Whether you're a small business, a start-up, or a nonprofit, chances are you've considered a few things when it comes to your online persona. Part of that persona includes having an online presence that really speaks to the value of your company and what you represent. Effective websites are crucial to obtaining new donors and volunteers, and they help keep existing community members coming back. 

We recently spoke with two organizations regarding their own website design best practices. Charity Miles is a nonprofit whose mission is to get people moving (whether it's walking, running, or biking) for the cause of their choice. Bright Funds' website offers users the chance to discover, donate to, and volunteer for countless nonprofit organizations, all in once place. These two nonprofits function in different capacities, but their respective websites achieve similar success. Here are some of their collective tips on designing a great user experience for your nonprofit.

1. Think big with a small team.

Using the size of your company to your benefit is one of the greatest perks of working with a smaller company. According to Bright Funds' lead designer, Chris Chappelle, "We're able to act very nimbly and make quick decisions as a team because we don't need to go through layers of people for every decision that needs to be made. This lets us make changes much quicker than may be possible in a larger team." Bottom line: Smaller teams can often achieve bigger and faster results.

2. Establish brand pillars and never lose sight of them.

In order to do anything with your nonprofit, you'll need to establish brand pillars. Concrete brand pillars are the keys to your success and help relay a clear and concise message. For Bright Funds, the goal is to provide a bridge between the donor and the nonprofit. "While it is important for Bright Funds to have a strong design ethos, we also want to convey the soul of a nonprofit without getting too much in the way."

It's a similar story for Charity Miles, as founder Gene Gurkoff says, "We want to create a movement in which millions of people will walk with a cause in their heart everyday. That influences all of the things that we do in our app from a design perspective. We try to keep the website really minimal so that it'll drive people to the app." 

3. Allow your logo to do some of the work for you.

Your logo should achieve a few different things for your business. First, it should be something that people can have a positive association with in relation to your brand. Second, and just as important, it should provide your visitors with a jumping off point for your website and be consistent with the style that you establish afterwards. Gurkoff says, "What I like about our logo is that it can be any color. It can look good on any color and it can work well in almost any situation. We have so many different stakeholders. It's got to be adaptable and invisible." A good logo will help you in more ways than one, and can often provide the inspiration you need to build the rest of your visuals.

4. Don't feel pressured to redesign often.

Just because your competitor seems to be redesigning its site often, doesn't mean you should. "Nonprofits should think of their sites as living and continually adapting to meet the needs of donors, " Chappelle says. "We start by creating a site that we think will speak to our audience and their goals, but we continue to tweak language and content to get better and better. If our site isn't accomplishing some of our initial goals, in most cases, it's easier to make and test smaller updates rather than undergoing a full redesign." Have faith in the process that you went through to establish your site in the first place, and avoid frequent overhauls. 

5. Remember your audience. 

For nonprofits, your audience - donors and participants - helps drive the cause and the story that goes with it. In Chappelle's words, "For nonprofits, it's important to put yourself in the world of the donor. Who are they and what do they care about? What type of content and messaging will resonate with them and what do you want them to do? Of course, most nonprofits would love donations or volunteers, but in order to truly harness a strong support base, you need to design a homepage and experience that will tell stories that strike an emotional chord. By doing so, you'll create a larger and more engaged donor base." In other words, your audience is what makes the wheels turn for your business. Engagement and value keeps those wheels turning.

6. Create a communal space.

For Charity Miles, though the participants are often separated, they're a part of a larger community. Their app and (as a result) their website - aim to reflect that. Gurkoff says that by creating both an app and a website to drive people to the app, they were able to "create an openness so that more people would be encouraged to take part." The website also features a blog, which runs stories from some of the apps users, making space for a community to come together and share happy moments.

7. Consider every color choice. 

Similar to logos, color use in web design goes hand in hand with the visual appearance and impression one has when visiting your website, and being a part of your community. For Bright Funds, this ultimately came down to a couple of main ideas. "We wanted to turn the negative connotations that arise when people think about donating and turn them on their head into the powerful belief that people should be able to (and can) support good in the world through causes that resonate deeply within themselves."

