Perspective, tips, and insight

Articles to help you improve your digital marketing

Why WordPress is one of the best open-source CMS

WordPress was originally known and widely used for its free blogging system.  Now it is growing recognition for its free PHP CMS. Wordpress features include widgets, switchable themes, clean permalink structure, and can assign nested categories to articles allowing the client to show the same information on two pages while only edited in one article.  The user can also create a number of websites using only one installation of WordPress.

Best Things about Wordpress

The user community is the true strength of the Wordpress platform with millions of websites built on it. With that community comes a great amount of flexibility when looking to push the limits of what you want to do with the platform. It is very easy to find an answer to sometimes the most complex questions.

When it comes to design, Wordpress offers a ton of options -- you can either pick one of thousands of pre-made themes or design and customize your own.

New Features in Wordpress 3.0

  • An easier, customizable header image
  • Easier drag and drop navigation menu management including drop down menus
  • Design individual author templates
Six Revisions has listed a few more features in there WordPress 3.0 blog.

Wordpress Flaws

  • Wordpress is singular, not modular.You can have many templates, but a template applies to a single page. There is a giant content box where you can switch between WYSIWYG and HTML modes, but other then an Except box or a few custom fields, you don't have the ability to provide a user 5-6 different text area boxes they can add content to. (Note: Expression Engine allows for this but their template system is more challenging.) Wordpress makes it very easy to drop a new theme in and activate it.
  • A lot of people think that WordPress is free...  There are options that everyone wants to have on their own website, such as no advertisements, custom CSS, private users and additional storage space.  These options within Wordpress.com (hosted version) are NOT free. They are not very expensive -- each feature is sold for an annual fee. However, with Wordpress.org (self-hosted), you can do whatever you like without additional costs and customize all files as much as desired, completely free beyond your hosting vendors costs or extras.
  • Wordpress may be a security concern for some companies. One security issue within Wordpress was the ability to easily to hack into anyone's WordPress database because of the default username, "admin", that was given automatically to any WordPress account.  With WordPress 3.0, they have eliminated this security leak by having the user create a new username and then delete the "admin" username. 

    In addition, running open source of any kind could be a security risk for those who have a large amount of sensitive information online or prone to attack. For those - I suggest a hosted solution where source code is not available to the general public.

Is Wordpress right for you and your business?

To keep Wordpress simple, most of the complex functionality has been outsourced to third party developers/solutions - this may not be an option for larger companies looking for a complete solution or willing to deal with multiple vendors and integration limitations. 

Wordpress is great for most small and medium sized businesses who need a simple yet flexible CMS. Larger companies who have advanced needs will not find Wordpress to be sufficient enough without heavy modification. If you are specifically looking for complex user permissions and content access restrictions then you will run into limits without additional development or third party support.

Some sample sites that use WordPress

Summary

Wordpress is meant more as a blog engine, but can still be powerful as a CMS tool. It has come quite a way from its start as a pure blogging platform and can now handle content as effectively (and in some ways, better) than traditional CMS's.

Wordpress' flexibility appeals to the more advanced users while the interface is simple enough for the standard content contributor. Most who leave do so out of necessity - requiring a more advanced platform.

How to blog for your business

A journal? No. Corporate blogging is different. In a nutshell, the purpose of corporate blogging is to:
  1. Build your industry authority/expertise.
  2. Increase search engine ranking through recent, relevant and consistent content.
You have all this knowledge in your field, right? A blog offers a casual home to post some of this information in bits and pieces. Customers want to know more, they like to see your personality, and blog offers a place for this type of information. Users read and search for answers online in today's market -- this is where you should sell yourself and your business know-how.

In turn, Google likes recent and relevant content. The more you write and post, the more likely you are to appear in the search engine results. Over time, as you build content, you should see results.

Of course, there are tricks to the trade to make your posts most optimized for SEO or to build your audience. A few are listed below:
  1. Your blog post title is extremely important. This is what lures the visitor into the full post details. 
    • The title appears in more places than you might realize too (e.g. search engine ranking results, RSS feeds, social media threads, links).
    • With a business blog, you want to spend a some time and thought to craft your headlines so that they grab the attention of your audience and also attract search engine traffic you need to see results.
  2. Use lists, sub titles, easy to read content, and get to the point.
  3. Use photos and graphics to keep the interest level high. Diagrams are great for explaining things too.
  4. Incorporate links into your post that open in a new window to help link building and lead to related or expanded content.
  5. Your blog template should be strategically designed to have navigation links back to your site, your contact information, and a call to action. 
  6. End your post saying who you are and way of contact via link, phone or email.
More tips for new bloggers can be regularly found on this blogging blog.

One pitfall of corporate blogging that a lot of businesses get stuck on is creating the content. It is a regular commitment that someone on your team must spend time on or hire writers to help develop the needed content.
For example, if your industry is business furniture, write about new furniture pieces, why you like XYZ chair, or show off a newly designed client space. It should be easy and casual. Talk about relationships with your clients, your business philosophy, business challenges, why you are different or special in your industry -- the list goes on and on. Write about everyday things that happen in your business.

Good luck with your business blogging.

Web Design Trends for 2011

I read through this blog about 2010 trends in web design because I wanted to see how accurate it was for 2010. The blog was written in November 2009, a year ago from today! They listed 14 trends that would be featured in 2010 along with their main purpose.

After skimming through this article, I would say that everything was DEAD on. The only one I have to question is Interactive design through Flash. I still love Flash and feel that it could be implemented lightly in a site, but not as the WHOLE site. They did give an excellent example of a site that was built all in Flash, but the fact that people who do not have Flash cannot view it bothers me (e.g. iPad and mobile devices). AS another option, jQuery has jumped in and made a huge impact for people that still want to use animation.

