Some time ago I revealed my personal secret of how I’m able to write whenever I want (more or less) without worrying about things like writer’s block.

To be honest, I don’t remember the last time when I was hit with this whole writer’s block. And it’s not that I’m particularly talented or anything. I’m just well prepared.

There are many things I have set in place to help me work productively throughout the day. But there’s one particular thing that’s simply essential to my blogging existence, so to speak. And that is my bank of ideas.

Bank of ideas sounds fancy, I know, but it’s actually just a mind map containing all my post ideas – the things I want to write about.

How does this help me to fight writer’s block? In many cases, the most difficult part of writing is getting the main idea for the post itself. Once you have a clear vision of what topic you want to cover, writing becomes just a formality.

However, ideas don’t grow on trees like that, so you have to have your own way of noticing them and then writing them down somewhere. This whole concept is what I explain in detail in my guest post at SmartBloggerz:

Writer’s Block Still Breathing? Let’s Mortal-Kombat Him Once and For All!

What is your main way of fighting writer’s block? Do you have a unique approach at it you’d like to share?

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How to Build Your Bank of Ideas and KILL Writer’s Block Once and for All | newInternetOrder.com

This site is for IFBB Pro figure Larissa Reis.

It’s built on the WordPress platform, using the AutofocusPro theme, with many original adaptations. It offers a Portugese translation, and uses small layout and stylistic variations throughout the site. It was built to a tight deadline, and as such there are slight variations from the original launch style. The Reistyle section features original coloured rollovers indicating the sub-section the post belongs to.

penzu1If you’re like most people then you might think that writing a journal/diary is child’s play. That there’s no possible value of such thing for a grownup. Well, think again.

I always say that keeping a personal journal is the best way of warming up your writing muscle in the morning.

Moreover, the sole concept of writing in the morning is one I’m constantly advertising everywhere I can. I think that I mentioned it in at least 5 of my posts on different blogs.

Anyway, what’s the deal?

I don’t intend to repeat myself here again, so let me give you the short version of the story.

We all like to feel productive throughout our workdays, right? But those initial hours (also known as the morning) can be tough. We’re a bit confused, not up to our full potential and all.

Here’s where a good warm-up comes into play (a warm-up for our brain, that is). And for me, there’s just nothing better than writing a journal.

Mostly because it forces your brain to start working, but at the same time it’s nothing tough, so there’s no struggle to get going. A journal is simply something you can write in whatever state of mind you’re in at the moment.

And here’s where Penzu Pro comes into play.

penzu2

Whenever I talk about writing a journal in the morning, I mention Penzu as the go-to place.

Personally, I don’t see the point of keeping a physical journal in the 21st century. But keeping it as DOC files doesn’t quite cut it either. Your content can always get viewed by other people, which is something I’m sure you don’t want to happen.

That’s why an online solution of some kind is the only sensible way here. And Penzu fits the description perfectly. It’s easy to use, secure, and available worldwide.

Check this quick video presentation to get a hang of it:

Features

Penzu offers two main accounts: Penzu free and Penzu Pro.

If you don’t want to spend any money then Penzu free will surely be enough to make you happy. There are no apparent downsides to the free plan and everyone who just wants a simple online journal, will find it incredibly useful.

Features in the free plan:

  • unlimited disk space,
  • inserting images from your computer and Flickr,
  • autosaving,
  • printing,
  • sharing via email and public link,
  • commenting on shared entries,
  • basic lock (password protection),
  • prompts,
  • search,
  • looking glass,
  • time zone change,
  • auto logout,
  • email reminders.

Penzu Pro has everything that the free one does, plus an additional set of features:

  • mobile access (iPhone and iPad apps),
  • multiple journals,
  • large size images with download option,
  • military-grade encryption lock,
  • rich-text formatting,
  • spell check,
  • custom avatars,
  • tagging,
  • customize pad style and backgrounds,
  • import posts from Live Journal,
  • import posts from RSS feeds and XML files,
  • export to PDF, XML, and TXT files,
  • submit entries via email,
  • sort entries by tags,
  • version control.

Working with Penzu Pro

The user interface is very easy to use. There’s virtually no learning curve, you can start working the minute you sign up.

