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9 Best WordPress News Sources for 2021

9 Best WordPress News Sources for 2021

If you use WordPress in any capacity, it’s a good idea to stay informed about the platform and it’s community. Three types of news in particular should be paid special attention to: official WordPress announcements and development updates, prominent third party development updates (specifically, those of the tools in your “WordPress Tool Kit”), and finally, broader WordPress Community conversations including users and thought leaders. If all of these news “types” are in your feed (or inbox) then you’ll be empowered to better understand and use WordPress as well as plan long term decisions based on current conversations and development.

In this post, we’ll run down the very best WordPress news sources to follow for 2021 and beyond. 

Let’s dive in!

The Best WordPress News Sources for 2021

The list below isn’t exhaustive, but is a great start to populate your favorite RSS reader. What’s more, these sources aren’t listed in any particular order, so feel free to run the rule over the ones that pique your interest. Without further ado, let’s get started!

1. WPTavern

The WPTavern home page.

No list of the best WordPress news sources would be complete without WPTavern. It’s been running for over a decade, and while it’s seen some personnel changes over the years, its core offering of up-to-date WordPress news is still strong.

The types of articles you’ll find on WPTavern are focused on what’s happening “under the hood” of WordPress. Given this, posts are generally developer-focused, and you can get a feel for the reader base from the comments section.

Speaking of which, most articles have a healthy discussion within the comments section. We’d argue this is a great way of getting to know how the “back end” community feels about certain topics:

The WPTavern comments section.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that WPTavern has been owned by Automattic – the developers of WordPress – since 2011. However, this hasn’t affected the quality of the output in our opinion, nor has it introduced any explicit bias in which stories are covered.

Visit WordPress Tavern

2. Post Status

The Post Status home page.

Next up, Post Status takes the focus of WPTavern and ramps it up a notch. It’s billed as a community for WordPress professionals, and as such, is the first place many budding theme and plugin creators go for their daily news fixes.

The site is run by Brian Krogsgard, and iThemes’ Cory Miller joined as a partner in 2020. Both are experienced WordPress professionals, backed up by an equally impressive team. Between them, Post Status offers a number of channels to receive the latest WordPress news. While the site was initially known as a straightforward news site, it’s now grown to include a newsletterand podcast (which we’d recommend subscribing to).

However, if you need more from Post Status, you could also purchase a membership. This offers well-researched industry insights, a private Slack channel, and much more. While there is value in its free offerings, Post Status’ subscription tier is likely a valuable investment for many WordPress developers.

Visit Post Status

3. Twitter

The Twitter website.

Among the primordial soup of Tweets, you can find some of the earliest-breaking WordPress news. Of course, you have to know where to look. The beauty of the platform is that there are plenty of ways to source quality industry updates.

For example, you could simply follow all of the news sources on this list, and wait for them to Tweet content. Alternatively, you could also follow the developers of WordPress products, and get firsthand insight into what’s happening with various companies. 

Of course, you’re also going to want to follow topics using hashtags and other trending search terms to find the news you want. Some popular options related to WordPress include:

  • #wordpress
  • #wp
  • #webdevelopment
  • #webdesign
  • #seo
  • #plugins

You might also look into hashtags related to specific plugins or themes you’re interested in. For instance, #divi features some updates and content related to our flagship theme and page builder.

To find the latest content using the hashtags you’re interested in, just type them into the search bar on the Explore page:

Overall, using Twitter to get your WordPress news is a double-edged sword. It can provide lots of valuable information, but you’ll need to have a strategy for sorting through its ocean of content.

4. Ma.tt

The Ma.tt website.

Including the site of Matt Mullenweg – the co-creator of WordPress – is, on one hand, a no-brainer when it comes to finding WordPress news. However, we’ll admit that Matt doesn’t only publish platform-centric posts. In the spirit of WordPress itself, Ma.tt is a blog, and topics are discussed somewhat at random.

For example, you’ll find posts about the acquisition of Tumblr there. However, you’ll also get a yearly “What’s in my bag?” post, discussions on live streaming equipment, and much more.

On the surface, Ma.tt isn’t going to be a place you’ll get early breaking WordPress news. However, when it comes to getting inside the mind of a leading entrepreneur, you can’t beat it. At the very least, reading the content here is going to help you understand why you read the stories you do, and why those decisions have ultimately been made.

Visit Ma.tt

5. Make WordPress

The Make WordPress website.

When it comes to WordPress news, you could consider Make WordPress an almost perfect blend between Ma.tt, Post Status, and direct developer updates. It’s not a bonafide news source per se, although when it comes to official WordPress updates, it’s the place to be.

