Social media is no longer an optional marketing channel — it’s a necessary one.

But that doesn’t mean results are a given. When it comes to social media, you’ll either have a lot of success interacting with your customers, or you’ll see little results — and that depends on the level of effort you put into it.

For every business that has found success in social media marketing, there are at least two more spinning their social wheels with no tangible results. It’s time to change that trend.

For many, social media is simply a place to post links to content they’ve created in hopes that thousands will see it, click through, and share with their followers. So they have profiles on every network, and every network looks exactly the same; line after line of self-promotion.

This is not going to bring results. In fact, Facebook’s algorithm now penalizes link-based content, and Instagram has made it all-but-impossible to share a link.

Half-heartedly sharing your content on social media is not social media marketing. It’s spamming.

Social marketing is a lot of work, and it takes time listening and responding. After all, it’s social, and anything social takes an investment of effort and skill.

How to Learn Social Media Marketing: 31 Free Resources

Social Media Marketing Blogs

Social marketing is a science involving special communication skills. And the landscape changes constantly.

One of the best ways to develop your social media prowess and to stay up-to-date is to follow experts in the field. These blogs are always fresh with actionable information you can use to improve your marketing:

1. Social Media Explorer

SME is both a strategic services agency and a blog with a bevy of social media and marketing experts. The SME blog is consistently considered one of the most insightful in the industry, and several of its authors have written popular books on several aspects of digital and social marketing.

2. Scott Monty

Monty is a marketing guru who covers a ton of subjects. However, his social media articles are always eye-opening. If you haven’t heard of him yet, check out his “this week in digital” posts — these will keep you up-to-date with all the news on social, and every other aspect of digital marketing as well.

3. Social Media Examiner

Not to be confused with Social Media Explorer, the Examiner is one of the top blogs in the world for social media. Its social media reports are filled with all the important data social marketers want, and the blog posts are filled with valuable tips, as well. If I had to pick just one social media blog to follow, this is the one I would choose.

4. HubSpot Marketing Blog

Right here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog, you can find breaking news and actionable how-to guides on every social network there is.

Ebooks About Social Media

These ebooks will provide deeper information on specific networks and topics.

6. How to Use Instagram for Business

This step-by-step guide explains the reasons to create a business Instagram account and how to execute on Instagram to drive results.

7. A Visual Guide to Creating the Perfect LinkedIn Company Page

If you’re building a company page for the first time, or trying to upgrade your page, this guide will show you exactly how to do everything from crafting an engaging company description to creating an eye-catching banner image.

8. How to Attract Customers with Facebook

This multi-page ebook will show you how to use Facebook to drive real business results for your organization.

9. How to Get More Twitter Followers

HubSpot partnered with the experts at Twitter to provide actionable tips for social media managers starting new accounts to build a following, and fast.

10. The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media

Last, but definitely not least, is this amazing guide from Moz. The 12 chapters in this book are filled with valuable information that every marketer absolutely needs to know. Bookmark this guide, you’ll refer to it more than once.

Videos About Social Media

Videos are my second favorite medium to learn, behind books. Being able to glean from the brightest minds on any subject as if you’re face-to-face is powerful. These videos will give you valuable insights, just how to do social media, but you’ll get insights into the why and what as well.

11. The #AskGaryVee Show

You can’t talk about social media without talking about the speaker, author, and social expert Gary Vaynerchuk. On the Gary Vee Show, he takes questions from his audience and answers them as only he can. If you have a burning question on social media marketing, send it to him.

12. TED Talks: Social Media Marketing

If you aren’t in love with TED, you might want to check your pulse. This is a playlist of videos from TED Talks on social media. There may not be that much actionable advice in these videos, but if you want to become an expert on social media, these videos will give you insight into the deeper subject like “the hidden influence of social networks.”

13. Learn Social Media Marketing

If you’re really new to social media, and you want to learn through a structured lesson experience, consider Lynda’s massive library on social marketing courses.

14. Free Social Media Certification

HubSpot Academy has a breadth of video courses across inbound and digital marketing. Their free social media course is an eight-step video curriculum that teaches you the fundamentals of managing a social media campaign for your business. It also earns you a fresh Social Media Certification.

Podcasts on Social Media

If you like to learn while you chill, work out, or commute to and from work, podcasts are one of the best ways to do it. And these podcasts will help you develop your social media expertise.

15. Social Media Marketing Podcast

Michael Stelzner, from Social Media Examiner, brings you success stories and expert interviews from leading social media marketing pros.

16. The Social Media Examiner Show

Rather than deep dives, the SME Show gives you small, bite-sized content for social media every day. This is a great podcast to get actionable quick-tips on a daily basis. It’ll keep you motivated while you develop your skills.

17. The Social Toolkit

If you like to stay up-to-date on digital tools, apps, and software for social media marketing, this is the podcast for you.

18. The Social Pros Podcast

Every episode of the Social Pros Podcast shines the light on real pros doing real work for real companies. You’ll get insights from Jay Baer of Convince and Convert when you tune in.

