What is Brand Strategy?

There are many different types of Strategies when it comes to business. Business Strategy, Corporate Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Content Strategy but what is Brand Strategy?

TL;DR; Brand Strategy is highlighting the long-term goals of a business and understanding how your brand can help achieve them.

Let’s start by defining what ‘Brand’ is. Brand in itself is very intangible. Often mistaken for a logo or the ‘look’ of something be it a website or marketing materials. Brand is actually the feeling someone gets whenever they interact with your business. A great example and one commonly used is Nike. Their brand could be considered the feeling of a get-up-and-go attitude with regard to sport. No thinking. No second guesses. Give it your all. Their slogan “Just Do It” is a perfect encapsulation of this attitude.

This idea of “Just Do It” is probably printed on a document somewhere in the Nike offices along with other intangible feelings and values that they adhere to. From this “document” every single thing that is written, presented, spoken, recorded or broadcasted will revert back to this document and the idea of “Just Do It”. Before anything is sent out to the masses, it is asked the question “Does this resonate with our values and our ethos?”.

Brand cannot end there. It’s all well and good that a company sits round a table and decides “this is our brand, we must always adhere to this”. It’s not until this idea enters the minds of the consumer before it starts to take shape. The great Marty Neumeier said “Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is”. Meaning it’s only until the prospect “gets it” and feels it that it becomes your brand.

No that we’ve established what brand is, how does strategy fall into this and what different types of brand strategies are there?

As will all aspects of a business, you must have a purpose and goals. You need a reason to exist and these reasons should dictate everything that you do. Brand strategy is no different so highlighting the long-term goals of a business and understanding how your brand can help achieve them is what brand strategy is. This can be a fairly intangible thing, particularly in the eyes of an accountant. Brand Value or “brand equity” cannot be measured in the short-term as it’s a pretty intagible asset. If goals are met, what percentage can be attributed to your brand?

This makes brand strategy all the more important as recognising a goal and assigning a particular tactic executed by a brand action is the only possible way to even come close to start to understand how well your brand is doing. It’s likely though that multiple strategies have been assigned to a particular goal and so there lies the dilema. A truly chicken-egg type of scenario particularly with marketing. I always describe marketing as the megaphone and brand as the voice. The two are intrinsically linked and you often see this as VP’s of marketing are assigned to the management of an organisations brand. To an extent they are appropriately given the task but they are definitely different skillsets. Ultimately, you can’t beat having a single person assigned to one task.

Brand Strategy can be said to drive they why from an emotional standpoint of the business strategy and marketing can be considered how. Knowing why you do things is key to really connect with your market. It’s the only human-like asset they can resonate with so it’s important to make it known. You often see “Vision Statements” on websites to really highlight this. Personally, I like the idea of this resonating from within the behaviours and actions of the brand to help your customers understand your vision statement.

Brand Strategy at Jupiter and the Giraffe is the process of running diagnosis of the current state of the business and what goals it has as well as the market in and around the business to help define a brand. That includes user personas and competitor analysis. Finally, we propose a set of actions to accomplish your brand goals. This is crucial as it gives purpose the tasks at hand and gives us measurable results we hope to achieve at given points in the strategy. We distil this down to a creative brief, outlining actions against a prioritised list of goals created during the session. This session is attended by C-suite members of the organisation because it’s important to know the long-term goals of the company, something only these individuals have sight of. The founder is also a great person to have in the room as they often have sight of the vision as this is key to staying focussed.

Staying consistent with these ideas is important. We run brand audits every 3 months as they can easily get shaken due to changes in the market place and company goals changing. Brand should be an evolving aspect of the company but should always be anchored to the “why” of the organisation. Reverting back to the “Document” is a great way to do this.

It’s amazing what results can come from a brand strategy. Most notably is how to create a good brand name. To create a brand name or company name that has rooted meaning can only be achieved from looking deep within your brand and seeing further than simply what you do. Some of the best brand name examples in my opinion are Spotify, Kindle and Apple. It doesn’t take long to find out what inspired these seemingly arbitrary names. Once brand strategy is in place, you’ll have a hard time choosing a brand name! If you want help naming your brand, I suggest the book Hello, my name is awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick.

I hope this clears up any ambiguity. The very process of brand strategy should get the minds of everyone working together and involved while leaving everyone feeling like they are on the same page. Super important if this document stays relevant for as long as the organisation is in existence.