After reading this article, I thought I would see what I could come up with for possible trends for 2011. I repeated a few of the 2010 trends, because they were good and will surely be used again in 2011. I used CSSElite and CSSDrive to sift through websites and check out the trends.

1. 3D Effect/Wrap around Boxes



I believe that this is becoming a trend because EVERYONE is talking about 3D. Video games are huge, the movie theater has 3D and now you can even buy a 3D tv for your home. So although we don't have a 3D computer screen, yet, we sure can design to make it SEEM 3D.

2. Hand Drawn Images/Cartoon Images



The website above is an example of the Cartoon Images. I've seen a lot of them in web design for 2010, and believe we will see more in 2011.

I did want to say one thing about this website sample above. I found this site on CSSDrive, I clicked on it believing that it was just a cartoon image website that looked pretty neat. As I went to the site, I realized that it is Flash. So although I don't think that entire websites should be made in Flash (because it's not accessible for everyone), this is one of the best Flash sites that I have seen AND the Flash wasn't made to make everything look fancy -- it's interactive. So I would say check this site out and have fun!


I feel that this trend is self explanatory. If you are an awesome artist or know someone who has artist talent, have them draw you something AWESOME to put on a website! This concept kind of puts a personal touch on a website, especially if it is a personal type of website because it shows the real you.

3. Black and White Icons/Buttons, On Hover become Color

Wooo, that was a mouthful, but with some examples it will become more clear.


This design trick adds an element of surprise for the user, which is always nice. I do believe it is becoming a trend. Even Blogger uses this trick with its social icons below each post.


4. Large Headers


Large, elaborate, exquisite headers. They're IN!

This is a trend used to capture the users interest. It takes the user on average 10 seconds (or less) to decide if they are going to stay on a website. This is where big headers come into place. They explain what that website is about, grabs the users attention, and it is the first thing that the user sees.

5. Typography


Typography is used to make a website more interesting. If used right (which is difficult if you don't know much about type), you can make a beautiful website. Using typography can also help a website look clean and neat. It hasn't been easy using different fonts for a websites actual font (I'm not talking about images that include font), but we now have Google Font Directory and websites like TypeKit. These sites allow web developers/designers to use new fonts on their website instead of the default fonts that have been around forever.

6. One Page Layout

I think that this goes two ways. In the blog for 2010, they gave an example of a website that had all of the information on it that was contained in the screens dimensions. I would say that this is definitely included in a trend, but I don't want to leave out the websites that have all of their content on one page, but still have a navigation that will take the user down to that certain content. To me, this is more of a trend than an actual one page layout.

I'll show the design from the other blog first and then the one that I picked to show the other type of one page layout.

and then....


If you click around on the navigation, the page moves from top to bottom showing you additional information. This is more of a trend to me then the first website I posted above.

7. Simple/Minimalism

Simple. Clean. Clear.

This trend is becoming more and more prominent because the user spends less and less time on a website. With a simple website, the user can read the first line on the page and know what the website is about. This is also useful for mobile phone, there isn't a lot of space to design so the trend has become white space, white space, white space, minimal design. This is effective when you have a small space and have to focus on just the main part of the website.

8. Big Footers

Big footers are still being used and to me are still considered a trend. Not only can you put additional information in them, but you can list all of your links. A site map that is on every page. Now the user doesn't have to find the site map link, they can just scroll to the bottom of each page. The big footer also leaves room for the designer to add a little interest to their page with some subtle design.

Those are the trends that I for see for 2011. Some trends have carried on through the years, but there are always new and exciting trends that pop up. I encourage readers to post any additional comments or trends that they think will show up in 2011.

~ Shannon

Dot Net Nuke Content Management System Reviewed (not to be confused with Duke Nukem)

DotNetNuke (DNN) is an open-source CMS using Microsoft .NET technology and MS SQL database that claims to offer no limits on design (called skins), great security, membership options which are all manageable through browser-based tools. In their Professional Edition, they have a view called layout where the customer can view the modules (content areas) on the page and move them to different areas of the page. We thought this was a really cool added bonus feature (very similar to what Blogger.com offers within their layout view as a blogging platform). They allow you to translate your site into any language, and they also have native support always available to help with any questions.


Best Features
  • Feature-Rich: customized through simple, browser-based tools (called modules)
  • Leading-Edge: technologies like ASP.NET, Visual Studio, SQL Server, Windows Server, and IIS
  • Flexible: supports multiple web sites from a single application
  • Localized: Multi-language localization to easily translate
Additional Features
  • Easy to Install
  • Easy to Use
  • Recognized
Flaws
A few drawbacks others have noted:
  • It is rather intense to implement (interesting, considering they suggest one of its benefits as 'easy to install')
  • The application takes up a lot of server resources
  • Figuring it all out has a steep learning curve (typical for most CMS, but I wouldn't advise anyone to start on the web with DNN)
  • Documentation that hasn’t been updated for almost three years
Cost
DotNetNuke offers three editions: community, professional, and enterprise. The community edition is free, while the other two have special features that you do have to pay for. DotNetNuke asks you to contact them for more details and pricing. sales@dnncorp.com or (650) 288 - 3150. I did a little digging and contacted DotNetNuke, they did give me a price for the Professional Edition, which is $2,500 for one year. This package offers a commercial license, optimized for business-critical applications and online support from DotNetNuke Corp.

Duke Nukem NOT related to Dot Net Nuke
Sample Sites that use DotNetNuke
Summary
Overall, we think DotNetNuke is a good, open-source, Windows CMS. Here is an awesome blog from The Accidental Geek about getting started with DotNetNuke or take a tour (PDF).

