Jan 19

Mobile Web Development with jQuery Mobile

Last night the Tampa Bay Mobile Development Meetup hosted a presentation on jQuery Mobile with speaker Raymond Camden. The presentation was given online but the group met at K-Force in Tampa and participated remotely.

JQuery Mobile is a fairly new HTML5-based user interface system that aims to simplify the process of designing and developing mobile websites and mobile apps for all popular devices. While it’s still a relatively new platform and has some slight performance issues to straighten out, all in all it is a very promising system.

One important point that was made, which was not specific to jQuery Mobile but rather about mobile websites in general was that redirecting mobile users to a mobile version of your website without offering any way for them to exit the mobile view and return to your main website is not a very user-friendly approach. In fact, it may make most sense to simply have a banner at the top of your main website that will appear for mobile users, giving them the option to view the mobile version of the website rather than just automatically redirecting them.

Anyway, overall it was a good presentation and a nice opportunity to expand our knowledge of ways to help our clients take their online business mobile in a streamlined way.

Jan 17

Mobile Website Design: Fad or Necessity?

A few posts back we talked about some advantages of redoing your website.  Today we’re going to look at mobile websites and answer the question:

“Do you really need a mobile website?”

The number of wireless subscribers in the U.S. is now estimated at around 322.9 million.   More importantly, data usage–an indicator that people are using their phones for web-related activity–has seen an 111% increase from the same period a year earlier.  (But don’t take my word for it, just spend some time driving around Tampa, Florida and it will become all too clear that mobile usage is on the rise!  Put down the phone and drive already, right?)

Is your website getting a significant amount of mobile traffic?

An easy way to find out is by setting up a Google Analytics account, which among other things shows you the percentage of your traffic that comes from mobile devices.  We can help you with this if you want to save time or need a crash course on how the analytics system works.

If you discover that you are getting a lot of traffic from mobile devices, or even if you currently aren’t but realize that in the future that’s bound to change, you need to ask yourself:

Is my current website mobile-friendly?

There are a few things to consider when answering this question.  First, how does the site look on a smart phone?  Does it “make sense” so to speak?  Is it easy or hard to navigate through the pages?  Is there a lot of Flash, which won’t even show up on most devices, including iPhones.  Second, what about the content?  Mobile users often come to your site specifically to do something rather quickly, such as find your phone number or get driving directions, look at your menu or make a quick purchase.  You may have content that works for people on PCs and laptops, but is generally irrelevant to mobile users.

A mobile version of your site or a separate mobile website?

Depends.  Some sites lend themselves well to mobile-versioning, which may include showing mobile users a slightly different design and hiding or revealing content depending on the type of device detected when a visitor accesses your site.  In other instances it may be less time consuming and smartest to just create a simple mobile version of your site to include the basic tasks mobile visitors may be interested in.

If you have a smart phone with a QR Reader app handy, scan the code below for an example of our own mobile website:

Scan for J Allan Studios Mobile Website

Bottom line, mobile is here to stay.  It’s definitely not a fad.  If your site is currently working well on mobile devices, you may not need to change a thing.  If that’s the case you’re probably better served putting your time and resources into some other pursuit, rather than worrying about mobile websites.  However, if you feel there’s room for improvement, give us a shout to discuss some easy, cost-effective mobile website solutions.

Jan 16

Website: Tampa Great for New Businesses

According to website Tampa a great place for new businesses.

According to Kiplinger website Tampa is a great city for new businesses. Having started a web design and marketing firm in Tampa myself, I would have to agree. According to Kiplinger:

Local government is particularly business-friendly, promising tax credits to businesses that locate in certain areas or work in one of a number of high-demand industries… Local nonprofits, such as the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, connect entrepreneurs with mentors and organize frequent conferences and networking events. Tampa’s small-business owners also benefit from the state’s lack of personal income tax and 5.5% corporate income tax. The city is a key player in the Startup America Partnership, a national initiative that has funneled more than $730 million to new businesses in Florida and six other states.

