Perspective, tips, and insight

Articles to help you improve your digital marketing

How will social networking help my business?

Clients have been asking about social networking. They ask: "Can you create me a page on Facebook?", "How will social networking help my business?" and one client even asked for training on how to get started with social networking. In order to better help my clients, I did a little research...

What is Social Networking?
Social networking is the grouping of individuals into specific groups, like small rural communities or a neighborhood subdivision. Social networking websites function like an online community of Internet users. Depending on the website in question, many of these online community members share a common interest such as hobbies, religion, or politics. Once you are granted access to a social networking website you can begin to socialize. This socialization may include reading the profile pages of other members and possibly even contacting them.


Why Use Social Networking for your Business?
While many people regard social networking tools as a fun diversion, some companies are leveraging them to accomplish goals, such as increasing their visibility, helping constituents find jobs, and raising awareness about time-sensitive issues. Social networking sites have been the rage of the tech industry for more than a year. Following investments by Microsoft and News Corp., the companies are valued in the billions of dollars and are considered blueprints for how to build a website.

Yet a deeper question lingers: How are they going to consistently produce profits to match their soaring valuations? Social networks present an enormous opportunity — maybe the biggest in tech since e-mail. The sites have simplified and amplified connections between people online, creating a thriving ecosystem of small programs that let friends interact through games, greetings, video clips and more.

Social networks are the latest iteration of the Web economy. But unlike e-commerce sites and search engines, they offer a more intimate setting for friends to share information. It is also conceivable that social networking, like e-mail, will never make piles of cash, but will be a new way of communicating. Where services such as Friendster,, MySpace, and Facebook have been successful bringing friends, singles, and groups together based on affinity and mutual interests, business-networking services are now offering a parallel experience in the professional world.

This use of online, friend/associate-based networking will prove to be one of the most valuable business tools the Internet has yet provided, says Michael Jones, President of Userplane. Often, the key to using a business network successfully involves the creation of your personal friends — or business connections — group. The registration process is similar across the various social networking websites.

Overview of a Couple Business Related Social Networking Sites
  • LinkedIn, a Job Search Engine with a Social Networking Twist Unlike many of the best-known social networking sites, LinkedIn focuses primarily on creating and maintaining professional contacts. You can use the site to touch base with former coworkers and classmates, find people employed in the nonprofit sector, and obtain professional references.

    The site, currently boasting 5.5 million users, supports the creation of groups, and has a dedicated category for nonprofits. LinkedIn offers plenty of resources for hiring employees, consultants, or service providers. What it doesn't offer are discussions or forums, so if you're looking to chat or talk about a specific topic, you'll have to do that via email or instant messaging or using a different social networking application.

    For more information, read 10 Ways to Use LinkedIn by Mario Sundar
  • Smaller Indiana, Local Online Community making Offline Connections Smaller Indiana makes creative people and innovative ideas easier to find. This is the place for you to share your ideas and engage with Indiana's most creative and inspired souls...working together to build community, culture and commerce. The biggest distinction from other social networks, like MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn, is that Smaller Indiana is local.
Join TBH Creative's social networks
View Tatum Hindman on LinkedIn

Get more visitors to your web site - Part 1

If you build it, they will come. This is NOT correct in regards to a web site. Consider the millions of web sites on the Internet that you are competing with... Don't be discouraged, there are many things you can do to increase your hits and visitors. I'm going to give a few suggestions here and start by offering a few things you can do for free.
  1. Put your web site address in the signature of your emails. This way every email you send is a small advertisement with link to your web site. This applies to any other marketing you do including business cards, flyers, magazine ads, etc. Surprisingly, many companies pay big money for an advertisement in a magazine and forget to include their web site.
  2. Define your keywords and use them in your page content. What will visitors be searching for to find you? Determine these 'keywords' and adjust your page verbiage to include these words. Do not overuse them or 'stuff' them on the pages, but use them as they flow with your message.
  3. Get started with social networking. Social networking is free and easy. It's a free promotion for yourself. Link to your web site and tell about your speciality or service. A few good networks to get started are LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, Smaller Indiana, and Twitter. More information about Facebook Marketing.
  4. Add a title to your web site and each page if appropriate. Google will search your web site and read your title for relevancy against the keywords being searched by users. Note: The "TITLE" is what appears at the very top of your browser window. For this blog, the title is "TBH Creative Blog - Indianapolis Web Design"
  5. Submit your site to search engines. This is easy and takes just a few minutes. Many submissions are free and will help your site to come up in search results.
  6. Code your web site with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for layout. Table based layout is an old technique and should be updated to CSS layout. CSS layout offers cleaner code which is quicker and easier for Google to search, faster load time, and makes for easier edits. Learn more about table vs. CSS layout and the advantages.
Check back soon or subscribe to this blog for more search engine optimization and web site marketing tips. Learn more about TBH Creative.

