Web Design

20 Clean & Modern Free Web Layout PSDs

Posted on March 30, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Are you looking for some top-notch free web layout PSDs? Then you have come to the right place. What we have for you is 20 clean PSD templates that resonate with professionalism and have all been designed with the latest web trends. They are all free (a couple requiring a tweet), all fully-layered, and all are desperate to be downloaded!

Here you go…

Web PSD Templates

Gridzilla (Includes 5 separate page templates)

Gridzilla Includes 5 page modern clean web template psd free

Download Gridzilla

Posted in Web Design

Reimagining an iOS App for Android

Posted on March 28, 2014 at 12:11 pm

It’s one thing to make a great iOS app, but oftentimes the next step is to reproduce the experience for Android. It’s no easy task.

After gathering experience in that process at Two Toasters, I’ve put together some fundamental principles on reimagining an iOS app for Android.

1. Treat your Android app as a new product.

Despite the temptation to port over UI elements from iOS, it’s important to start from the ground up. Both platforms look, feel, and perform separately from each other.

Step one is to determine how many Android users you could have. If your app has a web counterpart, this part’s easy. Simply segment out the unique Android visitors and there’s a number you can start working with. If not, it’s still worthwhile to try surveying Android-specific users on places like Reddit or Android forums to get an indication of interest in the problem you’re solving. Why go through this effort? The truth is, you could be saving yourself a ton of effort and headache if now is not the right time to think about Android. Just like with any other product, a “we will build it and they will come” mentality isn’t a healthy mindset.

Next, it’s important to define the primary goal of this app. Remember, treating your Android counterpart as a mere copy of your iOS app won’t go well with your potential users. Perhaps your Android app will function differently than the other? Are you seeking to increase conversion? Maybe your goal is simply to grow your user base? It’s not necessarily a given that this goal be the same as your iOS app. The app needs a reason for existence according to your overall business strategy – so identify that reason before you get started.

Last, examine your iOS app and re-evaluate your feature set with your goal in mind. This part’s a bummer, I know. You’ve already spent so much time perfecting your iOS app. But here’s why it’s important: First, you probably have limited resources. The longer you wait to get your product out, the more you stand to lose market share with competitors. Equally important, your Android and iOS customers are different kinds of users. Sure, they’re both humans; but consider the two differing ecosystems. What your app offers may have redundancies on the Android platform as opposed to iOS. Identify how your app fits on the platform, then build accordingly.

2. Design your app to adapt

It’s no secret that device fragmentation on Android is a big challenge. But tackling adaptive layouts that uniquely target varying resolutions can be a Sisyphean struggle. Instead, design an aesthetic and layout that can expand and contract gracefully. Then see if you can optimize experiences around the more popular resolution blocks.

It can be a laborious process, but here are some tips to help:

  • Learn about Density Independent Pixels (dp) and Scale-Independent Pixels (sp). This is essential in understanding how your UI elements will be sized.
  • Rely on native elements where possible. They’re already designed to respond to differing resolutions and incredibly easy to restyle by just replacing the default theme assets.
  • Use responsive design strategies such as:
  1. defining layouts with margin insets instead of fixed-widths,
  2. using columns (particularly with grids) whose counts are based on screen-width,
  3. letting images/photography scale-to-fit your UI elements while maintaining their aspect ratio,
  4. having lists expand fluidly, but anticipating where elements fall, and
  5. setting max-widths to portrait and landscape views to keep lines of text from getting too long.
  • Tile background images or use 9patches to stretch them. Minimizing your assets will reduce the memory footprint of your application.
  • Cut assets for at least HDPI, XHDPI and XXHDPI. These are the higher density resolutions-for everything lower, Android will automatically scale assets down.
  • Optimize for a landscape experience. Tablets, phablets; these sort of devices are practically meant for landscape viewing. Think about what information can be pulled into another column, what elements can be consolidated, and if more information can be provided in a landscape orientation.

3. Take advantage of the Android platform’s differences.

Android is characteristically a less limited platform than iOS. So why not re-imagine the app to take advantage of these freedoms? Make it unique to Android users, not just available to them.

First, read the Android Design Guidelines. This will be an invaluable resource in helping internalize Android so you can build a good native experience.

