Purple people eater Create a website-worthy color scheme from an inspiration image with ColorSuckr

Posted by maggie.hunsucker August 11, 2009 at 1:01 pm

coloursuckr logoWith the abundance of blogging and publishing platforms, just about anyone can create a website.   The trick is getting that do-it-yourself job to look like it’s professionally designed.

A great place to start for inspiration is the ColorSuckr website.   ColorSuckr lets you pull the color scheme from any online photo.   You can grab a Flickr image, upload your own image to Flickr, then grab it, or point ColorSuckr to a webpage.   If more than one image exists, ColorSuckr lets you choose which one to extract.

ColorSuckr pulls up to 12 colors from each image and gives you the RGB, Hex, and Web Safe values for each.  You probably won’t need the latter, as web safe colors are almost an archaic convention in web design (harks back to when computers could only display a set number of colors with accuracy).  Still, nice to have all your bases covered.

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We like the narrow focus of this tool (seconded by our in-house designers).  Adobe’s Kuler offers a similar feature, but Kuler can be a bit overwhelming for the novice designer.  ColorSuckr is quick, easy, and accurate.  Like the color scheme on another website?  Point ColorSuckr that way.

The reality is, poor color choices can overwhelm your website and distract a reader from your content.   So ditch the chartreuse font and creepy flesh-toned background (it may work for Prada, but not for your website).  Find an image or website with a beautiful color story and let that be your inspiration. ColorSuckr will do the rest.

No shortage of tech goodies here. ColorSucker offers both a FireFox Add-on and a multi-browser bookmarklet that lets you grab color codes from website images as you're viewing them. It also lets you download an Adobe .ACO swatch file, so you can pull it into your design software.

Choosing a color palette is usually one of the last steps we take when designing a website. It's like icing on the cake. Focus on your site's structure first and foremost - layout, content, functionality, etc. Some of the best sites are devoid of color, but they are well thought out and very usable.

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  She's Crafty Create your own website wireframes with web-based Hot Gloo

Posted by maggie.hunsucker August 5, 2009 at 11:52 am

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Information Architecture and Usability aren’t considered the fun – or sexy – elements of web design, but planning how content will be displayed and accessed on your site is far more important than any design frills.

If you’re in the market for a new website or landing page, try using Hot Gloo.  Hot Gloo is a Flash-based wireframming application (non-nerd translation:  wireframes are like bare-bones renderings of your website or application). They are used to layout navigation, content, and overall flow, and usually proceed any actual design work.

One way to keep project costs to a minimum is to build your own.  Trust me, you don’t have to be an information architect or know how to command any fancy design software to create a wireframe.  Not to mention, this product is incredibly user intuitive.  Hot Gloo provides a library of elements – text boxes, buttons, image holders, etc – and a simple drag-and-drop interface.  Each element is controlled by a properties box, so you can alter sizes, shapes, and labels, as well as mock-up site interactions like mouse overs, links, etc.   I really dig the automatic alignment feature.   It makes it very easy to justify multiple design elements and create a crisp, cohesive looking site.

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It took me 5 minutes to layout an entire website (I won’t even tell you what we charge clients for that).  Granted, my site is bogus.  But you can still see how this tool would be useful for a project manager or marketing professional tasked with a new site design.   It’s marketing’s role to craft messaging and define how we want the target customer to think, feel, and ACT.  Here’s a way to literally illustrate those actions so a designer can interpret them on your website.

Hot Gloo also comes with project management and communication tools built in, so you can easily share edits, make comments, and get design approvals.

Want to find out more about Information Architecture and Usabiliy? Check out the Nielsen Norman Group website. They take a bare-bones approach to their own website design, mainly so you aren't distracted in your quest for information.

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The tie that binds Use Social Cord’s TipCup to monetize premium content via Twitter

Posted by maggie.hunsucker August 4, 2009 at 12:56 pm

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Charging for content may seem counter-intuitive in today’s blogging free-for-all market, but the trick is investing in the right delivery mechanism.

Social Cord is a service that offers premium content and subscription services via text message.  Not a bad idea, but how about adding Twitter to the mix?   That’s right, you can use Twitter – more specifically, Social Cord’s Twitter TipCup plugin – to distribute and monetize your content.

Here’s how it works:  Create a FanClub on Social Cord.  There is a pre-approval process, and you must agree to deliver a minimum of 3 premium content messages a month.  Since Social Cord is actually the mobile SMS offering, you can offer both text messages and Twitter tweets to your customers.  As long as you deliver the minimum content, you’re golden either way.

Once you’re FanClub is established, you need to signup for TipCup and send a promotional tweet to your followers.  They will be directed to a custom landing page where they choose their delivery mechanism and subscribe for $5.95/month.

