20% Discount On All Design Services!

To celebrate…well nothing in particular really…summer and good weather maybe, I’d like to offer a 20% discount on all invoices for new design services ordered from now until August 10th 2013.

Simply add the coupon code below on either my Contact Form or my Paypal Payment page*:

SUMMER13

*Your payment amount will automatically be reduced by 20% before hitting Paypal on my payment page or I will discount your quote manually if entered via my contact form. The discount is limited to the first 10 clients only.

My standard prices are available HERE.

Please spread the word!

Leon

Social Media Account & Online Marketing Management

It seems that more and more businesses are happy to outsource management of their Social Media activities these days. I’ve always wondered how you might do that as a business, ie – how would a company outsider know what to write in posts and what to say in reply to queries etc. In short, how can someone outside your business know best how to represent it publicly?

Having talked to a few businesses who are doing it already I’ve realised it might be possible if the contracted company is briefed properly,  provided with the right content and the setup is regularly reviewed. Also, at times there can be a bit more to social networking than the average person can handle, for example, a lot of social media content these days is graphical or video based so those will need to be created or edited by a professional.

To that end if any of my clients feel they need help managing their Online Marketing/Social Media activities, I can help in the following areas:

  • Facebook, Twitter, youTube, Linkedin, etc account setup,
  • Copy Writing for the web (Re-write client content with SEO in mind),
  • Graphic Design (Facebook Logos, Cover Photos, Post Photos, etc..),
  • Video Screen Tutorials Recorded,
  • Facebook Ad Campaigns,
  • New Facebook Tabs,
  • Facebook Photo Albums,
  • Social Media mentoring.

Get in touch if you’d like to chat about any of this.

Leon

E-Commerce Web Design & Online Shops

I’ve had a few clients recently who sell physical products in their business and I presumed they would want to sell them online when they came to me looking for a website. When they said they’d rather not I was a little confused. One or two admitted they didn’t think they’d have the capacity or resources to deal with setting up payments, shipping stuff, etc but not much other info was forthcoming.

Not wanting to pry into the reasons too much I can only guess that businesses feel overwhelmed by either the costs they think might be involved or the amount of setup required to sell products online. Online sales are massive these days with more and more people getting comfortable with the notion of buying online. It seems odd to me that businesses would not want to tap into this potentially massive online market when it’s really not that hard to do so.

Here’s some factors to think about:

Costs

I suppose one of the main things that might put someone off selling online is the cost. Most people realise nowadays that you can get a basic brochure website fairly cheaply but maybe they think an online shop is a lot dearer. It can be of course if you’ve a ton of products and require some very advanced functionality but with the popularity of freely available (Open Source) Content Management Systems and E-Commerce systems, a basic online shop doesn’t have to cost the earth. My prices for new websites with an online shop module start at under €1,000 and if you’ve an existing website and just want to add shop functionality, it can cost much less. Tell me your budget and I’ll see what I can do if that’s still too dear for you.

Setup

There’s more work involved in building a website with an online shop of course but once it’s built, there’s no real effort involved in adding products and managing the whole thing. It’s no harder than adding blog/news posts to your site. The content management system will allow for easy addition of products and easy management of sales etc. The only other thing you might need to do is setup a Paypal account but that’s free and can be done in a matter or minutes. As your products sell, both you and your customer will be notified by email and the shop system will tell you who bought what, where they live for shipping and whether the payment has been received successfully or not.

What can you sell online?

You can sell a lot more than simple physical products online. My favourite thing to sell is “Digital” products where you don’t have to worry about tedious stuff like packaging and shipping. The customer checks out, pays and gets redirected to download a file! You can also sell things like Services, Rooms, Courses and almost anything else you can imagine. If you are a service based company like mine you can take simple digital payments via a form like the one I have on my own site ReverbStudios.ie/Payments/

Get in touch if you’d like help selling online.

Leon

WordPress Upgrade Service Contract

WordPress is an ever evolving system with new and updated functionality being added on a  regular basis. While it’s not strictly necessary to constantly keep your core WordPress installation and additional plugins up to date, it’s advisable to do so. Here are the benefits:

  • Keep your version of WordPress Secure,
  • Overwrite potentially corrupt or attacked files in old installs,
  • Benefit from newly added Functionality,
  • Speed up your site,
  • Benefit from plugin improvments.