Navigation can be a bit different on Android. Spend some time on the platform and gain a sense of its differing paradigms. An app that adheres to the analogous structure of iOS will surely feel different than the native structure of Android. Of course not all navigation structures should be similar, but figure out if there is one that makes more sense than that found in your iOS version. This is particularly relevant if you’ve decided on a feature set that isn’t a parity for your iOS app. (Hint: pay attention to Google’s own apps. The way they solved navigation problems probably didn’t have iOS navigation in mind.)

Build widgets. They’re an awesome tool to encourage customization, iOS doesn’t have them, they can expand the functionality of your app, and they give more real estate for you to reach your users. But make sure you do it right: Does it just let your user access media controls? Does it quickly throw them into a section on your app? Does it display information? (If so, make sure it stays fresh.) In all these cases, apply the same responsive strategies as before, but optimize for smaller areas. Especially since your user likely prefers that the widget be resizable.

Design your app icon with transparency. It doesn’t actually have to be a rounded square. The guidelines suggest following a follow a three dimensional, top front view. However, you can be creative about the shape, angle and aesthetic of the icon. Just remember that it has to scale down to very small sizes. An icon can be well designed, but if it’s too-reliant on miniscule details, it could end up not looking quite right in practical use.

See if other Android apps could do some of the work for you. Tying in with other apps means you don’t have to build every piece of functionality yourself and makes the Android experience more integrated for the user. For example, if you’re linking to web content, push it to chrome. (Building your own web views can be clunky.) If you need the user to capture audio, photos or videos, link to them to a media recording app that handle these well. Use the native share action provider so that you can easily share out to any app that accepts the style of content you want to share without having to build it out yourself.

Make the app international! For instance, separating copy in a strings file makes it easier to update to other languages. Although, you should remember to design the content and UI elements with added strings of information in mind. It’s possible your content cells may need to have content flow from right to left or even expand to fit longer strings when translated. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about the actual conversion; a recent update to the Play Store has added the ability to hire translators.

Update often. The Play Store allows developers to release updates much more quickly than the iOS App Store. It even allows you to do alpha and beta releases so that you can update a small percentage of users at a time, letting you work out kinks before shipping to everyone. Taking advantage of the Play Store’s update mechanisms will demonstrate to the users your active investment in improving the app.

And speaking of your users; listen to them. This is perhaps the best advice when converting to Android. A user is required to authenticate with a Google+ account when leaving reviews, which means that you can directly correlate the reviewer with their actual identity. So take the time to reply to comments and respond to feedback personally. Dialogue with your users not only helps in building a great app according to their feedback, but promotes a loyal user base that’ll stick with your app as it grows.

Posted in Web Design

Weekly Design News (N.222)

Posted on March 26, 2014 at 12:11 pm

You can sign-up to our awesome weekly newsletter for some more amazing articles, resources and freebies.

Worth Reading

Smashing Mag published: Typographic Design Patterns And Current Practices.
Typographic Design Patterns And Current Practices on this weeks design news

Alan Stearns wrote about baseline grids for the web.
baseline grids for the web on this weeks design news

The difference between fixed, fluid, responsive layout? Liquidapsive (Liqui-dap-sive) will help.
The difference between fixed, fluid, responsive layout? Liquidapsive on this weeks design news

Neil Wright discusses why iOS7 does and doesn’t reflect Apple’s core brand.
iOS7 does and doesn

CSS trickery and calc function from Hugo Giraudel.
CSS trickery and calc function on this weeks design news

Typekit wrote about kerning on the web.
kerning on the web on this weeks design news

Loz Gray published his notes on the recent responsive Guardian redesign.
responsive Guardian redesign on this weeks design news

Fullscreen overlay effects tutorial from Codrops.
Fullscreen overlay effects on this weeks design news

Creating Guided Product Tours like Google & Facebook.
Guided Product Tours like Google & Facebook on this weeks design news

New Resources & Services

InstantClick – A Javascript library that speeds up your website.
InstantClick - A Javascript library that speeds up your website on this weeks design news

Fluidbox – A jQuery plugin for beautiful lightboxes.
baseline grids for the web on this weeks design news0

jquery.wanker.js – The web was meant to be read, not squished.
baseline grids for the web on this weeks design news1

Vafpress – WordPress Administration Framework.
baseline grids for the web on this weeks design news2

Octocard – Highly flexible info card for every Github lover.
baseline grids for the web on this weeks design news3

Sache – Find Sass and Compass extensions for your next project.
baseline grids for the web on this weeks design news4

Command line cheat sheet & tips & tricks.
baseline grids for the web on this weeks design news5

