Thursday, December 29, 2011

Web Design Trends for 2012: Social Media Integration

We are doing a series of 2012 web design trends, and our sixth prediction for web design trends in 2012 is social media integration.

Social media is everywhere. It's on our computers, phones, televisions and even in our cars. Social media integration will not be going away any time soon (at least not in the next few years).

My favorite websites with social media integration are from local designers (located in central Indiana). When I began this blog topic, I knew exactly which three websites I would showcase:

Our website (TBH Creative) puts an emphasis on social media integration linked from the bottom of each page as well as the left sidebar on interior pages. We link to our client's social media pages as well under our portfolio. Custom social media icons that match your website design are an excellent option. They blend in well with the design and don't look like they were just thrown in there.

TBH Creative's home page. Visit the site for the full experience.

Kevin Thornbloom's website has very unique social media integration. You will need to visit the site to get the full experience. When you click on the buttons, it changes the title accordingly. Kevin uses kthornbloom as his username on every social media site, so it makes it very easy to use this technique!

Kevin Thornbloom's home page. Visit the site for the full experience.

The Basement's contact page is very entertaining. The social media birds hop around on the telephone wire as you're on the contact page. They also have custom social media icons, which makes the website flow together very well.

The Basement's home page. Visit the site for the full experience.

Social media integration is key in web development this year. Now, more than ever, people are spending more time on social media sites than any other site on the web. For example, four out of the seven tabs on my browser are social media sites. News stories, friend updates, funny pictures: you name it, you can probably find it on a social media site.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Web Design Trends for 2012: Large High Quality Photograph Backgrounds

We are doing a series of 2012 web design trends, and our fifth prediction for web design trends in 2012 is large high quality photograph backgrounds.

Large, high quality photograph backgrounds can add a lot to a company's website. It is important that they are high quality images. You do not want a large, pixelated background; it is not enjoyable for the user. Just a tip from graphic and web designers everywhere: never enlarge a photograph. Be sure to only size images down. If your picture is not large enough to use as a background for a webpage, then don't use it. Below are a few websites that use the large, high quality photograph technique for their backgrounds:

Smoking Takes Lives features a story of Mick Roberts (who's life was changed by smoking). This large photograph will help to grab the user and have them watch the video before accessing any other part of the website.

Smoking Takes Lives' homepage. Visit the site.

Simon & Comet's website features his motorsport photography. After translating the webpage to English, I noticed that he also is a web designer. He has a passion for motorsports. It is a great way to combine the two things he is passionate about.

Simon & Comet's homepage. Visit the site.

Poco People's homepage has a very nice "pop" of color. Your eyes are immediately drawn to Travis and Kelly (the owners) in the middle. Just a simple red scarf and red jacket are all they needed to attract the user.

Poco People's homepage. Visit the site.

Just remember, not every website will look great with a large photograph background. When in doubt, ask a web or graphic designer. A company that sells kitchen knives will probably lose customers if there is a very large butcher knife pictured on their homepage. What looks great to you might not look great to the user.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Indianapolis Graphic Design Review: Super Bowl 2012 Host Committee Poster

Super Bowl Host Committee 2012 Poster - Indianapolis
As some of you may know, the Super Bowl is being hosted in Indianapolis, Indiana this year. It is an honor for our city to be the home of such a large event! The city's plans are starting to come together now that the Super Bowl is only a few months away.

This week, an official poster was released. The Superbowl Host Committee's poster was created by Indiana artist Walter Knabe. An article by the Indianapolis Star states "His work is represented in galleries and museums around the world." After seeing the poster and reading the article, I was very curious and decided to find Knabe's portfolio website.

While browsing through his website, I noticed he specializes in fabric and wall covering design. Yes, fabric and wall covering. Not graphic design.

I was disappointed in the graphic design and originality of the poster. It seemed elementary. For examle, I found this file of identical Photoshop star brushes via Google in about two seconds. The ink splatter brushes could be found just as easily. The logo was already created and the other images could probably be found on Google Images. To be honest, any graphic designer in the industry could replicate this poster in about thirty minutes to an hour.