Slideshows and Infographics About Social Media

If you’re a visual learner, these slide decks and infographics provide great ways to learn social media.

19. The B2B Social Media Palette

This SlideShare walks you through the channels and tools you’ll need to be most effective at B2B social media marketing. Sometimes, success can be found by using the right tools and channels for the right audience.

20. The Complete Guide to the Best Times to Post on Social Media

Timing is very important when it comes to social media. Post it the wrong time, and your update can go completely unnoticed because of the flood of updates in your audience’s feeds. Being able to master the timing of social media is critical to effective marketing.

21. 58 Social Media Tips for Content Marketers

This slideshow is from the folks at Content Marketing Institute. This deck shows the proper methods for promoting your content over social media. This is a must-read for any social marketer who wants to use those channels to promote content.

22. The Best and Worst Times to Post on Social Media

Again, timing is everything. This infographic lays out the best and worst times to post on each major network. You should save this infographic for referencing when you schedule your social media posts.

Best Social Media Books

Books are my favorite way to learn. Many experts agree that if you read a book a week, on your area of expertise, for 5 years, you will have the equivalent of a Ph.D. on the subject. That may or may not be true, but reading books from the experts definitely doesn’t make you a worse marketer. Here are some books to get you started.

23. The B2B Social Media Book

This book covers the specific application of social marketing to B2B companies, to leverage social media to drive leads and revenue.

24. The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users

You’ve got to read this book by the legendary former Chief Evangelist of Apple, Guy Kawasaki. He’s one of the pioneers of social and content marketing, and this book is filled with expert advice from one of the best.

25. The Tao of Twitter

This book is supposed to be for busy marketers who need to get the basics of Twitter down quickly. It shows you how to connect and start creating meaningful connections in less than two hours.

26. The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising

Facebook is one of the most effective advertising and PPC platforms available. You can target a plethora of metrics, allowing you to drill down and advertise to a very specific audience. This book will show you how to optimize your Facebook ads.

27. Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

Gary Vaynerchuk gives insight into how he uses a conversational, reactionary approach to engaging his audience. He gives concrete, visual examples of great social marketing, as well as not-so-great ones.

28. The New Rules of Marketing and PR

David Meerman Scott’s book on digital marketing is an international bestseller, and worth every penny. Some argue that it should be required reading for any marketer — and in this marketer’s opinion, “Just read it.”

29. Likeable Social Media

Dave Kerpen claims the secret to viral social marketing is to be likable. When someone likes you, they’ll recommend you. But being likable on social networks is easier said than done. This book will help you crack that code.

30. Social Media Marketing for Dummies

One of my mentors taught me to read children’s books on a subject if I just couldn’t grasp a concept. That principle gave way to movements like “Explain It Like I’m 5.” And, sometimes you just need it broken down like you’re, well, less than an expert on the topic, to put it gently. If that’s you, this book is valuable. Go ahead and buy it — we won’t call you dummy.

31. Contagious: Why Things Catch On

This book by Jonah Berger provides a strong foundation to understand how content goes viral — and how to create ideas on social media that are so catchy, your audience won’t be able to help but click them.

The Secret to Social Media Success

No matter how many social networks you set out to master, or how long you work in the social marketing field, there is one secret that will ensure you’re successful: Never stop learning.

This list is massive, I know, and there’s no way to consume all these resources in the next week. But if you set yourself to learning every day, every week, every month, every year, you’ll eventually be the one writing the books that help others learn social marketing.

It all begins with learning.

10 Things I’ve Learned About Social Media:

  1. Social marketing requires listening.
  2. Conversations should be the goal of social marketing.
  3. Team #Followback is a waste of time.
  4. Social marketing isn’t broadcasting, it’s communicating.
  5. Never auto-post your content to your social profiles.
  6. Never copy/paste the same message into every social profile.
  7. Social marketing requires time. It’s relationship-building on a massive scale.
  8. Be helpful. Period.
  9. Social support is faster than live chat, email, or phone calls. Embrace it.
  10. You don’t have to be on every network. Go where your customers are.

Social Media Marketing is the activity of driving website traffic through social media sites. This is a brief tutorial that explains how you can use popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ to promote your business and create greater awareness about the products and services you offer.

Audience

This tutorial is primarily going to help all those readers who are into advertising and specifically those who aspire to make a career in Digital Marketing.

Prerequisites

Before proceeding with this tutorial, you should have a good understanding of the fundamental concepts of marketing, advertising, and analyzing products and audience.

Color Schemes

Color Schemes are one of the most important aspects of a good graphic design. They will make people fall in love with your website or absolutely hate it. Most people tend to think of colors as art and putting colors into schemes takes an artist. However, there is actually a science to help the less artistic people like myself, called Color Theory. I won’t get into much detail about the values, hues, or saturation of colors, but I will explain a few of the most dominant color schemes. After reading this tutorial, experimenting with the color schemes is an excellent idea.

