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11 Free WooCommerce Plugins Worth Checking Out

11 Free WooCommerce Plugins Worth Checking Out

WooCommerce is by far the biggest player in the WordPress ecommerce space. It has its own robust economy of premium add-ons both by its creators and an impressive array of third party developers. So much so that it can be easy to catch yourself thinking that every add-on worth having is premium. But like WooCommerce itself (and WordPress of course) quality/usefulness and a $0 price tag are not mutually exclusive. There are plenty of free WooCommerce plugins out there that can enhance your store without requiring you to spend a dime. In this post we’ve rounded up eleven we feel are worth checking out.

1. WooCommerce Multilingual

WooCommerce Plugins Free

Off the bat, you should know that expanding the languages your store is available in can increase sales and conversions. The WPML project is fantastic for that, and this plugin will let you make sure that your site reaches absolutely as many people as possible. I think the best part of this plugin is that it not only shows the pages on your site in a new language, but also allows emails that you sent to your customers to be translated, too. That’s good stuff.

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2. YITH WooCommerce Wishlist

WooCommerce Plugins Free

You want people to come back to your site. While one-off sales are okay, the real money is with repeat customers. And what better way to get repeat customers than to give them a chance to browse your store and throw whatever they want to remember onto a wishlist? It works for Amazon, so it will work for you, too. Just install the YITH WooCommerce Wishlist plugin and before you know it, conversions and return visitors will be soaring. Plus, the image they use to promote the plugin uses an elegant black dress. I say their word choice is an omen.

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3. WooRewards

WooCommerce Plugins Free

If you’re like most shoppers, free stuff gets you to buy more than you’d normally buy. Just the prospect of it being free is too tantalizing to miss. Even more than that, the best way to give something for free is to make sure they keep coming back to your store over and over again. That’s why rewards programs are so popular. With the WooRewards plugin, you can host your own rewards program for free. Just like the wishlist above, if you can get people to come back for any reason, they will most likely buy more stuff. And with something free dangling like a carrot on a stick in front of them, too, it’s a one-two punch that’ll knock ’em out every time.

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4. WooCommerce Direct Checkout

WooCommerce Plugins Free

Remember how one of the most annoying parts of ecommerce is the abandoned cart? Well, that’s not an issue with WooCommerce Direct Checkout. Just install this baby on your site, and you won’t have any abandoned carts anymore. Zero. Zilch. Because you won’t have a cart at all. You can direct your customers directly to checkout with this plugin so that their impulse to buy is streamlined through the process perfectly. It’s totally free to use, but if you want a more robust experience, the developers have a pro upgrade you can opt for.

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5. WooCommerce Menu Cart

WooCommerce Plugins Free

Just like it says, this plugin puts a cart icon in the menu of your WordPress site. Some themes don’t play well with WooCommerce, but that shouldn’t be a problem with this one installed. Just activate it, and you have a customizable spot in your menu bar that lets your customers keep track of everything they’ve set aside to buy. And if you don’t want it just in the menu bar, you can use a shortcode to render the cart wherever you want — widgets, footers, blogs, anywhere.

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6. WooCommerce Currency Switcher

WooCommerce Plugins Free

If there is one lesson we can learn from the current state of the film industry, it’s that there’s a lot of money to be made outside of the United States. So make sure that your customers know what they’re really paying by using this plugin. When installed, this plugin lets your users see exchange rates for the price you’ve set and their desired currency. No more guessing how many Euros equal how many US Dollars, or how many Ruples equal how many GBP. The free version only supports 2 currencies, but that may be enough if you have a dominant country in addition to your native one.

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7. WooCommerce PDF Invoices & Packing Slips

WooCommerce Plugins Free

Running an ecommerce store is fun and games…until it’s not. The worst part about an online business (really, any business) is keeping up with all your paperwork. Thankfully, there is a slew of software out there to make it better for you, and this is one of the top options. With this free WooCommerce plugin, you can generate PDF invoices and packing slips (see why it’s named that now?) quickly and easily so your business keeps moving foward and doesn’t have to slow down while you push around a lot of paper.

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8. Amazon Pay

WooCommerce Plugins Free

PayPal and Stripe may be your go-to payment methods for WooCommerce, but you should absolutely think about Amazon Pay, too. Since roughly everyone in the world shops on Amazon, using this free, official extension will make your store run a bit more smoothly. It lets your users integrate with a payment processor that they are already comfortable with and trust, and you get the same benefits because you’re dealing with a gateway that’s based on one of the biggest infrastructures in the world. The only downside as I see to this (and this is a minor quibble) is that users can’t use rewards points or gift cards for purchases via Amazon Pay. As a consumer, that stinks, but as a vendor, it should be no different than taking PayPal or Stripe.