On a separate note, I did contact DotNetNuke to ask if they had a live demo, like Umbraco and ExpressionEngine, that allowed the customer to see what the inside of system looks like and how it works. The response was that I could either install and set up a trail, or I could watch this webinar (which is over 50 minutes long). Although the video is not the greatest marketing piece or attractive sales pitch, I learned about some features that were not advertised on their site.
  • A Recycled Files folder, which contains pages and modules that have been deleted
  • Built in Google Analytics Feature
  • Workflow Management, example: content that needs to be approved before publishing
  • Mobile phone compatible, as far as they have seen
  • Controllable meta-data

I also asked them if they could answer a few questions for us, but they gave back vague answers which was disappointing.  I told them I was posting a blog about it, so I decided to show the exact questions and answers below.
  1. What specifically makes your system better than other CMS system available?
    DNN rep: It is very extensible, very widely deployed around the world and we have a large marketplace of third party extensions, snowcovered.com.
  2. How would you rate the learning curve for setting up and configuring a site with DotNetNuke?
    DNN rep: Not too bad, after DNN is installed, it is geared for the Non-Technical user.
    [ Some of the users linked above thought otherwise. ]
  3. What are the most common complaints that you receive about the software?
    DNN rep: Don't know.
  4. Can you provide some of the best or most well-known companies or websites using the software?
    DNN rep: I have attached a PowerPoint slide with some URLs.
    [ I listed a few of these above. ]
  5. What are your most well-received modules?
    DNN rep: They are all well received.
    [ With very little review, we identified one of their coolest features in our first statement above! Seems odd they couldn't brag about a few things... 'Everything is perfect and wonderful' is a very lame response. ]
I again or if anyone else could help to get more specific answers, especially on the "don't know" response, but received nothing more than a series of questions back to me about when I was going to purchase. In the end, if I were ready to purchase a new CMS, I would not go with them over Umbraco or Expression Engine simply based on these non-useful replies.

Traditional Marketing vs. Online Marketing Tactics

It is important to understand the difference between traditional marketing methods and new marketing tactics – and understand how they reach today’s customer. So many businesses are stuck in a routine of printed collateral and should be reallocated marketing dollars to online efforts for more success and return on investment.

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with traditional marketing tactics (brochures, radio, newspaper or magazine ads, etc.) -- they have their place and can be effective.

But the truth of the matter is that they are not as powerful as online marketing because audiences are different than they used to be. People are online, they are Facebook, and they read less newspapers and magazines. Traditional marketing efforts are simply not reaching the magnitude of people that online methods can. We want to read about companies, services and products in our pajamas, at night, and at our convenience...Or even get some of that info right in our phones via a Twitter or blog feed.
There are 1,630,625,048 Internet users around the world.
The majority will use the web to research businesses, products, or services that interest them.
Flaws of traditional marketing tactics.
  • Difficult to measure results and ROI.
  • Limited distribution.
  • Limited control and timely/costly to make changes.
Advantages of online marketing
  • No printing or postage costs.
  • Measurable results (Google Analytics).
  • Opportunity to reach unlimited clients, customers, partners anytime, anywhere.
  • Chance to present your business bigger and compete with the industry big companies.
  • Easy to make changes and oftentimes directly in your control. (Content Management System)
  • Growing and changing technology means opportunity to beat your competitors who cannot keep up with the times.
  • Quick and easy online payments via credit card. No sale people, no customer service, just click, click, sale, profit!!

Umbraco CMS: Features and Flaws

Umbraco is a free ASP.NET CMS that also allows you to create your own design and allows editing with an integrated WYSIWYG editor that is a lot like Microsoft Word.  It has over 85,000 active users/installations.

I would say the number one thing that I don’t like about Umbraco by just looking at their site is that they have a security hole in their installation. They mention it on their home page, but that would still deter myself from using their system, especially for any clients or businesses. I haven't had a chance to build a site with Umbraco, but I'll try my best to give a good summary review.

Best Features
  • JQuery Multi-level Navigation
  • Supports internal and external flash videos
  • Allows the client to post Tweets based on node publishing
Additional Features
  • multi-level galleries
  • e-commerce with PayPal
  • Current weather (which I thought was interesting)
  • widgets 
Flaws
From what I've been reading, Umbraco's biggest flaws seem to be "bugs". It looks like they have bugs with publishing and upgrading to the new V4. Umbraco does, however, have a bug fixing warranty on their products page. 

CostUmbraco is ultimately free, but you can pay for extra bundles that they offer which could cost up to $700 depending on what you want. 

Sample Sites that use Umbraco
Technical Details
Built on the .NET framework 2.0 with ASP.NET 2.0 and C#, Umbraco supports .NET Custom Control and .NET User Controls with very little change. Umbraco fully supports ASP.NET Ajax, ASP.NET Master Pages, and XSLT for generating dynamic lists.
 


Summary
Umbraco seems to offer a decent CMS, they just need to get their bugs under control. And they are working on it, but until then they have the bug warranty to make sure that the client is covered. It's simple and easy to use. If you would like to see how it works yourself, you can watch their 3 minute tour video on their home page. Umbraco will surely have a learning curve, which seems to be a trend so far with CMS, but here is a blog that contains a new user guide by BlogFodder! They also offer 80+ online training videos and a friendly community for support. And they will have a book out coming soon -- the book is scheduled for an early-2011 release to coincide with the v5 release of Umbraco. 


Great Features of ExpressionEngine CMS

ExpressionEngine is built with PHP and it has many great features. I have the most personal experience with ExpressionEngine, so thought I would start here in my evaluation of Content Management Systems.

ExpressionEngine allows you to create your own design, so you can create the website that you want. I really like the support system that it has including an extensive forum, video instructions, user guide, and professionals standing by to help you with any questions that you have.

