Finding inspiration as a website designer is no longer difficult in today’s world. Not only can you find it with a simple search through other websites but you can get lists on blogs that provide enormous numbers of examples that people have found around the web. All of it is just bundled there, waiting for you to take a peek through and find your own idea in the mix.
But with so many samples for you to peruse, how can you keep track of the ones you really like? For a long time, I would keep a notepad of links with little headers to try and organize them as well as a folder of screenshots. It was great – until it grew. The larger it became, the harder it was to navigate, and so I wouldn’t be able to see everything I might have been inspired by. It was like jumping into a swimming pool filled with images, and keeping track of the image number to the links was impossible.
Luckily, I am not the only one who has experienced this problem. Tools have been created to help you collect, store and organize these digital inspirations in a way that is best for you. Check out these five awesome programs and start taking control of your inspiration obsession.
I use Evernote for everything, not just images, which is fitting, because it was designed to give us one place to store all of the digital riffraff is a part of having an Internet connection. Bookmarks, passwords, images – all of it can be placed here.
What is surprising is that so many of the, literally, millions of users on Evernote don’t even think to use it for pictures. But it is really simple: Just right-click on any image and select the option to add it to the application. The same process goes for full web pages, but I hate what it does to the CSS, and so I wouldn’t recommend it. If you have to, just convert it to a PDF first.
If you have a Mac, you have probably noticed that the capabilities of the screenshot function on OS X have a lot to be desired. You have to have a program that overrides those settings and gives you something a little more – which is where LittleSnapper comes in.
You should be used to shortcuts being created on your desktop by now when you use your clipboard. But instead of the old-fashioned screenshots you expect, this way automatically stores them in the library for you when you save. From there, you can change the title, create smart folders and organize your pictures to make them more accessible and available for long-term storage. You can also set it to use iPhoto for this purpose, if you choose.
What I love is the adaptability of the program itself. If you want to copy just a certain section, no matter how small, you can do it without having to edit the screenshot to show the portion. But more than that, you can also cap the entire Safari page, from top to bottom, no matter how long it is. Then, you can save the whole thing without scrolling down.
All caps can be exported to Ember, which is another organization program you have to see for yourself.
I love sticky notes, and I use them all the time around the house. Listhings is a digital version of that. It is an online bulletin board where you can just stick the things you collect up for your own uses. It is a cute little app, and while it isn’t as smooth and sleek as some of the others, it is a lot of fun. With it, you can both store and schedule your inspiration: use it as a calendar to be reminded of some inspirational sites. Moreover, Listhings is a collaboration tool, so you can get your team work on your sticky notes as well!
I personally think that social bookmarking is the greatest online invention since funny cat videos. My addiction was first fueled by my Delicious account, but once I came across ZooTool I was only too happy to import my images and begin using this one instead.
The simple design of ZooTool is what makes it really special. It provides the active link, but then gives you a thumbnail of the page, so you have an immediate visual association. Gone are the days of going through every bookmark, one after another, to find a specific one. It saves so much time and energy. Plus, you can cap an entire web page or just select a small portion.
From there, you can also organize, tag and store those images and bookmarks more easily than with Delicious. It reminds me a lot of other tools, which have all been combined for this adaption. There is even a social-networking aspect, where you can follow members like in Ember.
A Note on Digital Inspiration
There are hack designers out there – quite a lot, in fact. They will always look at a design and then steal it, copying the entire look for their own purposes and then reselling it as their own. This is wrong, and it has caused a lot of friction in the digital world, especially when it comes to inspiration, which some now see as synonymous with “theft fodder.”
This isn’t true. Yes, there will always be those who steal concepts and claim them as their own. But there are still more others who enjoy looking at beautifully designed pages and letting that inspire them to make their own. They may find the ideas helpful in establishing their own style, but they have no intention of plagiarism.
Think of it this way: Artists enjoy going to museums, especially those within their own niche, to see the work of others in their field. They wish to view the brilliance of their peers, and they often feel urged toward their own creativity because of it. That is the nature of inspiration: to let it push you toward originality.
So don’t feel ashamed of you penchant for digital samples. Just enjoy them for what they are: inspiring.