Perspective, tips, and insight

Articles to help you improve your digital marketing

Web Design: Cover Crops USA

Services Provided Include:
We launched a new website for Cover Crops USA at covercropsusa.com.  

We have been working with The CISCO Company since 2007 and have created several micro sites to serve their product needs. Cover Crops USA is the most recent mini-site we worked on to present their Cover Crops products. We carried the graphic style and general structure into the new design. We used JQuery rotation to present the multiple products on the home page.

Seven Tips for Effective Facebook Events (Facebook Tabs Example 5)

We have been posting recently about Facebook custom tabs and how to use them to promote your business as part of your online strategy. Last week we reviewed Facebook videos, and this week we are looking at the function offered by Facebook for Events. There are a few things you can do beyond filling out the basic information for your events to get further exposure and positive response.

Web Design and Build: Digestive Medicine Associates

Services Provided Include:
We launched a new website for Digestive Medicine Associates at www.gimed.com.

We built the first website for Digestive Medicine Associates in 2002. A decade later they were ready for a redesign, and we helped them update their look and add more value for their visitors. The new website we designed clearly communicates their expertise and service offerings. The goal of the new website was to make two things apparent to the audience; 1) who these doctors were by showing a photograph and listing their area of expertise and 2) where they were located by using an interactive map and drop down menu of locations.

Facebook Tabs Example 4: Videos

If you have been following our recent posts, you know we have been talking about custom tabs and how they can be used to strengthen your Facebook business page. Last week we covered using custom tabs to create photos albums, and this week we are reviewing videos.

It does not take a marketing expert to tell you that videos are exploding all over the Internet. You see them on many websites and in social media. Almost everyone thinks of "YouTube" for videos on the web. If you have seen the potential with video and invested in creating videos for your company, do not forget to promote and include on your Facebook page.

Facebook Tabs Example 3: Photos

Check out a newer version of this post! Facebook no longer uses tabs in this way, but you can use a cover photo as a "Welcome Message" variation. For more current tips, head over to our instructions for a great Facebook cover photo article.

Facebook Tabs Example 3: Photos
Throughout this month, we're focusing on how businesses and organizations can use custom tabs to strengthen their Facebook pages. Last week we focused on Employment/Career Opportunities page tabs. This week—Photos and photo albums.

Facebook Tabs Example 2: Employment Opportunities

Throughout this month, we're focusing on how businesses and organizations can use custom tabs to strengthen their Facebook pages. Last week we focused on Welcome Message or "Like" page tabs.

Careers and employment pages are common on company and organization websites, and those job openings should also be considered for marketing through your Facebook page. With the current unemployment rate at 7.9%, there are a lot of people on the hunt for job leads. On average, we spend over 26 minutes every day on Facebook. That's a lot of time! Take advantage of Facebook's built-in audience and promote opportunities at your company or organization where they already "hang out."

Website Design Project: Indy Connect Now

We launched a new website for Indy Connect Now.

We worked on this project in a very quick time frame of less than one month from start to finish. As we learned about the initiative and relationship to Indy Connect and CIRTA organization, we designed a logo to represent the initiative and created a custom web design that pulled from the elements of CIRTA with a unique twist. The focus of the website is to gain signatures on the petition for mass transit, so we placed the petition in a prominent position on the home page. The website is connected to our Content Management System for easy maintenance, and our solution included a custom application with reporting on the petition signatures.

LinkedIn: Groups vs. Company Pages

LinkedIn might be a social network with over 175 million users, but it behaves a lot like a virtual trade show or conference networking event. LinkedIn enables its users to network professionally, post and find jobs, and ask/answer questions. LinkedIn users can discover the people employed by a certain business and see for which businesses a certain person has worked.

Facebook Tabs Example 1: Welcome message

Check out a newer version of this post! Facebook no longer uses tabs in this way, but you can use a cover photo as a "Welcome Message" variation. For more current tips, head over to our instructions for a great Facebook cover photo article.

Throughout this month, we're focusing on how businesses and organizations can use custom tabs to strengthen their Facebook pages. Last week we introduced why businesses and organizations should consider using custom Facebook tabs. Now, we're focusing on specific examples of effective custom tabs. First up? "Welcome Message or "Like" page" tabs.

Facebook Tabs: Simple answer to why and how it works

Several clients have asked why they should customize their Facebook business pages. The simple answer is that they can drive web traffic to your website, reinforce your other online marketing efforts, and increase sales and engagement.

