In our previous review of Photoshop CS5, 6 Valuable Features Missing in Photoshop CS5, we went over some shortcomings that we think Adobe should rectify in Photoshop. Version CS6 has been out for a while now and we have been using it for several months since this writing. Adobe has made some nice improvements to this new version, but also some glaring omissions.
1. Snap Vector Tools and Transforms to Pixel Grid
A great new feature that allows Photoshop to easily snap vector shapes to whole pixels. For anyone that uses vector shapes, you know that in the past when you draw a shape it can overlap pixels creating a fuzzy edge. This new feature, when turned on, eliminates fuzzy edge syndrome. Unfortunately, this feature is hidden in the app’s preferences. We tend to turn this on and off many times throughout the day as we work. There are reasons for this: the need to nudge existing shapes that do not have crisp edges, freeform drawing with the pen tool, creating clipping paths around photos, etc. Instead of simply having an option right in the toolbar to enable/disable snapping, you have to open the Preferences every single time. This can eat up a lot of time. The only workaround we’ve found for this is to create two actions (one to turn snapping on and one to turn it off) and assign hotkeys to them in the ACtions panel. This works well, but had Adobe thought this out better it would not be necessary.
2. Symbols and Graphic Styles
We’re lumping these two together, since they go hand in hand. These are carry-overs from our Photoshop CS5 wish list. Adobe has still not included a feature for reusable symbol objects in Photoshop. Fireworks has them. Illustrator has them. Photoshop does not. Smart Objects are a great feature, but they are not as flexible or easily updatable as symbols. Nor is there any kind of 9-slice scaling feature for Smart Objects.
Graphic Styles implementation in Photoshop is essentially useless. You can basically save a style to reuse later, but when you apply the style to a layer Photoshop has no memory of it. So, you cannot update a style and then have every layer that the style is applied to update along with it. We could live without one of these if the other was implemented well.
3. Text Styles
Photoshop CS6 finally has paragraph and character styles. We know many people that have been clamoring for this feature. Unfortunately, it is not implemented very well. It works decent when there are only a few text boxes, but once you start getting into a couple dozen it slows to a crawl. Simply opening the paragraph style panel and turning the preview checkbox off literally takes several minutes. This effectively makes the feature unusable. There are many posts about this in the Adobe Forums.
We’ve created a screencast just to show how painfully slow this feature works (warning: it’s a really boring video to watch).
4. Editable Shapes
Now that Photoshop has a Properties panel, it would be great if it included options for adjusting vector shapes. When selecting a vector rectangle or rounded rectangle, it could have options for adjusting the radius on each corner. A star vector shape could have options for changing the number of points and radius of the inner and outer points.
5. Subscriptions…The New “In” Thing
It seems that many companies offer monthly subscription services for their services. Adobe has now jumped on that bandwagon. That is fine. We use their Creative Cloud subscription here and it’s great. We have access to almost every Adobe program and can download an app that we don’t have on the fly if we need it. The problem comes in when Adobe offers the exact same application to both Creative Cloud users and those that buy the standalone version, but then only offer feature updates to the Creative Cloud users, even though the version of Photoshop is not changing to CS7. A perfect example of this is CSS styles in the Layers panel. Creative Cloud users can click on any layer and select an option to copy the CSS code for that layer style so they can use that in the stylesheet for a website. This was an addition to Photoshop CS6. Standalone users do not have access to this feature even though they use Photoshop CS6. Everyone has paid a lot of money for Photoshop, so why not give everyone access to those features?
Overall, Photoshop CS6 is a nice upgrade with some great features. It would be nice if the next version concentrated on productivity instead of always having to try and throw in some “wow” features. Given that Adobe has the Creative Cloud subscription service now, they shouldn’t need to try and sell people with wow features to get them to upgrade. This is the perfect time to streamline the app and make it as productive as possible for everyone.
