Like it or not, we are judged on first impressions. That goes for for
our personal appearance (really, how serious is someone who comes to a
meeting in a sloppy or inappropriate outfit) and the appearance of our
businesses. All of your materials, from your website to your business
card, say something about your company in an instant.
Personally, if time and budget allow, I’ll always go for hiring the
professional graphic designer over the do-it-yourself option. But in
the real world small business owners have times when they ARE going to
create some marketing or promotional material themselves. And the main
reasons – time and money constraints – are the same reasons these
people are not about to buy and learn expensive and complex design
software. Unfortunately the results often scream “I created this from
the tri-fold brochure template in Word, and it looks nothing like my
brand!” which can be distracting from your real message.
I recently tried out an inexpensive alternative – PagePlus X3
desktop publishing software from Serif, that lets you create marketing
materials such as brochures, postcards, flyers and stationery. It’s got
a very easy to use interface that is pretty intuitive to anyone who is
familiar with MS Office.
Here are some of the highlights:
Attractive design templates – PagePlus comes with a Premium Content
Pack of 2500+ templates and design elements, including stock photos,
that are fully editable. You CAN use the designs as-is and just swap
out your own photos, logos, and contact information. I like the
templates because they can give you ideas for layout, use of pictures,
design elements, and where to place your logo and contact information –
in a visually pleasing way, without starting from scratch (or not
knowing where to start).
Image editing – While Serif does offer a more powerful image editing
software called PhotoPlus X2 Digital Studio, there are quite a few
image editing tools included in PagePlus X3. I found the photo editing
and special effects easy to use, and you do it right inside the
document, without having to edit the picture and re-import it.
PDF editing – PagePlus can open and edit any PDF document without
distorting the text or layout. The software will automatically take any
fonts that are embedded in the PDF and install them on your computer,
so you can edit the document and keep the original look of the text.
When you’ve finished making any changes, you simply export the document
to a PDF again. This function is very cool (as anyone who has fought
with Acrobat knows). I actually found the settings for exporting to a
print-ready PDF much easier with PagePlus than with Acrobat 8.0.
Color charts – Printed color charts are included so you can see how
your colors on the screen will look on the printed finished product.
PagePlus has more advanced design features as well, like the ability
to create layers and master pages (backgrounds). But the best thing
about this software aside from the price is that you don’t need to be
that sophisticated to create something that looks pretty darn good.
PagePlus X3 Professional is available at www.serif.com for $99.99.