The default screen simply presents a blank pad where you can start writing your entry.

pad

There are many customization options to choose from, so every entry can be unique and have its own style.

For instance, you can upload some pictures from your computer or have them embedded from Flickr.

pics

You can also customize the font and the style of your text. This is great when you want to distinguish a fragment of text from the rest (like with a quotation, for example).

toolbar

I’m sure you know how tags work. In Penzu Pro, you can use them like in any other article management software. This is particularly handy if you write a lot of entries and need a way to browse through them for specific information.

Possibly the coolest thing about Penzu Pro is the possibility to customize pad styles and backgrounds. You can choose one of the available stock backgrounds or upload your own.

Backgrounds:

backgrounds

Pads:

pads

One relatively new feature in Penzu Pro is version control. What this means in plain English is that you can fetch previous versions of a given entry. This is not very useful if you’re using Penzu for personal journals, but if you use it for creating any work-related documents then it’s a completely different story.

versions

Finally, there’s sharing. By default, every entry is private, which means that the only person who can view it is you. However, you can let other people through the door if you’ve written something you think they might enjoy.

You can share each entry individually by listing email addresses of people who can view it. Additionally, shared entries include a comment form below the entry.

Price and plan

Without further ado let me quickly say that Penzu Pro is $19 per year.

Simple rules, not much more I can say about the pricing. Oh yes, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee.

The good

Penzu Pro is a great solution for many reasons. It’s easy to use, affordable, and available online wherever you are.

For me, this is the best tool available for keeping your personal journal. No hassle with pen and paper, or making sure that your DOC files don’t get viewed by other people. With Penzu Pro this is none of your concern.

Besides, $19 a year? Come on, it’s only 6 cents a day.

The bad

Nay.

I know that every review that doesn’t list any bad sides is just not a serious review, but this time I really can’t find any downsides. Penzu Pro works perfectly well on any device I’ve tested it on.

However, feel free to let me know if you’ve stumbled upon any difficulties. I will gladly look over them.

In the meantime, I really recommend joining Penzu and checking out for yourself how quality the service is. If you don’t want to spend money right away, you don’t have to. The free account will get you going too, only without the cool additional features.

Get Penzu Pro here.

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Penzu Pro Review – Personal Online Journal On Steroids! | newInternetOrder.com

Getting up in the morning and working on your own (as a freelancer or an online business owner) can be tough.

And trust me, I know. There were times when I couldn’t get started no matter what. There was just so much resistance that I couldn’t fight it.

This isn’t necessarily about laziness. The problem is that if you’re working for yourself then there are so many different things you can do that you simply don’t know where to start. Everything’s too damn confusing.

Thankfully, I found a way of handling those bad days and getting quite a lot of stuff done anyway. It’s nothing fancy, just a couple of simple activities that get me going.

Feel free to check out my guest post at pickthebrain.com to learn what the trick is:

What to Do When You Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything

What’s your approach when a bad day hits you with no warning?

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Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything? Try This! | newInternetOrder.com

workSo I get up, do nothing, and go to sleep.

Okay, I don’t.

Anyway, here’s my (Karol’s) usual day. Whether you like it or not, I’m really about to write this post.

So here goes.

When to get up to be effective

I was always a late riser. For no particular reason actually, other than the fact that I simply couldn’t get up in the morning, so I was constantly getting up around 11AM, which isn’t even morning any more.

But as years went by I realized that for some strange reason I’m much more productive in the morning. Each time I got up early I was able to get done significantly more during the day. So in the end, I decided to make it a new habit.

Now I try to get up around 7AM. Get myself going (breakfast, and other morning things), and get to work at around 8AM (not that I have to actually go to an office or anything).

First thing I do – writing

No, it’s not email. I never start with email. Email is just bad for starting your day, and it kills your productivity. For me, writing is a lot better thing to do.

A couple of reasons. First of all, it gets my mind warmed-up and ready for other things the day’s about to bring. And secondly, writing is a very important part of what I do. And if you’re an online business owner then it is for you too.

Each day I start by writing 3-4 pieces (posts, articles, whatever else). Or I write until I hit the 4,000 word mark. Whichever happens first.