Jerry Leigh is one of the largest producers of licensed souvenirs & apparel in the United States. Based in Orlando, Florida, they’re well positioned to serve their target market: tourist destinations. That’s right – they make the things that cause your suitcase to be dramatically overstuffed on the way home from your vacation. The next time you’re jumping up and down on your Samsonite in an effort to squeeze in that Donald Duck water bottle, you can thank Jerry Leigh.
Other than the fact that Mickey Mouse is always fun, there’s another good reason to talk about Jerry Leigh’s new Volusion store: it’s not a retail outlet. It’s a wholesale site that can only be utilized by preregistered clients. That’s not necessarily earth-shattering news (that a wholesaler would use Volusion to better serve their clients) but it’s worth pointing out when it happens simply because there are far too many wholesalers out in the world that have failed to recognize what a useful tool an ecommerce site can be. There are wholesalers out there (you know who you are) who still take orders over the phone while working from a printed catalog. We know the old ways can be comforting, but come on! It’s the 21st century for crying out loud! Put down the invoice pad and pick up your mouse!*
*Don’t actually “pick up” the mouse or it won’t work. We’d like to assume that you already knew that, but if you’re a wholesaler without an ecommerce site, there’s a chance that the operational subtleties of the personal computer are entirely baffling to you.
BTTF.net isn’t just the Internet’s leading dealer of Back to the Future-related merchandise, they also happen to be an old Brand Labs customer. We designed their current site and just recently we created a great new Deal of the Day page using Volusion’s built in functionality.
Deal of the Day is a proven way to engage your regular customers and encourage repeat visits, which is perfect for a site dedicated to a series of movies about returning and returning and returning.
If you aren’t currently using Volusion’s Deal of the Day, you’re missing a great opportunity to build loyalty and move product. You’re also missing the chance to…
… this is usually the point at which we’d say something clever and quote the movie or something like that, but you know what? For all of its deep impact on popular culture, Back to the Future is almost entirely devoid of catchphrases except for ones that only make sense in context, so we’ll just end here by saying:
Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.
See? It just doesn’t work. Our apologies.
Ensuring that hipsters and nerds are not walking around topless, frightening the general populace with their pasty white skin and ironic shoulder tattoos, Old School Tees is more of a public service organization than a Volusion store.
If you’re looking for a wide variety of ways to prove to the world that you’re not likely to be running for public office any time soon, Old School Tees can hook you up. Perhaps a sexually suggestive Fred Flintstone shirt will do the trick. If not, the perhaps a mildly sacrilegious Big Lebowski tee? Either way, Old School Tees is ready to put something on your chest that’s quite a bit funnier than the large food stains that usually reside there.
If you’re reading this, you’re looking at our freshly-redesigned, Volusion-centric ecommerce blog (unless you’re using some sort of aggregating iPad app or seeing this on our Facebook wall, in which case you’re probably going to be cut off any second when we hit the end of the excerpt and if that’s true, we humbly request that you click through to the actual blog which you clearly have by now because there are no excerpts that go on this long, so at this point we’re just going to go ahead and continue.)
Anyhoo, welcome to our new blog! We’ve been a little preoccupied with the new site launch, so we have a lot of catching up to do. Keep an eye on this space to see what we’ve been up to since we last spoke. In the days ahead, we’ll be telling you about our new app (yes – another app), our latest custom Volusion development and all of our new Volusion site designs. Speaking of new sites…
Our new blog isn’t the only new thing in town. We’ve also completely redesigned our website. It’s sleeker, smarter and loaded with beautiful examples of all of our best and latest design work. We’re pretty dang proud of it and we hope that you’ll take a couple of minutes to check it out.
On the internal side, we’d like to thank everyone in design, development, marketing and project management – basically the whole team – for pitching in to make the new site happen. You’re all simply fantastic!
Now go – enjoy the new site.
You’re an ecommerce merchant. Let’s say that your store has been up and running for a while. Let’s also say that it’s doing well. Of course, it may not be doing as well as you’d like, but if that’s the case, you sure don’t need a list of reasons to reexamine your site. If your store isn’t doing what you’d like it to do, you should be going over it with a fine-toothed comb. On the other hand, if your store is doing well, it’s easy to get complacent. If you fall into that group, this article is for you.
