News, Ideas, Opinions & Design

Handmade: Fenghuang… Our latest FreshKit

I don’t know if it’s the influence of the year of the snake, or the fact that for my Zodiac Girls store, I order supplies from China and Hong Kong, but I am in such an oriental mood. You can totally tell in the latest FreshKit, called Fenghuang.

I love the mythos of the Fenghuang, if you don’t know what that means, these are mythological birds that rule all the other birds in East Asia. This bird can be paired with a Chinese dragon, so in this brand you’ll see dragons, lots of birds, a bonsai tree, and of course… bright colorful grunge. It’s pretty esoteric and eclectic, but built with the seller of handmade goods in mind. Hope you like it! You can grab it at Creative Market!

Taking Risks for Business Growth in the Mobile Internet Age

Right on cue, after yesterday’s post on mobile app ideas for “boring” businesses like tire shops and dry cleaners, Inc. has published a great read on why you must take the risk of getting into the mobile game in order to continue growing your business – physical or virtual.

The article is a must-read and I suggest looking into the book coming out this week by Randy Gage: Risky is the New Safe. Change is inevitable, growth is not. Let’s figure this out together!

Free Mobile App Ideas for 4 “Boring” Businesses (plus How to Make an Affordable Mobile App)

Mobile internet usage is doing nothing but rising and will continue to for at least the next decade or so. At the bottom of the article there will be some links to stats and info about that so you can do some research, as well as platforms you can use to make an app yourself, more affordably than hiring a development company to do it from scratch.

What I want to talk about are some ideas that less-sexy businesses like dry cleaners and tire shops can use as inspiration to create their own mobile app, and how this can benefit you. So open your minds and get ready to think outside your box about new ways to market your products and services. Don’t worry about cost for now… we’ll talk about that after the ideas.

App Content & Features Ideas

Tires & Tire Services

Purchasing tires can be like purchasing underwear – you know you need them and have to buy them, but don’t necessarily want to as it seems like your hard-earned money would bring more satisfaction if spent on something pretty or fun… like a designer handbag or electronic gadget. So how does a tire shop possibly create an app that customers would want to use and ultimately would bring them into the store for tires or service? How about…

  • offering a daily or weekly deal in the app exclusively for app users
  • allowing fast inventory and price-checking
  • pushing out a reminder to a customer who needs their tires rotated or some other service on a schedule
  • pushing out seasonal tips about tire care
  • giving a “guide to long-lasting tire care” so people can save money & not have to replace them prematurely
  • letting customers schedule an appointment so they don’t have to call
  • letting customers tweet you a question easily
  • giving people a fun badge for checking in so many times using the app
  • randomly giving people a special incentive after so many checkins using the app
  • write a “tire buying for dummies” guide or something geared to first time tire purchasers to help walk them through it
  • allow parents to purchase tires for their college kids via your app, so all the student has to do is show up to get them put on
Mr. Tire has a similar app you can examine to give you some real-life inspiration! Note the wonderful way they keep track of all your vehicles and maintenance information (though they have a few comments about this needing a better user experience… take comments to heart and make corrections once an app is in the market.)

Modern Web Design Doesn’t Have to Mean Black, White & Minimal

So many website themes professing to be “modern” or Swiss-influenced are extremely stark, minimalistic layouts with no color at all. Black, white, gray… at a certain point it just becomes boring.

Enter Modernline. Though blue is certainly used in corporate web design a lot, the rarely-used pairing of dark navy and bright pink (sort of an Indian pink-red) is such a refreshing change it practically leaps off the screen. Let’s explore this brand (which appears to be a wholesaler or retailer of residential and commercial building materials) and take a look at some interesting design choices that make this brand a stand-out (even though I can’t read a word of it!)

Hitting the homepage is like stepping into a sleek modern showroom. The focus is on the color scheme and getting a glimpse of beautiful decor in different key categories. The brand names are featured at the bottom in grayscale for uniformity.

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Spotlight On: Watercolor Website Design

We are starting a new “Spotlight” series featuring a single style or element used in modern web design or brand identity that inspires and moves us. This spotlight is on watercolor website design, used to turn our everyday computing environment into something more rich and tactile.


Everything about Toggle is designed to challenge your expectations. The result is a gorgeous experience of user exploration enveloped in this lovely, soothing cream and blue.

Continue reading to check out more watercolor designs and fun design elements you can use to design one of your own if you’re not an artist (I’m not – I love having real art like this to use!)

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The Most Gorgeous Website You Will See Today: XHTML Cafe

Today’s site is a true work of art, and you get the double benefit of it being quite handy should you need a PSD to HTML or WordPress conversion, because that’s what they do!

XHTML Cafe has gone the extra mile to appeal to designers, with its beautiful watercolor welcome…

Who wouldn’t trust their precious design to them after seeing the excellent job they’ve done on their own site?

