3 Things You Can Do Today to Increase Your Website’s Search Engine Ranking

Your website is your business’ pride and joy and it’s important that it looks good and gets seen by the right people. Now, you’ve probably heard that search engine optimization (SEO) is all about getting your website higher in the rankings when someone searches for you or a product or service you offer.  And, everyone wants their website on the first page of a Google search, right?

I’m going to tell you three important things that will help boost your search engine ranking that are completely free.  Yup.  Free.  And, what’s more, it might not take too long to implement them.  Let’s look at each of them and how they can help your website.

1. Well written, quality text that uses your keywords

That’s right – your text – your content needs to be well written (using proper grammar) AND using the keywords that you want folks to use when searching for you on Google (or some other search engine.) Why? Well, search engines like Google rank websites that have text that use your keywords in context higher than those without. A listing of your keywords on your site won’t cut it.

You should consider three things when writing content for search engine optimization: your audience, word counts and keywords.


This really goes without saying. You should already know WHO your audience is and what motivates them.  What attracts them?  What turns them off?  Remember, they are people like you and I, so interact with them.  Engage them.  When you do that, you’ll know how to write your content for your website in a manner that will be appealing to them and beneficial to you.

Word Counts

Word counts are a thing of the past.  Studies have shown that the average online consumer doesn’t want to be sold to using a short and sweet sales pitch.  Education is where it’s at.  People want to be educated, not sold to.  Consider writing longer content with a clear message rather than short but concise text.  Focus on your content being educational and informative.


Keywords are great – they really are.  I mean, how else would people find you on the internet, right? However, keywords are just one part of search engine optimization.  It used to be that smart, strategic insertion of keywords into content was important, however, now, that’s not so.  Search engine algorithms are smarter and can pull out, mix and match and extract your keywords in well written content, rather than strategically placed, shorter messages.  So, focus on the copy and using well written text that use the keywords in context as the would normally.

2. Inbound Social Media Links

Social media plays an immense role in search engine optimization. We use social media daily to interact with customers and clients, to communicate with friends and family and to share things that are important to our community.  As important as it is to have social media accounts with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, it is equally important to set up links to each of those sites on your website.  In so doing, you’ll increase your authority in Google’s eyes.

It’s also important to grow your networks on each of these social media sites.  It makes sense – a company with 100 followers won’t be seen as nearly as important as a company that has 100,000.  And, it’s not just the number of followers that Google checks.  Google also checks the quality of your following, giving importance to organic followers (organic followers refer to those followers that you have attracted personally or without an ad).  It’s also important to engage your following because the more active your social media network is, the greater the importance it is going to be given in the search engines.

3. Proper HTML and CSS Markup

Properly designed and programmed web pages are extremely important in search engine optimization. Proper usage of HTML elements and CSS styles allows search engines to parse and interpret websites whose markup (HTML and CSS code) uses “best practices” to more effectively serve to users more relevant results based on search engine queries.

If your site is not properly coded or doesn’t use proper CSS styling, Google may see its quality as less than that of a site that does use proper markup and push it further up in search rankings.  If you’re not sure if your markup is correct, or if there are any errors on your pages, you can visit the World Wide Web Consortium and test your site.

If you do these three things, you’ll probably notice your website getting a search engine ranking boost.  The changes are not always immediate, but you will start seeing a difference in where your site ranks, likely within a week.  The important thing to remember here is that SEO is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing.  It’s something that’ll need to be revisited frequently and updated as needed.

For additional website advice and for a free estimate, visit our website.

dpi graphics facebook cover setup


What to Know BEFORE You Buy a Theme Based Website

We’ve all seen them out there – theme based websites – in fact, you’re viewing one now.  Theme-based websites are great for blogs or perhaps for low-budget organizations who just need a quick and easy place to get their message out, but otherwise, they really aren’t too helpful to you, the customer, who is trying to make a profit from your online presence.

So, what should you know BEFORE you buy (or use a free template) a theme based website?

Well, for starters, theme-based sites like WordPress or Wix is that they’re really not that customizable.  Yeah, sure, you can throw your logo up on it, change background colors and fonts, but aside from that, how much say do you REALLY have in the design and layout of your website?  Would you just pick the theme based on what YOU like? Would you think about what attracts your target audience – your target audience being your ideal customer?  Ultimately, if you do go the theme-site route with creating a website, you probably settled on a theme – rather than creating exactly what you want and need.

You’re probably saying, “Yes, but a WordPress theme costs so much less than having a developer build a site.”  Probably.  I won’t lie – you can probably get a website built dirt cheap using WordPress or some other content management system that uses themes.  However, riddle me this – will your theme based site be optimized for YOUR business?  Would you know how to build it so that it meets Google’s search engine standards ( proper HTML markup, meta descriptions and keywords, no broken links, etc. )?  A website should be an investment – not an extra expense.  It should be something that is updated regularly, customized to fit your target market and give you a measurable ROI ( return on investment ).  So yeah, you can go purchase a cheap theme, pay your domain and hosting fees and run a website that cost you a couple hundred bucks to implement OR you can take the time, do it right, and build something that is going to give you the return you deserve and expect.