Visitors will do a lot of clicking around on your Facebook business page; in fact, this social presence can serve as a mini-website. Keep in mind that some potential customers and clients will get all of their information about your company from the Facebook business page.

A Spooky Case Study: Target's Facebook Marketing

Earlier this week we posted an overview of some of the many ways that companies and organizations are using holiday- and seasonal-themes to engage their fans on Facebook. Today, we're profiling Target's strategic Facebook efforts in-depth.

The social media team at Target does a creative job leveraging holidays and contests as part of their web marketing strategy. Target's recent incorporation of Halloween into its social media plans is inspiring. Their efforts will give you actionable ideas on what works when it comes to building and strengthening new, existing, and potential customer relationships using social media. Here's a detailed look at Target's Halloween marketing campaign on Facebook.

Target

Target made the upcoming holiday prominent on their Facebook page in multiple ways, including on-topic status posts, a custom cover photo, and a holiday-themed interactive contest.

Holiday-inspired Cover Photo

Target uses playful photography to showcase their Halloween costumes and other products prominently in their Facebook cover photo. Their custom tab graphics also use Halloween-inspired graphics. All of the artwork and photographs compliment branding and marketing efforts done in Target stores, print ads and circulars, and even on television commercials and web spots.

Promotional contests

In addition to customizing their cover photo, Target is engaging their Facebook fan base through an interactive Halloween promotion called "Trick or Treat." The promotion gives customers a chance to win a $20 GiftCard or the grand prize of $250 GiftCard.


Users are given two chances to win in the promotion. The first entry is "free," and the price of a second entry is where Target leverages the power of their fans' Facebook networks. Users can only earn a second entry by agreeing to help Target promote this contest. Specifically, the entry is earned by allowing Target to post about the contest to your timeline.

Knowing that not everyone would want their friends to know they've entered the contest, Target has made this notification optional. Giving users the power to decide what they share makes this a thoughtfully executed marketing technique. Because the application doesn't force users to post a notice of participation to their timelines, Target keeps users trust because they're not forcing them to do anything they don't want to do in terms of viral promotion. The contest entry ends with a playful and encouraging nudge to come back and try again tomorrow.




All in all, this is a fun and likely effective social media marketing promotion for a combination reasons:
  1. It is plays on a fun holiday theme that already might be on the minds of their fans.
  2. It offers their fans an incentive to visit their page.
  3. It is easy for their fans to participate.
  4. It encourages their fans to promote Target and their contest to their friends.
  5. It reminds their fans to come back to their Facebook page and try again.

Facebook Fun for Holidays

More and more companies are leveraging custom tabs to engage with their Facebook fans. Incorporating holidays—through seasonally-appropriate themed contests and artwork—is a creative social media marketing strategy for reaching customers on Facebook. Here is an illustrated overview of a few recent noteworthy ways that we've seen companies spice up their Facebook pages and engage with fans:

Document Your Business Blogging Process

blogging process should be documented and pre-planned to ensure blogging success. This is especially true for small businesses who may not have a marketing consultant handling their blogging or a full-time staff person managing this task.

What is blogging success? Success from blogging might include increased search engine rank, increased leads/visitors from blog posts, and/or increased authority on a subject in your industry. Read more about why we think why blogging is important for small businesses.

Why should the blogging strategy be documented? A marketing plan for blogging without documentation is really only a good intention. Without clear direction and specifics, there is no set guidelines and goals, not to mention documentation for contributors about best practices and how entries should be written to match your small business's brand.

Let's simplify. You need to write it down.

It may sound daunting, but documenting your blogging strategy is well worth the effort. Without your strategy set-down in writing, blogging on a regular basis may get pushed back because of other client deadlines or business priorities.

Here are some questions to get you thinking about what to include in your blogging strategy document:
  • How often will posts be published? (e.g. once/week, once/day, all weekdays, once/month) The more often you can publish relevant and useful content, the better, but be sure to set realistic goals.
  • Who will author the blog posts? Are different team members responsible for different topics? Who posts on which days? What's your schedule?
  • What steps does the approval process include? Do topics need to be approved or just draft posts? Who gives approval? Who actually publishes?
  • What is your checklist for each post? See our checklist as an example.
  • What follow-up will be done on your small business's social media channels to promote blog posts? Can you integrate this distribution via HootSuite or another program or do you plan to customize promotion of your blog posts on social media channels? Who is responsible for this curation?

