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Lightbulb Publishing

Infographics

Let’s talk infographics, those jazzy visuals that get you hyped when reading an article or a blog, when trunddling the net they catch your eye and suck you into content. Are they made by incredible designers whose super human knowledge of Photoshop can’t be replicated? No, well, sometimes. But for most content creators there are easier, quicker tools now available that require no technical know how. I tried and tested a few of them, here’s what I found.

  1. Canva

Easy set up with a whole host of templates and stock images, no manual needed with a simple space to operate. Once you’ve chosen the type of infographic you want to make you’ll go through to more options of customization, such as layers, images, lines, illustrations etc:

First off I made a simple presentation graphic and chose to use a back template + chart + 3x text boxes, which all together took less than 5 mins. 

Looks a little 90’s power point doesn’t it? let’s try one more. This time I did a poster for a fictional restaurant:

You can save your file as a JPG, PNG (standard or advanced) and PDF.

Overview: I really like Canva and can see why the internet has great things to say about it, positioning was a little fiddly at times but fine if you zoom in. The default colours are limited but you can pay for more choice. Considering it’s free you get a huge amount of content and functionality for nothing. Definitely will be using in the future!

      2. Piktochart 

Overview: Watch the video on going through to the start up page, it tells you everything you need to know. I immediately really liked Piktochart because you can vector and align things really easily on the document, which for someone who likes symmetry is right up my street. It was easy to move, add things and edit the doc.

Video is here

The interface is easy to navigate, it also has a drag and drop system with each element editable. I quickly mocked up an infographic for a presentation/ corporate comms, I made this in about 5 minutes:

Note: all the data/ content in this is made up!

Comparison: Piktochart definitely has more dynamic editing controls that are easy and simple to use but it lacks the variety of templates, images and other addables offered by Canva. There are more colour schemes though than Canva, which I liked personally as I could coordinate the above easily, unlike Canva everything available is editable, including colour, size and font.

3. Venngage

Initially I was impressed with Venngage as it incorporates the functionality and variety of choice of Piktochart and Canva but unlike them it is very limited unless you sign up for a monthly subscription, you can make an infographic and share it on social media for free but you can’t export it. From what I can see there’s a great range of tools and templates to use and the subscription isn’t too pricey ($19 a month). I didn’t sign up so screen capped the body of an IG on the creative process below:

All in all if I was going to sign up to one I would either go with Venngage or Piktochart, purely because the functionality worked better and the IG’s produced were clean, easy to create and looked more like the kind of content that would make an impact. I would still go back to Canva for flyers and posters though as I think they have a great variety of templates for those.

I’ll be exploring more IG software and tools soon so stay tuned!

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Idea doubt

 

Idea doubt, something that comes swift and often to the writer. Should I be writing free style with no research or plot strategy? or should I plan everything? And if I plan everything should I do research into how other writers plan things? and so comes forth a million things that bench your writing immediately. As I’ve been writing for a long time now I’ve come to realize that the best thing, for me anyway, is to simply write. Get it out and edit/shape it as you continue. If I get stuck for what to do next that’s usually when I do some research for something that will ignite the next load of words.

Going what I’d call ‘freestyle’ I think is important as it allows you to become aware of your own style and creativity. It also builds up a trust and confidence that your own imagination is the only thing you really need. Getting your head into a worry storm over other peoples methods and recommendations of plot points or writing processes will only cloud your judgement and block your best inner writer. That’s not to say they’re not helpful, i.e Ted Talks but treat them as inspiration and take lessons with a pinch of salt.

Having multiple iterations of a piece of work is completely normal, writing is a continuous task, that means you’ll be constantly editing, re-writing and and re-thinking your story or content. That’s not a bad thing and the more you do it the less idea doubt you’ll have.

p.s If you don’t watch Ted talks, get on that. Brain compost.

Pretty standard

An agile innovator recently said to me “beware of standardization” and this got me thinking about it a lot. There are two sides to this coin, on one side standardizing a process can lead to better productivity, quality and reduction of costs and on the other it can cut off the flow of creativity and damage motivation, this being due to the repetition of the standards in place.

A lot of people wouldn’t question the standardization of something, why? how does this help me? how does this help the business? and what impact will this have on my working environment/ culture?

My preference is not to standardize things but I do appreciate the ability to uniform a task for benefits that spread across the business, such as administrative forms and templates. But when it comes to a task such as copy writing I draw the line. A lot of publishers have copy writing guidelines to follow for book blurbs, they sounds something like this:

‘Three lines that introduce the text and it’s overview, four lines of key sales handles and 1 line about the author’

And so tap tap tap, you are done. Is this content marketing genius? As, you are writing the blurb set out by editorial/ marketing standards, so, it must get a good return on sales, right?

Doubtful. Your objective and focus becomes meeting the guidelines, not to come up with something new and refreshing via a different angle, research or strategy. You are simply producing the same standardized text that most likely bores the hell out of your market. But that’s what they’re used to, so that’s what they’re getting. 2017 is seeing a major shift in content roles and marketing, smart marketing doesn’t have to mean originality every time but does mean thinking outside the box and the current standards of your tasks and processes you have already in place. When standardizing something look at the macro implications it might have, not just the immediate return for yourself as an individual or your team.