"With this backbone, the visual style and voice of Bright Funds is representative of this – we use colors, illustration, and photography to create an experience that is uplifting and focused on giving as a tool to contribute to something larger than any one person. It's worth mentioning that while design at Bright Funds does affect the visual choices made, it also roots much deeper into the overall experience of giving," says Chappelle.

8. Take creative liberties, but not too many.

At the end of the day, your mission is to help better the world in some capacity. Both of these nonprofits put a significant amount of thought into the way they present themselves online. Too much creative liberty can be really stressful, as Gurkoff mentions when talking about Charity Miles.

"We certainly have a lot of creative freedom because we can basically do whatever we want. If you have total freedom, it's actually really hard." It's all about harnessing the right ideas, and sticking to the core values of your organization.

And, if you're looking for cool, royalty-free images for your nonprofit website, be sure to try a 7-day Free Trial of a Bigstock image subscription. You'll be able to download up to 35 free images over the course of the trial. Sign up today!

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AuthorAshley Hefnawy

"Do your best, not someone else's." These words were uttered by a Yogi I encountered several years ago. He had noticed his students were looking at one another to ensure they were doing certain yoga moves correctly. Well, the Yogi wasn't having it, and he encouraged his class to focus only on their own movements. He asserted this quotable bit of wisdom authoritatively - yet calmly - as Yoga instructors do. The class commenced with each student honing in on his/her own goals, attempting to achieve their own level of Zen.

Luckily, here at Bigstock, we have millions of royalty-free yoga graphics and icons for all kinds of design endeavors. This variety helps keep your own marketing assets truly unique and on brand (or on your client's brand). So, take a deep breath, focus, do your best, and download away.

Yoga exercised icons | Macrovector

Yoga exercised icons | Macrovector

 
Yoga grass text | bestdesign36

Yoga grass text | bestdesign36

 
Seamless yoga pattern | GLSonts

Seamless yoga pattern | GLSonts

 
Yoga mat and ball icon | eatcute

Yoga mat and ball icon | eatcute

 
Yoga lifestyle graphic | Nadezda Grapes

Yoga lifestyle graphic | Nadezda Grapes

For even more stretch-tastic yoga icons and graphics, be sure to check out our exclusive lightbox below, Type-yoga-phraphy. Every image in our collection is 100% royalty-free and ready to use.

And, if you're new to Bigstock, why not sign up for our 7-day Free Trial? You'll be able to download up to five stock images each day, for seven full days. Have fun.

Header image - Businessman Yoga - by Bigstock contributor iNueng.

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AuthorBrian Masefield
CategoriesGalleries

When you decide to create a blog of your own, there is one thing you should always keep in mind. Pictures are as important as your article body. A perfect article that took a week to be written can become “low quality” if your images are too small, blurred, or poorly visible. When you write about general topics, you can get great images on Shutterstock and Bigstock. Just type your query and find tons of high quality pictures from all over the world.

What if you blog about software or PC help, though? Such topics are best served with screenshots to help illustrate how-to's, tutorials, and reviews. That’s where you’ll have to do your best to turn your first-time readers into devoted fans and subscribers. In other cases, you may only need a section of an image to emphasize your point, and wish to lose the non-critical bits. You can easily cope with this task by following these five tips to make perfect screenshots on your PC.

Take care of your background

It’s better to use special software or utility for taking screenshots. Screenshot software usually gives plenty of options including background cut. However, if you don’t want to install programs to your PC, here is what you should remember: Before taking a screenshot, make sure your wallpaper is not too rich in color. It shouldn’t distract people from the main part of the pic. There are 2 methods to prevent this. One, you can set a plain image for your background. This option is great for those who keep few files on the desktop.

In case you have plenty of software labels, you’d better use the second method. Create an empty notepad file or a folder. Maximize it to fill the whole screen and place portion you want to take a screenshot of right in the center. Press “PrintScreen” button on your keyboard (Windows-based PCs/laptops) to shoot the pic. Paste the pic into MS Paint and save in .JPG or .PNG format.