That’s a lot of writing you could say. Well, yes it is. But it really is effective to do it first thing in the morning. My mind is fresh, and not cluttered with all the things that happen during the day. At that moment I know that there’s nothing more I have to worry about, so I can get those 4,000 words done relatively quickly.

One more thing I actually do prior to writing is writing some more, but in a truly informal way – I write a journal or a diary, whatever you want to call it. Journals are great for warming up and getting your thoughts together. It can really set you and your goals straight, so you don’t have to worry about all those things for the rest of the day.

(If you want to start writing a journal check Penzu.)

Content creation continues

I’m not done with content creation yet. When I finish writing, I usually shift to other forms of content creation.

That depends on the day, but the things I usually do is write some more articles for SEO, create web 2.0 sites, free blogs, videos, etc. Basically, everything that’s not considered a standard blog post.

This part is important for my SEO efforts and overall brand. Sometimes I outsource this, but not always. Some things can be outsourced, but not everything … at least, that’s my point of view.

Some people don’t like to do all those content SEO tasks because they feel that the posts that appear on their sites is the only thing that matters. Well, it is the most important thing, but not everything that matters. Content is still king for online business, but only content that’s spread around the internet in some strategic places.

Email

This is the moment when I fire up my email software for the first time. And by email software I actually mean Gmail.

So I go through all the important email, write, respond, and so on. Not much to talk about really.

Pitching guest posts

Guest posting is an important element of my overall approach. I try to pitch as many guest posts in a day as possible. Which sometimes ends up to be just one (on a bad day), but anyway.

Guest posting is one of the easiest ways to get yourself exposed to new audiences. It’s you actively reaching out to them. And if they like what you have to say, they’ll come back to your site. Simple. At least in theory.

Whatever your experience is with guest posting I’m sure you can agree that no website popular today has gained its popularity on its own. It’s always due to another website’s popularity. You always find new things by reading about them somewhere, or seeing them being mentioned somewhere. You never input a random URL in your browser’s address bar and see what happens.

In the end, if guest posting is not working for you right now. You simply need to find a way to make it work.

Scheduled things

This is usually the moment when I visit my Google Calendar and see what’s in store there.

I’m using GTD as my time management and productivity methodology, and a calendar is a big part of it. This is probably not the place to explain why calendars are sacred, so let me just say that my calendar doesn’t have entries for every day possible. But when it does, it means that I really have to take care of the specific tasks mentioned there.

marketing

Promotion

No matter if we like it or not, promotion is an important activity in our online lives. Without doing any promotional tasks no one would ever get to know about our existence.

Depending on the project I’m working on, “promotion” may mean a lot of different things. Such as: tweaking advertising campaigns, contacting partners, checking what’s up in social media, link building, other SEO activities, researching new possibilities, etc.

Tweaking and making things better

This is the time when I make the world a better place.

Just kidding.

But what I am making a better place is my blogs, and various things about them. This is where I tweak layouts, ads, pages, plugins, basically everything that can impact a blog’s performance.

This is an important thing to do because, remember, if you’re not growing you’re dying. Keeping the status-quo is not good enough. You need to be constantly improving your game.

Responding to comments

This is something I usually do at the end of the day. There’s not a lot comments on this blog, but I publish many guest posts around the internet so there are quite a lot of comments in total to respond to.

Some people choose to ignore comments completely. Some choose to respond to every comment possible. Well, as of now, my opinion lays somewhere in between. I know that I’m guilty of saying that you should respond to every comment, but now I don’t actually think you should.

A much better strategy is to respond when it makes sense, and don’t respond when it doesn’t. Never respond just for the sake of it. And most importantly, if someone is trolling on you, don’t ever respond. Even if they have some good points in their rant. Nothing angers a troll more than being ignored.

Planning and random thoughts

After the whole work day I usually have some thoughts and ideas for the next days. So I put them in my journal or any other place that seems reasonable.

Essentially this is the last part of my work. At this point I’m usually done for the day.

It seems like a lot of things, but actually, sometimes it takes no longer than 3 hours. Other times it does take 10, though, but it’s not a rule.

Essentially, time is just time. We all have plenty of time. Contrary to one common belief I don’t think that time should be considered as limited. If you see time as limited, you’ll be in a constant hurry and struggle to get some things done.