Just to clear things up, this poster was not done by the National Football League (NFL). It was created for the Super Bowl Host Committee. So, why couldn't Indianapolis do better? There are several graphic design firms in Indianapolis that would have loved the opportunity to make a poster for the Host Committee.

What do you think about this poster representing the Super Bowl Host Committee of Indianapolis?
As you can tell, I am not a fan of the Host Committee's poster. Please leave comments; don't be a stranger! I am very interested in hearing other responses on this poster.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Web Design Case Study: Franciscan Alliance Foundation

We launched a new website for the Franciscan Alliance Foundation today and it can be viewed at http://www.franciscanalliance.org/foundation/.

TBH Creative worked with the Franciscan Alliance Foundation this Fall to help with their new website. The purpose of the website is to serve a 'home' for all Franciscan Alliance Foundations and receive support through donations.
We proposed a clean design that was very similar to the new Franciscan Alliance brand and complimentary to the Ceommunity Benefits website graphics and arrangement. We build the HTML framework to work with their Content management system and including some custom JQuery for rotation of stories, main ideas, and pop up window for donations. The application work was completed by their IS department with our support for graphics and arrangement.

The Franciscan Alliance Foundation's homepage. View the site.

An interior page from the Franciscan Alliance Foundation's website. View the site.

About the Franciscan Alliance Foundation

The foundress, Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel, was drawn to the ideals of St. Francis of Assisi, who left a legacy of faith characterized by selfless giving and the spirit of love; he loved every person without measure or discrimination. The care and compassion of St. Francis was continued in this country when Mother Maria Theresia sent six Sisters from Olpe, Germany to Lafayette, Indiana in 1875 to begin a ministry of healthcare and education for the poor and neglected.

St. Francis continues to be a source of inspiration for Franciscan Alliance as they “Continue Christ’s ministry in [their] Franciscan tradition” by loving and caring for the "least" among us—the unloved, the poor, the uncared for, the person who has no health insurance, the person who is shunned by society today. The Franciscan Alliance turns no one away.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Web Design Trends for 2012: Typography

We are doing a series of 2012 web design trends, and our fourth prediction for web design trends in 2012 is typography.

Typography is probably my favorite trend in web design (if I had to choose just one). I could spend hours looking at beautiful typography on the Internet. There are several examples out there; Google gave me 31,200,000 results for "typography web design". I found it incredibly difficult to only pick three websites to showcase.

Polecat has a very playful theme for their website. The whimsical typography works well with the design.

Polecat's homepage. View the site.
Indubitablee has custom and beautiful typography on her website. While I was clicking around through her site, I noticed there are no "common" fonts to be found. She used unique fonts throughout her website and it all blends together perfectly!

Indubitablee's homepage. View the site.
Typography doesn't necessarily have to be fancy, custom fonts. Ben Lind's website is an example of very simple, elegant typography. He used a common san serif font and made it his own.

Ben Lind's homepage. View the site.

How can I include typography on my website?

Six Revisions posted a wonderful article called "A Basic Look at Typography in Web Design". They explain the different aspects of typography as well as common mistakes web designers make. One important thing is to make sure the typography "matches" your website theme. If you have a very professional theme with a whimsical font, it could confuse the user and/or your potential customers.

Web Design Case Study: Anne Reese Photography

We launched a new website for Anne Reese Photography today and it can be viewed at http://www.annereesephotos.com/.

TBH Creative worked with Anne Reese Photography this Fall to help with her new website.

Anne hired TBH Creative after consulting with another firm for 1 1/2 years and not seeing results. We were able to reuse the basic design ideas as a starting point. From there, we coded and paid special attention to browser compatiblity which was very important to Anne. We included some JQuery to re-scale photos based on screen size, allow for scrolling and pop up window for a larger view. We also developed a custom application to help her manage her photos into categories and random display. With her software, she can upload photos that will resize and arrange as she specifies into the front-end design.

Anne Reese Photography's homepage. View the site.

Here is an interior page from Anne Reese Photography's website. View the site.