 

Cut unnecessary parts

After you save a pic, you should delete all the unnecessary parts from it. Cut everything that has nothing to do with the software interface – Windows bar, empty spaces, parts of other programs, etc.

When you take a screenshot of a site, get rid of columns with ads, toolbars, plugin icons, and so on. You can use Microsoft Picture Manager to perform a simple background cut.

 

Shrink big screenshots

Have you ever tried to load a big picture with a poor Internet connection? It’s a real pain and could even lead to a huge traffic loss. If you don’t want people to close your web page because the images take ages to load, you should resize them before uploading to your blog. You may use Microsoft Picture Manager or almost any online photo editor. Make your screenshot a little bit smaller but viewable. Don’t upload pics that are wider than your blog. They’ll be squeezed and thus become un-viewable.

In a situation when resizing is not possible, use the Caption option (for Wordpress) with “Click to enlarge” text.

 

Mark the important details

While writing your how-to guide, you’re likely to explain what button or tab to use to perform a certain action. In this case, you should mark this button with a circle or at least a bright arrow. You can use Snagit software for this purpose.

It provides a number of shapes and shape styles for almost any blog design. Alternatively, you can use Paint. It’s totally free and comes with any Windows-based PC. But remember that the circle shape in Paint will look pixelated.

 

Add text where necessary

In some cases, it won’t be bad to add a couple of words to your pic. It can be a secret tip, suggestions caption, warning, or any other small note. Choose a readable font and color that will fit the whole image. Show the image to your friends. Ask them whether the text looks comprehensible and easy to read. And remember that your note should not occupy half of the screenshot.

Ultimately, there’s nothing difficult in creating beautiful screenshots. Hope these steps will help you - and good luck with your blog!

Author’s bio: Terry Smith is a former IT teacher from Geneva. Now he is a freelance blogger and software developer. He enjoys writing about new technology, apps, sites and software for home use. Join him on Twitter.

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AuthorTerry Smith
CategoriesTutorials

Organic and all natural are words thrown around often with association to healthy foods and marketplaces, but little did you know, that it's actually the font that tells us whether or not they're actually legit. Just kidding, but fonts do play a role.

Our ability and desire to read something is often affected by the way in which it's written. Is your font clear, cohesive, and visually appealing? When it comes to fonts, type, and styles for organic products, there's a certain appearance to them. Much like the products they're promoting fonts for organic markets are often clean, fresh, and beautifully earthy. 

A quick browse through our collection of royalty-free images brought forth ... fruitful results that just might help you in your next marketing adventure, particularly if it's at all organic and nature oriented. Below are some of our most-favorite produce-promoting picks. Enjoy.

Flower letters | Sonulkaster

Flower letters | Sonulkaster

 
Green leaves font | popaukropa

Green leaves font | popaukropa

 
Watercolor blueberry | tukkki

Watercolor blueberry | tukkki

 
Pink brush alphabet in green leaves | kotoko

Pink brush alphabet in green leaves | kotoko

 
Ornate swash alphabet | Vectorhead

Ornate swash alphabet | Vectorhead

 
Illustrated fonts in jungle-style swirl | vectomart

Illustrated fonts in jungle-style swirl | vectomart

 
Alphabet | RifKhas

Alphabet | RifKhas

 
Alphabet set | NadiiaZ

Alphabet set | NadiiaZ

Get more natural fonts by browsing through our curated lightbox below.

And, if you're new to Bigstock, why not sign up for our 7-day Free Trial? You'll be able to download up to five images a day - up to 35 stock images or vectors during the length of your trial. Have fun!

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Posted
AuthorAshley Hefnawy
CategoriesGalleries

Without a hired photographer, it can be challenging to get authentic images for your print brochures. Smiling faces and edgy angles can work for a lot of things, but will they really connect to your brand and customers?

Finding great stock images is half the battle, but how do you make them distinct to your company? How do you take five “well, they're sort of related" shots and turn them into a moving brochure that represents you well?

Here are a few tips for choosing and using stock images in brochures.

Buildings photo | Scanrail

Buildings photo | Scanrail

Divide and Conquer

Cutting your favorite shot down to a smaller piece of the original can give you a brand new image tied to your brochure's message.

