Imagination is our power

Archive for February, 2012

7 Winning Facebook Page Strategies Every Company Should Know

By now you’re probably well aware of social media’s power to grow your business. Odds are you went ahead and tossed up a few social media profiles. Twitter, Google+, and probably a Facebook page.

Once they’re up, how do you make the most of them though? How do you draw users back to your page again and again? How do you use social media to draw in all those new leads you’ve been hearing about, or to turn new client into a faithful customer?

In this great article, we take a look at 7 strategies to point your brand’s Facebook page in the right direction. Social media can be the powerful tool for your business everyone says it can be. You just have to work for it if you’d like it to work for you.

Facebook pages are one of the most powerful tools for attracting potential clients and involving your regular customers in constant collaboration. It gives every brand an opportunity to augment the target audience and significantly raise business reputation as well as profits. Creating a Facebook page isn’t enough for desired results though – it takes work.

Below I’ll share some tips you should stick to if you really want your brand Facebook page to work for you. These strategies help you set up an engaging Facebook page and use it effectively.

1. Design Your Page in a Unique Manner

Brand Facebook pages start with a profile picture. Deal with it.

Profile picture catches the eye from first sight and makes a potential visitor come and see what’s inside. Take into account that using your company logo makes a rather primitive profile picture. Instead, come up with something special. If you can’t create it yourself better ask professional designer to do it. Remember that it’s all about your company image.

Moreover, when visitors start browsing your page they’re likely to find something exclusive there as well. This means the Facebook page of a popular brand must not be just white-and-blue.

Fortunately, you can make use of custom design services without professional help by using one of the ready-made Facebook page templates. Use one that fits your purposes and design preferences. For example, your business Facebook page may look like this:

2. Share Relevant and Catchy Content

Every social media online presence should provide interesting content for its fans and readers. On Facebook this is even more important, especially on a brand page.

You must share the latest news, let your fans know about every event and novelty, and publish content relating to your business. Your task is to make the users return to your page because those who return are 90% paying customers, and those regular customers who return are likely to continue using your products and services.

To do this you must offer something that will captivate users. Particularly, quality and relevant content. You can make use of Google Blog Search, Google Reader or Google News in order to find some interesting piece of information to engage visitors to your brand Facebook page.

3. Use Applications to Make Your Page More Engaging

Facebook provides more than 55 thousand applications. Among them you can find the most appropriate ones to integrate in your page.

You must not underestimate the part applications can play in your brand Facebook page promotion and growth, as particularly these elements may be of a great value. For example, you might offer your visitors dynamic games, quizzes and other interactive content. This will let you win their attention at once. Applications serve as a call-to-action many users can’t help but get involved in and then they stay on your page longer, often even inviting other users to join. Thus your mission to engage users will be successful!.

4. Take Part in Conversation

Creating a Facebook page for your brand makes your company a conversation participant. A major Facebook user.

That’s why you must not stay aside, but take part in every discussion which takes place on your page. For example, if someone leaves comment on an entry, photo or video on your page you must reply to it somehow.

Remember that it doesn’t matter whether you run a small business or a huge corporation. You must talk to your customers. You must reply to questions in a timely manner, showing the quality of your services and how helpful and user-friendly you can be.

Sometimes it is even not necessary to wait until the users ask you a question. You can initiate conversation. Don’t be afraid and shy to ask your clients about your services or products quality. Ask them what changes might improve your work in their opinion. Ask about particular products and any other thing related to your business estimation.

Talk to your clients and they may become your regular customers in return.

5. Repost Information

What does this mean? Nothing more or less than simple reposting of useful information. Something like a retweet for Facebook.

Why is it important to share information this way? Because this way you show clients your appreciation and after it they may pay more attention to your brand. Reposting the content that other users publish has a great value for your brand Facebook page and business development in general.

Don’t over-do it. Reposting is significantly important, but only when it’s something relevant and not too obtrusive. Repost only the content which is related to your business and can be interesting for other users which are your brand Facebook page fans. Your page will attract attention by the quality of your publications, not the quantity.

6. Stay Active Regularly

Your brand Facebook page must be updated on the regular basis.

This means both new content sharing and checking your private messages and comment section and replying quickly to your customers. For example, if someone asked you a question and you replied a whole week later it’s impolite, so don’t count on getting much attention from that visitor next time.

One of your activity aspects implies some contest organization. For example, ask your customers to invent a motto for your brand and reward a winner. Your clients will be involved and you’ll receive lots of attention.

Also don’t forget to congratulate your clients on major holidays and you can even offer some discounts and specials.

7. Don’t Let Users Post on Your Wall

Though you need to talk to your fans, you must not let them post to your brands wall.

This is because you cann’t control the publications users can make. Not allowing them to post to your wall avoids spam messages which other users would rather not see. Communicate with your customers privately or in discussions. Leave nothing without attention.

You must control your wall and provide your page fans with reliable content. That’s why it’s better not to let new visitors post to your wall, and leave content that may spoil your reputation.

There you have it. Simple but critical strategies we recommend you must stick to in order to make your company Facebook page popular and profitable. Don’t be too lazy to work on your page, if you want it to work for you in future!

Usability Rules for Content Sites

Content sites, such as blogs, article directories, image galleries, video galleries, etc. are a major category of sites and if you haven’t designed such a site until now, you can be sure that sooner or later you will. Designing a content site is in many aspects easier than designing a corporate site but it has its specifics.

Most of the usability rules for content sites might seem obvious but if you have designed mainly corporate sites, the switch might be an uneasy one. In order to assist you in the transition, here are some rules to bear in mind. These rules are not arranged in order of importance because if they were, there would have been 3 or 4 Number 1 positions, 4 or 5 Number 2 positions, etc.

1. The Content Is the Centerpiece

This rule sounds just like common sense but since we seem to (sometimes) miss it, let’s start with it. Basically, it means that your content, be it articles, images, videos, etc., is in the very center of the page (above the fold, of course) and is the first thing users see when they land on your site. Some webmasters are tempted to place ads in this place because this presumably increases their earnings but since content is the reason why users come to a site, I doubt this strategy works well in the long term.


2. Be Consistent in Your Navigation

Content sites usually have hundreds or even thousands of pages and if the site navigation is inconsistent, it is very easy to get lost. This is why you need to be consistent in
your navigation. For instance, always include a Home link. It is even better, if you include one Home link in the menu at the top and one more somewhere at the bottom of the page.