Color Combinations

It should go without being said, but just because we have color doesn’t mean that everything needs to have it. However, black and white websites that aren’t intended for some old fashion business lack creativity and often push people away from the website. When I say going overboard with color, I mean either using too many colors or coloring too much, both of which can break a design. Color Theory has given us quite a few schemes or ideas to blend our colors into our web pages, but I don’t want to overload you with all of them. So, we will discuss three primary color combinations.

Monochromatic Color

The monochromatic color scheme involves one color with different tints. This is a great color scheme for showing depth and drawing focus to certain elements.

Analogous Color

The analogous color scheme involves various colors that are in very close proximity to one another. This is somewhat close to the monochromatic color scheme except for instead of the tint and saturation changing, it is the color that is changing. The analogous colors often can portray feelings like hot or cold because of the color combination.

Complementary Color

The complementary color scheme is a composition of opposing colors on the color wheel. Complementary colors provide the highest contrast out of all of the schemes listed here. They have excellent contrast and compliment each other very well. Each color is much more intense than when the color displayed on a white background. For instance, red with green makes red seem even redder.

Well, that concludes the three primary color schemes that I am prepared to talk about. Feel free to get behind the canvas and start painting up some awesome color combinations on your website.

The content management systems (CMS) enable users to build websites and web applications without being proficient in commonly used web technologies. Likewise, the low-code development platforms help developers to build web applications rapidly with minimal hand-coding. But the developer must be proficient in commonly used web technologies to build custom web applications according to varying business needs.

Likewise, he needs to focus on the user experience delivered by the website across varying devices to attract and engage visitors. That is why; it becomes essential for novice web developers learn several web technologies and server-side programming languages. The beginners can always refer to the online web development tutorials to learn various aspects of website designing and development within a short amount of time.

Overview of 7 Popular Web Development Tutorials for Beginners

1) Codecademy.com

The free tutorial helps beginners to learn how to code interactively. A beginner can sign up for the tutorial to an array of widely used client-side and server-side web technologies including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Java, PHP, Python, and Ruby. Also, he can learn several application programming interfaces (APIs), JavaScript libraries, and web framework. The tutorial also helps beginners to create responsive websites that look good on both computers and mobile devices. It even prepares beginners to build interactive websites and web applications within a short amount of time.

2) HTMLDog.com

The web development tutorial is developed with HTML5. It includes nine tutorials covering widely used web technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Based on his proficiency, a web developer can choose from beginners, intermediate, and advanced tutorials. The beginner tutorials are designed as step-by-step web development guides, whereas the intermediate and advanced tutorials cover web development tips, tricks, and best practices.

3) CodeAvengers.com

The website aims to make beginners learn web development more effectively. It allows beginners to choose from web designing and web development courses. A beginner can join web designing course to learn HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, and Python. Also, he can learn how to make the website more appealing by using fonts, colours, and layouts. On the other hand, the web development courses help beginners to learn how to make real-world web application with HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, and databases.

4) TeamTreeHouse.com

The tutorial aims to make beginners learn web development in an easy, quick, and inexpensive way. It allows beginners to learn how to write code or how to build websites. When a beginner decides to learn how to build a website, the course will help him to learn HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The beginner will learn how to write server-side code in popular programming languages like PHP and Ruby, if he opts to learn how to code. The web development tutorial allows beginners to access videos supplemented with practices and quizzes.

5) Udacity.com

The tutorial allows a beginner to choose from beginner and advances courses according to his programming experience. The beginner course helps the learn web technologies through videos. Each video also contains practices and quizzes. On the other hand, the advanced course helps beginners to learn how to develop a website’s front-end/user interface and backend. A beginner can join the advanced course to learn widely used front-end technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript, along with server-side programming languages, security best practices, and website deployment tips.

6) CodeSchool.com

The tutorial allows beginners to choose from an array of interactive programming courses. A beginner can join Code School to learn widely used web technologies like HTML, CSS, JavaScript PHP, C#, ASP.NET Core, and Ruby. Also, the tutorial helps developers to learn how to use various JavaScript libraries and web components. Hence, it becomes easier for beginners to learn various web technologies and understand various aspects of web development within a short amount of time.

7) Tutsplus.com

The website helps beginners to learn web development by accessing free tutorials, online courses, and learning guides. The beginners also get a chance to learn various aspects of web development from expert instructors. At the same time, the tutorial also helps beginners to identify and avoid common web development mistakes.

On the whole, a beginner can access several web development tutorials to become proficient in various client-side and server-side web technologies. He also needs to learn various web frameworks and content management systems to build custom web applications according to precise business requirements. That is why; the beginners must refer to multiple web development tutorials, in addition to learning the web application development tricks and best practices.

As with many things in life, the best way to learn to code is to practice coding. Here are the 10 best web development tutorials for beginners in 2019.

