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Photoshop Workflows And Shortcuts For Digital Artists

Photoshop Workflows And Shortcuts For Digital Artists

Photoshop Workflows And Shortcuts For Digital Artists

Yoanna Victorova

2018-10-16T15:30:51+02:00
2018-10-17T07:01:06+00:00

Adobe Photoshop plays a role in almost every digital creator’s life. Photoshop is what many digital artists, photographers, graphic designers, and even some web developers have in common. The tool is so flexible that often you can achieve the same results in several different ways. What sets us all apart is our personal workflows and our preferences on how we use it to achieve the desired outcome.

I use Photoshop every day and shortcuts are a vital part of my workflow. They allow me to save time and to focus better on what I am doing: digital illustration. In this article, I am going to share the Photoshop shortcuts I use frequently — some of its features that help me be more productive, and a few key parts of my creative process.

To profit the most from this tutorial, some familiarity with Photoshop would be required but no matter if you are a complete beginner or an advanced user, you should be able to follow along because every technique will be explained in detail.

For this article, I’ve decided to use one of my most famous Photoshop artworks named “Regret”:

Author’s illustration (Large preview)

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction To Shortcuts: The Path To Boosting Your Productivity
  2. The Keyboard Shortcuts Window
  3. How To Increase And Decrease The Brush Size
  4. How To Increase And Decrease The Brush Softness
  5. Quick Color Picker (HUD Color Picker)
  6. Working With Layers
  7. Working With Curves
  8. Actions: Recording Everything You Need For Your Project
  9. Conclusion
  10. Further Reading

1. Introduction To Shortcuts: The Path To Boosting Your Productivity

Every single designer, artist, photographer or web developer has probably once opened Photoshop and has pointed and clicked on an icon to select the Brush tool, the Move tool, and so on. We’ve all been there, but those days are long gone for most of us who use Photoshop every day. Some might still do it today, however, what I would like to talk about before getting into the details, is the importance of shortcuts.

When you think about it, you’re saving perhaps half a second by using a keyboard shortcut instead of moving your mouse (or stylus) over to the Tools bar and selecting the tool you need by clicking on the tool’s little icon. To some that may seem petty, however, do consider that every digital creator does thousands of selections per project and these half-seconds add up to become hours in the end!

Now, before we continue, please note the following:

  1. Shortcuts Notation
    I use Photoshop on Windows but all of the shortcuts should work the same on Mac OS; the only thing worth mentioning is that the Ctrl (Control) key on Windows corresponds to the Cmd (Command) key on the Mac, so I’ll be using Ctrl/Cmd throughout this tutorial.
  2. Photoshop CS6+
    All the features and shortcuts mentioned here should work in Photoshop CS6 and later — including the latest Photoshop CC 2018.

2. The Keyboard Shortcuts Window

To start off, I would like to show you where you can find the Keyboard Shortcuts window where you could modify the already existing shortcuts, and learn which key is bound to which feature or tool:

Open Photoshop, go to Edit and select Keyboard Shortcuts. Alternatively, you can access the same from here: Window → Workspace → Keyboard Shortcuts & Menus.


the Edit tab with Keyboard Shortcuts option highlighted
Photoshop’s edit (Large preview)

Now you will be greeted by the Keyboard Shortcuts and Menus window (dialog box), where you can pick a category you would like to check out. There are a ton of options in there, so it could get a bit intimidating at first, but that feeling will pass soon. The main three options (accessible through the Shortcuts for:… dropdown list) are:

  • Application Menus
  • Panel Menus
  • Tools

Typically the Application Menus will be the first thing you’ll see. These are the shortcuts for the menu options you see on the top of Photoshop’s window (File, Edit, Image, Layer, Type, and so on).


 Keyboard Shortcuts and Menus option open, displaying the shortcuts for the Applications menu
Applications menu (Large preview)

So for example if you’re using the Brightness/Contrast option often, instead of having to click on Image (in the menu), then Adjustments and finally find and click on Brightness/Contrast item, you can simply assign a key combination and Brightness/Contrast will show right up after you press the keys assigned.

The second section, Panel Menus, is an interesting one as well, especially in its Layers portion. You get to see several options that could be of use to you depending on the type of work you need to do. That’s where the standard New Layer shortcut lies (Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + N) but also you can set up a shortcut for Delete Hidden Layers. Deleting unnecessary layers helps in lowering the size of the Photoshop file and helps improving performance because your computer will not have to cache in on those extra layers that you’re actually not using.


Keyboard Shortcuts and Menus option open, displaying the shortcuts for the Panel Menus
Panel menu (Large preview)

The third section is Tools where you can see the shortcuts assigned to all the tools found in the left panel of Photoshop.

Pro Tip: To cycle between any of the tools that have sub-tools (example: the Eraser tool has a Background Eraser and a Magic Eraser) you just need to hold your Shift key and the appropriate shortcut button. In case of the Eraser example, press Shift + E a few times until you reach the desired sub-tool.

One last thing I would like to mention before wrapping up this section is that the Keyboard Shortcuts and Menus allows you to set up different Profiles (Photoshop calls them “sets” but I think that “profiles” better suits the purpose), so that if you don’t really want to mess with the Photoshop Defaults one, you can simply create a new personalized profile. It’s worth mentioning that when you create a new Profile, you get the Default set of Photoshop Shortcuts in it until you start modifying them.


Keyboard Shortcuts and Menus option showing the Profiles section
Keyboard shortcuts and menus profile section (Large preview)

The Keyboard Shortcuts menu can take a bit of time to get around to, however, if you invest the time in the beginning (best if you do it in your own time rather than during a project), you will benefit later.

Focusing On The Shortcuts On The Left Side Of Your Keyboard

After people acknowledged the usefulness of using shortcuts, eventually they agreed that time is being wasted moving your hand from one side of the keyboard to the opposite one. Sounds a bit petty again, however, remember those half-seconds? They still add up, but this time it can even fatigue your arm if you’re constantly switching tools and have to move your arm around. So this probably led to Adobe adding a few more shortcut features focused on the left side of the keyboard.

Now let me show you the shortcuts that I most often use (and why).

3. How To Increase And Decrease The Brush Size

In order to increase or decrease the size of your brush, you need to:

  1. Click and hold the Alt key. (On the Mac this would be the Ctrl and Alt keys),
  2. Click and hold the right mouse button,
  3. Then drag horizontally from left to right to increase, and from right to left to decrease the size.