Digital snails

Digital product capabilities strive to evolve, at least you’d hope so. In the instance of academic publishing, the snails of the publishing world, the conversion of academic books to websites and services is still an arduously long, tedious road that produces an end product that sits quite comfortably covered in digital dust.

Why is this? Well, one reason is that these products are very expensive to make, a basic companion website for a large reference book can cost up to £250,000 alone. As print rambles along its uncertain path, particularly in recent years (and since the decline of print in 2007), publishers have less budget to play with and more concern about where they put it. The market isn’t screaming for digital e-books and academic professors aren’t either. That’s the belief anyway. From communicating with authors and the market at ground level I’ve developed a different image.  Exploring the reasons why technology hasn’t gone hand in hand with publishers going forward I’ve come up with some general influences.

These are:

  • The mindset that digital is just a ‘phase’
  • Publishers can’t afford to explore digital opportunities
  • The conversation isn’t agile and it takes a long time to decide on a new venture, during this technology has waltzed on by and publishers either go back to the drawing board or continue to lag behind
  • Conversion to e-books/sales/ the online market place has proven difficult for publishers to navigate

Much of this I put down to tradition, workflows and processes that haven’t changed in decades exist, still. We’re making an e-book now, what more do they want? The answer, products that compete with those of other markets. You can easily search a popular brands website for a specific piece or category and be rewarded with a host of choices and related suggestions. Created by savvy algorithms, good SEO and engaging content, identified as valuable to the target market. So why can’t we do that with books? Publishers are only just coining onto SEO strategies and the idea of putting real effort into building an online audience base in order to increase sales and traffic. As mentioned before, the content of an e-book isn’t easily digitalis-ed, for example building a taxonomy is a little more tricky when you ask a bot to differentiate between the tuberculosis disease referenced to in a chapter about dysentery disease and the actual chapter on tuberculosis. It requires human intervention, someone to physically go through the text and acknowledge what belongs where and how it can be searched for in a digital copy. Thus the high cost. With the decline in print sales the ROI from e-books isn’t enough to cover large scale digital investment. This is obviously a huge problem for print across the board and with little resources given to explore the possibilities of getting round it we continue to shed out for these products to be made. The reality is that they are clunky, unpopular and don’t fulfill their potential as new revenue streams.

Crazy Eggs and Typeform

If you’re in a role where market research plays a chess piece then these two nifty pieces of software are for you.

Crazy Eggs

This is a new and easy way to get an overview of your sites click-throughs, they offer a variety of views and subscriptions including two free trials.

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Typeform:

Allows you to build your own market research tools, which you can do from scratch or via one of their templates. A few of the templates they offer are:

  • Surveys
  • Questionnaires
  • Registration forms
  • Lead generation forms
  • Polls, Quiz’s and feedback

When building you’ll have a variety of options that can easily be dragged and dropped into place. They layout is clean and super user friendly (see below).

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Have fun!

It’s 2017!

So the time of year where we get to snaffle everything in sight is over. Shame. Highlights included a trip to the Cotswolds and a telling off for eating all of the apple sauce before Christmas day (I have a problem with condiments). I blamed it on the dog, which would have been a super plan except we don’t have a dog.

Things you can expect to see here soon:

  • Content Marketing how to’s
  • Content strategy: the difference between print and digital
  • How to describe fictional creatures
  • Best practice copy templates
  • Content governance and QA models
  • UX copy optimisation

Back soon!

Prolific content

How do you avoid regurgitating content? People say when your competitor zigs you must zag. But what if a new idea or an innovation light bulb sparks a great opportunity for new business or content but somebody has gotten there first? As is usually the case. Is it back to the drawing board? To do so wouldn’t be congruent with creative belief and would leave a lot of people twiddling their thumbs. Peoples daily lives seem to masticate the same content over and over with little stimulative difference in its reception and impact. Some would argue that getting your entertainment fix from Facebook is just the same as a Buzzfeed list, no? and so media vies for our attention in a black hole of content.

I’d never encourage trying to do the same thing with only a change in price as an incentive to your customers. When approaching any new idea think, from a content strategy point of view, how does it align with your business goals and mission and secondly how, from a content marketing point of view, does it bring value to and engage with your audience/ customers? Innovation plays a big part when changing/ designing a product or service. (see my other post on innovation and its language).

The deeper the knowledge you have of your audience the better you’ll identify an angle that will fit for both of the above. The key to creating engaging content is creating something of value to your audience that is delivered where, when and how they want to engage with it.

Positive vibes on blue monday

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SEO hats

So you want a fancy SEO top hat? LETS DO THIS.

In the SEO sphere there are two types of hats, good ones- white hats and black hats, bad ones. The first are legal, organic, content-driven methods that are welcomed by the web while the other are hacks, illegal maneuvers and aggressive farming tactics to increase numbers. The latter is obviously to be avoided. So here’s an outline of both so you know what to steer clear of.

The DSIM made this awesome IG:

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