See the full article here

The article mentions wufoo.com, a website form creation company that is based in Tampa. There are countless other great businesses that have started in Tampa.  Both online ventures and brick and mortar businesses call Tampa home.  A good example is OSI Restaurant Partners, which owns Outback Steakhouse.

As a company that specializes in Tampa website design and web development, it’s great to be located in a place so conducive to start-ups. We really enjoy working with new businesses. We like helping them with web design, marketing, branding and overall marketing strategy. It’s rewarding to work with businesses that have real potential and then watch them grow and succeed over the years.

Viva Tampa Bay!

Jan 15

New Year, New Website Design

New Website Design!

Getting a new website can be a daunting task.  We know, we just redid our own website design and corporate identity.  However, as much work as the process involves, it really gives you a great opportunity to reassess what is and what is not working.

We’ve been doing website design and development in the Tampa Bay, Florida area for the past 7 years.  When we first started, things like content management systems, css best practices, and search engine optimization were fairly new concepts.  We found a system called DotNetNuke, which at the time offered our clients some real advantages that you couldn’t find with many other platforms.  We liked it, maybe a little too much in retrospect, and put all our eggs in one basket, so to speak.

Now, years later, DotNetNuke has been eclipsed by other content management systems in… well, basically all categories.  It is consistently slower, harder to use, and less search engine friendly than other systems, like Joomla, Drupal, and, our new personal favorite, WordPress.

After finally getting unstuck from the DotNetNuke website design rut that we’ve been in for far too long, we’ve come to embrace and excel in WordPress website development.  Our new website is in WordPress and we are now almost exclusively offering websites to clients here in the Tampa Bay Area in WordPress.

Why WordPress Website Design?

Simple, it’s faster, easiest for our clients to use, the most affordable to implement, and the best for search engines.

For example, we just redid a client’s website in WordPress and it now gets solid A scores from GTMetrix, a website that shows you how fast and efficiently your site loads, a crucial factor for search engine ranking (click here to see the report).   Not only that but it now takes them less than 5 minutes to log in and create a new page or blog post.  It’s super easy, and even kinda fun.  Plus there’s a great SEO plugin we use that walks them through optimizing new pages and posts for the search engines.  All in all, it’s a win.

So if you’re considering a new website design, please keep two things in mind.  First, it is a great opportunity to make sure you are doing things the right way, which will only help you in the long run.  Second, go with WordPress, you won’t be disappointed.  Contact us today if you’d like to discuss redoing your website design.

Dec 03

What can a colander tell us about web design?

The other day my wife brought home a fancy Michael Graves stainless steel colander she purchased to replace our our old plastic one that had been melted by… ahem, someone while cooking dinner the night before.  I have to admit, the colander looked really cool and definitely made a good first impression.

What can this colander tell us about good web design?

A week or so later, I needed to strain some steamed broccoli for a dish I was making.  After emptying the cooked broccoli into the new colander and letting it sit for a few minutes in the sink, I picked it up and poured the broccoli into a bowl of other ingredients I was mixing together.  The colander had a nice feel to it and the broccoli slid smoothly out — along with about a cup of water!

Upon further inspection I realized that the design of the colander, while definitely sleek and stylish, left an area at the bottom where a good deal of water pools rather than draining.

This is unacceptable.

The main purpose — the only purpose — of a colander is to drain liquid from something solid.  I could have forgiven a colander that was too heavy or one that had handles that were too small. But a colander that failed to do the primary thing it was purchased to do is just unforgivable, no matter how cool it looks.

So what does this have to do with web design?

Simple. Having a cool-looking website is only worthwhile if the site actually succeeds at doing the thing you want it to do, which is to convert your visitors into customers (or fans, subscribers, etc.). If it fails to do that, if the design inhibits that from happening, if all the creative bells and whistles actually interfere with what you want your visitor to do, then the company who created your site has done you a serious disservice.

And since your website is often directly linked to your livelihood, it’s infinitely less forgivable than the worthless “designer” colander sitting in my recycle bin.