About the Anne Reese Photography

After receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Photography from The Columbus College of Art & Design, Anne moved to New York to master the techniques used by the very best in the field. For a few years she assisted, prop styled, and retouched her way around New York City working for high-end photographers and food stylists. Ultimately, she realized that just taking a great photo would not be enough to set her apart from the rest of the food shooters.

Anne spent the next three years working full-time as the Digital Asset Manager and Photographer for The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. Along the way, Anne was fortunate enough to have met and photographed some of the best chefs in the world. She took full advantage of her opportunities at the CIA and left New York with greater understanding and mastery of her two true passions-food and photography.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Web Design Case Study: Indy Connect

We launched a website for Indy Connect today, and it can be viewed at http://www.indyconnect.org/.
 
TBH Creative worked with Indy Connect this December to help build their new website.

Phase 1 of this project was completed very quickly and included recoding for up-to-date markup (removing a lot of tables, image maps and OLD coding techniques that made maintenance very difficult) and applying with our Content Management System software for easy future changes and additions. In the old static version of their website, changes had to be made on every page of the website and all text titles were graphics. We added font replace technology to eliminate the need for so many graphics.

We did not make any major design changes during this integration, although we did expand the page to remove the outdated scrollbars that restricted the content previously. We also updated the site architecture in a few logical places and for future mini-sites. We will continue to work with Indy Connect over the next few months for additional upgrades of the website.

Indy Connect's homepage. View the site.

An interior page from Indy Connect's new website. View the site.

About Indy Connect

Indy Connect, Central Indiana's Transportation Initiative, is a partnership of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority (CIRTA), and IndyGo that is dedicated to providing Central Indiana residents with transportation options in support of the future development of our region.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Web Design Trends for 2012: Responsive Web Design/Fluid Grids

We are doing a series of 2012 web design trends, and our third prediction for web design trends in 2012 is responsive web design/fluid grids.

Responsive web design and fluid grids are important in this mobile world. There are more tablets and smart phones in the hands of consumers (New Study Predicts that Mobile Web will Rule by 2015). Unlimited data packages have made smart phones even more appealing. As a business owner, it is very important to make sure your website is up to date and looks great on any platform.

Below are a few examples of responsive web design and fluid grids.

Touchtech has a beautiful website. When you look at the website from your mobile device, it automatically resizes and rearranges everything to fit your screen. You can get the same effect on a desktop or laptop computer by resizing the browser window to a smaller size.


Touchtech's homepage. Visit it here.

Touchtech's mobile site.

Owltastic also has a great view for use on mobile devices.

Owltastic's homepage. Visit it here.
Owltastic's mobile site.

How do I tell if my current website is mobile friendly?

If you open your website in a web browser, you can do a very simple test. Resize the browser window until it is significantly smaller in width. If the items do not move and there is a scroll bar at the bottom of your browser, your website is not fluid and possibly may require some adjustments for optimal mobile viewing.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Web Design Trends for 2012: Design Below the Fold

Our first prediction for web design trends in 2012 is design below the fold. We are doing a series of 2012 web design trends.

Designs below the fold, also known as large footers, are becoming a very common trend in web design. Footers are no longer a boring place at the bottom of a website. Just the copyright and a handful of links are not cutting it anymore. There are several ways to spruce up your footers: beautiful graphics, extra navigation (sometimes the entire sitemap), contact forms, videos, social media icons and more!

Below are a few examples of great footers.

Yodiv has a very simple, but beautiful, footer.

Yodiv's homepage. Visit their site.

Web Designer Depot has a very beautiful footer with stunning graphics that match the header design.

Web Designer Depot's homepage. Visit their site.

Orca Bay Seafoods, Inc. has a very organized and simple footer that blends very well with the rest of the website.

Orca Bay Seafoods, Inc.'s homepage. Visit their site.
Large footers should not be overpowering, but accent the rest of the website. Beautiful footers give the user something nice to look at once they get to the bottom of the page. Besides, who wants to look at just a boring copyright? You should still have the copyright in the footer, but don't be afraid to add even more content down there!

Here are a few big web design footers that TBH Creative applied for clients this past year:

CareerXroads - Emphasizing the social media and contact information.