A photo that shows most of a building, for example, could be cropped so that the building's edges bleed out of frame, creating a close-up effect.

If you do this, be sure to mind the grid so you keep a strong composition.

 

The Rule of Thirds is the perfect guideline here. Imagine dividing the photo vertically and horizontally into three sections each way (like when you're uploading a photo on Instagram). Position the major points of interest in the image at the intersections of these lines. This will help you keep a strong composition and avoid turning your great stock shot into a tourist photo.

 
Night traffic image | msv

Night traffic image | msv

Match ‘em Up

If you'll be using more than one shot in your brochure, pick images with a matching style. A shot of people against a white background will look awful next to a shot of a blurred yellow Manhattan cab. Pick your theme and be strict about it.

While you're at it, stick to shots with dominant colors that work well with your brand's color palette.

If your brand is orange and white, find images heavy on one or both. This will give you a design that feels cohesive and purposeful all the way through.

 
Split boardwalk image | nito

Split boardwalk image | nito

Have a Filter

Speaking of cohesive, you can fake a sense of pro-photographer style with this little trick:

Open that photo-editing app and run every shot you use through the same set of filters.

Lower the contrast, bump up the saturation, adjust the blur — whatever you want, just give them all the same treatment. They'll look consistent and give you a slick gestalt factor.

 
Young people image | zurijeta

Young people image | zurijeta

Keep it Real

Finally, avoid shots meant to represent ideas, like Cooperation, Success, and Pride.

Shots of office workers waving as a group and people looking frustrated at their desks rubbing their temples can come off as contrived in some projects.

If the image is an obvious metaphor, skip it. It's been done. Use stock images that feel authentic and relevant, ones that couldn't be used in a million other contexts.

 

Now get to it. You've got a killer brochure to make.

And, if you need stock photos for that brochure, sign up for a 7-day Free Trial of Bigstock. You'll be able to download up to five royalty-free photos a day - up to 35 free images during your trial.

About the Author: Robert Hoekman Jr is a writer, product designer and leadership consultant. He's written acclaimed books and articles on UX. He is also a columnist and editor for Iron & Air magazine.

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AuthorRobert Hoekman Jr

Let's face it, we've all sat through an uncomfortable presentation (or two) and it's not because the presenter lacked charisma or good talking points. We're talking about the flashy deck with too many animations, WordArt icons, and paragraphs of text in 9-point font. No one wants to be that guy. So follow these tips for your next Keynote presentation and you'll be sure to leave your audience talking - for the right reasons.

1. Say "no" to bullet points.

The first thing most people do when creating a Keynote presentation is start a short list of bullet points ... each point followed by too many words ... on each slide. Bullet points can add a surprising amount of visual clutter to a slide and cause the viewer's eyes to bounce around the screen. Save bullets for your presenter notes to organize your thoughts and remind you of all your talking points.

2. One fact per slide, please.

With bullet points eliminated, we also want to avoid large blocks of text that are visually treacherous for viewers and hard to read for anyone not in the first two rows. Instead, highlight one bold fact or metric on a slide that will capture your audience's attention, and then verbally convey the importance or meaning of this item. Because all details aren't on the slide, this technique also forces the audience to give you their attention.

Conference presenter photo | l i g h t p o e t

Conference presenter photo | l i g h t p o e t

3. Write Tweet-worthy headlines.

It's common practice for event attendees to live-tweet the presentation they're watching. Writing Twitter-friendly headlines and facts (meaning 140-characters or less) will give your audience snappy statements to send into the social sphere. Forbes highlights an example from an Apple WWDC keynote, where Tim Cook repeatedly used the line "iOS 7 is the biggest change to iOS since the iPhone."

As a result, this buzz-generating, easy-to-tweet snippet showed up on the Twitter feeds of many top news outlets. Use this technique strategically to make sure your most important messages can be easily shared.

4. Use high-quality images.

Even short, tweetable, interesting facts can fall flat if they are on a sad, dismal, black-and-white slide. Or even worse: accompanied by a poor-quality, pixelated image that you copied and pasted from another website. Captivating images should reinforce the emotion of a slide, even if the information seems dry.

