What Programming Language Should I Learn in 2015?

empire

We live in a peak time of information technology.

What Is The Biggest Mistake Web Designers Make The Most Often?

We have written and grown a lot with you during these years in this web design industry. As year 2015 has arrived, you must think about where you want to go and what you want to accomplish. It is time to learn from the past years mistakes and with new-found inspiration start trying new things again.

For me this 2015 is the chance to be foolish again after being bruised by business failures (lessons). As Steve Jobs says –

“Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”

As you have noticed here at 1stWebDesigner, we don’t go into teaching hardcore programming or anywhere deep in graphic design (but we care a lot about converting and usable websites). We know that if you really want to learn, there are more than enough good resources to learn deeply about programming, web designing, and becoming a high level graphic designer. However, we have noticed the main reason why most web designers don’t succeed is because they fail to see their freelance web design venture as a business. They think that if they learn good skills and the right web programming languages, clients will come magically.

But this rarely happens!

Consider this – Most people despise salesmen, most especially a used car salesman. A lot of people always cast them in a bad light – opportunists. But why do you think sales people often get paid the most in the company?

Even the best products need to have a marketing campaign because they need to be sold. The same way goes for your freelance career. For it to become successful, you need to understand that once you start working as a freelancer, you become your own boss – you own the business.

Owning a business means, you need to manage the finances, you need to sell your services to clients, and you need to actually do most of the work. Most designers fail in this area – they cannot find clients, they don’t know how to stand out from the crowd, and sell their services.

agencyvsfreelancer

Do you stand a chance versus big agencies? Oh yes, you do!

Big Brands Prefer To Work With Smaller Agencies

The good news is that, now, once you know what you are doing, you can get contracts from big brands.  That is what we are focusing here at 1stWebDesigner. Giving you the business knowledge you need to land these high level clients and become a true 1st Web Designer – a professional who takes control of his life, is successful, and financially stable.

Your biggest strengths that will make you attractive to big brands are SPEED and PERSONAL ATTENTION. You are fast because it is just you or you have a small, agile team.

What are your strengths compared to big agencies?:

  1. You are fast – you can give all the time you have to the big client and nurture him to provide the best results. Big agencies have a corporate setup. It takes time for them to make decisions and move forward. On the other hand, you are small allowing you to change direction in moments and immediately provide changes after your client asks them.
  2. You are flexible – you can work on different times and make adjustments for whatever big client wants. Why wouldn’t you? It’s your opportunity and if you are true professional, you love what you do and you love to do the work you are proud of. You want to deliver great results. You also don’t need to staff a team of designers in-house. You can just ask a friend or a contractor to help out with the things that aren’t your expertise. The key, however, is still the fact that you can move forward fast.
  3. You are cheaper –  your expenses likely will be much lower than any big agency. You don’t have excess weight, you are agile, and you can afford to charge less than the big agencies. While this isn’t your best selling point, you have the power to be cheaper while the big agencies don’t.
  4. You adjust to technology faster – big agencies likely will have processes and systems in place to ensure a faster working pace within a big team. You, on the other hand, can easily adjust and use new technology where needed. You have no barriers and you love to try new things. You know that it is your competitive edge.
  5. You are personal – while big agencies will get a project manager to work on their project, you are the CEO of your own business. You know you are awesome and you will do everything to please the client and willingly take the extra mile to satisfy him. Big agencies usually cannot afford that because they have too many clients and they need to spread their attention.

Clients love speed, quick turnover, and they love to see their agencies #deliver. Are you one of these agencies?

What technologies, programming languages to use?

These are the regular questions often asked by people at 1WD

  • What are the best programming languages I should learn and use?
  • What is the best graphic software to use?
  • How do I learn web design?

You always want to find the next great tool or the shiny app of a new programming language that will help you have a competitive edge in the web industry and show that you are true ambassador of new technologies.

Ruby on Rails programming language, Ghost, Craft content management system built with PHP and C, Java, C++ for mobile app creation are super trendy right now. Before you decide to learn a new language, however, decide what you truly want to achieve.

Do you want to spent countless hours coding and designing, or you want to run a web design business? There is nothing wrong with being a hardcore programmer or true artist, but we are here to educate you about having a bigger impact, scaling, and helping clients to create a CONVERTING website. Programmers will solve technological issues and designers will make everything pretty but a 1st Web Designer will know the basics of programming and designing but will look beyond that by helping clients create an effective, converting website.

Make sure you know the basics of design and business.

Make sure you know the basics of design and business.

What does creating a converting website means?

It means you know about internet marketing. You know about A/B testing. You know what drives sales, how to set up a mailing list, and you how to create a landing page that is beautiful as well as converts visitors to sales. You will not let technology stand in your way.

As you learn the business skills, you will understand what the client truly desires when he looks for a designer who will build the website for them. Your client won’t be technologically smart and that’s why he needs you. However, your selling points aren’t – “I will apply the latest web design trends, use Ruby on Rails, and create a responsive great looking website for you!” Your selling point is to understand why the client is hiring you, what results he is looking for and then, deliver him the results with your skills. You might not use the sexiest JavaScript plugin or latest programming language for that, but nobody cares except you. Your client just wants results and he wants them fast. He doesn’t care how they are achieved.

We are proposing you a world of delegation and working on solving difficult problems by using your designers and business knowledge. This is the way of a professional. This is the principle we embrace.

Can you imagine how this world would look like? We have two great case studies with Lauren Gray and Ouida Mac, who learned how to delegate and serve their clients better. They become smarter and they were making more money. Who wouldn’t want that? By delegating and having a team, you can basically make several copies of yourself and have a much bigger impact and faster results.

The Podcast Episode with Lauren Gray

Listen To A Success Story From Lauren Gray

Only those who have been in the freelancing business long enough have seen its dark side – cheapskate clients who give little value to your talent and work. Such was the case of Lauren Gray, who used to charge just around $300 for a web project but is now charging 10 times the amount of what she used to charge.

From being one of the freelance web designers in the sea of the web design industry, Lauren Gray has successfully transitioned herself to become a market leader who found her own niche and go on to establish her own company. Read the original article here.

The Podcast Episode with Ouida Mac

Listen To A Success Story From Ouida Mac

Ouida was able to transform herself from someone else’s contractor to becoming her own manager hiring other designers to do the work while she focuses on the more important aspect of her business. From $15 – $20 an hour, Ouida now charges $75/hour, an amazing 200% increase from what she used to charge. Read the original article here.

The best way to grow your business is to learn the business skills, delegate, and get contractors and partners to help you out on a per project basis.

But wait, wait, don’t run before you can walk.

Have The Foundation of Web Development First

In order to hire and delegate people successfully, you still must know the foundation of web development. What’s behind building a responsive website, what’s behind the styling and designing, how to build a functionality in the website your client needs. Don’t become a ninja god at it. Just learn the basics so you can effectively delegate and realize if any of the contractors and your helping hand is messing around with you, taking too long time, etc.

To help you do that, we have developed a web design course for you where we teach every aspect of creating a successful website, starting from design, concept, styling, deployment, etc.

course promo

Get the foundation you need to have as a professional web designer.

Get The Ultimate 2015 Web Design Learning Course

We recommend that you rely on the proven tools which let you work quickly and effectively. By using proven and tested programming languages for web development, you will save time and will be able to provide fast results to your clients.

That is why, we recommend learning these top programming languages and graphics tool:

  • Adobe Photoshop for web design creation
  • Be an expert in HTML + CSS – basic programming languages you need to know to work with anything web related. HTML5 + CSS3 nowadays
  • WordPress – this is the most popular CMS with serious power and functionality which is more than enough to build the functionality clients need.
  • JavaScript to know bits of adding style to the website, but it’s optional to learn

All of this is enough, so you can focus on learning how build a website, that leads to results client desires. By delivering high level results, you will be able to charge more much faster. You will become irreplaceable. It is true that clients can find another good designer or programmer much easier but they will have difficulty finding a professional who understands what they need and will create a converting website.

Our recent course will allow you to learn the fundamentals you need. We spent a year in 2014 to learn from the previous course feedback; thus, we are able to build even better training course the second time around. Here is the live demo preview of the site, so you can see what you will build from scratch if you join us.

We believe we have created The Ultimate 2015 Web Design Learning Course, which will teach you how to build your own WordPress website which is 100% responsive and flat.

In 9 hours of video content, you will learn how to build website from scratch in Photoshop and then convert your PSD design to HTML5 and CSS3. Finally, we will also teach you how to use Bootstrap magic where you will learn how to convert website to fully responsive and functional WordPress website.

We throw in some business lessons, interviews and many bonuses as well to amplify your learning and help you get some clients as well! To learn more about the course, visit RockingCode.com.

What you are waiting for? Take your skills to the next level right now! Make sure 2015 is the year of changes and great achievement for you!

What is your opinion about learning new programming languages versus learning business communication skills and delegating?

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The Knowledge That Will Double Your Hourly Rate As A Web Designer

nail

Clients will pay you for the results you deliver.

How Can I Possibly Increase My Freelance Design Rates?

Let me tell you a story of a $100 nail, which will change your whole perception about how much you can charge as a freelancer or service business owner. If you will get this story and article right, your freelance design rates and happiness levels will skyrocket. If you won’t you will keep competing in the bidding wars never being able to make just enough money to have a proper living. Let’s get to the story..

One man had a gorgeous parquet floor in his house but one day it suddenly started creaking.

Every time someone walks around the house would make loud creaking sounds which irritated this man a lot.

At first, he tried fixing it himself by rearranging the furniture. Then, he called the guys who made his floor and had them take it apart and put it back.

But nothing worked because the creaking continued.

Someone told him about the best carpenter in town and so he invited the man to his house.

The carpenter walked around the house for a few minutes and listened carefully to the creaking sound that came from the floor. Then, he took a tiny little nail and hammered it between two sections of the parquet.

The creaking went away.

– “That is amazing! How much do I owe you?” the guy asked.

– “A hundred dollars,” replied the carpenter .

– “You mean I am going to pay you a $100 for one tiny nail?”

– “Of course not. You’re only paying 10 cents for that nail and $99.90 goes for my knowledge where to put it.”

valuable

Think about how you can deliver better results to your client.

 What Are You Getting Paid For?

The hours you spend designing a website for someone are the hours of Your Life that you can never get back. So when you sell a part of your life to someone, you want to sell it at the highest price possible.

The question, therefore, is: what makes a web designer charge more per hour and how to increase your freelance design rates?

It’s the knowledge!

The knowledge that makes you solve the problems of your clients.

If you understand the goals and the pains of your clients and you have enough knowledge to address them like no one else, you can charge a lot higher rates for your freelance design work. Just like the carpenter from my story.

knowledge

Think how to add more value to your service and your client.

You Should Have Your ROI As A Web Designer

Why do people launch websites anyways?

They launch websites because they want to make money (in most cases).

So instead of designing a “good-looking picture,” you should be designing a “profitable online entity” that will help your clients achieve their business goals.

You can easily persuade a person to pay you 2x more if you explain him that with your design he will easily return that money in a few days. That’s your ROI.

You have to familiarize yourself with all the ins and outs of the business your client intends to put online and create a perfect website that will give your client the results he needs.

If you’re able to create a website that will bring tons of money to your client, he will happily share some of that money with you.

Learn To Design For Conversions

If you’ve never heard of CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) I guess you’re not getting paid a lot for your design work.

What’s the point of having a website that does not convert visitors to fans, leads, or sales?

Different websites have different goals but, generally, they can be divided into three groups:

  1. Designed to make you stick and regularly come back:

  1. Designed to make you opt in for something. This can be a free service, a trial period, or email updates:

  1. Designed to make you buy something:

You, as a web designer, should study some psychological principles and conversion optimization best practices to make sure your design is perfect for achieving the business goal that it was built for.

A good example would be this eye-tracking study from ThinkEyeTracking:

Predict where people will look and ensure design converts.

Predict where people will look and ensure design converts.

  • Before (eye looking straight ahead): Only 6% of 200 usability test participants looked at the product.
  • After (eye looking towards the product): 84% of usability test participants now looked at the product!

A few pieces of knowledge like that would easily impress your client and persuade him that you’re well worth your money.

Where to start to learn about conversion rate optimization?

If you’re totally new to this, I suggest you read the book Web Design For ROI. Then, you might want to become a regular reader of ConversionXL blog, because they are one of the best resources on CRO so far.

results

Design for conversions, results.

