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.


Mar 01

No, most folks shouldn’t do their own design. Here’s why.

In a recent post titled Why aren’t you (really) good at graphic design? Seth Godin discusses why good design “Is as important as driving. But easier to learn and do, and requiring less talent.”

He throws designers a bone with, “…hire the very best in the world when you need a breakthrough. But you don’t have to pay for better-than-mediocre design. You can do it yourself.”

We have a rebuttal.  And we will preface it with a clear admission that we know we have nowhere near Seth’s level of acumen or expertise.  But we do have good heads on our shoulders and have been doing quite well for our clients and ourselves for many years now, so we feel we have a right to chime in.

Our sensitive side wants to go on about how his post “relegates design to an ultimately worthless skill because anyone could conceivably learn to do it” and thank Seth for setting us back even further as we try to earn graphic design the respect awarded long-standing practices.

Instead we will focus on the positive.  What Seth says is true but, using that same rational, you could make your own clothes, or paint your own car, or put a new roof on your house, or… well, you get the point.

What it comes down to is that if you really want to succeed, you should do what you do best and hire out the rest.  We didn’t invent this concept, but it makes sense and what’s more, it works.  You get more from your time and energies, and avoid a lot of frustration.

Most people really can’t create attention-grabbing design, or craft effective copy, or build a solid marketing plan, and that’s okay.  There are people who can do that for you.  It’s not necessary to take a DIY approach to every last aspect of your business.  Instead, exploit your strengths and get help with the rest.

Dec 10

Worst Buy

Here at the Studios we are, like any business, inundated with direct mail on a daily basis.  Most of it goes in the trash.  But from time to time, we’ll hold on to a piece if it seems particularly effective or memorable.  We have quite a collection, and it serves as a good source of ideas and inspiration.

We also take note of particularly bad mailings.  Case in point, we recently received a mailing from Best Buy for Business.  This is what the envelope looked like:

Because the exterior looked so low-budget, we initially thought a not-so-savvy company had—in an act of sheer brilliance—decided to call themselves “Best Buy.”  Hey, why not, it’s obviously a pretty good name.  Just ask Bust Buy.

But once we looked inside, we knew it was actually from Best Buy, the national chain.  Apparently, the company has no style guide, and no problem with staffers/franchisees/etc. sending horrible mailings that only serve to make Best Buy look…well, more like “Worst Buy.”

Here’s a look at the letter itself:

It actually came as a photocopy of what looked like a letter that had been (poorly) prepared with a typewriter.  There was no date or signature block.  The text was crooked on the page and contained only an oblique description of what Best Buy for Business actually is.

If the corporate business card and obligatory club card key chain had not been in the envelope, we would have suspected fraud, like one of those Namibian “please for help from an orphaned billionaire” spam e-mail messages we get from time to time.

Hey Best Buy, listen up: It’s called brand identity, and when you allow stuff like this to circulate, you’re basically giving up on it.  This kind of direct mail would be bad enough had it come from Zed’s Repair Shop.  From a nationwide technology retailer, it is unforgivable.

Aug 30

To tweet or not to tweet – that is the question, right?

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   Everyone’s talking about Twitter, and it seems like everyone is tweeting: friends, associates, even the Weather Channel make regular tweets about topics ranging from useful to downright silly.

So what should you do?  Take a look at the pros and cons, then decide for yourself.

• It’s pretty easy; at 140 characters per tweet you really can’t put too much time into it
• It makes it easy to stay in touch with clients
• It’s good brain exercise to figure out how to say something in 140 characters or less
• It’s good exposure for you and your company
• You’ll get to hear directly from clients, giving you valuable feedback

• People can see what you’re up to, even if – and sometimes especially if – you don’t want them to
• It can be too personal if you don’t keep the focus on your business
• It can be a security breach if you tweet the wrong information
• In all likelihood you will not get clients from tweeting, but will build brand awareness

But no matter what, don’t start tweeting just because it seems as though the whole world is giving updates on whether their teeth are brushed yet.  But definitely DO secure your name and your business name.  Even if you decide Twitter isn’t a good use of your time, that doesn’t mean someone else won’t!