Consistency in navigation also means to have the same navigation items in the same place on each page – i.e. to page specific menus or menus that change their place on different pages. Additionally, always use the same menu items on each page. In those cases, when you use section-specific menus (i.e. an expandable second-level menu with items specific for the particular section), make these consistent (i.e. use the same menu items for all the pages in that section), too.


3. Make the Text Readable

Another common mistake I’ve noticed way too often, especially with content sites with a lot of text, is the use of small font sizes. It is true that 8px or 10px font size allows
to accommodate lots of text on one page but this is at the expense of readability. At such small sizes, the text is barely readable and for long chunks of text, it becomes a huge strain on the eyes. Of course, you can’t please everybody but if you give users the option to resize the text as per their liking, this is enough.

Long lines of text are another readability nightmare. If necessary, use two columns of text, but don’t have wide columns because they are harder to read, especially with smaller font sizes. On the other hand, two columns, when they are longish and require vertical scrolling aren’t better, so you need to avoid this as well. Fortunately, in addition to your main content, you usually have other items on page, for instance one or two columns with ads. These also take space and basically the content space gets limited anyway, so there might be no need to use two columns for text.


4. Pick a Good Contrast Color Scheme

In addition to font sizes, the color contrast also affects text readability. Low contrast text could do for headlines but for body text, it is totally unacceptable. This contrast calculator is an indispensable helper when wondering if the color scheme you plan to use provides enough contrast or not.

5. Always Show Related/Similar Items

As a rule, on a content site, there are many similar and/or related items. No matter how good your navigation is, don’t leave it to users to search for them the conventional way. Always show related/similar items for a content piece. For instance, if you have an image gallery and the user is on a page with palms, you can show other tropical paradise photos. Similar/related items not only ease the user but they also increases page views as well, so it is a win-win.

6. Test Cross-Browser

Cross-browser issues are a problem with content sites, too. While it is best if your content site displays perfectly in every browser you can imagine, very often the effort is
not worth the reward. Therefore, it might make no sense to strive for perfection but always make sure that at least the major functionalities display properly. For instance, if the thumbnails don’t display in a major browser, or the Resize Text gadget doesn’t work, this is unacceptable and you need to fix it.

One good tool you can use for cross-browser testing is Browser Shots. This tool will give you an idea how your site looks across various browsers and operating systems but you can’t test functionality here – i.e. if JavaScript is not working in some browser you won’t know it from this tool.


7. For Images, Use Thumbnails

Another rule that usually goes in the common sense category is to use thumbnails for images. However, when I say thumbnails, don’t take it literally. A thumbnail the size of a
thumb nail is basically useless because it doesn’t show clearly what the image is about. Use large thumbnails – this is what helps. For instance, Morgue File is one of my favorite stock photo sites but it used to have really tiny thumbnails (or maybe they are still using the same size but I simply got used to it?) where I couldn’t see what the picture is about. When a photo has lots of objects, you won’t see much detail in a thumbnail anyway but when you can’t see what the image is about, then what’s the use?


8. Optimize Your Pages to Load Fast

Most of us have fast Internet and fast computers but this doesn’t mean we enjoy a page that loads forever. For article pages, load times are usually less of a problem simply
because all equal articles are text and unless there are dozens of images or videos in the article, it loads more or less in seconds. Sometimes the load times are slow because of the load times for ads and in this case you might have to switch to an ad network that can serve fast.

However, with images and especially videos, it is a different story. Even when the image/video itself is small and/or compressed, when there are dozens of them on a page, this leads to slow load times. One approach is to manipulate the images/videos themselves, so that they are optimized for fast loading. Another approach (in addition to, not instead of the first) is to allow the user to choose how many images/videos per page to be displayed. This way users with fast Internet/PC, will be able to load more images at once rather than scroll through numerous pages, while users with slow Internet/PC won’t have to wait for ages for a single page to load.

9. Take Ads into Account

The presence of ads is another huge difference between a company site and a content site. Unlike company sites, content sites are usually monetized, so no matter if we like it or not, ads are here to stay. It is not an exception, though it is hardly admirable, for ads to take half or more of the space on a page. What is more, they usually take some of the best spots because there they are more visible and the revenue is higher. Additionally, as I already mentioned, ads take time to load and you can’t neglect this either when you think about the usability of your content site.


10. Don’t Forget to Include a Good Search Functionality

One more item that is more or less mandatory for a content site is a good search functionality. While it is common to have search functionality, it is even more common to have bad search functionality. In 2012 it is still way too frequent to find sites with poor search functionality – i.e. the search results you get are totally irrelevant. This is not only irritating but it also makes you lose visitors.

Of course, many users know they can use Google to search for results from a particular site only but don’t rely on this alone. Yesterday I was trying to find something on a site I used to frequent in the past but their search returned unusable results. To make things worse, the pages they had indexed in Google weren’t an option either because when clicked, they were redirecting to the homepage of the site. I guess this was something to do with the URLs they used, or with poor redirection but the result is that I couldn’t find what I wanted even with Google.

The site I was browsing was mainly an article site and still it was pretty depressing. I guess with images/videos the task is even harder because their contents doesn’t get indexed by Google directly. This means the site master must provide meaningful text descriptions of images/videos to be used for searches. I agree this is extra work but if you care about your users, don’t skip it.


11. Make Your Site Mobile-friendly

Finally, since we live in 2012, you can’t afford to miss mobile users. While it is best to have a separate mobile version of your site, in many cases it is not worth the effort. But if you do have lots of mobile traffic, or your site is in a niche that is popular with mobile users – i.e. news, stock quotes, ring tones, etc. – go the extra mile and make it mobile-friendly, or even better, create and maintain a separate mobile version.

Creating Minimalist Designs Makes You a Better Designer

The trend of using minimalist designs has been with us for a while now. It seems like every day major design blogs publish a new gallery of great designs. But do minimalist designs actually mean anything to a designer? Can you become a better web designer by going the minimalist way or is it just a fad?

Actually, I do believe that it is a fad. But at the same time I also believe that you can learn a lot from it and use it to improve your skills significantly.

First of all, minimalist designs are here not without a reason. After the dark age of the ’90s (the dark age of web design, that is) came the year 2000 along with many Flash animations, fancy Photoshop graphics, and all kinds of other clutter. So finally after 20 years of noise a time of calm has come, bringing us this whole minimalism. People simply had enough off all the sites that were impossible to grasp and extremely user-unfriendly.