Planned blogging: A case study

TBH Creative's team has been working with a company to ramp up their blogging activities as part of their online marketing strategy. The company writes their blog posts internally. They have a team of four, and each member is responsible to write once/week/month. For the first half of 2012, they met for one hour and pre-planned topics. All topics were written and published according to the plan and schedule. As a result, the company's search engine ranks for several keywords increased with their competition; they also received high results for blog posts as landing page with long reporting of time spent.

During quarter three, they lost track of planning and did not meet to pre-plan topics and set a schedule. As a result, other tasks gained priority and only two posts were published the first month, none for the next two months, four the following. They had good intentions. They had topics and events to talk about in blog posts. They simply did not have a schedule in place or a few ideas generated ahead of time. According to their website analytic data during this period, new visitors numbers fell as did their search engine rank for several targeted keywords.

During quarter four, TBH Creative will be assisting the company to formalize their blog planning to get their marketing plan delivering success stories again. A little bit of planning can go a long way.

Note: The above mentioned client has seen great success from their blogging. Blog posts continue to rank in the top ten landing pages each quarter and their search engine ranking for related keywords used in blog posts are all page one without other SEO measures or paid advertising in place.

Tip: Offer your staff incentives for the most popular blog post each period. This encourages creativity in the content as well as sticking to a schedule.

Responsive design: why it matters


Additionally, Pew's research found that 45% of U.S. adults own smartphones, and 55% use the web on their device. 29% of U.S. adults own a tablet or e-reader. 25 million U.S. adults use their mobile devices as their primary way to access the web. These are growing numbers you can't ignore, as web developer Josh Clark pointed out earlier this year: "We can't settle for serving such a huge audience a stripped-down experience or force them to swim through a desktop layout in a small screen."

Smart businesses are making mobile a crucial part of their web marketing strategy.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the year 2015 is when mobile will overtake desktop. This means businesses and organizations have about three years (or less depending on their industry and audience) to get their mobile strategy together—or, get left behind by their competition.

Business Blogging Checklist

We have recently been writing about business blogging. We provided blogging guidelines and an explanation for why blogging is important in our past posts. Today, we're sharing our checklist for bloggers to get you started. Share a copy with each team member as a resource to review or use it while copy editing to refine posts.

TBH Creative's Blogging Checklist

Note: Use the list as a starting point. Tweak and adjust these rules as best to fit for your business blogging purposes.

❏   The post's title contains at least one keyword or phrase.
❏   The post's title is interesting and something I would click in search results.
❏   The post's body copy includes four or more paragraphs; minimum of 250 words.
❏   All links work.
❏   The post includes at least three links.
❏   All outbound links open in a new window.
❏   Subtitles are formatted using a headline tag.
❏   The post incorporates at least one image/graphic/logo.
❏   Images align and wrap properly with text.
❏   Images include a caption or credit where necessary.
❏   Extra spaces are removed.
❏   Post body copy has been proofread, fact-checked, and copy edited.
❏   Nothing offensive or negative towards others is included in the body copy or graphics.
❏   The blog body copy focuses on one topic and includes one or two primary keywords/phrases.
❏   The blog body copy includes a Call to Action (CTA) with link to related services or contact info.
❏   The CTA uses appropriate markup tags.
❏   All unnecessary code accidentally copied from Word is removed.
❏   The blog post looks good in preview mode.
❏   The blog body copy is written so that I would want to read my post.
❏   The blog body copy is written so that I would want to comment on my post.
❏   The blog post is my own and doesn't include content copied from another source.


Four reasons why blogging should be part of your marketing plan

Is blogging the right marketing tactic for your business? Chances are, the answer is yes. Blogging is a very beneficial tactic for marketing for a few reasons. As an example, for TBH Creative, the purpose of blogging is multi-faceted. Blogging helps to:
  1. Increase search engine rank for important, industry-specific keywords.
  2. Build community authority and activity in social media.
  3. Show personal side of staff and demonstrate expertise in casual setting.
  4. Reference posted information with clients or share information between team members.

Web Design Case Study: Laurel Hall

Services Provided Include:
A new website for Laurel Hall launched in June 2012, and it can be viewed at http://www.laurel-hall.org/.

TBH Creative was hired to create a design appropriate for their audience which is mostly females searching for a wedding venue—brides-to-be and mothers-of-the-bride—but also includes corporate managers and other special occasion planners.

Laurel Hall is elegant and historical combined with modern conveniences. The venue is ideal for weddings, corporate retreats, and other events.

Laurel Hall's homepage was designed for impact with a showcase of event photos eliciting elegance, charm, and happiness.
We used a full screen JQuery rotator for compelling photos to fill the width of your browser.