Learn To Design For Usability

If you’re still thinking about websites as a bunch of static HTML pages, you’re way too old school my friend.

Today a website can be just about anything: a social network, an online community, a blogging platform, a web tool, a crowdfunding platform, etc.

New start-ups emerge every single day and there is a learning curve to every one of them. If that curve feels comfortable, people will stick. But if it’s not, you’re out of business.

The way you make the learning curve painless is by applying usability principles to your design.

A good example would be the navigation menu of the website you’re designing. There’s a good chance that many people will land on some internal page and if you hide the navigation menu from them in a “not-so-obvious” place, they will bounce. That is why the vast majority of websites has the navigation menu at the top of every page. Read more about common navigation menu mistakes at KissMetrics article.

Don't underestimate user friendliness in the website.

Don’t underestimate user friendliness in the website.

Another important thing to keep in mind is the device that people will use to access the site.

According to Mary Meeker, mobile usage now accounts for 25% of all web traffic in 2014. That is up from 14% a year ago. This means that some knowledge about responsive design will instantly make you a more expensive web designer.

Where you can start?

There’s an awesome book by Steve Krug called Don’t Make Me Think and once you’re done with it, go read some articles of Jacob Nielsen because he’s considered as one of the pioneers of usability.

Learn To Design For Readability

It amazes me how many designers don’t pay attention to text content.

I’m a huge fan of typography and I believe that a good selection of fonts can breathe some charisma into your website.

Just think about it – every major brand has its own unique font but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Did you know that the optimal width of text content is about 600 pixels (or 100 characters per line)? That number comes from research by Mary C. Dyson called “How Physical Text Layout Affects Reading From the Screen”.

To me, this looks like a perfect bit of knowledge to impress your clients and ask more for your design work.

And there’s so many other stuff you have to consider, such as typeface, size, spacing, line height, subheadings, paragraphs, etc. All of that makes the website more readable, and people stick longer and convert better.

Now, do you know who else used to be a huge fan of typography?

“Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.”

– Steve Jobs

Where to start?

I haven’t heard of any good books on typography and designing content (maybe you can recommend me some?) but I sure know some amazing websites on that topic:

Time To Become Smarter

I hope you resonate my idea that becoming more knowledgeable in your field is a perfect way to earn more money and be able to increase your freelance design rates while cutting your working hours.

Shameless self promotion: If you want to spice up your web design skills and learn Bootstrap, building WordPress responsive site, you might want to check out our recent course RockingCode.

In fact, if you look at the richest people in the world and their habits, you’re going to discover that they love to self-educate:

  • 63% of them listen to audio books during commute;
  • 88% read 30+ minutes each day;
  • 86% believe in lifelong educational self-improvement.
productivity stats

These numbers come from an awesome infographic called “Habits of the World’s Wealthiest People”.

So, I guess now you can see the pattern.

This article has been written by Tim Soulo, Friend and Premium Content Partner of 1WD.

In case you’re looking for some great business / life / productivity advice, I encourage you to download my free ebook called “15 YouTube Channels That Make You Smarter” and let me know your thoughts on this article in the comments below.

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How Much Does It Cost To Build A Professional Website Design in 2015? #EspressoMonday Nr. 8

#EspressoMonday Episode Nr.8

Clients and Coffee

Like the #EspressoMonday episode last week, this episode goes in-depth with one question. It is still about clients. This time, however,we will be talking about long-term and short-term clients as well as the difference between a professional and professionally-looking website. Sounds interesting? Grab your cup of coffee and learn precious nuggets in just a few minutes.

How Much Does A Website Design Really Cost?

Free website builders are one of the woes a professional web designer or developer faces. These “free” web services have beautiful predesigned templates which allow you to create a beautifully-looking website in a matter of minutes. It can even make a non-web designer look like a professional with hundreds of templates to choose from and easy installation process. Or does it really? So….

What do you do with “free” web services, like WIX or Weebly, which claims that anyone can build a professional website for no cost?

Why pay a thousand dollars for a website design when you can have one for free? Why should I pay that much? Isn’t it easy to design a website?

These are oftentimes the questions web designers/developers face from clients and critics alike. Questions that seem to mock or belittle the effort and value you put into your website design. The question is reminiscent of the parable of the $100 nail which you will soon read here at one of our future articles.

Like the carpenter in the parable, you don’t need to turn tail and run. Instead, you should be able to clearly communicate to your clients the value of what you’re doing because once they understand it, how much they invest won’t be a problem anymore. Never mind the critics. And before we completely digress from the topic, here are some tips and pointers to address our question for this week.

Professional and Professionally Looking Website

Is there any difference at all or is it just a play on words?

Yes.

Professional is an adjective while professionally is an adverb 🙂

On a serious note, there is indeed a difference – A professional website design lets you build what YOU want to build, whereas a professionally looking website lets you build what THEY want to build within the confines of their rules and regulations.

Now, there is of course nothing wrong with a professionally-looking website since they offer you various tools and blocks to make your website look good. Furthermore, there are also businesses that need these types of websites, specifically self-employed freelancers and small business owners.

For example, a freelance photographer who needs a beautiful website where he can add his portfolio and contact number. Or a small business owner who needs a simple shopping cart in his website. However, there is not a lot of interaction going on in these types of websites.

A professional website, on the other hand, is something that you can customize and build upon. It is something where you can weave your magic as a designer/developer to make it unique and fit to your clients needs. Furthermore, these websites are open source allowing you to tap into the code source and change it according to your preferences.

Long Term VS. Short Term Clients

People who usually go for these free website builders can be considered short-term clients who are trying to drive their website design cost as low as possible. As mentioned earlier, they are the self-employed freelancers and small businesses who are looking for a quick fix. They build a website, launch it, and forget about it until they want to change something after a few months. They think that by building a website, they will be able to establish an online presence without too much of an investment.

Here at 1stWebDesigner, however, we teach and encourage you to look for long-term clients instead of short-term ones. There is no problem with such clients but focusing on the short-term might be too taxing and time consuming for you as a professional web designer. Your mindset SHOULD be focused on building long-term professional relationships with your clients.

Long-term clients are the medium to large-sized business enterprises as well as public figures. Conversely, the self-employed freelance photographer could become a public figure and when he becomes one, he will need a monthly maintenance for his personal brand. Instead of just a personal portfolio, his website becomes bigger and more complex with landing pages, separate pages which features his work by category, videos, case studies, and more. In short, it becomes a marketing website to promote and advertise his personal brand.

The same goes true with medium businesses and large enterprises which need daily, weekly, or monthly maintenance and management. Once a business reach these scales, they understand that they have to invest more money in order to generate more profit. In these cases, free website builders which offer a quick fix will not suffice anymore.

We actually just released the training course to help you get the skills you are looking for on the way to become a professional web designer.

It is The Ultimate 2015 Web Design Learning Course, where in 9 hours we will teach you how to Build Your Own WordPress Site – 100% Responsive & Flat.

You will learn how to build website from scratch in Photoshop, then convert PSD to HTML and CSS. Finally using Bootstrap magic, we will convert the website to become a fully responsive and functional WordPress website. We throw in some business lessons, interviews, and many bonuses to amplify your learning and help you get some clients as well!

Conclusion

To sum it all up, small businesses and self-employed freelancers are those who usually champion free website builders and there’s nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, medium to large  business enterprises and public figures are those who do not hesitate to invest more in a professional website. They understand that value begets value – that in order to gain more, you also need to invest more.

The difference, therefore, is the scale.

What does it mean to you as a web designer?

Well, you don’t have to be a Math wizard to figure the numbers out. But surely, you would want to pursue those who belong to the larger scale. It will definitely save you the effort and time plus, of course, great returns.

Remember don’t think about the cost, think about what results you can create to your clients. Good clients know, that website builders will not magically give them a website, that converts and drives sales to their business. You can help clients to solve hard technology-related problems by improving their website and not just make it professionally looking, but to become the website that drives results your client desires.

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How Do You Really Get Web Design Clients? – #EspressoMonday Nr.7

#EspressoMonday Episode Nr.7

Clients and Coffee

This a special #EspressoMonday Episode because instead of three, we are going in-depth with only one question – how to get more clients – which is often the concern of every freelance designer/developer, who runs his web design business. If you are wondering how to do it and where to look for, all you need to do is a cup of coffee and a few minutes of your time.

I have observed that projects, especially on Elance and Freelancer, have become a bidding war where 99% of projects goes to those who bid the lowest. On the other hand, big agencies are getting big projects worth $5,000-$10,000, even $50,000 – $100,000-worth projects. Where do I look for these? What other sources would you suggest?

Is Web Design Becoming All About Bidding Wars – Cheap Web Design?

It is a fact that job search sites, like Elance, Freelancer, and PeopleperHour, are built for bidding wars and the clients that go there are looking for cheap web design providers because they also want to save as much money as they can. As a freelance web designer, it might be the most logical step to do and the best place to look for clients quickly. However, you should not even be there in the first place. You should never be involved in that kind of race, which is a race for the bottom because YOU are WORTH more than what is offered in these sites.

There are alternative quality job search sites appearing like AwesomeWeb (our own creation) and Codeable.io, which focuses on finding quality designers and attracting higher level clients, who look for quality work.

For web design agencies that have the power to charge $25,000+ for a certain project are agencies that are full of web design experts, coding professionals with various skills, and years of experience. Clients, on the other hand, are interested how many people will actually work in a project. They want to know the different kinds of skills and expertise that would go into it and they are willing to pay more.

As an individual freelancer web designer, however, you should hit the middle ground which is between $5,000 and $10,000 per project. In fact, this should be how much you as a web designer should charge per project. How do you do this or how do you even begin? Here’s a three-step formula how to start looking for more higher paying clients and charging what you are worth for.

1. You have to be READY to be worth the money you are asking for.

The keyword is READY. With ready, we are not just talking about your skills but it refers to everything about you. You should know how much you are really worth. However, it does not stop there – the physical things should match the mindset you have. The physical things should also manifest that you are ready to ask your money’s worth. It means that your website should reflect the skills you have and they type of expertise you offer.

In short, your website design should already show that. In addition, your website should also include your pricing so that they have an idea how much monetary reward you are expecting for providing your design services. Pricing also reflects that you already know how much you are worth and are confident about it.

2. Find out who makes the decisions and controls the budget. 

Projects which range between $50,000 and $100,000 are usually by large companies who have a CMO or Chief Marketing Officer, who is responsible for the overall budget and strategy of the company. They are also in-charge of the advertising strategies and branding initiatives of the company. In short, they are the ones in charge who should be involved in the project as well as how much should be spent in that project. These are the people you should be in touch with. If it is not the CMO, know the person who is responsible for this in a company. Take the time to know them and talk to them.

After figuring out the person in-charge, the next step you need to find out is the place where they hang out. Where can you find these people? If you know where they are in the first place, you know who to talk to and all the more you will have higher chances to get noticed. In addition, part of knowing the places where these people hang out is to also know what their interests are – the websites they visit, the books or articles they read, the conferences they attend, and more.

3. Grab their attention – find the way to stand out from the crowd between other web designers.

There are thousands of web designers and developers out there – this is the reality that you should always remember. These web designers might have similar skills and talents as you or even much better than you. With this in mind, you simply cannot write a letter to a company saying “I am a web designer and I can build you a website,” because thousands of others can also do that and maybe at a much lower price than you.

Therefore, it is very important that you need to find your unique angle – something that will make you stand out among the others. It could be a particular technology you have or a certain expertise/specialization you offer. Standing out can also mean finding your niche and work for it to make things happen.

After you figure out your unique angle, you also need to find the right format to deliver this difference. For example, if the person-in-charge of the project you are eyeing visits websites, such as Forbes, INC., or Business Insider, you might want to do a guest post to these sites. You might not get paid for your contribution but they will have a massive return of investment to you because you will be able to showcase your skills and expertise through these blog posts.

Another format can be podcast interviews. Find out the kind of podcasts in the industry that would want to feature you. You can also shoot a video, like this #EspressoMonday videos, and address a certain issue that would show what you got.

And….a BONUS fourth step that is very important ….

4. Repetitive appearance matters instead of a single effort.

Studies have shown that a person does not decide after seeing the product once. Instead, a buying decision is always made after the consumer has been exposed to a repetitive campaign of a certain product. This is the trick big companies use to amass huge sales.

That is why companies spend a big amount of their time, money, and effort in marketing campaigns. That is why you get a barrage of advertisements and commercials of products in every media platform  every minute, everywhere you go. These companies are creating a want and a desire in you to actually like a product even though you don’t initially like it.