At Jupiter and the Giraffe we offer Brand Strategy but we also offer Brand Experience which aims to fulfil most of the actions identified in Strategy. If you’re interested in having a chat, feel free to contact us for a free consultation. We love talking about everything brand related!

The Death of Branding and the advent of the Personal Brand – by a Branding Agency

Yes, it’s true. Branding has been in ill-health for a while and now we have finally seen it’s demise. You probably thought that this was some sort of click-bait title but I truly think we are coming to an end to corporate branding. Here’s why.

With the introduction of Instagram, we’ve seen an influx of “influencers”. The entrepreneurs of the 21st century otherwise known as “solopreneurs“. These individuals have remarkable power to engage, entertain and ultimately influence the behaviours of hundreds of thousands of people with a single post and zero budget. More specifically, they influence the buying behaviours of those hundreds of thousands of people. It’s marketing in its finest form, something we could have only dreamed of 15 years ago but how do they achieve this? Personal branding.

Personal branding is something we’ve only really recognised in the last five years or so although (if that) although, It’s existed for many more. Take for example your favourite band when you were young. Didn’t you find yourself wanting the same clothes as them? The same hairstyle? Didn’t you find yourself wanting the same PERSONALITY as them?! This may have largely had to do with the music they were producing but It was also the narrow view of their personalites that were presented to you on MTV. They are, of course, very complex individuals but the behaviours they were best known for were always captured and this, unbeknown to them, led to their own personal brand being developed and scripted by their observers and people struck a chord with that… Pun not intended.

Fast forward to now and the same idea that a person can convince you to buy the same things they buy, wear the same things they wear and do the same things they do has been stripped away from any sort of talent and laid bare on social media leaving essentially just a personality. The impact of this has naturally made its way to the mainstream who are trying to harness the secrets of the power that it possesses.

I’m not really sure this was intentional though. I think these people did what they loved. They reviewed technology, they travelled the world, they gave an insight into their lives. It was the platforms that glamorised this stuff and made it feel somewhat special or unique. I think this stuff as always happened. It was just never possible to broadcast it so freely and easily. Granted, the first of these sorts of channels were early adopters of the technology and probably didn’t see it coming but after the impact took wind, we couldn’t help but dissect the formula of why it was so powerful.

Branding is the ability to enter the hearts and minds of a consumer. This results in price-insensitivity and a faith that is only seen in religion and cults. It’s only fair to compare this when individuals behave in the same way when it comes to the Instagram accounts of individuals and because this brand-like behaviour is seen to revolve around just a person, personal branding is born.

Interestingly, the techniques are exactly the same to establish and present a personal brand as it is to establish a corporate brand. The first being positioning. You need to occupy a space in the market where no-one else can. There are many ways to do this but you need to your own twist on things. Let’s take tech reviews as an example. There are many many tech reviewers in existence but what do you bring that’s different. Is it the manner in which you present it? Is it the particular things you focus on? The good thing is that whatever you think is different is actually pretty common, it’s just that you need to make sure no-one in the marketplace is doing that same thing in the way you do it. You need to apply that same concept to your ‘personality’. It’s important to remember though, this isn’t your whole personality, it’s just a narrow sub-set that you promote.

Once you’ve positioned yourself, you then need a set of values that you can express. Again, you are a very complex individual but it’s the values that you keep consistent in your output that is going to further position you in a unique field but also and build that brand awareness, that loyalty through consistency. As long as what you produce aligns with these values, you dig deeper into the hearts and minds of those that stumble across your output.

These are the same excercises we run in our brand strategy workshops. You can read about many ways you can build a brand but when it’s when you combine this with your product or service is when this becomes financially rewarding.

I know what you will think, “but I don’t want to be a social influencer!”. Maybe you don’t, but it’s these concepts and ideas we can harness and apply to our selves that will make the difference. We’ve started to realise, people don’t buy what you do, they buy other people so if you can build a personality that is consistent and accessible, then those followers will inevitably buy whatever you are making money from (hopefully your product or service). They also build trust in you and what you do, so as with any brand, it’s the long-term effects that see ROI. When was the last time you made a sale over the telephone? It’s much more effective to make a sale face-to-face and if they already have access to your personality you’re already lowering buyer resistance and they already feel like they know you.