The latest versions of WordPress include the ability to quickly update itself and related plugins from the admin but in my experience, this doesn’t always work smoothly. Some Hosting servers can’t handle the auto upgrade functionality at all and if upgrading breaks half way through and the process doesn’t complete, you can be left with a badly broken site.

Also, plugin versions and WordPress versions sometimes need to match and you might find that if you upgrade one, it breaks the other. The cost of having your site fixed by a web developer might be much more expensive than just preventing the problem in the first place.

My Yearly *Wordpress Service contract at just €50 per year includes the following:

  • Twice yearly upgrade of the core WordPress system,
  • Regular upgrading of installed Plugins,
  • Compatability Testing on all upgrades.

Order a service contract now.

* I say ‘contract’ but there’s no actual contract or signing of anything so you’re not tied in!

Leon

Pontiac Trans-Am Firebird Photo Composition

I love Firebirds and American Muscle cars in general. Maybe the universe will be good to me and I’ll be able to afford to own (and run) one some day! Some guy in Leitrim has a Firebird amazingly and I see/hear it pass by the odd time and drool. The Firebird is a version of the car model featured in ‘Knight Rider’.

Anyhow, for a bit of much needed Photoshop practice, I decided to edit a photo of a Pontiac Trans-Am Firebird into a photo of my dining table (no idea why the table!) and try make it look like it was really there instead of on some American highway.

Here’s what I started with, said pic of a Firebird on a highway sourced from Google (sue me):

Original

And a pic of my dining room table top, taken at an angle to try to emulate the viewpoint in the Firebird pic above:

Dining Table

After careful cutout of the car with the Pen tool and placing it at the right point on the Table image as well as a bit of Perspective Lens Correcting of the table, I was able to make it look like it blended in a bit. Here are the steps I took to finish the composition off:

  1. Duplicate the Car layer and set the new layer to Multiply blend mode to make it fit in better light wise, after all the original car pic was taken outdoors daytime and I’m putting it in an indoor, dusk shot,
  2. Select the car layer and add a Photo Filter Adjustment layer with a colour sampled from the table. This helps the car fit in colour wise.
  3. Duplicate the car layer again and completely darken it then use the Transform tool to squash it down to the rough shape of a car shadow underneath the original car layer. Remember to match the shadow direction with the light source coming from the windows at the back of the table,
  4. Blur the car shadow layer until it looks about right then add a layer mask and tidy up with the brush tool,
  5. Create a new layer and select a soft brush, black colour and paint in the shadows under the wheels. The previous shadow step leaves the car looking like it’s hovering off the table and painting in a small shadow under the wheels really brings it back down,
  6. I had to cut out the windows too and lost a bit of the sun shield built into the windscreen but I was able to draw the missing bit back in, match the colour, add noise and blur it a bit to make it look like it was always there,
  7. Reflections for objects like this are very tricky but I managed to get a slight bit of a reflection in my shiny table for the wheels using the Transform – Skew & Gradient/Mask Tools.
  8. I then used the Burn (darken) tool to further darken some shaded bits and the Dodge (brighten) tool to make those beautiful chrome and gold strips really pop out,
  9. Next, I duplicated the Table layer and blurred the new one then added a layer mask and gradient to blur behind the car but keep in front in focus, just to give the image better depth,
  10. Finally, to add a bit of mood to the pic, I added a Vignette on top of everything and stuck a layer mask on it then a gradient on the mask to fade it out towards the back of the image,

And after sticking my business logo on the car door (as you do) using Transform – Skew/Warp, here’s the final composition. Like?:

 

Pontiac Trans Am Firebird

 

New Live Chat Support System

I’ve just added a professional Live Chat/Support button to ReverbStudios.ie, (top right, see pic below) so clients, potential clients or website visitors can have a quick chat while on my site if they so desire! If the button says “Online” then I’m available, if it says “Offline” then I’m out but you can still send a message and I’ll see it when I’m back.