Minimalist designs change all that and provide a new, friendly environment. There’s nothing else on minimalist websites except for the things that absolutely need to be there. There’s no clutter and no confusion. And the sites are easy to grasp within the first 2 seconds of looking at them.

That is, of course, when done right.

So how can web designers use the trend of minimalism to improve their skills, and how to actually design a minimalist site properly?

Focus attention on the main element

Minimalist designs have very little elements incorporated into them. There’s simply no place for clutter or anything that is not essential to the site’s goal.

This forces designers to choose just one main element that will be the focal point of the whole site.

What can be such an element? It all depends on the site’s goals, but just to give you an example, let’s say that you’re designing a site for a new online service of some kind.

In such a case the main element would probably be the signup form. Consisting of a button, some screenshots, and short copy. You know that you can’t include too many things because the design is meant to be minimalist, so you only have place for the essentials. This will force you to think twice on what is really important for the site and what can be omitted.

Good designers are not the ones who can fill a whole site with stuff, but those who know how to select only the few important elements and forget about the rest.

Get those few elements right

Obviously, minimalist designs incorporate only a handful of elements to convey their message and convince visitors to take action (whatever action it might be).

This forces web designers to get those few elements just right. When working on a minimalist design you can devote more attention to each individual element. You also know that these elements need to be the best they possibly can. Because if they’re not then they’re going to stand out (in a bad way), as there will be nothing to cover them up.

Minimalist design is not about creating a site with just a few elements for the sake of it, but about using the smallest number of elements possible to reach a certain goal. Every element has its purpose in a minimalist design.

You know that you’re doing a good job if there are no more element you can remove without affecting the site’s ability to reach its goals.

Getting everything pixel perfect

This is a strictly graphics-related thing. Minimalist designs have to look exceptionally good. And in order to achieve this you have to make all elements pixel perfect (or at least try to).

Remember, there’s nothing to cover up this one elements that’s not so good looking. Everything needs to be nice or else your main element won’t be the one that’s the most visible … the ugly duckling will.

Crafting minimalist designs teaches you how to be pixel perfect. In fact, there’s no other way of creating a great minimalist design than by doing just that (whatever it might mean to you – there’s no one definition of “pixel perfection”).

Working on your typography

Typography is yet another element of minimalist designs, and probably one of the most important ones.

Since there’s not much to show on a minimalist website the text becomes an element on its own. That’s why choosing the right font, size and decoration is so crucial.

This is an area often neglected by many web designers. In some cases, Arial seems to be perfect for everything, but for minimalist designs it rarely is. Choosing the right font takes time and teaches you the basic rules of typography.

Every minimalist website needs to make a striking impression in terms of typography. If you just choose some random fonts the design won’t make much sense and the visitors will see this. Well, they probably won’t be able to name it, but they will notice.

Learning to use whitespace

Whitespace is one of those things that only the more experienced designers are not afraid to use. Many beginners feel that every piece of HTML real estate needs to be occupied by something, while it’s not the case at all.

When you’re creating a more complex design you get tempted to use every possible piece of space and fill it with that one more element. While it might work in some cases, it surely won’t work for minimalist designs.

Whitespace is yet another crucial element for minimalist designs. The sole fact that a minimalist design uses only a handful of elements forces us to space them out evenly on the site. They can’t just simply be placed all in one place.

The skill of using whitespace is somewhat volatile for web designers. Creating minimalist designs makes you simply better at using it, and this comes handy in every possible piece of design work imaginable.

Standing behind your opinion

In other words, believing that the work you’ve done is the absolute best you could do.

Here’s what I mean. If you’re a freelancer you might be reluctant about delivering a simple design. You might feel that your client won’t be so eager to pay if there are only a handful of elements on the website, and if the form is rather simplistic.

By sticking to minimalism you’re making your skin thick, and you’re learning how to stand behind your designs and be able to explain what their values are.

This is not a strictly design-centered skill, but it’s surely helpful in your freelance career.

Besides, once you learn how to explain the value of minimalist designs to your clients you’ll end up understanding them more yourself. So it’s a win-win scenario.

Designing for responsiveness

Designing for responsive websites can be a bit challenging at first because the process is so different.

As designers, we’ve gotten used to building pixel-perfect mockups as our web blueprints. But responsive design takes a different approach.

A designer’s role is no longer to produce a mockup and then pass it off to the developer because responsive design is not just a two step process, it is a series of revisions. Most of which are made in the browser. It is a collaborative effort between the designer and developer, no longer two separate tasks.

Here are some tips and a general workflow to make the transition from designing static sites to designing responsive ones a little easier.

Knowing your viewports

Before starting any project it is important to determine your viewports. A typical approach would be to build one layout for smartphones, one for tablets and smaller viewports, a larger desktop version, and maybe a second desktop version for even larger/wider screens, say 1200 or 1400 pixels or more.


Planning ahead

Sketching can be your best friend. Take one piece of paper and make 3-4 boxes to represent each viewport. Having all of your viewports on one page helps you to not focus on any one design more than the others. When laying out your design, take the most important content first and add it to each of the viewports, working your way down to the less important stuff as you go.

You will quickly realize that not all of the content may fit in the smaller viewports. Better to find that out now while doing sketches, instead of trying to make changes to a finished design.

Yup, those are my actual scribbles. You might not be able to make out what each element is but those are from an actual project. I did the design and development so I didn’t have to make it clear for anyone else. The point being, nothing is faster than pen and paper for quickly jotting down layout ideas.


Wireframes and mockups

The most important part of wireframing, is having the developer take an active role. He or she should know right away if your idea is going to work or not and can give suggestions on ways to get your vision across without having to reinvent the wheel.

With responsive design you can no longer spend 90% of your design time before the development begins. So mockups need to be quick and rough. Also, be open to changes because chances are your original ideas may not work exactly as planned.


The browser

Because of the large amount of testing involved, responsive design is best done as a process of revisions in the browser. As soon as a basic layout is agreed upon it is best to begin the development right away. Having your layouts viewable from a browser helps prevent a lot of design problems.

Another thing to consider as a designer is what elements of your design can be created with CSS alone. Many devises today are able to display drop-shadows, gradients, borders, rounded corners and other design elements created with CSS. CSS only elements are easier to change, takes less design time to create, and don’t require images or image slices to implement. Of course if you are not developing the site yourself you will need to be able to communicate your layout ideas with the developer.


