When mired in the day-to-day of your business, it can be easy to ignore new technology and design, but keeping up with the times is important if you want to be competitive. Luckily there are plenty of smart resources you can turn to that will make staying current fun.
For starters, you’ll want to keep an eye on your competitors. What do their Web sites look like? What’s the experience of being on their site like? Do they have a mobile site? An iPhone app? A Twitter account? You don’t need to be a copycat, but you should take cues from what your competitors are doing to figure out how you can compete.
Next you’ll want to turn to the experts. The following is hardly an exhaustive list, but these are great places to start when searching for your tech inspiration.
It’s not practical to redesign your site every few months, or even every year, but you can make small updates from time to time — whether it’s designing a mobile site, tweaking your existing look, or creating a branded Twitter background. And if it is time for a major overhaul or something new, you’ll want to make sure that your site’s look and functionality can stand up to the test of time. At least for a few years, that is.
To get some design inspiration, start by checking out Moluv and CoolHomePages.com to get links to well-designed sites. You can see creative examples from a number of industries. Then head over to Ember to find more specific examples, from registration and sign-up forms to iPhone icons, and create a digital scrapbook of what you like best. Pay attention to the ways sites are laid out, how they use elements like animation, and how information is organized.
To drill down into even finer design details and delve into the biggest trends in backgrounds, lighting effects, and textures, check out Design Shard. Then go to ColourLovers for fresh new color palette ideas. And visit Inspired Magazine and Hongkiat.com for great lists of visual goodies.
You’ll also want to think about how your site will actually work and make sure that the feeling is contemporary. Pay particular attention to things like site navigation, sign-up forms, and order processes. Check out Smashing Magazine for good user-experience articles and tutorials.
Social networking is no longer a newfangled marketing strategy, but a must for businesses. Moving even more quickly than design trends, social networking trends seem to spring up overnight and can die out just as quickly, so it’s important to stay informed. Though Facebook and Twitter are today’s social media darlings, there are many other burgeoning networks and plenty of new ideas for optimizing your social media marketing efforts.
Mashable is a great site for getting up-to-the-minute social media news. You’ll get plenty of Facebook and Twitter news, information on new social sites, and insights into the tools people are using to manage their networks. TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb can also help you keep up with what’s new in the social scene.
To improve your social networking know-how, check out Chris Brogan and Brian Solis’s blogs for expert tips, tools, and case studies — and a lot of inspiration to start interacting with your networks in new, more effective ways.
Having the latest gadgets — or catering to those who do — can be important to your business, whether it’s figuring out which new computer or mobile phone to buy, or just knowing that a whole lot of your customers are probably using iPhones right now.
Engadget, Gizmodo, Wired’s Gadget Lab, Boy Genius Report, and CrunchGear can all help you stay up on the latest tech trends. You’ll learn about the hottest new computers, phones, cameras, and more, and you’ll see the innovative new ways people are using different technologies at home and in the office.
Though it can feel like tech trends change daily, just stopping by these sites occasionally can help you stay current, come up with new ideas, and gain some tech inspiration for your business.