You can use this same trick. Which means doing one guest post is not enough. Instead, you need to widen your exposure by using different formats and platforms to show your expertise. One good example of this is Derek Halpern of Social Triggers. Before he or even his blog became famous, he approached companies and provided solutions for free. All he asked was to record a Screencast of him pointing out the problems and offering solutions. Then, he put up these videos on YouTube until he got noticed.

So invest your time to show off your expertise repetitively, even for free. Take your time to expose your skills and the return of investment will be huge.

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What is The Best Professional WordPress Theme To Use in 2015?

xtheme header

Is X theme the ultimate WordPress theme?

Does X Theme Fit Your Development Style and Needs?

This is the second review from the series about the best WordPress themes you should consider using to increase the speed of how quickly you develop websites for your clients.

Now, you will be choosing a WordPress theme or WordPress theme framework that fits your development style and needs. When you make a decision, you will use your top choice as a base for building all your websites.

In this article, we will review and deeply analyze the X theme, which recently has been getting wide popularity among graphic and web designers. You might have seen their ads appearing in the web design community all over the place and wondered what’s the deal with this mysterious X?

While X is not officially titled as the theme framework based on theme functionality, it can be used as one. As I go deeper in reviewing the theme, you will understand how and why.

X is a much cheaper premium solution compared to its competitors, but the value and functionality you get for the price is amazing. X theme is here to disrupt the WordPress market loudly standing out of the crowd.

Currently X is the Number 2 best WordPress theme on ThemeForest, but seeing what X has created, I am very confident this year that X will gain the nr. 1 spot.

Things to consider when choosing WordPress theme or framework:

  • Price – how affordable is it?
  • Visuals – how beautiful and cool WordPress theme is right outside of the box?
  • Theme functionality
  • Is the WP theme SEO friendly?
  • Social media integration
  • It it WordPress responsive theme?
  • Check for browser compatibility
  • Support level Forums
  • Documentation and manuals
  • Are there video tutorials?
  • Number of themes, how many different designs are there?
  • Number of users – how popular is theme?
  • Refund policy
  • Speed and Size – how fast loading is the theme right outside of the box?
  • Translation – how easy theme can be translated to other languages?
  • Extendability, third-party plugins – can you use it as one page WordPress theme, as shopping cart, as portfolio theme as BuddyPress theme?
  • Coding requirements – how advanced programming skills theme will require?
  • Dashboard interface – how intuitive is dashboard for new users?

For X WP theme review I will especially focus on four main criteria:

  • Theme Support – level of support, documentation, tutorials, and user base
  • Design, visuals – how beautiful the theme is straight out of the box
  • Price – I would say themes and frameworks are generally very affordable, but I know cost is also important to some people.
  • Functionality, flexibility – This will be the most in-depth section because it helps you discover what happens under the hood. It will include things, like additional extensions available, SEO friendliness, responsiveness, security, ease to update, site load speed, and ease of customization (page templates, widget areas,easy of adding custom CSS, child themes).

*Note – before picking X theme to review I analyzed top ThemeForest themes ElegantThemes, WooFramework, Thesis, OptimizePress, Themify, WpZoom etc.. To make it an easy affordable, premium WP theme choice, I am reviewing X theme first.

xtheme themes

When you buy X theme, you don’t just get one theme, you get 4 unique designs (called Stacks) and 33 unique pre-built demos.

X Professional WordPress Theme by ThemeCo Review

While X isn’t called a framework, it is built as one. X might feel as a surprising choice to use as a framework but as you keep reading, you will understand why it’s worth giving this theme a try and why I am considering it the best WordPress theme of 2015.

For several years, Themeforest themes had a bad reputation because most themes don’t use the best coding practices. Themes are bloated adding unnecessary code and making theme files and databases larger and slower than they should be. The situation has been improving but still it is the case with most of the ThemeForest themes. X theme stands out from the crowd because it is not only a very beautiful and non-coder friendly theme, but also has a clean code, amazing functionality, and good site loading speed. It does not clutter your theme with code you don’t want to use. In addition, X is very powerful in terms of functionality and customizability as well as great for professional web developers as well.

X theme was launched on December 2013 by Scott Marlow and Kyle Wakefield. After working for a year on X theme, they released it to the public one year ago. They don’t have a long background in the WordPress field like the Genesis founder but they are very experienced entrepreneurs. They came in the market with a fresh look to bring in innovation and change.

X theme has been built from a marketer’s perspective, which is what I like most about the X theme. Because in the end, no matter how beautiful your website is, what matters most is that your website gives you the results you desire and the leads to conversions.

On 17 July 2014,  they achieved Power Elite status on Themeforest in just six months by selling $1,000,000+ worth of WP themes and achieving the fastest selling Themeforest theme status.

Currently, the X WordPress theme has been purchased more than 40,000 times and answered over 20,000 support questions (within Themeforest and their website). X theme definitely was one of the best WordPress themes in 2014, and has committed to do even better in 2015.

When I reached out to X theme founders and asked what is the single best thing about their theme, they responded with one word – SUPPORT.

Their theme is mostly purchased by designers and is even used by the Utah US government. It does require quite a bit of learning before you can utilize the X theme to its full potential. I do believe it would take at least a few days of studying to use maximize the X theme’s full potential. This is pretty easy, though with their thorough documentation and training videos.

As a not so technical person anymore (haven’t been actively developing websites myself for several years), I did appreciate that I could achieve all the functionality  and visuals I wanted without touching code. All  I need to do is just use their management panel and connect the pieces together. This power makes the X theme a great option for graphic designers to build powerful custom WordPress themes without an extensive programming knowledge.

Professional developers and web designers can choose to deactivate the visual components and work in code straight from admin section. No need to touch FTP, re-upload files, or setup local servers anymore.

x-theme-support-center-quality

You get access to X own support center, besides being able to use Themeforest comment section.

Theme Support and Documentation

Support

Once you buy the theme, you get access to X forum where you can ask all your interesting questions. Questions can also be asked within Themeforest comments though the main activity happens on the forum. On Themeforest alone, there have been 3,600 comments answered while more than 20,000 questions have been answered within the forum.

Themeco has over 10 dedicated full-time staff who handle support related to X, and their response times are extremely fast. They aim to respond within 24 hours (including the weekends if possible) and generally are able to respond much faster.

Documentation

First of all, you can download the 40-page PDF documentation explaining how X theme works and how you can set it up.

Their knowledge base is really comprehensive with the following sections:

  • Setup section explaining how to install X WordPress theme, setup WooCommerce shopping cart, update and translate X
  • Integrated plugins section explaining how to setup bbPress, BuddyPress, visual composer, revolution slider, and Soliloquy within X WordPress theme
  • Solutions to potential setup issues with Customizer, Revolution slider, visual composer, and navigation
  • Features section explaining page templates, sidebars, one page navigation, sliders, portfolios, mega menus, and gallery
  • Customizer section – detailed explanation how to use Customizer to modify your theme design
  • Addons section explaining all the different addon plugins you get when you purchase X
  • Customizations section
  • Meta Options section
  • WordPress training – in depth training how to start using WordPress, great for new users
  • Shortcodes – visual composer tutorials explaining how to use all 40 built-in shortcodes.

Their knowledge base is very helpful including textual as well as video explanations covering basic and advanced customization topics.

Within the X dashboard, you get access to following resources:

  • 4 custom wp designs (called Stacks by X)
  • 15 powerful X theme created plugins
  • Demo content – there are 10 different unique designs for the Integrity, Renew, and Icon themes and 3 designs for the Ethos theme. Here you can download the demo content for all these 33 versions and immediately apply it to your website. This is a great way to rapidly achieve exact setup you see in the demo
  • Changelog section – view all the updates, bug fixes, and improvements. This is a good place to learn about the new functionality and see if any bug you had has been fixed. The X theme had 25 major updates in 2014
  • XIP experts – the X theme was built by consulting with the world’s top online marketers. In this section, you can exactly see what advice these top 10 marketers gave to the X theme creators
  • Marketing training section – here you can watch in-depth videos about marketing and entrepreneurship which will help you to think like a marketer when creating websites for yourself or your clients. From these videos, you will get basic understanding about affiliate marketing, buying and selling websites, email marketing, power of membership websites, SEO, information products, selling online, and using videos as a marketing tool.
Learn basics of internet marketing with X videos!

Learn basics of internet marketing with X videos!

X theme strong marketing focus in one of the biggest reasons, why I like this theme so much. It’s not about just a pretty website, it is about building a website that leads to results you want. And with X you even get basic marketing training to be better help for the clients you serve..and be able to charge more, since you now provide higher level help.

X has gorgeous retina visuals and stunning animation effects.

X has gorgeous retina visuals and stunning animation effects.

Design and Visuals

Now this is where X really shines. X looks amazing straight out of the box and you can duplicate their beautiful demos to achieve the same look and layout with just a click of button! That is pretty damn impressive!

You must have a Stack (how X refers to its 4 unique designs) selected to use X. Switching Stacks doesn’t just mean you get a new skin, it means you’ll get a whole new set of styles, features, and functionality specific to that Stack. For example, Icon’s unique fix sidebar is only available in that Stack because you cannot use it in any others. Additionally, Ethos’ magazine-type has features, such as Post Carousel, Post Slider, featured post display, and more, which are only available in that Stack.

Then on top of that, you will be able to further customize a theme by creating a child theme to overwrite the styling of the Stack you use.

Hope this helps you to understand how Stacks work, Now, we can dive in deeper into the four main Stacks X has:

  1. Integrity is the most feature rich, cool all-purpose WordPress business theme
  2. Renew is a creative, clean, professional theme, focused around flat web design trend
  3. Icon is the simplest theme with minimal design, no distractions
  4. Ethos is a versatile theme best used for news or magazine websites, where vast amounts of content needs to be displayed in one page.

That’s a quick overview, but lets dive deeper now.

integrity-themeco-x-wordpress-business-child-theme

Different demos in different sizes for Integrity theme.

Integrity X theme

10 Integrity theme designs are multipurpose and best suited for small business owners who have a lot of needs. Maybe you want music, fashion, restaurant, photography, agency, video, portfolio, eCommerce, responsive, one page, BuddyPress, real estate friendly WordPress theme? X theme gives you functionality and the visual support to do it all.

Compared to Icon (which is best for light, clean and white designs), Integrity has light and dark, black theme versions and by default is more feature rich. This design sports big background images with parallax effects and possi. Integrity makes an excellent option for landing pages and one page websites presenting your product or services in style.

1-icon-themeco-x-wordpress-stack-child-theme

Enjoy professional minimalism with Icon theme styles.

Icon X theme

10 Icon theme designs are great if you prefer minimal and clean style. There are 10 unique demos available, which basically means you get 10 different minimal website designs. Demos are incredible and once you find design you or your client likes, you can activate it with a click of button, add content, change visuals and you’re done.

Icon design is a good choice if you want a white, clean portfolio website design, modern and minimal shop or minimal blog design focused around content.

renew-themeco-x-wordpress-business-child-theme

Renew themes are all about being flat and beautiful.

Renew X Theme

10 Renew theme designs are built all around a popular flat design style. Use it for your blog, online store, or portfolio website.

Lastly 3 Ethos theme designs  are the best for busy news blogs and magazine type websites. One of their demos look extremely well for a photography, video site. No visual for this one, you need to check live demos to appreciate the design and power of visuals anyway! Go do it now, and come back when you are done!

Basically all demos showcase everything you can do with the X. Use it as a landing page, one page website, single column, 2-column, animation effects. I keep repeating myself – but with X you can do so much easily!

As a conclusion, it was really hard to review 4 main theme designs and their 33 demos because every design is truly unique. One thing about X theme demos is that most designs look great because of the great product images and photographs which can be a downside if you don’t have access to great looking images. Keep that in mind, when looking for a WordPress theme you will use to build website for your client.

xtheme refund

How affordable is X?

How Much X Theme Cost?

Compared to other ThemeForest premium WordPress themes, $63 price may seem expensive but if you look at the included features, functionality, training videos, and customer support, it is a steal.  You also don’t just get access to one theme, but you get access to a powerful framework with many professional theme designs, free WordPress plugins and world-class support included for no extra cost!

What exactly do you get for $63?

