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Proto.io Review: A Flexible Prototyping Tool

Original Source: https://inspiredm.com/proto-io-review-a-flexible-prototyping-tool/

Fact is – even when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the painstaking process of building a standard app takes an average of about 4 to 6 months. It’s more like a journey from brainstorming an idea to coming up with a totally different end product.

In between these two stages is where the all the drama happens. After brainstorming, comes the research process, from where you establish a corresponding wireframe, then it’s followed up by a prototype for the first testing phase.

What’s missing so far?

Now, hold it right there. Before we even proceed to the development phase, let’s first appreciate the one thing that substantially informs it.

A prototype basically represents what you presume will be the end product’s user interface. The subsequent feedback generated from users determines the corresponding functionality design during development.

Therefore, all in all, the prototype is what basically determines app development and, to a large extent, the overall outcome.

So, how about we take a look at one interesting tool you can leverage for this?

Proto.io Review: Overview

Created by the Labs Division of SNQ Digital, Proto.io has been around since 2011, when it was released as a commercial web platform dealing with prototype development for iPads and iPhones. It then morphed gradually into a more dynamic framework and even expanded to accommodate multiple devices.

Currently, the platform essentially targets app enthusiasts, mobile designers, interaction designers, and user experience professionals with a wide range of critical prototyping tools.

Proto.io

One of Proto.io’s principal properties is its intuitive user interface, which is built with a drag-and-drop system that can be leveraged without coding. That alone explains why it’s relatively popular among both coders and non-coders.

It also provides an entirely integrated library of interactions, which can be systematically used on any of its layers.

And speaking of which, Proto.io seemingly streamlines the whole process of prototyping by facilitating multiple layers on various screens. Users can also import from Sketch or Photoshop, create interactions with JavaScript, sync numerous assets with Dropbox, and detail motion designs while previewing animations through its editor window.

All things considered, the one thing that makes Proto.io worth checking out is the fact that its developers are consistently improving it with new updates from time to time. They’ve already released two in November alone, affecting the player and editor.

But then again, Proto.io also comes with notable weaknesses. How they could affect your work is something we’ll be looking into shortly. This Proto.io review covers all the important details you need to know- fundamental features, pricing, strengths, and drawbacks.

And to start us off, here are the principal features…

Proto.io Review: Features
Building a Prototype

When you start your journey on Proto.io, you’ll notice that it provides a detailed tutorial to help you find your way around the system. It found it to be quite handy, to be honest, and the interface further makes it easy to adapt since the tools are well-arranged and accessible.

Thankfully, Proto.io doesn’t overwhelmingly throw everything at you. So don’t be worried if you can’t see some important elements at the beginning. More functionalities and contextual options are progressively availed as you continue working on your project.

Now, starting one is as easy as clicking on the new project option on the dashboard, naming it, selecting the screen size and intended medium, then voila!

The navigation process itself is seamless, thanks to a straightforward user interface that doesn’t take ages to get used to. I was already creating multiple screens in about an hour or so, then went ahead to combine them with attractive transitions and stylish interactions.

Proto.io prototype

Merging and testing them didn’t take a lot of effort because Proto.io is built with an animation preview feature. Sadly, I wouldn’t consider it a 100% real-time live preview since users are required to first save their projects before animation changes are reflected in the preview.

Well, at least the system compensates for that with an immersive drag-and-drop interface. Dragging any element is surprisingly simple, and you can adjust it accordingly then move on to the next.

Proto.io drag and drop

If you happen to adopt items you think you might need later (animations, interactions, UI elements), save yourself the hard work by taking advantage of container saving. That way, you’ll be able to simply drag and place them appropriately when you need to. It really is that stress-free.

Fair enough. But, what functionalities are we talking about here?

For starters, you can rotate, fade, resize, and move animations. Then interactions support functions like right-click, click, release, touch, double tap, tap, etc. Transitions, on the other hand, provide for flipping, up/down sliding, left/right sliding, etc. Combine that with a large library of typical UI elements, and you have yourself one heck of a user-friendly prototyping system.

So, where do projects go after completion?

Now, here’s the thing. The dashboard not only avails all the projects but also allows you to delete, archive, duplicate, edit, and access them. This is basically where you can also share a project, and proceed to adjust the corresponding settings.

Sharing and Collaboration

Fine, you might be able to handle a project alone and possibly come up with an impressive prototype. Or, you can make everything much easier and expand your capabilities by working with a well-coordinated team.

It turns out proto.io has this sorted out. It provides an array of sharing and collaboration tools for showcasing and expanding your projects.

How, you ask?

To showcase the bare minimum, for instance, Proto.io allows you to take a snapshot of your project at any moment then share it with team members. Otherwise, you can choose to go all out by sharing a live version of the prototype, and even enabling video recording plus comments. That should be good enough to provide adequate project information and, consequently, trigger detailed feedback.

Proto.io sharing

But, you know what? It’s possible to go beyond this since Proto.io also supports Usertesting.com and Validately. Enabling them should help you secure comprehensive, in-depth feedback from prototype users.

And it doesn’t matter what devices they use to access previews. The system can adapt accordingly to both mobile and desktop browsers.

And get this. If you’re creating a smartphone application, Android and iOS apps’ native experience will benefit your prototypes by showcasing them in the medium they’ve been developed for.

That said, it’s worth noting that Proto.io 6 made things much easier by introducing single-click sharing. That basically means you can distribute your prototype to team members with a single click. How cool is that?

Interaction Tools

All things considered, the whole interaction design of your app is what ultimately makes the difference when it comes usability. That’s arguably why we even make prototypes in the first place.

Fortunately, Proto.io isn’t mean when it comes to interaction tools. It provides a wide array of functionalities you can capitalize on to create a memorable user experience.

In addition to scrollable content screens, some of the popular options here include slide-in menus and onboarding screens- to mention but a few. And for that personal touch, Proto.io allows users to dynamically tweak all interaction tools.

Proto.io interaction tools

Ok, but how exactly do you even add them?

Well, do you remember when we mentioned that Proto.io heavily uses a drag-and-drop interface? So, guess what? Achieving any interaction outcome is as simple as dragging and dropping the elements from an icon to your user interface components. You don’t need even a single line of code.

Supported Devices

It’s always advisable to develop your prototype on a desktop PC. It provides just the right immersive experience to engineer a solid prototype.

Now, previewing the prototype is a different ball game. Thankfully, Proto.io doesn’t force people to do this in the native environment the prototypes have been built on.

That essentially means you’re can show off your creation to all types of users, regardless of their gadgets of choice. They’ll be able to gain access through PC and mobile browsers.

As a matter of fact, Proto.io even went ahead to develop versions for iOS and Android. They fundamentally optimize the whole experience of reviewing prototypes developed for mobile devices.

Now, after sharing your project, you can rely on the subsequent user comments to rate your prototype. But, here the interesting thing- As if that’s not enough, Proto.io linked up with Lookback.io to come up with the ability to record user screens and facial expressions of people using a prototype.

So, yes. You bet you can make an informed judgment about the performance of your prototype based on how its users smile or frown. Impressive, right?

Learning Curve

I know. I’ve been there. That moment you assume that a platform for prototypes has got to be complicated enough to handle extensive UI development.

Luckily, Proto.io has managed to eliminate coding without compromising the prototype development process. You can set up both low-fidelity wireframes and fully-developed high-fidelity prototypes, complete with all the features required for thorough testing.

Proto.io features

That said, you’ve got to admit that it doesn’t take much to master a typical drag-and-drop interface. But, in case you face any difficulties along the way, Proto.io provides detailed documentation containing basically everything about the platform.

