Good Deed

By | web design, Work ethic | No Comments

Last Saturday, I was riding to lunch with some family, when I spotted a women in her stalled car in the street.  I was just deciding whether or not to get out and help when I saw another man show up and start pushing the car on his own.  Since I was riding in the passenger seat, it was easy for me to hop out and give the guy a hand.

ran-out-of-gas

P-push it real good.

At first I thought we were just going to push the car to the side of the road, but this guy doesn’t stop.  He keeps on pushing so I ask him where are we taking the car?  Then he tells me there’s a gas station down the road, past the stop sign about a half mile.  For a quick moment I consider telling him we should call a truck, but something inside me took it as a challenge.  Plus I didn’t want to look like a wimp, or leave this guy to push the car by himself.  Meanwhile my family had no idea what we were doing – suddenly I’m not in their car anymore and they have no idea where this guy and I are going.

So I start talking to my new good-Samaritan buddy and his name is Todd, he’s a Marine (no wonder this guy wants to push a car a half mile, he’s probably used to 120 degree weather while dodging grenades and bullets).  We chat with what breath we can spare, talking about the heat, family and what we do for a living.  Pretty soon we get to the gas station and a couple other guys help push the last hundred feet to get it to the pump.  Our families are there cheering, I shake Todd’s hand and before the woman can get out to thank us, we’re already back in our cars chugging water.

So what are the possible takeaways from this little adventure?

Maybe one takeaway would be effort – without it you go nowhere.  I think having a strong work ethic is getting harder to find these days.  Granted there is a lot of value in finding new and better ways to be efficient with your time, but sometimes you just have to put your shoulder to the grindstone and do the job.  When I’m designing a logo, trade-show booth, or website – there are lots of ways I can shorten my time, but there is a certain amount of effort that has to go into the job or else it doesn’t look finished.  You have to evolve the design to a finished state, otherwise it will just look like another template, cookie-cutter marketing piece that is easy to ignore.

Another takeaway might be planning or communication – as in like, have some!  Here we were just pushing a car, but not every problem can be handled with brute force and no plan.  With any project or challenge, you should have expectations and targets identified.  With a website you definitely need a plan, otherwise you will change your direction enough times to confuse the whole concept and it will be obvious.  We all know that ready, fire, aim is not the proper procedure.

But the takeaway that I’m going with is about helping others.  The whole rest of that Saturday I felt great because I helped someone.  My clients aren’t just a source of income, they are organizations with needs and goals and I want to see them succeed. When they do well, I do well and I’m proud of what we created together.

Also have AAA and fill up your tank.

What a Website Costs You

By | computer, design, html, performance, search rank, Strategy, web, web design | No Comments

Way back in high school, an economics teacher explained to me what an “opportunity cost” was, and it has always stuck with me…

The idea was simple enough – your decision to do something was as important as your decision NOT to do something.  For example, in 2008 you might have spent a $1,000 on a new flat screen television and felt satisfied with the choice.  Although, by doing that, you passed on the opportunity to buy Apple stock when it was $67 a share, and based on current values –- you would have over $9K now.  So in microeconomic theory, the TV cost you closer to $10K than $1K.

welker-dropped-pass

Eyes on the prize, Wes.

Likewise if your website sucks, it might be costing you some serious opportunities.

Maybe it’s just old
Let’s say your website is just really old but all the information is correct.  You can leave things the way they are but people are going to be turned off by it.  They might think you are cheap, or aren’t making enough income to afford a website update.  A huge amount of people these days use their mobile devices to browse the internet and do their research before hiring someone.  If your site isn’t mobile friendly, you’re going to alienate that business and then you have to hope they check you out later on when they are back at their desktop computer.

Can they reach you
A proper website has to be a two way street of communication where people can not only read the information you want to share but they should also be able to reach out to you and request contact.  That is the whole idea behind inbound marketing that’s being spearheaded by companies like Hubspot. They are using a completely new playbook when it comes to gathering leads, qualifying them and converting them into actual customers.  In the future I’ll write more about Hubspot and some of the amazing things they are doing.

How many are visiting
Google analytics can tell you things about your visitors you didn’t even know that you wanted to know. Do you know what a bounce rate is and what it can tell you about your content and its value? What about the most popular browser types and versions visiting your website?  Does your website display properly in all of those? What time of the year do you get the biggest spike in traffic and on what pages?  This service is free from Google and you can even set up alerts to help you keep track of the traffic your site is getting.