1. Coursera

Coursera is currently the largest MOOC (massive open online course) on the market, with more than 25 million learners, 149 university partners, and 2000+ courses (at the time of this writing).

Founded by two Stanford computer science professors, a large portion of those courses are in computer science, covering languages from front-end fundamentals like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to back-end classics like PHP, Node.js, and Python.

Most courses are free, unless you want to upgrade your online university experience with perks like certificates and extra help from instructors. Coursera offers its own certificate programs called “specializations” for around $40 to $150, and fully online Masters degrees, like this Master of Computer Science in Data Science program from University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

2. edX

Founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, edX is a non-profit open-source MOOC where you can find a wide variety of courses from top universities and industry leaders like the University of Pennsylvania or Microsoft.

Courses are free, and upon completion you have the option to pay for an official certificate. You can learn front-end fundamentals from the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) itself, the international organization responsible for managing global web standards like HTML5. Or get a professional certificate in Agile development using Rails from Berkeley.

3. Udacity

There must have been something in the water at Stanford University, because the fourth largest MOOC on the web holds humble origins as an experiment by Sebastian Thrun, best known as the brain behind Google’s Self Driving Car, and his Stanford CS221 co-professor. They launched a free “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” course online, received more than 100,000 enrollments, and helped kickstart the MOOC sensation.

Udacity offers an opportunity to learn computer science from industry professionals from tech companies like Google, GitHub, and Amazon. Udacity’s paid certificates are called “nanodegrees,” which allow you to gain credentials for industry-specific skillsets such as machine learning engineer, full-stack web developer, or mobile web specialist. You can always skip the project and take the courses individually for free — it just depends on how much you want to gain from the experience.

4. Codecademy

The tried-and-true Codecademy remains one of the most popular web development course websites around. Free courses walk you through the basics of languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

What makes Codecademy unique is that you complete these lessons and tutorials entirely in their browser-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE), which allows you to practice what they teach in real time. Their catalog also includes projects and quizzes for Pro members so you can put your knowledge to work.

5. Khan Academy

Khan Academy’s pitch is tough to beat: “You can learn anything. For free. For everyone. Forever.” You’ll find high-quality educational videos that cover everything from organic chemistry to music theory. Of course, it’s included on this list for its excellent introductory courses on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Khan Academy takes a university-style deep dive into the fundamentals and also covers broader computer science concepts such as information theory. Videos are hosted on YouTube, so if you’d rather just search for a particular language or tutorial you can head on over to their channel and avoid the course navigation altogether.

6. Scotch.io

Whenever I’m looking for the latest and greatest tutorials for a new JavaScript framework like Vue.js, I often find myself on Scotch.io. They have full in-depth courses on Node.js, AngularJS, Angular, React, and Vue. They also have a full course for Laravel, a Model-View-Controller (MVC) framework for PHP.

Beyond these courses, there are many blog posts and tutorials for a wide range of languages, including GoLang, Sass, and ASP.NET—just to give you an idea of the variety of technologies you might find on this site. Need a tutorial that will walk you through both theory and practice? Scotch.io is the site for you.

7. Odin Project

Coding boot camps are all the rage these days, especially for those with little or no programming experience who want to make a career change. Unfortunately, factors like price and location can prove to be obstacles to a lot of people.

The Odin Project is a free coding bootcamp that can be attended entirely online. They teach you everything you need to know to become a functioning full stack web developer, with a focus on JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and Ruby on Rails. Better still, you can complete real projects that can be uploaded to GitHub to help fill out your resume—just like a conventional boot camp.

Everything from the website to the curriculum that it hosts is open source, meaning you may one day help contribute to the Odin Project as an accomplished alumnus.

8. freeCodeCamp

Looking for a way to learn to code while helping the world become a better place? freeCodeCamp gives you all the usual perks of a coding camp—tutorials, challenges, projects, connections, and certificates—but at no cost to you.

Even better, later projects give you an opportunity to gain real experience building web apps for nonprofits. Learn the ins and outs of front-end web development, including JavaScript, HTML5, CSS, Bootstrap, and jQuery. Or get a certificate in back-end web development learning Node.js, Express, and MongoDB. Like any active open-source community, freeCodeCamp is constantly evolving with new projects, challenges, and certificates on the horizon.

9. HackerRank

If you already have some coding experience under your belt, HackerRank gives you an opportunity to pit your web development skills against programmers across the globe. Some people learn best in competitive environments and the thrill of climbing the leaderboard might be just the thing you need to motivate your continued growth as a developer. Earn points by completing coding challenges. Win prizes at hackathons and other competitions.

A wide variety of languages are supported on the site, including Java, C++, Ruby, Python, and SQL. As an added bonus, HackerRank challenges are currently trending as a filter for hiring managers in the tech sector.

10. Codewars

Looking for a coding “dojo” to sharpen your skills? Codewars is a martial arts themed coding practice site where you complete challenges called “kata” to gain “honor” to rank up and ascend the leaderboards.