Proto.io Review: Pricing

First off, I was pleased to find that Proto.io provides a permanently free option. Unfortunately, it’s quite limited since it only offers:

io app preview
10MB storage
Zero additional reviewers
5 prototype screens
1 active project
1 user

The only way to secure more features is subscribing to one of Proto.io’s four plans. They all offer:

Email support
256-bit encryption
Sketch/Photoshop importing
Dropbox syncing
Branding
Export to PDF/PNG/HTML
User feedback in video form powered by Lookback
Comments
Share
io app previewing
Preview in player

Proto.io pricing

Now that they all come with the entire feature ecosystem, the principal distinguishing factors between the packages are the number of supported users and projects.  The plans are seemingly structured to service different grades of users and organizations.

And here are the details:

Freelancer- Costs $29 per month with monthly billing, or $24 per month with annual billing

Supports 1 user
Provides 5 active projects

Startup- Costs $49 per month with monthly billing, or $40 per month with annual billing

Supports 2 users
Provides 10 active projects

Agency- Costs $99 per month with monthly billing, or $80 per month with annual billing

Supports 5 users
Provides 15 active projects

Corporate- Costs $199 per month with monthly billing, or $160 per month with annual billing

Supports 10 users
Provides 30 active projects

Going by these usage scales, I’d say these plans are suitable for individuals and small businesses. Large enterprises have been given the option of negotiating with Proto.io for custom packages that provide priority support, analytics, enterprise-grade security, unlimited projects, additional users, and much more.

Students and non-profit organizations, on the other hand, can qualify for a 50% discount. It all depends on Proto.io’s screening process.

Now that’s not bad. Not bad at all. But I wonder if the discount is based on the monthly model, annual billing, or both.

Well, if you don’t qualify, at least you can lower your costs by about 20% when you switch from monthly to annual billing. Then, apart from that, you also get a 15-day free trial period to test everything out when you sign up.

Who Should Consider Using Proto.io?

So far so good. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, Proto.io has its fair share of drawbacks.

Consider offline editing for example. While it’s commendable that the platform allows users to export prototypes to PDF and HTML, it seems that’s just about it when you don’t have an internet connection. The only thing you’ll be able to do is previewing a prototype.

Creating and tweaking a prototype requires a stable connection to the web. That basically makes it impossible to conveniently work on the go.

And speaking of creating prototypes, let’s hope that the development team at Proto.io will seriously consider introducing 3D animations and live previews. After all, it’s 2019 for crying out loud.

Other than that, we can conclude that Proto.io is a decent platform built with a focus on productivity and scalability. It’s flexible enough to support both simple projects by novices and complex multi-layered designs by corporate teams.

So, all things considered, what do you think we should expect from its developers in the near future?

The post Proto.io Review: A Flexible Prototyping Tool appeared first on Inspired Magazine.

The best children's books of all time

Original Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/CreativeBloq/~3/kgDM93W_Q1Y/the-best-childrens-books-of-all-time

Looking for the best children's books of all time? That's exactly what you'll find right here. Whether you need a last minute Christmas gift, or you want some inspiration for your own illustration projects, we've got you covered.

After all, there are few better displays of imagination, craft and creativity than a well-written and illustrated children’s book. Not only do they need to excite the mind of a child but they also need to engage the adult reading them to the point that they're happy going through the same book over and over again.

This list comprises some of the best children's books of all time, broken down into age groups – with some further recommendations that those with a designers eye will get a kick out of as well. We hope it'll be useful for Christmas inspiration, baby-showers and kids-at-heart alike.

Right now, you'll find ages 0-5 – but head back here tomorrow and we'll have more age groups covered…

The best creative Christmas gifts for kids

Buy The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Amazon US: $6.59 | Amazon UK: £5.13  

Summary: A classic that has been passed down over generations, this children's book follows the journey of a caterpillar eating his way to adulthood.

Now over 40 years old, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been delighting children for generations. Eric Carle's unique and beautiful illustration style combine with a story that is fun and educational, even for young ears. It's a 'first buy' book for anyone with a child on the way.

The original is in paperback, but the book is available in so many different formats, from pop-up to puppet and there's even a film. We've linked the board book, which is perfect for toddlers to hold and read and discover the world.

Buy Where the Wild Things Are – Amazon US: $13.23 | Amazon UK: £4.54

Summary: One night Max makes mischief of one kind and another, so his mother sends him to bed. When a forest grows, the Wild Things are unleashed and make Max their king.

Another classic, Where the Wild Things Are has been on children's bookshelves since 1964. The story uses the jungle and Wild Things as a metaphor for Max's rage at being told to go to his room.

There's a beautiful message hidden under what seems like a story of an overactive imagination that sometimes a child just needs a bit of time to calm themselves down. Something both parents and children can learn from.

Buy The Jolly Christmas Postman – Amazon US: $16.45 | Amazon UK: £6.99

Summary: It's Christmas Eve, and the Jolly Postman has letters to delivery to a cast of beloved fairy-tale characters, all included in envelopes throughout the book.

Really any one of the Ahlberg books could go into this list. Each Peach Pear Plum, Funny Bones and Peepo are timeless classics. The Jolly Christmas Postman wins out because there is just so much fun to be had with your kids as you turn the page and see what's been delivered to the next classic character.

A game for Little Red Riding Hood, a jigsaw for Humpty Dumpty, a tiny book-in-a-book for the Gingerbread Man. Sit in bed on Christmas Eve and pop open the envelopes to reveal little toys and games to play with your little ones.

Buy The Snowman – Amazon US: $12.95 | Amazon UK: £5.59

Summary: One winter's night a boy finds his Snowman has come to life as they head on a magical adventure across the skies.

One of the rare occasions when a book and a film are on par with each other, having watched and read both you can almost see Raymond Briggs' illustrations dancing across the page.

There is a slight difference in that they don't visit the North Pole and meet Father Christmas, which feels notable absent if you do it in Film – Book order. The end is still touching and sad though.

The entire story is wordless, which is always fascinating to see how emotion and context are achieved using just body and facial expressions.

Buy Lost & Found – Amazon US: $17.09 | Amazon UK: £5.24

Summary: Once there was a boy, and one day he finds a penguin on his doorstep. The boy tries to return the penguin to his home but finds a friendship was all he was looking for instead.

Lost & Found is just about the pinnacle of what a picture book should be. It's the perfect length and tone, and the illustrations are approachable for both adult and child. The story of a developing friendship is quickly picked up by young children, and the humour is well placed and subtle at points.

While How to Catch a Star is Oliver Jeffers excellent debut book, Lost and Found is really where he began to gain notoriety. The book was developed into a film by Studio AKA of which Jeffers produced a lot of graphics assets, and it's the first time you really start to see his iconic handwriting make an outing.

Recently Oliver Jeffers released an anthology of all of his 'boy' books featuring pencil sketches and brainstorms completed while plotting the series. The Boy, His Stories and How They Came To Be is also available on Amazon

Buy I Want My Hat Back – Amazon US: $12.77 | Amazon UK: £3.98

Summary: A book about a bear whose hat has gone and he wants it back. Asking creatures one by one the bear searches for his lost hat.

Klassen's colour and illustration style juxtapose the traditionally vibrant world we usually see in picture books, with neutral hues and darker tones it makes a refreshing read in between magical kingdoms and fairy tales. 

The humour is more dry, subtle and darker as well, meaning its much more of a treat for adults than usual. Kids still massively enjoy it though, picking up on its cues that you'd think might go over their heads. The pacing of this story is some of the best you'll see in a 40-page picture book, meaning the plot twist at the end is delivered with excellent comic timing.  

Buy The Storm Whale – Amazon US: $11 | Amazon UK: £5.49

Summary: Noi and his father (a fisherman) live by the sea. One day a baby whale washes up on the beach, and Noi decides to take it home and care for it.

Benji Davies' illustration style reminds of Axel Scheffler (Gruffalo, Room on a Broom) in that it's incredibly detailed but completely unique. Like landscape painting with a modern, more simplified colour scheme.