Taking it into Photoshop

I highly recommend using one .psd for all the layouts. Here is a quick example using 1200 pixels as the largest viewport. So start with a new .psd at 1200 pixels wide by 2000 pixels tall. The other viewports will be 480, 1020, and 768 pixels wide.

To start, unlock your background layer and duplicate it for as many viewports as you need plus one. Fill in the original background layer black and leave the rest white. Put each white background layer in a folder and name it for its viewport (example: “480”).

Next set up each viewport in the .psd. Remember you only need to do this one time and just reuse the template for all of your projects.

First add guides at the edges of each viewport. (View -> New Guide and select “Vertical”). Add guides at 90, 216, 360, 840, and 1110 pixels.

Next create Layer Masks on each folder, which will form the edges of each viewport. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select the area inside the center two guides (480 pixels).

Having Snap checked (View -> Snap) makes this a lot easier. With the selection made and the correct folder selected in the Layers Pallet, click the Add Layer Mask Button to apply it. Do the same step for the other viewports.

Now to see a given viewport simply turn off the other folders. I also included a photo of the Layers Pallet if you wanted to see what that should look like.


If you already have a rough site developed, take a screenshot at each viewport and add those into your .psd in the correct folder.

Generally it is easier to start with the smallest viewport and work your way up to the larger ones in Photoshop. So flesh out your 480 pixel design, then duplicate the layers and drop them into the 768 pixel folder.

There is no need to be pixel perfect with any of your layouts. I tend to get one viewport looking correct but for the rest I only change the elements that are truly different in each. Don’t worry about getting the margins around text blocks perfect. Really just ignore text as much as you can because Photoshop cannot render it the way it will appear in the browser, and most of the text design will be done with CSS.


Understand how content changes

When thinking about the design you need to understand how the layout will be altered as it changes from one viewport to another. You also need to consider what happens if a layout is slightly smaller or larger than the viewport you are designing for.

There are a few options for allowing your content to adapt to each layout. Each element can be fixed, hidden, floated (left or right), liquid, or they can scale. Any give responsive design will use a combination of all of these.

Floating elements are most commonly seen in content areas that sit side-by-side in large layouts, but stack on top of each other in smaller viewports. As the viewport begins to get smaller and each element is floated left, the elements on the right side will begin stacking below the elements on the left side.

Liquid content adapts best to changing viewports but can become awkward if used on large viewports. Liquid content is typically used for columns of text that scale as wide as the viewport allows. They work great on smaller viewports but can become too wide on larger ones, so it can be best to switch to fixed for those.

Similar to liquid, scaling elements are given a percentage size and scale as small or wide as the viewport allows. These are different in that it can apply to images and text sizes. These elements are given a percent width and/or height and adjust to the viewport.

Fixed is the most rigid way of laying out content. If you have a piece of content that you don’t want it to scale or change size in any way, it will be fixed. The best thing to do with fixed elements is design them to fit the smallest viewport. It is a lot easier to use a small elements in a large viewport over trying to fit a huge element in a small viewport.

When you want to remove an element or just don’t have room for it you can hide it. Hidden elements will not be seen by the user but will still be downloaded. So if you are using large images but hiding them from mobile users, the page will still take the same amount of time to load whether the images are visible or not.

Remember that you can and should use a combination of all of these on the same element. That means a text box will be fluid in one viewport, fixed and floating left in another, and may be hidden in a third.


Designers are not being forgotten

Because so much of a layout can be created with CSS it may feel like your role as a designer has diminished. Really, your role has just changed. Web design for too long has been about designing the interface while neglecting the content.

The layout is still important but the developer can do much of it. The designer should focus on making sure the goals of the website are met. Spend the most time on strengthening the conversion process, emphasising important content, and making it more palatable and digestible.

To be perfectly honest, I tried looking for some good examples of this in responsive design, but really couldn’t come up with any good examples.


Graphical elements and images

There are some special considerations to make when dealing with images in responsive design. The safest approach is to make images that fit the smallest viewport. This way you keep the file size down and have images that will work in each viewport size.

Large background images can be particularly problematic when scaled down for smart phone use. If you plan on using them make sure to do it in a way that keeps file sizes and load times to a minimum.



One of the biggest problems with responsive design is the lack of consistency. Users may have trouble navigating your site on a tablet when they are used to their desktop design.

Make sure to use the same color scheme on every layout and keep at least one consistent element throughout. The logo being the easiest element to transition through all. Always make navigation clearly marked and easily found. If you have to remove elements from smaller viewport designs, have other methods of getting to that content.


Don’t reinvent the wheel

When you are designing a static website you can have a lot of freedom but in responsive design there are more things to account for. Use a method that works and spend your time making that look great. If people can make email templates look awesome you can do the same with a responsive design, it just takes a little creativity.

What Kind Of Leader Are You?

They say people are born to lead or to follow. I can’t say whether that is true or not. I was always a leader. As a child I hated listening to others tell me what to do. I always had the ideas that led to trouble for the kids in the neighborhood.

Through many complaints from my school to my parents, it seems it was all based on my belief that every one of my teachers was an idiot and knew nothing of what they taught. As an adult, I can look back with fairness and mature reflection and assert that I was right. Like a manager who rises up the corporate ladder through nothing more then being no threat to those above him or her, ultimately attaining a position of power that they could never handle with any amount of training or psychological help or medication, teachers were assured a lifetime of destroying young, inquiring minds only through tenure and parents who had forgotten that teachers were also human and open to human frailties.


Think about your own childhood schooling. Did you ever tell your parents that you got bad grades because your teacher hated you? Of course you did and your parents most probably answered that your teacher didn’t hate you and was fair to all students because that’s what teachers do!

Judging by the daily news, teachers also sleep with underage students, molest students, do incredible amounts of drugs and, yes – hate some students. They are, after all, human.

Testing The Boundaries Of Leadership

People hate, love, lie, cheat, steal, make rationalizations about others and yes, do wonderful things, too. It is those wonderful things that push civilization forward.

instantShift - Testing The Boundaries Of Leadership

I never thought about my role as a leader while being an art director, creative director or studio manager. Everything seemed to be natural and work in a certain rhythm. A day arrived when I was tested as a leader. Not through an impossible deadline or tragic circumstances, when most people prove leadership qualities but through a written test known as the McQuaig Word Survey.