Codewars places an emphasis on test-driven development (TDD) allowing you to use test cases to check the performance of your code in the browser to complete katas. The site supports the usual suspects like JavaScript, Ruby, Python, and PHP, but also covers newer languages like Go and Swift.

Bonus: Coding communities and events

Beyond tutorial sites and online courses, there are online communities that are integral to one’s growth as a web developer.

  • Struggling with a piece of code? Stack Overflow is the most trusted place to ask questions and receive detailed answers from other developers over the web.
  • Looking for someplace outside of the official channels of a given language or framework to have an open forum for discussion? There’s usually a Reddit thread for every language or framework you can think of, and more general resources like r/WebdevTutorials.
  • Eager to give back to the world and encourage underrepresented groups to go into coding? Consider joining a community like Rails Girls, which encourages girls to learn to programme through Ruby on Rails—Upwork product architect, Aurel Canciu volunteers for them during his free time. There are many groups and communities out there to not only continue your own growth but to help others excel as well.

Introduction

This is a basic introduction to graphic design. You won’t be a pro designer after reading through this but you will be armed with a few simple things you can do to make anything you are working on look much better.

I won’t go into detail on these topics. Instead I’ll introduce them and give you enough information to put them into practice. It can be a good idea to do further research on these topics as there are many good pages out there that go into much more detail.

Theory

When most people think about good design they think about making something that looks amazing and mistakenly think they can achieve this with bells and whistles. This can actually work against you. Well designed and stylish items present material in a way that best suits how our subconscious takes in information and draws meaning from it. What you will find is that things which look stunning are normally very simple but in a way that makes it crisp and clear.

Whenever we look at anything (a web page, a photo, a plant, a person, a garden etc) our subconscious immediately starts trying to understand and draw meaning from what it can see. It wants to know what is important and what is less important and what is related to what and by how much. This happens largely without us even realising it and we have little control over it. Our subconscious will do this whether we like it or not.

Our minds have evolved to do this over many many thousands of years and is hard wired to do it in particular ways. For the vast majority of those years we have existed out in the real physical world and so our minds are best suited to interpreting physical things and environments. This is why it is often relaxing to sit in a garden or go on a bushwalk. The mind is surrounded by things it is naturally suited to understanding so it has to do little work and is thus happy.

The modern world is quite removed from this however. The presentation of material on paper and computer screens etc is very recent and quite different from what our minds are evolved to work with. The subconscious has to go to a lot more effort to interpret what it sees. We don’t normally notice it but over time it will drain us.

Good design aims to work with the minds natural ways of interpreting information and thus reduce the amount of work it has to do. The concepts presented below aim to achieve this.

Colour

The first thing we should think about with our material is colour. Most people tend to just throw colours in as needed and the end result ends up being disjointed. If you pick a limited and complementary colour scheme up front then stick with only those colours your content will be much more coherent.

Picking a colour scheme is easy. Picking a good colour scheme is hard. A good colour scheme will make your work shine.

Colour is an important aspect of our minds deriving meaning from what they see. We instinctively know that red means danger or warning for instance. Blues and greens make up our natural surroundings and are calming. Things that are closer to us are brighter and more vivid in colour but as they get further away those colours tend to fade. We should aim to translate these characteristics of colour in the real world into our own material.

Premade Colour Schemes

A colour scheme is a set of colours that you select for your design. All aspects of the design should then use only these colours. The number of colours you will need will depend on your work and its complexity. Typically you would want a base set of colours, then a few that are richer or brighter in colour and a few that are lighter in colour (these could be variations of your base colours or complementary).

There are many sites out there with heaps of pre made colour schemes from people that know what they are doing. They can be good to use directly or as a base to tweak and get just how you want.

 

The Colour Wheel

The Colour Wheel is a basic tool that designers use to create colour schemes. Two quite good ones are Kuler by Adobe and Color Scheme Designer. The basic idea is that the 3 primary colours (red, green and blue) are spaced out around a wheel and evenly transitioned between. You then pick your colour scheme by picking points evenly spaced around the wheel.

Colour Wheel

Like most of these things, with practice you will get better so don’t be put off if your first few attempts at creating colour schemes aren’t that good. It is not uncommon to spend 1/2 an hour or more experimenting and tweaking with different colour schemes before finding one that works. A good approach is to look at other work to find inspiration and get an idea of what general colour scheme you may want. Then go to the premade colour scheme sites mentioned above and pick a few you like. Then head over to the Colour Wheel tools and tweak and experiment further.

 

Depth

We can use the idea of depth mentioned above (that closer items are more vivid and further items are faded) to convey importance. Our minds treat closer items as more important than further away items. A threat for instance that is closer is much more important to deal with than a threat that is further away. Use bolder colours for important items and lighter colours for less important items.

This is less important

This is important

This is irrelevant

Typography

Once we have our colours sorted out, the next thing to consider is how our text will look. For most material, the text conveys the majority of the information. As such, easier to read text (legibility) can play a huge part in how your material is considered.