Probably one of the biggest selling features of Social Cord and/or TipCup is the fact subscribers don’t have to enter any credit cards or account information.  All charges are billed directly to the member’s mobile account.   Social Card supports all major carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Nextel, etc.  The phone carrier makes off with a good chunk of the profit, and after Social Cord takes their cut, you end up with $1.80/month for every subscription.   Even if you only amass one hundred subscriptions, that’s $180 a month for three (140 character or less) tweets.

Twitter has proven to be an effective venue for music sales and promotion.  A service like Social Cord makes sense for a band trying to publicize an upcoming show or offer their fans exclusive material.  It will be interesting to see how businesses and bloggers use Social Cord to promote their content.  Would you be willing to pay $5.95/month for some insider tips from the feed growth! staff?

Social Cord also provides revenue reporting, so you can see how many people have visited your sign-up page, how many people have subscribed, and how much money you have made.

The Associated Press recently dropped a bomb and has begun charging for the republishing of their articles (starting at $2.50/word - yikes). iCopyright, a licensing agent and platform, is being used for "the routine republishing of full AP articles". This leaves some wiggle room for bloggers who typically quote only a portion of an article and are not the AP's main target (or so they say).

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  Hot off the presses Circulate press releases to top journalists through Muck Rack’s Twitter PR service

Posted by maggie.hunsucker July 23, 2009 at 11:43 am

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Social media has changed the game for public relations.  Blogs have become a powerful channel for content distribution, if not more powerful than newspapers, and Twitter accounts provide a direct connection between company and customer.

We don’t think press releases have gone the way of the dinosaurs yet, but we are seeing new and innovative ways for companies to circulate news.   For example, Muck Rack now offers a Twitter press release service.

Muck Rack is an aggregator site, streaming Twitter accounts from top journalists and bloggers (the Associated Press, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, Hufifngton Post, NPR, Reuters, The Washington Post, and more) to provide an “inside the newsroom” feel for media junkies.  The idea behind their new press release service is to put your content – your press release – in front of all those journalists, while capitalizing on the brevity of the Twitter tweet.

Submitting a press release to Muck Rack is a pretty straight forward process.  You don’t need a personal Twitter account either.  Just type a 130-character message in Muck Rack’s online form and hit submit.  This will most likely be your press release title or a good lead-in, plus the URL to the full press release.  We recommend using a service like bit.ly to shorten the URL, which supplies click-through rates for each URL tweeted.

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Muck Rack charges $1 per character with a $50 minimum, which you pay through Paypal.   After payment is received, your press release goes out immediately, i.e. it’s tweeted by the @MuckRack Twitter account, added to Muck Rack’s PR page, and featured in the sidebar of the homepage.

Muck Rack averages around 30,000 site visitors/month and has 3,600 followers on Twitter.  Not too shabby, but again, it’s the audience we’re zeroing in on here.  If you’re trying to target journalists, reporters, publishers, and news junkies, which is the goal with any press release, Muck Rack may be the perfect venue.

You may recall Muck Rack from You say Potato. Muck Rack powers the backend for Twittorati, which aggregates tweets based on the author's blog authority.

We see Muck Rack as a tool in any PR professional's arsenal. But really, it's a great platform for small business owners, marketers, or anyone who has to circulate their company's press releases or jump-start their own media blitz.

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  Shares well with others Share links via email, Twitter, and Facebook and measure their viral success with the Sharein bookmarklet

Posted by maggie.hunsucker July 20, 2009 at 1:49 pm

sharein_logoWe’ve always got an eye out for services that streamline the process of collecting, categorizing, and sharing information online.  Throw in the fact that you can do it all from your browser, and we’re sold.

Sharein is a free bookmarking tool that reduces the time and steps it takes to share links via email, Twitter, and Facebook.

When you find a news article, video, or tidbit of info you want to share, simply launch the Sharein bookmarklet, and choose a service.  If you want to tweet the link, choose Twitter.  If you want to email it to a specific person/people, choose the email option.  Sharein automatically fills in the Title and Description of the article.  All you really have to do is select your audience and hit the send button.   You can also use Sharein to bookmark, tag, and star links for later use.

Sharein Screen

Everything you share through the bookmarklet is accessible – and measurable – in your personal Sharein account. The newsfeed gives you an overview of all the interactions surrounding your content.  You can see the number of views and re-shares for each link, and within Twitter, the number of people who retweeted and/or emailed each link.  If you’re looking for an easy way to measure the reach of your Twitter tweets, this is a great tool for seeing how popular your content is and just how far it goes.

Sharein is also great for segmenting content by audience.   There are certain things that I run across and find interesting, but I don’t necessarily want to broadcast to the world.  On the other hand, why bother emailing everyone in my address book when I can kill all birds with one stone and publish the link through Facebook or Twitter?

You can import your Gmail, Yahoo, and Windows Live contact lists into your Sharein account. From there, you can create "circles of friends" or email groups to send content to selected friends, family, coworkers or customers (which is accessible through the bookmarklet).

Bookmarking services are no longer just tools of convenience. Both Digg and Twitter have emerged as breaking news sources and marketing vehicles - all because of the power of the simple link.

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