Highlighting year-over-year performance increases? Try a background image of a mountain climber ascending a peak or a high-energy celebration.

Need to pitch a new product to investors? In addition to actual product shots, consider other images that convey what your product enables users to accomplish, or the emotions it will inspire. Kid-targeted products can be accompanied by fun backgrounds of candy, while business tools can benefit from images of clean, productive workspaces.

Happy summer photo | dolgachov

Happy summer photo | dolgachov

5.  Make some Keynote magic.

Now that you have slides with minimal text and beautiful imagery, it is an opportune time to work in some of the features that make Keynote presentations stand out from the crowd. Keynote's Magic Move allows you to create the effect of objects moving from one slide to the next. This effect is great for having text, charts, or images slide into or out of a slide as you go through the presentation.

Magic Move is also fantastic for displaying scrolling views of webpages or other images that wouldn't fit on one screen. But proceed with caution. Like cologne and hashtags, this technique is best used in moderation. Too much motion in a presentation will distract from your ultimate message, and create a seasick audience!

6. Save custom themes.

When you have a Keynote presentation that looks and acts the way you want it to, save it as a theme that you or your teammates can easily reuse in the future. Working from a custom theme ensures that your company has consistent presentation styles, and everyone is using the right version of logos and company images. This simple tip can instantly elevate your entire team's presentation game moving forward.

Web concept illustration | bloomua

Web concept illustration | bloomua

7. Embrace being left to your own devices.

For Apple-enthusiasts, one of the best things about Keynote is that presentations can be seamlessly transferred across devices. This makes building and editing presentations on the go a breeze, with iPad and iPhone apps offering robust functionality.

When it's time to present, use an iPad to project your visuals and show your presenter notes, while using your iPhone to advance through the presentation. Using familiar devices reduces many of the day-of jitters that come with using whatever laptop and remote happen to be available.

Follow these seven steps to create better Keynote slides, and impress your audience with masterful presentations. And, if you need royalty-free photos or vectors for your presentations, be sure to sign up for a Bigstock 7-day Free Trial, and download up to 35 free images. Have fun.

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AuthorAshley Kemper

Consider this: when you email a business contact, client, or colleague, you are essentially presenting yourself and your business in the form of text. You might think that in the era of instant communication, 140-character limits, and TLAs (three-letter acronyms) your email style doesn't matter very much, but ask anyone who's ever hit the accidental Reply All or found they misspelled a contact's name only after hitting Send, and you might get a different answer.

To be clear, we're not talking about email marketing here; that's a whole different tool. Same goes for social media, where even the rules for image specs can get pretty site specific.

This is about the everyday written back and forth you have with professional contacts of all kinds – clients or potential clients, networking contacts, organizations. From the old-school memo, to the quick one-word “yes” that gets a project started, a lot can happen in email. Here are some tips for improving your email communication and polishing your professional first impression.

1. Proofread

Always, always look over your email before you send it. Look it over as carefully as if it were being carved in marble. You do not want your recipient to suspect you actually don't know the difference between their, they're and there, or how to capitalize and punctuate sentences. Or that you're just too lazy to notice detai9ls. (See what I did there?) Read over what you have written, out loud if possible, and make sure you have presented yourself as you would like to be perceived.

Email target image | mkabakov

Email target image | mkabakov

2. Strike an appropriate tone

The tone of your email depends a lot on context. Have you ever met the recipient in person? Is this a “cold call” or a welcome referral? Each situation may be slightly different, but it's generally safer to err on the side of respect, using a person's full name and a professional tone, especially for a first contact. As collaborations unfold, your relationship - and your tone - will naturally shift toward the more informal. But don't assume it's okay to start with Yo, dude as an opening line, and remember there's no sarcasm font in email, so if you're not sure how you sound, save it for a face-to-face meeting.

3. Cut to the chase

Start off by being as clear as you can in your subject line. Reference the specific project or person who has referred you, or your area of shared interest. Think of search words this person might someday use to retrieve your email.