Red circle displaying the brush size increase via mouse drag
Brush size increase preview (Large preview)

The moment I learned about this shortcut, I literally couldn’t stop using it!

If you’re a digital artist, I believe you will particularly love it as well. Sketching, painting, erasing, just about everything you need to do with a brush becomes a whole lot easier and fluent because you wouldn’t need to reach for the all too familiar [ and ] keys which are the default ones for increasing and decreasing the brush size. Going for those keys can disrupt your workflow, especially if you need to take your eyes off your project or put the stylus aside.

4. How To Increase And Decrease The Brush Softness

It’s actually the same key combination but with a slight twist: increasing and decreasing the softness of your Brush will work only for Photoshop’s default Round brushes. Unfortunately, if you have any custom made brushes that have a custom form, this wouldn’t work for those.

  1. Click and hold the Alt key. (On the Mac this would be Ctrl and Alt keys),
  2. Click and hold the right mouse button,
  3. Then drag upwards to harden the edge of your brush and drag downwards to make it softer.

Red circle displaying the brush softness increase via mouse drag
Brush softness increase preview (Large preview)

Again, this shortcut doesn’t work for custom shaped brushes, although it would have been a really nice feature to have. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see that in a future update to Photoshop.

5. Quick Color Picker (HUD Color Picker)

You may or may not be aware that Photoshop offers a quick color picker (HUD Color Picker). And no, this is not the color picker that is located in the Tools section.


Photoshop’s Quick color picker
Quick color picker (Large preview)

I am referring to what Adobe calls “HUD Color Picker” that pops up right where your cursor is located on the canvas.

This so-called HUD Color Picker is a built-in version and I believe it’s been around since at least Photoshop CS6 (which was released back in 2012). If you’re learning about this now, probably you’re as surprised as I was when I first came across it a few months ago. Yes, it took me a while to get used to, too! Well, to be fair, I do also have some reservations about this color picker, but I’ll get to them in a second.


Photoshop’s HUD color picker
Photoshop’s HUD color picker (Large preview)

Here’s how to pull up the HUD Color Picker:

On Windows
  1. Click and hold Alt + Shift,
  2. Click and hold the right mouse button.
On Mac
  1. Click and hold Ctrl ⌃ + Alt ⌥ + Cmd ⌘,
  2. Click and hold the right mouse button.

If you’ve followed the key combinations above, you should see this colorful square. However, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a bit awkward to work with it. For example, you need to continue holding all of the keys, and while you do that, you need to hover over to the right rectangle to pick a color gamut and then hover back to the square to pick the shade. With all of the hovering that’s going on, it’s somewhat easy to miss the color that you’ve actually set your heart to pick, which could get a little annoying.

Nevertheless, I do believe that with a little practice you will be able to master the Quick Color Picker and get your desired results. If you’re not too keen on using that built-in version, there are always third-party extensions that you can strap to your Photoshop, for example, Coolorus 2 Color Wheel or Painters Wheel (works with PS CS4, CS5, CS6).

6. Working With Layers

One of the advantages of working digitally is undisputedly the ability to work with layers. They are quite versatile, and there’s a lot of things that you could do with them. You could say that one could write a book just on Layers alone. However, I’m going to do the next best thing, and that would be to share with you the options I most commonly use when working on my projects.

As you may have guessed, the Layer section is a pretty important one for any type of digital creative. In this section, I’m going to share the simpler but very useful shortcuts that could be some real lifesavers.

Clipping Mask Layer

A Clipping Mask Layer is what I most often use when I’m drawing. For those of you who do not know what that is, it’s basically a layer which you clip on to the layer below. The layer below defines what’s visible on the clipped on layer.

For example, let’s say that you have a circle on the base layer and then you add a Clipping Mask Layer to that circle. When you start drawing on your Clipping Mask Layer, you will be restricted only to the shapes in the Base Layer.


Red circle shape that’s going to be used for a clipping mask
Red circle shape on transparent background (Large preview)

Drawly’s artwork inserted into circle shape
Drawing inserted into circle shape (Large preview)

Take notice of the layers on the right side of the screen. Layer 0 is the Clipping Mask Layer of the Base Layer — Layer 1.

This option allows you to really easily create frames and the best part is that they’re non-destructive. The more shapes you add (in this case it’s Layer 1), the more visible parts of the image can be seen.


Drawly’s artwork added into various shapes as a clipping mask
Drawly’s artwork added into various shapes as a clipping mask (Large preview)

The most common use for Clipping Mask Layers in digital art/painting is to add shadows and highlights to a base color. For example, let’s say that you’ve completed your character’s line-art and you’ve added their base skin tone. You can use Clipping Mask Layers to add non-destructive shadows and highlights.

Note: I’m using the term “non-destructive” because you cannot erase away something from the base layers — they will be safe and sound.)

So, how do you create those Clipping Mask Layers? Well, each one starts off as a regular “Layer”.

To create a regular Layer, you can use this shortcut:

Action Keyboard Shortcut
Creates a new regular Layer Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + N
Makes the newly created Layer into a Clipping Mask to the Layer below it Ctrl/Cmd + Alt + G

An alternative way to make a regular layer into a Clipping Mask is to press and hold the Alt key, and click between the two Layers. The upper layer will then become the Clipping Mask of the layer below.

Selecting All Layers

Every once in a while, you may want to select all of the layers, and group them together so that you can continue building on top of them or a number of other reasons. Typically, what I used to do is simply hold the Ctrl/Cmd key and then start clicking away at all of the layers. Needless to say, that was a bit time-consuming, especially if I’m working on a big project. So here’s a better way:

What you would need to do is simply press: Ctrl/Cmd + Alt + A.

Now that should’ve selected all of your layers and you will be able to do anything you want with them.

Flattening Visible Layers

Clipping Mask Layers may be totally awesome, however, they don’t always work well if you want to modify something in the general image you’re doing. Sometimes you just need everything (e.g. base color, highlights and shadows) to stop being on different layers and just be combined into one. Sometimes you just need to merge all currently visible layers into one, in a non-destructive way.

Here’s how:

Press and hold Ctrl/Cmd + Alt + Shift + E.