Typography is a big area. Typography is about how we organise and display text. There are many aspects of the text in our material that we can influence including:

  • Font
  • Font size – size of text
  • Leading – Spacing between lines of text
  • Tracking – Spacing of characters within a word
  • Display of characters, bold, italic etc
  • Column width, ie how many words per line
  • and more…

Your aim is to create text that is as easy as possible to read. Doing so involves getting the right mix of all of these. You will probably need to experiment a bit go get it right.

Font

There are many different fonts out there and they can have a big impact on legibility. A general rule is that on the screen sans serif fonts are easier to read and printed serif fonts are easier to read. Feel free to mix and match however. A common combination is to use a sans serif font for the content and a serif font for headings. Keep your use of fonts limited too. Most designers like to work with only 2 fonts on a piece of work. They may touch 3 but only as a last resort.

Font Size

Too small and your readers will find it hard to read. Too large and it just doesn’t look right. Don’t be afraid to try your text a little bit larger than normal. You may be surprised by how it turns out (this is both for headings and main body text).

Leading

If the lines are too close to each other then it makes the content cramped and your mind has to put more effort in to keep on the right line. If the lines are too far apart then if can have the affect of making your text seem disjointed. I find that the default leading is typically not bad but can be improved by making it slightly further apart.

Tracking

As you’re probably guessing, there’s a pattern forming here. Again too close and it’s hard to read and too far apart breaks the flow. Sometimes, headings being a good example, playing about with tracking can actually create some nice effects.

Display

Bold, italics and underline are good for highlighting important parts of your content. Like other aspects, keep it to a minimum for best effect. Ideally use only one of these or two at most.

Column Width

This will largely be affected by the overall design of your work but is something you should consider. The recommended number of words per line is between 9 – 15 but you can generally get away with a bit more than this if you get your other aspects (font, font size, leading and tracking) in balance. One think to keep in mind, if you’re designing web pages particularly, is lines that adjust to the width of the screen. This is especially so nowadays with larger widescreen monitors being common. You want to make sure your lines don’t become too long and unwieldly.

Structure

Next on the agenda is the structure of our material. You should think about where you will place different items such as headings, menus and so on, what shape they will be and what size.

The following ideas relate to the ways that our minds naturally percieve information and the world around us. When things are designed to fit in with the way our minds work then they can absorb and understand what is being presented with much less effort. When we can do that we are happy and that is good design.

Gestalt Theories of Perception

These are general observations about how our minds draw meaning from what our eyes see. Understanding them allows you to organise your material so that people can very easily understand it. It is quite a big area so I will cover some of the main points here but encourage you to do some further reading.

Closure

This involves taking visual hints from several separate objects or shapes that imply continuity and then combining them into one object.

Closure

In the image above we see a square rather than 4 circles with a chunk taken out.

It does this because a square is more common to us than 4 circles with chunks taken out of them and it’s simpler. The mind always seeks the simplest explanation.

A good page layout will be seen as one coherent item.

Simplicity

Sometimes the opposite occurs. We have a complex shape but the mind can break it down into a series of simple shapes.

Simplicity

In the image to the left do you see 4 lines, 2 overlapping lines or 1 item with 4 blades? In the image to the right do you see one complex shape or 3 simple shapes?

The mind is happy when it can easily make out simple regular shapes in what it is seeing. Although you don’t need to restrict yourself to only using them, incorporating them into your overall design in subtle ways can add style.

Relationships

Many people like to group things together using boxes. The problem is, the natural world around us doesn’t tend to relate things by putting them in boxes. As such, it’s not a natural way for our minds to see relationships. It takes a lot more effort for the mind to process boxes.

The mind much prefers to draw relationships by way of similar characteristics. These could be:

  • Items that are arranged close to each other
  • Items that are a similar colour
  • Items that are similar size

Relationships

In the set of dots above I’m sure you can easily make out 3 different groupings.

Find natural ways to illustrate the relationships between different items in your content and it will become crisp and elegant.

Sometimes it is a case of using these principles to your advantage. Other times it’s making sure you haven’t set up your material to inadvertently invoke one of these and introduce confusion.

Quiet Structure

As we saw with Gestalt Theories above, our minds naturally seek to draw meaning from what they see. They want to know what is important and what is not, what is related and the order in which they should work through the information. Quiet structure seeks to prevent our minds doing this in areas where it is not needed. We achieve this by having even spacing around the different sections of our design.

When spacings are uneven our mind decides that this must mean relationships are present between the items and our subconscious takes to trying to understand them. When we space everything out evenly we are telling our subconscious that there is no inherent meaning here to derive so focus instead on other areas. The amount of work our mind has to do is reduced and it is happy.

Quiet Structure

Vertical Rhythm

Vertical Rhythm is similar in theory to Quiet Structure. We are aiming to introduce a consistency that reduces the effort the mind has to go to to take in information. This time we are focusing on text however.