Remember that professional doesn't have to mean lots of big words. Keep your ideas crisp and your sentences clear. If there's an easier way to say something, choose it. If you're not sure, look it up. Get a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, and follow their advice, especially the command to “omit needless words.”

Email cloud image | olechowski

Email cloud image | olechowski

4. Don't waste time ... or bandwidth

Save custom graphics and other bells and whistles for your newsletters, website and Facebook page. Imagine the person you are contacting is waiting for a helicopter on a mountaintop with 10% left on his smartphone. A quick update on a project comes through even on a poorly-connected device in a remote location, but waiting for your rainbow logo to load makes it unwelcome.

Also, don't attach too much "stuff" to your emails. A simple document is no big deal, but if you have a lot of bandwidth-hogging photos to deliver, consider using a file-sharing service like Dropbox to stash all of your big files, and invite others to take a look when they are ready (and on WiFi).

5. Sign off accordingly

It's always a good idea to sign off with your contact information, especially if you have a website where people can learn more. But you don't need to list every handle on every platform. Stick with the basics, and by all means do not include any graphics, logos, cat memes or favorite quotes.

Approach your business email with deliberate attention to detail, and present your clearest and best language. You may find communicating more clearly helps boost your overall confidence. At the very least, you won't be judged by the content of your typos.

And, if you need royalty-free images for your email marketing campaigns, be sure to sign up for a 7-day Free Trial of a Bigstock subscription. You'll be able to download up to 5 images a day, for 7 days, for free. Have fun!

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Posted
AuthorAnne K. Williams

This week's free image is a grand aerial stunner. A colorful shot of a rice field that could easily be dubbed 50 Shades of Green ... if we were into puns, of course. Ahem. This cool photo could find its way into plenty of travel blogs and marketing endeavors, and the rice can't be beat. Price, the price can't be beat. Hey, it's free!

The image comes to us from Bigstock contributor Meogia, from a collection that also includes royalty-free photos of cute kids, paper lanterns, and the villages of Vietnam. 

The image will be available for free downloading until 11:59PM EST, Sunday August 2nd, 2015. 

And, if you're new to Bigstock, be sure to sign up for even more free photos, illustrations, and vectors with a 7-day Free Trial. Happy downloading. 

Posted
AuthorBrian Masefield

The following post was originally featured on the blog of our parent company Shutterstock, on Tuesday July 21, 2015. As this change in its auto-trace policy also pertains to Bigstock contributors, it is being shared here.

Vectors are a powerful type of content. They are editable, adaptable, and scalable without loss of resolution. Our vector collection is one of the most diverse on the market. At their best, vectors are simple, clean, well constructed and easily editable in clearly labeled layered files. Well constructed vectors are a result of using tools within vector editing software such as the pen tool, gradients, fills and blends.

Up until now, images converted into vectors solely using auto trace or live trace have been accepted into our library of content. While an auto traced image is technically a vector, the result of the tracing process drastically diminishes the quality of the original image and severely limits the capability of the vector beyond scalability. We see beautiful watercolor paintings and gorgeous photos converted into vectors simply for the sake of making these pixel based images into scalable vectors, but the end result is a poorly executed vector version of what was previously a beautiful image.

We have received feedback from customers who have expressed frustration when downloading auto traced paintings, photos or textures. They find that while the vector is scalable, the image quality has been completely lost when viewed in a magnified form and is far too complex and time consuming to edit within an acceptable time frame. Vectors containing thousands of poorly constructed paths are not only extremely large files, but they are also nearly impossible to edit. The usefulness and power of a vector is severely diminished when burdened by excessive amounts of auto traced elements.
 
Based on our analysis of content performance and customer feedback, moving forward we will only accept auto traced one-color line art and flat art. Auto-traced full color photos and illustrations will now be rejected with the following reason: Unacceptable Auto Trace – We are no longer accepting this type of content. (Continue reading on Shutterstock's blog ...)

Top image: Abstract colorful splash background. Watercolor background illustration by Shutterstock contributor HAKKI ARSLAN.

Posted
AuthorBrian Masefield