07 Jan 11 time-saving design tools for SMEs
Reducing the cost of visual content creation
Visual marketing is becoming ever more important; a crucial aspect of your overall content marketing strategy in 2016. Not all content is king; it’s visual content that is poised to take the throne.
But producing visuals, creating engaging content for social media and making sure your branding is on point all take time and cost money. And these are resources that small businesses do not necessarily have.
There are some simple tools that can reduce these costs. Visuals needn’t be time-consuming. Nor do you need to shell out on expensive graphic design software to acheive this. Instead – with a little planning – you can build a suite of tools to help you create visual content more easily.
We’ve put together this list of time-saving and cost-effective design tools that can help your business. These include all-round tools as well as simple fixes for more specific tasks, such as creating infographics or developing a branded colour palette. What’s more, they can all be used for free with very few (if any) limitations.
We love this tool so much that we had to give it it’s own category. While it might not have the power of InDesign, its ease of use – and the fact that you don’t need a subscription – means that it has to be featured on this list…
Enter Canva. This uber-versatile tool lets you create a range of different types of graphics. As well as allowing you to upload your own backgrounds and add text, it also contains easy-to-use templates for specific types of content, such as social media posts, presentations, blog graphics and ebooks.
Sometimes you don’t need a Photoshop subscription when you’ve got MS Paint. Of course, Paint has major limitations. But if all you need to do is basic editing and cropping, the following tools will come in handy…
PicMonkey is great for editing and touching-up photos, as well as changing saturation, cropping and rotating. But it’s real strength is in easily allowing you to create photo collages. Pixlr Express is another useful little tool. It’s got pretty much the same features as PicMonkey – adjustments, effects, overlays, borders, etc. – but it loads really quickly which means is perfect for quick edits. Another tool is Ribbet. Again, this lets you quickly edit and produce photo collages with a range of templates.
If you’re even an occasional user of Facebook then you’ll have come across visual quotes – text quotes overlaid on a photographic background. But these needn’t be whimsical statements on stock photo landscapes (although the following tools let you easily create these too). Anything from facts and statistics to testimonials and customer reviews can provide the information for visual quotes. And with that information to hand, all you need are the following tools to bring it to life…
Speed is key here. In just a few steps, Quotes Cover generates great looking visual quotes that are perfectly optimised for different social media content types, such as Pinterest pins, Facebook covers and Twitter headers. In even fewer steps, Recite will create eye-catching graphics for your quotes – although in this case the templates are a little limited. And if you’re not in so much of a rush, Fotor is a much more versatile alternative.
First came text-heavy blogs. Then came ebooks. But then everyone started making infographics. Even though they can be overused, they’re still valuable resources – particularly for repurposing your existing content. It also used to be the case that the time taken to create them outweighed the benefits – but not so much anymore…
Packed with templates, Easel.ly is great for both creating and sharing infographics. On top of this, there are a huge range of user-created graphics to get your creative juices running. If you’re looking for a more business-friendly alternative, then Info.gram is definitely a contender. Its real value lies in its ability to help you to produce smart-looking graphs and charts. While it can be used for free, it’s the one tool on the list where paying a subscription could be worthwhile.
The next two tools are a little different but we’ve found them very useful. Both of them help you to build a colour palette. If you’ve already got a style guide including colour choices for your brand – and you should! – you can probably skip over these. But even then they can be useful if you use any ad hoc graphics that you want to build your content around…
Choose your brand’s base colour and Paletton will generate a set of complementary shades, as well as compatible shades of other colours. You can then easily copy-and-paste their RGB hex value. Pictaculous is a colour palette generator that produces a colour palette for you based on any image that you upload.
All these tools have their strengths and limitations but they can definitely save you both time and money when it comes to graphic design. Have we missed any that you use? Let us know in the comments.