I was being interviewed for a creative director position for a mid-sized company when the staffing director informed me I would have to take the online test for my personal interview. Basically, the test asks the same questions several times in several different forms, which, in some ways gives a result of truthful results and insight into the psychology and make up of the candidate for the position of a leadership role.

I flew out to my interview and was met in the lobby by the staffing person who had set me up with the McQuaig test. She handed me an envelope with the results and asked if I wanted to read it so I could answer any questions from the company owner during my interview.

“No!” I replied. “I’ll just tell the truth because he has to take the good and the bad if he decides to hire me.” I thought that answer was suave and slick. I hadn’t interviewed for many years as I was firmly entrenched in a corporate position that was comfortable but just didn’t hold any future growth and wasn’t really comfortable with all the advice I had read about on interviewing techniques and tips. I just figured if I were to be myself, I would either end up with a terrific work situation or not have to worry about being trapped in a bad workplace with daily emotional and psychological torture.

The owner entered the conference room after making me wait for an hour and propped his legs on the table while he fiddled absent-mindedly with a rubber band. “I think you just wouldn’t make a very good creative director,” he said right off the bat.

I don’t know if my face showed the shock I felt. “You want people to like you,” he continued. “I need someone who can fire people!”

My first thought was that he was insane and I wondered what sort of shape his company was in. Would I have to make my first act as creative director firing the entire staff?

I spoke at length about my experience in leadership roles and assured him that I had indeed fired many people. Some who had to be axed due to budget cuts and others who deserved to be fired – executed, if the law had permitted it!

To make a long, weird story short, he offered me a lower position as a senior designer and told me he would just hire an office manager to do the firing. Luckily he also wouldn’t actually name a salary, instead just asking “what kind of risk was (I) willing to take?”

The answer was none and he excused himself to “go to another meeting.” I left, walking down the long hallway and out the front door by myself. No goodbyes, no escort and no further word from anyone at the company. I had spent an entire day on planes, in cabs and all for a very strange half-hour interview in Middle America.

On the flight home, I opened the envelope with the results of the McQuaig test. It rated me as an “empowering leader.” According to the test, I helped people rise up the ladder, empowered them to be better and among other qualities I blushed at, was an “in the trenches” leader with my staff, which they appreciated and would return with loyalty and hard work. It said nothing about taking pure joy at firing people.

Firing people is never a joy or an easy task. When cutting a budget and having to release someone who did a good job was the hardest. I would try to soften the blow with a recommendation, calls to my network to se if the person could be placed elsewhere and offering whatever support I could. Those who deserved to be fired was a bit easier but still, destroying a life and dashing hopes is never really easy. Crushing the hopes of those who deserve to crawl through the mud, begging for a mercy bullet to the brain can be… pleasurable, more for getting them out of one’s world and ending the drama and psychotic behavior.

One of the many things Mr. Rubber-band didn’t see in a leader, which meant, as I suspected, made him a bad leader was the emotional side of leadership. The McQuaig test saw and probed it, as was obvious from the questions and label – “empowering.”

Daniel Goleman, in his article in the Harvard Business Review, writes:

The most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities”; that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.

“Bad” Leadership?

As with those school teachers who showed obvious favoritism, dividing students into the “liked” and “hated,” there are leaders who, as humans, do not look to the best interests of the business and divide workers into an “A” list and “D” list. The first get raises, leeway in workloads and other perks not bestowed on others. The latter can just never please.

instantShift - Bad Leadership?

While a young designer, I started work at a magazine with a small art staff of a dozen people. The art director was rarely seen in the art department and the daily running of the staff fell upon the associate art director. When it was time for lunch, the associate ad would round up half of the staff and exit for a group lunch. After a few days, a couple of those left behind opened up to me, as I was obviously on the “D” list, too, that they were extremely offended at never being included in the “popular group.” Of course they felt left out. It’s one thing when it happens in elementary school but as adults we all expect such childish behavior to be left in the schoolyard. Often the manager who divides workers is making up, in their mind, for a popularity or power they have never felt in life. Abusers of power feel powerless. Leaders who share power are comfortable with themselves and their place in the world and they don’t mind sharing it with others.

Within two weeks, an invitation to lunch was extended to me and at the urging of several other designers, I joined in. It was, as I had suspected, an organized worship session of the associate art director. It was also a childish bitch session about coworkers and those not invited. As it always took place at a nice restaurant, it was also expensive for all but the associate art director, who was treated by all present. After two or three of these lunches, I made excuses to not go anymore. This, of course, put me back on the “D” list.

Eventually, the associate art director was fired and I never heard any further word about her in the professional community. Both the “A” list and “D” list people knew what she was and trustworthy and caring were two words that would never be attributed to her.

There have been other managers I’ve known who faced the same fate. If you are known for being unfair, then it follows you as people come and go in your life. Your reputation follows you. Your future will be overshadowed by a network of people who not only won’t lift a finger to help you but will also be there to tell those making hiring decisions that they didn’t care for your management style.

Aside from making those under you miserable, being a bad leader will effect your department and the company itself. For some it takes years in the same position to be discovered as a poor leader. For some, once discovered, there is no regaining the same level of a professional position ever again. At my last corporate position, there was an odd method of promotion. Those who couldn’t make it as designers were put in a position of a line planner. Those who couldn’t plan were made art directors. Those who couldn’t art direct were made creative directors. Creative directors didn’t actually direct – they went to meetings and shuffled papers. Those that couldn’t shuffle papers were given secretaries who could. At the bottom were the designers who came up with initiatives, new lines, creative ideas and thought up the processes that made the whole thing spin in greased grooves.

Sure, that sort of power structure led to problems. Problems, of course, led to inner strife and discontentment and when those at the bottom stopped innovating and improving on process, the company started to lose money and market share. Naturally, those at the top got rid of those that scared them – the smart employees… those with leadership qualities. As time went by, and not a lot of time in the scheme of things, further loss had the upper management of the company seeing cause and effect and many of the “leaders” also lost their jobs. A quick look at the “people you may know” section on LinkedIn tells me that these “leaders” have not been lucky enough to find employment and it doubtful they will.

There are many clues to bad leadership. One is in the words used by a leader. In an article in Inc., “7 Things Your Employees Never Want to Hear,” author Jeff Haden, writes:

“We” is a powerful word—except when it’s not. Employees can tell when you pay lip service to “we.”

In public, say “I” when your company makes a mistake. Say “we” when your company does something well.

Inside your company, say “you” when employees do something well. Say “we” when you do something well—because your success is always built by and based on the efforts of your employees.