Circle Tail -- Pulling out social media, email newsletter sign up, and address information.

Northpoint Pediatrics -- Adding/repeating important links, emphasis address and phone information, and adding some visual illustration appeal.

Looking for some more inspirational designs below the fold?

Vandelay design posted a fantastic list of 25 Impressive Blog Footers. Google (or any other search engine) is always a great resource if you're looking for some design inspiration.

2012's best Web-focused conferences

Training recommendations for learning the latest news and information about interactive design, online content strategy, and web development

C.R. Lawton once said, "Unless you try to do something beyond what you have mastered, you will never grow." Growth is easy to talk about as a goal, but it's much harder to actually make a priority to work toward as a goal when deadlines and other day-to-day demands occupy your thoughts. To make sure you make time for you next year, why not plan ahead and get your 2012 professional development scheduled now? To help get you started, here's a round-up—sorted by focus—of options to consider:


INTERACTIVE DESIGN

HOW Interactive Design Conference

What is it? From their website: "The HOW Interactive Design Conference is a not-to-be-missed event presented by HOW magazine in partnership with today’s leading digital design experts. This 2-1/2 day conference will provide you with the information you need to transfer your current skills into interactive design for the web, tablets and mobile devices. HOW Interactive Design Conference highlights the technology, design and inspiration you need to understand the changing role of the designer in digital media, whether you want to create websites and apps yourself, or whether you want to learn how to communicate more clearly with your development team and your clients."

When is it? Dates have not been announced, but last year's conference was in November.

What is the cost? 2012 prices are not online yet, but last year it cost $995 for an individual ($1095 after Sept 30).

Where is it held? 2012's location has not been announced yet.


ONLINE CONTENT STRATEGY

Confab

What is it? From their website: "As the leading conference of its kind, Confab plays a major role in driving the content strategy conversation forward.... Our extraordinarily successful debut in 2011 has already had an incredible impact on how people around the world are talking and thinking about content strategy. Confab attendees have posted recaps, held “redux” sessions, and shared success stories of career changes, new budgets, and increased influence in the workplace—all as a result of what they learned at Confab."

When is it? The three-day conference runs from Monday, May 14–Wednesday, May 16.

What is the cost? 2012 prices are as low as $950 and go as high as $1,600, depending on what you choose to attend..

Where is it held? The conference is being held in Minneapolis.


WEB DEVELOPMENT

An Event Apart

What is it? From their website: "An Event Apart is an intensely educational two-day conference for passionate practitioners of standards-based web design. If you care about code as well as content, usability as well as design, An Event Apart is the conference you’ve been waiting for. "

When is it? Currently there are four announced conferences in 2012: February 6–8, April 2–4, June 18–20, and July 9–11.

What is the cost? 2012 prices are as low as $449 and go as high as $1,240, depending on what you choose to attend.

Where is it held? 2012's announced locations include Atlanta, Seattle, Boston, and Austin.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Web Design Case Study: CareerXroads

We launched a new website for CareerXroads today and it can be viewed at http://www.careerxroads.com/.

TBH Creative was hired by CareerXroads to conduct a site audit. We went page by page and provided a detailed report of suggestions with priority for upgrades and fixes. The suggestions presented led to many upgrades on various pages throughout the website including a revised and more intuitive sitemap.

The most notable change was a home page and template redesign. We added more interactivity on the homepage with custom built content sliders using JQuery technology. The footer is also interactive on the homepage and each interior page to highlight their social media without taking up a significant amount of page real estate.

In the recoding process for the new design, we removed all Flash elements and replaced with JQuery for a better mobile experience.

Before redesign:

CareerXroads' homepage prior to redesign.

After redesign:

CareerXroads' homepage. Visit their site.
CareerXroads' Service page. Visit their site.

About CareerXroads

Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler are the personalities behind CareerXroads and the CareerXroads Colloquium. Mark and Gerry have worked for and with corporations of all sizes in career planning and placement, contract recruiting, executive search, recruitment advertising and human resource management. After years working on the front lines of recruiting, these two saw a new potential in the Internet and in 1994 came together to create CareerXroads.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Web Design Trends for 2012: HTML5 & CSS3

Our first prediction for web design trends in 2012 is HTML5 & CSS3. We are doing a series of 2012 web design trends.

