Perspective, tips, and insight

Articles to help you improve your digital marketing

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: http://www.milestoneadvisors.net/

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).
http://spellbound.sourceforge.net/index

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: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/

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. 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.

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.

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