Top 3 graphic design apps for social media marketing

Modern software has given creators the tools they need to showcase their work to the world. Here are the best free apps that I’ve been using that will help your talent shine in 2019:

AppWrap – Do you want to feature your latest website or app design to your followers? Are you building a portfolio for the UI/UX projects you worked on? This app is a great way to wrap your screenshots in a mobile device view. You can add effects, backgrounds, and text to really polish the look and feel. Their template gallery will give you inspiration to make something gorgeous. http://www.appwrap.in/

AntPace.com mobile device view

Canva – This is one of my favorites. With a library of over 60,000+ templates, this app has something for every platform. Whether you need to create a great looking post, story, or cover image, this app has designs for Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and much more. If you want your online presence to look professionally designed, check this one out! https://www.canva.com/

Anthony Pace creativity takes courage

Hatchful – Do you need a logo for your brand, business, or product? This app let’s you create one quickly. By customizing templates, you can draft, and iterate designs. Having logo design done fast, cheap, and easily allows you to focus on the actual product. It’s important to not get hung up on the logo, especially early into your venture, and instead focus on the actual value your service proposes. https://hatchful.shopify.com/

antpace.com

I’ve used all of these apps, and personally gained value from them. What apps do you use for your graphic design?

A template for web app startups

Having a framework in place when you start up will let you hit the ground running. This applies not just to software, but also business, health, fitness, and just about everything else in life. Having the dots ready to connect helps you to draw the right picture.

I recently released BJJ Tracker as a web app. You can read about it here. I built it knowing that I would want to reuse its code, and have it serve as a framework for future projects. I cleaned it up into a GitHub repository, trying to make it as generic as I could. Here is the link: https://github.com/pacea87/ap-template.

BJJ Tracker

I wanted to create a template to rapidly roll out digital products and software. This source code is a starting point. The goal is to be quick and cheap, without sacrificing quality. It runs in a LAMP environment. If you want to run this software on your computer, look into WAMP or MAMP.

This code base provides a front-end that leverages modern web technologies and standard best practices. A basic layout is described, including a header, menu drawer, feature buttons, and detail pages. It uses Bootstrap, jQuery, Font Awesome, Google Fonts, and Google Charts.

The back-end is object oriented, RESTful, and secure. Code that talks to the database, or to 3rd party APIs, has been separated out into *-service.php files. It includes SQL to create a user database. The database interacts with a custom registration and login engine. It allows for anonymous users, so that data can be saved before signing up, and a password is not needed to get started. It provides a reset password mechanism for users. It seamlessly integrates with Mailchimp and Facebook login. Redirects are in place to force SSL and WWW, and to remove file extensions from URLs. Next versions will address technical SEO and new API integrations.

source code

If you’d like to contribute to this repo, feel free to fork it, and make a pull request.

GitHub

Writing, engineering, and creativity

It was 2006 and I had just installed WordPress on a web server. I would draft blog posts nightly, before getting ready for bed. At the time I was a philosophy major and wrote prose more than code. That was my first venture into web development and digital marketing. It started with writing.

Writing blog posts and publishing software have a lot in common. For both, “perfect” is the opposite of ready. It’s easy to keep editing your own work. It’s even easier to keep adding half-done features and clutter. That’s why having a plan before you start helps so much. When I write, my first draft tends to be bullet points and a vague outline. The same goes for software. If I’m building something complex, I write comments explaining its functionality before any code. It’s my way of “thinking out loud”, and making sure that what I plan on doing even makes sense.

It’s been over a decade since I’ve maintained a blog. Creative tasks require hard work, lest they bear no fruit. (“Writer’s block is for amateurs”). Problem solving, in its many shapes, is the highest form of creativity. It’s how we build our reality. Modern technology gives us creative leverage through tools, knowledge, and community. We’re being given opportunities to build and create things, to grow and be better, at an unprecedented scale. It’s the best time in history to be CEO of your own life; creative director of your destiny. This also sets the bar higher to stand out.

My plan here is to write regularly, and discuss what I’ve been working on and learning, as well as what’s next. This gives me a chance to explore my thoughts, and prune the branches from which they stem. Hopefully, working at this will help to make me a better storyteller too.

BJJ Tracker, a fitness app

www.BJJTracker.com

BJJ Tracker is a fitness app for tracking Brazilian jiu jitsu training. It’s the sort of fitness app I was looking for, but couldn’t find. Version 1.0 is a bare bones MVP, but has a list of features on the way. Future versions will add gamification (including challenges and goals), UX/UI enhancements, training recommendations, and more.

The app allows users to record their training sessions, with details about drilling and sparring, as well as competition. This data is visualized over charts and calendars. The idea started from physically writing my training sessions onto an actual calendar, with a minimum goal per week. Building it has been a great exercise in digital product development, software design, and UI/UX strategy.

fitness tracker calendar

Software

BJJ Tracker is a web app, hosted on a AWS Linux server, running Apache, PHP, and MySql. I used Initializr to generate a bootstrap template to get my front-end started. One goal of this project was to build a web app framework that I could use to quickly get future projects running. This code would include user registration and login services, as well as other back-end concerns, on top of a front-end. I’ve cleaned most of this code into a generic repo on GitHub. You can read my post explaining its features.

Design

This app was designed with “mobile first” in mind, assuming that most users will be on a smart phone. The look and feel of the color palette, font-choice, and UI layout took some experimenting and visual research. It’s not final, and will be subject to split testing over time. I used Font Awesome to add icons as visual cues, giving the app a more finished look. The three lined (hamburger) menu in the top right comes as standard UI, using Simple MobileMenu, a jQuery plugin. Other UI elements include a top status message, and “In-Your-Face” status message, both of which are custom built notifications that I’ve wrapped as javascript plugins. Having a calendar section was important to me, and I consider to be a primary feature of the app. I use Full Calendar to generate the full month view. The homepage (dashboard) focuses on a week view. Google charts is used for the “techniques” graph.

logo design

The logo is a work-in-progress. The textual part was easy – pick a font, add a sharp outline, and a drop shadow. I always start with a 1024×1024 canvas. The symbol begins with simple shapes, triangles and circles. I left this process for last, saving my focus for the actual product. This allowed me to rapidly iterate design versions, and see how it would look directly in the user interface. Below is the current portrayal – and I’m excited for next versions.

bjj tracker

Challenges and next steps

One goal of this project was to get started fast, so people could begin using it. Deciding what to include out of a long list of ideas proved challenging. I could have kept adding features, and never been ready to make the site public. I meant to keep functionality basic, but still wanted the thing to be useful. The design needed to be simple, yet still had to look finished. I won’t know how close I came to getting this right until I analyze user feedback. The real plan is to do a little bit better next time, and to keep iterating. Using this as foundation will let future ventures start a step ahead. Already, I’ve begun implementing updates, and getting ready to deploy to the App Store and Google Play. Look out for coming updates and other products that are in the works! Don’t forget to visit the BJJ Tracker blog.

bjj tracker

Solutions, results, and leverage

The plan for my blog is to explore problem solving and creativity. It talks a lot about software development and technology. I cover coding and programming topics, as well as the business and marketing that goes along with building digital products. I showcase real examples of creating things of value, how to get started, and the many forms that engineering can take.

Engineering – 
‘The action of working artfully to bring something about’

The goal of all this is to explore the concepts behind developing solutions, getting results, and using leverage. I’ll cover subjects that I’m interested in such as programming, business, video games, grappling, fitness, food, and lifestyle design. You’ll get to see what I’m working on and what I’m into.

‘The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.’
— Henry David Thoreau