client, the client, understandably, feels the need to make an informed decision. They want to do the right thing.

That’s a good starting place, but after this good intent, things can get messy.

What follows is a brief summary of the research types most frequently used by clients to select the best graphic design solution.

  • Personal experience: It could be debated if this is really research. In truth personal experiences are the cumulative experience of a single person or small group of people. In most cases, it produces a diverse group of personal opinions that is usually resolved by the personal opinion of the most senior person. Unfortunately, most of this personal opinion comes from people with very limited understanding of the role that graphic design plays in marketplace success. They tend to choose their favorite colors and design elements that may or may not have little actual marketplace relevance. From a graphic designer’s perspective this can either be very positive if they choose your favorite design or very negative if your favorite design is rejected. Unfortunately, when personal experience alone is the decision maker, there is usually very little recourse a graphic designer has if they disagree with the decision.
  • Qualitative research: Under this umbrella is a wide range of types of research. The one thing they have in common is that they are not representative of how customers actually react to graphic design solutions in the real world. At one end of the range is a client manager conducting an informal poll on your graphic design solutions among some group of people in the company. While this may be better than a single individual making the decision, the people are not experts and are not representative of the company’s customers. On the other end of the range is the justifiably feared focus group. In this case, the company actually hires a research company to recruit either existing customers or potential customers to review your graphic design solutions. There are usually 10 – 20 people in this group. A facilitator runs the session. The facilitator then writes a research report. It sounds all very scientific, but it is far from that. All kinds of things make this type of research highly unreliable – unrepresentative sample, small group size, groupthink, poor facilitation, poor methodology, etc. Companies conduct focus groups to evaluate graphic design solutions because they think it’s real research, they want quick answers, and at a very low cost. In business, focus groups can help with some business decisions, but making graphic design decisions is definitely not their strength.
  • Quantitative research: This type of research is typically conducted online today among a statistically representative group of customers. “Statistically representative” means they are balanced by demographic factors (like age and gender) and the sample size (typically 100 – 150 people) is statistically representative of all customers. Graphic designers might have problems with this last part, but statistical experts very convincingly demonstrate the 90% accuracy of this type of research among such a relatively small group. Because individual customers evaluate graphic design solutions without the influence of a group, it avoids many of the research process pitfalls of the focus group. Research methodology becomes important. For example, monadic versus paired comparison evaluation of graphic design solutions can influence the results. Having said this, in most cases this research is not real world. Consumers are not asked to evaluate graphic design solutions in an actual selling environment, like on a grocery store shelf. They evaluate the solutions, in most cases, on a computer screen.

Research should never be THE decision-maker. Research should be a GUIDE to help make a decision. It should be one input that is considered along with personal judgment, intuition, and understanding of the competitive marketplace.

Okay. As a Graphic Designer How Do I Successfully Navigate Client Research?

The good news is that you have options available to you. The options range from disengaging from the whole research process to becoming a respected and influential partner in the decision making process. The more you go in the “respected and influential partner” direction, the greater your value to the client. What is so important about this point is that when you become a partner you become more than just a graphic design supplier. As a partner with the client, you form a connection that is far more difficult for them to break than if you’re just a supplier. As such, you increase the longevity of your business relationship and your bottom line.

In my experience, most graphic designers are disengaged from the research process. They feel disenfranchised in the decision-making process. This can lead to a sense of powerlessness that can leave the graphic designer feeling disrespected and disengaged. Taken to somewhat of an extreme, this attitude can poison the relationship, which leads to an inevitable firing.

To most graphic designers, research feels like a foreign world. There is the black box aspect of how research is done and then out pops a decision. There is the mathematical or statistical part of research that generally speaking is not something graphic designers understand. There is the process where the client goes off to do the research without ever involving the graphic designer.

From my experience, all of this is very real world with both internal and external graphic design resources.

So what can you do about this? What follows are three options for you to consider. Which ones work and which ones work best will vary significantly by client and business need.

Get Involved

First, you can become involved in the research process. At a minimum, start by asking questions about how the research will be done. For example, what designs will they see and what questions will be asked? Consider going the additional step of personally attending the research. For example, get invited to be part of the observer group at the focus group. If the research is online, ask to experience the online research process by going through the questionnaire.