Add that to a story that is heartwarming and enjoys positive father-son dynamic you end up with a book that will go down as a modern classic. The Storm Whale in Winter is an excellent follow up that shifts the colour palette and adds even more vibrancy to the world.

Buy Here We Are – Amazon US: $17.80 | Amazon UK: £10.36

Summary: A guide to life for people who've just arrived on Earth (babies).

In what is probably Oliver Jeffers most refined book from a visual point of view, this book was written to teach his children the nuances of contemporary life. Fortunately, it does a great job of educating everyone else too.

The illustrations are stunning, and the message is refreshing. In a world that feels like its becoming increasingly disconnected this book aims to teach the next generation of life's purpose and what they can do in their time on this planet.

Summary: Husband and wife team of Ann and design legend Paul Rand combine to produce a simple and effective 

Paul Rand illustrated four of his wife's books, each of them utilising a shape-led style with flat colour. There is undoubtedly more engaging books for children our there, but from a designer/illustrator point of view given that this book was first published in 1956, there's still a lot to be learnt from the simplicity of layout and shape here.

Read more:

The best new children's books of 201833 books every graphic designer should readThe best Christmas gifts for kids

VSDC Free Video Editor Review – Everything You Need to Know

Original Source: https://inspiredm.com/vsdc-free-video-editor-review-everything-you-need-to-know/

Fact is- we all need video editing solutions from time to time. The most ideal type to use, however, is a different thing altogether.

You see, there has been an unending debate about paid and free video editors. While most people would overwhelmingly prefer free, it turns out that the real features are hoarded by the paid versions.

Think about it. Although you might be able to mention numerous free options, most of them pretty much end up being useless. They commonly provide very limited features, which are usually incapable of consistently generating decently edited videos.

And right when you assume that you’ve luckily stumbled on a different one with impressive features, you suddenly discover that you’re permanently stuck with watermarks and the likes. Then to make the situation worse, they probably also throw in a couple of annoying ads.

From limited trial periods to incomplete video outputs, you name it- I’ve tried it all out when it comes to free editors. And frankly, I’ve repeatedly given up on finding a solid one on many occasions.

So, I have to admit that I was not really excited about the VSDC Free Video Editor when I came across it. I thought it would end up being the same old tale with a different title. But surprisingly, things turned out contrary to my expectations…

VSDC Free Video Editor Review: Overview

Developed by Flash-Integro LLC, VSDC Free Video Editor is essentially a nonlinear video editing solution for video, audio, and images.

What does this mean?

Well, if you’ve tried out several standard video editors, you must have noticed the same old framework of placing media in a linear pattern for editing. But VSDC, on the other hand, uses a different non-linear approach. You’re allowed to set any combination or sequence as you work on your videos.

For instance, you can put videos directly opposite each other for a side-by-side outlook, or stack one over the other for a picture-in-picture setup. And that’s not all. There are numerous additional parameters you’re allowed to adjust- like media shape and position.

But, here’s the best thing about it. It’s completely free. The system will not lock you out after some time to force an upgrade.

Now, let’s be honest.  We’ve seen numerous “free” video editing tools hiding behind that fact only to hit you with a caveat after installation. They usually paste ugly watermarks on your media output to market their brands. Or perhaps force you to install secondary apps they’ve partnered with.

Thankfully, VSDC free video editor doesn’t come with either. It doesn’t announce itself to the world with watermarks or introduce extra applications. You basically get what you see.

And speaking of which, it looks and feels like a genuinely professional tool. The interface is packed with a myriad of editing components that allow you to merge, split, cut, rotate, zoom, crop, and much more. You also get to do things like adding subtitles and shapes, hiding elements, blending, correcting colors, blurring, plus placing Instagram-like filters.

All these are possible on a wide array of video formats and codecs- including mainstream ones like AVI and MP4, plus unconventional versions like SWF and RM. The subsequent output options are also extensive, and you can even choose to produce a DVD video from its disc burner feature.

That said, VSDC is not only about free software. There’s an option of upgrading to a PRO version, which costs $19.99 per year.

But that would only be necessary if you need masking, subpixel accuracy, and video stabilization features, plus hardware acceleration to produce videos much faster. Our principal interest at the moment is the free version.

So, is VSDC free video editing software capable of living up to our expectations? How powerful are its features? And how does it even generate revenue if it’s actually free to use?

Well, let’s find out. This VSDC free video editor review covers all the critical matters- its features, editing tools, monetization model, plus its overall suitability.

VSDC Free Video Editor Review: Features
System Requirements

Admittedly, the biggest problem with video editors is the fact that they all require insanely extensive PC resources to run. You pretty much cannot edit a solid HD video without gaming rig-like PC components.

So, of course, I was extremely curious about the system requirements for VSDC free video editor. And it turns out that the minimum you need to run the software without issues is:

Microsoft DirectX 9.0c or later versions
50 MB disk space for installation
256 MB RAM
1024 × 768 pixels display with 16-bit color
Intel or AMD chipset with a clock rate of at least 1.5 GHz
Windows OS (XP SP3 or later versions)

Now hang on a minute. Does this mean you can edit videos on your old PC? Interestingly, yes- a standard PC can comfortably host and run this software. As a matter of fact, it only takes up 200MB of space in your local disk.

And when it comes operating systems, these are the supported ones:

Windows 10
Windows 8
Windows 7
Windows Vista
Windows XP SP3

Sadly, sorry Mac users. You might have to check later if they’ve released a compatible version. Let’s hope they ultimately do.

As for Windows users, let’s see how it actually performs on your PC…

User Friendliness

Once you run the application, you’ll notice that the primary interface is dark with clear labels on the tools. And to help you get the hang of it all, the system greets you with a pop-up that essentially walks you through the process of opening a new project, starting the editing stage, and exporting a project.

However, you don’t have to go through all that. I found the overall interface surprisingly simple and straightforward.

Starting a project, for instance, is as simple as choosing either screen capture, video capture, import content, create a slideshow, or blank project. You’ll see all these options from a projects tab that kicks in after the pop-up tutorial.

In case you need additional help, you can access the “Get To Know Top Feature” option at the bottom. It contains additional pointers about elements like:

3D pro charts
Multimedia combiner
Waveform
Chroma key
UHD and HD
Blending
Video effects

Now, let’s face it. It might take a beginner some time to get used to everything here. But, I guess that’s something we should expect on a software solution laden with such an array of tools. At least the learning curve is not as steep as we’ve seen with Adobe’s Premiere.

When it comes to the actual editing process, I admit that I haven’t experienced any issue so far. The progress has been smooth all along. However, it’s worth noting that the software’s overall performance depends on your PC’s hardware resources.

The rendering speed, for example, increases slightly as you upgrade the hardware components. It’s not the fastest we’ve seen, but it’s satisfyingly good for a free tool. Only Pro users get optimized speeds thanks to the hardware acceleration feature that VSDC unlocks after an upgrade.

Fortunately, that variation doesn’t affect the video quality at all. I was impressed that the VSDC free video editor can support both HD and UHD output resolutions. In fact, it can produce even H265/HEVC, which is a popular codec that compresses the file size without compromising the quality.

Editing Features

Video Capturing Tool

The video capturing tool connects VSDC with all cameras linked to your computer. You can shoot a video directly through IP cameras and webcams, then save or tweak them with the editor.

Screen Capturing Tool

The screen capturing tool comes in handy when you need to prepare solid video tutorials showing your PC display. It essentially prepares a footage of your activities on the computer monitor. You can then capitalize on the editor to adjust the resultant video accordingly.

DVD Burning Tool

Perhaps you’d like to catch up with your videos on a DVD player. Well, this is basically what you use.

The DVD burning tool allows you to save a DVD version of your video directly to a compatible disc in your PC’s optical drive.

Video Converter Tool

The video converter tool controls the conversion process, allowing you to transform a video file from one format to another. In addition to that, you can use it to merge clips into a single file, or split one into several videos.