Before The Redesign

Laurel Hall's website before the redesign. It was described by their marketing manager as 'too masculine' and difficult to navigate.
Our goal in redesign was to add softness through subtle graphic techniques and effectively use the photography.
In the navigation, we organized the main choices as the main events, and created simple dropdown menus for one-click choices.
TBH Creative delivered a new design with templates for primary pages. We build and tested the HTML/CSS/JQuery markup for primary pages. We also edited the content, condensing the information into managable and easy to read pages.

We delivered these files to their IT department for implementation into Site Finity CMS. The website pages were populated internally, and the website is managed by their marketing manager today.

About Laurel Hall

A part of Indiana's historical landscape since 1916, Laurel Hall was built as the home to one of Indiana's wealthiest families. Over time it has played host to an all-girls school, a high-end housing development and a non-partisan governmental think tank.

Laurel Hall is a perfect place for weddings with 200 or fewer guests. The historic venue offers a variety of meeting spaces to meet your needs and can accommodate most audio and visual needs. Laurel Hall is designed for people with high standards and discerning taste who are looking to customize their event to fit their individual style. The building's impressive features include a stunning walnut foyer as well as cathedral ceilings and exotic hardwood floors throughout.

Nestled among six acres of woods and gardens, Laurel Hall welcomes your guests to an unforgettable event. Whether an anniversary party, an engagement dinner, a holiday reception, bridal shower or any other celebration of life’s milestones, Laurel Hall is the perfect fit for groups of 10 to 200.


Content strategy best practices

Many people building websites have big problems with their content. It's a nearly universal problem, and it's enormously complicated. Content is hard. Content piles up. Content is messy. People are still learning about it and figuring out what fixes the content problem.

If you're just beginning to learn about content strategy, the best place to start is with the woman leading the charge to make web content better, and Kristina Halvorson is that content cheerleader. She is the industry's top voice for content strategy, and last Tuesday evening Halvorson met with Chicago-area professionals for a fun and informal conversation about content strategy at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. 

Best Websites 2012: Recap

For most companies, websites make the first impression to potential clients. No matter the industry, a contemporary and useful website is an important marketing tool. Over the last few weeks, I wrote a series of posts on the best websites of 2012. Specifically, I focused on several industries: dermatology, education, internal medicine, pediatric, plastic surgery, and sports medicine. Here's a recap.

Best Websites of 2012: Educational

Throughout the next few weeks, TBH Creative is going to be running a series of blog posts highlighting our favorite websites of 2012, identified by industry. Each post will also include a list of important must haves elements for websites within each industry.

Last week we examined sports medicine websites. This week, we're focusing on educational websites. We chose these three websites for their exemplary layout and organization, color schemes, and content.

Best Websites of 2012: Sports Medicine

Throughout the next few weeks, TBH Creative is going to be running a series of blog posts highlighting our favorite websites of 2012, identified by industry. Each post will also include a list of important must haves elements for websites within each industry.

Last week we examined plastic surgery websites. This week, we're focusing on sports medicine websites. We chose these three websites for their exemplary layout and organization, color schemes, and content.

Best Websites of 2012: Plastic Surgery

Best Websites of 2012: Plastic Surgery
Throughout the next few weeks, TBH Creative is going to be running a series of blog posts highlighting our favorite websites of 2012, identified by industry. Each post will also include a list of important must haves elements for websites within each industry.

Last week we examined pediatrics websites. This week, we're focusing on plastic surgery websites. We chose these three websites for their exemplary layout and organization, color schemes, and content.

Best Websites 2012: Pediatrics

Check out a newer version of this post! For more recent examples, head over to our latest pediatrics web design showcase.

Throughout the next few weeks, TBH Creative is going to be running a series of blog posts highlighting our favorite websites of 2012, identified by industry. Each post will also include a list of important must haves elements for websites within each industry.

Last week we examined internal medicine websites. This week, we're focusing on pediatric websites. We chose these three websites for their exemplary layout and organization, color schemes, and content.

Best Websites 2012: Internal Medicine

Best Websites 2012: Internal Medicine
Throughout the next few weeks, TBH Creative is going to be running a series of blog posts highlighting our favorite websites of 2012, identified by industry. Each post will also include a list of important must haves elements for websites within each industry.

Last week we examined dermatology websites. This week, we're focusing on internal medicine websites. We chose these three websites for their exemplary layout and organization, color schemes, and content.