Who to hire for your web site project

There are so many choices of who to hire for your web site project. There are advantages and disadvantages to the different options, so the real question is figuring out what is best for you or your company. Let's take a look at some of the different people you could hire.

Local Web Companies: Companies in your area are a good solution if you need all sorts of different components in a web site or if you need someone to develop your online strategy from beginning to end. In this route, they are going to tell you what you need and be able to provide the full package. The cost will reflect this high level of service.

I recommend talking with past clients of the company to learn more about their process and reputation. Use the Internet to find these companies. Simply search your location with "web site design" (e.g. Indianapolis, Indiana web site design).

Freelancers: A professional web freelancer can provide a very high level of service, but is likely going to specialize in certain areas and not in others. It is not common that they may have worked for a big-name web firm and decided to go out on their own. They are probably really good at what they do.

The downfall is that there is so much to know in web development these days, most freelancers will not be able to offer all aspects that you might need without bringing in other resources. If they have good partners for those other resources, it might work out perfectly, just make sure they honest about what they are good at and not good at. You can always find another freelancer to fill in a gap.

A freelancer is going to be more cost effective than a large company. Again, a freelancer can be a great solution, just be willing to pull in other freelancers to fill in various roles of the project. Again, I recommend before hiring a freelancer is to check references and look at their portfolio.

College Students: Technology is on the rise and there is great talent in student work. The big advantage with student work is cost because a student will likely build you a site very inexpensively. The downfall in most cases is that they are just learning and probably don't understand the whole picture of goals, search engine optimization, accessibility, and even all of the options out there. On the other hand, they have many resources in other students and professors to turn to for guidance.

A student is a good solution for a first web site and/or if you are willing to offer direction throughout the project.

Marketing Firms: From my experience, marketing or public relation firms are often in charge of web projects and typically partner with web developers or have a small staff devoted to web sites. They help guide and manage the project, as well as help with online strategy. If you need further marketing and public relations help, marketing firms might be your answer. A caution might be to make sure they partner with a good web site source and don't just do them as an add-on to what they are really good at (marketing/pr).

Why not do it yourself? Unless you are a graphic designer with technology skills or a online guru who "gets" technology, I recommend that you not consider creating a web site yourself. The greatest reason is the same one that causes you to use a plumber to redo the kitchen faucet: experts do a better job than amateurs. Your web site is a representation of your company and you want it to be professional and include the best practices.

There are some very smart people out there who might be able to put something together, but the reality is that people who do this for a living can produce better end-results than someone trying to figure it out along the way.

Professional web designers spend their days creating web sites, building pages, optimizing graphics for fast delivery, thinking about site architecture for online-information, and keeping up on the never-ending array of new products, services, and design styles that appear online. Many of us spend our evenings and time "off" sharpening our skills too. Good web designers live and breathe web design.

Read another good article about doing it yourself versus hiring a professional.

Whomever you choose for your web site, TBH Creative recommends looking at the candidates' portfolios and making sure the project scope is clear.

4 things to look for in a web designer

By Tatum Bree Hindman
Copyright 2008

Developing and designing a web site can be a stressful process, especially for the first time. Technology and options are endless and ever-changing. In this article, I hope to give you an overview of how to choose a good web designer and provide some advice to get started.

What to Look For in a Web Designer

1) Creativity.
The designer's portfolio will say a lot about creativity and design variety. Do you see things you hadn't thought about? A creative designer will come up with solutions that make average pages look inviting and arrange graphics in ways that interest the user. All designers should have a portfolio to show off their work.

2) Understanding of the big picture.
Does the designer design around your goals and audience? The answer should be YES. 'Cool' might be impressive, but alone, very cool won't win business. Design, movement, and special graphics should be created to attract users to specific areas of your site that are important.

3) Understanding of Technology.
A good designer should understand how technology works with design. They do not have to be a technologist, but knowing how the database will connect, how Flash will effect search engine optimization, and how the images are compressed or used in CSS will significantly effect the end result.

4) Interest in your company and your online success.
A web designer should show an interest in your company. They should ask you about your goals, the company history, and even your preferences and ideas. They should be able to guide you, make recommendations, as well as listen to your concerns and ideas. A professional web designer should walk you through their project process and be able to explain technology and design trends so that you understand.

How to Get Started
Before you begin your web designer search, below are a few things to consider.

1) Decide on where you want to hire.
If you select a local design company, you will be able to meet in-person throughout the project. If that is important to you, then absolutely choose someone nearby. However, we live in a virtual world and it is very realistic to successfully complete a project without meeting in person these days. A web designer who has a good reputation or comes to you through a referral should not be overlooked if they are not located in your city. Make a decision based on your comfort level.