Designer Freebies

Crates – A free, responsive & grid-based tumblog theme for WordPress.
baseline grids for the web on this weeks design news6

The Bitcoin Icon Set (100 Icons, SVG & JPG).
baseline grids for the web on this weeks design news7

Fanicons Vol.1 (40 Icons, PSD, AI & EPS).
baseline grids for the web on this weeks design news8

65 Bold & 65 Light Weather Icons (EPS).
baseline grids for the web on this weeks design news9

High-Res Polygon Backgrounds (JPG).
The difference between fixed, fluid, responsive layout? Liquidapsive on this weeks design news0

Valentines Vector Pack (AI & EPS).
The difference between fixed, fluid, responsive layout? Liquidapsive on this weeks design news1

100 Seamless Fabric Textures (PAT).
The difference between fixed, fluid, responsive layout? Liquidapsive on this weeks design news2

…some inspiration…

Inferno Typeface – A Flaming Typographic Experiment.
The difference between fixed, fluid, responsive layout? Liquidapsive on this weeks design news3

…and finally…

AIGA presents… 100 Years of Design.
The difference between fixed, fluid, responsive layout? Liquidapsive on this weeks design news4

View the Design News Archives

Posted in Web Design

20 jQuery Typography Plugins

Posted on March 24, 2014 at 12:11 pm

In this round-up we have collected a selection of feature-rich jQuery typography plugins that will give you more control to precisely position and re-size each letter of your web-typography. We have also added in a few plugins for animating your text, some plugins for controlling responsive type, and also a bunch of unique plugins that will recreate some fantastic text effects, that can usually only be created using a graphic editor.


FlowType.JS jQuery Typography Text Plugins

FlowType.js lets you configure the font-size and line-height ratios of your typography, helping you improving their overall appeal. You can also specify maximum and minimum width thresholds to control FlowType.js.


Posted in Web Design

Further Educating Yourself as a Designer

Posted on March 23, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Everyone knows that education is the best investment a designer can make to further his or her career. But what does that mean, exactly? Should you go back to school (or attend for the first time)? Should you find a mentor or study the greats repeatedly until you perfect your craft?

Perhaps you should do these things… and perhaps not.

Today, we’re going to explore specific ways to further educating yourself as a designer, and apply what you learn immediately to becoming better at what you do, as well as being more desirable to clients.

Marketing and The Unhappy Freelancer

Let me start off with a story about a person I know. This person is a freelance designer who really wanted to get more quality business. His work was quite good, and he worked hard for his clients, but he was struggling with attracting the kinds of people he really wanted to work with. His clients were the lower-end type, always giving him problems when it came to payment and deciding exactly what they wanted him to design for them.

Further Educating Yourself as a Designer

This designer could have benefited greatly from learning how to properly market his services. There is definitely a right way to reach out to top clients, and there is a wrong way, and making an effort to learn the difference can make an enormous difference in your success as a freelancer. Market yourself and your work the wrong way enough times and you can do real damage to your potential to earn more and attract better clients.

Learning your niche – knowing the ins and outs of your client base as well as the customers they serve – is the best way to tailor your marketing efforts for maximum effectiveness.

Get A Design Mentor

Mentors can teach you a lot about design, and can help you greatly improve your craft. But they can also provide a critical look into the industry from a veteran’s perspective, something you’re not likely to have if you’ve been working for less than a certain number of years. Personally, I believe every designer should seek out a mentor – there are tons of experienced designers out there who would love the chance to help guide and foster a future industry rock star. Making time to reach out to people who can help you often costs nothing, yet it’s one of the most important things you can do to grow your career.

Further Educating Yourself as a Designer

The problem is that younger designers often don’t ask to be mentored, believing that more experienced designers are too busy to help them. Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, you need to know one thing about designers who have reached a certain level of renown: they love it when people give them compliments and ask them stimulating questions about their craft. Especially younger designers.

Try it – email 10 of your favorite design “celebrities” and think of a few short but intriguing questions to ask them. The worst that can happen is that they say no, but if your questions are good enough, they almost certainly won’t.

Test, Then Invest

Sometimes you might have to invest a lot more money, time, or resources into learning something than you initially thought. If you hate networking, for example, and know you will have to expend a lot of time, money, and energy going to networking events and building relationships with people in the design industry, you may question whether or not you genuinely need to make that investment and expand your network.