At a minimum, this will make you more conversant on the research topic. For example, if it is a focus group and the client comes to a conclusion, you can understand how they got there. In addition, you can be the voice for the minority opinion (if that is your feeling) so there is more balance in the decision-making process.

Even more importantly, at the focus group, you can be a voice of design wisdom. For example, you can point out what particular graphic elements might be driving customer preference. You may also be inspired to see a significant improvement opportunity to the original design. In most situations, this will be greatly appreciated added value that you bring.

Exceed Expectations- Provide More Thoughtful Solutions

Second, before the research even begins, you can seek to understand preliminary client sentiments since these often can become final sentiments. Understanding this might lead you to develop some additional graphic design solutions. You can help the client understand how one group of solutions achieves one objective (for example, communicating high refreshment) and another group of solutions achieves another objective (for example, premium quality ingredients).

By doing this, you can fundamentally influence and shape the type of research that will be done. For example, the research design could test the refreshment versus the quality approach with multiple options representing each direction.

Add to this contribution some of the suggestions outlined in the first option. With that combination, you clearly inject yourself into the evaluation process. When you do this, you will be heard and respected. Do not be surprised if your preferred solution becomes the client’s preferred current solution.

Become A Full Fledged Partner

Third, you position your graphic design solutions in a broader context that you know is very important to the client. Specifically, you take a look at the market leaders they are competing with and develop superior design solutions with the competition in mind. You present solutions in the context of the competition. Your presentation notes how certain design elements have a very good chance of being seen by customers as superior to the competition. For example, your design solution includes refreshment imagery broadly associated with marketplace success, maybe in a different but related category. Another example is your design solution includes iconic quality images proven to signal exceptional quality in other and, ideally, related businesses.

Doing this demonstrates to the client that you understand their most important need – switching competitive customers to their products. They see that you have designed solutions with the potential to be preferred by customers to the competition.

Having contributed this thinking, it is a natural segue for the graphic designer to then become part of the final decision-making process, especially if it includes any of the forms of research mentioned above. You have now moved well beyond being a graphic design supplier to being a business partner. Business partners understand graphic design plus critical client business needs. You speak their language. You address the important success factors.

Final Thoughts

In my experience, graphic designers and advertising agencies view research with great uncertainty and often the enemy of inspired solutions. They develop what they believe are highly creative and even breakthrough solutions. They turn their “creative babies” over to the client who loses or abuses these ideas in the research process.

This can be a source of discontent for creative people. Even worse, they can feel disrespected and that giving their best work to the client is a waste of time. While understandable, it is regrettable since it will inevitably lead to a severing of the relationship.

The thoughts shared in this article are based on things that have not worked and things that have worked exceptionally well. The recommended options work in most cases with most clients.

There clearly are some conditions where the specific options will not work, either because of unique client conditions or marketplace environment. When the options do not work, be guided by the principle of finding a way to be engaged by exceeding expectations and developing a deeper client business understanding that you can use to move from being a supplier to a partner.

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Improve Your Profits Better Understanding Your Clients’ Major Needs

This is the first in a series of articles on how better understanding your clients can produce better profits for you.

Improve Your Profits Better Understanding Your Clients’ Major Needs

Whether it is a large business like Procter & Gamble or one of the millions of small businesses, one need stands above all other business needs – PROFIT.

What Is Most Important to the Client: Overview

As a graphic designer, you can be very sure that the client representative you work with knows a that a significant amount of their personal career progress and personal checking account are dependent upon the profit they contribute to the enterprise.

Having said that, there are many other secondary needs that contribute to the profit need. The next major echelon of needs below profit is needs like product, pricing, costs, and sales/marketing. This is where graphic design starts to play a role in directly meeting client needs.

In most of these areas, graphic designers play a limited role, but it can be a powerful role, especially in the two areas addressed in this article. For example, a graphic designer is not going to develop the product formulation or even the physical package, which is often developed with a specialty engineering company in coordination with internal manufacturing. But outside of the product performance itself, the next most important product success element is the label/branding area on the product. The second very important graphic design role is in the development of sales and marketing materials. These also become the face of the business to customers and consumers.