2) Locate possible companies to hire.
Ask around to other businesses (sometimes look at the bottom of a site for a "created by" link to the web company). A referral from someone you trust is worth a lot! Also, do some searching on the Internet or social networking sites liked LinkedIn. When a company comes up in the search results, check their web site and portfolio. If it looks bad, disregard the company because that is likely what you will get from them.

When reviewing portfolios, see if they have completed web sites similar to your needs in company size, functionality, and the kind of design you hoped for. Make a list of your favorite companies based on their work. As you visit each candidate's website portfolio, look for:
  • Design. Does each site look the same? Are you impressed? Does the style fit your needs?
  • Testimonials. Look for client comments or case studies. Do they show an aptitude at being flexible enough to work with different industries? Ideally, client testimonials include full names, which means they're not trying to hide anything. Web designers without some sort of portfolio or client list are either bad or lazy; either way, they're not for you.
  • Contact info. Fill out an online form or make a phone call. Does someone respond to you quickly? Oftentimes, web companies will ask you to fill out a form to get you thinking about your needs and an idea of the size of your project. Make notes of how quickly you receive a response. This is likely how you will be treated as a client. When you do hear back, set a time to talk on the phone as a starting point and even meet in person after a brief phone call. A qualified and professional web designer will be willing to talk with you in detail about your needs. This can take 1 hour or several meetings to get a clear picture depending on your needs. You should receive a proposal within 1 week after this "discovery" discussion.
3) Gather proposals. Get a few proposals and compare. Don't be afraid to ask questions, for adjustments in the scope, or clarification on the terms. Be open to breaking your project into manageable phases. This way you can assess if the relationship is working out before committing to a 1 year project. Last, go with your instincts from reviewing the portfolio, references, and the initial meeting.

About The Author
Tatum Bree Hindman is the owner of TBH Creative LLC, an Indianapolis, Indiana Web Design company. TBH Creative specializes in strategic, user-focused website design to meet client goals.

TBH Creative knows web design and offers full-service solutions.

Why won't my Flash video (.flv) play online?

Web Developers: Have you uploaded a Flash video file and it won't play on the live site? It works locally on your computer, but not on the site.

Don't spend a bunch of time checking your code! You likely just need to set a MIME type for the file to play on the server. I have had this issue a few times with clients (each on various hosting providers) and made the correction by simply adding the MIME type.

Many hosting providers will offer this within their "admin control panel" or you can specify MIME type via IIS. The MIME type that should be added for Flash video is: video/x-flv The file extension is: .flv

To add Flash video MIME type in IIS, here are instructions:
1) Select the site to configure in IIS, right click and select "Properties"
2) Under HTTP Headers Tab, select "File Types"
> under the MIME Map section >select "New Type"
3) Type ".flv" as the associated extension and "video/x-flv" as the content type.
4) Select "OK" and check the site.

It should be working right away.

Good luck with your project!

How often should a company or organization redesign their web site?

This question does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. Unfortunately, it varies based on several things.

First of all, we suggest to our clients during the web site creation process that making routine changes is imperative to keep information fresh and attract return users. If things are designed and tools built into the site initially, then a site's effectiveness should last longer. Reviewing web site statistics quarterly or more is also a good idea to point out obvious changes and ways to make the site better without a complete "re-do".

Now, with that said, design trends, technology, and browsers change. It is important to keep your web site visually up to date. There is not magic number to how often design trends change, but they do. No matter how much you loved your site 5 years ago, it is likely not taking advantage of the newest ways to display information and graphic styles. However, when a web site is properly coded, swapping design elements may not require a major overhaul. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) allow design changes in a systematic way.

On the other hand, design preferences also change over time. The company president may have changed and the new president wants different colors. Goals may also shift and as such, the web site design should be adjusted to meet those needs.

Re-design is a big process, but it is exciting and allows companies to make their online presence better and improve things learned from development of their current site.

Before jumping into a redesign, TBH Creative suggests the following process:
  1. Evaluate your current web site. What elements do you like and why? - If nothing, then it is definitely time to change. - If there are things you still like, evaluate if small changes can be made around them.
  2. Look at other web sites that you find effective. Why do you like these sites? Why are they appealing? Then, think about if your current site offers the same things. Keep a list.
  3. Look at the work and portfolio samples of companies you are considering hiring to help with the redesign. This is a good idea of what your next site might look like, so be sure you like what their style.
As a general guideline, about every 3-5 years design styles change on the Internet. So, if it is time for your web site redesign, we make the following recommendations.
Good luck on your new web site. If you are looking for a company to assist with your redesign, please contact TBH Creative for a proposal.

An evaluation of a fresh web statistic tool

There are so many different web statistics out there today. I have AW Stats on my web site for free with my web hosting. I also have Google Analytics set up to track trends. Both are good reports.