What Is The Cost OF Bad Leadership?

The cost of bad leadership is obvious on the surface: Discontent, lack of employee engagement, high employee turnover and a bad reputation in the industry for replacement employees.

While in a very bad position, I awoke every work day to dry heaves before heading for the subway on my ride to hell. I dreaded having to see my boss and awaiting signals of what kind of mood he would be in and what surprises each mood would bring. In an article published by Psychology Today, the author writes:

Bad boss behavior seems to be pandemic and now, a new survey reveals that self-oriented bosses are more prevalent than ever. In a survey Taylor commissioned of 1,002 adults, 86% of Americans felt that too often, bad boss behaviors fly under the radar until it’s too late, affecting too many people. According to an earlier study, 70% of workers said they believed employees must be careful when managing up with bosses, or they could lose their jobs. A five-year, national study compared bad, childish traits, including stubbornness, self-oriented, overly demanding, impulsiveness, interrupting and tantrum-throwing in bosses between 2004 to 2009, and found “self-oriented” spiked by 50% to the top spot in that period. In the same study conducted by a global research firm, seven in 10 Americans said “bosses and toddlers with too much power act alike.”

Swedish researchers, led by Anna Nyberg at the Stress Institute in Stockholm, have published a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine on the issue of leaders’ behavior and employee health. They studied more than 3,100 men over a 10 year period in typical work settings. They found that employees who had managers who were incompetent, inconsiderate, secretive and uncommunicative, the employees were 60% more likely to suffered a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac condition. By contrast, employees who worked with “good” leaders were 40% less likely to suffer heart problems. Nyberg said, “for all those who work under managers who they perceive behave strangely, or in any way they don’t understand, and they feel stressed, the study confirms this develops into a health risk.”

A study of 6,000 British office workers found employees who felt that their supervisors treated them fairly had a 30% lower risk of heart disease. A 2008 meta-analysis of the connection between health and leadership by Jana Kuoppala and associates concluded that good leadership was associated with a 27% reduction in sick leave and a 46% reduction in disability pensions. The same study concluded that employees with good leaders were 40% more likely to report the highest levels of psychological well-being including lower levels of anxiety and depression.

In an article by Richard Williams, Wallace Higgins and Harvey Greenberg, published in the Boston Globe, they cited numerous research studies regarding leadership style and the health of employees. They concluded “your boss can cause you stress, induce depression and anxiety or even trigger the onset of serious illnesses. It is not just bad managers who can negatively affect employee health, but it is also the lackadaisical and mediocre who put employees on the sick list.” And the cost is huge in terms of lost productivity, healthcare costs and employee turnover. The authors argue that a whole new field of litigation in the U.S. is developing-”lawsuits against ‘bad bosses’ and the organizations that negligently allow them to supervise.”

There are, of course, costs to the company in addition to those listed in the Psychology Today article. As Christian Claudio points out in a piece on leadership:

Companies spend close to an average of $2,000 to $8,000 or more per non managerial employee for on boarding. Then depending on the position, there a “ramp up” period before the employee actually becomes profitable for a company. I would argue, no matter how much money you spend on an individual, if the company or even office culture is not equal to the standards of talent resides in those desks, you will not keep your talent. From financial incentives, benefits, training and daily operational costs, its no wonder why companies spend in the millions of dollars to maintain their human capital. Employee turnover, especially before you recoup the investment is a huge problem. The direct costs to your bottom line of employee turnover can cripple your business. Think of what it costs you to recruit, train, and get a new employee up to speed. Although the actual cost may vary depending on the job or industry, the cost per new hire can average $2,000 to $8,000. Even if you only turnover 10 employees per year, that is $20,000 to $80,000 off of your annual profits. This doesn’t even take into consideration the indirect costs listed below. Turnover adds to indirect costs as well. It affects employee’s morale, on the job injuries due to lack of personnel or lack of experience, customer relationships, productivity of other employees and increased theft.

Add in the costs of lawsuits and brand damage to the company and the costs go even higher. One firm I left, on less then good terms, had some very bad racist behavior by managers (covering many different groups). Human resources did their utmost to protect these horrendous managers not because the company as a whole believed in the racism that was happening on a daily basis but because to correct it would mean to admit it had occurred and that would affect consumer confidence. Instead, HR covered it up as much as possible as if it was never present. There was little choice for the company as if word of what transpired ever got out, it would translate into millions of lost revenue dollars when organized ethnic groups started boycotting the products and services provided by the company. The side effect was, however, internal. Employees who saw these problems withdrew from a feeling of loyalty and engagement into a state of fear and loathing. The leadership showed the worth of the average employee and so, every employee clearly knew where they stood when it was their turn in expecting fair and balanced treatment.

Different thoughts on leadership

instantShift - Different thoughts on leadership

In a joint article, “How leaders kill meaning at work,” Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer write:

Senior executives routinely undermine creativity, productivity, and commitment by damaging the inner work lives of their employees.

As a senior executive, you may think you know what Job Number 1 is: developing a killer strategy. In fact, this is only Job 1a. You have a second, equally important task. Call it Job 1b: enabling the ongoing engagement and everyday progress of the people in the trenches of your organization who strive to execute that strategy. A multiyear research project whose results we described in our recent book, The Progress Principle, found that of all the events that can deeply engage people in their jobs, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.

Even incremental steps forward—small wins—boost what we call “inner work life”: the constant flow of emotions, motivations, and perceptions that constitute a person’s reactions to the events of the work day. Beyond affecting the well-being of employees, inner work life affects the bottom line.2 People are more creative, productive, committed, and collegial in their jobs when they have positive inner work lives. But it’s not just any sort of progress in work that matters. The first, and fundamental, requirement is that the work be meaningful to the people doing it.

Rajeev Peshawaria, a contributor to Forbes, in his article entitled, “There Is No Such Thing As Bad Leadership,” writes:

Nelson Mandela was regarded a great leader long before he became president. How could he be a leader during the long years in prison? Clearly, he had no position or power while in prison, yet ultimately he overturned apartheid. Mahatma Gandhi never occupied any political office and never had any material wealth or power of any kind, yet he succeeded in sending the British back home without firing a bullet. Gandhi’s impact was so profound that among millions of others, none other than Albert Einstein called him one of the greatest leaders to have ever walked upon this earth. Countless mothers around the world work tirelessly every day and every night to groom their children with the hope that they (the children) will one day become responsible citizens. Many unsung middle managers in companies around the world coach their subordinates selflessly so that they (the subordinates) can be as successful as can be. Many such mentor-managers are relatively powerless in their organizations, and often have very bad bosses above them. Instead of passing down the same bad behaviour they receive from their bosses, these managers choose to behave differently with their subordinates. They make this choice knowing very well that their efforts will not be recognized by the higher ups, but they do it anyway because they have a deep desire to ensure that tomorrow is better than today. They are the real leaders.