In summary, I think we need to focus on producing content for our business less and produce content on ourselves more. Give people a subset of your personality that’s relevant to your product or service using the platforms available and do it in a way where you are providing value to them. Present it on the platform that your customer is most likely to be on (another aspect of building a brand), but keep it consistent. It doesn’t need to lie. It just needs to be consistent. This will naturally grow a following and will, in time, convert as you will attract people that are into what you do. Their perceived value of your services will grow because social-proof is a thing and you can inevitably end up charging more as you have price-insensitivity on your side.

I honestly can see a future where more emphasis and marketing money is spent on the individuals and employees of a company to promote and do things based on their personal brand rather than traditional methods. As long as what they are doing are in some way linked to the business.


OnlinessStatementGenerator.com and what all the fuss is about

Onliness isn’t even a real word. It was coined by the great Marty Neumeier in his book Zag. Although not the godfather of what the onliness statement tool is used for (that was done by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves) he certainly helped it reach the masses. Originally, Rosser described a “Unique Selling Proposition” or USP as a differentiation characteristic of your brand in the marketplace. It’s one of the most important strategic actions one can take when starting a business or building a product and is a key element to building a brand.

Marty takes Rossers idea further in his Onliness Statement by getting us to figure out the “Big Idea” behind our product or service. He also encapsulates the what, how, who, where, why and when of your business cutting through the noise in the market and positioning you well. The Onliness Statement acts as a decision filter for all future encounters and to ultimately remain on brand. Reaching a fork in the road is a simple case of referring to your Onliness Statement to figure out if this aligns with your goal as a business.

So what is the Onliness Statement?

You fill in the blanks…

[Company Name] is THE ONLY (category)
THAT (differentiation characteristic)
FOR (customer)
IN (market geography)
WHO (need state)
DURING (underling trend)

Here are some examples:

Harley Davidson The ONLY motorcycle manufacturer
THAT makes big, loud motorcycles
FOR macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)
mostly IN the United States
WHO wants to join a gang of cowboys
DURING an era of decreasing personal freedom

Jupiter and the Giraffe is THE ONLY branding agency
THAT brings ambitious and interesting global brand thinking
FOR young, creative entrepreneurs
IN and around Planet Earth
WHO want to demonstrate their uniqueness
DURING an era of boring sameness

You can really see that you’re not only challenged to think of HOW your product is different but also WHY it’s different.

So have a go yourself. It only takes a few moments. There may be some tasks you need to undertake to fill it in which may make it longer (such as your target market) but it will ultimately be a very powerful tool.

Luckily, We’ve built a tool to help you over at OnlinessStatementGenerator.com. We hope this helps streamline the process.


Bring strategic thinking to your brand

Jupiter and the Giraffe describe themselves as a brand strategy and design agency, but what does this mean? More specifically the term “agency” and how does it differ to freelancers?

You can find freelancers on websites like Upwork and Fiverr. These sites are a great place to find creatives and technical individuals to help you build what you want. Want a new logo? Someone on Fiverr will create you one for your up and coming business. Need a new website? Upwork’s got you covered. Although you may get exactly what you’re looking for, there’s one huge thing that individuals behind the computer screen lack. Strategic thinking.

I’m not calling these creatives stupid and it’s not that these people can’t think, it’s that they don’t need to in this context. It’s just not what they are getting paid to do. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr are all about getting work done for cheap but what’s the cost? Freelancers thrive as individuals on these platforms because a freelancer can be a cog in a machine. There’s normally someone above them like an analyst or a creative lead that tells them exactly what to create. The huge thing missing here though is “why” they are creating something and some creatives are happy not knowing the why. Just tell them what to do and they’ll do it.

This is great if you have an idea for a logo in your head and can picture bits of it but need a whizz at Photoshop to polish it up for you and refine a few creative decisions around your concept.

The problem here though is that there is no purpose or meaning to their ideas. As much as you might think creative assets like this need to look cool, there’s much more below the surface. It all starts with business goals and what you want to achieve as a company. More specifically, what is your brand and your company’s values. It’s great that you have an idea for a logo but to really get the most out of it, it needs to speak to the right people and ultimately convert from prospects to customers.

I won’t knock these websites. It’s so important to get your idea up there and testing assumptions on real people and so paying for a logo or website shouldn’t be at the top of your list, but when you start to make money and your idea becomes more refined and clear, it’s time you start to look at how you can target the right customer and speak to them in the right way.