We’ve said it a bazillion times: a website is a living thing. You have to nurture it – help it grow. If you neglect it, it’ll die… or worse. It’ll grow beyond your control until it’s a huge, rambling jumble of awkward navigation, dead ends and baffling content. Still unconvinced? Check out the list for the scolding you so richly deserve.
Read the rest after the jump…
We’ve been designing and developing custom Volusion templates for a lot of years now and it’s fair to say that we’ve got the process down to a science. Need convincing? Let’s go to the chart… (click to enlarge)
What you see here is the Brand Labs Custom Volusion Development Timeline. Of course every Volusion template is unique. That means that the custom development process varies from project to project, but there are certain things we can count on – predictable patterns. That’s what this chart is all about.
If you look the chart over, you’ll see that it covers eleven weeks of consultation, design, more consultation, development and still more consultation. If anyone tells you they can design your Volusion site from the ground up in under eleven weeks, we can tell you what they’re going to cut out: consultation.
Building a custom ecommerce site is a collaborative effort. We pride ourselves on our efforts to learn about your business and its needs, but no one knows your business like you do. Look at this chart – the orange areas are the periods in the process in which the client takes the lead. In the eleven week process, you’ll see that the client takes the reins no less than seven times.
We want to work with you to transform your business in under three months – just fifty-five business days to build the online store of your dreams. Call us to find out more about our custom Volusion template design process and how it can change your site from good to great.
There is no more overused phrase in this industry than “A/B testing”. Our previous post is testament to that. However, that doesn’t mean that all the attention is undeserved. A/B testing is a truly valuable tool in the hands of skilled web professionals, like Brand Labs, for instance.
We have a well-established track record as effective online marketers. Our reputation in this arena is matched only by our reputation as skilled web designers, which is a good thing because you need both skills in order to build and maintain a strong A/B testing program and to react properly to the results. Oh… speaking of results, it helps if you’re Google Analytics experts like we happen to be. That way, when you see the results you’ll know what to do with them, which is good because knowledge without action is like Hall without Oates; useless.
After the jump we have some recent examples of A/B successes and some tips if you’d like to follow our example. Hit the link below to check it out…
We say it all the time – product photography is critical. We can provide you with the best store design in the industry (and we totally do) but if you then populate this beautiful store with crappy pictures… well, let’s just say that you’re messing with our rep and we can’t have that.
With that in mind, we provide you with this link to a fantastic article on the topic of product photography from the fine folks at Smashing Magazine. It offers a good collection of examples and a nice set of tips for taking great shots on your own. Check it out.
At Brand Labs, we use Photoshop… a lot. We design all of our websites with it. We use it for both web design and print design. Some of our designers have used it since version 2.5! Some of us use it so much that the interface is burned into our LCD monitors.
With Adobe’s CS5 release, they’ve added several new features that are great, but they still have not addressed the shortcomings of this program, which is a standard in the design industry. Adobe discontinued Photoshop’s little brother, ImageReady, when they bought Macromedia and acquired Fireworks. Unfortunately, Fireworks is not a good successor for Photoshop when mocking up websites with a complex layer structure. After about five pages in Fireworks, it gets slow. Really slow. We’re not sure how well it runs on Windows, but it is atrocious on the Mac. Some of our Photoshop documents have hundreds of layers in them. Layer/object masks are also very difficult to use and if you attempt to open a Photoshop file in Fireworks be prepared to make a lot of fixes to the converted file. There are some things that Fireworks does very well…mainly slicing, optimizing and exporting graphics for the web. So did ImageReady.
There are enough articles out there that talk about the new features in Photoshop CS5 and how great they are, so we are going to address what’s missing. Things that we, as designers, would really like to see added to make this program even better. Yes, we’ve submitted feature requests to Adobe. Yes, we’ve posted to their forums. These features keep slipping through every new release and we’d really be happy if Adobe spent less time worrying about how Flash is not on the iPad or iPhone and more time addressing how they can make their customer’s lives easier.