Continuing with the safety theme of the past couple weeks, I’d like to highlight an upcoming issue that is taking the web by storm.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, the safest way to browse the web is on websites that use the HTTPS prefix. Netscape Communications came up with HTTPS for its 1994 Netscape Navigator web browser. In 2000, HTTPS gained recognition and received full documentation by The Internet Society. HTTPS was mainly created to prevent wiretapping and hackers from stealing information while it was free floating in the internet, presumably in the middle of a transaction.
According to trustworthyinternet.org, about 25% of all websites are currently configured to use secure servers and the HTTPS prefix. HTTPS provides encryption and authentication of a web site, meaning you know you are on the website you mean to be on, not an imposter site, and all information you enter on that website will be safe from hackers. Many websites that use HTTPS are ones such as stores and retailers that require secure transactions with credit cards. As a side note, never enter your credit card information on a website that doesn’t use HTTPS – there’s the potential someone could intercept your information on its way to the website’s servers. But now, many websites are employing HTTPS as a means of securing identity profiles (such as Facebook) and various accounts, as well as keeping web browsing private.
As the world becomes more conscious about security measures, especially those online, HTTPS will become more and more common. Large companies and brands, such as Facebook, have already started to make the switch on their websites. Additionally, many other forms of encryption are taking place on smartphones and tablets, and the web is next.
In fact, Google recently changed their search algorithm to prefer HTTPS webpages over HTTP pages, which affects all websites that might appear in a result. HTTPS is the new standard of web design, and many websites will be redesigned to reflect the demand for secure online browsing. In fact, HTTPS only works if an entire website uses the HTTPS prefix; whole sites will need to be overhauled, or else are left vulnerable to attacks through backdoor, unsecure web pages attached to their site. With more preference being given to secure websites, and a change in unofficial web standards, now is a good time to reflect on whether your website is HTTP Secure (HTTPS). If not, it might be in your company’s and your customers’ best interest to change the means of how your website communicates its information.
Last week’s blog post covered the use of photos in projects, such as websites or blogs. Now I’d like to introduce you to another type of visual media that can help make your project more engaging: infographics. Infographics, like photos, help draw in readers by presenting information in a visually appealing manner. Infographics are almost like pieces of art; a truly creative piece will attract positive attention. So if you have a lot of data or research to present to your readers, an infographic might be the way to go. After all, reading through chunks of numbers and statistics can be quite dreary. Infographics will help keep your readers engaged and make your information more accessible.
Whether you or a graphic designer will be producing your final infographic, there are some steps you can take and questions to ask in order to maximize your infographic’s success.
- Brainstorm Purpose: Why are you creating this infographic? Who is your target audience? How much data do you have, and how much do you want to include? Are you persuading or informing? Are there any central design elements or a theme you would like to include?
- Data Visualization: What sort of data visualization techniques will you use? Diagrams are good for showing chronological changes or relationships. Maps are good for showing locations or comparing geography of data. Charts are good for showing changes over time and organizational processes. Tables are good for showing direct relationships over a large data set.
- Design: In choosing design elements, decide how much text vs. data visualization you want on your infographic. Choose a set of fonts and a color scheme to keep your infographic consistent. Play around with organization of information. Look at other infographics to get a sense of what you might want in your own infographic. A good place to start is Dailygraphic.com. It’s a great website with new infographics on a range of topics published every day. Remember, infographics may have to go through several iterations before they look perfect! Don’t be afraid to scrap designs in order to achieve your final vision.
Finally, remember that your infographic has a purpose. It should have beginning, middle and end in order to illustrate a point. Your data should also be reliable; double check your sources before creating your infographic in order to boost its credibility! If used properly, a well-designed infographic can be a serious boost to your website. So don’t be afraid to get creative with your data. Engage and educate readers with a visually appealing infographic (and a few pictures too!).
Pictures are great. They can help show a story, illustrate a concept, or send a message. In websites, blogs and books, photos can be used to break up long passages of text or capture a prospective reader’s attention. But chances are you don’t have quality pictures of coffee beans, the Eiffel Tower or a wide eyed squirrel waiting to be used. Sometimes the image you need for a particular project won’t be in your image library. And that’s where stock photos come in.
Stock photos are a wonderful resource to anyone who uses pictures for projects, either digital or print. Look at the header image for this post; a simple stock photo and large text help draw the reader’s attention to content of this blog post. Large, quality images are a surefire way to visually draw someone to important information on a page. And, if you recall our post about using Pinterest for social media, pictures are a great and easy way to let people “pin” your blog post or website. Pictures with text are even more popular on Pinterest, because they let users quickly see what sort of content they are pinning, and invite them to click on the image and explore your web page in detail.
So stock photos are useful. They can be a powerful tool in advertising a website or getting a message across. But what about actually finding these magical instruments? How do you sort through the millions of photos on the web to find high quality, interesting pictures? Here’s a hint: don’t start with a generic web search. Instead, try using a stock photo website. Most stock photo websites have a search bar, and have photos grouped into topics. If there isn’t a search option, I encourage you to explore the website anyway! You might find creative pictures that fit the project you need them for, even if they weren’t what you had in mind. Or you might find pictures you could use for a later project. Sorting through stock photos can take a bit of time, depending on how picky you want to be. But to sort through stock photos on a whim, it might be useful to know a website or two to start.
There are two routes to acquiring stock photos.
- You pay for them. The photographers will let you use their photos as long as you pay them their royalties. Popular stock photo websites, such as iStockphoto and Shutterstock, let you pay depending on the size of a particular photo. Others might have a monthly/yearly fee that lets you download unlimited photos.
- You use royalty free photos. These are free pictures you can use. However, you’ll need to read the licensing info for each picture. Some photographers want credit in the form of a caption or link to their work when you use their photo. Others will only allow non-commercial use of their photos. And others will let you use their photos for any type of use. Make sure to read the fine print before downloading any stock pictures you plan to use online.
Here are a few website suggestions to get you started if you want to take the plunge into stock photography:
- Pixabay.com – not the largest archive, but it has a great search feature. Has both traditional photos and vector (cartoon-like) images.
- Freedigitalphotos.net – a fairly large archive with traditional stock photos.
- Freeimages.com – similar to freedigitalphotos. Substantial image archive and quality traditional photos.
- Unsplash.com – a great, high quality archive of diverse photos. Less pictures of people and more creative photos. There’s no search feature, but you can search thumbnails of all the photos by clicking on the archive button.
- Freerangestock.com – a smaller archive, but lets you search for photos. A few amateur photos mixed in, but still good to search through. Must register (for free) to download pictures.
Scouring the internet for the perfect picture can be quite fun, and have a serious impact on your website/blog/poster/pamphlet/etc. So go ahead, give it a shot! Spice up your latest project with some fun photos. After all, sometimes you really do need a photo of a cow in rollerblades.