For the uninitiated, the Make WordPress website is essentially a microsite for contributors to the platform. As such, you’ll find dedicated areas for ThemesPluginsMarketingCore code, and much more. The primary purpose of these different teams is to provide a central repository for updates and resources. However, given that the channels are public, it’s also a great way to get WordPress news on any aspect of the platform.

Our advice is to subscribe for updates through an RSS reader. It could be noisy at times, as some of the posts aren’t designed as reading material for end-users. However, for upcoming updates and changes to WordPress’ offerings – the Block Editor being a perfect example – it’s a goldmine of information.

Visit Make WordPress

6. Developer Blogs

The Elegant Themes blog.

We mentioned direct developer updates in the last entry, and following specific theme and plugin blogs will also net you plenty of WordPress news. While the blogs on product sites are often centered around content marketing, you’ll also find changelogs, updates, and other news-worthy tidbits.

There are a few tips we recommend for filtering out the noise here. First, see if your RSS reader can filter based on taxonomies. If so, check out the blog of your chosen WordPress product for any categories or tags that relate to news.

Also, we don’t recommend following all of the developers you can find. Some of the more important ones – such as Automattic, Yoast, and of course, Elegant Themes – will likely be all you need.

Second, see if the product developers run personal blogs. It could be that these sites don’t contain anything WordPress-related. However, in some instances, you’ll find greater insight into the decisions by the company as a whole, which ultimately gives you more information.

7. WP Content

The WP Content home page.

Next on our list is a modern throwback to the old ManageWP.org aggregator. That site sadly doesn’t exist anymore, although WP Content looks to take its place. So far, the fledgling site succeeds.

It’s a community-driven website that aggregates WordPress news and ranks it accordingly. Since the lists are user-driven, it means these articles are genuinely the most engaging for other WordPress users. As such, you can see at a glance what the WordPress community is currently taking notice of.

What’s more, there are dedicated comments sections for all posts, so users can discuss the relative merits of each inclusion. This is going to give you greater insight into how the WordPress community enjoys (or doesn’t enjoy) the information it receives.

Visit WP Content

8. Torque

The Torque website.

Our next entry is a site that’s been around for a similar timeframe as WPTavern. However, Torque is more of a classic content site. In other words, it offers how-to’s and tutorials, alongside hot takes and editorials on current WordPress events.

Therefore, we’d argue that while its content is valuable, Torque is going to be more of a secondary source of WordPress news. Given that it offers content that expands on the latest WordPress happenings, you’ll want to consider Torque articles alongside previous breaking news, rather than as a go-to source for the latest. However, Doc Pop’s News Drop and Torque’s Social Hour are great listens that stand on their own.

Also, it’s worth noting that Torque is part of the WP Engine group. This is, of course, similar to WPTavern and Automattic. In our experience, we’ve also seen no bias or control exercised by WP Engine. As such, it’s a fine source of WordPress news that you’ll want to add to your list.

Visit Torque

9. Wordfence

The Wordfence blog.

Finally, we have a WordPress plugin developer we’d like to single out. While the Wordfence blog doesn’t contain current WordPress news reporting, it does offer something just as interesting.

Wordfence is often a leading source when it comes to security issues surrounding WordPress products. You’ll often find very detailed breakdowns of recent vulnerability fixes in various WordPress themes and plugins. In addition, the Wordfence blog has also investigated Direct Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and their actors, and much more.

When it comes to security – and more importantly the work the Threat Intelligence Team does to uncover WordPress vulnerabilities – this blog is worth its weight in platinum. We recommend subscribing for daily updates in order to help keep your sites safer.

Visit Wordfence

Conclusion

Rather than a need for gossip, keeping tabs on the latest WordPress news is vital to understanding how the community as a whole operates. What’s more, key updates and developments can only be found “straight from the horse’s mouth.” As such, subscribing to one or more news sources will help you keep a finger on the pulse of the WordPress community across a broad range of roles.

How to Reduce the Size of JPEG and Other Image Files

How to Reduce the Size of JPEG and Other Image Files

The images you use on your website are one of the most important elements. Not only do you want to have visually compelling imagery, but you also don’t want those images to be so large that they slow down the load time for your site. One of the main reasons a site will lag is because the images included in it have not been resized for optimal site performance.

In this article, we will explore manual methods for reducing image sizes in Photoshop including changing the file type, resizing, and compressing files using the Save for Web function. If those looking for something more automated, we’ll also look at some plugins and web-based options.