Ok, so if you’re dead set that HAVE to have a WordPress site – maybe for ease of updating and maintaining – we get that.  It makes perfect sense.  If you have a professional web developer, you can have your own design, your own layout, customized the way you want ( and need it ) and STILL use WordPress to update it.  However, it still requires an investment.  It requires you to take the time to invest in your website and not “set it and forget it.”  There are also many other content management systems such as Joomla and Drupal, that are similar to WordPress and allow customers to update their website.  However, these require some professional setup, especially with custom designs.

Not all content management systems like WordPress are created equal – that is, they all do the same thing, or at least similar things, but their user interfaces, what they call website components and how those components are edited and even the time it takes for updates to propagate all may differ.  It’s important to do your research before you buy – in many cases, the only things that are customizable by an unskilled user are theme colors and your logo.  That’s it.  After you purchase a website theme is no time to find out that you’re locked in and can’t customize a thing or worse, have no clue HOW to go about updating your site because you’re unfamiliar with the interface.

Lastly, using WordPress or some other themed-based website, YOU are in charge of your search engine optimization – something that a professional designer would normally take care of.  Search engine optimization is a tricky animal – there are some little things you can do to help increase your search engine rankings ( see our posts on setting up social media, Part I and Part II ) however, there are also some things that a skilled developer can do to increase your search engine rankings and make the most of your online presence.

So, you can go and get yourself a theme-based site for little to know money – OR – you can take the time to make your website an investment – giving to you what you put into it.  Beware of the ads that you see on social media advertising “Beautiful Websites” because having a beautiful website that nobody sees or worse, that costs you money instead of making your money, is defeating the purpose of having an online presence.

Request a free, no obligation quote here.

Creating a Social Media Presence and Getting the Most Out of It, Part II


linkedinSo, last week I told you how to create Facebook business pages and how to set up a Twitter account AND how to link the two so that posts automatically sync from Facebook to Twitter.  By now, you should have mastered that (or at least given it the old college try) and it’s on to something else – LinkedIn.

Now, unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is more geared to you and your professional network – folks you’ve worked with or for, gone to school with and friends.  LinkedIn is gaining popularity and boasts a network spanning the globe with hundreds of millions of users.
The first thing you should do is create a personal account on LinkedIn – it’s pretty easy and straightforward – you provide the information, LinkedIn assembles your profile.  Once you’ve done that, let’s create a Company Page on LinkedIn.

Step 1:  Go to the Company splash page and click Get Started.

linkedin_company page

Step 2: Add your company or business.

add a company

Fill in the fields with the appropriate information: Your company name and the official company email address.  NOTE: It’s important to make this an email address that will never be terminated or go unchecked.  This will likely be the email that folks will contact you  through on LinkedIn.  So make sure you’re checking your email!

Step 3: Check the verification code sent to your email.

After verifying the link found in your email by clicking on it, you will be asked to log in again before being redirected to your company page. When done, you will gain access to the following options:
  • Assign co-admins.
  • Add company description.
  • Input basic company information such as company type, size, website, industry, operating status and year founded.
  • Add Featured Groups.

Step 4: Fill in the field for the company page overview.


Step 5: Upload your company logo.
add logo
Step 6: Click Publish and you’re done!  Your LinkedIn Company page is now live!


Google+ is yet another social network that is similar to Facebook and Twitter and less like LinkedIn, however, it works on the same basic principles at the others – connecting with your network.  Google+ is composed of “circles” – groups of friends organized by relationship.  Like Facebook, you can post updates, share photos and videos as well as connect with businesses, organizations and services.

Sounds great, right?  Want to get found quicker and easier on Google?  Let’s setup a Google Business page using a free tool called “Google My Business.”  Google My Business allows you to be found quicker by your customers and connect with them across multiple devices wherever and whenever.  It allows your business information to be displayed on Search, Maps and Google+ and helps boost your Search Engine Rankings and we can all use a little of that, am I right?  So, let’s setup your business page, shall we?

Step 1: Go to the “Google My Business” home page and click Get on Google.

gmb-get on google


Step 2: Agree to Google’s terms of service and type in your business name in the search bar.

search for business

A list of businesses across the country (and possibly the world) will appear.  Select yours from the list. You will have to verify your address and click Continue NOTE: If your business is not on the list, you’ll need to click the Add Business link at the bottom of the list.

Step 3: Fill out the form that appears with all your business information, like you have before.

biz info form

Step 4: This information will need to be verified by Google, normally by phone or text.  Once you’ve received the code and have entered it in Google’s verification system, your page will be visible.  NOTE: Your page will not be visible if you do not verify your business information.

Once verification is complete, your page will be visible on Google+!  You’ll want to add profile pictures, cover pictures and any product or company pictures (such as a portfolio) to your new business page.

You’ll then want to start posting updates on Google+, just as you would with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  Remember, this listing will be on Google and will likely pop up first when people search for you.  Keep it up to date with your media and information.  Social media is constantly changing and by using it wisely, you can give your business a big SEO (Search Engine Optimization) boost without spending any money!  So get out there and connect and be social!