In my decades as a business leader, I have seen repeated examples of where exceptional label designs, sales materials, and marketing advertising at retail have been a significant contributor to brand and overall business profitability. Graphic designers who produced exceptional solutions in these areas were always first in line to get future important projects and were designers that I became loyal to. For those designers, exceptional results in these areas definitely contributed to their enhanced profitability.

How to Make Your Label Design Work Impressive and Truly Help the Client

There are many factors a client considers when it asks a graphic design company to design and produce a label. The most important of these, and one that is frequently overlooked, is that the client wants the label to be a competitive advantage versus some, most, or all of their competition. If the label is not importantly better than competitive labels, the client will find it very difficult to get consumers to switch to their product.

Please do not underestimate the importance of your client having a competitive advantage. The surest way that they can increase profits is by increasing sales. Increasing sales only happens in the vast majority of product categories when a competitive customer switches to the client’s product. Customers only switch products when they think the new one is at least better and often dramatically better than the product they are currently using.

You will do well to keep this critical dynamic in mind. While in this article I am addressing this dynamic in the context of a product label, your client wants to develop a competitive advantage with any graphic design project they assign to you. They may or may not overtly say this, but if it is going to be a successful company they need to think this way.

The dimension of the competitive advantage can vary dramatically between product types and products within a category. The area where the client wants a competitive advantage is dependent upon how the client thinks it can win versus some, most, or all of their competition.

For example, a client may want their product to compete in the higher-priced end of a product segment. To do this, the label needs to clearly signal that it is a higher quality, premium product. The “higher” is relative to all of the other direct competitors the client identifies.

Once you know this, your label design work should not begin until you really understand the competitive framework within the product category.In addition, conduct a search for brands in other categories that have very successfully positioned themselves as a higher quality, premium product.

Truly understanding the competitive framework is not as easy as collecting the competitive products and conducting a personal assessment of their labels. Developing this understanding typically requires a combination of qualitative and quantitative learning. Qualitative learning typically involves gathering the assessments of the client, your designers, and the opinions of people whose insights you respect. Quantitative learning is professionally conducted research among the right group of respondents. The client typically conducts this research.

From this kind of research you can determine general strengths and weaknesses of competitors and any of your existing product labels. This is a critical understanding since it gives you insights into how consumers evaluate these kinds of products. Ultimately, as a label graphic designer you need to be guided by these insights.

You also need to understand the design elements in other categories that have successfully positioned products as higher-quality, premium products. As any good designer already knows, color plays a critical role in signaling higher quality and premium pricing. For example, black and gold either independently or together are ways that color can be used to achieve the communication objectives. There also can be graphic devices like seals of approval or emblems.

As challenging as this dimension of label design can be, more important than communicating a higher-quality, premium product is getting the brand imagery right. For an existing brand, the latitude for the creative exploratory is usually fairly narrow, especially if the brand is experiencing any degree of marketplace success.

The existing customers for the product often find the product based upon its specific brand “visual signature.” They look for a color, shape, design element, etc. This is what makes it easy for them to find the product. Disrespecting the importance of this can have serious negative business consequences for a client. Just ask Tropicana of the negative consequences from their conversion of their orange juice packaging to a white bottle. Customers are only willing to search so much before they give up. If they search and find the product with a significantly different look, many fear that the product may have changed which can lead them to question their brand loyalty.

For a new product and brand, there is significantly greater design latitude but there are still major client design requirements that define the exploratory’s boundaries. The client ideally has a combination of qualitative and quantitative understandings that they used to define critical communication and image elements they believe will create a competitive advantage for them.

Again, design should never be done in a vacuum. The goal of gaining a competitive advantage requires that designers be fully aware of a product’s competitive context.

During my career, graphic designers that designed to deliver solutions in a competitive context and capable of creating a competitive advantage were always the ones rewarded with additional work. The entire nature of the relationship changed from being a supplier to a business partner.

In future articles, I will address more important considerations in a label development. This is truly an area where graphic designers can make a big difference. It is also an area where they can disappoint and even anger a client with their work. There are some proven ways of developing and positioning a range of options that helps the client determine where their comfort zone ends and discomfort begins. While you need to give your client what they’re asking for, really good graphic designers also give their clients design options they could not imagine and that are far better than what they thought was possible.

