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Five Internet marketing trends to watch

'Tis the season for annual predictions. As always, we’re keeping an eye on Internet marketing trends. We’ve come across a few that we think will definitely have an impact. Let us know what you think… have any to add?

1. The shift to mobile will speed up

According to Forbes, “87% of connected devices sales by 2017 will be tablets and smartphones.” That forecast shows that your customers will be (if they aren't already) accessing your site with a mobile device. Responsive design is more than just condensing the screen. It involves putting your customer first and making sure your website works well in their hands.

Questions to ask:
  • Can your audience easily navigate and get to your content? 
  • Have you considered displaying different types of information up front to people who are accessing you from a smartphone vs laptop?
Read our previous article: Five Reasons Your Business Needs a Mobile Website

2. Content marketing

Photography by garryknight, CC BY NC 2.0
What makes content juicy? Eliminate the fluff - focus on what matters.
Creating relevant, valuable content is becoming more and more important. When people take the time to pull up your site or search for your services, they want information. Engage your audience with solid content and they’ll spread the word and keep coming back. Once again, content marketing is more about the customer experience. Sharing information that you know your customers want in a format that they prefer is key.

Don’t forget the marketing in the phrase “content marketing.” Yes, your website should be founded on strong, engaging and relevant content but if you don’t tell people it exists it doesn’t matter. Staying on trend, content marketing isn't just about advertising – it’s about making the most of social media and email marketing to spread the news.

Questions to ask:
  • Are you currently blogging about your industry or service?
  • How often are you updating your content to make sure it is both current and relevant? Is it time for a content management tool?
Read more about content marketing.
Don’t miss this strong article about content marketing trends by Forbes.

3. The importance of images

Photography by familymwr, CC BY NC 2.0
Images can make you stop scanning and pay more attention. They can reinforce a message or be one of their own.
It is worth noting that some of the most popular websites right now have images as their focus: think Buzzfeed, Pinterest or Instagram. Images help you communicate your message in a powerful fashion. Infographics and other ways of incorporating large visuals in your written content will be a big trend to watch in the next year or so. You’re going to see more and more websites that incorporate one long page with a balanced mix of images and content to communicate quickly and easily.

Questions to ask:
  • Where can images (photos or illustrations) make an impact on your site?
  • Would video help you share your story in a more powerful fashion?

4. It’s all about the sharing

Photography by Jason A. Howie, CC BY NC 2.0
Internet marketing doesn't end at your website. Integrating social media is key.
You knew social media would have to appear on this list. As social media continues to integrate its way into our everyday lives, its impact on websites continues to grow. In fact, some experts think that search engines will soon start factoring in how often pages are shared or liked or followed into their search algorithms. That means that if your content is strong enough (see points two and three above) to be shared on social media, your website will rank higher in search results.

Questions to ask:
  • What social media channels are you using to stay on top of industry trends? Do you also have a presence on those channels?
  • Who is responsible for your social media strategy and content?
Here's a great article on integrating social media into your search engine optimization strategy.

5. It’s all about the customer

If there’s one thing these trends have in common it’s customer engagement. People are becoming savvier about websites and Internet marketing all the time. Gone are the days where a simple search advertisement will make a notable increase in traffic. You need to integrate your efforts, reach out to your audience in meaningful ways and make sure that what your readers find on your site is strong enough to hold their attention.

Your website is literally at people’s fingertips and they expect solid, relevant content to follow. Tools such as analytics help you measure your effectiveness. The key is to make sure you’re not just looking at those reports, rather that you are taking action with them. Know your customer and continue to develop what they want today and tomorrow.

Creating your next UI pattern library

Using tablet and smart phone with laptop on desk
Ensuring a consistent user experience throughout the life of a website is a challenge for all web professionals. As time goes by,  stakeholders change, new initiatives are developed, and the website that was initially launched turns into something completely new. Building a pattern library is an effective technique to use to maintain a long-lasting website.

Why build a pattern library?

A pattern libraries allow team members to quickly reference a set of standard elements and reusable components, and this set-up allows for greater productive while also saving both money and time.

Indianapolis web design link library

Indianapolis web design link library

A library of websites we visit often, full of great information and inspiration.