Further Educating Yourself as a Designer

Sometimes, you don’t need to make a significant investment to achieve a goal. If you honestly feel that you can get by without making a particular investment, then test this assumption before going any further. This is an excellent way to learn what works and what doesn’t, both in your design work and in the promoting of your freelance business.

In fact, this is my absolute favorite way to learn anything related to my own design career. Research and mentors are great, but in the end, you must test each and every piece of advice you get from your sources. If it doesn’t work on a practical level, there’s no reason to keep playing the guessing game.

In Conclusion

Your design education doesn’t end with college or university. It starts there.

The acquisition of knowledge to further your career is a lifelong pursuit, if you’re doing it correctly. Remember that education, in whatever form it comes, is never a waste of time, money, or effort. When you don’t invest in your own education, you are losing a game you may not even realize you’re playing. Your competition is certainly busy investing in themselves, and will come out ahead if you aren’t right there with them, putting in the time, money, and energy to improve your edge and win over clients.

Posted in Web Design

Weekly Web & Mobile Creativity n.51

Posted on March 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm

It is that time of the week again, a chance for you to sit back and enjoy some of our favorite web and mobile designs from this past week.

You may also like to browse the Web & Mobile Creativity Archives.

Spieker Design

Weekly Web and Mobile Cretivity Inspiration - Spieker Design

Thomas Vimare

Weekly Web and Mobile Cretivity Inspiration - Thomas Vimare

Vimeo Annual Report 2013

Weekly Web and Mobile Cretivity Inspiration - Vimeo Annual Report 2013

Comic Sans Criminal

Weekly Web and Mobile Cretivity Inspiration - Comic Sans Criminal

Thirty Years of Mac

Weekly Web and Mobile Cretivity Inspiration - Thirty Years of Mac

Two Arms Inc.

Weekly Web and Mobile Cretivity Inspiration - Two Arms Inc.

Medium.com (Mobile App Concept)

Weekly Web and Mobile Cretivity Inspiration - Medium.com Mobile App Concept

Vintape (iOS App)

Weekly Web and Mobile Cretivity Inspiration - Vintape iOS App

Posted in Web Design

Inferno Typeface – A Flaming Typographic Experiment

Posted on March 20, 2014 at 12:11 pm

From time to time we come across a design creation that is truly unique and totally blows us away. Today’s gallery post features one of those remarkable creations.

Daniel Reuber, a 20 year old graphic designer from Germany, has created a unique typeface made entirely of realistic flames, entitled Inferno Typeface. The typeface, based on a bold sans-serif, consists of 26 upper-cased letters and has been designed as part of typographic exhibition in which he aims to create more typefaces using the elements as inspiration.

Inferno Typography Fire Typography 2014 Series Splash Screen

Below we have highlighted our favorites:

The Inferno Typeface Series

Inferno Typography Fire Typography 2014 Series full alaphabet

Inferno Typography Fire Typography 2014 Series fullsize letter e

Inferno Typography Fire Typography 2014 Series fullsize letter h

Inferno Typography Fire Typography 2014 Series fullsize letter m

Inferno Typography Fire Typography 2014 Series quote example

Inferno Typography Fire Typography 2014 Series

Inferno Typography Fire Typography 2014 Series adobe logo example

Inferno Typography by Daniel Reuber

Posted in Web Design

Why iOS7 Does and Doesn’t Reflect Apple’s Core Brand

Posted on March 18, 2014 at 12:11 pm

A few months ago, Apple released their long-awaited iOS7 update to users around the world. It was the single biggest visual update to iOS since the release of the original iPhone in 2007 and as you may already know, a lot of people aren’t too happy with the redesign.

Apple has been subjected to fierce competition in the smartphone market over the last couple of years (primarily from Android) and after more than six years without a redesign, iOS6′s skeuomorphic design was begining to look pretty tired. Not good news in a fiercely competitive market.

Unlike almost all other brands, Apple actually produces both the software and hardware for their devices but Apple’s core product is definitely their software (i.e. iOS). In some respects, the iPhone hardware actually acts as the product packaging as Apple is primarily a software company. It’s the software that makes their devices unique.

As this guide on rebranding and redesigning product packaging points out, brands often opt to redesign their product packaging with the aim of quickly increasing relevancy and to draw attention to their brand, but in Apple’s case, they opted to do the opposite. Rather than redesign the iPhone hardware (i.e. the packaging), they opted to redesign the software (i.e. the core product), even though some would almost certainly argue that the iPhone hardware is just as overdue for a redesign as iOS itself.

