4 Stages to Your Perfect App Design

This content is a guest post from Purrweb.

Keeping up with technological progress is part of the everyday routine for people engaged in the IT industry. New tools, technologies, and engines have a significant impact on the way experts approach the process of creating websites or apps. Visit the website of any development company and you will see that they are striving to master new technologies as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Although design practices are constantly improving, there are unshakable laws that any designer must follow if they aim to deliver a high-quality product. These postulates form a procedure, which is commonly called ‘design thinking’. It consists of 4 stages that you need to go through in order to get the perfect design for your app.

Stage 1: Empathize to identify the problem

When it comes to design, a good app differs from a bad one by the amount of time spent studying the problem and the target audience.

The designer should run a series of interviews to create an image of the future app user. It is required to find out user needs, goals, motivation, and the reason for launching the app. In general, that is what ‘empathizing’ means. This information will be crucial when building application interfaces and screens.

It is advisable to conduct all these interviews in person, as it helps designers to better associate themselves with users. This is a key point. Often the designers' idea of how an app should look and function is very different from what a customer really needs.

Ultimately, there are several questions that need to be answered after this stage is completed:

1. Who is the application for?
2. What problems will the application solve?
3. How exactly will users interact with the app?

Stage 2: Create ideas

Once you’ve analyzed the user needs, you can start generating ideas. For the best result, it is recommended to combine the efforts of a few designers and arrange a brainstorming session. Having a user-centered problem statement, the team of specialists should work out all possible ways to solve the problem.

There are several basic techniques. One example is the worst possible idea. The team offers the most inappropriate options for how to solve the identified problem. This technique is used at the very beginning of a brainstorming session in order to warm up and get ready for a creative process.

Working solutions may not appear immediately. But, the process itself allows designers to go through the maximum number of different ideas, including bad ones, in order to ultimately identify the necessary solution or resources that are needed to solve the problem.

Stage 3: Develop a prototype

Even if you have generated a few basic ideas, it is still too early to start fully implementing them, as they may be useless. Instead, you should create design prototypes, sketches, and wireframes. This stage is somewhat similar to the Lean Startup methodology and MVP development. The only exception is that specialists can validate their design ideas even without involving third parties. Often, this happens within a department or company.

Don’t waste your time discussing button sizes, color schemes, or the number of screens. Now, it is crucial to verify that the previously generated ideas can be implemented and can solve the identified problem(s).

The scale of development varies. This can be either a working prototype or sketches drawn in pencil that schematically demonstrate the app screens and user flow. Ultimately, you need to find out if the problem has been resolved. If not, then define at which stage of the user flow the flop occurred.

The remaining ideas are also analyzed in terms of whether they can be implemented with the available resources and deadlines.

The prototype that has passed all stages of research must be introduced to the users. Before that, it is advisable to make sure that your prototype works and includes the necessary elements like interfaces, screens, and so on. By user testing such a prototype, designers validate all solutions that have been applied earlier.

The main principle of this stage is that it can occur many times. The entire design thinking process is not linear. At the testing stage, designers receive new data that can be applied. More often than not, this data allows you to go back to the two previous stages — empathizing and creating ideas. In the first case, test results provide designers with new knowledge about users that can drastically change the approach to empathizing and defining the problem. Thereby, the entire process returns to the first stage. In the second case, user feedback serves as an incentive for designers to come up with new ideas, and the whole process returns to the second stage.

This is how an iterative model works. The cycle is repeated until the final design is close to ideal. This is a key point in the design thinking process.

Final words

In general, the process underlying the design thinking method is a universal formula that allows you to deliver the best result in the end. Specific tech stack, tools, and methods of their application differ depending on the size of the company’s budget, type of application under development, and other variables. The only universal paradigm that always works is the 4 stages of design thinking.


The Importance of a Staging Environment for any Wordpress eCommerce Site

This post is a collaboration with BlogVault.

If you run a successful eCommerce business, one thing is for sure - your website is always active and changing. New products, new shoppers getting registered, daily campaign pages and banners, new website layouts - there’s always something happening. However, if you keep making these website modifications directly on your website, you run a couple of risks -
1. Inconveniencing your customers as they need to wait until you complete the changes
2. Changes can crash your website and the resulting downtime can cost you some substantial revenue

The best way to mitigate these problems? Website Staging.

What is Website Staging?

To define it in simple terms, website staging is an exact copy of your live website, including the backend files and database records, in a safe and independent environment. This copy is the perfect temporary alternative to your live website - with all the features and none of the risks.