Et voilà! Now you should be seeing an extra layer on the top that has all other visible layers in it. The beauty of this shortcut is that you still have your other layers below — untouched and safe. If you mess up something with the newly created layer, you can still bring things back to the way they were before and start afresh.

Copying Multiple Layers

Every now and then we’re faced with the need to copy stuff from multiple layers. Typically what most people do is duplicate the two given layers they need, merge them and then start erasing away the unnecessary parts of the image.

What you need to do instead is to make a selection and then press:

Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + C

Here’s an example:


Three different colored circles on a transparent background
Three different colored circles (Large preview)

As you can see, each color dot is on a separate layer. Let’s say that we need to copy a straight rectangle through the center of the dots and copy it on a layer at the top.


Three different colored circles with a selection box inside them
Three different colored circles with a selection box inside them (Large preview)

We’ve made a selection and once you press Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + C, Photoshop will copy everything you have in your selection to the clipboard. Then all you have to do is simply paste (Ctrl/Cmd + V) anywhere, and a new layer will appear on the top of the page.


Selection box with the three different colors from the circles
Selection box with three different colors (Large preview)

This shortcut can come really handy especially when you’re working with multiple layers, and you need just a portion of the image to be together in a single layer.

7. Working With Curves

In this section of the article, I would like to cover the importance of values as well as Curves which are generally a big topic to cover.

Starting off with the shortcut: Ctrl/Cmd + M.

Pretty simple, right? The best things in life are (almost) always simple! However, don’t let this talk about simplicity fool you, the Curves setting is one of the most powerful tools you have in Photoshop. Especially when it comes to tweaking brightness, contrast, colors, tones, and so on.

Now some of you may be feeling a bit of intimidated by the previous sentence: colors, tones, contrast,… say what now? Don’t worry, because the Curves tool is pretty simple to understand and it will do marvelous things for you. Let’s dig into the details.


 Curves histogram
Curves histogram highlighted in red square (Large preview)

This is what the Curves tool basically looks like. As you can see, there’s a moderate amount of options available. What we’re interested in, however, is the area I’ve captured inside the red square. It is actually a simple Histogram with a diagonal line across. The Histogram’s purpose is to show the values of the given image (or painting), left being the darkest points and right being the lightest ones.


Curves histogram with one anchor point added
Curves histogram with one anchor point added (Large preview)

Curves histogram with two anchor points added
Curves histogram with two anchor points added (Large preview)

Using the mouse, we can put points on the diagonal line and drag it up and down. We typically decide what we want to darken or lighten. If, for example, we want to have the light parts of our image be just a bit darker, we need to click somewhere on the right side and drag down (just like in the first image).

Here’s an example. First, take a look at the normal image:


Drawly’s artwork, original colors and values
Drawly’s artwork, original colors and values. (Large preview)

Now, using Curves with the light parts toned down:


Curves histogram with one anchor point
Curves histogram with one anchor point (Large preview)

AIn addition, just for demonstration purposes, here’s what would happen if we have the lighter parts darkened and the darker parts lightened:


Curves histogram with two anchor points making the ‘S’ shape
Curves histogram with two anchor points making the ‘S’ shape (Large preview)

You see, basically the linework is the darkest part, which stayed and the other darks have been lightened to a grayish type of value.

Now let me quickly elaborate on values and why they matter: by “values,” especially in the art world, we’re referring to the amount of lightness or darkness in a drawing (painting). With values, we create depth in our painting which on its part helps with creating the illusion which element is closer to the viewer and which one is in the distance (further back).

8. Actions: Recording Everything You Need For Your Project

Every so often we all need to deal with repetitive processes which could range from adding a filter over our image to creating certain types of layers with blending modes. Does this sound familiar? If so, keep reading.

Did you know that Photoshop supports programming languages such as JavaScript, AppleScript, and VBScript to automate certain processes? I didn’t, as programming has never been my cup of tea. The good thing is that instead, I came across the Actions panel, which offers a lot of functionality and options for automating some repetitive tasks and workflows. In my opinion, this is the best automation tool that Photoshop has to offer if you don’t know how to code.

The Actions panel basically can record every process you’re doing (e.g. adding a layer, cropping the image, changing its hue, and so on); then you can assign a function key to this process and easily re-use it later at any time.

By using the Actions panel, you can capture just about anything that you do in Photoshop and then save it as a process.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you want to automate the process of Create a new Layer, set it as a Clipping Mask, and then set its blending mode to Multiply (or anything else). You can record this whole process which would then be available to you for re-use by the press of a button.

Here’s how it works:

Pressing Alt + F9 will open this panel:


The actions panel displaying all the default options
The actions panel displaying all the default options (Large preview)

As you can probably see, there are some default (pre-recorded) processes on there. What we’re interested in, however, is creating our own action, which is done by clicking on the “Create new action” icon.


The actions panel with the “New Action” button highlighted in a red square
The actions panel with the “New Action” button highlighted (Large preview)

Now just like when you create a new layer in the Layers panel, once you click on the “Create new action” icon, a pop-up window opens with a few options in it.


New Action window displayed with text highlighted
New Action window (Large preview)

You can choose any given name for the Action you want to create and assign a Function key for it. So, for this demonstration purpose, I’ll create an action that will do the following:

  • Create a new transparent Layer;
  • Add it as a Clipping Mask to the Layer below;
  • Set its blending mode to Multiply.

I’ll set its Function key to Shift + F2.


Custom name added and function key assigned in New Action box
Custom name added and function key assigned in New Action box (Large preview)

Once you’re ready with these settings, what you need to do is press the Record button. Once you’ve done that, you’ll notice that the Actions panel now has a red button to show you it’s recording.


Recording the new Action, record button toggled
Recording the new Action (Large preview)

Now you just have to go about the regular process of creating a new layer, set it as a clipping mask and change its blending mode to Multiply.


Heart shape layer added in Layers panel
Heart shape layer added (Large preview)

Heart shape layer added in Layers panel
New layer added on top of the heart shape (Large preview)

New layer made in to a clipping mask
New layer made in to a clipping mask to the heart shape (Large preview)

Blending mode drop-down menu open, Multiply highlighted
Blending mode drop-down menu open, Multiply highlighted. (Large preview)

Once you’re done, you have to hit the Stop icon on the Actions panel.