Know that it’s working
One of my clients is a food truck up in Los Angeles and they update their schedule weekly.  This update is complete with live map links that show their exact location in Google Maps.  Every week we update this calendar and they get huge spike in traffic that day and the next.  This isn’t just proof their website is working, it’s reinforcement to keep updating the site and menu so that folks have a  reason to come back.

The other day while I was getting my haircut, my barber told me doesn’t even have a website! He said he doesn’t have a website because it’s too expensive or difficult to maintain.  What about the thousands of people you can’t reach until they search for you?  What about the existing customer base that you could be emailing reminders and specials that they want to hear about and would be grateful to you for providing?  Personally I don’t need my barber to have a website because I know he does a great job, but there is an opportunity for him to put up some photos, write about the background and how cool his shop is.  From the street it just looks like a standard barber shop but inside he has tons of sports memorabilia and huge TV’s playing sports with nice comfortable chairs.  That content should go up on a site and ideally people should be able to book an appointment or find out what times he’s open.

To be a competitive business today you need good marketing materials and especially a healthy, current and living website that gets frequent updates.  If your site is too static, cookie-cutter, slow, old, buggy, simple or ugly than you have to make a change for the better.  The world is only going to keep communicating faster and if you don’t have a proper web presence, you might as well be invisible.

All Websites Are Ugly

By | print design, web design | No Comments

All websites are ugly, and cannot compare in quality to a professional graphic designed print  that was my opinion entering college around 1996 when I chose the path of graphic design over web design.

new-york-times-website-1996

Does your site look like this?

Few people at that time would argue otherwise.  The computer monitors were huge hulking cubes of glass and plastic that could only display fonts in low quality pixelation.  The websites of the late 90′s were weird and tedious.  They had animated little flashy GIF’s and horrible repeating backgrounds. The fonts were neon colors most of the time, and all the body text would be centered.  There seemed to be no stylistic rules, hierarchy or respected methods.

Of course print was better, thats what I was taught, it was intellectual, respected and proven.  You began your design process with thumbnails and sketches on paper.  Only once you had a good idea of your direction, did you go to the computer to build your design.  Graphic artists studied typography, design principals and color theory.  We collected paper samples, knowing that one day an important design would be completed by the perfect paper selection of Howard linen 80lb.

Let the radio shack nerds have the web design.

I think it was after the iMac came out that I started to notice a change in the web.  Somehow the graphics seemed better and the fonts looked decent too.  Now the modem was inside the machine, and there was even an option to use DSL instead of your phone line.  It occurred to me that web design was progressing along with the equipment, and why not?  Televisions got better through the years and perhaps this web stuff would progress to the point that it rivaled print design?  Nah, it was still way better to design for print, because you could put it in a persons hand and they could show it to others.  No one wants to go to a website, to stare at all that bad design.

It was tacky, distracting, and trapped in the computer.

Around 2006, I was sitting at home reflecting on a great day of print designing, and the evening news flashes a story about this new thing called the iPhone.  Everyone over the next few months starts talking about the apps, the camera and of course the built-in web browser.  A girl at my office was bragging about how she could buy clothing from the bar stool at happy hour.  And then I realize I got passed up, the web wasn’t just cool — it was relevant, necessary and about to start making some serious impact on the world.

I went to task and started to absorb all that I could regarding HTML, CSS,  Javascript and PHP.  I’ve found the web languages to be beautiful, fascinating, and I wish I had started sooner.  Being a designer that can code has some great benefits, but I think eventually it won’t be all that rare.

Since 2006 the mobile device market has exploded.  The screen resolution has gotten so good that ink and paper cannot compare.  Websites have video to dazzle and capture your attention for hours.  The cost to build a custom website has come way down too.  Thanks to services like WordPress, you don’t have to pay a dime if you don’t want to.  Everyday it’s becoming more viable to actually make your living off the internet blogging and selling ad space.  Companies like Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we communicate and it doesn’t show any sign of going back the way it was.

So here we are.  There are still a ton of ugly websites, but there is a creativity and quality alive on the web today that inspires me deeply.