Export Video to Social Networks

It goes without saying that YouTube is, by far, the biggest video directory on the web. So, of course, it makes sense to provide a tool that basically connects the app directly with YouTube to help you effortlessly upload a video immediately after editing.

Apart from that, you can also export and publish videos on Vimeo, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Create 3D Charts

VSDC free video editor goes beyond typical video editing to help users enhance their professional presentation videos. You can capitalize on the 3D charts feature to create a funnel, point, pyramid, scatter line, pie stacked bar, general bar, and much more- as part of your final video.

Blending Modes and Instagram-Like Filters

By now, you’ve probably tried out color blending on photos. Well, it turns out that you can also play around with this function as you edit your videos on VSDC. In fact, it also offers effects that are as powerful as Instagram filters- one click alone can adjust the temperature, contrast, or grayscale levels.

Supported Media Formats

The respective formats you can import to edit are:

Image Formats: PNG, BMP, GIF, JPEG, JPG, PSD, CUR, ICO
Audio Formats: MP3, RAM, AC3, CDA, WMA, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, AU, M4A, AAC, RA, CUE, OGG, VOC, MPA, WAV, APE
Video Formats: AVI, HDVideo/AVCHD (TOD, MOD, MTS, M2TS, TS), DVD/VOB, VCD/SVCD, QuickTime (MP4, MOV, 3GP, QT), MKV, Flash Video (FLV, SWF), MPEG, MJPEG, H.264/MPEG-4, XviD, AMV, MTV, Media Video (RM, RMVB), DV, NUT, Windows Media (DVR-MS, WMV, ASF)

Then after editing, you can export them as:

Image Formats: PNG, JPEG, BMP, GIF
Audio Formats: MP3, AAC, WAV, OGG, M4A, AMR
Video Formats: MP4, AVI, DVD, VCD/SVCD, MOV, 3GP, MKV, FLV, SWF, MTV, AMV, WMV, MV4, RM, RMVB

Overall Features

YouTube uploader
Export to social networking sites
Create videos for selected multimedia devices
Video file converter
Shoot videos directly from IP cameras, webcams, and video tuners
Capture PC screen video
Built-in DVD burning capability
Universal format support
4K and HD support
Create charts and diagrams
Color blending and Instagram-like filters
Visual and audio effects
Non-linear video editing

VSDC Pro Tools
Subpixel Accuracy

VSDC Pro employs subpixel accuracy when placing or positioning elements in a video scene. Consequently, the quality of the footage is preserved even after adjusting the angles, skewing, or introducing other visual effects.

Masking

The video editing process occasionally involves eliminating or hiding some objects like watermarks- and VSDC Pro provides a masking feature for precisely that. You can even blur faces to hide the identities of individuals in a video.

Video Stabilization Tool

Have you ever shot a video while moving only to end up with an annoyingly shaky clip? This is particularly common with drones and smartphones.

To help you rectify the problem, VSDC Pro provides a video stabilization tool. It pretty much eliminates the shaking frames to produce a much smoother footage.

Who Should Consider Using VSDC Free Video Editor?

Sadly, most of the free video editing software available on the web provide extremely basic features that would only be ideal for small beginner projects. VSDC Free Video Editor, however, is one of the few ones that provide the entire stack of features without substantial limitations. It’s pretty solid for a tool that won’t ask you to pay anything or embed watermarks on your videos.

That said, anyone can use this software- from beginners to established professionals in the graphic design space. However, I bet the bulk of its user-base is made of people who regularly post videos on social media. They would certainly appreciate a free editor that combines unlimited 4K video editing with social media uploaders.

So, how would you rate this one compared to other free video editors in the market?

header image courtesy of Lily

The post VSDC Free Video Editor Review – Everything You Need to Know appeared first on Inspired Magazine.

The best new children’s books of 2018

Original Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/CreativeBloq/~3/_0frvAxPNlw/the-best-new-childrens-books-of-2018

As the end of the year approaches, we’ve taken a look back at the best new children’s books of 2018 and picked seven highlights. Spanning a wide range of age groups, these must-read titles tackle themes of courage and wisdom with spades of mystery, magic and mayhem thrown in.

From enchanting picture books to suspense-filled stories for young detectives, each of the children’s books in this list is a modern classic. Read on for our pick of the best new children’s books in 2018. 

One of Barnes & Noble’s best children’s books of 2018 and a New York Times bestseller, Be Kind is a beautifully illustrated exploration of kindness. The story is told through the eyes of a child as she ponders how to respond when a friend spills grape juice on herself. Combining irresistible watercolour and ink images with gentle text, the book shows how small actions can lead to big results.  

The Day You Begin is a gentle, poignant and heartening book about finding the courage to connect with other children and share your stories, even when you feel scared and alone. A New York Times bestseller, this ode to diversity from celebrated author Jacqueline Woodson reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes and offers a message of comfort to preschool and early elementary children. Exquisite art from illustrator Rafael Lopez illuminates the theme throughout.

Imagine if you could grow dragons – in your very own garden. The Boy Who Grew Dragons follows the heart-warming story of Tomas as he tries to keep his unusual pets a secret in his beloved granddad’s garden. It’s a wonderfully whimsical story that’s fast, funny and full of feel-good moments. And while it’s a great read for 7-9-year-olds in particular, it has a wide appeal for younger and older readers too.

Dubbed a “strong first children’s book” by the Guardian, The Lifters is a quirky tale set in a small town plagued by dark, mysterious underground forces. Stunningly written, author Dave Eggers explores mental-health issues and local activism alongside themes of courage and determination – served with a twist of magic – in this captivating young adult novel. 

Mummy Fairy and Me is the first of a new series by bestselling novelist Sophie Kinsella. It’s narrated by Ella, whose mum is just like every other mum – except she can secretly turn herself into a fairy. The only problem is that sometimes her spells go wrong and Ella has to come to her rescue. Magic and mayhem abound in this fun and beautifully illustrated story.

Harry Potter meets Agatha Christie, with a dash of the Grand Budapest Hotel thrown in, in this bestselling magical murder mystery. The Last Chance Hotel is an inventive murder mystery that will appeal to fantasy lovers as well as young detectives. Packed with rich characters, suspense, cliffhanger endings and an exciting finale, this enchanting story is perfectly pitched at budding sleuths – while remaining a comforting bedtime story. 

The first children's book by award-winning lettering artist and author Jessica Hische, Tomorrow I’ll be Brave, offers a visually stunning journey through a world filled with hand-lettered words of wisdom. As a bunny and cat list their goals for the next day, the book – which is packed with gorgeous and immersive images – reminds young readers that tomorrow is full of endless opportunities.

Read more:

33 books every graphic designer should read10 illustration books every artist should readHow to illustrate a children's book

How To Convert An Infographic Into A Gifographic Using Adobe Photoshop

Original Source: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2018/12/gifographic-animated-infographic-adobe-photoshop/

How To Convert An Infographic Into A Gifographic Using Adobe Photoshop

How To Convert An Infographic Into A Gifographic Using Adobe Photoshop

Manish Dudharejia

2018-12-13T14:00:11+01:00
2018-12-13T12:59:33+00:00

Visuals have played a critical role in the marketing and advertising industry since their inception. For years, marketers have relied on images, videos, and infographics to better sell products and services. The importance of visual media has increased further with the rise of the Internet and consequently, of social media.

Lately, gifographics (animated infographics) have also joined the list of popular visual media formats. If you are a marketer, a designer, or even a consumer, you must have come across them. What you may not know, however, is how to make gifographics, and why you should try to add them to your marketing mix. This practical tutorial should give you answers to both questions.

In this tutorial, we’ll be taking a closer look at how a static infographic can be animated using Adobe Photoshop, so some Photoshop knowledge (at least the basics) is required.

What Is A Gifographic?

Some History

The word gifographic is a combination of two words: GIF and infographic. The term gifographic was popularized by marketing experts (and among them, by Neil Patel) around 2014. Let’s dive a little bit into history.