Now, given the fact that an estimated 79% of all iOS devices are now running iOS7, iOS7 should offer a perfect reflection of Apple’s core brand, but is this actually the case? Well, yes and no.

iOS6 vs. iOS7: First Impressions

iOS6 and iOS7 UI comparison
Image Source

When you compare iOS6 and iOS7, it’s instantly obvious that the redesign is far from subtle. Every aspect of the operating system has been entirely redesigned. It’s this redesign that has received quite a backlash from many Apple customers (and design critics of course) with many commenting on how childish the new ‘neon’ colour scheme looks. This is where the problems begin; I mean, since when has Apple ever been remotely classed as ‘childish’?

A lot of people have also commented on how iOS7 appears to take a lot of inspiration from Android and to be honest, there are certain areas where you would have to agree.

iOS7 and android UI comparison
Image Source

If you take a look at the comparison of the iOS7 vs. Android Jelly Bean lock screen above, you’ll notice a lot of similarities. Now, I’m Apple’s biggest fan but even in iOS6, it was pretty clear that Apple borrowed aspects such as the notification centre from Android. While many consumers might not have noticed this subtle copying in iOS6, iOS7 has brought the UI of Android and iOS closer than ever before and now it’s pretty much impossible not to notice some similarities.

This is one of the reasons that I personally think iOS7 is a poor reflection of Apple’s core brand. For decades, Apple has been known as an innovative company, the company that simply doesn’t care what their competition is doing as they’re going to do things better anyway. It’s a somewhat arrogant view but it’s almost always worked. It was proven when they released the original iPhone as there was quite literally nothing like it on the market at all, it was a hugely innovative device.

While it’s evident (at least to me) that Google initially swiped many features of iOS for early Android releases, it seems that the tables have now turned. Apple appears to be ‘borrowing’ features from Android and this certainly isn’t what the Apple brand is known for.

It’s Far From Perfect

iPad screenshot

Anyone that has upgraded to iOS7 (including myself) is likely to have experienced a few glitches in the last few months. While Apple has been quick to issue updates and patches for the most serious bugs (e.g. security bugs), there are still a lot of bugs remaining and to be honest, they’re annoying.

In all honesty, there’s always going to be a few bugs when such a major redesign is released and while Apple certainly hasn’t got things as wrong as Microsoft usually do with Windows (just look at Windows Vista for example), I believe that there’s more bugs than there should be.

The above screenshot is actually taken from my own iPad Mini and as you can see, things aren’t how they should be. I admit this was a one-off but I’ve also experienced problems with iCloud synchronisation and many other aspects. I also personally think the Calendar app is terrible and that there are many inconsistencies in the UI design (the inverse gradients on the Mail and App Store icons for example). It’s also annoying how the old iOS6 keyboard appears in roughly half of the apps used; I honestly see no reason why this has to be the case.

Once again, it’s here that I believe iOS7 fails to reflect Apple’s core brand. Apple is known for releasing products that are as close to perfect as can be, even if doing so means that they’re late to the market. It seems that this time, Apple has given into pressure from the competition.

We also have to remember that Apple is a premium brand and their products are sold at premium prices. An iPhone 5S is almost double the price of Google’s Nexus 5 handset and aside from Touch ID, many would argue that the iPhone 5S falls short in comparison.

The bottom line is that you pay a premium for Apple products because they’re known for their attention to detail and desire for perfection. The current buggy iOS7 certainly falls short of these expectations.

Fragmentation Between iOS7 And Mac OSX

mac osx screenshot

One of the reasons that Apple doesn’t licence their software to other hardware manufacturers is to ensure perfect harmony between software and hardware. If you’re lucky enough to own both an iPad and iPhone running iOS7, you’ll notice that the design is consistent between both devices as they’re both running the same OS.

Obviously, Mac OSX is an entirely different operating system but prior to iOS7, the design of iOS6 and Mac OSX was consistent too. iOS6 featured the same visual style as Mac OSX and many of the icons were the same too (e.g. Safari and Calendar). Now, with the release of iOS7, there’s fragmentation between the two operating systems.

If you look at the image above (which is a screenshot taken from Mac OSX Mavericks: the latest version of Mac OSX), you’ll notice that the design is still reminiscent of iOS6. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the Notification Centre which clearly features an iOS6-like design.

You’ll also notice that the overall colour scheme and many of the icons are completely different in OSX than in iOS7.