Best Websites 2012: Dermatology

Throughout the next few weeks, TBH Creative is going to be running a series of blog posts highlighting our favorite websites of 2012, identified by industry. Each post will also include a list of important must haves elements for websites within each industry.

This first week we're looking at dermatology websites. We chose these three websites for their exemplary layout and organization, color schemes, and content.

Website Redesign for CIRTA

We launched a new website for Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority (CIRTA) recently, and it can be viewed at http://www.cirta.us.

CIRTA has been a long time client of TBH Creative. We developed their brand and first website in 2007. As they grew and acquired Central Indiana Commuter Services (CICS)--now Commuter Connect--it was time for an upgrade in web design and structure. We designed a new interface for a wider screen and more balance with brand colors and graphic appeal. We also installed our Content Management System with custom modules developed to suit their specific needs.

Here are a couple comments we received from the client shortly after launch:

Thank you Tatum!  And just wanted to say, I love the look of our new website!
~ Andrew McGee, Commuter Connect Manager


Thanks so much on the awesome job you did on the CIRTA and Commuter Connect sites. You and your team were great.
~ Jen Schmits Thomas, APR, JTPR Inc.

CIRTA's homepage

Interior Page Example: About CIRTA

Before The Redesign

CIRTA's website before the redesign.

About CIRTA

The Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority (CIRTA) is a quasi-governmental organization (IC 36-9-3) focused on bringing more transportation options to Central Indiana. They are working to better connect Indianapolis with suburban and rural communities in Marion, Hamilton, Hancock, Shelby, Johnson, Morgan, Hendricks, Boone, Delaware and Madison counties.

Improving and increasing transit options helps employees and employers alike throughout the region. CIRTA is constantly working with state legislators and community leaders to improve public transit.

Sign the petition to support dedicated transportation in Central Indiana!


Web Design Case Study: The Christ Hospital Construction

Services Provided Include:
We launched a construction microsite for The Christ Hospital earlier this month. The purpose of the microsite is to communicate and ease the DISRUPTION that the construction development will cause for employees, patients and visitors.

Christ is building a new tower on site for the Orthopaedic & Spine Center, which will a comprehensive house inpatient and outpatient services and will include visitor parking.
The microsite communicates this information and progress online.

The first step was a clean web design in effort to get the information public quickly. An upgraded design of the website will launch later this summer, and it will show off the planned new brand.



TBH Creative also designed and developed a mobile website to further communicate the information with ease to traveling users. Mobile usability was a high priority of the project.


About The Christ Hospital Construction

Starting June 2012, The Christ Hospital will begin construction of a $265 million expansion and improvement of its main campus in Mt. Auburn. The centerpiece of this expansion plan includes the development of a unique facility dedicated solely to orthopaedic and spine care, designed to support physicians, patients and families in an efficient, healing and technologically advanced environment. The new 332,000 square foot facility, which will be located just south of the main hospital, will physically connect to the current hospital but will provide separate access for patients and visitors. The orthopaedic and spine center will include:
  • 60 private inpatient rooms
  • 10 operating rooms dedicated to orthopaedic and spine surgeries, with two shelled operating rooms for future growth
  • Physical and occupational therapy services
  • Imaging services
  • Physician offices and administrative offices
  • Underground parking for approximately 150 vehicles
Completion of the facility is expected to occur in Spring 2015, and opening is expected to occur in Summer 2015.


Navigation: What works best with web design?

Navigation is a very important part of a successful website. After all, you can't move around a website without one. I will discuss four aspects of creating a user-friendly and effective navigation for a website:
  1. Easy to find
  2. Minimal links
  3. Clear naming
  4. Show hierarchy

Easy to Find: Choose an obvious placement for your main navigation bar

Your navigation options need to be as easy to find as the logo. Users cannot go anywhere on your website without finding the navigation first. The two most common spaces for navigation are along the top or left side of the website. Users won't stick around for long if they can't make their way around your website easily.

The style and design of your main choices should also be appropriate. We recommend to use tabs, buttons, or other obvious 'clickable' styles.

CIRTA's navigation uses large buttons with obvious hover and active states ("About" is the current shown active state).
"Sign the Petition" is the organization's main  objective and was highlighted with orange for emphasis.

TBH Creative's navigation bar uses tabs which are very familiar to real file folders.

Minimal Clicks: How many links should you have in the main navigation bar?

There doesn't seem to be a set "rule" on how many links you should have in the main navigation bar, and it may vary based on your company's particular needs. Our recommendation is to keep it minimal by creating primary 'buckets'. Additional pages can be placed below these main topics. A good range is 5-8 main buttons. If you need one or two more and the design will allow for it, that is okay. It is best to have less than 10 links in the main navigation. More than 10 is too much for the user to choose from.