How to Impress Your Client With Marketing Material Designs

Graphic designers are asked to develop a wide range of marketing materials, many of which end up being selling or sales materials. It is also an area where a designer that understands the bigger picture context of marketing materials can impress the client and help them meet their need for profit growth.

Competitive context and competitive advantage are also very important considerations when developing marketing materials. I will briefly address two types of marketing materials – those that are primarily seen by potential consumers, typically in a selling environment like a retail store, and those that are primarily seen by customers via sales presentations.

Marketing materials that are intended to persuade potential customers in an environment where they typically can buy the product, are very overtly advertising materials. As such, graphic designers will help themselves if they understand some advertising fundamentals.

Advertising is most effective when it communicates a specific, clear product benefit. While this may sound simplistic and obvious, it is shocking how often it is ignored or violated. The most common mistake is communicating a product feature instead of a product benefit. For example, if Gatorade said, “contains three powerful of electrolytes” the consumer would be left to guess how that benefits them. If instead, Gatorade said, “quickly replenishes and renews the tired athlete” a consumer would quickly and easily understand how it benefits them. Looked at another way, consumers do not need electrolytes but they do need replenishing and renewing. Benefits directly address how a product meets a specific need.

Another basic that is often overlooked is that the words and pictures need to work together to make a single point. This is especially true for marketing materials that are in a selling environment. The rules that apply to billboard advertising definitely apply here. You do not have a somewhat captive audience watching television advertising. Instead, you have a moving potential customer and at best you will get their attention for a couple or a few seconds.

Keep it simple. Get to the point quickly—3-5 words, for example. Absolutely make sure that the words and pictures are saying the same thing. For example, if the words talk about a refreshing beverage, then the pictures also need to deliver refreshment. As common sense as this sounds, the number of times that this common sense is violated by graphic designers has shocked me over the years.

Marketing materials that will be used by sales to convince customers operate in a different environment, but the same principles apply. Unfortunately, these kinds of marketing materials also make the same mistakes that many advertising materials make. Specifically, these kinds of marketing/sales materials often include feature statement after feature statement. Having seen these materials over the years, I sometimes get the feeling that the designer felt they were doing their best job when they placed the maximum possible facts on a page. Typically, facts are features, not benefits.

While sales materials do not have to be as quick and direct as marketing materials for potential consumers, they still are more effective when they are simple and direct instead of verbose and complicated. A buyer gives a sales representative 2-4 minutes to make a somewhat complex presentation. Again, the successful graphic designer is the one who understands competitive context, communicates benefits supported with facts, and does so simply and directly.

Graphic designers who truly understood the elements discussed here brought significant and valuable added value to the relationship I had with them. They were not just doing what they were asked to do. They embraced the need and added original thinking to their design work. These were the designers (and they were a small group) who were always first to get the biggest and most challenging future assignments. Maybe most important from a designer’s perspective, their proposed design solutions took on an enhanced credibility producing richer and more valuable conversations. Again, they moved from being a supplier to a respected business partner. When this shift happens for a designer, you can be 100% assured that the designer’s bottom line greatly improves.

In a future article, I will outline how you can really help client make their marketing materials more persuasive with consumers and customers. It is a thoroughly proven statistically and in the marketplace understanding about how persuasion happens through marketing and sales.

Summary Checklist

  • Understand your customer’s biggest need is to make a profit. They have almost no need to look trendy or different just to be different, unless of course that directly helps them be more profitable. It is seldom the case except in fashion and fad businesses.
  • Whatever work you are doing always remember the great importance of achieving competitive advantage and the corresponding competitive context. Learn from what is being successful and not so successful in the client’s competitive marketplace. Deliver design solutions capable of creating not a modest competitive advantage, but a dramatic one.
  • Label designs that create a competitive advantage for your client enable them to switch competitive consumers. This is the single best way that most graphic design companies can help their clients make more profit. Unlike advertising and marketing materials that are seen infrequently, labels and packaging are seen every time a potential consumer considers purchase of the client’s product.
  • For marketing materials seen by potential customers the rules for billboard advertising apply – be simple, clear and a quick read. For marketing materials used by sales with customers, it is critical to talk in benefit language, not feature language that is usually very descriptive and factual.