Last year, I was referred to a fresh and new tool for web site tracking called Crazy Egg. The reports they offer are different because they provide data visually instead of hard to read graphs and tables. For example, do you want to know where on your web page users are clicking? Not what link(s) were clicked, but where exactly on the page.

Crazy Egg calls this report "Confetti". See a sample from my site in 2007:

Another good view they offer: "Heat Map" A picture of where people clicked on your site. This tells you what’s hot and what’s not, so you can make changes that matter.

How does this work? It's simple. Choose a plan and enter your URL. Then, paste one line of javascript on your page and let the tracking begin.

If you need help evaluating your web site and web trends or want to make improvements to your web design based on statistics, contact TBH Creative today!

Principles of Effective Web Design

What makes a web site effective? Is it design, verbiage, site architecture, graphics, element arrangement? TBH Creative believes it is a combination of all of these elements. In addition, it is an evaluation of your users and preparing a web site that meets their needs visually with an appropriate display of features, information and functionality.

An article titled "10 principles of effective web design" by Smashing Magazine does a great job discussing principles to effective web sites. I have highlighted the key points below, but encourage you to check out the full article.

Usability and the utility, not the visual design, determine the success or failure of a web-site. Since the visitor of the page is the only person who clicks the mouse and therefore decides everything, user-centric design has become a standard approach for successful and profit-oriented web design. After all, if users can’t use a feature, it might as well not exist.

How do users think?
  • Users appreciate quality and credibility.
  • Users don’t read, they scan.
  • Web users are impatient and insist on instant gratification.
  • Users don’t make optimal choices.
  • Users follow their intuition.
  • Users want to have control.
Here are the rules:
  1. Don’t make users think According to Krug’s first law of usability, the web-page should be obvious and self-explanatory. When you’re creating a site, your job is to get rid of the question marks — the decisions users need to make consciously, considering pros, cons and alternatives.
  2. Don’t squander users’ patience As Ryan Singer — the developer of the 37Signals team — states, users would probably be eager to provide an email address if they were asked for it after they’d seen the feature work, so they had some idea of what they were going to get in return.
  3. Manage to focus users’ attention The human eye is a highly non-linear device, and web-users can instantly recognize edges, patterns and motions. This is why video-based advertisements are extremely annoying and distracting, but from the marketing perspective they perfectly do the job of capturing users’ attention.
  4. Strive for feature exposure Guidelines are extremely effective as they lead the visitors through the site content in a very simple and user-friendly way.
  5. Make use of effective writing As the Web is different from print, it’s necessary to adjust the writing style to users’ preferences and browsing habits. Writing should be adjusted to fit the medium.
  6. Strive for simplicity Even my dad always says "less is more"!
  7. Don’t be afraid of the white space White space helps to reduce the cognitive load for the visitors, but it makes it possible to perceive the information presented on the screen.
  8. Communicate effectively with a “visible language” Organize. Economize. Communicate.
  9. Conventions are our friends Follow users’ expectations — understand what they’re expecting from a site navigation, text structure, search placement etc. (see Nielsen’s Usability Alertbox for more information).
  10. Test early, test often This is an often overlooked component to many web sites, although very important. According to web usability expert, Steve Krug, testing one user is 100% better than testing none.
Want TBH Creative to help you create an effective web site? Contact us today to learn more about our web design services.

Which web site is better?

CommandShift3 is where websites do battle! Want to see a bunch of different web sites, see the best web sites, the worst, get yours evaluated, or vote on others? On CommandShift3, you are presented with the screenshots of two websites side by side. If you click the screenshot of the site you think looks best, the page reloads and you start all over again. It never ends.

Check out this site:

What is Web 2.0?

Everyday I explain to clients about Web 2.0 and why they should consider these techniques for their design or actually why I recommend Web 2.0 basics for their new web sites. The term Web 2.0 describes the prevailing style of web design or the current school of web design. In one word, Web 2.0 means simplicity.

HTML Email Width - How wide should it be?

This is a tough question because the answer depends on your audience and which email client they use. I build email newsletter for approx. 600 pixels based on past readings, and this topic recently came up again with a potential new client, so I decided to do a little research to see if this is still correct. Found a great article by Christopher Knight that looks into this question deeper and does some comparison (see below). I did some comparison of my own also of email newsletters that I receive (and did not create).
  • Westview Hospital's Healthplex Sport Club: 818 pixels (centered)
  • Carnival Cruise Sale Promotion: 600 pixels (centered)
  • Dreamweaver Day Spa (Christmas special): 602 pixels (centered)
  • Netflix: 607 pixels (centered)
  • Bloomingdales: 760 pixels (centered)
  • Veer: 590 pixels (left-justified)
  • Kodak Gallery: 610 pixels (left-justified)
If you are looking for a quick answer, here is the sum of it:
  • Anything under 620 pixels is "safer" than anything greater than that.
  • If you want to play it safe, shoot for anywhere between 500 to 600 pixels for your HTML fixed width newsletter.
  • What you don't want to do: Define an abnormally large width that will force your reader to horizontally scroll to read your email newsletter. This would be a big mistake.
Here's the article: How wide should an HTML newsletter be?
... Now, the more popular "Defined Width" setting: Defined Width means that you specified a specific width that your email newsletter will be, regardless as to email client, monitor size or screen resolution. The majority of my newsletters are defined width around 620 total pixels wide.