Actions panel open with the red recording button
Actions panel open with the red recording button (Large preview)

Your automation process is now ready to go! When you press Shift + F2, you’ll get a new Layer set as a Clipping Mask to the layer below and its blending mode set to Multiply.

I would also like to mention that the Actions automation process is not limited to just creating layers and setting blending modes. Here are some examples of some pretty handy other uses and options for actions:

  • You can set up to save images as certain types of files to certain folders on your computer;
  • Using File → Automate → Batch for processing lots of images;
  • The Allow Tool Recording option in the flyout Actions panel menu allows actions to include painting, and so on;
  • The Insert Conditional option in the flyout Actions panel menu allows actions to change their behavior, based on the state of the document;
  • File → Scripts → Script Events Manager lets actions run based on events, like when a document is opened or a new document is created.

Let me give you another example, I’ll create another Action that will change the size of my image and save it as a PNG file in a certain folder on my desktop.

So after we hit the New Action button on the Actions panel, we’ll proceed with picking the shortcut that we want, set a name for it, and I’ll take it a step further and assign a color to the Action (I’ll explain why this is a helpful feature in a bit).


New Action box open
New Action box open (Large preview)

Selecting the Function key
Selecting the Function key (Large preview)

Checking the Shift checkbox
Checking the Shift checkbox (Large preview)

Picking a color for the Action
Picking a color for the Action (Large preview)

Displaying that a blue color was picked for the new action
Blue color picked for the new Action (Large preview)

Now about that color, you may notice that when you assign a color, it doesn’t really reflect in the Actions Panel. Instead, everything stays monochrome. The reason is because when you typically open that panel, you’re in the Edit view, where you’re able to modify the Actions, record new ones, and so on. In order to see all of the available actions in a simpler interface, do this:

  • On the upper-right hand corner of the panel you will see four horizontal lines. Click on those.
  • You’ll get a drop-down menu, where you have different Actions options. On the top, you’ll notice a Button Mode.

  • Actions’ drop-down menu open, highlighted Button Mode
    Actions’ drop-down menu open, highlighted ‘Button Mode’. (Large preview)
  • Clicking on that will change the Actions Panel interface, where you will see your available Actions as colorful buttons.

The Actions’ button mode
The Actions’ button mode (Large preview)

If you haven’t guessed it already, coloring your Actions will help you distinguish them more easily at a glance. In Button mode, when you take a glance at the panel, you will be able to navigate quickly to the Action that you want to apply to your image/drawing (if you don’t really remember the shortcut you’ve assigned for it).

Okay, so what we have so far is the following:

  1. We’ve created a new action;
  2. Set the shortcut for it;
  3. Changed its color;
  4. Named it.

Let’s proceed with recording the process that we need.

To open the Image Size menu, you can either go to Image → Image Size or simply hit Ctrl + Alt + I and you’ll get this window:


 Image size menu open
Image size menu open (Large preview)

What you would want to do is set the desired size for your image and once you’re happy with that hit “OK” to apply the changes.


Image size values changed
Image size values changed (Large preview)

Next, what we want to do is use the Save As option in order to get the option to choose the type of file, destination folder, and so on. You can either go to File → Save As… or you could simply press Ctrl + Shift + S and you will get the following window:


Saving dialogue box open
Saving dialogue box open (Large preview)

Navigate to the dedicated folder in which you want to save the current project in and actually save it there. An additional Action you can do is to close the image/project you’re working on (don’t worry, the Actions won’t stop recording unless you close down Photoshop).


Saving file as PNG, PNG options displayed
PNG options displayed (Large preview)

Once all of that is done, you can hit the Stop icon on the Actions Panel to stop recording your movement in Photoshop.

If you need to resize a bunch of files and save them in a dedicated folder, you just have to load them up in Photoshop and continue hitting the Action shortcut that you’ve created for Resizing and Saving.

If you take the time to get accustomed to the Actions tool in Photoshop and utilize it, you can say “Goodbye” to the bothersome repetitive work that usually eats up most of your time. You will be able to fly through these tasks with such speed that even the Flash could get jealous of.

9. Conclusion

In this article, I’ve shared some of the shortcuts I mostly use. I sincerely hope that they will help you boost up your productivity and make your workflow better as well.

Special Thanks

I would like to mention that this tutorial was made possible with the help of Angel (a.k.a. ArcanumEX). You can check out his artwork on his Facebook page, on Instagram, and on his YouTube channel.

Further Reading

In addition to everything I’ve talked about so far, I’ll include more resources that I believe you might find helpful. Be sure to check out:

What are your favorite shortcuts? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

Smashing Editorial
(mb, ra, yk, il)
Reblogged 5 hours ago from www.smashingmagazine.com

19 of the Best Examples of Mobile Website Design

Now more than ever, businesses are focusing on creating delightful mobile website experiences.

After all, Google has been heavily favoring mobile-friendly websites since 2015 when it updated its ranking algorithm in April 2015, and then started indexing mobile sites in March 2018.

And that’s crucial, seeing as there have been more Google search queries on smartphones than on desktop computers and tablets for over a year now.

Going forward, Google will only continue to raise the bar for what it considers to be mobile-friendly (including page load time) and reflect that in its algorithm updates. So if you haven’t been focusing on improving your mobile experience, you’d better prioritize it now, or your search ranking could really suffer. Additionally, HubSpot Research found that half of US consumers are going online on their phones more than on their computers or tablets.

To help inspire any mobile website design changes you’ll be making, here’s a list of 19 companies who really nailed their mobile web experience.

1. Shutterfly

Shutterfly is an online service that allows users to create photo books, personalized cards and stationary, and more. Because more and more people are taking photos and then accessing them using their smartphones, Shutterfly recognized the need to create a great mobile experience for their customers — and they delivered.

Shutterfly accomplishes two key goals on their mobile website:

  • It’s easy for users to find out information about their offerings.
  • They’re selling that information by way of beautiful imagery.

When you arrive on their mobile site, you’ll see Shutterfly’s latest promotion front and center, as well as a large finger-sized sign-in button for returning members — neither of which overpower the user experience.

shutterfly-mobile-website

Scroll down, and users will see large buttons that make it easy for users to quickly select which type of product they’re interested in. Once users click through to one of those options, they’re greeted with large photos showcasing what Shutterfly is capable of for easy browsing.

shutterfly-mobile-website-2

2. Google Maps

Everyone has their favorite map or directions application. Mine is Google Maps, which I use whether I’m walking, driving, biking, or taking public transportation. What’s special about their mobile website is that it’s virtually indistinguishable from their downloadable mobile app.