Creating a Social Media Presence and Getting the Most Out of It, Part I

social media part 1

Social media has become a driving force in whether or not a consumer purchases – or doesn’t purchase – a product which can make or break a brand.  There are a multitude of social media outlets these days and getting immersed in each is a full-time job in and of itself.  What’s more, if you don’t know how to go about setting up your social media sites to get the most out of them, the part they’ll play as part of your online marketing will be minimal and thus, non-effective.

That said, let’s start building a strong social media presence by working on one social media site that has set the standard for social media marketing – Facebook.  Facebook, as of October, 2014, had over 1.23 billion active users – 1.23 BILLION!  With a “b!”  It is a must-have for any – no, EVERY business.  It’s really no longer an “option” to have a presence on Facebook, it’s a necessity.  So, without further ado, let’s talk about how to go about setting up a business page on Facebook by following these steps:

Step 1: Go to Facebook Create Page.

Step 2: Choose the type of page you want to create.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 9.47.59 AM

There are six different types of pages on Facebook:

  • Local Business or Place
  • Company, Organization, or Institution (sic)
  • Brand or Product
  • Artist, Band, or Public Figure
  • Entertainment
  • Cause or Community

Since we’re attempting to set up a business page, we’re going to select Local Business or Place.

Step 3: Fill in the necessary fields and click the “Get Started” button.

create page2

Step 4: Type out some basic information about your business.

setup-business page

Your page description shouldn’t be War and Peace.  It doesn’t even have to be a company statement or mission – it could be a promotion, sale, advertisement – BUT make it pertinent to the purpose of the page, otherwise, it’ll look fraudulent to visitors.

This short description will show on the right sidebar of your page and will be directly visible to your fans. A longer description for your company background can be added later and will appear on the “About” tab of your page.  Don’t be too wordy though.  Give your visitors enough information to let them know who you are, what you sell/do and why they should be your customer but not too much so that they leave without reading the whole description.

Near the bottom, in the field “Enter an address for your Page”, you must create a short and unique username for your business as this will become your Facebook URL. This URL should be meaningful and care should be taken when creating it as it cannot be changed after the page has been created.

Step 5: Rock your Facebook page.

make it rock

You’ll need to upload a profile picture, I suggest using your logo or something meaningful about your business.  You can change this anytime you like, for example, making seasonal changes, holidays, etc.  You’ll want to update your cover photo as well – cover photos, in case you’re interested in creating a custom image, are 851 px x 315 px for computers.  These dimensions differ depending on the device they are viewed and uploaded from, so if you’re interested in knowing more, read this.

Next, you’ll want to add your page to your favorites so that it’s easier find and update later.  Your page will later be easily accessed from the upper left side of your Facebook home page feed.

Finally, you’ll be asked who your preferred page audience is.  This will allow you to fill in information about the kinds of people you want seeing your page.  The page is viewable by anyone, however, using Facebook’s page suggestion feature, your page is more likely to be put in front of people who meet your location, age gender and interests as you’ve specified here.  We highly encourage this so don’t skip this step!

How to Setup a Business Page on Twitter

Twitter, while not quite as popular as Facebook, has a growing population of users – particularly younger folks who communicate with friends, celebrities, businesses – pretty much the entire world all on Twitter.  If you don’t already know, Twitter posts are no more than 140 characters in length and utilize the hashtag (#) to “tag” people, places, things (again, pretty much the entire world.)

This growing market is a great way to keep up with other businesses, share ideas, solicit for feedback – Twitter has a multitude of uses.  As important as it is to be on Facebook, it’s important to be on Twitter as well.

Don’t feel like you can get your message across in 140 characters or less?  Don’t want another social media site to update?  Well, we’ve got a solution for that.  First, let’s set you up a Twitter account…

Step 1: Go to Twitter and add your details in the boxes next to the “Welcome to Twitter. ” header.


Since you’re creating this one for your business, you will have to input your business name under the “Full Name” field. Then, type in your email and create a strong password.

Step 2: After clicking on the “Sign up for Twitter” button, you will then be redirected to a page where you can choose your username.


You must be very careful when choosing your username, which is also referred to as your Twitter handle. Although you can change it later, it may be more difficult later to come up with a name that is both unique and meaningful for your business.

Here are some tips in creating your Twitter handle:

  • Try to keep it short, but do not overly abbreviate your brand. Make sure it’s still easily recognizable. Make it easily findable (as easy as possible among the millions of Twitter users) and a name that a customer would be able to use to find you.
  • If the Twitter handle you like is taken, add identifiers like your location (USA) or the word “Official”.

Step 3: Your account is now created! After you click the “Let’s go” button, you may choose to go through the next steps, you’ll be asked a series of questions such as what your interests are, suggestions for Twitter users to follow and customizing options.

we're glad you're here - twitter

The last step will require you to confirm the email address you entered back on the sign-up page.  So…

Step 5: Verify your email!

confirm email-twitter

Once you’ve confirmed your email, you’ll also be asked to upload a profile and cover photo, as well as write a short biography of your company.  That’s it!