Below is an example of a website with too many links in the main navigation:

KitchenSink.com is an example of a website with too many links in the main navigation.
KitchenSink.com could have added some drop down menus and sub-navigation to help organize their site better. Larger websites will need sub-navigation as well, which brings us to the next topic.

Clear Naming: Use obvious names for categories

This sounds like a "no brainer", but what you think a category should be named may confuse other users as to what that category actually contains. This is why it is important to conduct usability testing or gather input from others outside of the industry. For example, a good name for a page with map and directions is "Contact" or "Map & Directions". The simpler, the better when it comes to page naming.

Where would a user expect to find your store's hours? On the contact, home or about page? If you aren't sure, you should conduct a round of usability testing with users in your target audience.

Tips: 

  • Shorten longer named links or buttons to simple and clear action wording. 1-3 words is optimal.
  • If your company uses a lot of industry 'jargon', make sure the navigation wording speaks to the general public or audience, not just people who are very familiar.

Navigation Hierarchy: Are breadcrumbs needed?

It is important to identify for the user where they are on a website and within which section. This is especially important for large websites so that users do not get lost. Breadcrumbs are a great option. They are most often used in a simple form, for example: Home > Products > Bath > Towels. This shows which section the user is in and how they got there.

Below are some examples of showing hierarchy.
Apple.com has a very beautiful and clean navigation bar,
and they use very traditional breadcrumbs on deep level pages of the website.

Target.com uses traditional breadcrumbs with a very nice style.
They also make it very clear which section the visitor is on using the large section title in banner bar (see 'bath safety').

Imaging Office Systems' uses visual breadcrumbs to show the user which section they are in.
See the active tab state, section identification on the left, and highlighted tab on the left as well.

Interested in learning more about navigation? One of our previous blog posts, 3 questions a good navigation system should answer, further discusses the importance of great navigation on a website.

Web design: How do you decide on a typeface?

Bold typeface
There are a variety of font options available these days, but how do you choose the right one? When making type decisions for your website, it's important to consider readability, pairing, kerning, and more.

Readability

Avoid using a small font size for the main sections of website copy. Aim to keep your text between 12 to 14 pt to maximize readability. To help make scanning easier for your users, consider setting your headlines and subheads in a different typeface or style.

Social Media & Your Business: Blogger (or any other sort of blog)

This month, I am writing a series of blog posts on social media and your business.

Blogs are a great way for businesses to increase search ranking. They also engage your audience and keep you on your toes with what's new in the industry. Customers are always interested in the newest products and keeping up with the latest trends.

There are several free blog services out there: Blogger and Wordpress, just to name a few.

Advantages


  1. More traffic to your site - Blogging can increase your search engine rating. The more posts, the better. Make sure you create relevant blog posts. Creating posts no one will read doesn't make much sense.
  2. Position yourself as an expert on the subject - By creating new content for your business' industry, you're building credibility with potential customers. Customers want to hire professionals who know their stuff.
  3. Engage your audience - Ask questions. Have a contest. Start a dialogue about a certain topic. Create a poll. Communication between customers (and yourself) can help you decide what approach is best for your business.

Disadvantages


  1. Not enough time - If you don't have enough time to write at least a few posts a month, you probably shouldn't have a blog. Users get turned off when they go to your blog and see it hasn't been updated in over 6 months. If you can't keep up with posts, we suggest you don't add a blog to your website.
  2. Spam - Spam comments happen all of the time on blogs. An easy way to avoid this is to moderate all comments that come through. This way you can easily pick out the spam and delete those comments before they ever get posted.
  3. Negative feedback - If you put your opinion on the Internet, you will probably get a few users who don't agree with you. This is completely okay. You just need to make sure you respond well. No one has the same thought process you do.

Examples

TBH Creative's blog fits seamlessly into the website design.

TBH Creative's blog.


Kermans Fine Flooring's blog also matches their website design.

Kermans Fine Flooring's blog.


Social Media & Your Business: Pinterest

This month, I am writing a series of blog posts on social media and your business.

Pinterest is one of the newest social media websites. The popularity of Pinterest has grown quickly. Pinterest is very different than any of the other social media sites. Users create pin boards to keep track of everything from inspirations to products that they "pin," or bookmark. Pinterest can be great for advertising services and products, strengthening branding, and driving traffic to your website.