The screenshots below are taken of their mobile website, but if you’re familiar at all with the app, you’ll notice they look exactly the same. Not only is the appearance identical, but the mobile website has the speed and functionality of the app.

google-maps-mobile-site-1.png

google-maps-mobile-site-2.png

3. Typeform

Typeform is a Barcelona-based tech company with one simple mission: to “make forms awesome.” Their desktop website is really beautifully designed, greeting visitors with succinct copy, high-definition videos, relevant animations, and other, more complex design components.

But for mobile users, they recognized that complex design components like video and animations could significantly affect page load time, among other difficulties. That’s why they actually removed many of them — which decluttered the site and simplified the overall mobile experience. The mobile website is a simpler version of their desktop website, and it’s still beautifully designed.

typeform-mobile-website

Take note of the large buttons on their menu page — perfect for tapping with your finger on a mobile screen.

typeform-mobile-website-2

4. Etsy

Etsy is an ecommerce website where people can buy and sell vintage or handmade items. Most buyers who visit Etsy’s website are there to do one of two things: Either they’re searching for a specific item, or they’re browsing items in categories that interest them.

The mobile website caters to both types of visitors from the very beginning. When you first go to their mobile website, you’re greeted with an option to search for specific items, shops, or categories.

etsy-mobile-site-1.png

Immediately below the search bar are thumbnail images of trending items that showcase some of the most popular things you can buy on Etsy. Mobile users can view these trending items in a collage format, and the images are big enough for them to easily tap with their finger.

etsy-mobile-site-2.png

5. Adrian Zumbrunnen

This is the personal website of Adrian Zumbrunnen, a UX designer, writer, and speaker. When you visit his website, you’ll notice right away there’s something very unique about it: It’s a conversational website.

It almost looks like a text message conversation you’d normally have on your phone — including the ellipsis to show he’s “typing.” Users are given two response options at the end of every exchange, so it’s kind of like a “choose-your-own-adventure” experience.

While the mobile and desktop experience are very similar, the desktop website feels like it was made primarily for mobile — which could be the direction sites will go in the future.

adrian-zumbrunnen.gif

And if you’d prefer not to engage in the conversation-like exchange, you can simply scroll down for details.

zumbrunnen-mobile-site.jpg

6. Elf on the Shelf

Elf on the Shelf is, relatively speaking, a fairly new Christmas tradition based on a children’s book. If you’re unfamiliar, the basic premise is this: The book tells the story of Santa’s scout elves, who are sent by Santa to watch over children in their homes all over the world and report back to Santa.

Along with the book, parents can purchase an elf figurine, which they’ll subtly place somewhere in their house where their kids can see it. Every night leading up to Christmas, parents move the elf to a different location around their house to “prove” to their kids that the scout elves are real and always looking over them.

When you first arrive on Elf on the Shelf’s website, you’ll see there are actually numerous types of Elf on the Shelf products you can purchase. But instead of forcing users to scroll through each product individually, the web designers package each product into a large, enticing tile describing the goal of each buyer’s journey, with the featured item displayed on the front.

You’re not buying your own elf or pup — you’re adopting it. It’s a truly empowering experience on such a small screen.

elf-on-the-shelf-mobile-website

7. BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed is a news company known for it’s viral content and popular quizzes. It also happens to be one of my favorite sources of entertainment during my commute to and from work.

And where do you think I’m checking BuzzFeed during my commute? You guessed it: on my phone. BuzzFeed knows that a lot of their visitors are visiting their site on mobile, so they’ve taken great care to create a smooth experience for their on-the-go readers.

When you arrive at BuzzFeed’s mobile website, the first thing you’ll see is some of their most popular pieces of content displayed in a simple, collage-like format using large images that are easy to tap with your finger.

buzzfeed-mobile-site-1.png

For users interested in specific categories, there’s a clickable menu in the top left-hand corner of the screen that lists out all the post categories.

buzzfeed-mobile-site-2.png

8. Evernote

Evernote is an application that allows you to store notes, images, and web articles and then access them across all your devices. Because users tend to download the app or access the website on multiple devices including desktop computer, smartphone, and tablets, it’s essential that Evernote get the mobile experience right.

If you look at Evernote’s homepage on your desktop computer, you’ll notice how clean the design is. The value statements are short and to-the-point, and the graphics add to the brand’s positioning but don’t clutter the page.

evernote-mobile-website-2

When you look at Evernote’s mobile website, you can see they’ve kept their color palate and general brand style entirely intact. The company’s mobile website is clean, simple, and doesn’t detract at all from the value of the app. Evernote’s conversion path is obvious from the centered call-to-action: “Sign up for free.”

evernote-mobile-website

9. Huffington Post

The Huffington Post is a well-known news outlet that reports from everything from politics and current events to entertainment and technology. What makes their mobile website unique is that they actually alter their headlines slightly for mobile users so their content is more easily scannable.

If you compare the desktop versus mobile websites, you’ll notice that the mobile website has fewer words on the homepage. The headlines are shorter and much more digestible — perfect for someone skimming or reading on a small screen.

huffington-post-mobile-website

As with BuzzFeed, you’ll find a clickable menu in the top left-hand corner of the screen listing out all the post categories.

huffington-post-mobile-website-2

10. Express

Express is a clothing store that caters to young men and women. Because their audience often comes to their website to browse clothing, it’s important for their website to include big, clear images of their clothing — especially on mobile devices, when users will need to tap items on the screen with their fingers to click through for purchase information.

Express takes their mobile experience a step further than most online retail sites. If you slide your finger from left to right across an image showing a piece of clothing, the image will change so you can see the clothing in a different view. In other words, users don’t have to load another page to see multiple pictures of the same article of clothing.

Look at the image on the top right in the following two images to see how it changes when you swipe to one side:

express-mobile-website-designexpress-mobile-website-design-2

11. Nationwide Insurance

Nationwide Insurance provides insurance and financial services. You might think a financial company would have a really complicated website, but on mobile, Nationwide Insurance nails down the simple user experience.