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9. Woo Zoom

WooCommerce Plugins Free

I don’t know what it is about image magnification, but there’s just something that screams a site is professional if you let users zoom in on your products. Installing this plugin makes it a breeze, and your shop will look a ton more professional immediately. You can upgrade to a pro version if you want more customization, but you probably won’t need to.

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10. WooCommerce Gift Cards

WooCommerce Plugins Free

Everyone loves gift cards. Whether they are getting free money to a favorite shop (yours, obviously) or picking out an easy present on the go that can be given immediately, people adore gift cards. If you have this plugin installed, your customers will have that option, and even if they don’t find the perfect gift for that special someone, that special someone can pick it out for themselves. The downside to the free version of this plugin is that while the gift cards are available to purchase on your site, you have to manually send the codes to the recipient. For smaller shops, that may be a good thing, as you have a bit more granular control, but for later sites, that just isn’t possible to keep up with. Other than that, it’s easy to use and set up, so you should definitely take a look.

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11. Coupon Shortcodes + Coupon Countdown

WooCommerce Plugins Free

To round it all out, let’s give your customers a reward for being so darn amazing. With the Coupon Shortcodes plugin, you can designate anywhere on your site as a location for your customers to get a code and apply it at checkout. While that’s awesome, it’s integration with Coupon Countdown is what really makes it cool — you can do a limited time offer for only specific parts of your site (maybe 404 pages or a sales page).

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Finishing Up with Free WooCommerce Plugins

No matter what kind of store you run, there’s a handful of these free WooCommerce plugins that should probably be installed on your site. Sure, not everything will work for everyone, but even the ones with limited functionality can work as a demo to see if it’s the right fit for your store. Given that all these are free, installing some of them can only gain you sales, right? Happy selling!

Simple and easy ways for improving website speed

Simple and easy ways for improving website speed

The last thing you want your visitors to experience is a slow-loading website that chugs along and doesn’t deliver the information or services that they expected. If you’re trying to sell a product or even just get people to read your blog posts, then a slow website speed is going to cause major issues that will create a bad first impression.

In this article, we’ll take a look at a few simple and easy steps to help you improve your website speed so that you never scare off potential viewers.

1. Compress files

If you’re using a lot of images and videos then it’s a good idea to compress those files to ensure that they’re not taking too long to load. This is especially noticeable on mobile devices when network coverage can be a little flakey.

2. Choose the right hosting option

When hosting a website, you typically have a few options; shared, VPS or dedicated hosting.

Shared hosting is the cheapest and you’ll share resources like CPU, hard drive space and RAM with other websites. This means that you’ll occasionally get slow service if other sites are utilizing more of those resources.

VPS hosting is also a form of shared hosting, but you won’t actually share the resources. Instead, you’ll have your own dedicated resources that are guaranteed.

Dedicated hosting is having your very own hardware that is entirely yours. You get complete control over it and it’s the most expensive option, but also the most customizable and the one that is least prone to performance issues.

In short, avoid shared hosting and go with VPS hosting if you’re on a budget, but choose dedicated hosting if you know what you’re doing and need a lot of space and control over your website.

3. Enable caching

Caching basically means storing parts of your website’s content on the user’s device so that when it loads the next time, it’s faster. Enabling this will speed up the user’s experience after the first visit, making it a great way to speed up your site.

4. Using a CDN

A CDN, or content delivery network, helps users download your content by placing it on a global network of servers that are accessed depending on the location of the user. This means that files will download faster because they’re hosted on a server that is closer to the physical location of the user, instead of having just a single location where they are accessed.

5. Lower plugin numbers

If you’re using WordPress then you’ll have probably noticed that you can install plenty of useful-sounding plugins. Unfortunately, these contribute to slower loading times and it’s essential that you do what you can to minimize their use while still retaining functionality on your website.

6. HTTP requests

When you visit a website, an HTTP request is made for every element that you have on your page like images, stylesheets and videos. You can optimize your website by reducing the number of HTTP requests. This is generally done by removing any requests that are unnecessary, such as images that aren’t displayed or can be replaced with a more efficient option.

Top New Instagram Features to Watch out For [2019 Updated]

Top New Instagram Features to Watch out For [2019 Updated]

Who would have thought, back in October 2010, that Instagram would become the platform that completely changed the way we socialize, shop and interact in 2019. And this is true for both personal accounts and brands.

Now, more than ever before, Instagram is an integral resource to many influencers and businesses. It has the ability to spread a wide reach and influence billions. On top of that, eCommerce business owners are able to unleash the potential of their goods through new features that were announced at Facebook’s F8 conference earlier in May 2019.

In order to make sure you’re up-to-date with the trendiest platform, here are eight new Instagram features to watch out for in 2019.