(Templates - the back-end of the page)

(Edit - Choosing a previous blog to edit)
(Publish Form - Creating a new page! Or editing a current one)
Best Features
  • Power and Flexibility
  • No Design Compromises
  • Security and Stability
  • Support Included
Additional Features
They also have powerful add-ons (modules and plugins), great SEO and query tools, and strong security. ExpressionEngine uses templates, which set the backend of webpages. These will include all HTML and CSS code to display the design. ExpressionEngine also prides themselves on the fact that they have created a community, which includes separate websites for different issues so that a developer can find answers quickly.

Flaws
I would say that ExpressionEngine’s biggest flaw is that it is dynamic -- too dynamic. There are is definitely a learning curve, but if you want a powerful site, ExpressionEngine is for you! Just be ready to sit down and learn how to use it!  

Cost
ExpressionEngine is no longer a free system, though it has 3 different options you can buy depending on what the company would want in their website.  

Sample Sites that use ExpressionEngine
Sites I built using ExpressionEngine include: Robin On Location and NWUMC.  

Summary
Overall ExpressionEngine is a great and powerful system, I believe that it’s down fall is learning the system. Once you’ve learned the system, it’s easy to use, but you have to take the time to understand how it works as a developer and a company. ExpressionEngine just recently released their 2.0 version, which has gotten a lot of people excited. I am excited to work with the new system and update this review based on the new features. Some of the new features include running off of CodeIgniter, jQuery will be built in, new Control Panel, plus many more.

Read about the excitement in this article.

__________________________  

TBH Creative is a small and energetic website company in Indianapolis. We offer a custom developed content management system for flexibility, easy in-house maintenance, and robust functionality. Contact us today.

The power and pitfalls of Content Management Systems (a series)

Which CMS should you choose?
Learn about the pros/cons and see some samples.
Content Management Systems (CMS) have been around for a little over a decade. Over the past couple of years, they have become a “must have” for a website. A CMS is a software tool built with scripting language and a database that allows a company to control content, navigation, documents and more on their public website via a secure “backend” portal. With a CMS, companies can edit their public website without knowledge or training in HTML or CSS.

There are many Content Management Systems available -- ranging from freeware, costly software solutions requiring installation, and even custom software solutions developed by web design companies. All CMS's are developed a little differently, have various features included, as well as pros, cons and limitations. All in all, a good CMS can be quite beneficial to companies making routine edits to content on their website.

Our new web design Intern, Shannon, is going to examine various Content Management Systems to find the 'best' features and identify problems of popular CMS options. TBH Creative plans to use this information to better our own custom developed CMS and consider new features / options to add.

We plan to post an evaluation of a new CMS system each week for the next 6 weeks. So, if you need the 'skinny' on which CMS to choose, these posts will help give you answers. All in all, you want a CMS that has very few limitations and to find a web company that understands the system recommended and can customize it around your specific needs.

Good luck 'CMS'ing and stay tuned!

TBH Creative is a web design company in Indianapolis, Indiana offering a custom Content Management System solution for its clients.

Meet Shannon, Web Design Intern at TBH Creative

Shannon is the newest Web Intern at TBH Creative. She is fun, loves website design and code, and wants to learn as much as she can about Indianapolis website design. We hope to help her with that! Shannon wrote a little bit about herself below and will be contributing to our design blog over the next weeks with things she learns related to web design and web development.

Who is a Shannon you ask;
well I’ll let you in on some secrets.
Who is a Shannon you ask; well I’ll let you in on some secrets.

In addition to TBH Creative, I work at Starbucks on 15th and Capitol, containing one of the busiest drive-thrus in the nation, and I’m a web designer/developer at heart. Prior to TBH Creative, I’ve had enough time to complete two websites that I built with CMS through Expression Engine. The first website I designed was for my friend, Robin Wolf. She’s a photographer and she wanted something simple to show her work. The second website I built was for my father’s church, North West United Methodist Church. I graduated from Indiana University in 2009 with a Bachelors Degree in Informatics focusing in Fine Arts.

When I first started school I wanted to be a forensic scientist, but handling biology and chemistry at the same time was tough and I started to question if it was really what I wanted to do. So I went home for winter break to think about it and I found myself editing my LiveJournal (yes a LiveJournal and yes I liked it :]). I would do this for HOURS and I thought to myself, I have no idea what all of this code means and maybe I should learn this for a career. I’ve loved it ever since. I found myself learning about things that I didn’t think I would be learning like Flash, Dreamweaver, and Photoshop. The multimedia classes were my favorite because we were left to come up with whatever we wanted as a project concept.

My interest in web is definitely website design, but I’m not going to leave behind the development because once I have a design, I’m going to build it out and make sure it works the way I want it to. I have more experience with development than design right now because of my 2-year internship with eTapestry. Through my internship at TBH Creative, I’m hoping to expand my design skills and to better my development skills as well. I’m also looking forward to learning new upcoming techniques, such as Facebook/Twitter and design for Mobile phones. I really wanted to work here because it is a great opportunity to expand my design knowledge and gain real project experience. It’s important to me because I feel that during school and out of school I’ve learned a lot about code/development, but I haven’t been taught design skills! I know that functionality is important, but functionality is built upon an excellent design, which I think I am capable of.

One of my favorite websites is Carsonified.
I look at it often and though it has some flaws, the design aesthetic is everything that I am about: clean and simple design. Yes I think that the home page has a lot going on, and I don’t necessarily believe that they needed hover icons on their navigation. I really admire that they took 2 colors for each page and were successful in keeping them interesting and beautiful.

I plan to learn from and offer a lot to TBH Creative as I work as an intern.  I’ll deliver some clean and amazing designs, a little spunk, and of course some awesome code! Stay tuned for more from me about the things I am learning.

_________________________________

TBH Creative is a full service company offering web design in Indianapolis.

Hospital Record of Giving in 2009 -- $380,967,283

TBH Creative is proud to have designed and developed a website for the Sisters of St. Francis Health Services (SSFHS) community benefits report. The website serves as a 2009 record of their community giving, efforts, and dollars contributed. In 2009, the hospitals combined gave almost $381 million in health services to their respective communities across Indiana. Visit the site.