When you arrive on Nationwide’s mobile site, you’ll see two tabs at the top allowing you to identify as one of two types of users right away to customize your experience: Personal or Business. Or, alternatively, you can “Find an Agent” or “Find an financial advisor” to learn more information about their services.

Although limiting the experience to these two options excludes Nationwide’s more in-depth features, it makes for a much easier experience for visitors using small screens. This is a great technique to lead potential customers in the right direction if they’re not yet account-holders and are visiting the website for the first time.

nationwide-mobile-website

12. Squaredot

Squaredot is an agency based in Dublin, Ireland that helps marketers build out their inbound marketing strategies. Their mobile website is colorful, simple, and makes for easy navigating.

What sticks out to me most is the visually pleasing color combinations and three-dimensional texture to their homepage — as well as the large clickable dots at the center of each section you can scroll to.

squaredot-mobile-website

These dots are animated call-to-action buttons, and the tapping the ones below the home screen will produce a pop-out page with more information on Squaredot’s approach to marketing.

squaredot-mobile-website-2

13. Zappos

Zappos is an online vendor for shoes and clothing known for their stellar customer service. Their top priority on mobile is to help users search easily for the items they’re looking for on their website, so they’ve put a large search bar at both the top and bottom of their mobile website to make it super easy for them.

This is what the top of their mobile site looks like:

zappos-mobile-site-1.png

14. ABC

ABC is a television broadcasting company known for popular shows like “The Bachelorette,” “The Rookie,” and “General Hospital.” Users visiting ABC’s desktop website are greeted with these options and more. View the network’s television schedule, check out the most recent Emmy winners, watch some of your favorite television shows, or even look at entertainment news relating to those shows.

But because nearly every household today is a multi-screen household, ABC knows its experience on a mobile device should be both simple and ready for viewing.

When you visit the ABC website on a mobile device, you’ll see a dark background for a theatre-like experience with tiles for each program you might want to stream. Users can scan through these options and click into any show they want based on genre, alphabetical order, what’s popular, and similar categories you’d also find on your TV’s streaming platform.

abc-mobile-website

15. Lean Labs

Lean Labs is a marketing agency that creates engaging, responsive, and high-conversion web solutions. (They were also featured on ABC’s hit TV series Shark Tank.) The folks over there do a great job of providing a smooth experience for their mobile users, especially with regard to their design techniques and the emphasis they place on their “10x formula” — which is apparent to visitors within seconds of landing on their mobile site.

Notice how Lean Labs’s mobile website uses scale, contrast, and typeface to distinguish certain elements of their page. You can even see the subtle photo of a mountain set to the website’s background, eliciting the heights your brand can reach as a Lean Labs customer.

lean-labs-mobile-website

And, as explained above, their core “10x” formula is clearly visible and broken down into easy steps for mobile users scrolling through the homepage, with relevant icons to match.

Lean Labs mobile website with circular CTAs to learn about 10x formula

16. SAP

SAP is an enterprise software company that manages business operations and customer relations. The business enhances its mobile experience by condensing information, specifically into one important video case study, playable from the homepage on a mobile device.

sap-mobile-website

SAP also combines some of their calls-to-action into sliders, whereas their desktop website has these CTAs laid out horizontally. This helps keep things simple so mobile users aren’t overwhelmed with a lot of information at once, and it also ensures none of the CTAs are too small to read.

SAP mobile website with call-to-action sliders

17. KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics provides analytics software for businesses. On their homepage, there’s a lot of information explaining what the software does along with a testimonial.

But their mobile site is displayed a little differently: On a mobile device, the information on their site is shown in a list with alternative dark and light modules. This makes it easy for users to skim the page without getting lost in text.

kissmetrics-mobile-website-2

They’ve also made the text and fields on their forms large and easy to read:

KISSmetrics mobile website with large form fields for users to sign in

18. idig Marketing

idig Marketing is a development and communications provider. Their mobile website is laid out similarly to their desktop website, but I especially liked how they incorporated the interactive heart icons into their blog posts so users can “Like” their posts.

This mimics the “Like” heart icon in Instagram and Twitter, which is easily recognizable for mobile users familiar with those platforms.

idig-marketing-mobile-site-2.jpg

19. IndiaMART

IndiaMART is the largest online B2B marketplace in India, and its simple category-based mobile store makes it one of the best mobile websites we’ve ever seen in the ecommerce industry.

The company’s mobile homepage puts the search bar right at the top so you can always retreat to a custom search if browsing no longer suffices to find the item you’re looking for.

But, IndiaMART makes it easy to peruse its digital aisles by sorting each item by item type, and then sub-types within each item type — a smart design move to encourage users to explore your site further. Under “Apparel & Garments,” for example, you have easily clickable tiles to check out more specific categories of clothings, such as menswear, women’s dresses, and even suits, sarees, and similar garb native to India.

indiamart-mobile-website

Underneath IndiaMART’s browsing tiles, the company has its own trending section specifically for merchandise people are paying most attention to — similar to a trending list of news on a social media platform. Each trending category has a mobile-friendly call-to-action button allowing users to get price quotes for the product they’re interested in.

indiamart-mobile-website-2

Want more information on how to optimize your business for mobile devices? Download the free kit on mobile marketing below.

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Reblogged 5 hours ago from blog.hubspot.com

Developing a schema strategy for local business: An interview with Schema App’s Martha van Berkel

Semantic markup offers the most clear-cut opportunity to tell search engines about your small business website. Discover the benefits and learn how you can get started.

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5 Ways We Improved User Experience and Organic Reach on the New Moz Help Hub

Posted by jocameron

We’re proud to announce that we recently launched our brand-new Help Hub! This is the section of our site where we store all our guides and articles on how to use Moz Pro, Moz Local, and our research tools like Link Explorer.

Our Help Hub contains in-depth guides, quick and easy FAQs, and some amazing videos like this one. The old Help Hub served us very well over the years, but with time it became a bit dusty and increasingly difficult to update, in addition to looking a bit old and shabby. So we set out to rebuild it from scratch, and we’re already seeing some exciting changes in the search results — which will impact the way people self-serve when they need help using our tools.

I’m going to take you through 5 ways we improved the accessibility and reach of the Help Hub with our redesign. If you write software guides, work in customer experience, or simply write content that answers questions, then this post is worth a look.