In the case of your eCommerce site, this replica site allows you to try out all your website changes or updates with zero effect on your live website. Once you have tested and approved all the changes on the staging site, they can be merged and integrated with the live site.

Website staging eliminates the risk of a crash or a sub-optimal user experience for your visitors. This makes it so critical for an eCommerce business - where you cannot afford a minute’s downtime or a single disgruntled customer.

But, what happens if you choose to avoid this? Let’s find out.

What Can Happen if You Don’t Use Website Staging?

As an eCommerce business owner, your website is central to your business success. Imagine if your site goes down even for a few hours – you could face monumental losses in the form of lost orders, shoppers unable to access their orders, and a loss of revenues and reputation.

Here are five consequences of not using staging for your WordPress site:

  1. Your website could break or have compatibility problems when installing or updating a WordPress plugin/theme on your website.
  2. You may want to try out a website redesign or customize your current theme to create a new look, only to find that these design changes are not compatible with your website code - resulting in increased webpage loading time or malfunctioning.
  3. As a WordPress user, you need to regularly update your website components, including the Core WP, along with plugins/ themes. Applying these updates directly on the live website can sometimes break or crash your site, causing inconvenience to your online customers.
  4. Any online shopper goes through a series of steps which include product browsing, selecting, adding it to the shopping cart, and finally making a payment. Changes made on a live website can disrupt their journey and frustrate them enough for them to abandon your site.
  5. Finally, a website crash or downtime can seriously damage your user’s overall experience and create a negative perception of your business. In the long run, this can lead to negative customer reviews, lack of online referrals, and low customer engagement and conversions.

A safe and reliable WordPress staging site can easily prevent each of these negative consequences. Let’s look at the ways to create one for your site.

How Can You Create a Website Staging Environment?

You can create a staging environment for your website using any of the following three methods:

1. Website Staging using a WordPress staging plugin

This is probably the easiest method of creating a staging environment for your site. Like any other plugin, staging plugins like WP Staging or Duplicator are easy to install and configure on your website installation.

On the flip side, staging plugins can consume your local server resources during the staging operation, overloading your server. Additionally, some plugins do not support multisite WP networks.

If you don’t want to invest separately in a staging plugin, you can opt for the BlogVault backup plugin that includes inbuilt WordPress staging as part of its core features. The best part is that it performs all staging activities on its dedicated servers minimizing the load on your server.

(Source: BlogVault)

Here’s how easily you can create a staging site using BlogVault:

  1. Install the BlogVault plugin on your site. Upon successful installation, the plugin takes a complete backup of your entire website.
  2. Next, sign in to your BlogVault dashboard and create a staging site from the “Staging” section.
  3. Once your staging website is created, sign in to your staging environment and make all the changes to your website files.
  4. Once you have tested all the changes on the staging site, click “Merge” to merge the changes to your live website. All your website changes are now safely tested and merged with the live site.

2. Website staging using your web hosting company

If you don’t want to use a staging plugin, you can opt for staging services from your web host. Managed WordPress hosting companies like Kinsta and Bluehost offer staging environments as part of their hosting packages that are user-friendly and easy to configure.

With a single click, you can easily create a staging environment for your live website. Just like staging plugins, this is fast and does not require any advanced technical knowledge.

But what if your website is not hosted on a managed web host? In this case, you can create a staging site yourself from your web hosting account. Typically, this comprises the following three steps:

  1. Create the staging subdomain website (example, staging.yoursite.com).
  2. Copy all the website files from your live site to your staging site.
  3. Create a duplicate of your website database on your staging site.

Most of the standard web hosting companies offer the staging feature accessible from the account dashboard. Additionally, you can also push the changes from the staging to the live site.

The flip side of staging through your web host is its time-consuming nature and the additional load on your web server. Also, other web hosts may only offer staging with their premium subscription plans.

3. Website staging using manual methods

If you do happen to have complete knowledge about WordPress and FTP tools, you can manually create a staging website. Typically, any WordPress site comprises multiple backend files and a database.

For your staging site, you first need to download all these installation files and database tables and then upload them to the staging site.

Here are the steps you need to perform to create a staging site manually:

  1. Sign in to your web hosting account and create a subdomain for your staging site (example, yoursite.com/public_html/staging).
  2. Using the cPanel tool, create an FTP account for your subdomain – using which you can upload your website files to the staging site.
  3. Next, using File Manager or an FTP tool like FileZilla, download your website files from yoursite/public_html root folder containing your WordPress installation files – to your local computer.
  4. Next, download your WordPress database files using the phpMyAdmin tool of your hosting account.
  5. Using the FTP tool like FileZilla, sign in to your staging site with the FTP account credentials that you created in Step 2.
  6. Once you have established the connection, upload your website files to your staging site.
  7. Next, create a new database using the “Databases > MySQL Databases” section of your hosting account. Additionally, create a new MySQL user for this new database.
  8. Using the phpMyAdmin tool, select the new database (that you created in the previous step) and import the database files – that you had downloaded in Step 4 – to this new database.
  9. Finally, modify the wp-config.php file to connect your staging site to the new database.