  • Blogs
  • Design Inspiration
  • Color
  • Stock Photos, Illustrations and Fonts
  • Tools
  • Development
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Standards

Question: How often should you update your website?

Answer: All the time!

A website should never be a static document. In fact a website works better for you (and your customers and search engines) if you keep it fresh and updated. Think of it as evolutionary growth – your website should always be growing and changing.

There are three types of updates you should be considering on a regular basis:
  • content updates
  • site enhancements
  • complete site redesigns

1. Content updates

Keep your content fresh and you give your site visitors a reason to keep coming back. Consider having a section of your home page for announcements that you can update at least weekly.



We also recommend reviewing key sections of your site at least once a quarter to make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date. Our content development services can help you stay on top of your site’s content.

2. Site enhancements

If your current website design is fairly new and working well, it might be time to take it to the next level. A few examples of things you should consider to extend your website's promotion or effectiveness:
  • Analytic Reporting: Analytics and site statistics show you how well your site is performing so you can make educated decisions for change or additions. 
  • Email Marketing: Email marketing campaigns are a good way to stay in touch with your clients and nicely complement an overall website strategy. 
  • Social Media Set up and Strategy: Social media – blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. - give your business an influential new tool to build relationships, learn about your customers and expand your website’s marketing power. 
  • Search Engine Optimization: Making sure you appear when you should on search engines and also tweaking that result so that it best markets your services are key elements to a successful website.
  • Video Production: When you have a complicated service/product or a great testimonial or a story to tell, sometimes words aren't enough. Bringing those examples to life through video can be extremely compelling to your audience. 
Not sure where to start? Our Site Success ManagerTM services can help you identify areas of improvement.

3. Site redesign

Has it been three years or more since you launched your site? It’s probably time to sit down and talk about a site redesign. Technology and tools change quickly on the Internet. Investing time and money in your site regularly helps you ensure you’re getting the most from this valuable resource. It also helps you take advantage of the latest in Internet development. Now is a particularly good time to consider how to make your site more mobile friendly.

Following what we preach: The new tbhcreative.com website just launched.

It’s been nearly three years since we launched a new website to represent TBH Creative. Over the past three years we've kept the content current and regular new content through blogging. We've added a few features such as responsive breakpoints to make it more mobile friendly. Even with these ongoing changes, it was time to launch an all new website to take advantage of new technology and design trends.



CSS Flexbox

Laying out elements on a website has always come with its challenges due to the limitations of CSS. With the growth of responsive design, this issue has become increasingly apparent. To address this issue, the CSS Flexible Box Layout Module was developed.

Even though Flexbox is currently in the W3C candidate recommendation stage (meaning it is yet to be finalized and has limited browser support), it's still important to understand what all it can do. This article provides an introduction to Flexbox, including its main features and how it can be used.

Flexbox overview

Flexbox takes CSS layout to the next level, providing more advanced control over the elements in a website layout. As its name implies, the key feature of Flexbox is indeed flexibility. It provides an easier way for elements to adapt to their containing element, allowing the alignment, wrapping, and order of elements to be quickly adjusted.

Flexbox eliminates the need to use floats and other display properties in order to arrange elements on a page. It introduces a new set of CSS properties that can be used to control layout. These new properties can be enabled simply by adding display: flex to an element.

Let's take a look at some examples of the most useful Flexbox properties.

Alignment: Flexbox can be used to quickly align elements with it's justify-content property. The example below shows how the same navigation links can be aligned in multiple ways. Perfectly centering content can sometimes be challenging using CSS, but Flexbox makes it as simple as changing a property value.

Various alignment options using the "justify-content" property.

Direction: The flex-direction property provides advanced control over the direction of elements. It can be used to arrange elements into rows or columns, or to reverse the order of elements within a container.

Sections can easily be reversed or changed to rows or columns using the "flex-direction" property.

Order: Flexbox allows the elements on a website to be re-ordered without altering the website's HTML, which is one of its most attractive features. This can be done using the order property. The higher the number of the order property, the lower on the page an element appears. In the example below, the navigation starts off at the top of the page. By changing the order property of the navigation, it moves below the content. This is especially useful for responsive websites, so elements can be easily shifted in order of importance.

The sections on this page have been re-ordered using the Flexbox "order" property.

This is just a brief overview of what you can accomplish with Flexbox. To dive deeper into Flexbox properties, check out the Complete Guide to Flexbox.