CompuServe introduced the GIF ( Graphics Interchange Format) on June 15, 1987, and the format became a hit almost instantly. Initially the use of the format remained somewhat restricted owing to patent disputes in the early years (related to the compression algorithm used in GIF files — LZW) but later, when most GIF patents expired, and owing to their wide support and portability, GIFs gained a lot in popularity which even lead the word “GIF” to become “Word of the year” in 2012. Even today, GIFs are still very popular on the web and on social media(*).

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The GIF is a bitmap image format. It supports up to 8 bits per pixel so a single GIF can use a limited palette of up to 256 different colors (including — optionally — one transparent color). The Lempel–Ziv–Welch (LZW) is a lossless data compression technique that is used to compress GIF images, which in turn, reduces the file size without affecting their visual quality. What’s more interesting though, is that the format also supports animations and allows a separate palette of up to 256 colors for each animation frame.

Tracing back in history as to when the first infographic was created is much more difficult, but the definition is easy — the word “infographic” comes from “information” and “graphics,” and, as the name implies, an infographic serves the main purpose of presenting information (data, knowledge, etc.) quickly and clearly, in a graphical way.

In his 1983 book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte gives a very detailed definition for “graphical displays” which many consider today to be one of the first definitions of what infographics are, and what they do: to condense large amounts of information into a form where it will be more easily absorbed by the reader.

A Note On GIFs Posted On The Web (*)

Animated GIF images posted to Twitter, Imgur, and other services most often end up as H.264 encoded video files (HTML5 video), and are technically not GIFs anymore when viewed online. The reason behind this is pretty obvious — animated GIFs are perhaps the worst possible format to store video, even for very short clips, as unlike actual video files, GIF cannot use any of the modern video compression techniques. (Also, you can check this article: “Improve Animated GIF Performance With HTML5 Video” which explains how with HTML5 video you can reduce the size of GIF content by up to 98% while still retaining the unique qualities of the GIF format.)

On the other hand, it’s worth noting that gifographics most often remain in their original format (as animated GIF files), and are not encoded to video. While this leads to not-so-optimal file sizes (as an example, a single animated GIF in this “How engines work?” popular infographic page is between ~ 500 KB and 5 MB in size), on the plus side, the gifographics remain very easy to share and embed, which is their primary purpose.

Why Use Animated Infographics In Your Digital Marketing Mix?

Infographics are visually compelling media. A well-designed infographic not only can help you present a complex subject in a simple and enticing way, but it can also be a very effective mean of increasing your brand awareness as part of your digital marketing campaign.

Remember the popular saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? There is a lot of evidence that animated pictures can be even more successful and so recently motion infographics have witnessed an increase in popularity owing to the element of animation.

From Boring To Beautiful

They can breathe life into sheets of boring facts and mundane numbers with the help of animated charts and graphics. Motion infographics are also the right means to illustrate complex processes or systems with moving parts to make them more palatable and meaningful. Thus, you can easily turn boring topics into visually-engaging treats. For example, we created the gifographic “The Most Important Google Search Algorithm Updates Of 2015” elaborating the changes Google made to its search algorithm in 2015.

Cost-Effective

Gifographics are perhaps the most cost-effective alternative to video content. You don’t need expensive cameras, video editing, sound mixing software, and a shooting crew to create animated infographics. All it takes is a designer who knows how to make animations by using Photoshop or similar graphic design tools.

Works For Just About Anything

You can use a gifographic to illustrate just about anything in bite-sized sequential chunks. From product explainer videos to numbers and stats, you can share anything through a GIF infographic. Animated infographics can also be interactive. For example, you can adjust a variable to see how it affects the data in an animated chart.

Note: An excellent example of an interactive infographic is “Building An Interactive Infographic With Vue.js” written by Krutie Patel. It was built with the help of Vue.js, SVG and GSAP (GreenSock Animation Platform).

SEO Boost

As a marketer, you are probably aware that infographics can provide a substantial boost to your SEO. People love visual media. As a result, they are more likely to share a gifographic if they liked it. The more your animated infographics are shared, the higher will be the boost in site traffic. Thus, gifographics can indirectly help improve your SEO and, therefore, your search engine rankings.

How To Create A Gifographic From An Infographic In Photoshop

Now that you know the importance of motion in infographics, let’s get practical and see how you can create your first gifographic in Photoshop. And if you already know how to make infographics in Photoshop, it will be even easier for you to convert your existing static infographic into an animated one.

Step 1: Select (Or Prepare) An Infographic

The first thing you need to do is to choose the static infographic that you would like to transform into a gifographic. For learning purposes you can animate any infographic, but I recommend you to pick up an image that has elements that are suitable for animation. Explainers, tutorials, and process overviews are easy to convert into motion infographics.

If you are going to start from scratch, make sure you have first finished the static infographic to the last detail before proceeding to the animation stage as this will save you a lot of time and resources — if the original infographic keeps changing you will also need to rework your gifographic.

Next, once you have finalized the infographic, the next step is to decide which parts you are going to animate.

Finalize Your Infographic

Infographic finalization (Large preview)

Step 2: Decide What The Animation Story Will Be

You can include some — or all — parts of the infographic in the animation. However, as there are different ways to create animations, you must first decide on the elements you intend to animate, and how. In my opinion, sketching (outlining) various animation case scenarios on paper is the best way to pick your storyline. It will save you a lot of time and confusion down the road.

Start by deciding which “frames” you would like to include in the animation. At this stage, frames will be nothing else but rough sketches made on sheets of paper. The higher the number of frames, the better the quality of your gifographic will be.

You may need to divide the animated infographic into different sections. So, be sure to choose an equal count of frames for all parts. If not, the gifographic will look uneven with each GIF file moving at a different speed.

Pick Your Animation Storyline

Deciding and picking your animation story (Large preview)

Step 3: Create The Frames In Photoshop

Open Adobe Photoshop to create different frames for each section of the gifographic. You will need to cut, rotate, and move the images painstakingly. You will need to remember the ultimate change you made to the last frame. You can use Photoshop ruler for the same.

You will need to build your animation from Layers in Photoshop. But, in this case, you will be copying all Photoshop layers together and editing each layer individually.

You can check the frames one by one by hiding/showing different layers. Once you have finished creating all the frames, check them for possible errors.

Create Frames in Photoshop. (Large preview)

You can also create a short Frame Animation using just the first and the last frame. You need to select both frames by holding the Ctrl/Cmd key (Windows/Mac). Now click on “Tween.” Select the number of frames you want to add in between. Select First frame if you want to add the new frames between the first and the last frames. Selecting “Previous Frame” option will add frames between your current selection and the one before it. Check the “All Layers” option to add all the layers from your selections.

How to create Short Frame Animation

Short frame animation (Large preview)

Step 4: Save PNG (Or JPG) Files Into A New Folder

The next step is to export each animation frame individually into PNG or JPG format. (Note: JPG is a lossy format, so PNG would be usually a better choice.)

You should save these PNG files in a separate folder for the sake of convenience. I always number the saved images as per their sequence in the animation. It’s easy for me to remember that “Image-1” will be the first image in the sequence followed by “Image-2,” “Image-3,” and so on. Of course, you can save them in a way suitable for you.

How to Save JPG Files in a New Folder

Saving JPG files in a new folder (Large preview)

Step 5: “Load Files Into Stack”

Next comes loading the saved PNG files to Photoshop.

Go to the Photoshop window and open File > Scripts > Load files into Stack…

A new dialog box will open. Click on the “Browse” button and open the folder where you saved the PNG files. You can select all files at once and click “OK.”

Note: You can check the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” option to avoid alignment issues. However, if your source images are all the same size, this step is not needed. Furthermore, automatic alignment can also cause issues in some cases as Photoshop will move the layers around in an attempt to try to align them. So, use this option based on the specific situation — there is no “one size fits them all” recipe.