Imagine a set of horizontal lines, evenly spaced, drawn down the page. If all the text on your page lies on one of these lines then you have achieved Vertical Rhythm.

It can be a lot of work to achieve this but when you do the result can be dramatic.

 

Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio is one of those things that ‘just works’. It’s found in nature all over the place and if you use it in your designs it has a tendency to make things balanced and pleasing. We don’t really know why but it does so just accept it and benefit from it.

The Golden Ratio is 1 : 1.61

The Golden Ratio can be applied in many areas of your design including:

  • Images – make the height and width follow the ratio (in either portrate or landscape).
  • Typography – make headings larger according to the ratio.
  • Layout – for example the menu column in relation to the content column.

Other Tips

Here are a few more tips to help you along the way:

  • Keep it Simple – When in doubt, find the main points and focus on those. Bells and whistles seem cool at the time but you have to ask if it really adds value and if it’s just cluttering things up.
  • Imitate others – Don’t just blatantly copy, that’s not cool. To draw inspiration from others though is fine.
  • Always keep on the lookout for good design. Ask yourself why it works. Also keep an eye out for bad design and ask why it doesn’t work.
  • The graphic design concepts discussed here should be used as guides, not as absolutes. Implement your design using the concepts but don’t be afraid to bend or break them in areas where they don’t quite work. For instance on these pages I have used vertical rhythm for the majority of the content but it made the menu and major heading look awkward so I broke vertical rhythm there in favor of spacing that looked neater.

After Effects has some powerful tools that we can use to mimic augmented reality. You may find this necessary if, for example, you wanted to make a pitch video to show what an app with augmented reality capabilities could look like.

Our final design should look like this

Our final design should look like this

01. Get familiar with the 3D Camera Tracker

Select the footage layer you want to track and click the Track Camera button in the Tracker Panel – you’ll see a blue bar appear across the footage that says Analyzing. To get a better solve, click on Detailed Analysis in the Effects Controls Panel for the 3D Camera Tracker. You can also get a better solve by specifying the Shot Type, if you know which one you want for your particular shot.

In the Advanced tab you can specify the solve method or just leave it set to Auto Detect. Choosing the correct solve method can sometimes result in a better track than using the default Auto setting.

 

02. Solve your footage

Remove any points that are not using good data

Once your camera begins solving you’ll notice the banner colour changes from blue to orange, and when it’s finished the banner will disappear. Sometimes you may get points in the sky or on areas that you can tell are not using good data. Delete those points.

Select at least three or more of the points that represent the ground plane. Right-click with those points selected and choose Set Ground Plane & Origin. With the same points selected, right-click and choose Create Null & Camera. You’ve now solved your footage and set yourself up for success with a Camera and Null object that can be used as a reference point.

 

03. Add a graphic

This map marker will pop up inside the stadium

Now you can begin adding graphics to the timeline. I’m using a map marker that I want to pop up from inside the stadium. Edit the Anchor Point of the graphic as needed, so the correct edge is used for the position data. In my case, I moved the anchor point to the bottom middle using the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool.

Click the 3D switch for the layer so it can also move in Z space. Select a point in the picture where you’d like the graphic to appear, right-click that point and choose Create Null. Now copy the position data from that Null to the position of your graphic, scale and mask the graphic as needed. It may be necessary to key the mask over time.

 

04. Integrate larger graphics

This larger graphic covers the ground like a map

Now you can repeat step 03 to integrate more graphics. For instance, you can integrate something along the entire ground plane like a map. To do this, select several points over the ground plane area. Note: to select the points now you’ll need to actually have the 3D Camera Tracker Effect selected in the Effects Controls Panel. Right-click those points and create a Null.

Repeat the process of copying data and moving the anchor point if needed. This time you should also copy the orientation of the Null to the graphic so it’s lying on the ground. You may still need to adjust things a bit to get the graphic to line up with the streets in the footage.

 

05. Add text

You can also add text to follow and flow along with the footage. For text that only needs to track with static objects like buildings, you can use the same method of match moving as we used for the markers and the map. If you want text to follow along with a walking person or driving car, you’ve now got two types of motion involved: the movement of the camera and the movement of driving or walking.

For these types of tracks we’ll use a more traditional tracking approach. With the footage selected, choose Track Motion from the Tracker Panel. To prepare for the track, create a Null Object and name it Car Tracker. Choose a car on the road (you may need to turn up the brightness and contrast of your footage to see one).

 

06. Track moving objects

Text can track static or moving objects

Because the cars in this footage are so small, there isn’t enough data to do a two-point track to get scale data. We’ll have to hack this just a bit! Proceed as if you’re only gathering the X and Y tracking data.

Place Track Point 1 on something highly visible like the headlights. It may take some time to get your track correct, and you may need to fix some parts by hand. Once your track is ready, it’s time to apply it to the Null Object we created called Car Tracker. Jump back to your footage and select the 3D Camera Tracker effect in the Effects and Controls panel.