Let's look at some HTML ezines that I've received recently to see what they use for pixel width and whether they use left or center justification:
  • Andrea J. Lee in Creating What Matters uses 433 pixels wide (left justified)
  • Alexandria K. Brown, the EzineQueen uses 491 pixels wide (centered)
  • Sirius Satellite Radio uses 538 pixels wide (left-justified)
  • Christopher Guerriero of MaximizeYourMetabolism uses 557 pixels wide (centered)
  • Red Hot Copy (Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero) uses 595 pixels wide (centered)
  • Michael J. Katz's E-Newsletter uses 595 pixels wide (centered)
  • Gary Ryan Blair's The GoalsGuy Newsletter uses 628 pixels wide (centered)
  • eMarketer uses 790 pixels wide (centered)
Once you decide on the pixel size of width for your HTML email newsletter, the next decision is to LEFT justify or CENTER it. I left justify mine, but most folks CENTER them. Gut feel is that 70% of fixed width HTML newsletters are centered and 30% are left justified. This is personal preference.

What you don't want to do: Define an abnormally large width that will force your reader to horizontally scroll to read your email newsletter. This would be a big mistake.

Analysis on the above sampling of HTML fixed width newsletters:
Anything under 620 pixels is "safer" than anything greater than that. eMarketer takes a great risk with their 790 pixel ezine width and they are really making a statement: Our readers are early adopters and the technologic elite who can afford and have the larger monitors and higher screen resolutions to view our email newsletter.

If you want to play it safe, shoot for anywhere between 500 to 600 pixels for your HTML fixed width newsletter.

If you are considering re-evaluating or starting a email newsletter campaign, consider TBH Creative for assistance with design and even selecting a vendor based on your needs. Thanks for reading and hope this was helpful.

Should my web site be in Flash?

Adobe FlashAn extension on my post yesterday, I thought it might be good to provide some more information. I found this great article(An Evaluation of Flash on web sites. Article by Dimitrios Bendilas.) that gives an overview of what Flash is, problems of bad use, when Flash can be useful to enhance your web site, and explores a good solution for hybrid web sites with Flash pieces and HTML.


What is Flash? Adobe Flash is the standard for delivering high-impact, rich Web content. Designs, animation, and application user interfaces are deployed immediately across all browsers and platforms, attracting and engaging users with a rich Web experience. Flash allows web professionals to make more impressive and complex graphics with motion, sound and video.


We recommend not creating your site completely in Flash because it makes updates more difficult, is not good for search engine optimization, and there are simply better ways. For added interest on your web site, Flash can be added in pieces with a combination of other technology including basic HTML and CSS or XML.

If you hire TBH Creative for your web design project, we will sit down with you and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of Flash. It is in our best interest to develop a site that is powerful and effective to keep your business, so we will never recommend Flash for a greater profit. In fact, we typically discourage Flash unless there is value added from it.

An easy way to determine if your web site should be Flash

The Flash wave has hit again. Every few months, multiple clients ask for a Flash web site, and we discuss the pros/cons. As a supporter of search engine optimization (SEO), usability, and accessibility, I try to explain the disadvantages of a full Flash web site and encourage Flash pieces only with purpose.
Below is a funny graphic I found today to answer the question: Should I create a Flash web site?
Source: Google Cache
This was actually posted back in 2006 on Google Cache. The author says "As you can see, it gets pretty complicated, but hopefully you can apply this flash website flowchart the next time you are trying to decide whether or not you should create a flash web site."

Virus Alert! - Tell people you know

With Christmas fast approaching--be alert for an email with virus attachment on print. The subject line will be "UPS Paket NO3089767834" (yes, paket is mis-spelled)
Attention Virus Warning Service Update We have become aware there is a fraudulent email being sent that says it is coming from UPS and leads the reader to believe that a UPS shipment could not be delivered. The reader is advised to open an attachment reportedly containing a waybill for the shipment to be picked up. This email attachment contains a virus. We recommend that you do not open the attachment, but delete the email immediately. UPS may send official notification messages on occasion, but they rarely include attachments. If you receive a notification message that includes an attachment and are in doubt about its authenticity, please contact Please note that UPS takes its customer relationships very seriously, but cannot take responsibility for the unauthorized actions of third parties. Thank you for your attention.
This virus applied to FedEx also. Snopes confirms that it is real:

If you are in need of professional and reliable web site design services in Indianapolis, Indiana, contact TBH Creative.