Changing The File Type

“File Size” for an image file refers to the number of pixels per inch. Generally, the more pixels per inch, the more information the file holds, thus, the bigger its size.

The two most common file types for images are JPG and PNG.

  • PNG – Portable Network Graphics  – This file type is mostly used for graphic files like logos, icons, illustrations, and text. When edited in a photo editing application like Photoshop, these files don’t lose much data when you manipulate or compress them. They are referred to as “lossless” for this reason. These files tend to be bigger in size for this reason.
  • JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group – This is the most common file type you’ll find for most images on the internet. This file type can manage millions of colors, can be highly compressed while preserving quality. These are referred to as “lossy” because the process of compressing them removes pixels from the image.

Either file type can work. Which one you choose really depends on your site, the number and type of photos you choose to use.

Here is a sample photo. Its original format was as a JPG file.

I used the File>Save As command in Photoshop and chose the PNG format and completed the save function.

When I changed the file type, the size of the file went from 646 MB to 1.3 KB. As noted above, PNG files are typically larger, so for this type of picture with a lot of color and detail, you may be better off staying with the JPEG version to ensure faster load times. If you know your image needs to be able to scale larger without losing resolution, go with the PNG version.

Note that there are many other file formats available. I’ve focused on JPEG and PNG because they are the most popular.

Manual Resizing in Photoshop

In Photoshop, you can use the Image>Image Size function to manually resize your image. The tool looks like this:

reducing file size in photoshop

You can see the current Image Size and pixel Dimensions are noted at the top of the tool. Any adjustments you make here will change the size.

Fit To is a drop-down list that has preset sizes and pixel settings.

resizing image files in photoshop

If I choose the first option in that list to adjust the dimensions and pixels per in (ppi) I can see how the file size will change.

resizing image files in photoshop

You can experiment with these settings to determine whether a standard size from the drop-down will work, or if you need to manually change the width, height, or resolution options to get the size you need.

Save for Web Function

Save for Web is different from Save As in that the web option removes metadata (details about the type and origin of the image) from the file before saving. This function is specifically meant for images that will display on the internet, so it can be a very fast way to resize while maintaining quality.

Find the Save for Web option by navigating to File>Export> Save for Web:

resizing images in photoshop

When the Save for Web window opens, you’ll notice another benefit of this function. If you select the 2-up tab at the top, you can see a comparison of the original image side-by-side with the changed image.

resizing images in photoshop

From here, use the presets in the upper-right corner to choose the JPG format and adjust the quality as you wish. After you make changes, you can see whether or not your new file is up to your quality standards via the image preview, and you can validate the change in file size by looking at the data under each image:

Note that you can also change the size by using the width and height fields in the lower right corner. Because this article is specifically looking at resizing, we aren’t covering the other options shown in the Save for Web screen, but you can read here for more detailed information.

WordPress Image Optimization Tools

Photoshop is a great option if you like to turn the dials yourself to reduce image file size yourself. If you are looking for something more automated to help with resizing your images, there are a good number of WordPress plugin options that can help. Here’s a list of a few popular options and a brief description of their benefits:

Imagify – Optimize all your images in one go, resize with ease and restore photos to their original versions when needed. It’s affordable too. This plugin is free to download and includes 20 MB of file space. Other options are $5 per month for 500MB and $10 per month for unlimited space.

ShortPixel – No file size limit and one API key for multiple sites allow for great utilization for this plugin. They also offer one-time and monthly plans for budget flexibility.

Optimole – For the data-oriented, Optimole offers a dashboard where you can review optimization stats. Their free plan allows for 5,000 visitors per month and unlimited bandwidth.

For a more complete comparison of these options and a handful of others, see this article.

Web Resources for Image Optimization

If you’re in a pinch for time and/or money, there are plenty of free online image optimization tools.

Compressjpg allows you to upload multiple files and resize them all at once. It also has a feature that will convert iPhone HEIC format photos to JPEG. Other similar sites are Tinypng well as Image Compressor.

Canva Pro is another popular site that not only resizes but also allows you to design and animate images, as well as format them for web or social media use. Its layout is intuitive and easy to use.

Wrapping Up

Don’t underestimate the importance of optimizing your images. Slow sites not only turn off viewers, they don’t get traction on Google search either.  Fast-loading, sharp images can provide that little extra something that sets your site apart from the rest. An optimized site will keep visitors coming back for more.

What is an A Record and How is it Different from CNAME and MX?

What is an A Record and How is it Different from CNAME and MX?

The Domain Name System, or DNS, is what enables us to navigate the web using easy-to-remember domain names. It ties the various parts of the internet together and helps facilitate communication between them. However, the DNS and its components can be confusing, especially when it comes to DNS records.