HTML5

HTML5 is becoming more and more popular within web development. However, it is still in development, so it does not work in all browsers yet. I predict 2012 will bring many improvements and enhancements to what is available and supported.

Uses for HTML5
Currently, HTML 5 is mostly being used for videos, audio and animations. This is why several people are questioning if HTML5 will “kill” Flash. HTML5 is also great for placeholders, auto focusing and much more!

Examples
This is by far my favorite HTML5 website (as of right now). The Wilderness Downtown is an interactive website/music video for Arcade Fire’s song “We Used to Wait”. Users are asked to enter the address of childhood home. The site uses Google Maps and HTML5 to create a one of a kind personalized music video.

The Wilderness Downtown homepage uses HTML5. Visit the site.


There are several other great examples of HTML5 on the web. Agent 008 Ball uses HTML5’s canvas and allows users to play a game of Billiards.

Agent 008 Ball homepage uses HTML5. Visit the site.


Hungry for more HTML5 websites? HTML5 Gallery has several examples to look through!

CSS3

CSS3 has made styling much easier for web developers everywhere! CSS3 offers border-radius, embedded fonts, transparency, rotation, gradient backgrounds and more. Like HTML5, CSS3 is not compatible in all browsers just yet. For example, the radius corners do not work in IE, so corners are boxed.

The @font-face is probably my most favorite CSS3 style! Creativity is endless when it comes to fonts. You can use the Font Squirrel generator to create your own (or you can use the premade ones)! Mobilezr uses the @font-face CSS3 style with their website.

The Mobilezr homepage uses CSS3. Visit the site.

When will HTML5 & CSS3 be compatible with every browser?

HTML5 Readiness has a beautiful interactive graphic showing the progress with browser compatibility since 2008. Google Chrome is currently the only browser that is compatible with everything. When do you think every browser will be ready? One year? Two years?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Web Design Trends for 2012

Seeing as 2011 is starting to come to a close, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about what I see as being hot trends in web design for 2012. Last year, Shannon posted her predicted trends for 2011. There are several similarities between last year and this year’s predictions but some new ideas as well.

I also checked out CPR Enterprises and their predictions for 2012. Our ideas were aligned in several ways. As a web design, it is important to be aware of what great things are coming to the future of web design and development so this is an important topic.

Until the end of the year, I will be posting blogs on 2012 web design trend in my list. There will be plenty of examples (and design inspiration) with each post. We hope you enjoy reading about 2012 web design and encourage you to give us your feedback and samples too.

Here are the design trends I will be blogging about in the coming weeks:

1. HTML5/CSS3

This hits the top of my list! HTML5 and CSS3 are still in the development process. I am very impressed with what has come out of these coding advances so far!


2. Design Below the Fold

Lately I have been seeing a lot of beautiful graphics near the footer of websites. The graphics are either very colorful or blend into the background. The help anchor the website design, give balance on the page, and reiterate important links and information.


3. Responsive Web Design/Fluid Grids

Mobile compatibility is extremely important this year. There are more smart phones and tablets than in previous years and it is a steady growing change. Making sure your website looks great in any platform is becoming more and more important, and the options for coding for these platforms are also becoming easier to implement and test.


4. Typography

Typography makes things a little more interesting, right? Sometimes, standard fonts look okay for certain websites. Most of the time, however, a little typography can make any website stand out. There is a balance between using a creative font for highlights and an easy to read font for the main body of information.



5. Large High Quality Photograph Backgrounds

I have been noticing this on a lot of websites lately. Large photograph backgrounds definitely grab they user’s attention, but are they too distracting?



6. Social Media Integration

Social media definitely is not going away. More and more websites are making it easier for users to share the information on their Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.