Now, remember how I said I had a solution to having to update both Facebook AND Twitter?  Well, here’s a little secret I’m going to let you in on…

To connect your Facebook Page to your new Twitter Account

      • Step 1:Go to www.facebook.com/twitter
      • Step 2:Select the page that you want to connect to your new Twitter account by clicking Link to Twitter.
      • Step 3:The page will redirect to Twitter’s authorization page.link to twitter
      • Step 4:Click Authorize app and Twitter will authorize Facebook to post on behalf of you to your Twitter account.  Twitter will then redirect back to your Facebook page management.
      • Step 5:Select the options that you want to post to Twitter via your Facebook page, then click Save Changes.

facebook-to-twitter options

That’s it!  You’re Facebook business page posts will now automatically post to Twitter as they get posted.  You do not even have to log in to Twitter to post!  How cool is that?  Of course, if you want to post directly from Twitter, you can always do that.  Your posts however, won’t be posted to your Facebook page automatically.These are just two of a multitude of social media options that are necessary for your business to be using.  If you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, I suggest you get on them, TODAY!

How to Keep Your Designer Happy – AND Get the Results You Want

pulling hair out

I think we’ve all seen (or been party to) the negativity surrounding clients and the things they do that drive designers to madness.  However, do they really know HOW to keep their designer happy?  Do they just need some instruction to help make their designer’s life easier and happier, without sacrificing their own needs and ideas?  Yes, there’s a fine line (sometimes) between what a client wants and what is going to drive a creative professional crazy, however, I think it’s just a matter of laying it all out there, so that your client/designer relationship isn’t strained.


1. Specify your parameters BEFORE the project starts.

Nothing (well, almost nothing) is more frustrating to a designer than having are customer ask for a masterpiece without knowing or defining what they are looking for – that is, for example, saying something like “I’d like a new logo, but I don’t know what I want.  Can you create something?”  Absolutely.  Will it be what you’re looking for?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Without having some basic information (colors used, general concept, look, feel, etc.), we can’t meet your needs and thus, you won’t get the results you want.  Always do some brainstorming (you don’t have to know everything) on your end BEFORE employing your designer.  Oh, and the time and iterations it takes to reach the final product will be less and fewer and thus, saving you money.

2. Don’t be wishy-washy.  Conversely, don’t be too rigid either.

Decision making is tough.  It is. However, when it comes to pulling the trigger on something – coming up with a concept, writing content, finalizing a proof, whatever – don’t be afraid to make that decision.  In my years working as a designer, it becomes very frustrating when a customer, 3-4 proofs into a design, decides to go back to the beginning design and forget all the edits and versions made after it.  Frankly, it’s a waste of your time and your designer’s.  Be confident in your decisions, and, if going back to the first proof is the only option, know that you will likely have to pay for the time your designer spent modifying the initial design and understand that there could be some frustration coming back to you from your designer.  Just sayin’.

Conversely, don’t be so rigid as to not leave the designer any room to wiggle.  You hired a creative professional because THEY are the expert in design.  Yes, it’s perfectly ok to have ideas, but you ought to be flexible enough to see where and how your designer interprets them.  He or she could be seeing something you don’t or hadn’t thought of.  Keep an open mind and enjoy the creative process.

3. Don’t assume your designer will work for nothing.

Volumes could be written on this one.  Designers, just like doctors, lawyers…ok, bad example.  Designers are just like you – or anyone out there trying to make a living, doing what they love.  They’ve got to put food on the table (yes, designers eat too!) and support their families.  And, some even employ other designers!  Imagine that!  Point being, if the price tag seems a little high, sometimes it is, remember, it’s probably for good reason.  Quality work that gets results is going to cost more than anything cheap that takes no time to make or buy.  Treat your designer with the respect that you’d expect from your customers.

4. Respond timely with revisions and changes (preferably not Friday at 4:29 PM.)

It’s important to respond to your designer’s changes and modifications that YOU requested as quick as possible.  Now, that’s not that you have to drop everything and jump on it, but at least acknowledge them, perhaps even get a response back to your guy or gal that day.  We’re all busy folks and sometimes the work day gets away from us and we forget.  We do our best to get your work back to you as timely as we can, it’s equally important to get responses from you, either with approvals or with new changes.  Give your designer the courtesy that you’d expect from him or her and they’ll reciprocate.  And, for the love of God, don’t wait and sit on your changes only to submit them on a Friday at the end of the day right before the weekend, expecting to see something back before the close of business.  Always remember courtesy.

5. Group changes to make fewer proof rounds.

There’s pretty much no need of dragging out a project 5-6 rounds of proofing for minor text edits, corrections, punctuation, grammar and the like.  Whatever proofing needs to happen on your end should happen in the first one or two rounds.  And, if you’re designing by committee (God forbid), which is another topic for another time, get the committee together, meet, write down all the changes (eliminate similar or conflicting edits) and submit them in one exchange.  Also, don’t forward a string of emails that your designer will have to comb through to get your edits.  Organized proofing on both the designer’s and client’s part will only help the proofing process and save you money, especially if your designer charges for additional proofing rounds.