Choose the closest point to the place where the car begins, right-click that and create a Null. Rename this Null ‘z start’. Repeat the Null creation step for the closest possible point to where the car ends, and rename this ‘z end’. Now change the Car Tracker Null object into a 3D object and add two keyframes: one key with the Z value of the ‘z start’ Null, and another at the ‘z end’ value. These keys should be at the beginning and end of the tracking keyframes.

Finally, parent the text you want to follow along with the car to the Car Tracker Null. Rejoice that your small hack job has achieved the results you wanted!

Place Track Point 1 on something highly visible like the headlights. It may take some time to get your track correct, and you may need to fix some parts by hand. Once your track is ready, it’s time to apply it to the Null Object we created called Car Tracker. Jump back to your footage and select the 3D Camera Tracker effect in the Effects and Controls panel.

Choose the closest point to the place where the car begins, right-click that and create a Null. Rename this Null ‘z start’. Repeat the Null creation step for the closest possible point to where the car ends, and rename this ‘z end’. Now change the Car Tracker Null object into a 3D object and add two keyframes: one key with the Z value of the ‘z start’ Null, and another at the ‘z end’ value. These keys should be at the beginning and end of the tracking keyframes.

Finally, parent the text you want to follow along with the car to the Car Tracker Null. Rejoice that your small hack job has achieved the results you wanted!

 

07. Tweak your work

Use trim paths to animate your text boxes

If you need to change anything, select the whole Position property and then drag the position value. This will change everything relative to the existing data so you don’t accidentally make a fix for just one frame.

If you built your text boxes in After Effects, try using trim paths to animate them on-screen as they become relevant to the action. Animate your text on as well, perhaps with a typewriter or word processor effect. Feel free to add other animated graphics as needed to flesh out the composition.

  • Software: Illustrator CS5 or later
  • Project time: 2 hours
  • Skills: Use the Gradient Mesh tool, Make opacity masks, Work with colours and transparency

Although a lot of Illustrator tools are fairly simple to grasp, using them with finesse and perfecting the finer details can take further practice. In this tutorial we’ll look at a selection of transparency and gradient tools that aren’t always used as subtly and beautifully as they can be. We’ll create a lifelike but contemporary animal study here, but the techniques covered can be applied to any subject matter that requires a striking dynamic look or an elegant subtle shine, from branding to character design.

In my opinion, technical tricks should be secondary to the subject matter: there is no need to overemphasise a glow or a gradient when the natural form of your subject can stand up for itself. In this tutorial you’ll learn subtler tricks that, in the end, will result in higher-quality artwork.

Step 01

Start with a pencil drawing: you can produce this freehand or using a photo for reference. However you create your line drawing, keep the shapes as simple as possible while still achieving the look of your chosen subject matter. It’s just shape-making: there’s no need for sketchy lines or shading.

Step 02

Trace your artwork using the Pen tool. remember that every shape you create is going to be semi-transparent, so even if it’s behind another shape it’ll still be visible – every line of every shape has to be perfect and fit with the overall flow of the illustration.

Step 03

Change your shapes to block colours without outlines (losing the outlines makes for a more realistic look). Next, select all your shapes and, in the Transparency panel, change the opacity to 65%. Feel free to play with this value.

Step 04

Colours work very differently when they’re semi-transparent. If you look at the highlighted block, which is where two shapes overlap, on the black background it appears lighter than its neighbouring blocks, whereas on the white background it’s darker. Experiment with how light and dark colours change once they’re semi-transparent and layered.

Step 05

To create a glow on a shape, select the shape then choose the Gradient Mesh tool. Tap the Gradient Mesh cursor on an outline: you’ll see that it slices your shape and starts to make a 3D form. Tap on any line and it will split in half, forming more gradient lines.

Step 06

Continue creating a mesh. The more mesh lines you create, the more form your shape will have. Hold down Opt/Alt to delete a mesh line. To add a gradient, use the Direct Selection tool to pick all the points you want colour added to, then choose a colour from the palette.

Step 07

The colours will vary depending on whether they’re layered over dark or light colours. To add more dynamism, try a circular opacity mask. First, create a circle and duplicate it in the Layers panel. Next, using the Gradient panel, add a radial gradient from white in the centre out to black.

Step 08

With both circles selected, choose Make Opacity Mask from the Transparency panel menu, and select a colour. Everything that was white in the radial gradient will take that colour; everything that was black will now be 100% transparent. Experiment with placing this circle, in various colours, behind your artwork.

Step 09

Here’s one final technique that adds a simple but effective fluid fluorescence. Select various shapes, then, holding down the Shift and Opt/Alt keys, hit an arrow key. Your shape will be duplicated and offset. As we’re working with semi-transparent shapes, you’ll start to create a nice movement effect.

Step 10

Even with simple illustrated shapes you’ll find that it really is worth taking your time with transparencies. The smallest alteration can make a big difference, and subtle gradients and transparencies can really bring an unbeatable finesse to your illustration work.