Famous brands using WordPress


There are many famous brands using WordPress. Sony Music, Renault, Vogue, Facebook, The New York Times and the BBC. There is an excellent Showcase page on the WordPress site that features many of the great sites using WordPress.

A favourite of mine is Facebook’s Company info page, in which Mark Zuckerberg is just another humble CEO, on just another humble About Us page on the internet. Sheryl Sandberg even mentions her fish.

So with around 20% of the internet, and 70% of the CMS market, and growing, if you are not already using WordPress, you really ought to, come your next new website.


Google update to punish non responsive websites

Important information on a forthcoming Google update, and why you must have a responsive site.


Fake it until you make it as a designer

Fake it until you make it is a great piece of advice for designers. Or a slightly more accurate piece of advice that doesn’t scan quite as well, is Fake it until you become it. Act like you believe in yourself, act like you are a serious professional, act like this meeting or whatever is an every day occurrence, and eventually it will be. It also gives you something to concentrate on (the acting) rather than dealing with nerves or stress.



And once you have made it, sit back and watch everyone else faking it…

Here is a fascinating Ted Talk on the same subject. www.blog.ted.com/2013/12/13/fake-it-til-you-become-it-amy-cuddys-power-poses-visualized/

Patronising advice for students – The art of selling for designers and illustrators


In another in my series “patronising advice for students” I explain what I know about selling. For some the art of selling is natural and easy, and for others the concept is a complete mystery. Here is what I know and how I came to learn it.

Avoid wannabe childrens’ book authors

A few years ago I met someone who was an aspiring childrens’ book author. Would I be interested in illustrating his book with a view to sending it to a publisher to try and get a deal.

I read the book, it seemed alright, so I went for it. After quite a few weeks of work he sent the book off, with my illustrations. Then I got on with other work, knowing well how hard the children’s book market is to get into.

Around a year later I met the aspiring author again. He told me what happened. He got a reply from the publishing house rejecting the book.

I was furious. As I told him, JK Rowling was turned down at least half a dozen times for Harry Potter. I asked him if he was sure anyone from the publishers had even read his manuscript. Was there anything specific in the reply that showed it was read. This was a concept beyond this person’s realm of thought.

Selling myself door to door – the cold sell

I was working in bars and hotels in London. Living-in gave a nice disposable income, and it was fun for a bit. Until I just couldn’t fill the ice bucket up any more or empty the glass machine. I had been doing the artwork on the blackboards for the various places I’d worked, and was aware a few others did it for a living. So to save me from ever having to pour another pint, I started up as a full time blackboard artist.

This would involve me going into pubs, asking if they were interested in having their blackboards painted… I had an A4 portfolio with examples of boards I’d done, and a business card to leave behind. As a shy person that was a living hell. The first day I did this, I was almost physically sick. It was a horrific experience. I probably did it two days in a row, and didn’t get any work. Two weeks went by then my ‘mobile phone like a house brick’ rang. First customer. Ten minutes later I got my second customer. I was off and running.

I did this job for about two years. What I came to learn was for every twenty pubs I went into, I always got a minimum of one new customer. On being ‘rejected’ by a pub I then saw this as positive. I was one closer to twenty, which would always get me a customer, and therefor I was positively motivated to keep trying more pubs or restaurants.

The big lesson – don’t sell

What I also learned was I wasn’t selling, or persuading people to use my skills. They needed their blackboards painting or they didn’t, end of. As the business became more successful, the pubs, restaurants and hotels came to me.

When I first arrived at a pub, the manager  would  ask where I wanted to work in the pub. This shy awkward young man wanted to be as far away as possible from the public. Even working in a refrigerated cellar on occasion, rather than be in the public gaze. One day I had to work on a large outside board that was fixed to a wall. Had to do it there on the street. While working I picked up about three new customers. From then on I worked in public, always! It became like a street art performance, and I would amuse myself counting the number of times people said ‘you spelt that wrong mate…’.

Don’t meet your heroes – or work for children or animals

I am from Aberdeen. I support Aberdeen Football Club. When I lived in the city I was a season ticket holder. I’d contributed cartoons to the AFC fanzine The Northern Light and the Aberdeen Press and Journal newspaper. But what I really wanted to do was work for the club.