7. One Page Layouts

Single page web design with anchor tag navigation is still popular. These work bests on sites that do not have a lot of content.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Extend your brand with a Google+ Page

Last week Google got a bit closer toward becoming a truly competitive social network channel for companies, nonprofits, organizations, brands, products, and other entities when it launched Google+ Pages, its answer to Facebook fan pages.

Creating pages is open to all brands now, and we've created our profile so that you can add TBH Creative to your web developers circle.

Though TBH Creative has a strategic outreach plan that includes this blog, Facebook, and Twitter, we're adding a Google+ presence, too. Google has influence and power, attracting over one billion unique visitors every month. Third party tools—like Hootsuite—already have recognized G+'s potential and many have launched useful services to help brands manage their circles, publish to their pages, and monitor usage. Joining Google+ makes sense for our goals, and by grabbing our page now while there is no brand verification we are going to be saved the hassle of dealing with a brand hijacking later on.



Google+ Pages isn't perfect, though. Currently, only one person can be connected to an account, though multiple admins is a feature that Google has announced is coming. In the meantime, as workarounds, you can create a generic e-mail account from which to create and manage a page or use a third-party application. For more caveats, consider reading the entry that tech guru and super user Robert Scoble posted to his blog.

There's nothing much to see on our TBH Creative Google+ Page just yet, but through our home on Google+ we plan to directly interact with clients and colleagues and share relevant web trend stories and other development-focused content.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Web Design Graphics: Constructing An Effective Infographic

Infographics, or information graphics, have been all over the Internet lately.

Infographics can be effective on your website to add appeal, uniqueness, professionalism and overall interest.

What is an infographic, exactly? You've probably seen one before, but had no idea it was called an infographic. Below is an example from Daily Infographic:

An example infographic about coffee.

Read Write Enterprise wrote an article titled “6 Reasons Most Infographics Don’t Cut It.” This article can be extremely helpful when creating your first infographic.

The above infographic is a great example. They can be serious, or silly. Possibilities are endless, really. Be careful not to add too much information to the infographic. It is easy to make an infographic very cluttered and hard to read. Adding sources to your infographic is always a must. Users like to see where the statistics and information came from. The sources like to get credit for having their information on the infographic as well.

One of the most important parts of an infographic is, obviously, the graphics. If your artwork isn't that great, hire a graphic designer to do the job. Let's be honest, no one wants to look at an ugly infographic.

How can I advertise my business with an infographic?

Well, what does your business do? If you sell carpet and hardwood, maybe you could talk about the pros and cons of each. If you sell televisions, maybe you could give statistics about the number televisions in the average household. At the end of an infographic, you can always add a call to action to help direct users to your business.

Need a little inspiration?

There are several websites out there with large galleries of infographics to look through. Visual.ly is a very popular infographic gallery. Daily Infographic also has several to look through. As the name suggests, they post a new infographic every day!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A little thing that counts

Making sure a favicon, or favorites icon, is associated with your website is an integral part of extending your brand online and improving usability.

But, what's a favicon? And, furthermore, where is it located?

A favicon is the petite 16 × 16 pixel image shown in browser navigation bars and in browser bookmarks. Look at the top of this browser, and you will see a teeny yellow "TBH" next the the URL for this blog entry. That's the favicon we have associated with this blog.

When you bookmark the TBH Creative blog, your browser will also use that graphic to help assist in visual identification of this website from all of the other saved pages, aiding and increasing usability.

Have more than one tab open in your browser? A favicon associated, if it exists, will also appear along with a truncated portion of the page title to help you distinguish between all of the pages open.

Why are favicons important?

Strategic web design plans often includes discussions about marketing goals (e.g., converting visitors to customers and sharing case studies), content needs (e.g., creating graphics, links, forms, and copy) and development steps (e.g., planning the site architecture and navigation and customizing a CMS solution).

While thinking about these big picture items, small details—like creating a favicon—are sometimes overlooked. Pay attention next time you browse a website that has misspellings, broken links, and error messages. When website developers and designers aren't at the top of their game or too busy, the attention they'll pay to the smallest details is often revealing. You can usually trust that the more important details—such as website load time and security certificates—are carefully taken care of and maintained for quality when the little things are done properly, too.