01. Shoppable tags

This update is mainly geared towards social media influencers (both micro and macro). Known by Instagram as ‘Creators,’ these influencers are used by brands to promote either products or services. Now, these Creators are able to a linked ‘tag’ a product or brand within their post. Thus, by simply tapping on the tag (that displays the name and the price of the article), viewers are redirected to the product’s or service’s page within the brand’s website.

This feature enables a smoother process for browsers to discover what brands or influencers have on offer, along with a better optimization of the conversion process for the announcers.

02. Shop within Instagram

Instagram is perfect for displaying and talking about products or services. But when it comes down to actually closing the circle and buying whatever is being advertised, users have to eventually leave the app to complete the process. Well, not anymore.

Starting with a few selected accounts, Instagram has now released an in-app checkout feature. Previously, influencers had no real way of directly selling to their followers. They could talk about a product in the description of a post and prompt visitors to either click the link in their bio or swipe up on Instagram Stories. This new Instagram feature is a game-changer for influencers. Not only can they show off the brands they represent, but they can also act as a salesperson and drive purchases directly within Instagram.

ֿinstagram shopping feature
ֿinstagram shopping feature

03. Sharing feed posts in Stories

The platform has (finally) found a solution to sharing content from feed posts into Stories. This is excellent news for brands and small businesses. Imagine you’re an eCommerce store owner selling sunglasses. A customer has bought your glasses and posted a picture of themselves wearing your latest summer accessory. In the description they give a quick word of praise about your brand and tag you in the post. Now, you as the eCom store owner, can utilize this valuable UGC (user-generated content) and directly share that post to your Instagram Stories.

Here’s how to share a feed post to your Stories:

  1. Tap the airplane button below the post (like you would if you wanted to send the post via DM).
  2. Select the ‘Create a story with the post’ option.
  3. Tap it to see the feed post as a sticker with a customized background color that matches the original post. You can then add more features or text to the post if you wish.

All posts that are shared via Stories include a link back to the original post and also state the poster’s name. It’s a great way to show off your clients and further spread the word about your booming business.

04. Interactive stickers in Stories

Users can now add quiz stickers in their Stories. This allows them to ask a question and give multiple choice answers to the viewers. Game players will be able to see if they are wrong or right and brands will be able to see responses in real time.

This feature is an excellent way to interact with your visitors as well as promote your service or product. Questions can be easy and fun or something brand specific. Let’s say you’re a skin care brand – you can ask which ingredient is best for anti-aging. After you reveal the answer, continue with the same train of thought by explaining the formula and showing off your products that include that specific ingredient.

05. New camera design

The selfie-era is here to stay. How do we know this? By Instagram’s upgraded camera design called ‘Create Mode.’ The new camera includes a semicircular mode switcher that makes it easy to find and use the fun filters we all know and love. The main idea behind this update is to make it easier for users to share content without the need for a photo or video. Following the theme of interactivity, users can also add text, stickers and questions to their front facing camera creation.

camera design feature on Instagram
camera design feature on Instagram

06. Donation sticker

Considering the amount of people who use Instagram, it’s no surprise that crowdfunding has made its way into the social channel. With the donation sticker feature, you can now raise money for nonprofits straight from within the app.

To get started:

  1. Open up ‘Stories’.
  2. Take or select a picture from your camera roll.
  3. From the stickers selection, choose ‘Donation.’
  4. You can customize the sticker using Instagram Stories’ creative tools.

After it’s live, you can swipe up to see the total amount of people that have donated. Important to note: 100% of the money you raise will go directly to the nonprofit of your choice.

donation sticker instagram feature
donation sticker instagram feature

07. Creator profile

In the same way that Facebook released a Facebook business page option, Instagram is now following suite. Insta’s version will be referred to as a ‘Creator profile.’ It’s an influencer’s dream as the profile will give businesses access to an array of insights and in-depth analytics. Some of these include: engagement stats, knowing when your audience is online, and detailed demographic information.

The creator profile also enables businesses or influencers to have access to specific data which shows who followed or unfollowed them as a result of their shared content. The specialized profile allows for DM (direct message) filtering options. Now, creators can rank messages in order of relevance (messages from family, friends or other brands). More control comes with being able to set your preferred method of contact – that could be email, text, call or DM.

However, much like the coveted ‘swipe up’ feature, the creator profile is said to be reserved for accounts with a following of 10K or more.

08. Hiding ‘like’ count

In an effort for influencers and creators to combat a ‘pressurized environment’ according to Adam Mosseri of Facebook, Instagram is testing out the notion of doing away with showing how many ‘likes’ a picture has. The owner of the image will have a total number, but browsers will only be able to see a list of who has liked the image.

The ‘hiding’ of comments seems to be a way to make Instagram a more authentic place where users can connect to their followers without the added pressure of competitiveness. For now, the feature is still in the trial phase. It will be interesting to see how people feel about not being able to ‘judge’ an image based on its ‘like’ success.