A great tool for web site browser testing (Litmus)

A colleague of mine told me about the Litmus application a few months ago. It is an application to help make browser compatibility testing for web sites easier. I just came across his note again and am looking forward to trying it out. Has anyone reading this used the software?

What is Litmus? The advanced testing tool for web professionals.

Litmus says: We've felt the pain of getting website designs to work correctly across different browsers. Not to mention designing email newsletters that work on all email clients. Litmus makes compatibility testing easier.

Litmus is fast, reliable and affordable. How much is affordable? 1 day usage is $24, 1 month/1 user is $49, 1 month/10 users is $199. All unlimited.

Check out the Litmus blog for some company updates. See screenshots of the app

For web sites, the software tests: Windows browsers
  • Explorer 8.0 (Beta 2), 7.0, 6.0, 5.5 & 5.0
  • Firefox 3.0, 2.0, 1.5 & 1.0
  • Flock 1.1
  • Google Chrome 0.2
  • Netscape 9.0 & 7.2
  • Opera 9.5, 8.1 & 7.5
  • Safari 3.1
  • Sea Monkey 1.1
Mac OS X browsers
  • Camino 1.6 & 1.0
  • Safari 3.1 & 2.0
Linux browsers
  • Firefox 3.0 & 2.0
  • Konqueror 3.5
Apparently this software is also great for email newsletter testing which can be very challenging to properly test. This user thought it worked well. The Litmus application tests these email clients:
  • Outlook 2007
  • Outlook 2003
  • Outlook 2002/XP
  • Outlook 2000
  • Gmail
  • Hotmail
  • AOL Mail
  • Yahoo! Mail
Again, if anyone has experience with this software, please leave some comments.... otherwise, I'll write more of a review once I've used it a few times with clients.

Milestone Advisors - New web site launch

TBH Creative was hired by Milestone Advisors to launch their new and improved web site. They had their old web site for quite a while and it was set up via a template-based site builder called Homestead. The template site had limitations, and they wanted to take it up a notch.

TBH worked directly with the team, went through many options for a new design, added some interest that was not over-the-top, and improved their messaging.

The new site launched on 10/24/08:

Milestone Advisors provide executive-level services for business owners and entrepreneurs to help them solve complex financial and strategic issues that face their business.

Starting options TBH Creative provided during the web site design process:

A challenge during the project was a new company logo and change in colors 1 week before scheduled launch. Milestone wanted to add some warmth to the palette, so modified their original logo and developed a completely fresh color palette. TBH Creative quickly adjusted the necessary elements in the web design, updates graphics, and made sure the new logo worked well with the new web site.

Spellbound? Check your spelling in Firefox.

Firefox 2 and 3 now include built-in as-you-type spell checkers. It does not allow you to search a text field for misspellings though.

Most of us have experienced the frustration of pressing "submit" on a text input box while writing on the internet and noticing that we have spelled something wrong. A free, open source Firefox extension called "SpellBound" will solve this problem (for Firefox users).

It's a quick and easy install and when you type in text boxes, it will underline misspelled words in red as you type. I'm going to start blogging in Firefox now.

You will need Firefox for this if you don't already have it. Download for free at:

I heard about this tip from Chuck Wills of Mary E. Ober Foundation. Mary E. Ober Foundation desires to build partnerships with organizations that impact lives through loving and respectful relationships. By proper stewardship and investment of our resources, we assist their leadership in reaching the full potential of service to their clients, thereby meeting the local community’s needs.

Thanks Chuck!

Flash Full Screen Code

Need your Flash movie open at full screen? Put following FSCommand on first frame or in onLoad() event handler of movie: fscommand("fullscreen","1");

Web usability tips everyone should know

Website usability is oftentimes overlooked for preferences, cool tricks, or trying to fit too many things on a page. There are many important things to consider when designing or building a web site for best usability. Jacob Neilson, the usability expert, defines usability as:

What is usability?
Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word "usability" also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.

What is a robots.txt file?

Urged by a search engine expert colleague, Doug Karr of Compendium Blogware, I did some investing on the robot.txt file and how it could help SEO. Here's a good summary:

What is a robots.txt file?
Web site owners use the /robots.txt file to give instructions about their site to web robots; this is called The Robots Exclusion Protocol.

Doug also said to create a site map page and point to it from the robots file. This will help Google find new pages and index them accurately and timely.

What are Sitemaps?
Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling. In its simplest form, a Sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL (when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site) so that search engines can more intelligently crawl the site.