However, we only recommend WordPress experts to follow this process as manual staging methods are very technical and may require detailed troubleshooting if things go wrong.

In Conclusion

We understand how important your website is to your business as an eCommerce business owner, and how the thought of risk to your website and its performance can be frightening and stressful. Staging is a simple and effective way to put these worries to rest.

With the help of a staged site, you can test:

  • New plugins and themes including their latest updates and functions
  • Website design-related changes like a new layout or customized theme
  • Any major website bug fixes or code-related changes that could break your live site

If you’re a novice tech user or even someone with very little time on their hands, we highly recommend using a staging plugin. Tools like BlogVault offer immense value as they combine backup and staging-merging functions within the same package.

We’re curious to know how you manage changes on your eCommerce site. What has your experience with live changes been? Drop us your comments and views in the section below.


Creating a Business Plan for Your Web Design Firm

This post is a collaboration with Nifty PM.

Starting your own business comes with its unique set of advantages and disadvantages. You might have become fed up by the people you are working for, and you decide to become your own boss. Or you just have a wonderful web design idea and want to see it come to fruition. However, not many businesses succeed in today’s economy. This is why proper planning is always a must! You will need to create a business plan and find a reliable business planning software. Today, we share with you the best tips and tricks to help your business thrive!

Do not make your business plan too complicated

One of the first pitfalls many young entrepreneurs run into is creating a business plan that is too complicated to understand and follow. Remember – a plan is something you can toss a glance at and understand clearly. You cannot do this if your business plan is 50-pages long and takes hours to go through.

This is why focusing on optimizing and streamlining your business plan is always a good idea. Think of it as something akin to an elevator pitch – you want to be able to present your plan to
prospective shareholders, so they will agree to invest in your web design firm.

The plan can be as simple as containing the following:

  • A quick overview of your strategy (What is the problem you want to solve? How will you
    solve it?)
  • Your business model (Who are your clients going to be? What is the competition?)
  • The schedule or timeline of your activities (This can be prone to change – but more
    about that later!)
  • Financial aspects of your company (things like your sales and cash flow forecasts and
    your budget needs.)

Milestones are a useful tool when creating a business plan It is also a great idea to add milestones to your business plan. They will be useful for a multitude of reasons – and thus deserve a special mention on our list!

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

First, they can help you shape up your strategy. By knowing what you expect to happen – and the timeframe in which you see something happening – you can easily estimate the resources you will use.

Milestones can also help you get a general outline and gist of your business plan. They can be a great visual tool if you use them right. Set your milestones so that you can see all the steps of your business plan. This way, just by glancing at it, you will see where you are and what is left to do.

Finally, you should use milestones in order to evaluate the progress of your design firm. Again, we will talk more about the flexibility of the business in the next paragraph, but milestones can help you adjust your business plan as you go along. By seeing how well (or badly) you are doing, you can reassign your resources or slow down (speed up) your work!

Keep your business plan flexible for maximum efficiency

One of the most important aspects of any business plan is its flexibility. We are living in a world where things change overnight – especially in the business world. For example, the COVID-19 crisis shook up the workforce and pushed many businesses to the brink of existence.

In this ever-changing world, only the businesses with enough flexibility will be able not only to survive but also to thrive. However, many might not know what “being flexible” means. Basically, if your web design firm is flexible, then you can adjust your workflow based on the environments in which you find yourself.

In the example above, businesses were forced to look into remote work in fear of the virus. Those who were able to adapt to it managed to keep turning profit – which many weren’t able to do.

Luckily a lot of this comes down how you make your business plan. Of course, this isn’t the case for some businesses, but a web design firm can prosper by being able to adapt to the needs and wishes of their clients. So, when creating a business, you will want to have the possibility of adjusting it. This way, you can revisit it at the beginning of each week and change it according to your plans.

Steps to take when creating a business plan

After all of these general ideas, you might still be wondering how to actually go about creating a business plan for your web design firm. Well, worry not – we are here to help with this too!

First, you will want to think about your audience. No business can target everyone – especially a web design company. Are you catering to young entrepreneurs or those who do not have enough experience with marketing their business online? Picking a target audience does not mean you are excluding others – just that your main focus will be providing services to those more likely to need you.