In this article, we’ll explain DNS A Records. We’ll discuss what they are, what they do, and how they’re different from CNAME and MX records. Then we’ll show you how to find them for your website.

Let’s get started!

A Brief Introduction to DNS Records

Every device that’s connected to the internet has its own unique IP address. This component functions similarly to a mailing address in that it tells other computers where to send requests and responses. In the case of websites, that transfer of information results in content loading in visitors’ browsers.

However, IP addresses are made up of long strings of numbers, so typing one into your browser to visit a site isn’t exactly user-friendly. That’s where the DNS comes in. It’s a system that assigns websites more legible domain names, such as www.elegantthemes.com, and ties them to corresponding IP addresses so that users can access them.

DNS records are the elements that tell the DNS which URLs are associated with a given IP address. They’re the threads that tie the whole database together so your browser knows where to send requests when you type in a web address.

What Is an A Record and How Is It Different from CNAME and MX?

There are several different types of DNS records, but the most common and important ones are referred to as “A”, “CNAME”, and “MX”. Let’s break down what each one does and how they differ.

A Records are the most basic type. The “A” stands for “Address,” as their function is to tie a domain name or URL directly to an IP address. Here’s an example:

Examples of A records.

Basically, when you type a web address into your browser, the DNS looks up that domain name and then routes your browser to the associated IP address.

CNAME is short for “Canonical Name.” CNAME records are essentially aliases that tie one domain name to another. For example, if you type “elegantthemes.com” into your browser, the DNS directs you to www.elegantthemes.com because there is an alias that points the former to the latter.

CNAME records always point to either an A Record or another CNAME. Here’s what they look like:

Examples of CNAME records.

The advantage of this is that if you need to edit them, you can simply change the A Record, and all the associated CNAMEs that point to it will update automatically.

Finally, MX or “Mail Exchange” records deal with sending email. They tell the DNS where a particular email address is located. Here’s an example:

Examples of MX records.

So, to summarize, A Records point directly to IP addresses, while CNAMEs point to A Records. MX records point to mail servers and help route emails to their proper destinations.

Why You Might Need to Access Your A Records

For the most part, you shouldn’t need to do much with your A Records. Once a site is up and running, they tend to stay the same, and you’ll rarely be asked to provide them.

However, there are a handful of situations where you may have to access and edit your site’s A Records. Most notably, you may need them to change web servers, such as if you’ve decided to switch hosting providers or plans, or to migrate your site to your own private server.

You may also need to update your A Records if you change your site’ domain name but want to keep its content intact. In that case, you can simply change the A Record and the new domain will point to the same location on your web host’s servers.

Finally, if you create subdomains for your site, you may need to generate A Records for them in order to point them to your server.

How to Access Your A Records (In 3 Steps)

You should be able to access your site’s A Records through your web hosting account dashboard. For this example, we’ll use Bluehost. However, bear in mind that your provider’s settings may look different. We recommend consulting the relevant documentation or contacting your host’s support team if you need help.

Step 1: Access Your Web Host’s Domain Settings

First, you’ll need to log into your hosting account. Then look for the domain settings. Typically this is simply called Domains:

The domain settings on the Bluehost admin page

Clicking into this screen should pull up a list of the domains registered to your account.

Step 2: Locate the DNS Settings

Once you’re on the Domains page, locate the one you want to edit the records of. You’re looking for a DNS option. Bluehost users can access this setting by clicking on the dropdown box next to the domain entry and selecting DNS from the list:

Select DNS from the list to edit your A records.

This will take you to a page that lists all the DNS records for that domain.

Step 3: Add, Delete, or Change Your Records

Finally, to add, delete, or change your DNS records, simply select the appropriate option for the one you want to modify. Keep in mind that any changes you make will take some time to propagate across the DNS and take effect (up to 48 hours in some cases).

If you ever need to change CNAME, MX, or any other DNS records, you’d follow the same procedure. Most hosts place all of them on the same page.

Conclusion

The DNS is the secret sauce that makes the internet intuitive to navigate. However, sometimes you’ll have to work directly with the ingredients – DNS records. Knowing which one does what will help you efficiently navigate this process should the need arise.

A Records are the basic building blocks of the DNS. They’re what tie a website’s domain name back to the computer it’s hosted on. Without it, we’d be stuck memorizing IP addresses. Meanwhile, CNAME records deal with website aliases, and MX records handle email routing.

