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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, Match.com, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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: http://commandshift3.com/

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).

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.

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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.

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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 customerservice@ups.com. 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: http://www.snopes.com/computer/virus/ups.asp

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.

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.

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).

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. http://www.robotstxt.org/faq.html

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): Sitemaps.org

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.

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.

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.

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 DoorFly.com, 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.
http://www.golivecentral.com/pages/txttut/scramble.shtml

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 http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/webbuilding/page5937.cfm

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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