  • Free updates and support
  • Textual and video training videos for both WordPress and their theme usage
  • 20 internet marketing training videos
  • Four different Stacks with specific functionality for each plus 33 more unique designs.
  • 15 additional plugins developed by X
  • 400 vectorized icon fonts
  • Revolution Slider plugin ($15 value)
  • Visual Composer Plugin ($28)
  • All designs in PSD version
  • 41 built-in short-codes to extend your site functionality
  • single site license. There is no multi-site license, which means you will need to purchase theme again if you want to use it for several websites.

If we would compare Genesis framework and the X theme in terms of price, X theme is 6X cheaper. But there is no option of buying unlimited or multi-site license which means you need to buy a new license for each website you develop.

X Theme Refund Policy

X is using Themeforest from Envato network to sell their theme which means you will need to follow the Envato refund policy. Envato Market will generally only offer refunds if the item you purchased is broken, malfunctioning, or corrupt, or doesn’t work as described.

x-wordpress-theme-functionality-responsive

X is very powerful, you can do so much with it, if you know how to utilize X correctly!

X Theme Functionality, customizability and flexibility

Now let’s explore what’s under the X theme hood and explore how easy it is to customize WordPress with X.

Search Engine Friendliness (SEO)

X theme has been built up using the latest, semantic HTML5 markup allowing search engine spiders to easily read different parts of content starts and ends. It also easily understands what the content is about.

X theme doesn’t have built-in SEO options but you should install Yoast WordPress SEO plugin for every WordPress installation anyway.

When looking at the themes in terms of SEO, the most important factor is site loading speed. We will explore how fast loading X theme is in the speed section, but keep in mind X has included lots of beautiful visual effects, retina support. If you want to use these features, you need to expect your site will take a bit more to load, for SEO focused sites Icon minimal designs probably will be the best choice.

Responsiveness

All the X designs are fully responsive, 100% fluid, and retina ready ensuring that your website looks amazing even on high resolution displays.

There are icon fonts, optimized CSS, retina logo, and favicon support looking sharp on any device. You can also specify within theme settings what elements will be shown or hidden on different size screens.

X theme truly looks awesome on all devices and it is following latest web standards meaning it is HTML5 valid.

Updates and security

The biggest danger with security is when you don’t update WordPress version, themes, and plugins. With the X theme, you can choose to enable automatic updates for theme and plugins to ensure you are always up to date and possible bugs that come up are fixed fast.

Built-In Customization Options

The X theme is packed with customization options allowing you to use it as a fully functional website builder if you choose so.

My favorite feature is Demo Content allowing you to pick one of the 33 design demos you like and achieve the same look in a few seconds (without images because of copyright reasons). If you don’t like to start website building process with a blank page, this is an excellent way to start quickly.

x-theme-customizer-demo-options

Demo content feature in action. Choose demo content, click on few radio buttons and you are done.

This is the view I get on Appearance>Customize WordPress section. I did deploy Integrity 1 demo on test site, which you can see in screenshot.

builtin-theme-co-customize-visual-editor

This is how Integrity Stack looks right outside of the box.

In the Customizer you can:

  • choose between 4 Stack (unique designs with with specific features and functionality) options which will, in turn, provide you with different set of options within the customizer
  • customize whole site typography, textual logo settings
  • customize button style, header navigation position, footer widget areas, and contents
  • change main blog, single blog, and archive pages styles and layout
  • add social media profile, RSS buttons
  • add favicon, Touch icon for retina displays and tile icon for Microsoft
  • add custom CSS or Javascript scripts like Google Analytics snippet
  • customize widget areas.

Create Custom Posts and Pages

You can create and customize custom pages easily using the Visual Composer page builder. This is great for quickly creating one page layouts, landing pages, or custom home pages.

When creating new posts and pages, there is also the X short code button, which allows you to quickly add powerful functionality anywhere you want. There are 40 different functionality short codes you can add in all. Make sure you preview live demos to understand why I am so excited about X built-in short codes.

xtheme-shortcodes-custom-features

Skill bar looks so stunning in action! Use it for your own portfolio site to show off your skills!

Make Use of Built-in Short Codes in X Theme!

Here are just a few examples of what you can add:

  • accordion menus great for FAQ pages
  • add table of contents within a post. Great if you have a long post (like this) and you want to add easy navigation for readers. Also Google really loves table of contents.
  • responsive pricing table
  • tabbed content
  • animated modern counter
  • code shortcode to easily add HTML, CSS  or any other code. Great for tutorials.
  • Google map embed
  • animated skill bar
Get access to 15 more plugins for added functionality with X.

Get access to 15 more plugins for added functionality when you purchase X.

Additional Functionality with X extensions

There are 15 plugins built by X which you can use to add more functionality to your website. Since X is built with marketing in mind, their plugins reflect that.

What’s a great thing about X extensions is that each of the plugin is maximally optimized to run as fast as possible within X.

For example:

  • There is a minimal CSS output to the page, eliminating extra HTTP requests and keeping page size as small and efficient as possible
  • Similar to CSS, JavasScript for these extensions is kept inline whenever possible to make the page load faster
  • Extensions expand in more short codes which you can use to mix together with core short codes to get a new functionality.

There is more to the extensions than you would guess at the first moment.

Plugins:

  • Video Lock – this plugin allows you to control when the call to action button appears on your video. Great for landing pages, where there is only video. Only after the visitor has been hooked with the video does the buy button appear. You would usually need to pay for such feature as a standalone plugin.
  • Content Dock – allows you to slide out any content or marketing offer you want as read scrolls down your content. Great to use to show up related articles, opt-in form.
  • Mailchimp – integration with the popular Mailchimp email solution to build your email list
  • Add Disqus comments
  • Add Custom 404 page
  • Easily add Google Analytics to your website
  • Add Facebook comments to your articles
  • Olark live chat integration – great way to interact with visitors and answer their questions while they are making decision to purchase your product
  • Smooth scroll – add smoother scrolling to default scrollbar
  • Revolution slider – build complex slides and demonstrate features with style
  • Soliloquy – alternatively add lightweight slider for simple picture display effects
  • Terms of use – add terms of use checkbox and page when users register on your website
  • Under construction – handy little maintenance plugin you can easily activate when doing updates. Customize the page visitors see during maintenance
  • White label – personalize your site login page and add custom messages to your clients within dashboard.

X theme also has built styling support for popular plugins Gravity Forms, Contact Form 7, WooCommerce shopping cart, bbPress forum and BuddyPress social network. This means that these plugins will feel native to each Stack, right after installing them and you don’t need to spend extra time styling them one by one.

There aren’t really any third party plugins for the X theme yet but seeing how fast they are growing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some in future.

How Fast And Optimized For Speed X Themes Are?

Let’s check how fast the X themes are using Google Pagespeed, Pingdom and GTmetrix tools. What I like about X is that they seem to be doing the best they can with the beautiful visuals, functionality and animation effects they include in their themes.

When looking at the test results, remember that X theme demos have included lots of visuals, functionality to show off their theme, which is increasing the number or requests and page size.

For example Integrity theme demo has:

  • background fullscreen video in place, which looks amazing, but it is sizeable video file;
  • all the shortcodes are active so you can demo them;
  • Woocommerce shopping cart is active
  • there are 12 active pages for preview
  • BuddyPress and bbPress is activated

Keep these things in mind when previewing performance reports. If you would want to include all of the functionality and visuals, you will need to make tradeoffs how fast your site loads. For usual website you would use 1/3 or 1/4 of all the functionality and visuals X has included in the demo.

X full demo page size is 8.5mb, taking site to load in 5 seconds.

X full demo page size is 8.5mb, taking site to load in 5 seconds.

Integrity Stack Main Demo Results:

  • Google PageSpeed – 79/100 for desktop, 54/100 for speed, 98/100 for user experience
  • Pingdom – performance grade 72/100, load time – 4.37 seconds, page size 3.3 mb, 103 requests
  • GTMetrix – page speed grade 90%, YSlow Grade – 76%, page load time 5.18 seconds, total page size 8.50 mb

Integrity Stack is pretty heavy because of the video preview on the background and large feature images. The request number is high, because of included JS effects, Woocommerce, BuddyPress, bbPress.

GTmetrix-x-theme-renew-performance-report-speed

JavaScript and images slow site the most, strongly consider yourself how many visuals you will include.

Renew Stack Main Demo Results:

  • Google PageSpeed – 74/100 for desktop, 62/100 for speed, 92/100 for user experience
  • Pingdom – performance grade 87/100, load time – 3.60 seconds, page size 959.2kb, 48 requests
  • GTMetrix – page speed grade 84%, YSlow Grade – 80%, page load time 3.25 seconds, total page size 970kb

The Renew site is much lighter and hence achieves pretty good page load speed time.

GTmetrix-x-theme-icon-performance-report-speed

Icon is the fastest demo, because of the minimal style.

Icon Stack Main Demo Results:

  • Google PageSpeed – 73/100 for desktop, 53/100 for speed, 99/100 for user experience
  • Pingdom – performance grade 90/100, load time – 1.93 seconds, page size 1.8mb, 60 requests
  • GTMetrix – page speed grade 86%, YSlow Grade – 79%, page load time 3.06 seconds, total page size 1.84mb

Icon achieved high results in the Google user experience loading pretty fast considering the page size is 1.8mb.

And finally here are Ethos Stack Main Demo Results:

  • Google PageSpeed – 75/100 for desktop, 63/100 for speed, 99/100 for user experience
  • Pingdom – performance grade 89/100, load time – 2.52 seconds, page size 2.2 mb, 50 requests
  • GTMetrix – page speed grade 94%, YSlow Grade – 79%, page load time 3.95 seconds, total page size 2.16mb

If you want to have beautiful retina images, video backgrounds and lots of animated sliding effects, you must consider page load time. It’s a gamble and you should decide how much visual effects you want to add. X designs are amazing and the big reason for that are high quality visuals and animation effects. You can customize within the X theme settings what JavaScript effects to use and which ones to leave out to achieve higher site speed or better user experience.

What I suggest is to look past all the animation effects and include just one or two of them in places where it really counts. For example, include animated video header, but then afterwards don’t add any more animation. Or go for simple clean pattern in background and then include some nice loading effects throughout the design. X theme demos are packed because they want to show everything you can do with their theme. But professional web designers will keep in mind that “less is more” and utilize built-in effects only in places where it counts.

X theme does a really good job by not adding unnecessary code to your theme for the features you don’t use. Use X with caution and don’t overdo the effects. It is a bit hard, at first I was taken too much with all the beautiful effects, but you cannot overdo them. Don’t include all the shortcodes, sliders, plugins you can –  only include ones that counts and then your site will look great, load fast and look professional.

Finally, I reached out to X creators and got their feedback and suggestions regarding WordPress theme load speed. Kory Wakefield, X lead developer shared some really good tips in general and explained what they are doing to make X fast:

“While these speed tests can be a good indicator of things in general, there are certain aspects of their testing that we as theme authors have no control over.

For instance, they might convey that “all scripts should be moved to the bottom of the site” – however, we do not necessarily have control over this for numerous reasons:

  1. Some scripts and libraries are loaded in specifically by WordPress and we have no control over their placement. For example, WordPress loads its bundled jQuery library in the <head> of the site, and since it is a bad practice to remove this and move it elsewhere, this must be left in place.
  2. Plugin authors include their own scripts and styles and we have no control over how this is handled. Some authors might include multiple files for their plugin at once, which will make these systems say “you have too many HTTP requests, please reduce them”, but again, we have no control over this.
  3. Regarding deferring the parsing of JavaScript, we avoid inline script tags whenever possible, and utilize HTML data attributes extensively to keep JavaScript in their own files, but still have access to data from PHP. Our recent short-code JavaScript overhaul in v3.0.0 of the short-codes plugin significantly reduced the amount of inline <script> tags, providing large gains in this area.

Additionally, some of the items listed in these speed tests are not theme related at all, and instead have to do with server-side configuration:

  1. Always make sure your site is gzipped to ensure speedy delivery of your content. Gzipping is a method of compressing a website’s markup, JavaScript, and CSS before sending it to the client to reduce their sizes and therefore increase loading speed.
  2. Setting up caching on the server level can help to ensure that resources are saved for easy recall later and quicker loading times
  3. Caching plugins can take this a step further by creating “static files” from dynamic PHP to make things even quicker on the front-end (this must be used with caution though as it can be known to create problems if it is not setup properly)
  4. Setting up a CDN can help load resources from multiple domains and combine scripts/styles into fewer HTTP requests rather than many.