So if leadership is not about position power, then what is it? Leadership is about first visualizing, then working endlessly towards creating a better future. The key is in the word better. The better future leaders strive to create is not for themselves alone, it is for others around them as well. If all you work towards is getting a better deal for yourself alone, you are not a leader. If your goal is to simply win an election or to get promoted to the next level, you are not a leader. To be a leader, you need to have a clear picture of the better future you want to create, and an even clearer picture of what is ethically right and wrong. I often refer to these two things as purpose and values.

Mr. Peshawaria does, add:

The problem is, some people have a very self-focused purpose, and they are able to work very hard to achieve it. They do not however have an equally clear sense of values. They go after their goal no matter what the price. Furthermore, as they taste initial success, they get hungry for more and more. Without a moral compass, they become what many people call bad leaders. The point I am making is simply this – people with just a self-focused purpose are not leaders at all. They may occupy important and powerful positions but they are not leaders. They are demagogues, dictators, thugs, dons, or bullies. At best they are heedless. And even if their purpose is not self-focused, they still don’t become leaders until they are able to clearly articulate and act upon their moral values. A narrow purpose, and/or the absence of values can make you a boss, but not a leader. A broader purpose (one that goes beyond self interest alone) together with enduring moral values makes a leader. In this sense, there is no such thing as a bad leader. There are leaders, and there are good or bad bosses.

Mike Henry, “Founder and Chief Instigator of the Lead Change Group,” has an interesting insight into leadership:

Let’s agree today that good leadership is not the same as effective leadership. Let’s agree that the word good is an evaluation of the end result rather than the leader’s actions. Did it achieve good purposes? Did it create value? (By value I mean benefit in excess of cost). Did the benefit to all parties exceed the cost to all parties? Let’s agree that good leadership is that authority or influence that creates a good outcome. If the outcome is not generally good, it would be bad leadership. Using this model, “bad” becomes a big word. Any leadership that doesn’t create positive outcomes for the contributors and stakeholders can’t be good.

An effective leader is someone who manages to get people to do what they want. It could be defined as one who exerts influence to get others to achieve the leader’s objectives regardless of the quality of the outcome. It will be effective if people allow themselves to be influenced. The outcomes can be good or bad.

As with many assertions on bad leadership, Mr. Henry agrees:

Ineffective leadership is just plain Ugly. We won’t even try to clean it up. If you have to stoop to manipulating or threatening or bullying, that’s ugly leadership.

With all of this in mind, I still assert that the best leadership I have seen and experienced is management of and by the people. The “we” in leading people – and truly being one of the workers with understanding for human failings, strength for when people are weakened by overload and emotional insight when the best needs to be pulled from those who have it within themselves but need a firm and kind hand to reach out to them.

In my last full-time position, I was relieved to be just a designer, no longer having to deal with the strength and drama a leader must endure and to not have the responsibility leadership entails. After dealing with some really awful leadership above me, I swore that my next position would be as a manager once again. I was a great leader and, I thought, in a world of bad leaders, I owed it to the workers to provide a workplace they would feel engaged, purposeful and part of a team. I will empower them because apparently that is my leadership style. I could lead no other way. I wouldn’t change it because, that is who I am as a person.

Web designers, what to look for in a CMS

There are a whole bunch of CMSes out there ranging from lightweight micro-blogging platforms to huge enterprise packages.

I don’t want to mention any names here or tell you what to use.

Instead, I’m going give you some important points to consider, so that you can make an educated decision on your own.

And hopefully, not invest a huge amount of time and energy into a CMS you will have to abandon a year or two down the road.

The learning curve

Sadly, many designers pick a CMS on this point alone. Don’t get me wrong, choosing a CMS you can actually figure out is important, but you are investing a lot of time and energy into this piece of software. Potentially, years of your life will be spent working with this CMS. Don’t just go with the easiest one to configure without taking in some other considerations. A one-click install is nice, but should not be a deciding factor.

With that said, how fast you can get up-and-running, and building simple sites is important. Every CMS has a learning curve but some are much steeper than other. Consider how much time you have before making a choice. If you are a student, you might consider taking the plunge and digging into a more difficult to learn but feature-rich CMS, because you have the time available to do it. If you are working and need a CMS solution yesterday, you may be forced to go with something you can get up in running in a few days.


If you are not familiar with the term, by theming I mean creating the skin, the visible part of the front-end of the website. How this is done should be a huge consideration. Remember developers are the people building CMSes and they like to make development easier, sometimes before considering you the designer, and unfortunately, the end user, too. Which means, the way the front-end is put together might have been neglected or made unnecessarily complicated. Some CMSes are much easier to theme than others. Also, how the control panel is set up and how easy it is to use should greatly influence your decision, because you will be spending huge amounts of time working with it.

You need to consider how flexible theming for the CMS is. Are you able to create or import static HTML and CSS or are there a ton of hoops to jump through first? How is the file structure set up and are you required to save separate pieces of your design all over the back-end? A good CMS, once you are proficient with it, will save you time. But there are definitely some CMSes out there where development takes extra time.

How much freedom are you given to build the website you want? Every CMS has some design hurdles you have to jump over. Are you forced to begin with a starter or default template? That can be a big cramp in your design style and it can eat up extra time. Although, some people prefer having templates to start with. Which do you prefer? Do you have to write markup right in the browser or can you use a text editor? Think about how you prefer building static webpages and check to see if you can use the same process or will you be forced to do things differently.


Documentation and resources

A CMS is only as good as its documentation. I’ve played around with a few amazing CMSes that I ended up having to abandon because I got stuck, and realized there wasn’t enough proper documentation to get me out of the jam I was in. So right after looking at the basic specs for a CMS, dig into the documentation. You should be able to start with zero knowledge and build a complete website just from reading the documentation. If it doesn’t look like that is the case, you might want to look into another CMS.