10 Beautiful Free Photoshop Brushes for Your Web Design Projects

10 Beautiful Free Photoshop Brushes for Your Web Design Projects

If you’re the kind of Photoshop user who primarily opens the software to resize and crop images, you might never touch the Brush tool. However, if you’re in Photoshop day-in and day-out, Brushes are likely to be your best friend. Having as many options as possible will undoubtedly make your life a little better. And if those options are free, then maybe it will be a lot better.

1. Dispersion

Free Photoshop Brushes

While many brushes emulate real-world artists’ tools, not every single one does so. Dispersion is a free Photoshop brush that gives you the unique effect of shattering (or dispersing) parts of your work. Doing an effect like this by hand would be incredibly time-consuming. But with Dispersion, a few clicks and strokes…and you’re good to go. This particular set comes with 20 high-resolution brushes for pretty much anything that you could want to do with it.

More Information

2. Lens Flare

Free Photoshop Brushes

It may have been given a bad rap in pop culture lately because of its overuse in some movies, but lens flare is an effectthat can really take a design to the next level. Using it sparingly and effectively in your designs can give a feeling of peace and calm or even of adventure and excitement just by placing a single flare in a work. Don’t overdo it with this set of 20 high-res brushes, and your work will undoubtedly impress your clients.

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3. Comic

Free Photoshop Brushes

Superheroes are everywhere these days, and at some point, a client is going to want a comic- or superhero-themed design. You might as well prepare yourself for that by downloading this 15-brush set, aptly called Comic. There is no way that having this set of brushes won’t save you time and effort.

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4. Spray Paint

Free Photoshop Brushes

The creative nerds over at Creative Nerds have put together some delightfully pretty spray paint-themed free Photoshop brushes for you to download. This one does cost you an email address to unlock the freeness, but it’s worth it. While PS does come with some spray brushes, they can be pretty limited. The nerds have done a great job of letting your brush strokes more realistically splatter the digital canvas with the speckles that give real spray paint its allure.

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5. Watercolor Splatters

Free Photoshop Brushes

If spray painting isn’t your style, but you really like that abstract look, maybe the Watercolor Splatters 32-brush set will work for you. Even in more specific and detailed work, you can use a splatter brush for accent and distressing.

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6. Stone 4

Free Photoshop Brushes

Stone 4 is actually full of 15 free Photoshop brushes. Instead of having to deal with masks and layers to achieve a stone-like finish, wouldn’t you just prefer to press B and pick a brush to do it for you? We certainly would. In terms of a time-saving brush that will certainly improve your quality-of-life, Stone 4 doesn’t disappoint. While some brushes and styles go in and out of trend, having a solid, stone brush that you can turn to never goes out of style. Clients will always need this kind of look to emphasize professional power and authority, so grab these 15 and help empower them. There is also a Stone 1-3, too. Stone 3 is extra pretty, too.

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7. Shattered

Free Photoshop Brushes

Much like Dispersion at the top of the list, Shattered gives you a fantastic effect that can improve your quality of life and give clients a unique design in much less time than hand-creating every shard. While we generally see this kind of effect in logos and advertising, there are a lot of uses for it in web design that can create some unique page transitions and effects. And at least with this broken glass, you don’t have to worry about cutting your fingers.

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8. Smoke Brushes

Free Photoshop Brushes

Smoke is one of those elements that you can use in pretty much any design for any reason, and it would fit. So grabbing Smoke Brushes is a no-brainer, we think. Whether you’re enhancing the mystique of an evening’s photoshoot, giving website users a tour of mystery, or adding wispy whimsy to lettering or illustration, this set of free Photoshop brushes will be right at home in any designer’s toolbox.

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9. Glitch

Free Photoshop Brushes

Retro technology is everywhere right now. What is old is new again, and what is new again at this moment is ’80s-style technology. And while for its day, the tech was amazing, we’ve come to associate the occasional fuzzy screen and flicker or glitch with the time period as well. Because it’s so trendy and popular, keeping a few brushes to emulate the glitches of decades past would not be a bad idea. In fact, it would be a good one. Additionally, this isn’t the only set of Glitch brushes available. As you scroll down the page for this particular set, you will find over a dozen variants in the series to create whatever kind of computer problems or corruption your clients might need.

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10. Glitter

Free Photoshop Brushes

In life, glitter can be a pain. While it’s gorgeous and adds sparkle to literally anything, that sparkle is sometimes hardimpossible to get rid of. Not true in the digital realm, where you can add as much glitter to your designs as you or your clients want. This is the one time that it’s okay to glitterbomb someone or something. There’s no clean up required, and there won’t be any tiny pieces stuck to places you don’t want. With these fabulous free Photoshop brushes, any design you create will shine as bright as you can imagine.