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The Most Gorgeous Website You Will See Today: Holy Cow!

Today’s site may or may not be pleasing to your senses, but it’s definitely interesting! Holy Cow, an Aussie design and ad agency, has a very bovine-flavored website… in hot pink, naturally. :-)

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The Most Gorgeous Website You Will See Today: National Honesty Index

Today’s most gorgeous site is a little bit unusual. Brought to you by the Honest Tea brand, in a take on their name they decided to conduct  an experiment to find out where the most honest people dwell and what categories they fall into. Is Madison Avenue more honest than Wall Street? Is Wall Street more honest than the folks on Capitol Hill? You can discover the non-scientific answers to these questions and more at this unique site.

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How to Make Your Tumblr Look Like a Website

A lot of folks hit our site wanting to know how to make their Tumblr look more like WordPress or a traditional website. This is somewhat possible, in terms of navigation, but much harder to do if you want a “homepage” front door to your tumblr blog, as the way it is meant to function is as a chronological series of blog posts, the most recent on top. Here are the different methods you can use to make your Tumblr look more like a website.

Find a Theme That Already Looks Like a Website

Premium and free themes may exist that have the look and feel you want, but you just need to find them. Check out our recent list of theme sites and visit Tumblr’s Theme Garden, where you can preview each look on your blog before purchasing. Here is a good example of a Premium theme by one of our favorite Tumblr developers, Style Hatch. This is called Origin West.

You need to study the features offered by this theme, because these pre-coded bits of functionality are going to get you closer to the feeling of a website than many other themes provide. This is some of the stuff you need to look for in a pre-made theme:

  • built-in coding to display tweets and Instagram photos
  • built-in coding for post sharing
  • Disqus is set up to allow visitor comments (this is the only commenting method available for Tumblr sites, yet isn’t pre-installed so it has to be set up)
  • built-in Google Analytics and Clicky tracking (you will have to set up accounts on these sites and then enter your code, but the coding is here already to make it work)
  • uses Typekit for custom fonts
  • page links run across the top of the header, more like a website does
  • ends the site nicely with a footer area with content and search, like a website does

You will notice, though, there is no “homepage” – but if you want a sharp looking blog that is going to stand out, this theme is awesome.

If you’re a girly-girl like moi, check out Coco… this theme seriously could not be ANY more adorable! I think Style Hatch has my number. :-)

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Saturday Freebies! Attractive Bits for Your Sites & Apps

I have found some pretty things for you to download and enjoy for free (check licenses for personal, non-profit and commercial use) and today these are focused on web/user interface elements so you can dress up your search bars, forms, social media buttons and other elements that may be a bit too mundane right now.

Web UI Elements

These white outlined, smooth and beveled buttons from Invent Layout will most assuredly turn heads!


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The Most Gorgeous Website You Will See Today: Fuel America

Coffee bags that resemble old motor oil cans, Americana flavoring, and as the designer quips “Coffee for yer Pops.” Fuel America is the brainchild of Commoner, Inc., a Boston-based identity studio that makes logos and trademarks fun again. You could get lost for a while in their Dribbble account, but I recommend it highly. But let’s focus on this one brand identity for a moment, because it’s loaded with great inspiration and solid branding lessons.

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First Impression: Marie Catrib’s Restaurant Website & Online Bakery

The moment I stumbled across Marie Catrib’s, I was delighted. When a website design gives you that “claps hands like seal” feeling, you know something awesome went into the making of it.

Continue reading for user experience perspectives, photography points and an assessment of the company’s social presence and integration into the business of this unique restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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The Most Gorgeous Website You Will See Today: Grayden Poper

Grayden Poper is an interactive designer with a great sense of whimsy. I came across his site in a list of creative “About” pages and am so glad I did!

When you first hit his site, you see some different things Grayden wanted to be when he grew up. Hit the teardrop above each one to reveal his comment about it. The intro is the perfect setup for his work, the bulk of which seem to incorporate lovely textures and rich depth in colors and images like his own personal site does.

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October 2012 Designer Wallpapers for Desktops & Devices

I loaded a beautiful new wallpaper onto my desktop that is representative of my birth sign, Libra. It’s called Aire and it’s both calming and uplifting, at least to me, which is probably because I am the stereotypical air sign with head-in-clouds syndrome! Find it and some more pretty, nature-inspired looks at The Art Times.

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Customer Service via Social Media… How’s That Working for You?

There is a real disconnect between genuine customer service and social media accounts online for the purpose of providing customer service, and it is almost never the fault of the staff running the social accounts.

Brian Solis and the folks over at Pivot have compiled an infographic and data on the stark reality of customer service satisfaction in this age of social media. In Brian’s words, “The challenge for change agents and internal champions is about moving businesses from #lipservice to #customerservice.”

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