The website is a duplication of their site from 2008 with a few enhancements and upgrades.

Visit the 2009 SSFHS Community Benefits website
What an impressive and charitable organization!

About SSFHS
Sisters of St. Francis Health Services provides medical and other supplies, health care and other services, screenings, support groups, educational opportunities and presentations, monetary donations, and other sponsorships. Members from all of their organization contribute their time and skills and, in meaningful ways, touch many lives in their communities.

Four Trends to Unlocking Web Success for Small and Medium Size Businesses

It is time for a web site redesign, right? Your old web site lacks the punch, zip and energy you need to meet your marketing needs.

You’re not alone.

Small and medium size businesses across the country are taking a purposeful look at how they engage online as a means to enhancing their prospect engagement and, ultimately, sales efforts.

For most professional marketers that aren’t deeply in tune with digital marketing strategies, it might feel like an organic, evolutionary effort to re-visit your Web activities for improvement. However, there are several large trends that are driving a marketer’s sensibility:
  1. Storytelling
  2. Inbound Marketing
  3. Social Media
  4. Experience
Storytelling
We live in an age of information overload. There is simply too much of everything. The key to this from a marketing perspective is to provide context and a narrative – create a truthful story about you, and, most importantly, how your business helps people or other businesses.
Remember, every anecdote that we share with somebody in conversation has a beginning, middle and an end, usually with a point. This is storytelling at its base level; the story of your business should be no different and should incite recall and sharing anecdotally with a positive benefit.

Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing suggests that instead of a sales effort to identify prospects before applying an effort to convert them to a customer, companies should be present where there customers exist, creating value and service for them so they seek you out at time of need.

By analogy, instead of merely fishing in the lake, inbound marketing is about fishing at the right spot, at the right time, with the right bait. Sales then reels the fish in.

This is a flip of the role whereby marketing has existed to create sales opportunities by pushing. Now, marketing exists to provide customer value, often times to a greater degree than what is required for the sales effort. Savvy marketers are providing value with pull mechanisms.

Social Media
As an extension of storytelling and inbound marketing’s value creation where a customer lives, social media serves to create a one-to-one human connection where your customers and prospects exist online, across a number of different online properties – LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

Experience (or what I affectionately call “Oomph”)
It’s not enough to do the things listed above, everybody is doing this. The real key, the “secret sauce” if you will, is to provide something extra that entertains, delights, and engages your customers and prospects.

How you execute that “experience” is dependent largely on the blank canvas you have – and, it can be motion graphics, games, or advanced interactivity. Think “sizzle” and think about the positive feeling and impression you want to impart to a visitor of your web site. What can you do to have a prospect leave your site saying, “That’s a cool company.”

Why should you care?
These four trends (telling a story, creating value, being present online by pulling, and providing an experience) become very important to understand because in an age of digital connection before in-person human connection, your storytelling hook, your image online, your brand, and the content you create, as a matter of doing business, becomes paramount to success.

Simply, nowadays, if a prospect reaches out to you, you can be assured that they have already done enough research on your company to decide whether they want to work with you. A meeting is simply passing the “eyeball” test.
Alternatively, if you’re proactively selling new business with a team of salespeople, you can be assured that your prospect has drawn a deduction about you, your company, and your services based not on an initial meeting with you, but rather how you are presented online and if you’ve helped them at all at that point.

Nowadays, the old maxim about “first impressions are lasting impressions” does not mean YOU specifically, or the services of your organization, it means your brand image online and your firm’s engagement online.

You want to impact that as positively as possible, right? Of course you do.

Well, your web site is the hub for this and the engagement you offer from your web site via inbound marketing (value creation) efforts and social media serves to complement your hub. And, all of it should be with a bent towards experiential storytelling.

How to do this?
Well, having a great story to tell and a great web site is the place to start. TBH Creative can help you with that. And, a unified brand image across social media properties as an extension of your brand is important, too and TBH Creative can help you with that, as well.

However, when it comes to bringing your story and outreach efforts to life online, that’s where we come in. As a digital design studio that specializes in motion graphics (and as a partner with TBH Creative), we know that storytelling and an experience comes to life with motion and visual engagement.

Whether it be motion graphics in the header of your home page, or if your entire web site is based on interactivity and motion, your chances of presenting an excellent brand image at your web site, as a reinforcement of your story, as a complement to your value creation (inbound marketing) and your social media efforts, adds to the positive takeaway, bringing life to your organization, online.

The net result of following the mentioned four trends in online marketing will be an increase in energy, momentum and sales with your business. TBH Creative can lead you down the correct path and The Basement Design + Motion, in conjunction with TBH, can help add the sizzle that you need to stand out in a crowded and noisy business landscape.

Jeff Lefevere
Professional Internet Marketer
About the Author
A professional Internet marketer since 1996, Jeff Lefevere manages Client Services for The Basement Design + Motion (http://www.thebasement.tv/). Headquartered in Indianapolis and working regionally and nationally, The Basement Design+Motion, LLC defines, designs, develops, and deploys digital marketing that delivers - delivers on providing meaningful engagement and user experience that drives a response with its intended audience.

TBH Creative is proud to have a partner in The Basement Design + Motion. Contact us today to get your online sizzle!

Six surefire signs your website needs an upgrade.

Marketing managers or company owners may wonder if their website should be updated. The answer 95% of the time is yes. Even if your website is good, there is always room for improvement either directly on your website or through complimentary services such as email marketing, search engine optimization, or social media efforts. Successful websites are continually and routinely enhanced, changed and updated.