6. Allow adequate time for the initial design creation and proofing.

It’s important to realize that everything takes time.  Time for initial design creation, time for proofing, time for communicating with each other – there’s a lot of time that has to be figured into making a design masterpiece.  Give yourself some leeway.  Allow for 5 days (depending on your designer and their workload) for initial designing and proofing.  I even have some clients contact me to see what my workload is prior to giving me a new project, which I like.  It’s always good when a client understands that they are not the only customer we designers have.  And sometimes, emergencies happen and things get urgent, which is understandable.  In those cases, don’t be afraid to see (and be expected to pay) for a rush charge on top of the cost of your design.  Remember, our time is valuable too.  Procrastination is not your friend when time is of the essence.

7. Know what the purpose of your project is – who your target market is.

This is another one of those things that client’s just have to know before contracting a designer.  If you’re selling something, if you’re marketing to a certain group of people, you should be able to communicate that to your designer.  Your target market is the intended demographic, or group of people, that you’re specifically trying to reach through your marketing or design.  Why is this important to your designer?  Well, you wouldn’t design for baby boomers if you’re really trying to reach a millennial, right?  Are those two groups the same?  Not at all.  Always be aware of who your target market is so that you can save time and money with your designer by sending him or her in the right direction from the start.

8. Try to organize and create your own content.

This really goes without saying, but it’s important to state nonetheless.  Your content – your text, images, graphics, etc. – are yours and really should be gathered by you for your designer.  That said, if you need help with those things, plan on paying for a little more than just the design.  For many designers, writing may not be their forté.  If they have to write, or come up with a slogan for you, it may take more of their time than the actual design.  Additionally, searching for images on stock photography websites can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.  Often times, if I need to find images for clients, I give them the stock website that I commonly use and have them search and come up with images and graphics that they like.  Purchasing them (yes, stock photography is rarely ever free) is an extra cost and often gets passed on to the customer – but at least the customer is part of the process and can select the images that best represent their design.  Going back to #6 – this takes additional time and should be factored in to your time.

These are just some of the things that tend to drive designers up a tree.  If you follow some, or any, of these tips above, you should keep your designer’s hair from being pulled out at the root.  You may even find that by being a part of the process, you’ll gain an appreciation for your designer’s expertise and what they do for you.  You’ll probably also notice that by allowing your designer to spend time working efficiently and less stressed, your work will come out better, will get you the results that you want and, perhaps, even save you a little bit of cash.

The Website Makeover: Doing What You Should Have Done From the Start

In my experience as both a graphic and website designer and developer, I have seen A LOT of crap – stuff created by office secretaries or admins, cheap template driven layouts, horrible font and type choices and color combinations that would make you go blind.  And, what’s more, I’ve been asked to FIX these atrocities, or rather, in most cases, start over from scratch.

So what drives business owners and organizations to create such wrongs against all things holy and pure?  Mostly price, though misinformation and control certainly play a role as well.

What have I run into in my travels as a designer?  Well, here’s just a few things that stand out in my storied career:

The CSS Free Website

I think we’ve all seen them at one point or another – most of these sites are being run off the internet, much the way outlaws were run out of the wild west, however, some real gems still exist.  They usually sport a white background and blue hyperlinks to navigate throughout the site.  They feature, well, very little to be exact.  Navigation is nearly absent throughout the entire website, if you can even call it that.  Yep, one of these was surely created by a dabbler – a dabbler you say?  Yes, a dabbler.  Someone who knows enough to be dangerous with HTML but not enough to be an expert – i.e. one who dabbles.

On the other side of this type of website is the CSS Mary-Mother-of-God-Make-It-Stop Website – someone that clearly knows how to use CSS to change, well, just about everything.  All at once.  Blinking.  Blinding color combinations.  Whoever builds such a masterpiece clearly knows how to use CSS, however, they must be completely blind.  Yup, another fine gem.  

As I said, these sites are quickly departing the interwebs, but once in a great while, if you’re unlucky, you’ll find one.

The State of the Art 20 Years Ago Website

Some websites aren’t all bad, in fact, some are very good – if it were 1995.  The websites I’m referencing now tend to feature ok navigation, some have white backgrounds and blue hyperlinks, but are just, well, blah.  That’s it, just blah.  

Dynamic functionality?  Bells and whistles?  Not with these masterpieces.  In fact, these sites often feature very few images and graphics?  Why?  They were built in the infancy of the internet.  Probably by Al Gore.

The We Had a Designer But He Stopped Doing It Website

These are by far the worst that I have encountered in my career as a designer.  They’re quiet.  Unassuming.  However, a few moments with the backend of one of these and your worst nightmares will come true.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving – and not in a good way.  Web designers and developers have a way of working, a method to the madness – chaos in their organization that only they understand.  Nothing makes sense.  The code works, kind of, and nothing is commented.  There are broken links abound, half finish pages and built in God knows what kind of text editing program.