More info (source):

Doug says on his site about sitemaps: "This may be the most important thing you can do for your site!"

Thanks Doug for your advice.

Leo Brown Group Projects Complete

TBH Creative was hired by Leo Brown Group to develop a company brochure and design a mailer for a new development called Reagan Park. Check out the final designs below.

Mailer (cover):
Company Brochure (cover):

Lead Project Designer: Joy Olivia Miller
Joy is an award-winning designer based in Chicago, Illinois.

Who is Leo Brown Group? Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, Leo Brown Group is a privately-held healthcare real estate development and construction company with roots dating back to 1946.

About the Reagan Park ProjectReagan Park is a 25 acre health campus under development in Avon, Indiana, just west of Indianapolis. This Leo Brown Group project consists of an integrated retirement community with licensed Assisted Living, Independent Living and Memory Care units located amongst a park-like atmosphere that includes several walkways, paths, green spaces, gazebos, and a central water feature.

Want to know more about our brochure design process or see the full pieces? Contact us today.

How to see old web site designs

Curious what your company or another company's web site used to look like?

Check out this cool tool called the Internet Archive.

What is it? The Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.
It's not a perfect tool, but pretty cool.

New Launch of Bosma Enterprises Web site

TBH Creative would like to announce the launch of a new and improved Bosma Enterprises web site.

TBH Creative was hired to create a new design for Bosma, and prepared 2 unique options. The process started with discovery of all needs, reworking the site architecture, and review of various sites and branding materials.

The 2 web designs created and presented by TBH Creative appeared as below and were combined into the final selected web site design.

Option 1

Option 2

Who is Bosma Enterprises? Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, Bosma Enterprises is dedicated to empowering people who are blind or visually impaired by creating opportunities that lead to the achievement of each individual’s employment, economic, social, and self-determining goals.

Web Site Needs Evaluation

I worked on several new project proposals today from discussions earlier this week to evaluate what the client's needs are. I oftentimes get asked, how much will it cost for you to create a web site for my company? That is a tough question because it depends on what is needed. Defining the scope in order to offer an accurate estimate is step 1 on any project by TBH Creative.

I know from experience that each client is different and has unique needs. Trying to put a "web package" around your goals will end in an unsatisfied client or scope creep for the developer. So, I spend time evaluating client needs first. Sure, I might lose some of my time "discovering" a project or client, but at least I know what I'm getting into and so does the client. I hope this effort is part of the reason I have a high satisfaction rating with clients.

The most important questions I ask each client before engagement are below. There are quite a few more, but these are the ones that I base all decisions on. These questions are also ones that any marketing director or person in charge of managing a web project should also ask themselves too.

1) What are your web site goals? Common goals I hear are: to gain new business, to show expertise, and to establish company legitimacy. It is important to evaluate this before jumping in. Everything about your web site should point to these goals. Aesthetic and content decisions should be made based on these goals also.

2) Who is your primary and secondary audience? This is important to remember throughout the entire process. Designers, company owners, and marketing directors often think about what they like in a web site or what they think is important. Content and design should reflect what your target audience is looking for and the styles they prefer. As a designer (consultant), it's good to appeal to the client also, but always remember the end-user. For example, if the end user is an older generation, the text should be large, regardless of your preference or the client's preference for smaller text. If your users are looking for facts, give them to them... don't make them search or click 4 times.

3) What do you want to say? Has it been written? Do you have a general idea of site structure? I always recommend my clients to draft the base copy for the site based on ideas/structure we generate together. The client is be the expert on the subject, right? The verbiage doesn't have to be great in draft form, but a web editor can adjust and rework to make the verbiage flow better, easy to understand, and read clearly by an Internet user. It's important to remember that web writing is very different from any other medium. Therefore, the messages must be written differently for effectiveness too. Think about how you search and read web content -- quickly until you find what you need, right? Most people scan and read the important parts they were looking for.

As a guide, I recommend my favorite book on Usability: "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug. If you are interested, it is a quick read and I am sure it will help.

If you don't have Adobe Acrobat Writer, you can still create a PDF...

Many of my clients (especially non-for-profits) ask me to create a PDF for them. No problem, but they don't realize they can do this without Adobe Acrobat Standard software too. Below is the information I usually provide.

What is a PDF and why is it a good format for a web site document? A PDF (portable document format) file can be viewed, navigated, and printed from any computer regardless of the fonts or software programs used to create the original. It enables a document to be distributed on different systems while preserving the layout. To view a file in PDF format, you need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. Adobe Acrobat Standard and Adobe Acrobat Professional are the main programs used to create PDF files. These programs range in price from 300 to 500 dollars. However, if you simply need to convert files such as a word document, web page, or excel spreadsheet, this can be done for free. Below are links to programs and a website that allow you to complete such a task.