Browser support

Browser support for Flexbox is growing, but not all browsers support it just yet. Furthermore, some browsers support Flexbox, but use an older version of its syntax. Check out the Flexbox browser support chart at CanIUse.com to find out more.

The future of Flexbox

Flexbox brings some much needed improvements to CSS layout. With browser support increasing, it can soon be widely utilized, so it's important to understand how powerful it can be. Creating flexible, responsive websites will be easier than ever with the advanced control that Flexbox provides.

Three simple ways to make your website more successful

You have a great website. The calls to action are clear and people are going where you want them to go. Your content is good and people can clearly tell what you have to offer. Your navigation is simple and easy to use. Good for you! You've covered the basics. Now - what can you do to make your website MORE successful?

1. Keep it current.

You might have the most beautifully designed website with the clearest navigation but if the words on the page are outdated, you've lost your audience. Regularly updated, fresh content is key to getting people to respect the validity of your website and gain repeat visitors. Consider having a section on the home page that you update at least weekly. Look for opportunities to update interior pages with your latest programs, events and other news. If you make a change to your offerings - don't let a week go by without updating your website. Not sure how to make these changes? You have two basic choices: have an ongoing maintenance agreement with your web developer or look at a Content Management System (CMS) so that you can make updates yourself. Either option is a good investment of your money and time. Don't let your fabulous website grow cobwebs.



Learn more about Proactive Site Maintenance and Content Management.

2. Make it responsive.

How does your website look on a smart phone or tablet? If you don't know, take a minute and look. Is it easy to read? Easy to use? Does the content fit the screen? If not, it's time to look at some design modifications. You could opt for a mobile design where the site will appear slightly different to users who visit with a phone or tablet. A more long term solution, however, is responsive design. This option takes your current site design and makes it smart enough to scale to fit any size screen. According to Pew Internet Research, as of May 2013 56% of American adults have a smart phone and 34% of adults own a tablet computer. Those numbers are consistently on the rise, which means your mobile-viewing audience is also. Make sure your site isn't turning away visitors with smart phones and tablets.

Site at full screen resolution - as seen on laptops or desktops.

Site at smaller resolution - as seen on a smart phone.

Learn more about the Importance of Responsive Design.

3. Tie it to social media.

By social media we mean Facebook, Twitter, Google+, blogs, Pinterest and a host of sites and services that people are using to connect and share information. If you don't have a presence on those services, it's time to investigate and see what's the best fit for your organization and audience. If you do have a presence on those services, it's time to make sure they are part of a larger Internet strategic plan. Social media is an excellent way to drive traffic to your website - and ultimately your business. You should be promoting your social media on your website while promoting your website on your social media.



Learn more about Social Media & Your Business.

There you have it! Making your website more successful is as easy as 1 - 2 - 3!

Bonus Tip: don't be afraid to change things up. Monitor your site with analytics - watch where people are clicking and how long they are staying on key pages. You might need to consider a change in navigation. You might need to look at different types of content to drive interest and traffic - videos or email newsletters for example. The important thing to remember is that a website launch is just the beginning of any well-developed Internet Strategic Plan.

Hack the future: A recap of the Future of Web Design conference


New York City's Time Square is usually bustling with tourists talking about seeing Broadway shows and visiting Central Park, but in early October an unusually high number of web developers and designers took over AMC Theatre on 42nd Street to talk about the Internet during the Future of Web Design (FOWD)'s "Future Insights" conference.

A couple of us from TBH Creative were among the nerds geeking out about how to make the web better, and this is our first recap of the some of the best tidbits were learned during those jam-packed three days of networking, creative inspiration, and tech talk.

Be mobile-minded

If there was one universal touch-point for each presentation, it was mobile-mobile-mobile! Everyone from former New York Times design director Khoi Vinh to Couch to 5K creator Josh Clark to user experience guru Sophie Kleber talked about the importance of designing experiences for the instant era where the "web is a beautiful, big, messy place."