Live Chat

Getting Irish Business Online V’s A Proper Website

This is probably gonna sound like a bitter web designer’s rant who might have lost some business to the new kid on the block but sue me. I might actually have made some money as a result of this scheme!

The ‘Getting Irish Business Online’ scheme has got my goat up ever since it appeared a couple of years ago. It’s a Google, Blacknight Hosting, An Post!?, Enterprise Board joint effort whereby businesses can get themselves a free website with free address and hosting (for the first year only!) and avoid the alleged cost and hassle involved in getting a website the old fashioned way.

In the news today, I seen that 10,000  Irish businesses have now availed of the scheme and got their free website. So what’s wrong with a scheme that makes it easier for businesses to market themselves in the middle of a recession?

I’m sure intentions were good but the big problem for me is that this is the kind of scheme that should have existed maybe 10 years ago when the barriers to having a professional website were much higher than they are now. These days, it’s very affordable for a business to hire someone to build a proper internet presence that will look and perform a lot better than the “30 min” free 1 page template offering being given under the getting business online scheme. I think internet users these days expect a professional website from the companies they might hire,  not a site that looks every inch a free handout! It’s like getting a fancy new business card and sticking a Yahoo email address on it. Potential customers will see the free site template and arguably guess that the business in question isn’t doing well enough to have more than a free site. And if they’re not doing well enough, maybe they’re useless?

Recently I’ve had a number of clients come to me looking to upgrade the site they got under this scheme and I’ve yet to see one perform well in search engines.

And just to prove I’m not bitter, I’m willing to upgrade any sites that are currently on this scheme, looking miserable and under-performing to a proper, content managed, SEO’d site running WordPress. All I’ll charge is the hosting fee as the free hosting Blacknight give out under the scheme is not useful enough to install a proper site on.

Leon

Website Scrappage Scheme!

It’s 2012 now but there’s still a lot of really crap websites out there that do no favours for their owners businesses. They don’t have to be particularly old to look out of date because fashions and technology come and go pretty quick online but there are some sites out there that obviously havn’t been changed for many years. Accommodation sites all seem poor for some reason for example!?

It’s great that you have a site but a poor one could do more damage than not having one at all. Internet users these days have come to expect a certain standard as more and more people go online.

Some problems I see more regularly than I’d expect:

  • No content management systems,
  • No RSS Feeds,
  • No Latest News,
  • No Conversion pages,
  • No Social Media links/connections,
  • Poor Imagery,
  • Poor Logos and branding,
  • No SEO,
  • Ancient copyright years,
  • No Analytics,
  • Out of date contact details,
  • Eye bending colours,
  • Layouts broken in different browsers,
  • No accessibility,
  • Very basic shopping carts,
  • Poor usability,
  • Poor styling.

I’m willing to offer 30% off the cost of a rebuild.

Get in touch now to order.

PS – Your old site will be disposed of humanely.

Leon

Logo Re-building and Tracing

I was asked by the Deputy Principle of Carrick-on-Shannon Community School to provide a hi-res digital version of their school crest for general use but specifically for a large sign outside the school. The original graphics were done back in 1994 and the designer was not contactable so all we had to go on was a jpeg of the embroidered crest from a school jumper!

I’ve done a few of these and quite enjoy them but this job had a little more detail than normal website logos. The process is normally the same each time, I import whatever low-res original I have into Photoshop and blow it up to the required size and proceed to trace out the detail using mostly the ‘Pen’ and ‘Selection’ tools. I fill each large Pen traced area with colour, using gradients if required. I create ‘Paths’ for the circular text and let the text follow that.

For details that can’t easily be traced with common shapes, ie – the fish, water, etc below, I use the ‘Free-form’ Pen tool and just trace by (steady!) hand then use the ‘Stroke Path’ option and some custom brush settings to get some nice line art effects.

Before and After below:

CCS Crest

Photo Editing & Graphic Design Video Showreel

Here’s a little video I put together to properly show off some of my Graphics and Photo Editing skills featuring before and after shots of some jobs and an original soundtrack written and recorded by me. A regular one man band I am! PS – Choose the Full Screen HD version for a better view.