For this post, I examined obvious and must-need reasons to upgrade and update your website. If your website has the following problems, you need to upgrade now. Not tomorrow, not in a few months, but now because hundreds or thousands of visitors are (or could be) learning about your company each day.
  1. Information is inaccurate.
  2. You are embarrassed to send potential clients to your website.
  3. Visitors are interested, but cannot contact you via your website.
  4. Your website has broken links or error pages.
  5. Visitors cannot answer ‘who you are’ or ‘what you do’ after 10 seconds on your home page.
  6. Your website hasn’t been updated since it launched… over a year ago!
1. Information is inaccurate.
Outdated, incorrect or misleading information on your website will turn visitors away. This is a plain and simple fact; however is something that so many companies put on the back-burner to correct. Why is this on your backburner? Your website is a presentation of your company that continues to play all day and all night to hundreds or maybe thousands or millions of potential new clients.

Some typical examples of information problems on corporate websites include:
Your staff page shows incorrect employees.
  • Your services or products are outdated, a partial list of what you really do, or are missing photos and proper descriptions.
  • You have rebranded but the website still shows your old logo and colors. If your design is good and your website works well, do not forget about the information. These things all work together to help you achieve results.
2. You are embarrassed to send potential clients to your website.
I honestly hear this often and cannot express more how this is holding your company back from potential success. If you aren’t sending people to your website because it is not “up-to-par”, do not think for one minute your potential clients are not going there anyway and judging you. 

On the flip side, you may have a great salesman that closes the deal. That is great, but boy is he working hard! Why not double or triple his efforts (not to mention make his life easier) by putting your #1 marketing tool (your website) at the top of your priority list. Set a realistic timeline, find a website company who can help make it happen, and get it out there -- non-embarrassing style. You will be amazed at the what a web strategy can do.

3. Visitors are interested, but cannot contact you via your website.
Seriously, you spent all this money (or maybe you didn’t and that is part of the problem) and you have potential new clients on your website…but they cannot reach you, they do not know how to buy your products, or they have questions but no one is available to answer. What do most users do in this scenario? They click away. Quickly and without a second thought. You just lost potential business.

Your website should:
  • Have a clear call to action on each page.
  • Provide a phone number or an online form – that is easy and obvious to find. 
Another big mistake is to have a contact form, but it doesn’t work! You have now frustrated your user or made them believe someone will be contacting them (but in fact you aren’t sure who receives those messages – do they go off into cyberspace?).

Adding a call to action and clear method for contact is a fairly quick and easy addition to make that will have a significant impact to visitors on your website and for your company ROI.

4. Your website has broken links or error pages. If you were trying to impress a new client over a lunch, would you be late? Would you take them to Taco Bell or spring for something a bit nicer? Would you belch at the end of the meal? You surely answered no. Well, at least not on purpose, right? 


Broken links on your website are similar to the above. They leave a bad impression, do not show off your strengths, and are simply lazy.


Find and get those broken links fixed immediately!
5. Visitors cannot answer ‘who you are’ or ‘what you do’ after 10 seconds on your home page.
This puzzles me, but so many website simply do not state what they do or who they are right up front. Your website should not be a game or riddle for these basic questions. Everyone is busy and people use the Internet to find important information… quickly. If you do not say what you do, users will go somewhere else or leave your site wondering: “what?”.

A few examples: 
  • If you are business furniture store, show them some furniture. That is great that you are involved in the community and are a cool company, but tell them what you sell!
  • If you are a service company, show samples of your work or the products you work on. 
If you sell coffee, attract their senses with a steaming hot cup of coffee or coffee beans.
Do not leave your users guessing why they should be interested in your company. You are good at XYZ, so just answer the question: What do you do or who are you?

6. Your website hasn’t been updated (or thought about much) since it launched… over a year ago! 
If you launched your website a few months ago or over a year ago, your job is not done.  This was the thinking 5 years ago, but not anymore. Your website is not just a brochure. It is an interactive tool that is easy to change to reflect new ideas and directly speak to your customers. If you are not taking the lead, your competition is going to.

Are you measuring your website or online success? Do you know how your visitors are behaving on your beautiful new site? Are you directing people to your site and giving them a reason to come back? Creating a website is only step one.

The next steps you should plan on include ongoing analytics review, making changes based on user trends and company goals, and strategizing techniques on how to use your website as a tool to achieve results.

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If you need help with these items, TBH Creative is a website strategy company located in Indianapolis. We help companies realize and achieve their online potential. Contact us today for more information about our website services and recommendations for your corporate website. Indianapolis web design at http://www.tbhcreative.com/

Get your Sports Medicine online

Saint Anthony Medical Center's Sports Medicine Institute hired TBH Creative as a partner in their website project. The Sports center did not have a website (only one page on the main hospital site), and they wanted to have a place to highlight and inform visitors about all that SMI can offer.

TBH Creative helped SMI from start to finish. It took us a while to iron out the details and flush in the content, but we launched the new and exciting website on schedule for September 2010. The website and online strategy includes custom web design, content management system through their technology company, high energy video, email newsletter marketing, and social media through blogging, Twitter, and YouTube.

Check out the site
About Saint Anthony Sports Medicine Institute
Saint Anthony Sports Medicine Institute (SMI) offers comprehensive, structured programs in a supportive and competitive environment where athletes receive instruction in training methods and techniques that will lead to athletic and individual improvement. Our clients and athletes represent all ages from grade school to high school, college to professional, and adults

After launch, we received this glowing letter about our services:
First, I'd like to personally thank you for all of your hard work and patience during the last year during the build of the SMI Website.

I am certainly proud of that website and the effort it took to get it to look that outstanding. Actually, it's beautiful.  It represents SMI in a dignified, productive and technologically advanced design and layout. The more I look at it...the more I like it.