Normally these types of “projects” are quite underestimated both by the client and by the designer and really cannot be adequately analyzed for pricing until you’ve already set the bar, only to exceed it in blood, sweat and tears.  Yes, be wary of these rare beasts for they are not for the designer feint of heart.

The We Don’t Know What We Want Website

This is another cluster of hell that should be avoided at all costs.  There’s nothing worse than a business or organization that can’t make up their minds on what they want their website to do.  

“We want this feature.  And that feature.  And we just thought it would be cool if you could do this…”

These projects tend to be underquoted, under budgeted, underestimated and just about every other part of a business deal that could be “under.”  Many an hour, oh, hell, many a day, week or month has been lost to the myriad of whims that a client has given in search of what they want – which they don’t know, but know when they see it.

And how do I cater to all these different folks?  

Figure out what the client has currently – and how I can make it better.  If they’re stuck with a website from the late nineties, I suggest a more progressive site with some bells and whistles.  If the client is constantly changing their minds on what features they want and are using trial and error to develop their site?  Well, a little patience and a lot of wine goes a long way towards creating a final product that the client can agree upon.

The bottom line on many of these atrocities above is that with some education and the right information, these situations – these elephants – can be easily lifted off the back of the business owner.   Do it right the first time – sure, it’ll cost more up front, but the payback will come after when your business is booming all because you took the time to do things right.

Oh and if you have one of the websites described in detail above?  My condolences to you – contact me and we’ll get you on the path to success.

Some Common Misconceptions About Websites and Web Designers

I’ve probably covered this before, but since I think there’s always room to correct some of the common misconceptions about websites and the folks who design them, I think it’s worth touching on again.  There’s a lot of info out there – some good, some bad, and some very ugly – with regard to websites and getting them designed professionally.  Because, let’s face it – everyone is looking to save a buck or two.  No one wants to pay more than they have to and if it means getting everything done themselves, online, without ever talking to a human being, most folks will take it.

I’m here to say that it may not be in your best interests to go entirely with an online service that really doesn’t know your business and what’s more, could care less, as long as you pay them a monthly fee.  But, first of all, let’s get some facts straight.

1. Printed media and websites – can they match?
The quick answer is yes – and no.  It depends really one where and how you’ve created either your printed media (say business cards) or your website.  If you’ve gone and created business cards, on say Vista Print or some other online printer using their templates and designs, and then want to match to a website that you’re having a designer create, the answer is no – no they cannot match – UNLESS you pay an exorbitant fee to get the printer to release the artwork to you.  The same is true vice versa.  You can, however, if you have either a professional designer or the online printer, have one or the other create both your printed media and your website.  However, a word of caution regarding using an online service such as Vista Print:  you cannot switch printers or website hosts if you find a better deal elsewhere or decide to switch.  Meaning, quite simply, you do not own the website or the design.

2. Professional Website Design is Too Expensive.
Another common misconception about using a professional designer to develop your website is that professional website development is expensive.  And, to that I say, yes, it can be.  However, that is not the norm.  Many designers out there, DPi Graphics included, offer website design at reasonable rates and prices.  Depending upon what you want and how big you want your site to be, you could get decent sized website designed and developed for $500 or less.  $500?  Reasonable?  Yes, it is.  I will tell you why.  A website is an investment – it’s your first chance to make a good impression to any would be clients and customers.  Much the same way you wouldn’t choose a car because it was the cheapest on the lot, you shouldn’t necessarily let price dictate your business needs.  If it costs a little more to create the online presence you want, so be it.  But, certainly, $500 for a business owner shouldn’t be too out of range in the general scheme of things.

3. Using a Developer is Difficult and Takes Too Long.
Some say that web developers are difficult to deal with, that they have the personality of a wet sock and a host of other non-endearing traits.  And to that, I say, some may be like that.  I think you’ll find however that most developers and designers have a good sense of humor and are very personable.  Sure, they may not always speak on a level that everyone can understand, but they’re not ogres.  Finding the one that works for you, however, may be a challenge.  Much the same way you wouldn’t choose a car (I like the car analogy) arbitrarily without comparing it with others, you need to do some homework.  Though a developer may be really good at what they do, they may not “get” your vision or they may not be the opportunity for the relationship you need with your designer.

The other thing is, people say that professional design takes too long.  Yes, it’s not immediate.  I could go on any one of a bunch of template based sites and launch a site in minutes, but that’s really not what this is about.  Anything worth doing is worth doing well – launching a site just to have “something up there” isn’t doing you or your business any favors.  It’s not.  In fact, having something just “up there” is bound to negatively affect your business rather than being necessary asset it needs to be.  So, yes, take the time – it shouldn’t take longer than a few weeks for a small site or it could take longer for a website with more extensive programming.  But take the time.  Be a part of the process.  It’ll show in the final product when it’s done and that will show your clients and customers that you’re the real deal.

