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.
Laura Leites, Assistant Editor, Smallbiztechnology.com
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