It is possible for a freelancer to extract this information from you but that’s about it when it comes to a freelancer. It doesn’t end there for an agency. It’s really up to an agency to question your motives behind your design choices (if you have them) and actually create a strategy to execute that all falls in line with your business goals. We build your brand and define your strategy before we even touch design or development. We actually call this service Strategy. After the initial strategy session, we may then conduct a set of discovery workshops to further dig into your challenges and pain-points to develop our “why” when it comes to execution.

When it finally comes to design or development – we’ve thought long and hard about what problems we are trying to solve – who your audience are and what appeals to them; how we speak to them; how do they typically engage with you; what they are looking to get out of you and the many ways they would look to do that. Only then is this likely to actually have a financial and beneficial impact on your business. We think. We measure twice and cut once, as the old saying goes.

So if you’re ready for the next step, or you believe you’re just not speaking to the right people or you need to speak to a new set of people, then get in touch with us and lets do something awesome together.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

FreeAgent 10% discount Referral Code – ’48ebvyrs’ 👍

Here at Jupiter and the Giraffe we like to keep things trim. That includes the way we run our business. It’s important that we understand the ins and outs of things before we hand it off. Accountancy was a big one for us as, with technology, this skill that was once an anomaly to the every-person can now be achieved with the right tools. We use FreeAgent. FreeAgent integrates perfectly with our business bank account Revolut (more on that later).

Just give me the code? Sign up by following this link to claim

With FreeAgent (and Revolut), we can assign finances coming in and out of our account as expenses and/or to invoices that we can generate from within the software.

The regular chores that come with owning a company like Corperation Tax, directors tax are part of something called “Tax Timeline” in which I can monitor the dates all these things are due. It of course also helps put them together for us and makes it super simple.

Payroll is also handled from within the software and is a breeze to set up. It will also set up Employment Allowance for us which removes an extra headache.

That’s all we need it for for now, but i’m sure there’s plenty more to it. Check out their website for more information and whether it suits their needs.

All in all it’s a great piece of software and is really cheap! Using our FreeAgent referral code you can get it even cheaper.

The code

48ebvyrs

Did our agency just get scammed?! 🤔

There are some very smart people in the world. Unfortunately, some people use that intelligence to do terrible, deceptive things. The story I’m about to tell isn’t a 100% confirmed scam but it sure as hell looks like one to me and I’ll let you be the judge of that. The idea of this post is to help others be more vigilant when they are interacting and doing business with strangers over the web.

It all started when we received a polite email to our address on our website simply asking if we do website design. The grammar wasn’t great and a few formatting things but otherwise, it looked like a human had written it. The address it came from was a bit ambiguous but it contained letters (albeit 3 of them) of the person’s name. For context, I won’t reveal the email but let’s assume his name was “John” and his email was “jeabhsn[at]gmail[dot]com”. I responded and offered some of our other services like branding, logo design and website development as sometimes clients do simplify all those services into just “design”. They responded the very next day with a short introduction to his company. They were a small active sportswear company based in Manchester looking to import and export sportswear and to expand in the future. It wouldn’t be an eCommerce site and he would be working with a private consultant who had the website content and logo already sorted. I thought it was weird that he didn’t want an eCommerce site, it would be a worthwhile investment but in an age of “Lean Startup I understood why he wouldn’t want to spend a lot up front. That last point though, about the private consultant, would become ever more important later on in the story…

WHAT I WANT

Written as such, in all capitals. The brief was followed by a set of very specific deliverables. They were sensible too! 4 pages, a “Products” page which would be a gallery of 4 sections (men, women, boys, girls) which we would have to update every month or so and a contact form. All this with a deadline of 3 months seemed straightforward. Then followed a list of pretty convincing notes;

Note:
1. I want only English language
2. You will be updating the site for me.
3. I will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
4. I want the site up and running before ending of next two month.
5. My budget is X
6. No shopping ability
7. The site will be mobile friendly
8. I don’t want sitemap
9. I have 25 product to be on it.

Kindly get back to me with:
(1) an estimate
(2) your cell phone number
(3) And will like to know if you are the owner ??
(4) Do you accept credit cards as payment ?

John

The agreement

The project itself was a bit low for us in terms of budget but the potential to scale sounded very appealing. The potential to grow a client and support them along the way is something we love at Jupiter and the Giraffe so we agreed to give it a shot. I responded with something along those lines and suggested, in time, we revisit a lot of the workshop-type stuff we’ve missed on this occasion as its something we normally do with our clients so that we can establish a more solid brand later down the line.