So I got together some illustrations of the stadium, and the players. This is pre-digital. I worked for months on it. Sent it away. And waited.

I don’t think they even replied. Between other work, a couple of years later I tried again. Nothing. I think I tried one more time, and gave up.

A good few years later, my work now digital, a friend asked for one of the illustrations of a player to be turned into a birthday card for his 11 year old nephew. A career high! Reluctantly I did it. I also decided to print off another copy of the illustration, and send it to Aberdeen F.C.

I sent it in such a relaxed, disinterested way, when the club’s marketing manager phoned me up a couple of days later, and requested more like that, I genuinely couldn’t remember what I’d sent him… I went on to work for them for some time.

Learning from experience

Why had they rejected me previously? Why did they then decide to use my work? They accepted my work because my work landed on the correct person’s desk on the correct day. The times I was rejected, it didn’t.

So how do you get your work to land on the correct person’s desk, on the correct day? You send out a lot of work, regularly to increase the chances of this happening, and ignore any rejections. Exactly what the author in the first story did not do.

Selling as a freelance designer

When I go to a client’s for an initial meeting, I am not selling, I never sell. They will have got in touch with me as they are interested in my services. All I need to do is listen to their needs, explain the concept, explain how it could work, give any advice on any specifics they are interested in, irrespective of whether they have agreed to work with me or not. And most importantly of all, be honest. If I don’t know the answer to something, I tell them I don’t know, and also say if I can find out for them I will.

Generally all my client meetings have a positive result.


say cheese

Choosing and adding photos to a WordPress web site

add photo website

Everybody say ‘cheese’!

The importance of great photos on a website

You can make or break a web site with the correct photographs. It is worth spending time and effort on finding the correct materials.

Ideally hire a photographer, they can really make an incredible difference to getting great photos. You can also take your own. If a friend has a good camera borrow it or get them to take some for you, as the correct equipment can really make a difference. My one photography tip would be to take way too many shots.  It is hit or miss with photography. If it takes 50 photos to get one great one, take 500!

Stock photos

Alternatively use a stock photo web site. Be careful with these as they can give your site a generic look. Spend time finding the special ones. Often what seems like a great photo when seen in isolation does not work on a web site. Other times a seemingly dull unremarkable image transforms a page. So I recommend trying a number of options. For the stock photo sites there is a download ‘comp’ option, so you can try them out before paying.

‘But I can just take photos from the internet’ is a quote I have heard a disappointing number of times.  It is illegal and you run a very real risk of being caught. Either by the photo’s copyright owner, or by your own clients. Do you want dishonesty added to your brand?

Further photo advice

Adding a face or faces (real faces not stock images) adds a human element to your website. It makes you appear more approachable and potential clients or customers get to know a little more about you.

For a team photo or office photo, sunshine makes an enormous difference. On a bright sunny day get your team outside, get some photos taken also of your office/business and surroundings if relevant.

Photo size

The size of your photo should be the actual size you can see it. The bigger the image, the longer time it takes an image to load, slowing down your site. Dimensions are in pixels, the dpi (dot per inch) should be 72.

In Photoshop, get the dimensions correct using Image > Image size, DPI is irrelevant here. Using pixel dimensions full width of this page would be 1130 pixels. The photo I am using of the cheese above is 800 pixels wide.

Then File > Save for the web. Save as Jpeg at 100% quality – as the web is at 72dpi, the image will be saved at 72dpi.  When naming your file, describe your image with regard to SEO. For example company-name-team.jpg. Use a dash (-) between each word.

If you are using another image programme, then Google how to save an image for the web in that programme. Photoshop Essentials is available from Adobe for around 100 DKK per month.


www.bannermanbandb.co.uk. A professional photographer was hired by the client.
www.doka-danmark.dk/om-os/ Team photos in the sunshine.

Stock photo sites


You may also like;

My web design portfolio page.

Adding plugins in WordPress


Plug from The Beano, who is copyright D.C. Thomsen, and just holding this space until I get an illustration drawn…

Adding plugins

There are some great plugins that can improve your site. Here is how to add one to your WordPress site.