Tips to keep in mind when starting an e-mail marketing

An inbox might announce "You've got mail!" but that alert doesn't always mean what's inside is worth opening.

When you're developing your e-mail marketing strategy, make sure your communications are as relevant as possible to your customers. By adding value and strategically focusing marketing, your communications won't be branded as spam.

Social Media & Your Business: Google+

This month, I am writing a series of blog posts on social media and your business.

Google+ isn't as widely used as Facebook and Twitter, but it has some noteworthy benefits for small businesses. There is a direct connection between Google+ and Google Search: having a Google Page will directly increase your rankings on Google. Google+ also has professional features and helps to secure your business' identity.

Social Media & Your Business

During the next month, I will be creating a series of blog posts about social media and the positives and negatives for your business. Social media is a great way to advertise and make your business more personable. Growing rapidly throughout the past five years, social media has become an everyday habit for some people (just like drinking their morning coffee). Social media is easy to update and reaches a large amount of people in real time.

Audio: 3 Tips for Getting Started


When it comes to incorporating multimedia into your website, most people start with reliable methods like video and slideshows, but adding audio clips and podcast series are other interactive ways to add extra value for your customers when appropriate.

#1—Capturing

Whether the job is cutting a tomato or checking your tire pressure, it's always easier to do work when you have the right tools. If you are getting started and only experimenting with audio recording, you can get away with capturing your first audio clips using your computer's microphone. However, if you want to elevate your results and get something a little more professional, consider investing in a reliable digital voice recorder. They can range in price from $50 for a basic recorder to $250 or more for really sophisticated models. You may also consider getting an accessory to allow you to record phone conversations and a "sock" to buffer out wind noise from being captured when recording outside.

Hint: Writers and journalists often use digital voice recorders to capture interviews. If you have a friend who already works regularly with audio, consider borrowing their recorder to get familiar with how they work and what features are most important to you.

#2—Editing

It's hard to capture audio that's ready to "publish" online without doing a little polishing. The easiest way to use to reduce white noise, balance sound, and make other types of audio editing tweaks is by installing and using Audacity, a free and open source cross-platform software. The program's developers continue to evolve and improve Audacity, so I recommend bookmarking the website to check for updates. The second version was released only one month ago.

Hint: To keep your computer moving smoothly, you may also want to consider buying a supplemental hard drive devoted to storing your sound files. Like video files, audio files take up a lot of space.

#3—Integrating

The ways to add audio strategically to your website are endless. Many companies have photos-only slideshows of products. An easy audio enhancement for your website might be to add narrated captions to help your customers better understand the value of your offerings.

Sometimes written examples of your company's services are all you need, but maybe you want to enhance them? If you offer translation services, audio clips might be used to compliment your portfolio to show samples of your skills in action. If there are cases when video is too much but written copy doesn't quite get you there, audio might be your solution.

A e-newsletter is great when your company has many updates to share, but what if your main news is that you continue to do good work and solve problems for your customers? If you provide a service where your expertise is valued, a podcast series might allow you to showcase the depth of your knowledge and your personality at the same time. There are many different formats you could consider, including one in which you field questions from your customers in the spirit of Click and Clack at Car Talk, one of the Web's most downloaded podcast series.

Hint: For more inspiration on how you might effectively incorporate audio into your website and online marketing strategy, don't just look at your competition's website. Look in unexpected places for ideas. For instance, the New York Times is always pushing boundaries with how they incorporate interactivity into their story-telling. Their engaging audio slideshow about Ansel Adams' photography is one of my favorite examples of their effective uses of audio to enhance their website.

Web Development: Print Stylesheets & Why They're Important

Not every website needs a print stylesheet, but it wouldn't hurt to have one.

What is a print stylesheet? This special stylesheet that specifies what to print from the website page. Setting up this stylesheet is easy. Make sure you link your html to the stylesheet: <link rel="stylesheet" href="print.css" type="text/css" media="print" />. The browser can't automatically detect that it's on the server.

Web Design: Interactivity with jQuery

As a followup to my last post about Flash and mobility issues, I thought it would be a good time to discuss (and show) exactly what jQuery can do for websites. If you are thinking about adding a little bit of interactivity and animation to your website and don't want to use Flash--jQuery is the perfect solution.

Navigation:

Charlie Gentle uses jQuery for the navigation throughout his portfolio website. His website is small; this type of navigation works very well. You would not want to have this animation for a website larger than five pages (unless you want your user to get frustrated and leave your site). The sliding effect between pages was coded using jQuery.