When it’s unlimited, you don’t have to worry about those things. Why is it unlimited? Because when I go to sleep, and wake up the next day I have a completely new day to use. And then another. And another. Seeing time as unlimited can really make your life easier.

How’s that for a heavy serious life advice at the end of a post, huh? Anyway. I really enjoyed writing this and I hope it will help you to create your own day plan. Take care and tell me what your ideas are.

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Day in the Life of an Online Business Designer | newInternetOrder.com

Being drunk and being productive is not exactly the most fortunate pair, is it? But quite surprisingly the two have a lot in common.

For instance, when you’re drunk, you usually feel like the king of the world. You can do anything, achieve every goal, and so on … at least in your mind. The truth, of course, is exactly the opposite.

And that’s quite similar to what happens when you’re working and feeling really efficient. Efficiency is the holy grail of most employees, entrepreneurs, other business people, and essentially everyone who’s not unemployed. So what’s the problem with efficiency? Well, just like being drunk, it’s an illusion.

To find out what I’m on about, check out my guest post at The Productivity Pro Blog:

Being Drunk vs. Productivity

What’s your take on the concept of efficiency? Does my approach make any sense to you? Finally, do you think that being falsely efficient can kill your productivity?

 

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What Being Drunk and Productivity Have in Common | newInternetOrder.com

launchEvery online business owner in on a constant search for multiple income streams and different ways to make money in general. But selling something yourself is not the only way around…

In a series that’s been running on this blog lately I’m explaining some of the more popular business models for anyone who wishes to do business over the internet, so I’m not going to mention them here.

However, I will say right away that this post is about products, and different ways of marketing them. If you’ve read my post about products as one of online business models then you know what the biggest advantages of offering products are.

The only difficulty, however, is to actually sell those products. Or better yet, sell them successfully.

You can try different approaches here: advertising, social media, email marketing, SEO, and many many more. And this is also where affiliate programs come into play.

I have to say right away that affiliate marketing is not the most obvious technique out there. It doesn’t come to mind right away if you don’t have some online marketing experience under your belt.

Using affiliate programs to market your products is also a little intimidating at first because there are some mandatory steps you need to take before you can take part in it.

(Note. The online business models series also features an episode on affiliate income, but this is not the same thing as what I’m about to discuss here.)

What’s affiliate marketing

There are two sides to affiliate marketing:

  • You can be an affiliate – promoting other people’s products on a commission basis.
  • You can be the product owner – earning money because of the sales that other affiliates have generated.

Here I’m going to discuss the latter.

No matter what type of product you’re offering you can always create and launch an affiliate program of some kind.

The basic rules of an affiliate program are:

  • Affiliates can promote your products in exchange for a commission if they generate sales.
  • You provide the product.
  • You provide the marketing materials.
  • You take care of the payment processing.
  • You take care of paying your affiliates.

Sounds like a lot of work on your side, right?

But there’s one really big advantage for you here. If any of your affiliates manages to generate a sale this means free money for you.

Think about it. Even though you have to handle many things that can be considered the setup period, after that, every promotional task falls upon your affiliates, and you don’t have to pay for any promotional methods they use.

That means that the risk is all on them. If they manage to get a sale they get a commission, which will hopefully be bigger than the cost they had to take to get that sale. But you don’t have to take any preliminary costs. You’re paying only once you get a sale through one of your affiliates – hence the free money.

In a nutshell, affiliate marketing can be explained like this:

  1. Someone promotes your products.
  2. Your products get sold.
  3. You get the money.
  4. You pay a percentage of this money to the affiliates who have brought the sales.

Who needs affiliate programs

In the online world, essentially no one needs anything. But if you just simply decide that launching an affiliate program is not for you then you’re probably leaving a lot of money on the table.

First of all, try to think if you’re offering any product that can be easily multiplied or produced at really low costs.

Just a hint, if your product is digital then it most certainly fits the description perfectly.

Some examples of digital products just to refresh your memory:

  • E-books, reports, and all kinds of PDF and text content.
  • Membership sites.
  • Software, tools, and all kinds of apps.
  • Themes, scripts, and all kinds of programming related products.
  • Wallpapers, graphics, resource packages, and all kinds of visual stuff.