Then, you want to shift your focus outward – toward the competition. Explore the market and see how they function. Who is the target audience for your competitors? How are they advertising? What are their price ranges? You will want to know these in order to compete with them.

Finally, you will want to figure out how to manage your cash flow. Whether you like it or not –money is a lifeline of a business. Without it, there is no business! And your shareholders will also want you to be making money – so you will need to show this in your business plan. If you need help with this, then do not be afraid to contact an expert. They can give you great tips and help you get your business on its own two feet!

Conclusion

To conclude, having a good business plan for your web design firm is important. It will help you sell your idea to shareholders, as well as set up your workflow in the right way. A flexible business plan will also help your business prosper in spite of changes in the economy, and it can help have a clear picture of the future of your business. That’s why dedicating some time to your plan each week is essential – and will help you run your business smoothly and successfully.

About the author: The content writer at IdeaBuddy, leading business planning tool. Petar Djordjevic is also a Math student working to become a professional novel writer. In the meantime, he is learning about online writing, content optimization, and ways to boost clients’ website users’ experience.


Digital Agency Management: Tips on How to Deliver Projects on Time

This post is a collaboration with Nifty PM.

Deadlines are something everybody struggles – daily. We might see them as our enemies, but they are a potent tool for achieving productivity in your digital agency. Through deadlines, you can create and optimize your workflow. They serve as an excellent point for looking back and reviewing the process. Finally, meeting them will help keep your clients happy.

However, the fact that many find them exhausting remains. The question, then, becomes – how do you help your team deliver projects on time? Is there any digital agency project management software that can help you with this? Today, we share some tips and tricks on how you can get your team to manage their time in the best way!

Use the right project management tool

One of the first things you will need to do when setting up your workflow is to pick a fantastic project management tool. These are the bread and butter of managing projects. Just like with everything in life – you want a strong foundation to build on. When it comes to working on a project, this will be the tool you are using.

The main problem is that, right now, there are countless of project management tools on the internet. From the simple ones, which only offer to-do lists, to the more complex ones who give you access to an array of tools – the possibilities might seem endless. Finding the software that fits your needs will be a priority.

Generally speaking, if you want to deliver projects on time, then you need a software that will help you track the time spent on the project. You will want something that will allow you to see if your team is struggling with a task and spending more time on it. These tools will help you notice a bottleneck and work on removing it.

As your digital agency grows, though, so will the number of your projects. In this case, you might want to find a tool that can help with your project portfolio as well. Picking a project management software that allows this from the start will mean you do not need to change up your workflow as you develop your business.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Do not be afraid to rely on your team

Another thing that you will not be able to do projects without is your team. For starters, this might even seem false! But as your company grows, you will want to surround yourself with reliable people. The thing to remember, then, is that you should not be afraid to rely on these people.

When building your team, you will want to pick people who are competent in their job. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is an important thing to note. However, this is not the only requirement. Your team should also be interested in planning as well as executing the project. By including them in the creation of the workflow, you involve them and get them to deliver projects on time.

What’s more, you should rely on them to manage the projects on their own as well. Micromanaging everything will only cause conflicts in your company. Instead, believe that your team will be able to finish the project by themselves. This will:

  1. make your teamwork harder to prove you were right to trust them,
  2. help your team build the necessary skills and experience in managing a project and
  3. give you some more time to focus on other things – like bringing more projects to your company.

This way, you will also create a team that is highly-competent to deal with tougher and tougher projects. They will become essential to expanding your business, and they will make the process much easier.

Look into agile project management

If you already have a team set up, but they fail to deliver projects on time, maybe you should explore various ways in which you can approach a project. One of the best ways to do so is through agile project management.

Agile project management is best used in larger projects. Some studies show that smaller projects have a higher success rate that the bigger ones. So, if you want to meet the deadlines while still working on massive projects, you will want to split them up into smaller parts.

This is where agile project management shines. When using it, you will want to create smaller milestones along with the short development sprints. What this means is that you are aiming for quicker delivery times and incorporating client feedback. You are continuously adapting and changing your project as you go through it – which can often speed up the workflow.

Be more transparent

Another thing that you can do to prompt your team to deliver projects on time is to become more transparent. Instead of assigning each team member their tasks, create a workflow that shares all the information.

This way, you will incorporate accountability into your project management. It will serve as a significant push towards efficiency. When a team member knows that others will see how far they have come with their tasks, they will want to deliver their work on time.

This might cause some stress with your team members – but sometimes, stress can be used positively. The thing you need to remember is that it is your task – as a project manager – to be there for a teammate who is falling behind. There might be something that is slowing them down, and you should work together to figure out what it is and how to solve that problem.