You're efforts are to be applauded and I can't thank you enough.
~ Eva Tokarz, Marketing & Communications
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About TBH Creative
TBH Creative is an Indianapolis web company offering full service solutions and web strategies to businesses. We help you build and design an outstanding website and then make it truly successful.

8 Web site Redesign Tips

Recommendations for your web site redesign:
  1. Don't use really trendy things that may go out of style.
  2. Ask about new technologies and try to incorporate them so that you'll be ahead of the game.
  3. Do your own research by looking at other web sites. Searching around is free and you'll be happy 1 year from now that you did.
  4. Look at competitor sites. Make a list of what they are doing right. What they did wrong.
  5. Think about the page organization, what you have to say, interactive tools, and other things you might like to include along with your web site redesign.
  6. Think about your audience and their needs. What can you do to make the site more attractive and useful to the end-user?
  7. Define your goals. A web site company can help you evaluate what needs to be done to reach these goals.
  8. Set a realistic budget. Good design, usability, content and functionality take time and expertise.
Contact TBH Creative and we will discuss your redesign goals and options. TBH Creative is a full service web site company in Indianapolis, Indiana -- redesigns are some of our favorite projects.

6 things your web company should and should not do

Your web site is a 24/7 representation of your company. If used correctly, it can be your greatest marketing tool. Finding the right web site company is important, and we recommend you build a partnership.

In addition to creating a fantastic web site design and highly functional web site, your web company should help you:
  1. Conduct research.
  2. Identify web site goals.
  3. Define the online audience.
  4. Develop a list of optimal keywords.
  5. Talk to you about options available.
  6. Discuss future plans for growth and enhancements.
None of this can be done properly based on little research, in a hurry or without all the options on the table. Don't hire a company that does not ask questions, understand your brand or goals, or doesn't bother to give you any detail about what they plan to do for your project and success.

Your web site firm, should NOT:
  1. Build your site and never talk to you again.
  2. Tell you that proper code is not important.
  3. Be slow to return your emails or phone calls.
  4. Be unwilling to discuss third party vendors that might suit your needs.
  5. Ignore your ideas.
  6. Make you feel intimidated or uncomfortable.
TBH Creative works hard to develop genuine partnerships with each of its clients. We continually offer recommendations for improvements that will help you achieve your online goals. Even after the initial project is complete, we will touch base often and make suggestions for future phases of improvement. It is our job to stay on top of the newest trends and cool features to keep you SUCCESSFUL.

TBH Creative is an Indianapolis web site firm committed to technology, best design, and all facets of web solutions. We work hard for our clients because we want to. Contact us today and we will start working on ideas for your new web site.

A video about the power of social media that everyone should watch

Did you know?
This video below is full of interesting facts showing the power of social media and how it is taking over the world of advertising. A few of the facts:
  • Americans have access to 1,000,000,000,000 web pages, 65,000 iPhone apps, 10,500 radio stations, 5,500 magazines, and 2,000 cable TV stations.
  • Newspaper circulation is down 7 million over the past 2 years BUT in the past 5 years, unique readers of online newspapers is up 30 million
  • Myspace, YouTube and Facebook collectively have 250 unique visitors each month (none of these sites existed 6 years ago!)


Video content by XPLANE, The Economist, Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod and Laura Bestler.
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Social media is taking over! Contact TBH Creative to develop your social media set up, plan and execution. TBH Creative is an Indianapolis web company offering full service web site solutions.

5 web design and usability quotes from the pros

“Going all the way to the edge is the only way to jolt the user into noticing what you’ve done. If they notice you, they’re one step closer to talking about you.”
— SETH GODIN

“To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master.”
— MILTON GLASER

“Designers can create normalcy out of chaos; they can clearly communicate ideas through the organizing and manipulating of words and pictures.”
— JEFFREY VEEN

“It's quite normal for e-commerce sites to increase sales by 100% or more as a result of usability. More important, they can probably avoid 9 of 10 returns by eliminating most mis-designed items (a 1000% improvement of the error rate metric).”
— JAKOB NIELSON

“Design to express, not to impress.”
— JOHN TANEDO
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TBH Creative is a web design company located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We wanted to share a few quotes that inspire us to create exceptional web sites.

New Information about Search Engine Rank Algorithm Changes

Google has made changes in their algorithm for how pages (and your web site) appear in the search engine results page (SERP). These changes are going to keep SEO marketers and web designers on their toes and make them rethink some of their tactics.


Some of the changes:

Fast Page Indexing - The indexing time required is down to about 15 minutes now when you use Google Webmaster Tools with a dynamic sitemap. This means that new, relevant and frequent content will make even more of an impact in search engine rankings.

Load Time - Google engineers have been talking for a while about including “load time” of a web page in the algorithm for results. Even more of a reason to make sure that your site loads quickly including proper image compression and optimized page elements.

This is bad news for Flash sites because they are slow loading - we have talked about the disadvantages of Flash in other posts. But even more so now, do not expect to rank high with sites developed in all Flash.

Age and Stability of Links - It will become very difficult to push up a pagerank in a short period of time with paid links because the new algorithm is taking into account the age of links. Links that are older with proven stability will make more effect on search results. If your SEO/SEM plan includes link buying, be sure you  purchase for a time frame of at least 8-12 months. Of course, naturally building links is even better!

All in all, your SEO results will see the biggest increase from consistent and relevant content additions. High quality content offers an organic way to build back links as well.

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TBH Creative is determined to stay on-top of search engine optimization techniques and the changes in popular search engines such as Google. Your web site ranking is important to your success and therefore important to us too. Contact us today for a free evaluation of your current web site.

info@tbhcreative.com, Indianapolis Indiana, Web Design

Learn how to use social networking tools with friends, colleagues and for business

Social situations and relationships have always been part of the day-to-day world of business. Communication and relationships often mean the success or failure of your business. The 'face' of your business is important.