It may take a while to load the files, depending on their size and number. While Photoshop is busy loading these files, maybe you can grab a cup of coffee!

Load Files into Stack. (Large preview)

Step 6: Set The Frames

Once the loading is complete, go to Window > Layers (or you can press F7) and you will see all the layers in the Layers panel. The number of Layers should match the number of frames loaded into Photoshop.

Once you have verified this, go to Window > Timeline. You will see the Timeline Panel at the bottom (the default display option for this panel). Choose “Create Frame Animation” option from the panel. Your first PNG file will appear on the Timeline.

Now, Select “Make Frames from Layers” from the right side menu (Palette Option) of the Animation Panel.

Note: Sometimes the PNG files get loaded in reverse, making your “Image-1” appear at the end and vice versa. If this happens, select “Reverse Layers” from Animation Panel Menu (Palette Option) to get the desired image sequence.

Set the Frames. (Large preview)

Step 7: Set The Animation Speed

The default display time for each image is 0.00 seconds. Toggling this time will determine the speed of your animation (or GIF file). If you select all the images, you can set the same display time for all of them. Alternatively, you can also set up different display time for each image or frame.

I recommend going with the former option though as using the same animation time is relatively easy. Also, setting up different display times for each frame may lead to a not-so-smooth animation.

You can also set custom display time if you don’t want to choose from among the available choices. Click the “Other” option to set a customized animation speed.

You can also make the animation play in reverse. Copy the Frames from the Timeline Pallet and choose “Reverse Layers” option. You can drag frames with the Ctrl key (on Windows) or the Cmd key (on Mac).

You can set the number of times the animation should loop. The default option is “Once.” However, you can set a custom loop value using the “Other” option. Use the “Forever” option to keep your animation going in a non-stop loop.

To preview your GIF animation, press the Enter key or the “Play” button at the bottom of the Timeline Panel.

Set the Animation Speed. (Large preview)

Step 8: Ready To Save/Export

If everything goes according to plan, the only thing left is to save (export) your GIF infographic.

To Export the animation as a GIF: Go to File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy)

Select “GIF 128 Dithered” from the “Preset” menu.
Select “256” from the “Colors” menu.
If you will be using the GIF online or want to limit the file size of the animation, change Width and Height fields in the “Image Size” options accordingly.
Select “Forever” from the “Looping Options” menu.

Click the “Preview” button in the lower left corner of the Export window to preview your GIF in a web browser. If you are happy with it, click “Save” and select a destination for your animated GIF file.

Note: There are lots of options that control the quality and file size of GIFs — number of colors, amount of dithering, etc. Feel free to experiment until you achieve the optimal GIF size and animation quality.

Your animated infographic is ready!

How to Save Your GIF infographic

Saving your GIF infographic (Large preview)

Step 9 (Optional): Optimization

Gifsicle (a free command-line program for creating, editing, and optimizing animated GIFs), and other similar GIF post-processing tools can help reduce the exported GIF file size beyond Photoshop’s abilities.

ImageOptim is also worth mentioning — dragging files to ImageOptim will directly run Gifsicle on them. (Note: ImageOptim is Mac-only but there are quite a few alternative apps available as well.)

Troubleshooting Tips

You are likely to run into trouble at two crucial stages.

Adding New Layers

Open the “Timeline Toolbar” drop-down menu and select the “New Layers Visible in all Frames” option. It will help tune your animation without any hiccups.

How to Add New Layers Visible in all Frames

Adding new layers (Large preview)

Layers Positioning

Sometimes, you may end up putting layers in the wrong frames. To fix this, you can select the same layer in a fresh frame and select “Match Layer Across Frames” option.

How to Match Layers Across Frames

Positioning layers (Large preview)

Gifographic Examples

Before wrapping this up, I would like to share a few good examples of gifographics. Hopefully, they will inspire you just as they did me.

Google’s Biggest Search Algorithm Updates Of 2016
This one is my personal favorite. Incorporating Google algorithm updates in a gifographic is difficult owing to its complexity. But, with the use of the right animations and some to-the-point text, you can turn a seemingly complicated subject into an engaging piece of content.
Virtual Reality: A Fresh Perspective For Marketers
This one turns a seemingly descriptive topic into a smashing gifographic. The gifographic breaks up the Virtual Reality topic into easy-to-understand numbers, graphs, and short paragraphs with perfect use of animation.
How Google Works
I enjoy reading blog posts by Neil Patel. Just like his post, this gifographic is also comprehensive. The only difference is Neil conveys the essential message through accurately placed GIFs instead of short paragraphs. He uses only the colors that Google’s logo comprises.
The Author Rank Building Machine
This one lists different tips to help you become an authoritative writer. The animation is simple with a motion backdrop of content creation factory. Everything else is broken down into static graphs, images, and short text paragraphs. But, the simple design works, resulting in a lucid gifographic.
How Car Engines Work
Beautifully illustrated examples of how car engines work (petrol internal combustion engines and hybrid gas/electric engines). Btw, it’s worth noting that in some articles, Wikipedia is also using animated GIFs for some very similar purposes.

Wrapping Things Up

As you can see, turning your static infographic into an animated one is not very complicated. Armed with Adobe Photoshop and some creative ideas, you can create engaging and entertaining animations, even from scratch.

Of course, your gifographic can have multiple animated parts and you’ll need to work on them individually, which, in turn, will require more planning ahead and more time. (Again, a good example of a rather complex gifographic would be the one shown in “How Car Engines Work?” where different parts of the engine are explained in a series of connected animated images.) But if you plan well, sketch, create, and test, you will succeed and you will be able to make your own cool gifographics.

If you have any questions, ask me in the comments and I’ll be happy to help.

Further Resources

“What Is An Infographic,” Customer Magnetism
An infographic about infographics
“How To Create Outstanding Modern Infographics In Illustrator,” Jonathan Patterson, EnvatoTuts
“Build Expert Infographics For Your Next Presentation,” Adobe Creative Cloud blog
“What’s In A GIF: Animation And Transparency,” Mike Flickinger, SourceForge
“What Are Gifographics & 10 Ways To Use Them in Your Visual Content,” Julia McCoy, ExpressWriters
“A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words,” Wikipedia
“Improve Animated GIF Performance With HTML5 Video,” Ayo Isaiah, Smashing Magazine
“Building An Interactive Infographic With Vue.js,” Krutie Patel, Smashing Magazine
“How To Convert A Video File Into An Animated GIF In Photoshop,” Graphic Design Stack Exchange
“SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide,” Neil Patel
“Using Photoshop To Create GIFs (Gifographic),” Shane Barker, Gifographics

Smashing Editorial
(mb, ra, yk, il)

Stunning dataviz project maps the world's population

Original Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/CreativeBloq/~3/mGqoPeJ-Tw0/stunning-dataviz-project-maps-the-worlds-population

At its worst, data visualisation can just be an exercise in dressing up dull statistics in fancy clobber to try to make them look more interesting, and usually failing.

At its best it can be a fantastic way of communicating otherwise impenetrable facts and figures in a way that makes them instantly accessible, and this dataviz project from The Pudding is definitely in the latter category.

Population Mountains: New York

Areas of dense population show up as virtual mountains on the map

It can be hard to grasp just how populations are spread out around the world, but The Pudding's Population Mountains project presents this data in a way that enables you to immediately identify the world's population hotspots. Using data from the Global Human Settlement Layer – which uses a mix of satellite imagery, census data and geographic information to create population density maps – the project creates a detailed 3D height map, where the most heavily populated areas appear as virtual mountains.

Looking at a zoomed-out map of the the world in this view, you can instantly identify the major cities as vivid spikes on an otherwise flat plane; zoom in closer and you can see how some cities feature a lot of people crammed into a relatively small space that looks like a thick needle, while other cities with sprawling suburban areas appear as more gentle inclines.