Also, many kinds of online services are great here too. If you’re offering a service then it means that some actual work has to be done, but if the service is easy to handle then it’s great as a base for an affiliate program too.

product

What if you don’t have such a product?

A fair question. There are different online businesses and not every one of them has to offer a product that’s easy to multiply.

But this doesn’t mean that you can’t create it…

Having an entry level product is always good for a business. It’s simply something cheap that you as a business owner use to get a new customer through the door so you can market to those people later with your other more expensive products and services.

Such an entry level product is also great for using as a basis to creating an affiliate program.

The idea is that you start by coming up with an idea on what is the most basic area of your expertise (or your business focus) that you can use to create an entry level product around. This idea shouldn’t be simple just for the sake of it. You still need to make it attractive for the prospective customers, that’s the whole point.

Product development is a very large topic so I’m not going to focus on it here, and I welcome you to check out some blogs that talk about this primarily.

Once you have such a product created you can start crafting your affiliate program.

How to launch an affiliate program

There are two basic paths you can follow:

  • be the host of the affiliate program yourself, or
  • sign up to an affiliate network.

Being your own host is great if you have some big marketing power and can reach some top affiliates directly. Also, this approach creates a lot more costs on your part. Moreover, running an affiliate program yourself requires quite a serious tech backend.

What I mean is that the program has to run on a custom-made affiliate software. So you either have to get it created (on a contract basis with a programmer, for example … very expensive), or create it on your own if you happen to be a programmer yourself.

Either way, it will require much time, money, and dedication. That’s why I advise you to sign up to an affiliate network.

Affiliate networks take care of all the technical aspects of the thing, and sometimes also make the payments to your affiliates too (on your behalf, so you don’t have to do it by hand).

Some of the more popular affiliate networks are: Clickbank, Commission Junction, ShareASale. Depending on the kind of product you want to offer, some of them will work better for you than others.

I advise you to go to each of the above networks and carefully read the rules of signing up and doing business with them. Depending on the company there will be slight differences.

Where’s the kicker? There’s of course a modest payment you have to pay to the affiliate network in exchange for their platform. Depending on the network this amount can vary. But it’s usually in the range of 5% of your product’s price (plus an additional constant rate).

Since I’m talking about the percentages let’s take a minute to decide what commissions you should offer to your affiliates…

Commissions and affiliate tools

For digital products, the market-wide standard is between 50% and 90% (60%-75% is probably the best rate).

For physical products, the commissions are much lower (because of the big cost of creating such products) and they often end up in the range of 10%-20%.

Now the affiliate tools.

Chances are that your affiliates will already have a plan on how they want to promote your products, but you still need to make their lives as easy as you can. That’s why you should provide some quality affiliate resources and tools.

These are things like: banner ads, example e-books, email marketing copy, ad copy, samples of your products, product images, and everything else that your affiliates can find handy for promotion.

Depending on how you want to make it happen it can require some additional investments. But it usually pays off because affiliates are more likely to do business with product owners who treat them seriously. Providing a great affiliate package is the best indication of that.

There you go, we’ve reached the end of this post. Launching an affiliate program is not a one-evening task. It will take a while until you can start seeing some affiliate sales, but if you do it right you can make significantly more money than you are making now, without that much additional work after your program is launched. It’s the setup phase that’s the most time (and money) consuming.

What’s your opinion on all this? Do you find an affiliate program as a good addition to your online business?

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Why You Should Launch an Affiliate Program | newInternetOrder.com


So in my last post about Internationalization, I covered some non-obvious things that you should consider when adding translation capabilities to your code.

Today, let’s add to that by covering some non-obvious translation functions. You’re probably not using these, since they don’t get talked about as much. But there’s probably places where you should be using them, so knowing about them is the first step. And knowing is half the battle.

Basic functions, again

Last time I talked about these functions:

  • __()
  • _e()
  • _x()
  • _ex()
  • _n()

Let’s cover the ones I didn’t talk about.

Escaping output

In practice, you tend to use these mostly when outputting things onto the main page or in the admin. But, one thing you also use a lot when outputting text is the standard escaping functions. These are things like esc_html(), which outputs text in a way that makes it “safe” to go onto a webpage, without being interpreted as HTML. If the text comes from user input, then this is a good idea.