Credit Cards though. Something stood out about that so I inquired with a couple of friends who are lawyers. Although alarming, I had a resounding thumbs-up from them both for reasons that many people just starting out won’t have the money and will either be getting a loan or using credit cards to give them a head start. Also, I was told it’s not as simple to reverse a transaction from credit cards as most issuers need evidence that the product or service was not received. As long as I had very clear contracts stating that they agree to the fees and that 50% would be owed up front (a very important thing to do, especially with new clients) then all should be well.

We scheduled a call with him to get further clarification on the requirements. I tried calling and it was not a British ringing tone. His answerphone message was a typical one that defaults with your carrier but it was in an American accent. Again, in this modern age of remote working and worldwide connectivity, I didn’t think anything of it. When I eventually got through, my designer and I joined the call. He seemed polite and was clear on his requirements. His English was not perfect but he could articulate himself well enough. A few points of interest is that he was not hesitant when it came to the price of our service and that he would be covering all credit card fees. He was also fine about paying 50% up front. Once again, a refreshing thing to hear! We left the call saying we’d need to get a SOW and contract signed with everything we agreed on the call and that we’d be good to go. We’d also need the work the consultant had already done to help guide us.

He signed the SOW promptly and we were all set. All I needed was an address for the invoice to send him the 50% upfront fee. The address he sent was indeed from Manchester. I sent the invoice and a link to pay through PayPal where he could pay it. His response was that he did not have a PayPal and that his card did not work with it, so he suggested Stripe. I thought this was odd but I pursued to set up a Stripe account and generated the invoice. That’s when things turned strange.

Things turned strange

He responded with something very queer. He asked if he could amend the amount on the credit card. The reason for this is as follows…

I understand the content for this site would be needed so work can start asap but i will need a little favor from you regarding content and logo.
And also want you to know that am still at the hospital due to my current state of health. So don’t mind me replying late, it’s will be because my doctor is attending to me.

John

I was confused by what was being asked of us here. I also thought the bit about the hospital was a little strange, as, although terrible to hear, we were dealing with business and that was a little too personal given our brief encounter. A follow-up email was sent by him as if he pressed ‘send’ too early, as I suspected there was missing information in this email.

The favor i need is that i will be making upfront deposit payment for the project and i want you to add the sum of X to the amount you will run on my card plus 3% Cc company charges. So when you receive the fund in your account, you will send the X to the project consultant that has the text content , imagery and the logo for my website.
Once he receive the fund, he would send the imagery and logo needed for my website to you immediately.

John

The reason for the above is that the third-party consultant didn’t take credit card so he was asking us here if we could take the credit card payment and pay the consultant ourselves so that they could then send the logo and website content and we could begin work (something stated in our SOW). He also said he could’nt go to the bank himself because of his health. I said I’d get back to him.

Getting legal advice

The advice I received was to treat it like Jupiter and the Giraffe are sub-contracting for this logo and content and that a new contract will need to be written in order to get all parties on the same page and talking. I asked for the consultant’s details and called with no answer. I contacted them via email and left it at that. I also checked out “Bethesda Media” online but could not find them anywhere. I wanted to avoid this hassle so I took my time with things in case his health got better. I also suggested that he could send drafts and concepts of everything (something I would expect from an engagement) and that we could use these to help our design. I really pushed to get drafts while I sought assistance from a legal perspective and I got quite short responses reminding me that all I need to do is pay the consultant to release the assets.

A weekend went by and I received a chirpy email from him saying that he tried calling me (he hadn’t) and asking if I had got anywhere with the contracts. I responded saying that I tried contacting the contractor and am waiting on a response. I also reminded him that all we needed was the concept for the final logo and that we could proceed with that.

At this point I grew impatient. Many of the above emails mentioned his own state of health and all I wanted was an answer. I didn’t mind that I hadn’t heard from the consultant as I was looking for some hint that work had been done, even in concept form. We could have proceeded without this stuff fine but my gut feeling was that something wasn’t right and I wanted evidence. I finally sent an email after waiting for the consultant to get back to me.

We need to push forward with things. We have decided we can no longer facilitate the invoice of your consultant. This puts our own company at risk as well as slowing down the progress of the project which we need to get moving on. We have enough information from you to proceed with the design and can do so once the initial invoice is paid.