For me, this is yet another frustrating reason why iOS7 fails to represent Apple’s core brand. Apple are constantly striving for harmony between software and hardware as well as the various offerings of their product line but clearly, iOS7 falls short.

ios7 mac osx screenshot

If you compare the UI of iOS7 and Mac OSX in the image above, you’d be forgiven for assuming the operating systems were created by entirely separate companies. If you compare this to Windows 8 (dektop and mobile), you’ll notice that Apple falls short in terms of creating a consistent experience across their entire product line.


Clearly, iOS7 fails to reflect Apple’s core brand in many ways. It’s far from perfect, there are many design-related errors, it’s buggy, the design is inconsistent with Mac OSX and perhaps worst of all, it almost certainly copies Android in some respects.

Despite the many problems though, I think there are a few ways in which iOS7 is the perfect representation of Apple’s core brand. For a start, it’s certainly a bold and ambitious design and you can clearly see what Apple was trying to achieve, it’s just a shame they fell a little short this time.

What’s more, despite the fact that many of the people upgrading to iOS7 don’t like the iOS7 experience, Apple has offered no way out. With Apple products, the deal has always been that Apple decides what is best; the user has very little control over the visual aspect of the UI when compared with something like Android.

It’s nice to see that Apple are still making bold design decisions and aspiring to be the best, I just hope the bugs are sorted out soon!

Posted in Web Design

Freebie: The Bitcoin Icon Set (100 Icons, SVG & JPG)

Posted on March 16, 2014 at 12:11 pm

The virtual currency Bitcoin has in the last few years truly taken the web by storm. It could just be the curency of the future. Although, and even after reading everything I can about it, I still have no clear idea of what it is, nor how it really works. Anyway, and putting our lack of Bitcoin knowledge aside, we have a cracking freebie for all you guys that do understand it.

Designed by the guys over at Freepik, we have a huge Bitcoin icon set for you. The pack contains 100 icons in many varied styles, comes in SVG and JPG formats, and can be freely used in both your personal or commercial projects.

Here they are:

The Bitcoin Icon Set Preview

Bitcoin Icon Set set Preview

Download & License

You are free to use the Bitcoin Icon Set in both your commercial and personal projects.

Posted in Web Design

The Loneliness of Web Entrepreneurship

Posted on March 14, 2014 at 12:11 pm

In my early days — prior to selling my web agency and starting uGurus, a hub helping web professionals build successful businesses — I would read books that advocated “networking” as a means to build your business. Okay, great, so I attended a bunch of networking events.

More often than not, these events were pretty worthless.

One time I went to a Village Inn coffee shop, and as introductions went around the room, it occurred to me that a) I wasn’t in the market to buy a house b) I didn’t need a financial advisor because I was broke and c) I wasn’t going to take any vitamins that required me to sell them to my friends and family once I started taking them.

At one point in my “network everywhere” tenure, I joined a group called Social Selection that met at a bar once a week. The purpose of the group was to form business connections through a tight-knit group of social thinkers. I think it was on Tuesday nights. You see, I don’t really remember, because the real purpose of the group was to get totally drunk under the disguise of “networking.”

While I did form some lifelong contacts in this group, I realized that I needed something more meaningful to really impact my business.

Meaningful networking can be tough though. Especially in the web business. For most of our waking hours, our work ties us to the desk under the glow of the monitor. Getting out and shaking hands can sometimes be a huge leap.

Especially if you are an introvert. I’m not. But before I get into my tactics on how to conquer loneliness and build a stellar network, it’s important to know if you are an extrovert (party time!) or an introvert (hackathon!).

Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert?

I’m oversimplifying this to the max, but introverts build energy when they are by themselves and deplete energy when interacting with others. Extroverts are the opposite. They deplete energy while alone and build it while around others.

I don’t think personality definitions are totally black and white. There is a lot of grey. The important thing is to figure out which way you lean.

Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert?

If you find yourself totally beat after 45 minutes of networking, then you are likely an introvert. It’s going to be difficult to build a successful business if you just stay latched to your computer. Don’t avoid it, just make sure that you have plenty of alone time directly before and following an event. I would also be careful to not schedule multiple events per week. Probably just one event will do the trick. If you attend a multi-day conference, make sure you find time to fill up your tank by zoning out without people around you.

If you find yourself swinging from the chandelier after hour six at an event, then chances are you have extrovert blood. While this is going to make networking a natural talent of yours, it doesn’t mean that meaningful networking will be easy.