In the back end > plugins > add new, put the plugin you are looking for into the search box, install and activate it. Easy. Some work immediately on activation, some need certain aspects set up on their set up page. Somewhere in the backend left hand sidebar, will be the set up page for the plugin. Look under ‘Settings’ if you can’t see it.

A word of warning on plugins. They can cause problems on your site. Don’t bring in too many (I’d ay about 5 max, less is better). Check to see if a plugin is popular by downloads, or has lots of complaints in their forum before bringing it in.

Dealing with plugin issues

If something goes wrong with your site in WordPress it is almost always a plugin that is responsible. Not necessarily a bad plugin, it can be two plugins are conflicting with each other, or with your theme. If something goes wrong with your site, start by de-activating your plugins one by one, and checking if the problem is resolved. If that doesn’t solve it, deactivate them all together. If that doesn’t solve it, change your theme to one of the default WordPress themes you got with the install. Between those steps, almost all issues will be solves. You should be able to isolate, what will almost always be a problem plugin, and then delete it.

Update your plugin

Whenever the red symbol appears that a plugin needs updating, update it. This also goes for WordPress, keep it updated, and your theme.

Recommended WordPress plugin

I recommend you  should have WordPress SEO by Yoast. Adds a box below each article in the back end of your site for you to fill out for SEO. It teaches you how to SEO each article or page through choosing a key phrase for that page or article, then adding it to the Title, description and in the content. It effectively teaches you to write better SEO content.

I also recommend Disqus plugin for comments. At the bottom of this article you can see my comments section is with Disqus. It allows visitors to log in with social media, or Disqus itself, and can interact with other blogs. You occasionally meet it on large scale sites such as The Daily Telegraph.

You may also like:

My WordPress portfolio page.

Inspiration for writing your blog

Whether your blog is part of your business or you are blogging for fun, getting going with writing content is often the hardest part of the process.

There is a very inspirational video interview on the WP Elevation site with professional blogger Bill Belew. www.wpelevation.com/2014/02/episode-19-bill-belew/

Watching this will give you some good tips, and should leave you feeling energised. The two main points I took from the video (and there are lots) is ‘you haven’t really started until you have written a hundred articles’, and ‘just press publish!’. Bill is also a fascinating character, and Troy at WP Elevation is a great interviewer on all things WordPress.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 18.58.11

If you are still struggling to get going with writing for your blog, advice from Morten Rand-Hendriksen of lynda.com is to set aside thirty minutes once a week at the same time. What ever is written after 30 minutes, just publish. This way content will build steadily, and deadlines concentrate the mind.

From my experience the regular addition of content also makes me more alert for other possible subjects for blog articles.

It is important to understand it is unlikely you will know how your writing will be until you get going. It will evolve over time. You can always delete or edit old articles if you become uncomfortable with old content.



Working on The Dental Trauma Guide website

A number of years ago I had the privilege to work for The Odontologist Videncenter (Department of Rare Oral Diseases), a research department within Rigshospital (University Hospital), Copenhagen’s main hospital.

I worked under the legendary dentist Jens Ove Andreasen, known as the Father of dental traumatology, and also department head Jette Daugaard-Jensen, and Søren Steno Ahrensburg Christensen. Working with other animators, graphic artists, and illustrators, we worked on The Dental Trauma Guide website which is a non-profit website dedicated to optimising worldwide treatment of dental trauma.

Their work in research and treatment of patients was fascinating and incredibly inspiring to see.



The good the bad and the Facebook

Facebook business page design, the good, the bad, and the Facebook

The good the bad and the Facebook

I am delighted to launch my Facebook page today. It will be an important part of my marketing, and a good chance to experiment with a view to aiding my clients with their pages. Having worked with clients’ Facebook pages in the past while working for design bureaus, it is a great chance to re-acquaint myself with all things Zuckerberg, with my Facebook business page design.

