How I Got My Business Cards Done On 99Designs

I recently read a post reviewing 99designs on SmartBusinessTrends and I decided to take the plunge and try them out myself.

For those unfamiliar with 99designs, it is probably the most popular crowdsourcing design site. There are other similar sites like DesignCrowd and CrowdSpring, but 99designs is quite a bit bigger than these two. This basically means you have access to a large pool of design talent then the other sites.

99designs offers a wide variety of different design categories that you can choose from. Whether you need a new logo, business cards, t-shirts, book covers, website redesigns, the site has categories for all of these. Depending on which type of design contest you start, will affect how much you need to pay.

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Lets say you want to design a t-shirt. Then the starting price would be $189. But if you wanted to do a whole website redesign then the price for the bronze package is $599.

Once you start your contest, you should start getting submissions right away. This is cool, because you can start sending your feedback right away. Submitting feedback is pretty simple. You can rank each design from 1 to 5 stars. You can (and should) also provide written feedback on each design telling them what you like and what kind of changes you would like to make.

For my needs, I wanted a new business card and logo. Instead of having to create 2 separate contests for each, 99designs actually has the option to start a single logo and business card contest. The price for this is $449 which seemed pretty reasonable to me.

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I setup a detailed design brief and had the contest run for a week.

I started seeing some designs within the first day. I didn’t particularly like any of them, but I left some feedback anyway.

After a couple of days though, I started seeing some more designs I liked and had potential to be picked as the winner. At that point, I decided I would try guaranteeing the contest. See, 99designs allows you to get your money back if you don’t like any designs. But due to this fact, not all designers want to participate in a non-guaranteed contest because there’s a chance they are submitting designs for nothing.

However, if you guarantee the contest (which means you will have to choose a winner), this encourages all the designers that were on the fence about your project to join in.

After the 7 days, it was time to choose a winner. I had 3 designs that I really liked. I couldn’t really decide which one to pick, so I decided to ask my email list. 99designs has this poll tool, where you can pick up the 8 designs for people to vote on.

In my case, I just created a poll with the 3 designs that I liked. Then I sent a broadcast email with a link to my poll, and asked my subscribers to vote.

After a couple days, I took a look at the results and luckily there was a clear winner which I choose as the winner.

Overall, I was quite happy with my 99designs experience. I was able to get a really nice logo and some snazzy new business cards that fit with my budget. What I really liked those was all the ideas I was able to see. Being able to compare and constrast with the different designs really helped out.

If I need any other designs done, I’m pretty sure I’d try 99designs again.

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4 Tips For Making Your Site Load As Fast As Possible

If you own a site, then you want to provide the best possible user experience for your users. This means you want to have a good looking theme, and you want it to load fast! Keeping your users happy will result on them staying on your site longer and consuming your content.

Google agrees with this too, and they have stated for awhile now, that page load speed can affect your search engine rankings. Not only that, but studies have shown that faster page speeds can result in higher conversions as well. So if you are selling something on your site, it pays to make it as fast as possible.

I read this interesting post over at SlickWP about how to boost your page speed score. It had a lot of great ideas in it. But in this post, I’m going to expand on that article and give you some additional tips on speeding your site up as fast as possible.

1. Choose The Best Web Hosting

One major factor in your site’s load times, is which web host you are on. If you go with a really cheap shared hosting plan for example, your site might be put on a server with hundreds of other websites. If these websites are taking up all of your server’s CPU and bandwidth, that can really slow down your site. So if you go with shared hosting, make sure you pick a web host that doesn’t use overcrowded servers.

Or use a VPS instead which can be much faster. Based on reviews I have read, I would recommend checking out web hosts like WiredTree or LiquidWeb.

Webhosting reviews for further reading

2. Enable GZip Compression

GZip is probably the most popular way to compress your site’s files that get sent to your visitor’s web browser. By enabling GZip, you can reduce response sizes by almost 70%.

There are a couple ways to enable GZip. The first is to manually modify the .htaccess file of your site yourself. You can find the code to do this here, in this article by FeedTheBot.

Or use a WordPress plugin like WP HTTP Compression which is a freely downloadable plugin you can install.

3. Use a CDN

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) can really be a big boost in speeding up your site. Basically a CDN is a set of servers that are geographically spread out throughout the world. When a visitor comes to your site and their browser tries to download your site’s static content (images, javascript), it will download it from a server closest to them. This reduces latency and results in a quicker response time for the user.

Take a look at MaxCDN and Cloudflare as they come highly recommended by many users.

4. Optimize Your Images

If you use a lot of images on your site, then they can cause your site to slow down considerably. Plus, the bigger the images are, the more bandwidth you are consuming. The first thing to do with optimizing your images, is to make sure you’re not using larger images than necessary. Resize your images down to the minimal size where they still look good.

After you have done that, you can usually shrink images further by compressing them. There are many tools to do this, but I recommend installing the WP Smush.it plugin. This plugin will automatically compress your images as you upload them. It also includes a bulk Smush.it tool so you can compress all your existing images at once as well.

Final Thoughts

If you follow all these tips above, you will definitely see a huge improvement in the load time of your website. They really aren’t hard to implement, so there really is no excuse to go out and do it.

Let us known in the comments how they work for you.

3 Reasons To Link Out To External Websites

These days, bloggers are so afraid to link out to other blogs. They want to hoard their link juice for themselves, because they think that Google will penalize them for linking out. Or the thinking is that linking out will cause your visitors to leave your site, never to return again.

That’s really the opposite of what you should be thinking. Linking out to other blogs is crucial to establishing credibility of your own content. It helps you to provide value to your readers and it even looks more natural to Google if you link out to good content.

In case you’re not convinced, here are some more reasons why you should be linking out from your blog.

Become A Useful Resource

By linking out to the best resources on your chosen topic, you provide your readers with multiple viewpoints and info about that topic.  Lets say I am writing a blog post about Genesis Theme.  Then you should post good Genesis Theme resources.

Get Linked To Back

If you link out to other pages on your topic, the site you link to will often get notified of this via the trackback mechanism. This will help you get on the radar of other bloggers, and if your content is good, could result in you getting a link back from that blog.

Ana Hoffman is a good example of someone who does this.  If you provide a link to her site Traffic Generation Cafe, then she will often feature your mention in one of her weekly link roundups.

Improving Your SEO

Linking out to other blogs is natural. If you never link out, then Google sees that as unnatural and that could hurt your rankings. Instead, link out to great resources (when possible) and that will make your website look more valuable.

Remember…

It never hurts to link out to a great resource. So make sure to do it whenever you can.