Change the way you communicate

You probably already know that how you communicate with your team influences their efficiency. However, not many people realize that the tools you use for this can speed up or slow down the whole process.

It’s simple. E-mail communication, for example, is much slower than instant-messaging tools. Therefore, figuring out the right way of sharing information with your team is an essential step forward towards delivering your projects on time.

Make it a habit of holding a team meeting at least once every week. On these meetings, you can discuss the past events – what went wrong and what went right. Shining a spotlight on these will help your team change the workflow to keep doing an excellent job.

Similarly, you should also talk about the upcoming tasks and expectations. This “sets the stage” for the next week, and help your team better manage your time. By setting aside only thirty minutes each week for these meetings, you will be able to speed up your team’s workflow and deliver projects on time.

About the author: Petar Djordjevic is a content writer at Nifty, a great Jira alternative. He has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and is finishing his master’s degree in General Math. When he isn’t glued to his keyboard writing, he spends time reading epic fantasy and watching sitcoms, as well as learning more about content optimization and online writing.


Display Your Business Cards Like a Pro!

This post is a collaboration with Placeit by Envato.

If you are looking to create an outstanding Business Card Mockups to display your latest designs, you can use Business Card Mockup Generator It allows you to generate original, photorealistic business card mockups to display your branding designs, add to your graphic design portfolio or use as part of your marketing campaign. Making it a fundamental asset of your marketing strategy would be a logical thing to do. By using a business card mockup, you will finally be able to stand out and outshine your competitors in no time and with no effort!

Why Would I Need a Mockup Tool?

The best thing about the card mockup generator is it allows you to produce beautiful visuals to display your work in no time, making it faster for you to generate eye-catching visual content. Making these branding visual assets is really easy, it only takes for you to choose an image you would like to display on the business card mockup, then drag and drop it onto the template or input a URL so that we can resize it for you, and then just download the generated high-resolution PNG file!
Check out this collection of realistic business card mockups that we’ve made for you to have a look at all the options you can choose from to display your branding campaign:

Business Card Mockup on a Surface with Two Colors

Put your design on this template right now and see how your sales grow! You can choose between a lot of different color combinations for the surface in which the business card is lying. Cool, right?

Business Card Mockup in Nature on a Wooden Table

Showcase your logo through this mockup of a business card over a wood table.

Stacks of Business Cards Mockup with Rounded Corners Lying on a Transparent Surface

This mockup of a paper business card lying over a flat surface is a great idea if you are looking to promote your design in a creative and simple way, you can actually choose the background color that you like the most. Make this business card mockup part of your visual marketing strategy today and see your ideas come to life!

Business Card Template Lying on a Surface with Three Colors

A mockup featuring a paper business card on a surface with three colors, use it to showcase your latest designs or logos to your audience.

Mockup of Business Cards Lying on a Yellow Surface

Put your design on this set of business cards lying over a blue surface. Show your audience that your design will look good on a badge holder and as an isolated business card as well!

Video of a Business Card Mockup

Start being creative with a business card video! All you have to do is drag-and-drop an image file on the interface, we will process it for you in just seconds.

Business Card Video Mockup made with Placeit

Try This Business Card Maker Too!

Got Your Mockups? Time to Advertise!

When was the last time you made any changes to your branding campaign? Can’t even remember? Then, it might be time to go check out a mockup generator to help you make up your mind. Use card mockups to advertise your business’s latest idea or new design and make an impact on the market. Mockups are really simple to use, just drag and drop your desired image onto the template and download to start enjoying them right away!


A Scope Creep Guide, how to Prevent & Manage it

This post is a collaboration with Toptal.

In the world of project management there is a problem many can find: scope creep. This occurs when a project scope that was set up beforehand begins to expand, not to be confused with how the project requirements sometimes change during the course of an engagement. Scope creep makes itself known in a noticeable way because not all parties might be in agreement with the changes that are being made.

In the last five years there has been a 52% increase in scope creep in projects, given the fact that it is an omnipresent feature of modern-day project management. While an extreme amount of it can be disastrous, a smaller amount of scope creep is not considered that bad. If the project team is external then the extra work created from scope creep can justify certain requests like a budget increase, and even result in better project revenues. In addition, if the result is approved by the client, then this can only increase project team reputation as long as any of the extra work does not interfere with the delivery of the original scope.

To learn more about how this affect projects, stakeholders, how to prevent and how exactly scope creep happen as well as ways of managing when it does, you can check out this guide by Toptal: How to Prevent & Manage Scope Creep.