Charlie Gentle's website shows a great use for jQuery in websites with simple navigation.

Tympanus has a changing image in the background when the user hovers over a main menu item. This is another website where you should have minimum navigation. This style allows for sub navigation, which will help with simplicity as well. The movement is constructed with jQuery technology.


Tympanus also has another navigation example which uses "bubbles". This is a unique style of navigation. It is definitely a neat touch if you are looking for a little something to separate your website from the rest. Again, constructed using jQuery coding for the movement.


Photo Galleries

Below is another jQuery interactive movement from Tympanus. They have an example of a sliding image carousel. They show five different sizes. This can be useful on a wide variety of websites, and jQuery makes maintenance of such gallery very easy.


I feel like I've seen this jQuery photo gallery from Imageflow everywhere. As is, it's not very unique, but with a little customization, you can make your photo gallery stand out! One negative thing about this slideshow: when you click on an image, it opens in the same window. It would be interesting to see if a lightbox popup could work with this. Both features and the customization options are via jQuery development.


The AviaSlider has eight different examples of jQuery slideshows. The wide variety of animations make it easy to customize this slider. This slideshow is best used for a banner or small slideshow. You never want to have more than a handful of images: the user probably won't be staying on your page for longer than 30 seconds. This and the above gallery examples are far superior from Flash galleries -- they are equally impressive in the way they look, easier to maintain, more compatible with mobile devices, and lightweight markup.


Want a little variety in the background of your website? Macrofolio shows how you can do just that with jQuery. Each background image can have a different caption as well (or the same if you wish)!


Other Advanced Effects:

I've actually never seen anything like this effect before and it is constructed using JQuery. Jacak Galanciak has a "quick sand" jQuery demo. After seeing it, I immediately began to wonder what you could use this for: sorting staff members, pets for adoption, folders, albums, and much more!


Build Internet has a nice demo of sliding caption boxes. This is a unique way to add captions to your images. There are a wide variety of caption options to choose from. This jQuery technique might also be nice for "gateway" or "call to action" boxes on landing pages.


Professor Cloud displays a sleek image zoom feature. I have seen this used  before on several e-commerce websites. It is definitely a nice touch and allows the user to easily see details! This is also similar to jQuery map zoom features most users are familiar with.




Basically, the movement and heavy coding that used to be necessary with Flash are now possible with better technology called JQuery. As a business, adding a touch of movement and interactivity will help make your website stand out from others.

Other TBH Creative blog posts with jQuery tips & tricks:



Flash: Website Mobility Issues

Apple's mobile devices do not work well with Flash websites and applications. Apple and Flash do not get along. If your website is offered only in Flash, you will miss this large percent of mobile users.

W3Schools has collected data on mobile device usage since January of 2011. As you can see, mobile device usage has dramatically increased over the last year:


For example, Saab's Change Perspective website looks like this on a desktop computer and iPhone:

Saab's Change Perspective website.
Saab's Change Perspective website on an iPhone.

How can developers get around this issue?

1) JQuery
Today, you can find hundreds of tutorials about jQuery on the internet. About 5 years or so ago, Flash was the only way to make elaborate slideshows and photo galleries. jQuery makes it easier to create dynamic and interactive pieces on websites without the use of Flash.

Dynamic WP wrote an article called "Top 20+ jQuery Slideshow and Image Gallery Tutorials." There are several great tutorials listed. jQuery is compatible with mobile devices, therefore switching your Flash slideshows to jQuery is a great solution.


2) Separate mobile friendly version
You could always have your website made into a web or native application. Web and native applications are basically a condensed, cleaner version of your website. This makes navigating through your website easier for the user.

Toys R Us' desktop website.
Toys R Us' mobile friendly site.

While working on my senior project, I knew I would need to make a mobile friendly version. The desktop version was strictly Flash; I knew it would not work at all on iPhones and iPads. The mobile version is easy to navigate and shouldn't create any headaches for the user.

Subject Matters' desktop site.
Subject Matters' mobile friendly site.

Need more examples?



3) Upgraded Flash software
If you purchase an upgraded version of Flash software, you can create an 'app' that will run Flash. This seems like the best solution, but will not help the general browser experience. Adobe's Flash Platform Blog explains the Packager for iPhone. It is my recommendation that jQuery and/or a separate mobile site will be the best solution for this issue. Upgrading the Flash software is a solution, but may not be the best option for mobile compatibility.

If you think using Packager for iPhone is the best option, Flash Mobile Blog put together an article with example websites that use the Packager for iPhone.

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