How can you create a PDF for your web site without the full software? At PDFonline you can upload a Word doc, Excel spreadsheet, HTML page, or JPG/GIF/TIFF image and get a PDF back. You can also upload an existing PDF and PDFOnline will email you an HTML version.
PrimoPDF and CutePDF are free programs for Windows that allows you to create PDF files from nearly any application.
Also, every program running in Mac OS X can create a PDF File from the print dialog window. Go to the File menu then Print (shortcut:command-p), but instead of clicking "Print" choose "Save as PDF." Then select the desired location and file name for the converted PDF file.

I hope this saves someone some trouble.

Are Flash web site good, bad, valuable, or what?

Flash is fun and can add excitement to a web site; however, in my opinion, Flash is most beneficial in small pieces and never for a whole site. In addition, a lot of interest can be added with Javascript, JQuery, CSS, and high quality graphics instead of Flash.

Over the years, however, I have done a couple full Flash sites (Shannon Connor Design & Hether Miles Photography -- these were for very creative businesses who wanted to show off their creativity and profiles more above anything else. All were done several years ago before the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) mania.

I am writing this post because lately I have been talking about Flash to a lot of clients. It is interesting because several months can pass with no one asking about Flash, and then all of a sudden multiple clients are asking! This post is an addition to my last post about the Balmoral Golf Club site which I have recommended be redone without Flash.

Below are my reasons and some idea of when Flash might be useful.

Disadvantages of Flash web sites:
- There is a load time which means your users (your clients) have to wait for information. The more information and photos you add to the Flash movie, the longer the load time.

- Flash is not good for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Do you want to appear at the top of Google listings? The text and keywords in your Flash movie are not read by Google and other search engines, and therefore are not helping you gain a top position!

- Flash is hard to update. If you do not have the source file, no developer can help you without starting from scratch. In addition, updates take longer because Flash movies are set up on a timeline with a lot of associated scripts to make them work.

- Most users really don't care about the fancy movement when they are trying to get information. A little bit of interest or movement is a good thing, but does it really help your end result?

Where might Flash be useful for a web site:

- When done properly, as a small piece of your web site.
(Example: Flash Gallery developed for Allan Burch Illustration)

- When you need a little extra something to make your site stand out above competitors.

- When used with XML scripts so that updates are easier. - For creative industries such as photography or web design because Flash shows creativity and visual appeal which helps prove your skill.

- Gaming or a special promotion (Example: Kids games created for Fundex Games)

So, if you think a Flash site is what you want, think about the goal of your web site. Do you want clients to sign up on your site? Do you want clients to call you? Do you want clients to read about your services? Or do you want to show off your creative skills? A yes answer to all but the last question probably means a Flash web site is not the best for you.

Other developers or clients, let me know what you think about Flash web sites or send me some samples of Flash sites done well. Thanks!

Work around for Z-index and Flash movies

Work around for Z-index and Flash movies
Having trouble with layering your elements when a Flash movie is involved?
I have run into this CSS issue a couple times and always need to look it up. Recently, I was working on a project for Balmoral Golf Club in Fishers, IN. They have a full Flash site, and it is not the greatest (no worries—I've told them this also, but they don't have enough budget right now to update the site). Even though they cannot do a full redesign, they need a couple small updates. Unfortunately though, they cannot provide the most recent Flash source files. What to do? My idea was to create a div that would overlap the Flash movie and display a box above the swf player.

Flash player for video

Need a Flash player for your video?

In working with a video expert to create a video for, we were stuck to find a good video player that would offer the controls we needed and stop the video from autoplaying. Since we would be posting the video on the web site home page, we needed it to start buffering right away, but hold the play until the user activated it.

Reduce spam from email addresses posted on your web site

If you post your email address on a website, you are likely to get an Inbox full of unsolicited email advertisements. What can you do?

Option 1
This tool protects email addresses by converting them into encrypted JavaScript code which hides the addresses from email-harvesting robots but still shows them to real people visiting the site.

Option 2
As another option, you can use this "scrambler" that turns the email address into its ASCII code equivalent.

If you want to improve your chances even more you can embed the ASCII code in JavaScript.

Web site Content

Web site content: How important is it?

In my opinion, web site content/verbiage is equally important to design, layout, and function. It is a combination of all of these elements that make the most successful site.

Even if your site looks great and functions well, if the information you provide has errors or is not informative and easy to understand, users will look elsewhere.

Below is a great article about web content from Tech Soup.

How to Create Web Content that Works

Main topics of the article include:

1. Develop Content Goals

2. Adhere to Best Practices for Web-Site Content

3. Engage and Organize Help

4. Provide Multiple Ways for Users to Locate Content

5. Test Your Site

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