If you’re thinking this is just a blatant excuse to inject some Mozzy news into an SEO-style blog post, then you’re right! But if you stick with me, I’ll make sure it’s more fun than switching between the same three apps on your phone with a scrunched-up look of despair etched into your brow. 🙂

Research and discovery

To understand what features we needed to implement, we decided to ask our customers how they search for help when they get stuck. The results were fascinating, and they helped us build a new Help Hub that serves both our customers and their behavior.

We discovered that 78% of people surveyed search for an answer first before reaching out:

This is a promising sign, and perhaps no surprise that people working in digital marketing and search are very much in the habit of searching for the answers to their questions. However, we also discovered that a staggering 36% couldn’t find a sufficient answer when they searched:

We also researched industry trends and dug into lots of knowledge bases and guides for popular tools like Slack and Squarespace. With this research in our back pockets we felt sure of our goal: to build a Help Hub that reduces the length of the question-search-answer journey and gets answers in front of people with questions.

Let’s not hang about — here are 5 ways we improved organic reach with our beautiful new Help Hub.

#1: Removing features that hide content

Tabbed content used to be a super cool way of organizing a long, wordy guide. Tabs digitally folded the content up like an origami swan. The tabs were all on one page and on one URL, and they worked like jump links to teleport users to that bit of content.

Our old Help Hub design had tabbed content that was hard to find and wasn’t being correctly indexed

The problem: searchers couldn’t easily find this content. There were two reasons for this: one, no one expected to have to click on tabs for discovery; and two (and most importantly), only the first page of content was being linked to in the SERPs. This decimated our organic reach. It was also tricky to link directly to the tabbed content. When our help team members were chatting with our lovely community, it was nearly impossible to quickly send a link to a specific piece of information in a tabbed guide.

Now, instead of having all that tabbed content stacked away like a Filofax, we’ve got beautifully styled and designed content that’s easy to navigate. We pulled previously hidden content on to unique pages that we could link people to directly. And at the top of the page, we added breadcrumbs so folks can orient themselves within the guide and continue self-serving answers to their heart’s content.

Our new design uses breadcrumbs to help folks navigate and keep finding answers

What did we learn?

Don’t hide your content. Features that were originally built in an effort to organize your content can become outdated and get between you and your visitors. Make your content accessible to both search engine crawlers and human visitors; your customer’s journey from question to answer will be more straightforward, making navigation between content more natural and less of a chore. Your customers and your help team will thank you.

#2: Proudly promote your FAQs

This follows on from the point above, and you have had a sneak preview in the screenshot above. I don’t mind repeating myself because our new FAQs more than warrant their own point, and I’ll tell you why. Because, dear reader, people search for their questions. Yup, it’s this new trend and gosh darn it the masses love it.

I mentioned in the point above that tabbed content was proving hard to locate and to navigate, and it wasn’t showing up in the search results. Now we’re displaying common queries where they belong, right at the top of the guides:

FAQ placement, before and after

This change comprises two huge improvements. Firstly, questions our customers are searching, either via our site or in Google, are proudly displayed at the top of our guides, accessible and indexable. Additionally, when our customers search for their queries (as we know they love to do), they now have a good chance of finding the exact answer just a click away.

Address common issues at the top of the page to alleviate frustration

I’ve run a quick search in Keyword Explorer and I can see we’re now in position 4 for this keyword phrase — we weren’t anywhere near that before.

SERP analysis from Keyword Explorer

This is what it looks like in the organic results — the answer is there for all to see.

Our FAQ answer showing up in the search results

And when people reach out? Now we can send links with the answers listed right at the top. No more messing about with jump links to tabbed content.

What did we learn?

In addition to making your content easily accessible, you should address common issues head-on. It can sometimes feel uncomfortable to highlight issues right at the top of the page, but you’ll be alleviating frustration for people encountering errors and reduce the workload for your help team.

You can always create specific troubleshooting pages to store questions and answers to common issues.

#3: Improve article quality and relevance to build trust

This involves using basic on-page optimization techniques when writing or updating your articles. This is bread and butter for seasoned SEOs, although often overlooked by creators of online guides and technical writers.

It’s no secret that we love to inject a bit of Mozzy fun into what we do, and the Help Hub is no exception. It’s a challenge that we relish: to explain the software in clear language that is, hopefully, a treat to explore. However, it turns out we’d become too preoccupied with fun, and our basic on-page optimization sadly lagged behind.

Mirroring customers’ language

Before we started work on our beautiful new Help Hub, we analyzed our most frequently asked questions and commonly searched topics on our site. Next, we audited the corresponding pages on the Help Hub. It was immediately clear that we could do a better job of integrating the language our customers were using to write in to us. By using relevant language in our Help Hub content, we’d be helping searchers find the right guides and videos before they needed to reach out.

Using the MozBar guide as an example, we tried a few different things to improve the CTR over a period of 12 months. We added more content, we updated the meta tags, we added jump links. Around 8 weeks after the guide was made more relevant and specific to searchers’ troubleshooting queries, we saw a massive uptick in traffic for that MozBar page, with pageviews increasing from around ~2.5k per month to ~10k between February 2018 and July 2018. Traffic from organic searches doubled.

Updates to the Help Hub content and the increased traffic over time from Google Analytics

It’s worth noting that traffic to troubleshooting pages can spike if there are outages or bugs, so you’ll want to track this over an 8–12 month period to get the full picture.

What we’re seeing in the chart above is a steady and consistent increase in traffic for a few months. In fact, we started performing too well, ranking for more difficult, higher-volume keywords. This wasn’t exactly what we wanted to achieve, as the content wasn’t relevant to people searching for help for any old plugin. As a result, we’re seeing a drop in August. There’s a sweet spot for traffic to troubleshooting guides. You want to help people searching for answers without ranking for more generic terms that aren’t relevant, which leads us to searcher intent.

Focused on searcher intent

If you had a chance to listen to Dr. Pete’s MozCon talk, you’ll know that while it may be tempting to try to rank well for head vanity keywords, it’s most helpful to rank for keywords where your content matches the needs and intent of the searcher.

While it may be nice to think our guide can rank for “SEO toolbar for chrome” (which we did for a while), we already have a nice landing page for MozBar that was optimized for that search.