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Kerning, Tracking, and Leading: A Simple Guide to Effective Typefacing

Kerning, Tracking, and Leading: A Simple Guide to Effective Typefacing

When designing for the web, you have to keep one thing in mind at all times: readability. It doesn’t matter how great the design is, how gorgeous your layout is, or how genius your use of color. If people can’t read the words on the screen (and this is assuming there are words on the screen, of course), the website cannot serve its function. Three of the most important elements of readability for text are kerning, tracking, and leading, though many people either get them confused or simply don’t understand how to use them effectively. We intend to fix that today.

Kerning, Tracking, and Leading

If you boil these three down to the absolute fundamentals, you’re looking at the spacing between characters on both the X and Y axes. Digging in, you’ll see there’s more to it than that, but in essence, you’re looking at the relationship between text characters. It’s important to understand the relationship between these three attributes because good design and readability depend on your using them to the best of your ability.

And that comes with time and practice. But once you start paying attention to them, you’ll notice how kerning, tracking, and leading are used both effectively and poorly on everything you read and see on a daily basis. Let’s dig in.

Adjusting Kerning, Leading, and Tracking (and More!)

Actually, before we dig in, let’s go over how you change and adjust these settings. While most word processing programs have options for adjusting them, most people won’t ever need to when writing copy or typical text. It’s when you’re designing text that it becomes more of an issue, so programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. will have the options you need most.

In the Adobe products, you just have to open up the Text Layer Character Panel, and you have everything you need. The V/A is kerning, the VA in a box is tracking, and the underlined, vertical A’s are Leading. You can also adjust strikethrough, weight, size, super/subscript, and so much more in this panel. It’s worth getting used to keeping this open.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Just place your cursor where you need to adjust the spacing and go.

What is Kerning?

Let’s begin with kerning.  Kerning is the simplest of the three, really. It’s the space between two side-by-side characters. In a word, you can have variable kerning because the space between the first two letters may be different than between the last two (and so on).

In monospaced fonts, each character takes up exactly the same amount of horizontal space with no overlap. The A is the same width as the B as the J as the K. Adjusting the kerning between these letters tends to be easier than variable spaced fonts, where the letters might overlap as well as print at different widths.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

In the example above, we have three lines that were copy and pasted using the monospace font Courier New. The top row’s kerning is set at 0, which is the default and uses whatever spacing the font designer chose. The second row is set equally between letters (and spaces) at 200. As you can see, the spaces are uniform between characters across the line. Finally, the third line was kerned at random with both positive and negative spacing within each individual word. As you can see, each character can have different kerning on each side.

What is Tracking?

Tracking is similar to kerning, but it’s not kerning. Where kerning is the space between two individual characters, tracking is the uniform space between each individual word or line. Instead of worrying about how things are put together on a letter-by-letter basis as with kerning, you make sure the entire line is uniformly spaced.  Looking back at the earlier example image, the second line could have been done in a much easier way.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

What I did for the kerning was to place my cursor between each individual character and adjust to 200. I essentially tracked the whole line. Which is what you should do. Simply highlight what you need to track and adjust it in the Character Panel.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Be aware, however, that some fonts and scripts may become unreadable as the tracking is adjusted.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Handwriting fonts and cursive typefaces are set with specific kerning, and if you adjust the tracking, you will get gaps in an otherwise unbroken line. Or going the other direction to compress the lines, you might simply make the script unreadable.

What is Leading?

With Leading, you’re no longer dealing with spacing between characters. Leading is the space between lines.

Kerning vs Tracking vs Leading

Effectively making use of leading lets you effectively make use of whitespace in your designs. Cramped lines — even with correct and well-done kerning/tracking — can make a miserable experience for readers.

In some places, you might see leading called line height, but they’re roughly the same thing. One good rule of thumb is to make sure that you leave at least a little space above and below your characters. As you can see in the top example, a 40px font has a 48px line height. That means that no matter what, there will be spacing between the letters. If you set that at or lower than the font size, you will get character overlap.

Additionally, this is the height of the line that the characters sit on. This is not the height of the character. Just as kerning and tracking don’t make the characters fatter or thinner, tracking doesn’t make them shorter or taller. It is simply the space around them.

As you can see, however, the options under the kerning/tracking in the Photoshop Character Panel adjust the width/height of characters independently of kerning, tracking, and leading.

Photoshop/Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts

The only downfall of the Character Panel is that it gets to be pretty annoying when you’re needing fine adjustment. Thankfully, there are keyboard shortcuts that make kerning, tracking, and leading an absolute breeze to use.