Population Mountains: Bengaluru

Here a big city is surrounded by lots of smaller, densely populated areas

In The Pudding's post about the project you'll find some fascinating studies of how population density can vary across the world; in some places, you'll find a huge proportion of the population packed into major cities, with the surrounding areas appearing as almost flat spaces by comparison, while in others, such as Bengalaru in India, you can see that the vast city is surrounded by loads of amazingly dense urban settlements. 

Population Mountains: Paris

See the difference between the north of France and the south of England

Another interesting comparison is between London and Paris; London is a chunky peak among a load of the sizeable population hills that make up the Home Counties, while Paris is a vast spike, with nothing but the occasional foothill making up the rest of the north of France.

Population Mountains: Interactive map

It’s easy to explore the data for yourself

You can read the Population Mountains post over at The Pudding for some great curated views and accompanying insight; alternatively you can head straight for the interactive map and see the data for yourself. There are two datasets to play with; the most recent population data from 2015, and an older set from 1990, and there's even an option to compare the two datasets to see how populations have shifted over the last quarter of a century.

Related articles:

The 62 best infographicsHow to create amazing infographicsThe data trend set to revolutionise app design

The 16 best free blogging platforms

Original Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/CreativeBloq/~3/SUZSZfShch4/best-blogging-platforms-121413634

It used to be said that everyone has a book in them, but these days, it might be more appropriate to argue that everyone has a viral blog post in them. Plenty of people retain a thirst for more thoughtful writing than a tweet can afford.

Also read: How to start a blog

There's something about having a space that's properly yours, that's potentially free from the distractions of a billion adverts and countless competing status updates. Blogging is also still a great, organic method of self-promotion online, and the best thing is, there are a load of free blogging platforms out there to get you started. 

What is a blogging platform?

A blogging platform is a service or application that facilitates the creation of web pages for publishing your content. These content management systems come in the form of website builders like Wix, blogging applications like WordPress, or simplified blogging software like Tumblr.

In this round-up, we explore the best blogging platforms for newcomers who want to get a free blog up and running.

01. Wix

Best blogging platforms: Wix

Wix’s drag-and-drop system is made with HTML5 in mind

If HTML5 matters to you then Wix is well worth a look; it claims to be the only drag-and-drop site-building platform with HTML5 capabilities. On top of that you'll find over 500 designer-made templates as well as plenty of additional features and apps, along with top-grade hosting so you can rest assured your site will be there when you need it.

You get 500MB storage and 1GB bandwidth with a free Wix account; if you need more – plus other features like your own domain, and online store and Google Analytics – then take a look at its premium plans.

02. Joomla

Screenshot of Joomla homepage

Joomla is a popular tool among the blogging community

Open source software content management system Joomla is a popular choice among the blogging community. Powerful and flexible, Joomla can be used to build any kind of website or blog, with design features including the ability to create your own template and render HTML for objects/arrays of data. It also uses Bootstrap for perfect responsive designs. 

Similar to WordPress.org, Joomla is a self-hosted solution, which means you will need a domain name and web hosting to use it (although there is an option to create a site on launch.joomla.org) The Joomla community is much smaller than WordPress community, so there are fewer themes and add-ons than for WordPress. But there are still hundreds of templates to choose from, and extensions to add more features, to fully customise your blog's design.

03. Yola

Best blogging platforms: Yola

Yola boasts flexible layouts and no third-party ads

Yola limits you a bit if you have grand plans for your blog – you can only have two sites and three web pages with its free plan – but the upside is a healthy 1GB of storage and bandwidth, and your site won't be littered with unsightly third-party ads.

Getting started is easy, with dozens of customisable templates to choose from, a straightforward site builder for putting everything together, flexible layouts and drag-and-drop widgets. And if you have the skills, then you can edit your CSS in order to fine-tune your site's look.

04. Hubpages

Best blogging platforms: Hubpages

Join a buzzing community of Hubbers with Hubpages

Hubpages is a network of sites that enable bloggers (or Hubbers) to share their story with a vast open community. It has an Arts and Design section, which will be a happy home for creative bloggers, and Hubpages majors on its ability to connect its users with a wide audience and earn revenue from ads and affiliates.

05. Contentful

Contentful website screenshot

Call your content into any design with the Contentful API

Nobody knows how they're going to want to display their articles a few years down the line, so Contentful provides a way to separate your content from your design. It calls this an "API-first" approach, so your content is stored on its servers and you can call it into any design or platform as you like. So if you want to build a completely different site in a few years time, it's easy to bring everything in as it's set up to be portable from the start.

06. Jekyll

Jekyll website screenshot

Make static sites with Jekyll

Jekyll takes your raw text files, which may be written in Markdown, if you like, and turns them into a robust static site to host wherever you want. It’s the engine behind GitHub Pages, which means you can host your blog on there for free. 

Making your blog with Jekyll avoids the need to work with technicalities such as databases, upgrades and so on, so there are fewer things to go wrong, and you can build something completely from scratch. 

07. WordPress

Wordpress

WordPress is the most popular free blogging platform

If the folks over at WordPress are to be believed (and they seem suitably trustworthy sorts), the platform now 'powers' almost a third of the internet. 

It's easy to see why: on WordPress.com, you can rapidly create a new blog entirely for free, with a reasonable amount of customisation. Alternatively, most web hosts provide WordPress as a free single-click install, and more information on what's possible there can be found at WordPress.org.

Newcomers might find WordPress a touch bewildering initially, but it's the best free option for anyone wanting a great mix of power, customisation and usability. To help you out, we've rounded up the best WordPress tutorials and the best free WordPress themes to get you started.

08. Tumblr

Screenshot of Tumblr website

Tumblr is one of the easiest free blogging platforms to use

To some extent, Tumblr feels a bit like a halfway house between WordPress and Twitter. It offers more scope than the latter, but tends to favour rather more succinct output than the former.

Decent mobile apps make it easy to submit content to a Tumblr blog from anywhere, though, and it's reasonably easy to customise your theme to make it your own.

Tumblr also has a strong social undercurrent, via a following model combined with notes and favourites. Tumblr has also recently announced a controversial ban on adult content, which means that the porn bots that used to be lumbering around on the site should no longer be a problem.

09. Blogger

Blogger site screenshot

Blogger is one of the longest running free blogging platforms on the web

You'd hope with a name like 'Blogger' that Blogger would be a decent free service for blogging. Fortunately, it is. Sign in with your Google ID, and you can have a blog up and running in seconds, which can then be customised with new themes. 

It is, however, a Google service, so be a touch wary, given how abruptly that company sometimes shuts things down that millions of people were happily using.

10. Medium

Screenshot of the Medium website

Medium is a free blogging platform set up by Twitter’s founders

Medium is the brainchild of Twitter's founders, and appears to be their attempt to do for 'longreads' what they once did for microblogging. The result is a socially-oriented place that emphasises writing, although within an extremely locked-down set-up. 

It's a place to blog if you want your words to be taken seriously, and if you favour a polished, streamlined experience. But if you're big on customisation and control, look elsewhere.

11. Svbtle

Screenshot of the Svbtle site says 'A blogging platform designed to help you think'

Svbtle is a stripped-back free blogging platform for longform writing

Describing itself as a "blogging platform designed to help you think", Svbtle is fairly similar to Medium in approach. Like Medium, it strips everything right back, resulting in a bold, stylish experience that pushes words to the fore. 

It could easily become your favourite blogging platform for the act of writing, but it again relies on you also wanting something extremely simple and not caring a jot about customisation.

12. LiveJournal

Screenshot of the LiveJournal site

LiveJournal combines blog and social networking

One of the veterans of this list, LiveJournal (like Blogger) started life in 1999. Perhaps because of its age, it rather blurs the lines (the site says "wilfully") between blogging and social networking.

The result is more of a community that affords you your own space, but that also very much encourages communal interaction. It is possible to fashion something more private, but to get the most out of LiveJournal, you need to be prepared to delve into discussion as much as writing.