5 Top WordPress CRM Tools and Plugins

5 Top WordPress CRM Tools and Plugins

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are one of the most helpful parts of your business. Being able to keep track of your customers, lead generation, contact history, and so much more is essential to running an efficient business. Especially an online one. However, you might not want to use an external platform like HubSpot or ZoHo. If you want to keep things in your own WordPress dashboard, there are a number of options that you can choose from that will keep the money flowing and the customers happy.

1. vCita CRM and Lead Management

wordpress crm plugins and tools

We have covered vCita plugins before, and they are pretty impressive. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that their CRM plugin would be, too. A part of their small business management suite, the CRM tools full-featured and robust, letting you take payments, put the onus of starting a conversation on the clients, messaging with them after that, and setting up meetings easily and fluidly, all while tracking their journeys through the process so they can be funneled to the right person on your team. 

vCita doesn’t make the simplest software out there, so you may have to put in some time learning how things work and getting the details sorted, but when you do, your WP back-end will be connected to an incredibly powerful platform that won’t disappoint.

Price: Starting at $19 per month | More Information

2. WP-CRM

wordpress crm plugins and tools

WP-CRM is exactly what it sounds like: a CRM for WordPress. Well-named, right? As the plugin page says, “your WP control panel can effectively be used to manage all your customers, vendors, partners, affiliates, etc.” By utilizing the base WordPress user system, the CRM plugin lets you take information that you likely already have and make better use of it than you can by default. You can manage correspondence and messaging, add labels and attributes to them so that you can filter results and find who you need quickly, and much more. If the free plugin on the WP.org repository isn’t enough for you, there are add-ons that you can purchase to expand the functionality of the CRM in your dashboard. And if there’s something you’d like in the system that hasn’t been added, there’s an open GitHub repo. That way, you can contribute to the project yourself.

Price: FREE with premium add-ons | More Information

3. UpiCRM

wordpress crm plugins and tools

At their core, Customer Relation Management systems are really fancy contact forms and email systems. They keep track of who you’ve talked to, when, and the general history of their communications with you. UpiCRM takes that base and runs with it. Because there are roughly 14 gazillion contact forms on the WP.org repo, Upi lets them do the heavy lifting. By integrating with pretty much all the major players (“WPforms, Contact Form7, Contact Form 7 DB, Gravity Form, Ninja Forms, CalderaForms, Cforms” and more according to the plugin page), Upi is free to work on the CRM features that matter the most to you: the relationship and lead generation. Honestly, UpiCRM is one of the most fleshed-out CRMs you can have in your WP dashboard. You have analytics, user funneling, hierarchies, tracking, external lead aggregation. As well as team set-up and collaboration, customer lifecycle, and more. And did we mention it’s free? Well, it is. There are zero reasons not to give it a shot now.

Price: FREE | More Information

4. Perfex

wordpress crm plugins and tools

Perfex is a premium CRM that comes in at $59 on CodeCanyon. Don’t let that sway you, though. Because in this instance, you certainly do get what you pay for. Invoicing is one of the major highlights of the software, and on top of that, there’s a ticketing system where you can track support issues as well as customer inquiries and communications. Like external CRMs like HubSpot, Perfex can track time so you can bill effectively, track your leads and import them from different places, as well as annotate them and create team-based proposals so you know what stage of the process everyone is on with everything. Surveys, goal tracking, and even internal messaging/memos/announcements can keep your team in-the-know. Additionally, Perfex uses custom fields for the customer data and leads, so you likely already know how to work with these from the moment you install it. With reports and user/staff privileges, if you want an affordable CRM that can compete with the Big Names, check out Perfex.

You can log into the sandbox demo for the CRM plugin and give it a test run yourself.

Price: $59 | More Information

5. WP ERP

wordpress crm plugins and tools

WP ERP isn’t just a CRM. It’s a full business manager that just happens to include CRM as a core part. The plugin page for WP ERP says the plugin comes with three core parts : HR Management, CRM, and Accounting — with Project Management available through a secondary plugin. If this sounds too good to be true for a free plugin on the WP repository…it is. In the free version of the WP ERP CRM (how’s that for an acronym?), you get contact management and filtering, schedules for users and clients and staff, reports, and various contact groups and life stages of their relationship with you. For some users, those are the major points of why they need a CRM. In the premium versions, of which there are 5 tiers, you can get HubSpot, MailChimp, Salesforce, and WooCommerce syncing, integration with Gravity Forms as well as extras like SMS messaging to customers and clients and so on.

The pricing isn’t absurd, though, because the tiers run from $149 to $1199 per year, and those are very competitive withother CRM platforms. The major elements missing from the free plan for most folks will be external syncing and email campaigns, but if you handle that outside of WP, you will find a lot to love here.

Price: FREE with tiers between $149 – $1199 per year | More Information

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.

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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.