For our X demos, we do not have any extensive caching setup or use any CDNs. This is done to show as “raw” a result as possible without all of this extra setup as many users do not take the time to do these things. However, with a little bit of proper server-side configuration these metrics can increase significantly to ensure things are running as smoothly as possible.”

X is beginner friendly

For total beginners – you can easily build websites using one of the 33 pre-built designs and customize basic looks with the X visual editor and theme options without touching any code.

For amateur graphic and web designers –  the X has been used a lot by graphical web designers who utilize the X’s functionality and flexibility without being hardcore programmers. We will be having an interview case study soon with a graphic designer who now creates powerful websites for her clients without being expert programmer.

For advanced programmers – the X is very extensive and has plenty of action hooks which you can use throughout the theme for making alterations. Heavy modifications are easily possible using “Views”, that break the theme up in smaller pieces. Think of each View as a Lego brick which can be used together with other bricks to build a more complex structure.

Learn more about X theme customization best practices and available actions and hooks.

To conclude, it will take some time to learn how the X theme works. Right after installing the theme, I was a bit overwhelmed with all the functionality I had access. If you make a commitment, however, to spend time to read their getting started PDF guide and view their training videos, you will have serious superpowers in your hands in just a few days.

X is here to disrupt the market and aim for being the theme of 2015. It is an amazing theme, you can get with only $63 investment and use it to quickly build high quality and great looking websites for your clients.

We actually did interview with Dana, a professional web designer who scaled her design business by using X theme effectively. Learn how she did it and listen to the interview now!

Interview with Dana about using X theme to scale her business.

What others are saying about X?:

1stWebDesigner Rating for X theme:

X is truly a steal deal for designers.

X is truly a steal deal for designers.

Who Should Use X theme?

At the start of article I promised to help you make suggestions so you can choose the right tools, that will be the most effective for you. This review intended to show off X best features and possible challenges, and I hope you already have a good picture if this theme is right for your development style.

In a nutshell, X theme intends to be great choice for everybody, not only professionals, but it is also very beginner friendly. Professionals will find lots of helpful functionality, shortcodes and functions built in to improve their site development speed. Beginners will find many helpful training videos, visual editors, where they can achieve results they want by just clicking the buttons. X is basically a visual website builder for beginners, and lets professional go under the hood and utilize X built-in functionality.

Who is X theme for:

  • Starting and amateur web designers, who want to be more productive, but don’t have a lot of money to invest to get that. $63 makes it a great starting option.
  • Beginners – even for people, who have never built any website in WordPress, you will be able to build good-looking and functional website with X. It will probably take a week for you to learn the basics. But if you are on budget and not willing to make excuses to yourself, X will be great help to getting your site live and look professional.
  • Freelancers, who work with clients, who don’t know what they really want. With X theme demos, you can put different website concepts together very quickly, build great looking personal brand website and amaze your client with the fast and beautiful results you provide to him.
  • Professional web designers, who appreciate visuals, animation effects and built in time-saving functionality. If you have internet marketing experience, X has strong marketing based functionality, allowing you to really help your clients create CONVERTING websites.

Who’s X theme not for:

  • If you are building minimal websites with very little visuals and no animation effects, you will not find X as useful, because you simply won’t use most of its features
  • If you are not ready to invest time to learn the theme, X won’t be very easy to set it up. X has lots of functionality built in and you will need to spend time to understand how to use it effectively. If you want to setup super simple website, probably you shouldn’t go with X as a newbie. If you do take time to learn your way around X, you probably never want to use any other theme though.

Read more about X theme features and view demos on their own ThemeForest page.

What has been your experience with ThemeForest themes and more importantly have you tried X theme? Would love to hear your experience in comments section!

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Building Web Design Business Using WordPress X Theme

The Podcast Episode with Dana James Mwangi

Success Story from Dana James Mwangi

At first glance, Dana James Mwangi looks like the typical wife and mother balancing her time between her husband and kids. Unless you delve a little deeper, you will never know that this dynamo has an additional title under her resume – that of a business person.

A woman filled with laughter and positive energy, her smile and enthusiasm are contagious. There’s no hint of burn-out nor tiredness when you talk to her. Even in this short interview, Dana isn’t short of energy as she talks about her family, business, and most importantly, the X Theme.

The X Factor

WordPress is awash with various themes web designers can use and build upon.  For Dana, however, nothing else works for her other than the X. Her business experiencing a significant boost by just using the X theme is proof enough of its functionality and versatility to meet the various needs of each of her clients.

What’s great about the X theme, according to Dana, is its ability to help her to customize and deliver high quality designs without eating up most of her time. Compared to other themes in the WordPress market, the X is more intuitive allowing her clients to update their own websites. This lifts up the burden of doing everything, even the simplest task, for her clients.

In short, she is able to have time for everything without jeopardizing her career and family. In her own words, the X theme is not as complicated to work around and build a website with but not easy enough to be boring to a web designer.

Dana has a lot to rave about the X, but what really got her was its exceptional customer service unexpected from a company of its size. Just like its features and settings bringing satisfaction to its customers, the customer service of the X makes you feel like they are part of your team, which is very crucial and important to business. They give you a feeling that they are always there for you permanently any time of the day.

Unlike other theme designers who leave you hanging to figure out how to solve a problem, the team behind the X answer properly and provide good answers. This is reflective of the company’s goal which is to understand all the custom projects being built using the x theme and in so doing they will be able to help you support the development.

Aside from the amazing customer service support, the X Theme also provides a number of video support which help you set up the theme from the beginning to using the customizer to modifying your site. Then, there’s also the support forum which provides relevant answers within a short period of time. Furthermore, members are given access to an extensive written documentation that carries the answers to any possible issues they might encounter. This is a very great alternative just in case the videos won’t suffice.

Making Things Happen

Dana’s clients are an interesting lot – from companies who have been in the business for decades to business owners who have just started out. While there is no problem building a website for someone who has an established experience and an extensive portfolio, the real challenge comes from those who have little or almost nonexistent portfolio desiring to establish a web presence. This predicament will rattle any web designer, but not Dana who understands the importance of Web presence.

But how does she do this? The answer is One Page Homepages These single page homepages are one of the latest updates on the X Theme allowing developers to build a website with a fixed horizontal navigation menu which takes the visitor down to the relevant sub-section of the page when they click it. The scrolling works efficiently in both directions and the full-width design looks amazing.

Since you are able to create a website with just a single page, clients with a limited portfolio can manage to create an online “home,” as Dana calls it, without really stressing what to put in it. The best thing to this, however, is that you can access it on a much later date and expand your website as your business grows.

The Uncanny X Theme

One problem any web designer will encounter if they are just using one specific theme is the lack of flexibility to make a website unique from the others which are also built on the same theme. Dana, however, points out that this is not a problem with the X theme because you can fully customize your own and make it unique from the rest. That’s because the theme is loaded with features and controls making it impossible for any two X theme websites to look the same.

To begin with, it has four designs, called Stacks, which you can choose from. These stacks provide the foundation for everything you build on around the theme. These stacks are different than child themes because they function as separate entities. However, you can create child themes within each stack allowing you to make any changes the way you would with another theme.

Then, there’s the customizer panel – a customization menu built on the original WordPress panel but has been extensively upgraded to give you more control over the function and appearance of your website. Some of the awesome things the customizer allows you to do that affects the way how your site looks include:

  • Changing the Stack
  • Menu and Header Placement
  • Position of the sidebar
  • Colors and Fonts
  • Buttons
  • Full or Boxed width
  • Backgrounds and Logos

As Dana has put it, all these modifications can be done at just a touch of a button and can be previewed live within the same window. You can do this without worrying whether the changes you make are visible to your visitors or not because they remain private until you click the ‘Confirm’ button. This feature cuts back the time because you don’t need to refresh and apply every time you make the changes.

Practicing What You Preach

Dana James is not the only web designer who uses the X theme, but she is surely one of the most vocal advocates of the X. To further prove her point and show her trust on the theme, her personal and business websites have been built on the X. However, if you visit them, Cheers.com and danajamesmwangi.com, you won’t suspect that they are using the same theme because they are extremely unique and different from each other.

Asked why she would readily recommend the X Theme to any web designer, she provides two reasons – one on a design perspective and the other on a business perspective. She said that the X is ideal for a business person because it is the only theme that grows with you. You can start from a one page to multiple pages and never worry about support. For a designer, the X theme is great because it allows you to bring your designs to life without any restrictions.

Conclusion

Each web designer has different preferences which allows them to express their talent. However, it is also wise to choose or prefer something that is dynamic – something that grows with you. That is what X Theme is all about –  already using HTML 5 and CSS3,  it gives the assurance that it will continue to develop and provide high-end functionality your site demands. X has done it with Dana and X can also do it with you and your business.

 

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How Much Should You Charge Your Clients? #EspressoMonday Nr. 6

#EspressoMonday Episode Nr.6

Coffee, Charges, Contracts, and CMS

It’s #EspressoMonday again and here’s another dose of Question and Answer video to start your week. In this episode, we will tackle pricing, contracts, and being a jack-of-all trades. Curious about the answer? Let’s jump into it with a cup of coffee in your hands.

Question #1

How do you decide how much should you charge your clients?

First of all, you should not charge base on the number of pages you have created. Conversely, the price should not be the first thing you should discuss with your clients. Instead, you should focus more on what your clients need and what it is they want to achieve. Understand your client’s goals and needs first in order to create a design that suits that goal and need.

Don’t just go for a design because it is popular or cool to look at. The primary goal you should have in mind is how to solve your client’s pain points. Moreover, when you understand what their purpose is, you are also increasing your value to your clients. Why? Because you are setting yourself up to be the answer to their need or their purpose and goal.

Another important thing that you should not forget is to ask what their budget is together with their purpose. Thus, you are making them realize how much they are willing to invest in their purpose. Call that some sort of psychological manipulation but in a positive way because you are taking away the pressure from yourself how much the project should cost.

Truth is, your clients always have always a budget because businesses always have a financial plan. Most of the time, clients ask how much you charge first in order to get a discount. But by asking what their needs are and how much they are willing to invest, you are turning the tables and preventing yourself from under-pricing your value.

Question #2

When do you start using Contracts and Terms of Agreements in projects aside from the regular email correspondence?

When it comes to Contracts and Agreements, you can always ask the advice of a lawyer how you should proceed in crafting the contract.  You don’t need to go overboard and furnish a 10-page contract. Instead, a simple contract and agreement which outlines you and your client’s expectations and responsibilities is enough.

It should also mention what type of responsibilities are included in the budget because most often than not, client’s will always try to squeeze everything from you to get every penny’s worth of what they pay for.

Moreover, contracts prevents you from getting sidetracked. What this means is some clients will always ask little favors that are not part of the project. With contracts, however, you are able to determine which are the priority and which are not.

When crafting a contract, some of the most important things to include aside from the pricing or rate are:

  • Payment schedule – Do you get paid in half now and half later after the project is finished? Or do you get paid in 3 installments or any kind of payment scheme you and your client would agree on.
  • Single Point of Contact – This is important if your client is an organization or company. Who should do all the feedback and revision requests?
  • Cancellation Fee – What if your client suddenly cancels the project and you are already half-way with it? This prevents wasting all the time and effort you have invested in the project.
  • Revisions – How many revisions are included for that certain budget?

Question #3

What is the best route if I know a little about a lot of things? What’s the next step – CMS?

There is no problem about knowing a little a lot or being a jack of all trades. Contrary to popular opinion, you can use this to your advantage by being able to partner effectively with other professionals.

When you know a little about a lot, it gives you an opportunity to get an extra hand into your team and delegate the task to them because you know about the task you have just delegated, you know what to expect as well as the process and effort that goes into it.

With regards to learning CMS, the answer is certainly YES. When it comes to Content Management Systems, I would highly recommend WordPress because it is like a teacher where it enables you to learn from inside out. Why? Because once you install WordPress together with X Theme or Genesis Framework, it is already working but if you want to modify or customize the site, you can tap into the code and change it according to your preferences.

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Genesis Framework Reviewed: The Ultimate WP Framework for Web Professionals

In the previous article, we learned how you can be more productive by using WordPress and it’s premium tools.  Now, the next step is choosing a premium WordPress theme or WordPress theme framework that fits your development style and needs. When you make a decision, you will use your top choice as a base for building all your websites.

genesis_framework_review

Find out if Genesis framework is for you in this article.

Does Genesis Framework Fit Your Development Style and Needs?