Now, if you think about it, then the text you have may be translated in some other file, which you don’t control either. So escaping that text might be a good idea too. If somebody snuck bad code into a translation file, a user might get bad things displayed without being able to easily find it.

So you could write something like echo esc_html(__('text','text-domain')), but that’s a bit wordy. Let’s talk about some shortcuts.

The esc_html__() function is the equivalent of esc_html(__(...)). It does the escaped html and the double-underscore translation all in one go. Similarly, the esc_html_e() function does the same thing, but it echoes the result, just like the _e() function would. And there’s also esc_html_x(), which is the equivalent of combining esc_html() and _x().

Along with those three are the three identical equivalents for attributes: esc_attr__(), esc_attr_e(), and esc_attr_x(). As the name implies, these combine the translation functions with esc_attr(), which is the escape function specifically intended when you’re outputting text into html attributes.

Also note there’s no shortcut for the equivalent of _ex(). It’s just not used that much, or at least not enough to need something special for it. Use an echo esc_html_x() instead.

There are no shortcuts for the other escaping functions as yet, but these can save a few keystrokes and make your code that much more readable.

The Numerical No-op

So we’ve got some shortcuts for escaping with those three functions, but where’s the love for _n()?

One of the problems with _n() is that it tends to require the strings to be in the same place that the PHP variable is. For all the other functions, you could have a big file of strings in an array, and then reference those strings by name or something elsewhere because they don’t require any PHP variables. Nothing about them is computed at the time of the output.

But not so with _n(), that $number to decide which string to use means that the strings have to be right there, they can’t be translated separately and referenced.

This is where _n_noop() comes in. The _n_noop() function basically takes the singular and plural strings for something, along with the text domain, and stores them in an array so that they can be referenced later by a function named translate_nooped_plural().

Perhaps an example is in order. Let’s go back to the tacos:

$string = sprintf( _n('You have %d taco.', 'You have %d tacos.', $number, 'plugin-domain'), $number );

What if we wanted those strings somewhere else? Like in a big file with all of our strings. Here’s a way to separate the strings from the _n() call:

$taco_plural = _n_noop('You have %d taco.', 'You have %d tacos.', 'plugin-domain');
$string = sprintf( translate_nooped_plural( $taco_plural, $number) , $number );

Now, that $taco_plural can be defined anywhere. Note that it contains no references to PHP variables. It’s basically static and unchanging. This allows us to separate it, then reference it elsewhere for the actual translation. The translate_nooped_plural() function performs the same job as _n() does, choosing which string to use based on the $number of tacos. The sprintf then pushes the $number into the chosen string, replacing the %d with the number.

Thus, that lets us extract the translatable strings out and put them anywhere we choose.

Also of note: The _nx_noop() function is a cross between _n_noop() and _x(). It takes a context for the translators as the third argument, and the domain becomes the fourth argument. Useful if you need to explain to the translators the context surrounding the pluralization choice.

Numbers and Dates

The number_format_i18n() function is functionally equivalent to the PHP number_format function. It lets you format numbers with commas at the thousands mark and so forth, except that it also takes localization into account. Not everybody uses commas for thousands and periods for decimals. This function will do the translation appropriately for that aspect.

The date_i18n() function is functionally equivalent to the PHP date function. It will handle all the same string formatting parameters as date() will, but it will cause output to be translated for month names, day-of-week names, and so forth. Of note is that it doesn’t change the format requested. If some places put days before months, for example, it won’t handle that. But it will output the month name in the native language (if the translation pack has the right month name in it). So you may want to run the date formatting string through __() as well, to let translators adjust the date format accordingly.

Wrap up

And that’s pretty much all the rest of the translation functions that I didn’t cover before. I may have forgotten a few useful ones here or there. Feel free to comment about anything I missed, or what you see most often, especially if you’re doing translations yourself.

This site is for a boutique Auckland designer, Kali Designs, and showcases the range of original products on offer.

It uses a customised version of the popular open-source shopping cart platform OpenCart to allow stockist to order via the website. It also allows the site owner to manage content, and products, behind the scenes, with minimal technical know-how.

Its design, by Urban Legend web and the owner, aims for elegant simplicity.

Products include jewellery boxes, money boxes, wallets, coin purses, bags and glasses case.