PG
Author

Mark Myerson

Avid photographer of no note whatsoever, and professional Facebook loather.

Visit Site
Canva: Pro Design for the Rest of Us

When we browse the web, or flick through the latest updates on our favourite networks, the unstoppable flow of graphics which bombards our eyeballs is remarkable, and bewildering, in equal measure. We are seeking content, but our gaze falls just as frequently on adverts, profile pictures, banners and logos. These often feel like visual distractions, but quality graphics are unquestionably a key component of any marketing push.

Sadly, for many small business owners, and for individuals wishing to raise their personal profile, it is a component which is out of reach. For many businesses, high quality, professionally-devised branding seems like an extravagantly large investment in these times of financial hardship. Equally, graphic design is by no means a universally held skill. The complexity of most popular graphics apps is also a significant barrier to entry, meaning bootstrap branding may not be an option.

That’s where new online graphics editor Canva, currently in private beta, wants to intervene. Amongst its ingredients you will find a vast image library, numerous preset layouts, a range of commonly used print and online document sizes, and a plethora of professionally created, ready-to-go graphics. On the face of it, you might wonder why something like this hasn’t come to market before. The question is: does Canva reinforce this point, or does it actually illustrate why web-based graphics composition is still, largely, an untamed beast?

(more…)

Bunkr: Simple, Collaborative Presentation Creation

Along with spreadsheets, presentations are one of the main “attractions” of the corporate-style workplace (warning: sarcasm). These multimedia productions should be engaging, but sadly, few of us have the presence of delivery, nor the content, to provide something truly compelling for the audience.

And then there’s the start-to-end in-computer construction and delivery of a presentation, which can often be a struggle — magnified, if you need to collaborate with colleagues. Within a team, the collection and organization of the required media can be a stilted process if you are working remotely, and getting the finished product to function properly anywhere outside of your chosen native software is often the cause of much frustration.

Bunkr is a new web-based platform which is hoping to ease most of these presentation-related pains. The French startup aims to provide all the tools needed to create your slideshow, from the cherry-picking of content, right through to the publication of your masterpiece in browser-friendly HTML5. But can one cloud-based service really offer the all-round game to make presentations easy?

(more…)

Notelr: The Monetization-Focused Blogging Platform

As a writer who works solely online, the success of the blog as a publishing platform for the written word has been a good thing. I can’t truthfully say that the continued, never-ending growth of blogging is a positive, however. The breathtaking volume of text being published every second makes life difficult for readers, who constantly find themselves having to catch up, and it devalues the work of high quality writers.

It’s little wonder, then, that writers have flocked to networks in search of hits, or the bucks they produce. Controversial the Bleacher Report may be, but it has given a select group of writers the opportunity to be rewarded for their popularity. Equally, some have gone looking for readers on content aggregators such as Medium, with the idea being that articles within the network are far more discoverable than a blog post, on its own, would be.

But what if writers were able to combine the visitor numbers of a network with the revenue options of a personal blog? This tantalizing prospect is roughly what new invite beta service, Notelr, looks capable of providing. An impossible dream? Let’s find out…

(more…)

Cloudup: The Slick New Kid on the File Sharing Block

The file storage and sharing marketplace is a landscape heavily populated with services. There’s good reason for this: a lot of people need to move a lot of files about, a lot of the time. Little wonder, then, that Dropbox is valued at over $4bn, and Box has managed to raise, over several rounds of funding, a total of $309m. These heavyweights provide large amounts of storage and access to files via nearly any internet-connected device.

In recent times, though, a slightly different, nimbler, quicker kind of platform has become popular. The first of this type – and, perhaps, the genre-defining player in this field – was Droplr. Since its launch in 2009, it has provided a remarkably simple and fast method of getting files online and shared. A younger competitor, CloudApp, has also entered mainstream use, and clearly there are plenty more startups which feel that this is still a lucrative file-storage niche.

One such service is Cloudup. The unique selling point of this cloud platform is its delivery of uploaded files, of nearly any type, in streams, which act as multimedia playlists. But is this focus on the recipient really the new, killer feature in the crowded file-sharing arena?

(more…)

Webflow: Simple Web Design, Mouse Style

Given that you’re reading an article on AppStorm, I think it’s safe to assume that you’re a savvy, astute kind of reader. So, I won’t need to tell you that the first rule of the internet is that you must have a website. Nor will I need to explain that code, in the case of most basic websites, is nowadays completely unnecessary. And I definitely don’t need to inform you that the selection of services now available to help with building an online presence is enormous.

You might be interested to hear about Webflow, though. Whereas most of the site builders already on the market are aimed purely at non-coders, this new kid on the web design block seems to be letting the technical folks get some respite from keyboard-based design.