Your decision which framework or starter theme to use will depend on your skills and design needs as well as the price and functionality of the theme. As a developer, you might want a framework that gives you more flexibility, less visual editors, and easy access when you code. For people who veer more towards graphical design, they will appreciate built-in tools that help them understand WordPress functions and visual editor better. They will prefer to use a tool where less coding is involved.

Things to consider when choosing WordPress frameworks:

  • Price – how affordable is it?
  • Visuals – how beautiful and cool WordPress theme is right outside of the box?
  • Theme functionality
  • Is the WP theme SEO friendly?
  • Social media integration
  • Responsive design
  • Check for browser compatibility
  • Support level Forums
  • Documentation and manuals
  • Are there video tutorials?
  • Number of themes, how many different designs are there?
  • Number of users – how popular is theme?
  • Refund policy
  • Speed and Size – how fast loading is the theme right outside of the box?
  • Translation – how easy theme can be translated to other languages?
  • Extendability, third-party plugins
  • Coding requirements – how advanced programming skills theme will require?
  • Dashboard interface – how intuitive is dashboard for new users?

For Genesis framework review I will especially focus on four main criteria:

  • Theme Support – level of support, documentation, tutorials, and user base
  • Design, visuals – how beautiful the theme is straight out of the box
  • Price – I would say themes and frameworks are generally very affordable, but I know cost is also important to some people.
  • Functionality, flexibility – This will be the most in-depth section because it helps you discover what happens under the hood. It will include things, like additional plugins available, SEO friendliness, responsiveness, security, ease to update, site load speed, and ease of customization (page templates, widget areas,easy of adding custom CSS, child themes).

*Note – before picking Genesis framework as the first choice I reviewed ElegantThemes, WooFramework, Thesis, OptimizePress, Themify, WpZoom and top ThemeForest themes. To make it an easy choice for you I went with the most popular and highest quality framework first.

studiopress-genesis-premium-wordpress-framework-

Let me introduce you to StudioPress Genesis framework.

StudioPress (Genesis framework)

StudioPress is the most popular and most widely used framework nowadays. StudioPress was founded by Brian Gardner and in 2010 it merged with Copyblogger Media LLC, led by Brian Clark.

StudioPress is widely used among top marketers. Genesis WordPress themes are used by people like:

  • Brian Clark (Copyblogger)
  • Neil Patel (QuickSprout)
  • Darren Rowse (Problogger)
  • 1stWebDesigner
  • Chris Brogan
  • Jay Baer
  • ..and many more influential and popular blog owners.

StudioPress was founded in August 2007 and is a very established company. They even got a testimonial from Matt, the founder of WordPress himself.

StudioPress Customer Service and Documentation

When picking the right framework, it’s super important that there is a reliable customer service, training, and documentation behind it. Popularity of framework plays an important role because the more experienced developers are using the theme, the better support, help, additional plugins, and codes will be made by developers using and sharing them.

StudioPress is being used by 134,000 website owners and there are even sites like this, TheWPChick, where StudioPress Genesis lovers create videos and books about how to use Genesis more effectively!

Unlimited Support

As you purchase the Genesis framework and any of its child themes, you immediately get unlimited access to a dedicated support staff which consists of expert, who know the Genesis Framework and WordPress inside and out. Several high level developers who are in the StudioPress support team are contributors on WordPress itself.

Membership forum

You also get access to the forums where all the people who bought any product from StudioPress hang out. You can ask for help and browse forums as well as hire an experienced developer who can help you to add the customization you need.

Their forums are very active with the following categories:

  • General discussion – It has 11,000 topics and 50,000 posts.
  • Design tips and tricks – This is where you can share code snippets and get help with CSS related questions. This category has 16,000 topics and 70,000 posts
  • Showcase and feedback
  • Internationalization and translations
  • Forum bugs and suggestions

Here is a full breakdown, of what you can expect and cannot expect from StudioPress support team.

studiopress-support-documentation-help

Learn in visual detail about StudioPress support guidelines

What this tells me is:

  • You will receive full support about everything surrounding the StudioPress built-in functionality when customizing and configuring a website using the StudioPress built-in features;
  • You will get basic advice about how to build a unique design using StudioPress child themes and basic integration advice how to use the most popular WordPress plugins. You cannot expect support to solve issues about the new theme you created or non-StudioPress plugins you installed but you will get their help to point you in the right direction.
  • You can ask for help regarding general questions including site speed, issues you have, and making your theme more SEO-friendly. The support team will point you in the right direction;
  • StudioPress will not build websites for you nor will they customize websites for you – you cannot expect them to write code for you. Think of them as teachers whom you can ask for help, but you will still need to complete homework yourself.
In this 60-page eBook, you will learn all the basics you need to know about using Genesis.

In this 60-page eBook, you will learn all the basics you need to know about using Genesis.

Documentation

Once you purchase StudioPress in the members area, you’ll get access to the community and documentation sections:

  • PDF eBook “A Beginner’s Guide To The Genesis Framework”
  • Textual tutorials covering topics like Genesis documentation, column classes, images, navigation menus, sharing and several more misc topics like “load google fonts”
  • Top questions section with 12 most popular questions answered.
  • 51 tutorials written by StudioPress community members

You get access to following developer resources:

  • Code snippets around topics like admin management, author box, HTML5, images, breadcrumbs, comments, post excerpts, post formats, footer, search form, header, and more
  • Mobile responsive design testing tool which allows you to test how your website pages will look live on different size screens – 240×320 (small phone), 320×480 (iPhone), 480×640 (small tablet), 768×1024 (iPad – Portrait), 1024×768 (iPad – Landscape).
  • 15 StudioPress developed plugins and two third-party plugins. These plugins allow you for example to integrate WooCommerce store with Genesis, build social network with Genesis Connect plugin, add social media icons with Simple Social Icons plugin, and many more;
  • Free Web Graphics – several custom icon sets, social media icons, generate box, screenshot displays, call to action banners, patterns, buttons.

How beautiful StudioPress themes are?

In this section we will talk about how beautiful Genesis WP themes are straight out of the box. Genesis is the core, parent theme while the child themes are the different skins which you can use to change visuals. Let’s take a look.

StudioPress has 43 different child themes available:

  • 9 business child themes, which are great to use for personal brand portfolio, corporate or eCommerce store type websites
  • 5 enterprise company child themes suitable for larger agency
  • 4 magazine style child themes great for blogs who create lots of content
  • 5 photography child themes great for music, fashion industries, web designers and companies, who have products with beautiful visuals to show off
  • 1 real-estate child-theme for realtors to display houses, apartments beautifully and let visitors to filter the houses based on their preferences.

Now this is how Genesis framework looks straight out of the box. It is a clean and responsive WP theme which is great to use as a foundation:

genesis-studiopress-starter-theme-design-visuals

Genesis base parent theme

And this is how Genesis child theme looks like. In this example I picked Altitude child-theme which is business theme that could be used to represent small business or personal brand.

altitude-beautiful-genesis-child-theme

Altitude Genesis child theme looks simple and professional.

Looking at the demos of all the child-themes, I must say all of them are professional, unique, fluid, and with no fancy effects going on. That is exactly what StudioPress represents. You will not find crazy experimental style designs there. All of the Genesis WP themes look clean and modern, but I don’t believe they would win an innovation design award. StudioPress uses proven design practices and don’t stray away from that. For good designers, Genesis child-themes are excellent base themes to build their own design upon.

When we talk about the other option, X theme (can be used as a framework), you will notice the difference. X theme is sold on ThemeForest and really stands out with beautiful, modern and, sometimes, fancy visuals. This indirect comparison makes me say that Genesis is best if you want very custom design, because of it’s customizability while X theme is a great option for designers who don’t want to customize everything, but still want to make full use of X theme’s built in functionality.

How Much Genesis Framework and Child Themes Cost?

Let’s talk about cost now. Genesis is the most expensive framework compared to all its competitors. Only WooThemes with their expensive plugin extensions comes close. Even though it is the most expensive choice, I would still say that Genesis is the best choice for professional full-time developers and web designers because of the community, value and quality you get.

In addition, StudioPress has a 30-day money back guarantee.

Here is the full StudioPress price breakdown:

Note: if you have purchased anything before from StudioPress, you get 25% returning customer’s discount.

With Pro Plus package you get everything StudioPress has.

With Pro Plus package you get everything StudioPress has.

$400 – Pro Plus All-Theme Package

*$300 for returning customers

What’s included:

  • All 43 StudioPress child themes
  • Genesis Framework
  • Lifetime future updates, support and you can use themes on unlimited sites
  • Access to detailed tutorials and forums
  • You get access to all future child-themes StudioPress makes
  • One-Time purchase
Genesis Theme Framework, you don't get any of the child-themes.

Genesis Theme Framework, you don’t get any of the child-themes.

$60 – Genesis Framework

*$45 for returning customers

What’s included:

  • Genesis Framework
  • Unlimited updates, support and sites
  • Access to tutorials and forums
  • *You do not get any of Genesis child-themes
Genesis Framework + One Child-theme of your choice.

Genesis Framework + One Child-theme of your choice.

$100 – Genesis Framework + 1 Child theme

You would choose this option if you don’t build many websites regularly because it is enough for you to have one main design layout. I guess this is the best budget option you could pick.

$33.71 – One StudioPress Child Theme

Lastly, you can buy StudioPress child themes one by one but still you cannot buy a child theme without buying the Genesis framework beforehand because all the child themes are based on the Genesis parent theme.

The best choice I would recommend is that you buy the Genesis framework for $60 to get you  started with. You need to test it out, however, before you decide to commit to it. Once you are, you can upgrade to the Pro-Plus package in order to get access to all child themes. After buying the Genesis framework, you officially become a returning customer where you can get a 25% customer discount; thus, the Pro package costs only $300 now. This is a small cool trick you can use to give Genesis a try for $60 and when upgrading still be able to save $40 with members discount!

Genesis Functionality and flexibility

This will be the most in-depth section where we will cover more technical side about what’s happening under the Genesis hood. It will include things, like additional plugins are available, SEO friendliness, responsiveness, security, ease to update, site speed, and it’s customizability.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

How optimized is Genesis?

Genesis is doing very well. StudioPress even hired SEO expert, Joost De Valk, from Yoast (Yoast SEO plugin creator) to make sure their themes are more SEO friendly. Genesis now supports Schema.org code, Google Authorship identification making the basics of SEO already handled for you. There are basic SEO settings built in Genesis, but I would still use Yoast SEO plugin to extend the optimization options.

One big thing you can rely on Genesis is that all codes are lightweight and clean, ensuring you that the site loads quickly.

studiopress-genesis-responsive-mobile-testing

Genesis has built their own mobile testing tool to help develop sites for different devices.

Responsive Designs built on HTML5

Built using HTML5, all of StudioPress themes are fully responsive. HTML5 is a new coding standard for websites. HTML5 usage ensures your site is responsive and looks great on all screen sizes, like phones and tablets. You can use HTML5 audio and video for increased load-time. For testing, you can test themes using Genesis’ own mobile testing tool.

Updates and Security

Most site vulnerability issues arise when WordPress, plugins and themes aren’t updated on time. With Genesis, you can be confident that updates won’t break your website. Also, it won’t take much time to update. The only challenges you might have would be with third party plugins not supported by Genesis. However, Genesis is the most popular framework, so if you use popular plugins, you will quickly find solutions online even when you run into trouble. That’s a big benefit of using a theme framework used by many developers.

I couldn’t find much using WordPress security scan tools or Sucuri, but Genesis has a good reputation within the developer community regarding it’s security:

“It’s clear that the StudioPress team made security a priority when developing the Genesis Framework. From a security standpoint, it’s at the top of its class following WordPress security best practices.” – Mark Jaquith, WordPress developer.

genesis-framework-customization-functionality-options

Example from 1stWebdesigner Genesis dashboard Appearance > Customize

Built-In Customization Options

Let’s talk about how many things you can customize within the main dashboard.

Genesis has very powerful layout customization options. For example, you can create a custom front page with just a few clicks. The good news – 1stWebDesigner is using one too.

There are 6 main layouts to choose from and you don’t need to stick with one layout for the entire site. If you want to have 3 columns for your blog, 2 columns for your resource pages and 1 column for the front page, you can easily do that with a few clicks.