Most CMSes list their features but the documentation is really where you can see exactly what is offered. For example, a CMS will probably offer some sort of shopping cart solution, but what that is exactly, can vary greatly from CMS to CMS. If there are one or two things your CMS must have, be sure to read the documentation about them specifically, and see if they will work for you.



Even the best documentation cannot answer every question you will have. Is there a place to go where people will answer your questions? If there is, how helpful is the community to designers and novices? Some communities can actually be quite hostile or simply ignore beginner’s questions.

If you would like to ask some questions, don’t be that person who gets on the forums or Twitter asking “Is this CMS any good?” Browse around a little bit. Someone has probably already asked the question you have. A good way to gauge the quality of the community is to see what kinds of responses people are getting to their questions, and how many hours/days it takes to get them. Nothing is worse than having a question you cannot answer and not having a resource to turn to.

Another consideration not often thought of is paid support. Do the CMS developers provide support and how much does it cost? If they don’t, are there people in the community that you can trust to get timely support from? Inevitably, there will come a time when you need a custom add-on built or something else comes up that is over your knowledge level. Someone needs to be there to do it for you or walk you through it.

Community also includes the third-party developers. Who and how many people are building add-ons for the CMS? Most CMSes have a central add-on community. Have a look around and see what is available.



Not every website you build will be for yourself. How easy a client can add and edit their own content is very important. Complicated back-ends and lack of features means more development time and more time training clients. One of the most basic and most important features of any CMS is the text editor. Editing site content should be a primary concern for you and the people you will be building websites for. How easy is the WYSIWYG editor to use and goes it write clean markup? Will clients who are not computer savvy be able to use it?

Also, along the same lines is the file upload system. How easy is it to upload images, video, PDFs, et cetera? Many clients don’t have the software or knowledge to edit and resize images, yet need this functionality on their website. Is there built-in image resizing your clients can take advantage of?

The usability of the control panel should be considered as well. You may have to train people to use the system, which can be many hours of work over the years. Is it simple enough your grandmother could use it? Also, how configurable is the control panel? Can you turn off or hide areas the client doesn’t need access to? It is nice to be able to only let clients edit the areas of the site they need to without having to deal with other parts of the control panel that might confuse them, or worse, allow them to break the website.

Clients need to be able to do these basic things:

  • Edit existing page content
  • Add new pages easily and have the navigation updated automatically
  • Add photos, documents and video content
  • Give access to the control panel to other employees

They all sound pretty easy but there can actually be a number of problems. Tabular data or heavily styled areas that require HTML and CSS knowledge can be difficult for a client to edit, and some WYSIWYG editors don’t do a very good job here. Some CMSes don’t provide an intuitive way of adding additional pages or easily up-datable navigation. You don’t want to leave these things up to the client if you don’t have to. I like to follow the rule that if a client could break something, they will break it. Some CMSes don’t allow certain file types to be uploaded or have an upload file size limit, which can cause headaches for clients trying to upload large PDFs or PowerPoint presentations.

All things to consider.


Programing knowledge requirements

You chose to be a designer for a reason, right? Some of us might be proficient in a language like PHP but that doesn’t mean we want to spend all of our time doing it. Take a look at the language the CMS is written in and see if it is something you are familiar with and could work in if you had to. Also, see how much scripting is done in the templates. Some CMSes do a really good job of keeping the PHP or whatever language out of the templates, so you can focus just on the HTML and CSS. Other CMSes can have their own templating language to use.

They are all a little bit different and, depending on your comfort level with code, you will have to choose one to live with. Generally, I say don’t go with a CMS where you have to learn a whole new language to get started, unless you really would rather be a developer and not a designer.


How active are the developers?

How good the CMS is now is important, but where it is going in the future is just as important. So find out what the developers are up to. Look at the time it takes for each major release and each dot release to come out. If it has been two years since the last dot release, the CMS might be dead or on hold. There is no perfect CMS but the more the developers are working the better a CMS is going to get. And what may be the best CMS now might not be five years from now. Don’t get stuck with a dying CMS.

Find the bug tracker and see just how long bugs go unfixed. If something is broken on a site you build, clients are going to rely on you to fix it. Telling them the CMS developers haven’t fixed the bug yet, isn’t a very good excuse.


Flexibility and reach

What does the CMS come with out of the box? A CMS with little functionality means you have to rely heavily on 3rd party add-ons. On the other hand a CMS with everything built in may be bloated and difficult to get up and running, especially if you are building a simple website. There needs to be a happy medium between the two. An ideal CMS can be set up quickly without a lot of configuration needing to be done, yet has all the tools required for more complex features.

Just because you are only building simple websites now doesn’t mean you might not be building more complex websites in the future. Think about the types of websites you would like to build or may be asked to build and does the CMS allow for it. How hard is it to add a membership area to the website, multi-language support, or to add a store?


Does it make you better?

Learning how to build website with a CMS is a great thing to know but just how much larger your skill set becomes, can vary. Being able to let clients edit their own content is the central feature of a CMS, but they can offer so much more:

  • Ecommerce
  • Membership functionality
  • Multi-language support
  • Dynamic media galleries
  • Multi-site installations
  • Integrating blogs and forums
  • Pagination
  • Easy syndication

To name a few. You probably would not have been able to create this type of work without some development knowledge but a good CMS can make that possible.

After working with a good CMS for a while, you should find that you are able to work at the same speed or even faster than if you were building a static website. A good CMS saves you development time, but should also help improve the way you develop the front-end as well, by creating reusable snippets of content, embedding templates inside each other, and displaying content from the database that you would have had to markup yourself in a static site.


Where are you going?

Think about where you are in your career now, and where you want to be five and ten years from now. The CMS you choose will be with you at least that long. Are you going to be working for a big design firm or do you want to work for yourself? Will you be doing freelance work on the side?

Not every firm uses the same CMS but there are some that are used more regularly. If you really fall in love with one CMS in particular, you can always find the firms that use it, too. Less popular CMSes have less job opportunities but the firms that do use them would be much more inclined to hire you, being proficient with the CMS, over someone who has never touched it before. Using a less popular CMS makes you more of a specialist. Using a popular CMS means you have a broader range of opportunities.

If you plan on freelancing full or part time, you will want a CMS where you are comfortable doing every aspect of development. Typically, your projects will be smaller in scope as well, so a huge CMS with a long setup time might not be the best option.



Every person is different and what CMS works for me might not be the best option for you. So take these points into consideration. Take a look at what CMSes are available, and pick the one that will work best for you.