When I saw a big jump in our organic traffic, I entered the MozBar URL into Keyword Explorer to hunt down our ranking keywords. I then added these keywords in my Moz Pro campaign to see how we performed over time.

You can see that after our big jump in organic traffic, our MozBar troubleshooting guide dropped 45 places right out of the top 5 pages for this keyword. This is likely because it wasn’t getting very good engagement, as people either didn’t click or swiftly returned to search. We’re happy to concede to the more relevant MozBar landing page.

The troubleshooting guide dropped in the results for this general SEO toolbar query, and rightly so

It’s more useful for our customers and our help team for this page to rank for something like “why wont moz chrome plugin work.” Though this keyword has slightly fewer searches, there we are in the top spot consistently week after week, ready to help.

We want to retain this position for queries that match the nature of the guide

10x content

Anyone who works in customer experience will know that supporting a free tool is a challenge, and I must say our help team does an outstanding job. But we weren’t being kind to ourselves. We found that we were repeating the same responses, day in and day out.

This is where 10x content comes into play. We asked ourselves a very important question: why are we replying individually to one hundred people when we can create content that helps thousands of people?

We tracked common queries and created a video troubleshooting guide. This gave people the hand-holding they required without having to supply it one-to-one, on demand.

The videos for our SEO tools that offer some form of free access attract high views and engagement as folks who are new to them level up.

Monthly video views for tools that offer some free access

To put this into context, if you add up the views every month for these top 4 videos, they outperform all the other 35 videos on our Help hub put together:

Video views for tools with some free access vs all the other 35 videos on the Help Hub

What did we learn?

By mirroring your customers’ language and focusing on searcher intent, you can get your content in front of people searching for answers before they need to reach out. If your team is answering the same queries daily, figure out where your content is lacking and think about what you can do in the way of a video or images to assist searchers when they get stuck.

Most SEO work doesn’t have an immediate impact, so track when you’ve made changes and monitor your traffic to draw correlations between visitors arriving on your guides and the changes you’ve made. Try testing updates on a portion of pages and tracking results. Then rolling out updates to the rest of your pages.

More traffic isn’t always a good thing, it could indicate an outage or issue with your tool. Analyzing traffic data is the start of the journey to understanding the needs of people who use your tools.

#4: Winning SERP features by reformatting article structure

While we ramped up our relevance, we also reviewed our guide structure ready for migration to the new Help Hub CMS. We took paragraphs of content and turned them into clearly labelled step-by-step guides.

Who is this helping? I’m looking at you, 36% of people who couldn’t find what they were looking for! We’re coming at you from two angles here: people who never found the page they were searching for, and people who did, but couldn’t digest the content.

Here is an example from our guide on adding keywords to Moz Pro. We started with blocks of paragraphed content interspersed with images. After reformatting, we have a video right at the top and then a numbered list which outlines the steps.

Before: text and images. After: clearly numbered step-by-step guides.

When researching the results for this blog post, I searched for a few common questions to see how we were looking in the search results. And what did I find? Just a lovely rich snippet with our newly formatted steps! Magic!

Our new rich snippet with the first 4 steps and a screenshot of our video

We’ve got all the things we want in a rich snippet: the first 4 steps with the “more items” link (hello, CTR!), a link to the article, and a screenshot of the video. On one hand, the image of the video looks kind of strange, but it also clearly labels it as a Moz guide, which could prove to be rather tempting for people clicking through from the results. We’ll watch how this performs over time to figure out if we can improve on it in future.

Let’s go briefly back in time and see what the original results were for this query, pre-reformatting. Not quite so helpful, now, is it?

Search results before we reformatted the guide

What did we learn?

By clearly arranging your guide’s content into steps or bullet points, you’re improving the readability for human visitors and for search engines, who may just take it and use it in a rich snippet. The easier it is for people to comprehend and follow the steps of a process, the more likely they are to succeed — and that must feel significantly better than wading through a wall of text.

#5: Helping people at the end of the guide

At some point, someone will be disappointed by the guide they ended up on. Maybe it doesn’t answer their question to their satisfaction. Maybe they ended up in the wrong place.

That’s why we have two new features at the end of our guides: Related Articles and Feedback buttons.

The end of the guides, before and after

Related Articles

Related Articles help people to continue to self-serve, honing in on more specific guides. I’m not saying that you’re going to buckle down and binge-read ALL the Moz help guides — I know it’s not exactly Netflix. But you never know — once you hit a guide on Keyword Lists, you may think to yourself, “Gosh, I also want to know how to port my lists over to my Campaign. Oh, and while I’m here, I’m going to check on my Campaign Settings. And ohh, a guide about setting up Campaigns for subdomains? Don’t mind if I do!” Guide lovers around the world, rejoice!

Feedback buttons

I know that feedback buttons are by no means a new concept in the world of guides. It seems like everywhere you turn there’s a button, a toggle, or a link to let some mysterious entity somewhere know how you felt about this, that, and the other.

Does anyone ever actually use this data? I wondered. The trick is to gather enough information that you can analyze trends and respond to feedback, but not so much that wading through it is a major time-wasting chore.

When designing this feature, our aim was to gather actionable feedback from the folks we’re looking to help. Our awesome design, UX, and engineering teams built us something pretty special that we know will help us keep improving efficiently, without any extra noise.

Our new feedback buttons gather the data we need from the people we want to hear from

To leave feedback on our guides, you have to be logged in to your Moz account, so we are sure we’re helping people who engage with our tools, simple but effective. Clicking “Yes, thank you!” ends the journey there, job done, no need for more information for us to sift through. Clicking “No, not really” opens up a feedback box to let us know how we can improve.

People are already happily sending through suggestions, which we can turn into content and FAQs in a very short space of time:

Comments from visitors on how we can improve our guides

If you find yourself on a guide that helps (or not so much), then please do let us know!

The end of an article isn’t the end of the line for us — we want to keep moving forward and building on our content and features.

What did we learn?

We discovered that we’re still learning! Feedback can be tough to stomach and laborious to analyze, so spend some time figuring out who you want to hear from and how you can process that information.


If you have any other ideas about what you’d like to see on the Help Hub, whether it’s a topic, an FAQ, or snazzy feature to help you find the answers to your questions, please do let us know in the comments below.

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Reblogged 23 hours ago from feedproxy.google.com