Within the theme settings you can:

  • enable automatic updates or receive email notifications when updates are ready
  • add custom RSS feeds
  • select one of six layout settings – like 1-column, 2-column, 3-column options.
  • customize header
  • Enable/disable breadcrumbs for front page, posts page, posts..etc.
  • Customize how your content will appear – set featured image, image size, alignment, post navigation
  • Add header and footer scripts without touching code editor
  • Customize blog page template, what content will show up there
  • Do basic visual changes, add site title & tagline (important for SEO)

With widgets you can quickly and easily add powerful functionality to your site without touching any code. You can add the following widgets easily in header, sidebar, footer:

  • social media sharing buttons
  • tag cloud
  • most popular posts on your site
  • opt in-forms
  • advertising by simply inserting advertising code into text widget
  • Search, RSS, pages, links, calendar, custom menus, categories
  • *Note – this list includes only Genesis built-in widgets, without installing any plugins.
Simple Social Icons the most popular StudioPress plugin with 398,359 downloads

Simple Social Icons is the most popular StudioPress plugin with 398,359 downloads

Additional Functionality with Extensions

Let’s talk about integrated Genesis plugins and third party plugins you can use to easily extend site functionality and help you in the development process.

Genesis has developed 15 WordPress plugins, let’s take a look at the most powerful ones:

  • Genesis Connect for WooCommerce – this plugin allows you to add Woocommerce eCommerce and online store functionality
  • Genesis Connect for BuddyPress – this plugin allows you to add BuddyPress social network functionality to your theme
  • Genesis Responsive Slider – this plugin allows you to add the responsive slider which displays the featured posts of your choice with image, title, excerpt, and button
  • SEO Data Transporter – this plugin lets you transfer your SEO data from one theme or plugin to another
  • Simple URLs – powerful URL management system allowing you to create, manage and track outbound links from your site by using custom post types and 301 redirects.
  • and lots of other handy little plugins, allowing you to modify footer area, add custom favicon, social buttons.

Third-Party Plugins:

I included two helpful plugins here, that will be useful for new Genesis users. One will help you modify visuals in real-time, while the other will help you gain a deep understanding of WordPress and Genesis functions.

genesis-design-palette-pro-wordpress-plugin-css-editor

This will be a great help to designers, who don’t enjoy working within CSS file so much and want to see results of the changes happening live.

Genesis Design Palette Pro

This is a premium plugin that costs $49 with basic single site license. This plugin will be attractive for non-coders allowing you to modify CSS of header, navigation, content area, sidebar, and footers in live editing mode. You can edit nearly everything – colors, fonts, images, backgrounds, margins and padding. There is also a handy feature which allows you to switch between desktop, tablet, and mobile live previews to see exactly what your visitors will see.

What you cannot do is create custom home page, create a custom layout or add custom PHP with this plugin. You can do everything else that requires CSS.

Design Palette Pro will be a great help to beginners, who don’t feel too effective when coding in CSS. Check out their demo, if you are interested.

genesis-extender-plugin-php-builder-custom-options

Helpful learning tool for amateur coders to understand power of WordPress and Genesis built-in functions.

Genesis Extender (GE)

This is another premium plugin costing $39 for a single site license. If Design Palette Pro plugin sells the idea of modifying theme design without needing the developer, then Genesis Extender is a tool that helps junior developers, who know basic code, but aren’t too comfortable diving into functions yet. It’s a helpful tool to gain deeper understanding of the Genesis Framework.

This plugin basically provides you with the tools to do whatever modifications you want with your child theme without opening code editor, FTP program or messing with server.

With Genesis Extender you can:

  • Take control over your homepage with over 30 predefined layouts
  • Use built-in image uploader, allowing you to upload images without usingFTP
  • Custom hook boxes – custom content area that allow you to hook content into any place of Genesis website using hooks
  • Add custom widget areas
  • Add custom conditional tags provided by WordPress
  • Add custom JS, CSS, Functions within WordPress dashboard
  • Access CSS builder to write CSS code with visual help making it a great learning tool. You can also use editor only view to write CSS and see changes happening live on your website. Very handy feature.
  • Easily add custom labels to your pages and posts so you could target and easily customize functions and styling to any page you want.
  • Custom template builder with PHP builder built-in allowing you to learn and edit the code for page templates and adding custom code to your functions. Very powerful for learning purposes and writing custom code as PHP builder actually writes custom function code for you. You just need to select different action and function boxes.
  • Import/export option, that allows you to import or export all your GE settings (custom functions, css, custom JS, custom hook boxes, uploaded images) either for backup or transfer purposes
  • GE Google font feature makes it super simple to choose from over 600 Google fonts to really customize site typography.

It is a very powerful and helpful tool for every developer who is still learning WordPress function or how Genesis works.  Watch this demo video to find out more:

How easy is it to translate Genesis to another languages?

Genesis’ support for different languages is pretty impressive, best one I have seen than any other theme.

There is the Genesis Translations plugin which translates the Genesis framework into one of the available languages. No need to mess around with functions.php and .mo and .po file uploading. Check available translations on Translate.StudioPress.com. There are nearly 30 different languages supported by Genesis.

Also, every Genesis theme is compatible with the WordPress Multilingual plugin (WPML), that assists in translating WordPress websites to other languages.

How Fast And Optimized For Speed StudioPress Themes Are?

To analyze how fast-loading Genesis WordPress themes are I used several speed test tools Pingdom, GTmetrix and Google Pagespeed to test the live demo of Genesis framework and its child-themes.

Keep in mind that your site speed will heavily depend on the hosting and CDN you use. Also note that Genesis Framework and Altitude Genesis child theme has very little functionality right out of the box. Once you add shopping cart, slider, longer sales letter page, number of requests will increase and the site will take more time to load.

Genesis Framework results:

GTmetrix Genesis Framework performance report

GTmetrix Genesis Framework performance report

  • Google PageSpeed – 68/100 for desktop, 58/100 for speed, 99/100 for user experience.
  • Pingdom – performance grade 96/100, load time – 1.11 seconds, page size 491.5kb, 10 requests
  • GTMetrix – page speed grade 56%, YSlow Grade – 96%, page load time 0.92 seconds

Altitude Genesis Child Theme results:

GTmetrix StudioPress Altitude child theme performance report

GTmetrix StudioPress Altitude child theme performance report

  • Google PageSpeed – 74/100 for desktop, 63/100 for speed, 90/100 for user experience
  • Pingdom – performance grade 77/100, load time – 766 milliseconds, page size 3.3 mb, 20 requests
  • GTMetrix – page speed grade 92%, YSlow Grade – 82%, page load time 4.0 seconds

Genesis is really fast. Google PageSpeed indicated that images could be optimized better and CSS should be shortened. Good thing about StudioPress WordPress themes is that they are simple, clean, and the number of requests are low. The Genesis framework itself without any child-themes would be an excellent choice for SEO experts  who are looking for a fast WordPress theme. Don’t underestimate Genesis’ simplicity though, there is a reason why many professional web developers use it.

Review Conclusion: Genesis Framework by StudioPress

Genesis from StudioPress is a really professional and high-quality WP framework to use. It is very powerful in terms of customization. It looks professional and it doesn’t go too fancy with visuals. This is the most expensive framework out there, but you really do get what you pay for. If you are very serious about your web design/developer career and you do spend your time building WordPress websites daily, Genesis is truly the most versatile framework out there, with huge community of professional developers backing it up.

There is a reason why I went so in depth analyzing StudioPress Genesis framework, because there is just so much good about it.

I could compare Genesis with a supercomputer – if you need the functionality and you are ready to pay for it, it’s all there!

What others are saying about Genesis theme?

1stWebDesigner Rating for Genesis Framework:

rating

Who Should Use Genesis?

At the beginning of the article, I promised to help you pick the right tools and I hope this review helped you understand if Genesis framework is the right one for you. In a nutshell, Genesis is meant for professionals, who are ready to invest a bit for a quality tool that will save their time. Beginners will find Genesis too expensive, too complicated to get started with, and they simply will have a hard time how to utilize it’s built-in functionality.

Who should use Genesis:

  •  Full-time professional web developers and freelancers, who want to speed up their website development process 10x. If you are hard-core coder, who lives in code editor, you will appreciate Genesis’ built-in power and flexibility.
  • Amateur freelance web designers who are fluent with PHP and WordPress and are ready to invest some time to learn how to use Genesis efficiently. There is a learning curve involved.
  • Freelancers, who work with clients who know what they want. With Genesis, you can customize a lot which is handy for serious clients. When you work with clients who don’t really know what they want, you should use pre-made solutions to start with.
  • Designers who want to use the most popular framework backed by a huge community of like minded designers. You do get access to great community as you join. If you care about community, this might be a reason to go for Genesis.

For whom Genesis might not be a good choice:

  • If you are a beginner starting out, Genesis will simply be too expensive an option. You should go with cheaper option and more beginner friendly framework. I will review X theme next, which is much more beginner friendly and a lot cheaper alternative.
  • If you are a graphic web designer, who doesn’t code much, Genesis might be too complicated for you. You could use GE and Design Palette Pro third-party plugins to help you, but there are easier options out in the market for you.

This is the first WordPress premium tool article with more to come. Recognize the pros and cons of this framework, give it a try (use their 30 day money back guarantee) and become a more productive web designer! The faster you work, the higher you can charge per hour, per project!

Have you used Genesis framework from StudioPress? Have you used any other frameworks? Would love to hear your experience in comments section!

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Learn How to Build A Website 10x Faster Using WordPress Premium Tools

In order to be the most effective in their work, it is very important for professional web designers and developers to learn and utilize the right tools. Today, I wanted to clear once and for all why using WordPress is the best choice for most freelancers. I will also cover how to make your workflow super productive by using theme framework.
As a professional web designer, there are lots of important things you need to do when building a website. You need to ensure that the site looks great, loads fast, is responsive, and looks clean on all devices. By choosing WordPress to build your websites, you are already setting yourself miles ahead of other web designers. How?

You can build websites for clients in lightning speed and be able to spend more time helping them reach their goals.

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Learn how to use WordPress as a pro to deliver rapid results to your clients!

 

WordPress is truly the best solution you can use when building most client websites. Few exceptions would be web applications because you really need to build everything from scratch. For example, in building AwesomeWeb job search site, we used Ruby on Rails. We started out by using the WordPress/CodeIgniter combination but for such custom development solutions, WordPress just wasn’t flexible enough.

Most clients, however, won’t need custom solutions. In 98% of cases, clients will need something common, like an online store, personal brand, portfolio, membership, blog, to get simple business websites done. You can build all of these easily with WordPress.

Why WordPress?

famous-brands-companies-using-wordpress-cms

There is a reason why even big brands start using WordPress. Speed and simplicity.

 

WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) for a reason. Twenty-two percent of all websites online – that’s around 80 million websites – are built using WordPress. Some of the major reasons why WordPress is so popular are because:

  • It is easy to learn – WordPress is open source software. It’s also simple and has extensive documentation as well as free training videos
  • It has many plugins and themes – You don’t need to be a rockstar developer to start building sites with WordPress. In some cases, you don’t even need to touch code to achieve the results you want.
  • It is powerful – You can build so much, like an online store, blog, membership, contact forms, very easily and rapidly by simply utilizing premium themes and plugins.

There are thousands of free and premium themes available online. It can be tempting to go for a free theme without paying anything, but before you make that decision, read on..

Why use a Paid WordPress Theme vs Free Theme?

The benefits of using a premium theme provider versus a free theme are many. The most important reason why you shouldn’t use a free WordPress theme is its lack of support, documentation, and updates.

Think about it, if developer creates and releases theme for free, he doesn’t make any money from it. But he still needs to earn living some way. Free WordPress theme cannot be a long term choice, because developer doesn’t have the incentive to support theme for free, provide documentation and update it during the years. Would you do all this work for free?

You cannot expect training resources, documentation, free support and updates, when a developer isn’t making any money from it. Even if he is the kindest person on earth, earning his own livelihood will always be a priority. Moreover, free themes will almost always be of lower quality than a premium theme.

You get what you pay for.

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Investment vs being dedicated freebie seeker. I say it’s not worth the gamble, not here.

 

Premium themes come with cleaner code and better functionality. All premium theme providers offer a high quality design, in-depth documentation, and world class support. Support is extremely important because something always goes wrong or doesn’t work as expected.

If you choose a free theme, you rely on other people’s goodwill to help you in forums. When you choose to buy premium WordPress themes, you pay for support and theme providers are liable to helping you.

Best of all, premium WordPress templates are very affordable because of the steep competition in the market. That’s good news for you! You can buy one premium theme for around $50 or get access to all theme shop themes and support for around $100-$300/year. You can easily make that money back from one client!