I fell into the early trap, as an extrovert, of just going to everything all of the time. I didn’t think much of my intentions. It was just like, “yeah, I’m going to that, and that, and that.” I failed to be strategic about the types of networking I was doing.

On the flip side, my business partner Steve Thiel, is an introvert. He approaches networking with a plan. He knows exactly who he wants to talk to at an event and the topics he’s interested in spending time talking about. He has the sense to accomplish what he wants to and get the hell out of there.

Both approaches can work great and we can each learn from the other. When I remember to “think like Steve,” I get the added benefit of being more strategic, but still leaving plenty of room for chance introductions.

Get Started With Your Industry

One of the best things I ever did was to start attending industry events. Whether it was local meetups about web design or big conferences like Adobe MAX, I forked up the money and allocated the time to get involved with people shaping the web landscape.

Getting involved in the industry of my craft helped me build a network of other experts around the world that I could rely on for contracting, referrals, and brainstorms.

Brent Weaver interviews attendee at Adobe MAX 2013
(Brent Weaver interviews attendee at Adobe MAX 2013)

Networking with other like-minded people is a lot easier than breaking into an industry where you have less in common. I like the idea of starting here because it feels natural. Getting to nerd out with fellow webophiles can help break the sense of work-from-home loneliness that we often feel.

You should look at what technologies you use and seek out local meetups around that. For instance, if you are building on WordPress, check Automatic’s website for listings of WordPress Meetups and WordCamps. Same goes for Drupal. Meetup.com has tons of other related meetups around design, development, and entrepreneurship.

My next move would be to attend events that you think possible channel partners might attend. I identified other marketing and ad agencies as great potential sources of continuous leads. There is a national organization called Ad Club that has local chapters all over the United States. This group was a treasure trove of great contacts that all needed web and digital subcontractors.

While it’s great to meet with other people that speak your own language, make sure you don’t overdo it within your industry. It’s easy to get lost in thinking you are making big progress with your craft, but failing to meet actual customers. Most of our customers aren’t going to be hanging out at events, unless of course you are just working with other web pros and agencies.

I highly recommend attending at least one national level event per year. You can expect to pay a decent clip for your conference pass as well as flight and accommodation, but it’s worth it. These events are going to be the cornerstone of you forming a national and international support network.

They will also give you a glimpse of the big trends. This is important when you are setting your annual strategy as a company. To know what big ideas are happening in web in terms of technology, design concepts, and business models.

I’ve never regretted spending money to attend a conference.

Focus on a Target Market

Keep in check how many of your own industry events you attend…unless of course web is your target market. Otherwise, make sure you allow time and money for attending events that your target market attends.

Brent Weaver and Steve Thiel attend industry conference on Connection & Collaboration
(Brent Weaver and Steve Thiel attend industry conference on Connection & Collaboration)

It’s possible to have many target markets, but if your marketing efforts are going to be effective, you need to pick a target for a fixed period of time.

Almost every target market has local, national, and international level events. Let’s take the example of restaurants. In Denver there is EatDenver, in Colorado the CRA, then there is a national conference and association. I’m sure you can find a TON of additional events surrounding restaurants if you open your target to food brands, supplies, and hospitality.

These are going to be structured very much like our own industry in that, on the local level, they are going to be driven by informal meetups, association-based events, and fundraisers. On the national and international level, they will be organized by the big associations and typically be conferences.

These events are going to be all about talking to potential customers. These folks probably don’t know much about what you do, so the objective in networking within these spaces is getting to know your customer.

You might find some customers, but I’ve found that conferences typically yield a high dose of customer research. More so than actual business.

Attending target market events always kept my technical brain in check. It also would give me a great sense for what the pains and challenges were in the market I was targeting. To go from a conference like Adobe MAX where I might be talking about the challenge of gracefully setting responsive design breakpoints to an educational conference where an attendee asks me, “why do I need a website?” can keep things in perspective.

The rest of the world isn’t thinking about the web as often as we might think they are. They are doing whatever it is they do and we are the ever-obsessed.

I would always err on the side of attending more customer-oriented events than any other type of event. Your business will thank you.

Do Some Good

Early on in my career, I started volunteering my time and expertise to help out causes that I was passionate about. A side effect of this activity was that I met a lot of really amazing people. These people, more often than not, had leadership positions within companies or organizations that they worked at or owned.