Dec 02

Stop. Add something nice. Send.

Most of us live busy lives. When we are working we are often multitasking and under pressure to complete our current projects quickly. When we communicate with clients, vendors and colleages we often type our thoughts out and hit send without giving the message a second thought. However, taking a few moments to review your message and add something cordial and/or rephrase your thoughts in a friendly manner can go a long way. Consider this sentence.

Send me the images today.

If this is all you need to say in the email, fine. But taking a few seconds to change the message to something like this might be a good idea:

John, hi there. Can you please send me the images today. Thanks!

Seems like common sense, but I’m finding it to be increasingly uncommon these days. While that’s a trend I wish wasn’t happening, it does give you the opportunity to stand out.  It just takes a few seconds.

Friendly email

Dec 01

What’s up with the ellipsis?

I have a client who insists on using an ellipsis, for no apparent reason, at least once in every email she sends me.  At first I misunderstood what she was really trying to say and assumed she was impatient or implying “Um, come on… get it together!” (For example, “Hello…  I need the newsletter sent out today…”)  Now I realize it’s just her, let’s say, particular style of writing.


But perhaps we all have our own “ellipsis” of some sort.  Try to look at your email and other written correspondence with a new eye. Do you use some form of punctuation way too often? Do you capitalize constantly? Do you fail to capitalize anything? Do you use exclamation points when they are not necessary!? Do you add an extra question mark for no particular reason??

A simple tweak to your writing style could mean the difference between turning a potential business relationship off or relaying your message exactly as you intended.  Know what I mean…

Nov 30

The new project triangle of marketing and web development

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   I’m sure you’re familiar with the project triangle: fast, cheap, or good, where you have to pick two.  It’s fairly ubiquitous; heck, it even hung in Stump’s Supper Club when I worked there in college.

Project Triangle

But with good marketing and web development projects the conversation should be about rushed, inexpensive, and perfect instead.

Fast vs. rushed: All good marketers will get you what you need as fast as they can.  But if you need it yesterday, that’s an issue of rush services.

Cheap vs. inexpensive: Cheap isn’t a word you want associated with your marketing and web development.  But inexpensive – that’s different!  We all want what we need to be inexpensive.

Good vs. perfect: Again, good marketers and web developers will deliver good work all the time.  Perfect, on the other hand, takes your project to a higher level and consequently requires a higher level of service.

So there you have it, the new project triangle of marketing and web development – and graphic design, copywriting, resumes, and all other professional creative services.  Rushed, inexpensive, or perfect.  Which two are most important to you?

Oct 01

When push marketing isn’t so bad

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   I resisted starting Twitter and Facebook accounts for awhile, but now I’m on both and like them.  They are two small parts of the new social-media-as-marketing applications.  I like them so much because they represent an economical form of push marketing.

TV ads are traditional push: Show your stuff on TV and the right customers for you will respond.  Works great, but takes a big budget.

Guerilla marketing came in to save the bucks but took a lot of time and required you to do a lot of work to ferret out a few “good fit” customers and get them to listen to your message.  Not so fun.

Now social media combines the best of both – push marketing, but to the right people with less effort!  Don’t get me wrong; your messaging must be relevant and meaningful, which takes work.  But you just write it once, post it once, and watch people respond.  Love it!

Every day I get a new follower on Twitter, and who knows?  They – or someone they know – could become a client.

Just be careful what you post.  Before hitting “post” or “update,” think about who might see your words; realize that they will likely live on the Internet forever.

Sep 01

Working with web designers

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   A friend posted the webpage below on his Facebook page and I couldn’t resist using it as fodder for a blog post.  It’s called “If Architects Had to Work Like Web Designers,” and as you might imagine it’s a tongue-in-cheek look at the web project process.

We love our clients and love the work we do.  And we know there’s no way for anyone other than a web developer to know what goes into web development.  But I think it’s safe to say that it’s a fair bit more complicated than most clients know.

So, check out this webpage and see what many web developers wish they could say out loud.