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A Guide To Understanding Android App Permissions (& How To Manage Them)

Apps dominate our usage of smartphones and while Apple’s App Store has stringent criteria for apps to get in, Google’s Play Store is relatively more lenient. As an Android app user, you should be aware of the type of data the apps you use are taking from you.

On top of that, you will need to start reading up on the "permission slips" you have been giving apps that you download to your phone, or risk opening yourself up to major privacy and security issues.

App Ops

In this guide, we will be highlighting some of the app permissions you need to pay more attention to, and which are valid permissions that apps are obligated to ask for.

With a bit of vigilance, it’s entirely possible to minimize risks by learning how to better manage your app permissions (and to revoke them if necessary). Here’s a look into Android app permissions and what to do about them.

What Are App Permissions?

First things first, Android app permissions aren’t requests, they’re declarations. Unless you’re root ed, you have no say – short of choosing to not install the app – in whether the app will receive all the permissions it requires.

When you install an app from the Play Store, you’ll get a pop up listing all the permissions that the app requires, things like access to your storage, phone calls, network communciation etc. Read through this list.

Play Store Permissions

It’s all too easy to treat the permissions list like an EULA (which nobody ever reads) but skipping over these permissions could mean the difference between having your data securely on your device or having all of it at the fingertips of unscrupulous app developers.

5 Permissions You Should Be Wary Of

There are a few permissions that you should be wary of, not because they’re necessarily dangerous, but because there could be wide-ranging repercussions if data from these permissions were to fall into the wrong hands. Note that these aren’t the only permissions you should worry about – it’s a start.

If you want to know more, check out the list and discussion of Android app permissions by user Alostpacket. There’s also a detailed list of permissions on the official Android Developers page. Most of the recapped information here comes from both resources.

1. Location

There are two types of location permissions that Android applications can require: "approximate location (network-based)" and "precise location (GPS and network-based)".


What would apps need my precise location for? Well, navigation apps like Waze will require such information to work. Similarly social media applications want to include your location in photos and uploads. Crucially, applications which implement location-based advertising will also need access to such information. It’s just one of the many sacrifices you have to make when using a free, ad-supported app.

2. Phone Status And Identity

This is a bit of a problematic permission, because "read phone status and identity" encompasses everything from something as innocuous as needing to know when a phone call is coming in, to having access to crucially important data such as your device’s IMEI number.

Read Phone Status And Identity

While this permission is often safe, the potential for wrongdoing is huge, so do exercise caution when apps require this permission. If there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for the app to require this permission, it might be a good thing to think twice before installing it.

3. Read And Modify Your Contacts

These permission to "Modify your contacts, read your contacts" gives an app unfettered access to your contacts’ data. While both can be problematic, the "modify" permission is especially dangerous since it would let an app read all the contact information you have on your phone. This includes how often you communicate with particular contacts.

Read And Modify Your Contacts

SMS apps, contact management apps, dialer replacement apps and even some social media apps will need one or both of these applications, but apps without any social aspect to them have on reason to require this.

4. SMS And MMS-Related Permissions

These permissions could potentially cost you a lot of money, if malicious apps use these permissions to send illegitimate SMSes or tack on extra charges onto each SMS and MMS you send.

SMS Related Permissions

The "read your text messages" and "receive text messages permissions" can also potentially result in your privacy being compromised. If there’s no real reason for an app to require these permissions, avoid it.

However, there are perfectly valid reasons an app would require these permissions, especially if it’s an SMS app. Again, a bit of reasoning should save you from having to deal with any issues related to this permission.

5. Account-Related Permissions

"Find accounts on the device" lets the app check with Android’s built in Account Manager on whether you have any accounts on services such as Google, Facebook and so on.

"Use accounts on the device" lets the app ask for permission to use the account. Once this permission is granted, the app won’t have to request it again; the concern, of course, comes if the app is malicious and continues to do things in the background in your name.

Account-Related Permissions

Another related permission to watch out for is "create accounts and set passwords", which lets the app authenticate credentials. A malicious app can take advantage of this permission to get your password by phishing you.

Ways To Stay Safe

There are a few things you can do to stay on top of app security.

1. The best way to stay safe is not to immediately avoid any apps that require problematic permissions but instead, to look at the app itself and use reasoning to figure out whether the app really requires these permissions.

2. You can also send an email to the developer asking about the permissions. If the reply isn’t satisfactory, or if you don’t get a reply at all, then you should most probably give the app a miss.