Is this kind of hybrid the way forward? Or will it just annoy web designers wedded to the manual way of doing things?

(more…)

Needly: A Mashup of Almost Every Web App Idea, Ever

Nearly all of the apps, platforms and services we write about on AppStorm are pretty specific in their purpose. Twitter sticks to restricted-length communications, YouTube focuses on video clip-based entertainment, and Evernote does nothing other than document filing. One app, one task. It works pretty good.

Given that we use many of these apps on a daily basis, you have to wonder why there haven’t been more attempts to combine some of these services. FriendFeed was, perhaps, the most prominent and successful entry into the mashup genre, although it fell by the wayside, despite a peak of 1.2m unique visitors per month.

The makers of Needly clearly feel that the fusion of web-apps is an idea worth revisiting. Billed as “Google Reader + Basecamp + WordPress,” it seems intent on providing a hub of browser-based services. Is this the plain madness it sounds like, or rather some kind of genius idea that should have been done already? Read on to find out.

(more…)

MnmlRdr: RSS at Its Minimalist Best

RSS seems to be a seriously hot technology again. In recent weeks, there has been an extraordinary deluge of apps being released in response to Google Reader’s shutdown. Some of these are trying to tempt prospective users by offering innovative extra features, but many are happy to provide a clone-like experience. There are, however, some apps which have built on Reader’s foundations, but have added their own refinement, particularly in the direction of minimalist design, Digg and AOL being prime examples.

A new invite beta service named MnmlRdr, which has somewhat stayed under the radar thus far, is a promising new entry in this last category. I’m trying to find out whether it is an undiscovered gem, or whether it should be left in the shade. (more…)

Forgive my tampering with a traditional idiom, but images really do make the world go round. Well, the online world at least. In this age of multimedia, a website without a photo or two somewhere within its contents sticks out like a sore thumb. Equally, a quick browse through your social timelines should reveal that photos are constantly being shared at an astounding rate, and it is these visual status updates which tend to be the most popular.

It was this trend which Pinterest latched onto just over three years ago now, and after an extraordinary early surge in the size of its user-base, it has gone on to become one of the web’s hottest social properties. The simplicity of a network which allows users to “pin” virtually any image, from any website, is both the main driving force behind Pinterest’s popularity, and the reason why the service is particularly popular with creative folks. As a method of digital scrapbooking, however, Pinterest disappointed many with its original near-requirement of its users to be social. Pinterest now allows the creation of secret boards, but as a network, it still isn’t terribly suited to private collation.

A new invite beta product named Board – the first from developer Creonomy – is based on a system of image collection which is similar to that of Pinterest, but it has been deliberately set up to be a private space for creatives to store their visual inspirations. Is there really a need for yet another web-clipping service, though?

There’s only one way to find out…and it involves a lot of image browsing…

(more…)

Luma7: Your Personal Brainstorming Assistant

Ah…the joys of brainstorming. Who doesn’t love shouting out random words, and writing them in an equally random layout on a whiteboard, for no apparent reason? Okay, so on a more serious note, at times, the brainstorm technique can be useful. When you are seeking inspiration, anything that can free up the mind is surely a good thing.

If you work by yourself, though, brainstorming is nigh on impossible. There’s no-one to bounce ideas around with, meaning that the key element of the process, collaborative thought, is not present. Of course, you can encourage yourself to think differently, and come up with left-field concepts, but it will never quite work as well as the real, group-based thing.

This is a problem that new service Luma7 hopes to fix, or at least alleviate. This platform works as a cross between a search engine-derived brainstorm, and a mind map, using the power of the web to provide a network of related information to trigger your own free-thinking. It is an interesting, new genre of online assistance, but is it just a reskinned version of Google? I warmed up my creative grey matter, and gave Luma7 a try.

(more…)

ReadyMag: Magazine Publishing 2.0

For so long, blogging has dominated online publishing. Virtually every site which publishes content with any regularity displays posts in a date-ordered stream, no matter whether the content is news, social media updates, photos, or videos. It says a lot, also, that the world’s favourite CMS, WordPress, is designed, primarily, for blogging.

In many cases, the blog style of presentation works perfectly well, particularly when it comes to time-critical content. That said, it can hardly be the only worthwhile method of digital publishing – true creativity cannot be achieved if everyone has to use the same template.

ReadyMag is a new service which aims to fix this problem with a blank canvas, in the form of a digital magazine. Web based, but very mobile-friendly, this invite beta startup is hoping that, given the right tools, many of us will want to publish our content in a linear, self-contained format. But is print-shaped publishing really the next big thing in online content?

(more…)

Page 3 of 512345