13. Weebly

Screenshot of the Weebly website says 'A beautiful website starts here'

Weebly is a website creation tool that includes free blogging templates

Weebly bills itself more as a website-creation system than something for solely creating a blog. It’s based around drag-and-drop components, which enable you to quickly create new pages.

However, blogging is also part of the system, and you get access to customisable layouts, a bunch of free themes, and the usual sharing features you’d expect, to spread your words far and wide.

14. Postach.io

Screenshot of the Postach.io site says 'The easiest way to blog'

Postach.io is a free blogging platform from the creators of Evernote

Postach.io claims it's the "easiest way to blog". It's from the people behind Evernote, and, naturally, is deeply integrated into their system.

Essentially, you just connect a notebook to Postach.io and then tag notes as 'published' to make them public.

However, you get some customisation, too, including a bunch of themes, the means to embed content from other sites, Disqus commenting, and the option to instead use Dropbox for storing content.

15. Pen.io

Pen.io screenshot says 'Publish a beautiful page in seconds and share it with the world'

Pen.io is one of the only free blogging platforms you don’t need a login for

Pen.io's approach is also rather different from its contemporaries. Unusually, it doesn't require a login – instead, you define a URL for a post and set a password.

Images can be dragged into place, and you can create multi-page posts using a tag. And that's about it.

Really, it's a stretch to call Pen.io a blog in the traditional sense, but it's a decent option for banging out the odd sporadic post, especially if you don't want any personal info stored.

16. Ghost

Ghost website screenshot says 'The professional publishing platform'

Open source platform Ghost is free if you install it on your own system

Here's something slightly different for our final entry. Unlike the others on this list, how much you pay for Ghost depends on how much traffic you get, although a free 14-day trial is available. 

However, this system differentiates itself in other important ways: it's entirely open source, and while writing you get a live preview of how your post will end up.

You need to be technically minded for this one, then, but it's a worthy alternative to WordPress if you're happy to get your hands dirty and have your own web space that's awaiting a blog.

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Pantone Announces Color of the Year: Living Coral

Original Source: https://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2018/12/pantone-announces-color-of-the-year-living-coral/

Pantone’s annual quest to dominate the “and finally…” portion of the pre-festive news has kicked off, with the announcement of its Color of the Year for 2019.

The official selection for the coming year is Living Coral, or specifically 16-1546 (that’s #FF6F61 to you and me).

Pantone’s announcement always sets the color agenda for the following 12 months. After all, in 2018 we’ve seen nothing but Ultra Violet color schemes; in 2017 everything was Green; and way back in 2016 everything was Rose Quartz and the Other One. Not true, you say? You’re probably right.

In reality, the designers most affected by Pantone’s announcement are those who were already using Living Coral, or something close, and will now redo their work for fear of appearing to slavishly follow fashion.

The irony from a designer’s point of view is that colors don’t operate in isolation, it’s their combinations that are beautiful, impactful, or communicative.

From a business point of view, what matters is not the substance of your choice, but the choice itself—and of course the way that choice is publicized. Pantone, with its annual press release and its PR friendly choice of color, is (re)establishing itself as the definitive authority on color. It’s a very, very smart strategy. How long before Adobe announces its font of the year, or WordPress announces its plugin of the year.

So what is the significance of Pantone’s selection? Certainly the name is significant; with record levels of coral dying out, the probable loss of the Great Barrier Reef, and whole islands of trash appearing in the Pacific, it’s high time we showed our oceans some love.

On the positive side, its quite a pretty color.

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WordPress 5.0 Is Here (and Yes, So Is Gutenberg)

Original Source: https://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2018/12/wordpress-5-0-is-here-and-yes-so-is-gutenberg/

WordPess 5.0 (codenamed “Bebo”) is officially out and prowling among the servers.

This, then, is when we find out how well Gutenberg works out. And make no mistake, whatever they’ve done under the hood, this release is about Gutenberg, both technically and in the public perception. It’s almost the only thing they talk about in their own blog post about this release.



Gutenberg

Automattic has set out to redefine the content editing experience in the CMS that powers at least a third of the Internet, and that is exactly what they’ve done. I think it’s for the better; others…not so much; still others think it’s a good idea that needs more development time.

Personally, I think a lot of that negative perception comes from earlier development builds. Those were builds that I didn’t use much because, well, they weren’t finished. I’d be surprised, honestly, if it was bug-free even now. That’s just not how software development seems to work these days. I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’s finished enough.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’s finished enough

I mean hey, I might be used to wrangling with unruly software, but someone who just wants to post on their blog already might not be as forgiving. The point is, whether any of us are ready or not, it’s here, and I personally quite like it.

One of the features that I find quite useful is the collection of default embedding blocks that allow you to easily embed content from a wide variety of sources. The classic editor had a bit of this functionality, but the current system gives you a proper idea of what you can and can’t embed by default, and I’m pretty sure some of the options were previously only available through third-party plugins. [Figure 1]

It might be a bit late for that Tumblr Embed Block, though. Ahem.

Another feature I like are contextual icons that appear on the upper-right of any new block, allowing you to select recently-used blocks quickly. That could come in handy when editing a longer document. [Figure 2]

For those of you who want to wait for Automattic to develop Gutenberg a little further, they have a Classic Editor plugin, as promised. The word is they’ll be supporting this plugin until 2021. Incidentally, it has a rating of 4.9 according to wordpress.org’s own rating system, and over 600,000 active installations at the time of this writing.

All plugins that previously made changes and additions to the classic editor should still work with this plugin, so it’s a viable option for those who want to play it safe.

Themes and Such

Twenty-Nineteen made it into the final release. Since that wasn’t always guaranteed, I’m glad it got finished up in time. They needed a way to properly showcase Gutenberg’s capabilities with this release, and now they have one. For a preview of said theme, as well as my thoughts on it, see Previewing the WordPress Twenty-Nineteen Theme. (Side note: all themes from Twenty-Ten to Twenty-Seventeen have been updated to support Gutenberg.)

For designers and developers, theme creation just got a bit easier and a bit more complicated at the same time. On the one hand, it is now possible to handle a lot of content-related layout within the CMS itself, which will save time when developing custom theme options. It gives users more control over the general flow of content, giving them more creative opportunities, and takes some work off your plate.

On the other hand, you need to make sure you have styles ready for all of the default content blocks available in every theme you make. This is not terribly difficult, and it shouldn’t take too long to develop a library of custom styles that can be adjusted to every theme, but it’s something to consider.

Additionally, most of the third-party block plugins I’ve seen are not style-agnostic, though most have multiple style options to choose from. I can see third-party blocks being something of a double-edged sword.

WordPress Support Changes

One last tidbit that was actually announced on December 3rd is a new support platform for WordPress. It’s called “HelpHub”, and it’s located at wordpress.org/support. They’re still migrating content from the old WordPress Codex, so that’s still there for now, but this is the new official help center.

It seems to be pretty heavily integrated with the support forums, so it seems like the general plan was to make help easier to find by putting it all (more or less) in one place. I’d call this an overall improvement.

My Opinion

On my own personal projects, the update installed flawlessly. I can’t report much on potential bugs, as yet, because this release just happened, but so far I like it quite a bit. I honestly like the new editor, and the new direction WordPress is heading in. There’s a lot of potential here. Whether or not you think Gutenberg is ready for release, as I do, the thing to realize is that Gutenberg is only the next step in a long journey.

Automattic has been working long and hard to transform WordPress from a pure-blog CMS into something like a framework or data platform, all without sacrificing usability, or too much in the way of backwards compatibility. The blog you could install in five minutes has more or less become the ecosystem you can install in five minutes, and then build any site you want.

It’s not perfect, and it’s not done yet, but this release is a giant step toward something we’ve never seen before. I’m genuinely excited to find out what it’ll be.

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