3. You should also take advantage of the huge Android community if you’re unsure about the security of a particular app. Read reviews on the Play Store and check forums and Android-centric news sites to see if there have been any complaints about the app recently. It’s a bit of work, sure, but better be safe than sorry.

Managing App Permissions

If you’ve let apps have access to any of your accounts such as Facebook or Google, it’d be a good idea to go to your account settings and manage your account permissions, if the website has such a feature.

Google Account Permissions

You can also check what permissions certain apps have by going into Settings > Apps. Just select an app and scroll down to see the permissions it has.

Permissions Manager Apps

You can also use an app such as Permission Explorer, which lets you filter by categories, apps and permissions, and can give you a much more detailed breakdown of the permissions granted to the app. Other similar apps you can try are Permissions Observatory and App Permissions.

App Info And Permission Explorer

Regardless of the app you choose, spending some time going through the permissions of apps currently installed on your Android device should help you establish whether there are any apps with problematic permissions that need to be revoked or perhaps even uninstalled entirely.

Revoking App Permissions

Once you’ve found some offending apps, it’s time to decide on a course of action. There’s currently no built-in way to manage app permissions in the latest version of Android, since Google chose to remove the AppOps feature from Android 4.4.2.

However, if you’re still running Android 4.3, it wouldn’t hurt to give AppOps a go to see if it helps you access the built-in permissions manager.

App Ops

If you’re running stock, unrooted 4.4.2 (or a version prior to 4.3), you’re pretty much out of luck when it comes to revoking app permissions short of completely uninstalling the application. However, if you are rooted, then you have a few more options.

Permissions Manager Apps (Rooted)

If you have the Xposed Framework installed, you can give XPrivacy a go. XPrivacy is one of the best permissions manager applications available, letting you tweak, block and revoke almost every permission an app might require. You can also use the XPrivacy Installer to help you install both Xposed Framework and XPrivacy itself.


If you’re willing to install a completely new ROM, or plan to do so anyway, there are also certain custom ROMs that come with permission management features built-in.

The popular CyanogenMod has a Privacy Guard feature which, as of last year, comes with Android 4.3′s AppOps integrated into it. Other ROMs such as Purity ROM also have a similar feature.

CyanogenMod Privacy Guard


It’s hard to deny that, by default at least, Android’s privacy and security settings are a bit lacking. Between occasionally confusing permission names, to an inability to selectively grant permissions, this is definitely something that Android should work on.

However, even with these issues, it’s still entirely possible to stay on top of things and ensure the security of your data by being vigilant about the apps you install and the permissions that these apps require. After all, it’s your data on your phone – you have control.

Understanding The Evolution of the Gaming World

The entire history of the gaming world dates back to the early 1940′s and 1950′s. This period saw Academics begin designing simple games and artificial simulation programs as part ofRead…

You can visit the website for the full article and other interesting articles.

Blogger’s Path

20 Books To Understanding Photography You Can Buy

As more and more people can afford DSLR and high-end compact cameras, the photography industry is getting a boost in subscribers and avid hobbyists. For those of us who really want to learn the tricks of the trade, there are plenty of great books produced by for photographers.

In this post we’re listing 20 great books to help you grab the basics on topics like how to shoot in low lighting, how to shoot creative black and white photography and even on how to shoot at night. You’d be spoiled for choice with the following books that share different photography techniques as well as great sources of inspiration.

You may also be interested in the following list of books:

Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition by Bryan Peterson

There’s no need to go to exotic locations in order to shoot wonderful photographs. Through the discussions in this book, you’ll learn how to use composition, available color, light, and point of view to create smashing photographs in any environment. [$ 18.73]

Shooting in Sh*tty Light by Lindsay Adler and Erik Valind

Written by two experienced photographers, this is the ultimate guide to lighting techniques. Here you’ll find a lot of solutions to the worst possible lighting situations (e.g. low lighting, overcast day, strong backlight, and situations where flash is forbidden). [$ 23.47]

Basic 35mm Photo Guide: For Beginning Photographers by Craig Alesse

This is a very useful book for beginners as it will teach them all the basics: aperture, speed, film types, shutter, stopping motion, depth of field, and much more. It also serves as a step-by-step guide on how to choose, use, and care for each piece of a photographer’s equipment. [$ 11.47]