I started 1stWebDesigner 7 years ago with a free WordPress theme but now, I don’t even look at free themes. Simply because it’s not worth the trouble. I suggest you pay $50 for a beautiful, customizable WordPress theme you like with the assurance that there will be documentation and support included, which will save you a lot of time. This also means that you’ll spend much of your time trying to figure out things on your own.

Paid WordPress Themes vs Theme Frameworks vs Custom WordPress Development

When you’re going to build a custom WordPress design, there are only few ways you would start.

Many professional web designers follow these steps:

  1. Brainstorm, get an idea of what needs to be built, how design should look like
  2. Create a wireframe and design website concept in Photoshop
  3. Convert PSD to HTML/CSS template
  4. Add HTML/CSS to WordPress installation
  5. Add functionality and dynamic elements like blog, online store.

Some web designers start directly with HTML/CSS and then move to WordPress; while others go directly from PSD to WordPress, which is already a pretty effective way to work!

Smart and experienced web designers, however, begin with a starter theme or framework, pick the layout and functionality, and design the website around it. This is arguably the most productive and efficient way to create a website. We, at 1stWebDesigner, are big believers of this approach.

For example, the previous 1stWebDesigner design took us more than a year to complete when we did it the “good” way starting with sketching, wire framing, and custom coding everything into WordPress.

The recent redesign, however, only took us 2 weeks to deliver. We started with Genesis framework, picked a child theme with the layout we wanted, customized the design, added functionality, and we were done. Talk about being efficient.

Custom WordPress theme creation is a good choice if you are working with high-paying clients, who are ready to pay for custom solutions. Custom code is necessary for apps, web software creation, and really big brands. In those cases, you won’t even use WordPress. However, most clients don’t need that. What they need is a simple business website which fulfills their goals. They will not appreciate your super clean code as much as they will appreciate fast delivery and a website which was converted to help them make more money.

What is a WordPress theme framework?

framework

What is under the hood?

 

Before you start picking out a theme framework or using one at all, it is important to understand exactly what theme framework is and what it can do for you.

WP framework basically is an advanced WordPress theme on drugs. Whenever you build a website, you often use the same components. You lay the foundation first, you pick the design and layout (header, footer, single column, 2-column). Next, you take major functionality into account – online store, sales page, membership, andblog. Lastly, you consider additional functionality, like contact forms, security, SEO optimization, and responsiveness.

WordPress theme frameworks are starter themes you use as a foundation to create your own designs. Frameworks significantly speed up website development process. As a web developer who constantly creates custom WordPress themes, you are probably fed up with all these repetitive tasks, like writing the same code over and over again and frequently checking your mark-up. Theme frameworks offer a lot of built-in functionality and customization options, so you don’t need to code everything from scratch.

Frameworks are designed to work as parent themes (themes you use a foundation). Parent theme is the core you do not touch. You would use a child theme to create unique designs and additional functionality.

Why web designers and developers use WordPress theme frameworks?

The biggest reason why designers use framework is to speed up their development process. Theme frameworks drastically reduce the development time because you don’t need to start from scratch. You use framework as a foundation WordPress theme, then you add functionality by using different modules – like drag-drop functionality, sliders, online store. You can usually access functionality by simply activating built-in WordPress framework short codes.

Instead of creating and coding a theme from scratch, creating a WordPress website can be as simple as creating a new style.css file, customizing some functionality, and adding visuals your client needs. Then, you are done!

Your client is satisfied because of rapid delivery! On the other hand, you are happy because you just hacked your way through the development process and created the website the client wanted super fast! Now, you can invest extra time working with your client and ensure that the website fulfills your client’s goals and yields the right results.

Benefits and drawbacks of using theme framework

It is a fact that there will always be pros and cons to your decision.

Pros of using WP framework:

  • Time saving, efficient development, speed and ease of development – as mentioned earlier using a theme framework can drastically reduce the development time and let you deliver quickly.
  • Support and community of experienced WordPress developers – most popular WordPress theme frameworks have a huge community behind them, helping you to fix the bugs and find solutions quickly
  • Built-in functionality – adding powerful functionality is super easy with integrations big theme shops provide
  • Code quality – code is written using best practices and  WordPress standards. Optimized CSS, HTML, PHP functions, SEO
  • Upgrades – ease of updating for future releases of WordPress, no need for you to worry about it.

Cons of using WP framework:

  • Learning curve – it will take time to master any of these frameworks.
  • Cost – framework is a bit more expensive then premium theme, but it’s well worth it
  • Limitation – frameworks define what you can and cannot do. You cannot break these barriers. This can be drawback for super creative designers, but in most cases it’s a big pro, not con
  • Unnecessary code – Frameworks come with tons of built-in functionality which you may not use. This code may slow down your website if you are not careful to clean your website from features you don’t use.

Should I use a framework?

While there is an extra learning curve and cost involved, you MUST definitely use theme framework if you are serious about WordPress website development . Your speed and performance will significantly improve 10x! You will be able to handle more and better clients. What more, you will be able to satisfy their needs and spend more time understanding their goals. By doing so, you will be able to grow your business.

Building a website from scratch is like building a house without a blueprint. Starting with a framework is like using a blueprint.

I asked Nicholas Tart, a designer with 5 years of experience, about his opinion on this question:

“I used a framework with 100% of my clients. It came down to my hours. I could build a custom theme, but using a framework gave me a 50-hour head start. That way, I could focus on what was important and deliver a website on a framework that is widely supported. The client gets a better website and I use my time more effectively, both of which mean I can charge more.”

It is really a no-brainer that you should use WordPress and that you should learn and use framework or starter theme to serve your clients well. We intentionally focus on recommending WordPress because we believe you want to be a successful freelancer. For most freelance designers, their issue is not the programming and designing knowledge, but the lack of business skills. Clients will pay you for the results you bring in to them by creating converting website. In order to do that, you need to focus less on technology and learn some marketing skills.

In the next article we will review in detail two of the top and contrasting WordPress theme frameworks you can use to speed up your web development process. Learn about the best WordPress framework for your specific needs soon!

Have you used WordPress frameworks or starter themes? What has been your experience?

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BONUS #EspressoMonday Nr.5 – 10 QUESTIONS In One Episode!

Bonus #EspressoMonday Episode Nr.5 with 10 Questions

A Special Cup of #EspressoMonday

In our usual Q&A video episodes, we answer three questions asked by our readers and followers. In this episode, however, we brewed a special concoction of #EspressoMonday video as we answer 10, not three, questions from our followers. Let’s jump in to it!

Question #1

What’s the roadmap to become a good web developer? What kind of subjects should I focus on?

First, learn CSS and HTML because you can already build a website by just using these two basic code languages. As mentioned in earlier videos, HTML and CSS are enough for you to build a static webpage. HTML will provide you with the basic structure while CSS will provide you with the style information.

Second, you also need to learn a lot of WordPress for a hundred different reasons. One of the foremost reason is that it is easy to use and flexible enough to do just almost anything. In fact, a lot of top brands are already using WordPress to power their websites. A recent survey has revealed that around 22.5% of websites on the Internet are powered by WordPress.

Lastly, you need to choose a theme because they already do half the work. Choose a theme, such as Genesis and X, you can rely on. Focusing on a single theme makes you well-versed on that certain theme making you more confident and comfortable in working and developing it.

Question #2

What are the best resources or platform for web designers and developers to find freelance work?

AwesomeWeb, our own marketplace, is the best place for web designers and developers for two reasons. First, those who want to become a member undergo a strict and rigorous screening which means there isn’t a lot of competition. Second, AwesomeWeb does not charge you any fees other than the once a month registration fee which is lower than other marketplaces, such as oDesk, Elance, People per Hour, Evanto, and many more. This monthly fee does not change whether you are earning $25,000. Read our comparison here.

Question #3

What are the most lucrative ways for a freelancer to earn passive income from web design and development?

Like all other types of freelancing jobs, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Reality is, you need to work hard and if there is any short cut to earn more that is by understanding your clients’ pain points. What is it they really need or lack? Is it more clients, more subscribers, or an increase in sales? Find them out so you will be able to give concrete solutions to your clients.

Selling themes, vectors, and icons are good sources of passive income. However, they also require a lot of coding, learning, and mastering all other aspects of business, such as promotion, marketing, copywriting, analytics, SEO, and more.

Question #4

Do you think web builders, like “macaw” and “webflow,” have a space on a professional web designer’s workflow or is it just one of the trends that will come and go?

Whether they are just a fad or whether they will come and go is not really the question. Rather, it is whether they have a space in the professional web design industry which the answer is “No.” While web builders seem to make the job easy, it lacks flexibility. That means that if you want a more specific layout to suit your imaginative requirements, you have no access to edit the HTML code. Thus, you either get a website that looks exactly the same as the rest or you end up with a cheap looking website.

On the contrary, using and mastering WordPress is already enough if you want to thrive and succeed in the web design industry. It works well whether you are a new or seasoned designer. If you are just a new designer with limited coding knowledge, WordPress can do the job for you. If you are a seasoned one, WordPress gives you lots of flexibility to tweak and modify the codes that satisfy your creativity.

Question #5

How do you find the right sales pitch or how do you initiate the sales process?

One of the best way to give the right sales pitch is to understand your clients’ pain points first. Go to your potential clients’ web site first and find out what they are lacking.If you understand what they need, it is easy to present a solution that is concrete, viable, and most of all, a solution that will meet their need.

Stop making a strong sales pitch but rather, start making conversation with your potential clients. Clients, like all people, are drawn to people who show they care. If you understand their pain points, they will see you care and are willing to help them achieve their goals.

Furthermore, let go of trying to make an appointment or close the deal. If you simply focus on solving the potential client’s problems and not on making the sales process, you will be surprised that it will be your potential client who will bring you to the buying process.

Question #6

How can you write winning proposals for freelance marketplaces?

The most basic is present your price and the time frame – how long it’s going to finish the project. To increase your chances of winning the bid, however, you have to break the job down into smaller pieces. For example, you’d say that you will spend the first week redesigning and researching their landing page. It is also worth mentioning to the client how you’re going to change their page and what advantage that particular task is for their business, like it’s going to increase their sales or their subscription. Try to tell them as many details as you can.

A good proposal format includes the following elements:
Opening/Introduction
Your reason why you’re interested in the project
Offer value – this is where you break down the task into smaller pieces so that clients will know what they’re getting for the fee you are charging.
Mention experience about similar projects and how you offered the solution
Ask a question – it will send a message that you are not just after the sales pitch but that you care about providing a solution
Call to action

Question #7

When starting a design agency and you need funding, which is better – crowd funding or business loan?

Neither. Unless your funding need is thousands of dollars, it is much better for you to approach your local council to get your funding needs. Most of the time, local councils are more than happy to support local businesses or entrepreneurs to keep the business community thriving and also help local entrepreneurs expand their businesses and generate more income.

You can also get funding from family and friends because those closest to you might be more than willing to invest in your venture. Just make sure that you put everything into writing how much the loan is and when the loan will be paid.

Remember that your business plan needs to include a budget and a financial projection between three or five years. This shows investors that you have a plan to remain the business for a long term. Conversely, you should not wait until the situation becomes hopeless to seek funding or financing because investors could perceive it as poor business management.

Question #8

Why do you not recommend an hourly rate but you are using it on AwesomeWeb?

The hourly rate displayed on AwesomeWeb is just a general expectation for the clients. It also gives them an idea of the rates each freelancer charges and in so doing compare between freelancers. What you can and should do as a freelancer when you set up a call to your clients is to tell them your estimate for that project. Aside from quoting the cost, you also need to tell your client the tasks involved in the project as well as how long the project will take.

Question #9

By installing plugins you are a plugin installer, not a web designer…

In the previous episode, I recommend that you should stick to WordPress, HTML, and CSS and forget about JS and jQuery. We received a reaction regarding this saying that JS and jQuery because when you install plugins, you are not a developer but a plugin installer.

This statement is, of course, correct. If you want to go deeper into coding and want to become a heavy coder, by all means should you learn JS and jQuery. Our focus here, however, at 1stWebDesigner is for you to scale or grow your business rather than focusing too much on coding. We strive for balance – have enough technical background to understand the concept of design but most importantly, you should have that business mindset. Every web designer should have a business mindset if they truly want to make their business grow.

 

Note: You might ask why there’s only 9 questions when we promised 10, that’s because Question #2 answers two questions that are similar.

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