These shortcuts are for the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, so they might be different in Gimp or Paint.NET or another program.

  • Kerning – With the cursor between two characters, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the left/right arrows to adjust the kerning
  • Tracking – With the word/line highlighted, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the right/left arrows to adjust the tracking of the highlighted text
  • Leading – Highlight the lines you want to adjust, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the up/down arrows to adjust the space between lines

While you can place your cursor or highlight the text and type values into the Character Panel, the keyboard shortcuts make the whole process much less tedious and time-consuming. Plus, you get more granular control, so you can make better designs that way, too.

(As an aside, if you aren’t using Photoshop/Illustrator/Premier, etc. keyboard shortcuts regularly, we highly recommend learning, as it makes your workflow much smoother, more enjoyable, and more productive, too.)

Wrapping Up

Kerning, tracking, and leading are fundamentals of readable text in web design (and design in general). Learning the difference and how to use each of them effectively will make you a much better designer. It may seem a little odd that something as simple as the spacing between letters and lines could have such a large impact, but once you deal with it for even just a little while, you will never look at websites, advertisements, logos, or billboards the same way again.

Step-By-Step Guide: How to Start a Podcast

Step-By-Step Guide: How to Start a Podcast

A podcast is a mix of traditional radio format and 2.0 recording technology, all of which is animated by strong values from the Internet and the free-culture movement. Not only are they great alternatives to video if you’re not looking to become a YouTube star, but they are also a great way to engage with your audience. The idea of starting a podcast, a (mostly) audio-only online broadcast, may seem like a novel idea but that might not be the case. While it was in 2004 that the Internet (or the world?) saw the release of the first podcast, since then, they’ve seen a bit of a resurgence. Today, they are a great alternative to a blog if you’d rather vocalize your opinion, well, vocally instead of attempting to become the next Hemingway in a series of blog entries. While they take a bit more work than writing a post, they’re easier for the audience to digest, as they can passively engage by listening to a podcast just about anywhere.

Before you press the record button and publish your podcast to iTunes or your own website, there are a few things to take into account. Check out our step-by-step guide on how to start a podcast:

01. Define your goals

Before you jump into your (makeshift) recording studio, you should be 100% aware of what you’re getting yourself into. The first thing you need to do? Define the goal behind your podcast and go from there. This can be as simple as “I want to entertain” or “I want to inform”. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re passionate about the topic. Take the plunge and do it. Once your ultimate aim is established, you can always go back to it when questioning something along the way: “Does this action help build towards my goal?”

This is also the time to make important strategic decisions, including the primary topics you’ll be covering on your podcast so that your audience knows roughly what to expect when tuning in, as well as the frequency, schedule, and structure of your episodes. If you have a partner or co-host for your podcast, define your roles early as to what will be expected from each of you. For example, one of you is in charge of editing the audio for the podcast and posting it, and the other is responsible for any and all graphic work needed for the episodes. And both of you pitch in to the management of your social media accounts. The earlier you set these goals, the better.

02. Accept hard truths

Creating your own podcast is going to be a lot of fun, especially if you have a passion for the subject you’re covering. That said, you will need to face certain facts that are unavoidable. These hard truths are just something you’ll need to live with in order to move forward, but should in no way discourage you. Here are a couple of examples of what to expect:

  • Sorry, but there’s more than likely multiple podcasts like yours and you will likely be covering the exact same thing in many cases in certain episodes. Still, the podcast world doesn’t have your personal opinion and/or spin on it, so be sure to give it your best!
  • Do it for fun, not for fame. You will end up being disappointed if you’re constantly looking to get a “big break” from one of your episodes. As long as you continue to love creating your podcast, you’ve already won.
  • It will become a job of it’s own and you won’t want to do it sometimes, but you’ll have to. It’s like going to the gym: You don’t have to, but you know you should.

03. Get equipped

Just like most ventures, you more than likely don’t have everything you need to start your own podcast, and even if you think you do, you probably don’t. Yes, it’s true that all you technically need is something to talk about and a recording device, but if you want to take your podcast seriously you’re going to need to invest in some basic equipment. Namely, a microphone and a way to record, mix and edit audio.

Check check, one two: The type of microphone you purchase will largely depend on how you actually capture your audio but USB microphones are abundant in both availability and price ranges. Note: Go slightly above your budget when buying a microphone. Increasing your allocation by $50 or even $25 can get you a surprisingly nicer microphone, especially if it’s your first one.