Me

The invoice I generated through Stripe was still valid so I insisted we proceed once that is paid. I didn’t feel comfortable being paid by credit card and then paying cold, hard cash to a consultant that seemed non-existent. I recieved an email begging me to help and once again reminding me of his health. Sympathetic as I was, I needed to focus on the business and the security of my company. I provided him with some advice on how he could pay the consultant himself but that would be a separate matter between them. I chased it up a week later after hearing nothing and I still haven’t heard back.

In summary

There are so many subtle stages to this deceit. The timing of everything seemed perfect. Waiting until the last moment to tell us the consultant does not accept credit cards, the co-work space, the accuracy of his brief containing evidence he knew what he was talking about. The curveballs that we threw as a company were responded with confidence and composure. I had my doubts but most things checked out, even with professional lawyers!! For shits and giggs I contacted the address that he said his company was based at. It did indeed exist on Google and was a co-work space. I asked the receptionist if she’d ever heard of “John” and she said she does not know anyone by that name. I really should have done this at the time because that was the final straw.

One final point is that here at Jupiter and the Giraffe we run the following payment schedule and I’d advise you to do the same, especially with new clients. 50% upfront, 25% 3/4 of the way through the project and then the remaining 25% on delivery. This remaining 25% should be your profit margin so you’re never waiting for your company to break even on a project.

I’d like to create a conversation below. Do YOU see any red flags that I didn’t spot? Have YOU had anything similar happen to you? Is there any advice on how we can prevent this or spot this in the future? Pop a comment below. All the responses to the emails I’ve copied in full; spelling mistakes and all. Is there anything in that we could look out for in the future?

Zeplin – A Developers Perspective

In my time helping Talk Talk Group build their CMS and front-end capabilities, I worked closely with their design and UX team. They introduced me to Zeplin. Zeplin is a tool we use heavily at Jupiter and the Giraffe and it’s essential in building pixel-perfect websites by allowing us to see exact HEX codes or pixel dimensions in our designs amongst many other things. Although primarily used by designers, developers can benefit immensely from it and I hope I can shed some light on how I use it.

Cost

Zeplin is a paid-for tool allowing you to host multiple website projects within a team but they do offer a free version in which you can host only one project. For developing businesses that normally have one project on the go at any one time this is fine but when you start to grow, you may need to dig into those wallets and fork out a little per month. As a developer though I don’t need to pay for this tool. I can view many sites and inspect the designs as much as I want. So there’s the first bonus.

Size/Spacing

When first looking at a design my number one need for Zeplin is spacings and dimensions. Whether I’m looking at images, icons, paddings or margins — with Zeplin I can hover over an element and see those dimensions. This is super useful. But what is even more useful is that if I click on an element to highlight it and then move my mouse to another element, I get the distance between the two objects too!

CSS

I love writing CSS/SASS. I take great pride in writing clean, maintainable CSS and I’m part of a few developers who’ve been around the block and understand the many little hacks, tips and tricks when writing CSS. But we all get lazy. Although I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, Zeplin allows me to inspect many different aspects of the CSS markup that makes the design. This can be pretty useful, especially when trying to match border-radius or box-shadow. More on the specifics below…

Colour

Was it #e6e6e6 or #f2f2f2?? Colour can be a tricky one at times especially with true toned displays and night modes. Often optical illusions can skew our perspective on colour. From the CSS panel, I can clearly see what HEX value to use and if you’re keeping track of your variables using SASS (which I highly recommend you do!), store that bad boy and name it sensibly to never have to worry about it again.

Fonts

Fonts are another gotcha in front-end development. Sometimes a design will use regular/bold/light versions of the same font. Zeplin allows you to inspect the actual font in the CSS inspector so no more guessing.

Extensions

Extensions can be added to a project to help you work in the technology that you’re using. SASS is a no-brainer on every project for me and you guessed it, there’s an extension for that. This extension allows for mixins and variables and all that SASS goodness. There’s even an HTML snippet generator from layer styles. The Extensions ecosystem just came out of BETA so great news all-round.

Exporting images

When you have an artboard open, at the top right of your window you’ll see some little tools. Clicking on what looks like a dagger, you are actually able to export individual or entire groupings of assets. If the designer has created these as SVG’s then you can even download the raw vector image (and that means icons!). Super handy rather than waiting for the designer to send them and I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you’ve been sent ‘all’ of the icons and then one is missing. This means you can go grab it yourself!