As wonderful a marketing tool as Facebook is, there are always problems. While recent design changes to the look and user experience have improved Facebook immensely, there have been times in the past where I have almost wanted to weep over how such a user unfriendly, visually ugly website could be so successful. It was, to my graphic designer’s eyes, clearly designed by a programmer, and I suspect I know his name.

The Facebook big issue

There is a ‘big picture’ issue with Facebook, Facebook wants to be the internet. The only website you need to visit, ever. With businesses using their Facebook page as their sole online marketing tool. Links out of Facebook to your own site are not prioritised. Recently the Static HTML app, which allows the website to feature prominently in the page tab, stopped external links being added. Now you can have your website ‘planted’ inside Facebook. Which will feature Facebook’s adverts. This annoys me. They are so successful, but they want more. They want everything. The Guardian stopped it’s highly successful Facebook app (with over six million monthly users) to regain control of it’s content. More on the Guardian Facebook app here.

Facebook business page design problems

The main downside to Facebook pages is the branding. Facebook’s blue, and mechanical design structure dominates. Meaning there is little or no visual contrast between Heineken’s Facebook page with over 14 million ‘likes’, and the local flower shop with 7 ‘likes’. Every business should also have it’s own place on the net. As I recommend to all my clients, a blog, events page or diary, posting links to your Facebook page is the best way to use Facebook to bring visitors to your website regularly.

On top of the dominant Facebook branding, despite adding images to the timeline header at exactly Facebook’s pixel dimension, they still crunch the picture to lose image quality. Programmers!

Why huge companies are so Facebook oriented

It makes perfect sense for Heineken or any other major conglomerate to use Facebook. In my opinion there are two types of websites. Visit regularly sites, and visit once sites. Before social media, companies such as Nike, Budweiser, Coca Cola etc. had fantastic expensively created state of the art sites. You’d go in, be ‘blown away’, but have no reason to return.

If you take a look at the most visited websites per country list, you find interesting patterns on which sites are visited regularly. Outside of the usual suspects, Google, Facebook, Wikipedia and Amazon, some news sites are the only regularly visited sites in the top twenty, in pretty much every country. This is why huge companies are so Facebook reliant. They can post regular quality content and advertise their wares to millions.

Smaller companies however have no reason for these numbers. Use it’s power, but use Facebook to attract visitors to your own part of the web. Where your brand rules, and you decide if your visitors will be advertised to.

Reasons to get annoyed with Facebook/ Reasons to get serious about Google Plus

  • The dominant Facebook branding
  • The lack of ‘freedom of the web’ via outside links
  • Inability to see who the people that have ‘liked’ your page are
  • Constant changes in how it works

And what do you do?

My job title is something of an issue/mouthful. Web designer, graphic designer and illustrator. Depending on the context, I’ll generally respond to the question of what I do, as ‘I make websites’. In most situations it is just polite smalltalk and no-one could care less. But as a freelancer, you never know who might be a potential customer.

The Web designer title is a particularly confusing one, as it seems from my experience to imply I’m a developer. A techy. Someone who can help fix computers, set up email accounts, get broken printers to work. Oh no I can’t. I belong to the designer tribe, which buys a mac because a. it looks pretty, and b. I get it home, plug it in, and it pretty much works. How it does this, how much kilobytes of download upload processing capability, I neither care about, nor wish to waste valuable brain RAM understanding.

There is the title Digital designer. However along with Multi-media designer, it’s a bit yeuch. In Danish there is a job title of Webgrafiker. Web graphic designer, effectively. A nice term which explains the job function well.

Illustrator is also a job title I dislike. On being further pressed the conversation often develops to ‘aah you do cartoons!’ with a deeply patronising smile. Cartoonist is an awful job title. Cartoonist illustrator, nope, doesn’t work. Again in Danish, there is a lovely job title for this, Tegner. At tegne is the verb to draw. Tegner, someone who draws. Covers pretty much all fields of illustration, without the pretention implied in Illustrator or heaven forbid, Artist(e).

Graphic designer I have no problems with. Although others in similar fields to me use the term Art director. That to me implies a person who sits around all day in a design agency doing precious little, appearing for the last five minutes of a project to change everything and/or take all the credit/apportion blame.

Potential art director clients. I’m. Just. Kidding.