Noteworthy numbers—

  • 91%: The percentage of Americans own a cell phone (versus 76%, the percentage who own a computer)
  • 5 feet: The furthest distance most smart phone users are ever from their device
  • 58 minutes: The average amount of time smart phone users spend on their device everyday 
  • 17%: The percentage of all traffic worldwide from mobile devices
  • 40%: The percentage of time spend on the web using mobile devices

Sound advice—

  • "Device is context."
  • "Pushing mobile frontier means designing for sensors and a network of social devices."
  • "Websites should be responsive. Don't bump them off to an app unless there's a value to the app. Some apps may still be appropriate but when it comes to mobile, most of the time they're still basically like an extra pinky toe."
  • "If people get to your site by search on their mobile device, make sure it will work when they get there."
  • "Phones are personal items. Tablets are hearth fires."
  • "Performance is the most important thing when it comes to responsive design."
  • "Responsive design isn't a fad. It's just design and design is fundamentally commercial."
  • "The best apps are kings of pain. The more specifically you define your user, customer, or use case, the better your design will be. Sometime that's for everyone is for no one. Going narrow makes your job easier: easier to find customers, easier to know what features to include, and easier to understand the competition."
  • "The best touch interface is sometimes no touch at all." 
  • "Design for different barriors to action, no matter if the platform is a phone, tablet, or desktop. Just because a user can doesn't mean they will."
  • "Responsive is not a line item. It is design."

The business of making stuff

Successful web developers and designers are also successful business people. They get proactive problem solving and understand small wins matter. A lot of the FOWD speakers shared tidbits for maximizing successes on the job that ring true no matter what you do for a living.

Sound advice—

  • "When problem framing, ask why! Keep asking why until you get to the root cause of why a stakeholder or client is stuck on a position. Once you get there, then ask: 'What's stopping you?'"
  • "Doing stuff and doing stuff the 'long hard stupid way' is the only way of doing things that are good. But when it doesn't matter, get a move on!"
  • "Mistakes and errors are just part of the learning process. It's not about the programming. It's about the mindset, taking risks and helping each other."
  • "If you build it, they won't necessarily come right away. There's no such thing as an overnight success. The things you set out to build at the beginning are rarely what you have in the end. It often takes many failures to get results. The secret? Persistence."
  • "'I'm trying' is a damn better answer than 'Because I didn't have to.'"
  • "Establish business goals upfront then ask the clients if the design helps achieve the goals, not if the clients 'like' the design." 
  • "Freedom is overrated. Deadlines and guidelines help."
  • "If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you launched too late. Change is okay. Tools evolve. You have to prioritize. Change requires more than a five minute investment to try and adapt. Just because a tool doesn't solve your every need doesn't mean it can't help."

Design responsibly

From web accessibility issues to psychology for designers, FOWD speakers had a lot of recommendations for how designers and developers can reduce everyday frustrations for users and create better websites.

Sound advice—

  • "Every user is a non-javascript user while the page is loading."
  • "Consider performance an element of design. Keep in mind that most users will leave a website if it takes longer than five seconds to load."
  • "Be future friendly and prepare for the unknown by being backwards compatible and enhancing upwards. When evaluating new technologies, always filter through the lens of the long web."
  • "With the way that users behave nowadays, we can no longer make users jump through hoops. Don't make users click unnecessarily. A click becomes a commitment, whereas scrolling requires very little commitment. Design should not stand in the way an app or website works."
  • "A designer who doesn't understand psychology is going to be no more successful than an architect who doesn't understand physics."
  • "Design a sign-up form like a conversation."
  • "It's not what we don't know that will kill us. It's what we fully ignore. Don't seek the truth. Just drop your opinions. For a web design to be successful, it must communicate."
  • "No safe universal colors exist, but effective use of contrast helps increase legibility with contrast between light and dark colors being the most important. Complimentary color pairs work better than adjacent colors. The easiest trick for checking contrast is to work in grayscale."
  • "The first rule of ux is that you cannot NOT communicate. You have to care. Think about your product as a series of interactions that cause stress or pleasure."
  • "Bundle content by units of meaning. Cluster topics within tags to tell stories. To make archives more relevant is to be increasingly relevant on the platforms where people already are. Our stories are data with a soul."
If you follow the #fowd hashtag, you can see more from this event and their upcoming conference in London. Next up: A summary of some of the best apps and websites recommended by FOWD speakers.

Testing website data, design and content: A guide to your first A/B test

A/B testing is an easy way to test data, design, and content on your website. The process allows you to learn more about your site visitors and tailor the experience to their specific needs.