For years, this is some of the only networking I did. I didn’t attend industry events or events organized by my target niche. And I got tons of clients from doing it.

I didn’t just volunteer to move stuff. I had my company build websites for organizations, fundraising events, and auctions. I created branding packages, flyers, and business cards.

I went all in.

Brent Weaver presents donor plaque to library in rural Ethiopia
(Brent Weaver presents donor plaque to library in rural Ethiopia)

I went to Ethiopia on four different occasions. I helped raise hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Served on two different board of directors and eventually was President of a non-profit that built libraries in Ethiopia.

The point wasn’t to network. It was to help save the world and leave this place in better shape than I found it. But, I built an amazing network.

Good people do good.

If you have any feelings of loneliness or lack of network, then start volunteering. Ride the wave for as far as it takes you. Even if that’s a tiny village in rural Ethiopia.

Create a Mastermind Group

My last and final suggestion to help you overcome the loneliness of web entrepreneurship is to form a mastermind group.

Mastermind groups can come in a variety of different formats, but what is a mastermind?

“Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills. A mastermind group helps you and your mastermind group members achieve success.” – The Success Alliance

I have participated in a few over the last several years, but the most effective has been a monthly group that I meet with under strict confidentiality. My group is made of only four people. I have seen successful groups of up to about twelve, but smaller is usually better.

I have also heard of one-off events that attract thirty to forty people for an all day session filled with bar camp presentations. This is a great format for sharing a lot of ideas in a short period of time, but this size of group would need to be broken into smaller sub-groups for higher touch, confidential sharing to happen (which I highly recommend).

At my regular group, we block three hours over an extended lunch for our meeting.

We never miss a meeting. No matter what. We even have a structure of fines for being late, answering your cell phone, or needing to reschedule a meeting. If you are late: $50. If you answer your phone: $50. Rescheduling a meeting: $100. So whatever it is that might make you inconvenience others in the group better be worth the fine.

Every month we get together and review a four quadrant square of our life: business best, business worst, personal best, and personal worst.

My group digs deep to find that top 3% and bottom 3% in our lives that we don’t want to tell anyone. We review our biggest hopes and fears and share stories and experiences as a method to learn from each other.

This absolute top and bottom needs to be covered by a group of peers that meets under a strict confidentiality agreement. You either need to join a group like EO to hop into an existing structure, or create one yourself. I was in EO’s incubator three years ago, and even though I am no longer in Accelerator, I continue to meet with my group every month.

Our group steers clear of advice and focuses on experience share through Gestalt-based leadership. Typically, each month one of us presents on a topic that is important to our life. These presentations usually get a few hours of prep time from the presenter and a coach prior to our monthly meeting.

Over several years of having a monthly mastermind group that is confidential and safe, I have found that I have a place to voice concerns that I would have otherwise kept bottled up. Things about my relationship, family, and business can get perspective from my group prior to bringing them into the light of the rest of my life.

Confidentiality is the strongest of contracts in this group, so I can’t really discuss specifics of what we’ve uncovered. But I know that my personal and business life would not be able to achieve what I can today without them.

I think having a regular, confidential mastermind group is a requirement for any entrepreneur.

Event-based networking and doing good will only take you so far. Masterminds get into the deep and meaningful topics. You might opt to participate in a business or idea-specific mastermind instead of a business and personal focused-group like mine. That is totally fine.

The basis of a mastermind group is that you share. Ideas do best when you shine the light of others onto them, and they usually get even better when the
two different ideas have sex (think “video + internet” or “encyclopedia + internet”). Masterminds are a great place for this.

Overcoming Loneliness is a Marathon

When I first moved to Denver, I didn’t know anyone. Seven years later, it’s hard not to run into people at the art museum, book store, or grocery store. One time I was out in LA at Hotel Standard on the roof playing ping pong, and I ran into one of my Denver contacts. Now this doesn’t really mean anything except that I feel anything but alone.

My network is the first place I go when I need something. If I’m making an important hire, thinking about a new idea, or wanting to meet new customers, my first question to myself is, “who do I know?”

From there I find the best people, answers, and customers.

If you are feeling alone in your pursuit of success…or if your only human interaction happens in less than 140 characters, then it might be time to think about your network. But take my advice, don’t go to a “networking meetup” at Village Inn.

Be intentional about how you get out of the basement. Make it meaningful by attending industry events, meeting customers in your target market, volunteering for a great cause, or creating a mastermind.

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