Among other things, a global pandemic can change the way we communicate. The Covid pandemic is no exception. Now, it is more important than ever that we know how to create effective graphics for websites and social media.
Before Covid, we went to meetings – now we Zoom. Before, we printed pew bulletins – now we have an email list and Facebook groups. Before, we did audio recordings – now we Livestream on YouTube. Before, we had church notice boards, now we use websites.
Ok, so I’ve allowed myself a smidgeon of hyperbole here. While all of these were around to a certain extent before the pandemic to a greater or lesser extent, but there is no denying that communication technologies have made substantial inroads into the mind of our society in the last 2 years and we have all come to terms with dealing with “new-to-us” technology and processes in our daily lives. Wherever you are in your communications journey, it is fair to say that a 1950’s line drawing that has been circulating in a giveaway clip-art collection for the last 50-years stuck next to some typescript probably isn’t going to cut it anymore, not at least for anything with a digital presence.
As webmasters and Social Media authors for churches on a budget, one of the new essential skills we have been expected to acquire is the ability to quickly create good quality graphics for our websites and social media endeavours. The effectiveness of digital communication is increasingly being driven by the graphics used rather than the content. In fact, in saying that, I am at risk of showing my age – arguably today’s media is being measured by millenniums and younger by its use of video, even more than by graphic elements. Coupled with a drive to produce content responsively quickly and (of course) cheaply, a number of graphics authoring tools have appeared and established themselves in the market. Some of these tools are now also branching into basic video creation as well. So, how do we create graphics for websites and social media? (Not to mention, cheaply)!
Advantages of Graphics
These tools are quick to learn and easy to use, come with copy-right cleared templates and images to get you started quickly and produce output in sizes and colour palettes optimised for various websites and social media platforms. There are some very good image production programs around now, but they are expensive, are complex and difficult to use (so you have to be trained to use them well) and can take hours to produce one image even if you know what you are doing. Fundamentally these tools I’m sharing today are about saving time.
One of the main time-consuming tasks for any comprehensive social media strategy, even if you have an image to start with, is changing the size of the image to suit the different requirements of different media platforms. A Facebook post is optimised for images of 1200 x 630 pixels, but on LinkedIn, a post is optimised for an image of 1200 x 1200 pixels, and different requirements for other platforms. Most platforms will do their best to adjust for non-optimal images, but you may lose information or legibility in the process. The upshot is if you are using any sort of multi-platform media strategy, you spend half your time adjusting the sizes of your images for different platforms.
Finally, a few last notable features. Most of these tools are built for collaboration, so you can invite others to contribute to your artistry. Whether this is a couple of arty friends to get down and dirty with you in the design process, or just sharing the final version with Parish Council for approval, this is a key capability for many people. Also, have links to internet just-in-time printing services, so you can order tee-shirts, coffee mugs, carry-bags and many more merchandise items to be printed with your design (for an additional cost, of course). But an easy way to organise youth group tee-shirts, posters and similar items.
So here are descriptions of 3 examples of this type of solution. There are many, many more but I’ve chosen these as being reasonably representative of the ones I’ve come across.
Canva – In graphic design circles, Canva is generally considered the gold standard for others to aspire to. It is reasonably priced and has a great selection of images to choose from. Perhaps the best feature for the readers of this article, it has a non-profit program accessible to NZ Charities, offering free use of their Pro paid version if you register your organisation with them. I use Canva a fair bit for website work – some of which is on the NZ Lay Preachers website (nzlpa.wordpress.com) e.g. the “Don’t Miss Out” badge on the front page at the moment. Canva is particularly good at taking a graphic and then allowing you to quickly go through the process of re-sizing and adjusting for different Social Media platforms.
Visme – this is the tool I’ve used least of these three. It has a growing presence in relevant discussion groups and is a leader in that it is promoting itself directly as a video tool with graphics capability rather than the other way round. While Visme feels a little different to use than the other options, it is by no means difficult – especially if you come to it with no history of the alternatives. They have a good selection of useful articles in their knowledgebase, including the most comprehensive listing of what image sizes you need to use for which social media platform I have ever come across.
Snappa – I have used Snappa largely for YouTube work (video thumbnails, channel headers etc) because it has some very intentional features to support YouTubes requirements. Otherwise, it is quite similar to Canva. One area I haven’t had a chance to use much as yet is the capability to automate your social media posts (paid version only). Once you complete your graphic, you can ask Snappa to post to each platform you use at a specific time and date.
|Preset Social Media dimensions for posts and images||Yes||Is aware – templates are pre-sized correctly||Yes|
|Free Version limitations||5GB storage; selected templates||100GB storage; selected templates; Visme logo on outputs||Limited to 3 downloads per month|
|Cheapest pay-monthly plan||NZ$19.99 per mth||~NZ$17.90 per mth; (USD12.25)||~NZ$14.60 per mth; (USD10.00)|
|Video capability||Yes||Short videos & Animations|
|Non-profit program||Pro Free for NPs listed on NZ Charities Commission Register||25% discount; no info on eligibility|
|Remove Image Background tool||On paid plans||No||Yes|
|Free copyright-cleared stock photos||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Automated Social Media posting||On paid plans||Immediate Post only, on paid plans||On paid plans|
I hope this article helps you find a way to quickly create graphics for websites and social media. I encourage you to share your results as a comment to this blog for the inspiration of us all.
Peter Lane is Principal Consultant at System Design & Communication Services and has over 30-years’ experience with Technology systems. We invite your questions, suggestions and ideas for articles. Submit these either through the editor or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also operate a website focused on building a community of people interested in improving how we can use technology in churches, located at www.dct.org.nz.