Using your wordmark or logo is often best choice for your favicon image. If you need ideas, this website with lots of samples from popular websites will help you get brainstorming for a solution. Once you're ready to go, read our "how-to" blog post that shares how to integrate a favicon into your website.


Blog Content Ideas: My Business Has A Blog. Now What?

Blog writer’s block is common. Learn how to conquer it!

I often catch myself thinking too hard about blog topics. They shouldn’t be that hard, right? My theory: If you’re spending over 15 minutes wondering what to write about, you’re thinking way too hard.

Here are a few tips for getting over writer’s block:

Who are you? What do you do?

Introducing yourself and your company seems like a no-brainer, but most companies skip this step. Why not tell the readers a little about the authors?

Stop Assuming

Sure, you know everything there is to know about marketing and the Internet (or whatever it is that you’re good at). Don’t assume everyone reading your blog knows the tips and tricks pros use for successful Internet marketing.

Plan Ahead

Or at least, try to plan ahead. Most companies have a set schedule of when blog posts are released. If you know you need to write one or two posts every week, start thinking about it now. Your current blog post could lead to another topic, and another topic, and so on.

Be Passionate About What You’re Writing About

If you’re really not interested in what you’re writing about, the readers can tell. It will also make the blog writing process take longer than it should.

Do you like Spongebob Squarepants? Find something interesting to pull from it, and write about it. Not all blog posts need to be 100% serious all of the time; that would make a dull blog. It is very important to make sure your readers want to read about it. If your audience is 60+ year old women, writing strictly about Spongebob will not grab their attention. However, writing about new Spongebob toys that will make great gifts for grandchildren on Christmas might.

If you need some specific post ideas, Compendium has a great list of 200 ideas for your company’s blog. Slingshot SEO also has some great blogging tips about getting out of writer’s block.

Google can also be your best friend when trying to think of blog topics. Look at other companies’ blogs. You can find inspiration everywhere.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Brand Identity & Why It’s Important

Is your company in need of a branding makeover?

The business dictionary states that brand identity is “the visible elements of a brand (such as colors, design, logotype, name, symbol) that together identify and distinguish the brand in the consumers' mind.”
Let’s face it. The first thing customers are probably going to see is your logo. Your logo is the face of your company. You want it to look nice, and make sense . . . right? 

There are several different items that contribute to identity; logos are not the only thing your company needs. Just Creative Design posted several examples: 
  • A Logo
    (The symbol of the entire identity & brand)
  • Stationery
    (Letterhead + business card + envelopes, etc.)
  • Marketing Collateral
    (Flyers, brochures, books, websites, etc.)
  • Products & Packaging (Products sold and the packaging in which they come in)
  • Apparel Design
    (Tangible clothing items that are worn by employees)
  • Signage
    (Interior & exterior design)
  • Messages & Actions (Messages conveyed via indirect or direct modes of communication)
  • Other Communication
    (Audio, smell, touch, etc.)
  • Anything visual that represents the business

Brand New is also a great website that shows several company logo transformations. Each entry includes reasoning as to why the person submitting it thinks it is a good or bad change. If your company needs a branding makeover, be sure to consult a professional.  People do not like change. When large brands have major branding makeovers, usually it doesn’t go over well with the public at first. After a few months, customers get used to the change.
Companies need to update their logos, websites, ect. every once in a while. It is not recommended to do it frequently; sometimes a change after 5-10 years is nice and refreshing.
After all, do you think Pepsi kept the same logo throughout the years? Definitely not.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

Web Design Case Study: Imaging Office Systems

We launched a new website for Imaging Office Systems today and it can be viewed at http://www.imagingoffice.com/.

TBH Creative was hired by Imaging Office Systems this Spring to help with their new website and online strategy. The previous website was created in-house, and it was time to take things up a notch in terms of design, ease of maintenance and results.

Web Design
We proposed a fresh design. We brought in complimentary and bright colors to their brand for interest and appeal, as well as professional details throughout the graphics and style.
One primary goal of the new website was to communicate to visitors that they offered more services than typically thought of -- more than just scanning and document management. They also offer custom professional services and storage. We emphasized this throughout the website and with a clear navigation structure and calls to action.