And now social networking has been added to the mix. How should you deal? Many have tried to ignore it, but that cannot last long as competitors jump on board (and even your mom has a Facebook account).

As for Facebook, this social networking tool is primarily good for friendships. For your business, you might create a Facebook Business Profile (become a fan of TBH Creative on Facebook). When friends and members become a 'fan', you will gain a link back to your site. I have seen other sites promote things using Facebook. This Etsy store has a Facebook business page and posts sales and promotions daily. The owner uses Facebook well.

For Twitter, here are a few good articles:

Blogging used to be for a personal journal, but now your competitor has a blog and talks about his business. Should you get one too and what should you post about?

Yes, you should get a blog if you care about your search engine ranking and have something to share. If you have a business, you should have something to share. It is a tool that search engines love because the information you post is recent and usually relevant. The more your post, the better. Posts do not have to be long, but should show insight in your area of expertise, have some humor or show your personal side, and link to related information while also including some of your targeted keywords. For example, as a web design company, we post about web site projects, tips and tricks of web development, and related web site or Internet information.

There are free blog platforms out there like Blogger and Wordpress or more advanced SEO targeted business blogging solutions such as Compendium Blogware.

I found this light-hearted article that outlines some typical situations and the best etiquette to follow on how to use the most popular social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Check it out to get social networking responses to real situations such as meeting someone at a networking event vs. making a new friend. When and how to 'friend' your new bud online by Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich.

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Contact TBH Creative for help with your social networking plan. This article only touches the surface of how your Internet presence is more than just your web site and how to use social networking to gain the competitive advantage.

info@tbhcreative.com

What everyone ought to know about finding social profiles (Flowtown)

See Which Social Networks Your Customers Are On?

I found this awesome tool called Flowtown that will tell you just that!

When all you have are email addresses, Flowtown can show you all the different social networks your customers are on including: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace and more!

You can try it for free, but then there is a cost. But if you are investing in the social media rage, this information could prove invaluable. The web site says no contracts and flexible plans.

Flowtown also claims to have:
  • Amazing Support
  • Unbelievably Reliable
  • Data Integrity
I signed up for the free trial and tested it on my own email address -- found accounts I had set up and forgotten. It really seems to work well. If you try it out, let us know how it goes...

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TBH Creative creates great web sites and works hard to make our clients happy. From discovery to after the project, we offer recommendations and ideas to achieve the best results. We want to see you achieve online success --- that makes us look good! Contact us today to begin your web site project.

Build a successful web site for your lawfirm - an Indianapolis example for Hostetler & Kowalik

Hostetler and Kowalik PC in Indianapolis hired TBH Creative to redesign their old static web site. They were looking for a fresh, strong, and modern look. The web design solution is bold and simple. The site offers more information including attorney bios and explanation of services.

TBH Creative developed the web site for H&K with a back-end content management system to keep information up-to-date and allow maintenance in-house. The H&K staff is having an easy time adding new information as it becomes available.

Check out the new web site today:

About Hostetler & Kowalik
H&K is an Indianapolis law firm that offers decades of knowledge in business and commercial law. Their attorneys have an Indiana reputation for good values and an expertise in business law.

Visit the new web site designed by TBH Creative
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TBH Creative worked closely with the team at H&K to develop a web solution that fit their needs and plans for future online growth. We divided the web project into phases and look forward to helping them more in the future. If you are looking for a web partner, choose TBH Creative for insightful ideas and recommendations.

Who else wants to see what their web site will look like on an iPad?

How will your web site look on the iPad Touch device?

Check out TBH Creative's site on the iPad (below). Notice the realistic light reflections on the glass screen and finger print smudges.

Source: Brad Colbow
He provided a downloadable Photoshop file if you want to see your own site...
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Looking for Indianapolis web design assistance? Contact TBH Creative for high quality and reliable web site solutions. Email info@tbhcreative.com or visit our web site to view web design samples. You'll see from our portfolio how we have already helped many Indianapolis companies with their web site presence!

Facts, flaws, dimensions and costs of the Touch Screen Computer - iPad

Apple's iPad computer -- It's the newest hype, a technology buzz, the cool must-have gadget for many.

So, what is it and why would you want it? Is it for everyone?
According to Apple, it is the best way to experience the web, photos, and video. Using its touch screen technology, you can surf the Internet, use apps, listen to your favorite music, watch movies, view/store photos, and play interactive games.
Some people refer to it as the upgraded and large iPhone or iTouch - a larger screened version of a product (which was first released in 2007).
There are a few flaws that make it not the best product for everyone:
  • Not all web applications work on the device including a Flash client/player. This means Flash movies on many of your frequently visited web sites will not play... a pretty big disadvantage for a notebook computer.
  • No video conferencing (there is no camera on the back nor a front-facing web cam)
  • Under powered for design work or application development.
How big it is?
  • Height of 9.56 inches (242.8 mm),
  • Width of 7.47 inches (189.7 mm),
  • Depth of 0.5 inch (13.4 mm), and
  • Screen size of 9.7 inches diagonal (1024×768 resolution).
  • Weight -- 1.5 pounds (.68 kg) Wi-Fi model; 1.6 pounds (.73 kg) Wi-Fi + 3G model.
Finally, the cost. Below are the initial prices for this new Apple iPad:
  • 16 GB – $499 (with 3G – $629)
  • 32 GB – $599 (with 3G – $729)
  • 64 GB – $699 (with 3G – $829)


To sum, the iPad is cool (mostly because it is new and different), but it is really very much like my iPhone functionality in a bigger format. A friend of ours owns a landscape company and just bought one -- he plans to use it during sales pitches to show off their impressive landscape design work with photo galleries.
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TBH Creative can help with your web site whether users are viewing it from their main computer, mobile phone, or iPad. Contact us today for more information about our Indianapolis web design services.

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