4.  I Have a Facebook Page, That’s Good Enough…Right?
Wrong.  A Facebook page is a feather in your cap, ’tis true but what about those without Facebook accounts?  There’s a limited amount of customization you can do with any social media – be it Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc – these media sources are meant to be supplements to your already established online presence.  Long story short, social media should not replace having an actual website.

5.  My Secretary/Admin/Significant Other/Friend is Designing/Developing My Website.
Great.  I hope they’re well versed in web design.  The point here is, yes, someone can learn how to edit a page.  You can even learn how to style a paragraph or some text.  However, does your “development” person know all the little nuances of web design?  Are they testing your website in multiple browsers on multiple platforms?  If not, you could be in for some unpleasant surprises.  Some clients may not be able to accurately view your website.  Others may be able to view it  but it may not look right or how you intended.  Having a working knowledge of web development is great – I applaud anyone who wants to learn.  And, everyday maintenance is easy to learn.  Learning how to develop pages from scratch so that it represents a well thought out vision is entirely different.  If you’re in this situation, you probably ought to, at the very least, consult a professional developer.

Here are just five or many misconceptions about websites.  The point is, your website is important.  It shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought, a non-essential part of your business, or something that can afford to be “good enough.”  If you’re not sure that what you’re doing is right with your website, contact a professional designer – DPi Graphics is always willing to consult with anyone about their website and suggest the best solutions for you and your business.  Whether we created the site or not, we’ll give you a plan of action on how to make your site better or how to maintain it so that it attracts and keeps the customers and clients you want.

Why Custom Developed Websites Have an Edge on Theme Based Websites

The need for an online presence in today’s business world couldn’t be greater – and with it, the need to stand out – be unique – so that customers and clients choose you – over a competitor.  Yet, even though the need to be different and stand out is first and foremost, many small businesses and organizations turn to theme-based website design, either through and online service or web host.  And, while theme-based websites have their place on the web, they perform a disservice to their customers – a disservice that can be costly when it comes to having a unique presence on the web.

You may be saying, “Well, that’s all fine and good, but I can’t afford a custom built website.”  Hogwash.  It’s more affordable than you think.  A custom built website can be affordable and at least in the case of DPi Graphics, a custom built site can cost as little as $600.00.  You’re now probably saying, “But I don’t have $600 to spend on my website.”  You may not.  But, consider this – your website is your first line of attack – your first impression – to many of today’s consumers.  In much the same way you would present yourself to clients and customers to sell your products, you would want to look, act and speak your best.  You would want to stand out and be different.  Otherwise, what the sense of selling your product?  Why should someone choose you over someone else?  The same needs to be considered with your website.  It needs to represent you well – in your virtual absence – look good and most of all, stand out and be unique.

Many businesses employ their administrative assistants and other support staff to be in charge of their website and its content.  And, if your website has a content management system in place, that may be ok.  If not, these businesses are again, doing themselves a disservice.  By employing an admin, someone who is probably already too busy in their role, or other person, to manage the website and its content, ultimately, you’d be taking time away from your business – whether it be providing support, filling orders, responding to customers, what have you – to have that person make updates to a website that is not their primary responsibility, and in many cases, the website looks mismanaged, neglected and poor.

There are many online services and web hosts that offer theme based designs for websites – as long as you purchase their service.  Many of these are proprietary, meaning if you decide to go somewhere else to a different host, let’s say, you’ll need to abandon your design.  There’s no back up off the server.  Additionally, these theme layouts are just that – a theme.  If you want to add a feature to your site that isn’t part of the theme?  Too bad, so sorry.  Point being – theme based websites often offer a huge lack of customization options.  If it isn’t part of the theme, it’s not part of your website.  

You may say, “Right now, the theme based design works for me and my business.”  Great.  I’m glad it is.  However, what happens when your needs change?  When the business changes?  When you grow?  Well, now, you’re stuck with the same design you started with.  Oh, sure, you could change themes but would that really meet your changing needs?  Not really.  Complacency is the disease we all tend to suffer from, and, well, if it aint broke, don’t fix it.

So now that I’ve told you everything that is bad about theme based design and DIY web design, let me enlighten you on the right way, or at least, better alternatives to the cheapest alternative.

Custom web design, as I’ve said, is affordable – it really is.  And, the money you’ll invest in a custom built site will come back to you – in some cases three-fold.  When we redesigned the website for Chestnut Hill Counseling Associates, their site was in bad need of assistance – white background throughout the site, blue links and no page interlinking.  We went through the site, found a color scheme that worked for them, and a layout, and began to build the site based around their needs and requirements and what they wanted to see.  After some time, we had the site built and ready to go online.  Once approved and online, within a week, CHCA began receiving inquiries through the site – new patients and clients, and continues to get many of their clientele through the contact form on their website.  A custom design can make a huge difference – and if your site currently has a white background, blue links and no page linking, you may need an overhaul as well.

Contrary to some of the horror stories you may have heard, dealing with website designers and developers is not difficult, at least not with this designer.  It’s a very simple process really, when you come right down to it.  You tell us what you want, and we make it.  But, that’s the way business works.  And, doing business that way, well, it’s just good business.