Recording: Once you’ve settled on a microphone, you will, as mentioned above, need to figure out how you will be recording your audio. There are various ways to achieve this, but one of the easiest is to record directly to your computer using recording software. There are many free options available and most computers ship with (super basic) audio recording programs.

Editing time: After you’ve recorded your audio tracks, you’ll need to find software to edit it to make it sound good. This includes adding multiple tracks together if you have more than one person talking, taking out pauses, silence, adding sound effects and adding background music. There are plenty of softwares you can choose from, but if you’re looking for a robust and free editing software to get you where you need to go, give Audacity a try. When it comes to adding music and sound effects, don’t think you can just throw whatever you want into the tracks. Well, actually, you can, but don’t be surprised if you get hit with a copyright infringement claim. Like stock images, you want to make sure that you either have the appropriate license to use the audio or you’re using royalty free tracks. One of the best resources to find free music is YouTube. Its Sound Library hosts a ton of music for its creators to add to their videos, but it’s also royalty free music, so it can be used anywhere. In addition to this, there are several artists that post their own music to be used for free as long as you credit their work.

Find a podcast host: After you’ve recorded and edited your podcast, you’ll need to upload it somewhere and yes, after a handful of episodes, you’ll probably need to pay. There’s no short supply of options to choose from, but do your research before you settle on one.

Get equipped

04. Stick to your schedule – and plan for your laziness

This sounds like an easy one, but it can be hard. Even if your podcast is simply a hobby, there will still be times you don’t want to do it. A last minute invite to a friend’s pool or to check out that new museum exhibit will pop up at the exact time you were planning to record your next episode. Don’t worry, though. There are ways around it, but you’ll need to plan ahead:

  • Let’s say you release your podcast every Tuesday morning, try not to record on Monday night unless you like that type of stress impressed upon you. Allowing yourself some breathing room between recording and editing can give you a different perspective on how it went and that “thing” you wanted to cut out may be worth keeping after all. Like an artist struggling with a painting, sometimes you need to come back with “fresh ears.”
  • When recording, you want to try to keep your episodes in the same time range. The sweet spot is usually 40 minutes to an hour. No matter how long you decide to make your episodes, keeping them the time length can helps build expectations for your listeners, so don’t have a one hour episode one week and follow it up with a 20 minute episode the following week.
  • In order to stay on track, it’s a good idea to have an outline of what you will be discussing on the episode you’re recording. This is essential to stay on topic and away from tangents. However, we’d advise against fully scripting each episode. No one wants to hear you read to them, unless that indeed is the subject of your podcast.
  • It may take a while, but there will come a time where you “literally just can’t even” with your podcast because you’re too lazy. That’s okay! But have a plan for days like this by pre-recording evergreen episodes. While organizing a second recording session sounds like a pain, especially if you have co-hosts, it’s worth the extra effort. I promise you, you will thank yourself later.

05. Push your podcast on social networks like crazy

You may not have realized it, but you may spend more time on social media than recording your podcast, and for good reason. If you have a weekly podcast, you have one day a week that your listeners will dedicate their attention to you because it’s technically all you’re allowing. By sharing your own original content and relevant content from others on your social channels, you can stay in the game all of the other days that you don’t have a new episode to launch. Obviously, social media is a great platform to push your brand but also to find your audience and interact with fans. Do not skimp on this part. This is where you’ll be when you’re not recording, editing, or uploading your latest episode.

Push your podcast on social networks

06. Submit your podcast everywhere

When you first start setting up your podcast online with your host, you will receive a podcast feed URL. In order to submit your podcast to different directories like iTunes, Google Play or SoundCloud, for the most part, you’ll just need to fill out a form with your podcast name, website, and feed URL. Some submissions have a little extra work, so if you’re stuck, simply Google “How to submit podcast to X” and you’ll more than likely find your answer you’re looking for. Even if you’ve never heard of the podcast directory or don’t think it’s worth your time, think again. You’re looking for exposure with your podcast, so cast a wide net.

07. Showcase your podcast with a stunning website

While it’s definitely a good feeling to be able to search iTunes and have your very own podcast pop up, nothing really beats a dedicated website showing off what your podcast and the people behind it are all about. Not only can you link your podcast to any and all of the places people can listen, but so much more. Your website is your own and you won’t be bound by the styling of of iTunes or Google Play or wherever it can be found. Your website is also where you can share a little bit about yourself and the other hosts, just in case your fans want to know more about you or your team. It also provides a seamless way for potential business opportunities to get in touch with you by creating a designated contact page. Something you won’t find on your podcast directory listing. Think of your website as an extension of your brand. A place to display your logo and all of your other branding elements.