One extra wee tip is that you can even export them in the convention of your choosing. Click on the slider icon next to ‘Assets’ and there you’ll see an extra menu!

Styleguide

Possibly the most powerful feature of Zeplin can definitely only exist with a well-organised designer but it pays! Pressing CMD + G, you switch to the styleguide. Every website should have a styleguide for many, many reasons (maybe an idea for a future post) but here you can see every colour and font choice made in a design. Simply set all these as variables in your project and away you go. If your designer uses symbols, the styleguide even imports them as components meaning there’s a little context around elements and their relationships to each other. This is so helpful to me.

Communication

Overall, a bi-product of Zeplin is that it drastically speeds up communication. Sometimes it completely removes the need to wait for a designer to get back to me about a colour or font choice. Using the techniques described above I can easily recreate a design in no time at all. Although I don’t think it completely removes the need for a designer to be on hand for some clarification or if a developer needs to challenge something but it’s a great leap forward in workflow speed and accuracy of a design.

That’s about it from me and my usage of Zeplin. I can’t recommend this tool enough so go ahead and get your team using it!

If you’d like to hear more from me, give the article a few claps. You can follow me on most other things @fakesamgregory or if you’d like to check out my company Jupiter and the Giraffe, you can visit our website. If you’re interested in our nomadic business adventures, stay tuned to Tumbling Outwardscoming in 2019.

Cost

Zeplin is a paid-for tool allowing you to host multiple websites within a team but they do offer a free version in which you can host only one project. For developing businesses that normally have one project on at any one time this is fine but when you start to grow, you may need to dig in to those wallets and fork out a little per month. As a developer though I don’t need to pay for this tool. I can view many sites and inspect the designs as much as I want. So there’s the first bonus.

Size/Spacing

When first looking at a design my number one need for Zeplin is spacings and dimensions. Whether I’m looking at images, icons, paddings or margins – with Zeplin I can hover over an element and see those dimensions. This is super useful. But what is even more useful is that if I click on an element to highlight it and then move my mouse to another element, I get the distance between the two objects too!

zeplin dimensions
Highlighting one element and hovering another unleases more capability!

CSS

I love writing CSS/SASS. I take great pride in writing clean, maintainable CSS and being part of a few developers who’ve been around the block and understand the little hacks, tips and tricks when writing CSS that is widely supported in terms of browser support. But we all get lazy. Although I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, Zeplin allows me to inspect many different aspects of the CSS markup that makes the design. This can be pretty useful, especially when trying to match border-radius or box-shadow. More on the specifics below…

Colour

Was it #e6e6e6 or #f2f2f2?? Colour can be a tricky one at times especially with true toned displays and night modes. Often optical illusions can skew our perspective on colour. From the CSS panel I can clearly see what HEX value to use and if you’re keeping track of your variables using SASS (which I highly recommend you do!), store that badboy and name it sensibly to never have to worry about it again.

Fonts

Fonts are another gotcha in front-end development. Sometimes a design will use regular/bold/light versions of the same font. Zeplin allows you inspect the actual font in the CSS inspector so no more guessing.

Extensions

Extensions can be added to a project to help you work in the technology that you’re using. SASS is a no-brainer on every project for me and you guessed it, there’s an extension for that. This extension allows for mixins and variables and all that SASS goodness. There’s even an HTML snippet generator from layer styles. The Extensions ecosystem is in BETA so expect more from this soon!

Zeplin extensions

Exporting images

When you have an artboard open, at the top right of your window you’ll see some little tools. Clicking on what looks like a dagger, you are actually able to export individual or entire groupings of assets. If the designer has created these as SVG’s then you can even download the raw vector image (and that means icons!). Super handy rather than waiting for the designer to send them and I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you’ve been sent ‘all’ of the icons and then one is missing. This means you can go grab it yourself!

Export assets

One extra wee tip is that you can even export them in the convention of your choosing. Click on the slider icon next to ‘Assets’ and there you’ll see an extra menu!

Styleguide

Possibly the most powerful feature of Zeplin can definitely only exist with a well organised designer but it pays! Pressing CMD + G, you switch to the styleguide. Every website should have a styleguide for many, many reasons (maybe an idea for a future post) but here you can see every colour and font choice made in a design. Simply set all these as variables in your project and away you go. If your designer uses symbols, the styleguide even imports them as components meaning there’s a little context around elements and their relationships to each other. This is so helpful to me.