If you’re lucky and do some research, you’ll find a web development company that offers package pricing for websites.  By package pricing, we mean a flat rate that encompasses the value of your website – pages, graphics and programming.  Depending on the amount of programming involved, you may incur more charges, but for the most part, most of the work done on your site is covered under the package price.  And, again if you’re lucky, you can find a website package that’ll fit your needs for $1000 or less.

So, there you have it.  Bottom line – theme based websites have a home on the web, just not your business website’s home.

6 Expected Web Design Trends for 2013

Web design is constantly changing – as technology develops and new devices and methods of rendering websites emerge, the need for website design to change is imperative.  Every year, web design experts make their predictions for what will be trendy for the coming year.  Some of these trends are based off of past history and emerging trends while others are solely based on the need for comprehensive design for the myriad of devices out on the market.  Below, I’ve outlined six trends that are expected to be big in 2013 – a reminder, these are only expected and should not be considered law.

Trend #1: Responsive Design

A website is said to be “responsive” if it looks good at any resolution, on any device.  This is an emerging trend that has become increasingly more and more important with the popularity of smart phones, tablets and other devices.  This is, in fact, the next big thing.  If your website is optimized with a  responsive design, chances are your customers will find your site easier, find it easy to navigate on any device, and will look great wherever and whenever it’s searched for on the internet.

Trend #2: Typography

Typography has been an emerging trend in website design for the past few years and this year is no exception.  More attention is being paid to typography to stand by itself rather than being prettied up by beautiful pictures or graphics.  Without a good grasp on typography, your site will look bland and amateurish.  After all, your visitors to your website will get the information about your business through your use (or lack thereof ) of typography.  Bottom line: use typography to your advantage.  Don’t treat it like a red-headed step-child.

Trend #3 & 4: Scrolling – Vertical and Parallax

Scrolling is an important part of navigating any website – whether on a computer, tablet or phone.  The ease of doing so, however, may be obscured on some devices because too much scrolling in different directions.  For example, some sites feature both vertical and horizontal scrolling.   Given the nature of mobile devices, it’s easiest to only scroll vertically.  Unless it adds something to your website, axe the horizontal scrolling.  Make your site user friendly and mobile friendly, your visitors will thank you for it.

That was Trend #3.  Trend #4 is pretty funky.  Parallax scrolling is scrolling where a sense of depth is created when the user scrolls by making some objects (and the background ) scroll at different rates, thus giving a layered and cool parallax effect.  Remarkably, there are already a lot of sites out there that use parallax scrolling.  It’s new, it’s cool and it’s trendy.  However, parallax scrolling requires some planning on the site owner’s part before its implementation.  Parallax scrolling for the sake of being trendy isn’t such a great idea, especially when no thought has been put into it.

Trend #5: Large Buttons

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Jeff, what does big buttons have to do with being trendy?”  I’ll tell you.  Large buttons make it easy for a user to navigate a site especially on a mobile device.  Large buttons may seem a bit academic in terms of design, however, it’s predicted to be  a huge necessity with the emergence of phone and tablet internet surfing.  One drawback is that buttons require graphics – and graphics require extra time to load on the page.  While it’s not a huge problem, graphics could play a role in making this trend not last long.  However, its practical uses far outweigh its disadvantages.

Trend #6:  Social Integration

If you’re not on some social network already, you must be living under a rock.  In fact, if you’re reading this, you’re taking part in social networking, in some way.  The point is – your site needs to be networked and by networking, I’m not referring to a bunch of CAT5 running from the wall to your computer.  We’re talking Facebook.  And Twitter.  How about LinkedIn?  Youtube?  Flickr?  There  are so many social networks out there that you could spend days learning about each one.  Social integration has become necessary and is nearly a requirement for doing business in the 21st century.  So, get on, get connected.

That’s it.  Six predictions that I think (and the experts too ) that will be huge in 2013.  Look for them on the sites you visit.

New Site Launch: Schroeder Associates Therapy

DPi Graphics has launched yet another website for one of our clients – this time for a therapist office in Rockville, CT.  Liz Norman, office manager at Schroeder Associates Therapy, contacted us earlier this year about redesigning and developing their website.  They were then using a service that allowed therapy offices, such as theirs, to seemingly easily publish and maintain a website online. This service offered “cookie cutter”, theme-based websites featuring minimal customization. While this may have been a good arrangement when their site was first launched, Schroeder Associates Therapy now required more from their site, something that just wasn’t feasible with their web service.

That’s when they contacted us.  We worked with them throughout this past year, developing a site that would meet their needs and be easy to maintain.  The consistent theme throughout the project is “balance”, a motif we strove to incorporate into the whole website.  Schroeder Associates decided on a blue colored website, something consistent with their ocean-related imagery that appears on several pages of the site.  The site features contact forms and even an appointment request form where visitors, and potential clients, can submit a request for an appointment with a therapist.  The clean and easy navigation makes it easy for virtually any visitor to find what they need on the site quickly, another requirement for our client.

The site can be found at http://www.schroederassociatestherapy.com