Best Business Practices for Photographers, Second Edition by John Harrington

Any professional photographer should have this book as a handbook. Often photographers are too focused on the art instead of spending some time to think about the business aspects. It’s a great guide for those who hope to turn their hobby into a source of income. [$ 22.71]

Color Management in Digital Photography by Brad Hinkel

Color management is very important when it comes to digital photography, and you can learn all about it with this book. With emphasis on creativity rather than technology, the author explains his methods in a simple but effective way. [$ 22.13]

How to Photograph Absolutely Everything by Tom Ang

This is a great beginner’s book that goes into details about using DSLR as well as compact cameras. The instructions provided in this book are also not overly long-winded and technical. The book is perfectly structured with images and examples. [$ 16.07]

Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques by Harold Davis

This book will show you how to shoot great black and white photographs. It’s filled with awesome pictures taken by the author himself. All in all, an incredible book for those who want to start, expand and master the art of black and white photography. [$ 19.44]

Complete Digital Photography by Ben Long

Written by a photographer with extensive experience, this is a book that photographers of all levels can benefit from. With 640 pages and 23 chapters, it’s a great resource of tips and tricks pertinent to digital photography. [$ 29.90]

Digital Photography in Easy Steps by Nick Vandome

Learn how to get the most of your digital camera(s) with this book. As the title suggests, it’s a book that will teach you the basics of digital photography, ranging from camera accessories and features to pixels and CCD’s. [$ 12.75]

Extraordinary Everyday Photography by Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring

This is a book will help you to open your eyes and notice things that you have never paid attention to before. It has easy-to-follow exercises that will you help you in developing the ability to shoot great photographs anywhere. [$ 16.26]

Night Photography: Finding Your Way in the Dark by Lance Keimig

Written by a photographer with more 2 decades of experience under his belt, this is an awesome guide on how to shoot at night with film or digital cameras. It’s packed with advice from experts and examples (in both black and white and color). [$ 25.80]

Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography

What’s most attractive about this book is that it offers more than 7 hours of online video tutorials. You can also get help from the writer and other readers for free. And that’s not all: by purchasing this book, you can also get the ebook and receive lifetime updates. [$ 20.04]

The Digital Photography Boxed Set, Volumes 1, 2, and 3 by Scott Kelby

This book is an easy read. It’s like having a photographer friend sharing all his secrets and experience with you, and providing answers to your questions without getting too technical. It’s an especially good set of books for beginner DSLR users. [$ 50.97]

The Photography Book by the Editors of Phaidon Press

First published back in 1997 and acclaimed as the most important reference on the subject, this book contains over 500 photographs from the world’s best photographers. The photos range from landscape photography to documentary shots. [$ 22.31]

David Busch’s Mastering Digital SLR Photography by David D. Busch

Written by a best-selling author of photography books, this is another book that will be useful for both professionals and beginners. It is easy to understand and should come in very handy for self-taught photographers. [$ 27.40]

Digital Photography Visual Quick Tips by Gregory Georges

This book offers a simple and visual method of learning about the process of taking and enhancing digital photographs. It may not be a very thick book, but it’s filled with concise explanations and full-color illustrations. [$ 11.14]

A Short Course in Photography (8th Edition) by Barbara London and Jim Stone

Now in its 8th edition, this book shows the fundamentals of photography and suggests different ways of capturing meaningful shots. It also discusses techniques, resources, equipment, accessories, and more. It’s filled with clear explanations as well as illustrations. [$ 62.33]

LIFE 100 Photographs that Changed the World

Featuring photographs of historically significant figures and events, this aptly titled book is a showcase of the 100 most memorable and impactful shots in modern history. A must-have for anyone who’s interested in history or art. [$ 24.23]

The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman

Now published in 16 languages, this highly popular book is intended for professional photographers as well as hobbyists. Its aim is to show how one can acquire the skill of visualizing and taking fantastic digital photographs. [$ 17.71]

In Focus: National Geographics Greatest Portraits

Any photographer should be able to find something exciting from this wonderful collection of 280 portraits spanning a century from all over the world. Many of these portraits tell stories that stood the test of time. [$ 12.02]