Communication

Overall, a bi-product of Zeplin is that it drastically speeds up communication. Sometimes it completely removes the need to wait for a designer to get back to me about a colour or font choice. Using the techniques described above I can easily recreate a design in no time at all. Although I don’t think it completely removes the need for a designer to be on hand for some clarification or if a developer needs to challenge something but it’s a great leap forward in workflow speed and accuracy of a design.

That’s about it from me and my usage of Zeplin. I can’t recommend this tool enough so go ahead and get your team using it!

If you’d like to hear more from me, give the article a few claps. You can follow me on most other things @fakesamgregory or if you’d like to checkout my company Jupiter and the Giraffe, you can visit our website. If you’re interested in our nomadic business adventures, stay tuned to Tumbling Outwards coming in 2019.

Front-End Development in 2019

Every year brings new trends in front-end development and these trends really shape the landscape of work produced by the industry. Last year we saw a continued explosion of Vue.js, NPM JavaScript library downloads, a re-emergence of PWA’s and Serverless architecture continuing its relevance in the web world.

VueJS in 2018 Github

As we approach 2019, I look forward to seeing if we can get the upper-hand ahead of projects, getting familiar with technologies well before the client knows about them.

Typescript/Flow

Thoughtworks‘ technology radar vol.19 highlighted Typescript as something to ‘trial’ but I’d like to extend that on to Flow as well. As JavaScript applications grow both in size and complexity the need for more stable codebases becomes evermore important. This is where these two technologies come in. Although proven not to reduce bugs, we mustn’t forget, tools aren’t there just to reduce bugs in production. Many are often produced to make working with teams efficient, to make our code more readable and development tools more productive and consistent. Like it or loath it, JavaScript is a loosely typed language which, if you know how, can be harnessed into very powerful applications. Most of the time though, in this fast-paced world with code changing hands many times and ideas or intentions getting lost, unless we write documentation or comment our code applications can easily become unstable. I think the necessity to add static typing with technologies like Flow or Typescript will become evermore important next year so start learning!

Typescript or flow…

GraphQL/Apollo

I’m not going to claim to have used GraphQL extensively but I can already see its power and can see its relevance growing even further in 2019. GraphQL is a middleware between your application and your API’s. It allows you to query your API but specify exactly what data you need in JSON format. This is so powerful given the somewhat slow development of API’s and the format they output often not suiting how the front-end wants to consume them. When requirements change no work is needed on the backend, you just ask GraphQL to return you a different set of data. My advice is that you’ll be left behind if you haven’t picked up the basics of GraphQL. GraphQL will become the new norm. Apollo is a library simplifies and extends the power of GraphQL as a client. There are many others in many different languages but Apollo seems to be leading the charge in the JavaScript world. I think looking into some of these libraries will help enhance your GraphQL application.

Image result for graph ql logo
GraphQL will become the new-norm.

Ramda

Ramba is a very curious library. If you’ve used React, you may have come across the term Higher Order Component (HOC). These components allow you to wrap any other component in a common piece of functionality. The easiest example I can give is a call to a specific API. Ramba introduces the concept of a Higher Order Functions library which can do incredibly powerful things. They are much more lightweight than building a HOC as the overhead of a component is unnecessary. I think this library will become crucial in stripping back those essential kb’s and speeding up your app. I also think it’ll change the way you architect the application.

Communication/Remote

Although not strictly a tool, communication skills amongst development teams will be an important skill to harness in 2019. Efficiency, trust and transparency are three important aspects to great communication but there are many more resources to help learn what makes for great communication. With the inevitable advent of remote working becoming the new norm we need to be aware of how we communicate but also how we appear to others when 90% of what we say is over chat. NLP, self-awareness, how to listen and language are just some areas to consider when starting out to becoming a better communicator and ultimately a better remote worker. I strongly suggest the book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People‘ by Dale Carnegie. It teaches you the subtlety of communication and how to harness it.

Image result for how to win friends and influence people

And with that slight tangent, I hope you found this useful. Let me know your thoughts. I’m on most things as @fakesamgregory. If you want to hear more from us, follow my company where we discuss development, design and business on Twitter @jupiter_giraffe and if you’re curious about how we cope with being a nomadic agency, check out tumblingoutwards.com where we will be launching in 2019.