How to stay original and unique in the world of constant changes? How to be authentic in the field of web design, but meet the needs of the majority? How to be creative and on the top at the same time?
The best person to address these questions is our guest Jacob Cass – one of the leading branding experts and the owner of the award-winning branding agency Just Creative. Jacob is a recognizable speaker at TEDx. His articles have found their place in Entrepreneur, Forbes, and a number of high-profile design books including The Best of Logo Lounge Master Series. His JUST Creative Blog features thousands of articles & resources to help businesses grow & thrive.
So, here is what we are discussing with him about in this interview:
– The latest web design trends
– Ways to brand your website
– How to create visually appealing content to maximize exposure
– How to style your blog and keep your visitors engaged
1. So Jacob, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 🙂
You just introduced me, so we can leave it there! Haha.
2. When did you first know you wanted to pursue a career as a graphic and web designer?
As a hobby, I used to play around with Photoshop and that lead me into learning web design. My career advisor in high school told me about graphic design as a career and that’s when the lightbulb moment happened. I studied design at University and turned in into a career!
3. What are your current projects and campaigns? Could you share with us your new strategies and hacks?
These days, I am working on more branding projects. These are my current open branding projects: a dentist in Hawaii, a virtual 3D University, a design agency in Texas, a health blog in the US, a life coach in England and a medical sales consultant in the US. Talk about diversity – we’re so lucky as designers to be able to work in so many industries! As for “hacks”, I tend to follow a similar design process for most clients. Listening to your client is the biggest “hack” I can suggest.
4. 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. What is an ideal website for Jacob Cass?
An ideal website is fast and solves my needs straight away. Google is the epitome of that. Type in a search, get your answer in a snippet without even needing to go to another website.
5. What are the most common mistakes to avoid when designing a website for the first time?
Not listening to the client’s needs and goals, and properly understanding them. This will help define the brief and desired outcome. Eg. Is the site to get sign-ups? Or maybe it is a phone call. The site should be designed with these goals in mind.
6. Nowadays people prefer websites that are simpler and easier to understand. What are the key elements and advantages of a minimalistic website?
I am all for minimalism, although don’t mistake this for being plain. Brands can still be minimal but with personality. Minimalism takes away what is not required, making it easier for the end-user to make a decision and find what they are looking for. For me, that’s the biggest advantage.
7. You have collaborated with many successful brands like Nike, Disney and Nintendo in the past. What’s the secret recipe for developing a website into a powerful brand? What are your favorite websites?
There is so much more to a brand than just their website. You mustn’t forget this. The customer’s experience does not start or end at the website, that is just the beginning. Consider when you buy from an eCommerce site, after a purchase, there is still many more “experiences” needing to happen… emails, postage, packaging, product quality, support, etc. It is these combined experiences that form the brand. Amazon is the epitome of customer delight for me, fast loading, easy to purchase, fast delivery and a guarantee.
8. What are the primary principles when creating an eCommerce website?
The primary foundations of an eCommerce store are generally in place these days, with out-of-the-box solutions doing most of the groundwork for you. The magic happens once you build your brand’s values into the overall website (visuals, messaging, copywriting and so forth).
9. Many new webshop owners tend to over-complicate their homepages, thus struggling to convert new visitors into customers. How should a new eCommerce business design their homepage?
Focus on a select few goals only. What is the user’s flow when they come to the site? Where do you want to direct them? Put yourself in your user’s shoes. Don’t make them think!
10. What are your favorite ways of capturing leads? Do you have any tips for creating irresistible calls to action?
As annoying as they are, pop up modals, convert best in my experience. The secret is in using the right lead magnet and at the right time! Freebies and discounts win every time.
11. What are the key elements of a highly converting landing page?
A large headline, sub-copy, a few bullet points, and a clear CTA. These at minimum will ensure your page converts but this also depends on what type of landing page it is. Sometimes long-form can convert better, especially when it comes to high ticket prices. The more CTA’s you have, the more likely you will convert.
12. How did you manage to turn Just Creative into an industry-leading blog? Could you share with us some of your favorite strategies?
Consistency. The blog has been around for 2007 so there’s that going for it. The biggest tip is having quality content that is optimized for search engines! You MUST learn SEO if you’re going run a blog. These days, there is so much noise so having longer form pillar content is a good way to get ranked and stand out.
13. What are the key elements of a well-designed blog that will make visitors fall in love with it?
Well there are two aspects of a beautiful blog post and that is how the text is formatted and what imagery is used. Having hierarchy on the headings, sub-headers and bullet points with broken up paragraphs make a blog post easy to read. The imagery should support what is being said within the text. A visual speaks 1000 words.
14. What are your favorite web design tools?
Photoshop and Illustrator are what I use every day. I did use Sketch for a while too, but came back to AI. I use Font Explorer X for font management, Skype for calls, Google Docs, Gmail, PayPal, Chrome and Trello on a daily basis.
15. Where do you find inspiration for new projects and how do you overcome creative blocks?
Pinterest, Dribbble, Google. I rarely get creative blocks as I take regular breaks throughout the day. I use the free app ‘TimeOut’ to schedule my breaks every 15mins (for 15sec) and 1 hour (for 5mins). I also travel quite frequently to break up the routine, having visited 87 countries now!
16. Do you expect any major shifts or trends in the web design industry in the upcoming years?
Aesthetic trends in web design come and go so quickly, however major structural trends take longer to implement. There is no shortage of “web design trends” articles so I will leave this one here.
17. What’s your best advice for beginner web designers? Should they follow and implement the latest industry trends or trust their own sense of creative innovation?
A mixture of both. You need to be aware of what is happening but don’t be afraid to take creative liberty either.
18. Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. But before you go, do you have any other final tips for upcoming web designers, bloggers and website owners? 🙂
Remember, everyone starts at the bottom. It’s only with discipline to your craft that you will grow, so put the hard work in to reap the benefits, but be patient with it. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Ensure you have a goal to work towards!