Content Management System
Our services went beyond design with our easy to use Content Management System and custom module to manage resources. IOS is also just beginning in social media and is now participating in visit the newly designed website to see more. Some featured pages include Meet the TeamLocations and Directions, and Resources.

Imaging Office Systems' new homepage. Check it out!
We used JQuery technology for the screen rotation at the top and also the logo slider across the bottom.

Resources page 

“After I sent a request to TBH Creative for pricing on a new company website, they were quick to respond and to understand what was driving the desire for a new site and what we wanted to accomplish. The presentation and proposal then addressed all of our requirements. Out of all the proposals we received for this project, TBH Creative's was the only one that made me confident that they understood what we wanted to do, had addressed how they would satisfy our requirements, had a process in place to control the project, and would be good to work with.

The site design process and the end product definitely lived up to our expectations; and TBH Creative were great to work with. The site is exactly what we needed and we have gotten a lot of very positive feedback from our customers and business partners. I have no doubt we made the right decision."

~ Angela Childs, Director, Professional Services

About Imaging Office Systems

Imaging Office Systems (IOS) was founded in 1972. They began building its expertise on document management systems that included tools such as moveable filing cabinets and offsite paper storage. These were low tech solutions by today’s standards, but they solved a very real need.  It is now an industry that is significantly more high-tech including scanning, document management, storage and professional services.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Is Usability Testing Really Necessary?

Absolutely! Anything from websites to software programs need usability testing.

This usability blog posted several tools that are very helpful while usability testing. My personal favorite is starting out with pencil and paper (free!), and then creating more refined digital mockups for testing. In my opinion, you can never do too much usability testing.
You can approach usability testing however you want, really. You can use basic black and white, pencil and paper. You can use full color. Possibilities are endless. During your last round of usability testing, it should be on the final product. It’s always a good idea to test prior to a release to catch any bugs.
It is important to test as many people as you can in your target audience.  Find your friends, neighbors, and even random strangers: ask them to help you out! Rewarding testers with food also helps to give you a good turnout. It is best to not test strictly with your family and close friends (they probably won’t give you the criticism you need). While usability testing, be sure to record pauses, how long it took the user to complete the task, ect.
It is best to find errors early in the development process. The longer you wait to do usability testing, the harder it will be to fix those errors. Here is an example of a website usability checklist. There are several to choose from out there. Checklists are very helpful. They help you to think of things you skipped over or never thought about.

Do you do usability testing for your websites or programs? Why or why not?

(PS: This is a trick question. You should ALWAYS do usability testing!)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Amazon’s Newest Kindle Lineup

Is Amazon Fire the biggest competitor for iPad?

This week, Amazon released the newest generation of Kindles. The traditional Kindle is $79. There are two brand new touch Kindles: $99 for the WiFi version and $149 for the 3G version. The Kindle Fire is only $199.
Kindle:
Kindle Touch:

Kindle Fire:


The Kindle Fire is the most talked about Kindle this week. It is the first full color Kindle for magazines, books, movies, web browsing, and more.  It is very similar to the iPad, but not identical. The Kindle Fire is significantly smaller and cheaper than the iPad, which may make more users choose Kindle over iPad. Amazon has worked hard the past few years. They now have online movie streaming, music, ebooks, magazines, and more. Amazon has made it easy to literally have everything at your fingertips.

Amazon also has a great tool on every Kindle order page. You can compare every Kindle they are currently selling. This is a very user-friendly tool if you are indecisive about which Kindle to get. I have the last generation Kindle. I’m still not too sure how I feel about the new color and touch Kindles. I like the e-Ink versus a backlit screen. It is difficult for me to read for extended periods of time on a backlit screen. However, everyone is different!  Most people do not like change. I remember just a few years ago, I stated I would NEVER get a touch screen cell phone. I currently have a Droid X. It’s funny how technology becomes less scary as years pass.

How do you feel about the new Kindle lineup? Competition for the iPad or just another e-reader?


 

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