What is A/B testing?

A/B testing compares two versions of a webpage against one another, then declares a winner based on the most successful conversion rate. When a visitor lands on a webpage, they are served up either the A test, or the variation, called the B test. It is very common to test call-to-action copy, website copy, specific interactions, or design elements.

A/B Testing is a crucial means of measuring that allows you to see into your users behavior. It gives you the opportunity to learn more about your audiences preferences and test various design solutions without an entire revamp of your website. Additionally, it gives your team the freedom and power to constantly innovate, allowing your website to become an organic and ever-evolving product. By learning more about your visitors, you are able to optimize your website, creating a voice between the website and your audience.

What can you test?

You can test a variety of content options, from copy to design. Here is a list of A/B testing possibilities to get you thinking:
  • Headlines
  • Sub headlines
  • Paragraph text
  • Testimonials
  • Call to action text
  • Call to action Button
  • Links
  • Images
  • Content near the fold
  • Forms

How to get started

  1. Get to know your data
    The first step to beginning any A/B testing experiment is to begin with metrics. Analyzing your website data, bounce rates, conversion rates, and page views will help you establish a baseline.
  2. Identify testing goals
    After combing through the data, the next step is to specify what to test. Whether it’s a specific call-to-action, button, or other type of content, you need to identify what to test and set a goal.
  3. Execute the test
    Once you decide what you are testing, create your opposing test. For example, if you are testing content, you should create a second version of the content to test against. Then you're ready to run the test.
  4. Compare results and take action
    We typically recommend allowing two weeks for a test to run before making any assumptions based on the results. Results can significantly change depending on the amount of visitors to your site. Visual Website Optimizer has a great tool that calculates this for you. Once a winner is declared, you can immediately implement the successful test and see improved website performance.
That's it! By following these steps you have the opportunity to fine-tune your website according to your user's needs. Keep in mind, you may not always get a declared winner and additional testing may be necessary.

More resources

Smashing Magazine's ultimate guide to A/B testing
Usability Geek's intro to A/B testing
Mashable's tools and resources for AB testing

Popular tools for A/B testing

Optimizely
Visual Website Optimizer
Unbounce

Need help planning or executing your next A/B test? TBH Creative can help. Contact us today to get started.

Practical uses of animated GIFs in web design

What comes to mind when you hear "animated GIF"? Do you think back to the days when animated clip art ruled on websites hosted on Geocities and MySpace? Do you associate the term with Tumblr or Buzzfeed, where animated GIFs pop up on a daily basis? (If all you're thinking is "what's a GIF?" then check out this short Animated GIF documentary.)

Regardless of your familiarity, what you may not realize is that animated GIFs can be valuable tools for anything from design mock-ups to email marketing pitches.

Here are some helpful examples of how to effectively put animated GIFs to use:

Interactive mock-ups

Presenting mock-ups for a website, mobile app, and other web-based products can be a challenging process. Many designers provide static images to clients in order to show overall design, but portraying interactivity using static images is nearly impossible. Some designers use animated GIFs to solve this mock-up problem. These examples show how comps with animation improve comprehensive:

  

By providing an animated GIF instead of a static image, designers can portray how websites and apps will function once complete and how users can use them. Using animated GIFs can be a great deal more effective, especially for people who need to see how something works in order to understand it.

Alternative to CSS3 animations or videos

While CSS3 can be used to provide animation on websites, if you need to support older browsers, it might not be your best option. Animated GIFs are a useful alternative because even older browsers support them. In some cases animated GIFs can be used in place of video as well, especially when a more lightweight option is needed. For example, take a look at the Giant Ant site. When you hover over the icons on the home page, they turn into short animations. The creators of this site opted to use animated GIFs instead of using a video to achieve this effect.

The Giant Ant homepage uses animated GIFs for icons.

Animated GIFs also make a great alternative to video and coding solutions because of how easy they are to create. If you have Adobe Photoshop, you can create one without any extra software required. They don't require any coding experience and can be used as easily as any other image file type.

User engagement

Animated GIFs can help make a website more engaging for users. They can be used to make certain areas of your website stand out, and showcase your content in new and exciting ways. Even just adding a touch of life to photos can get a user's attention better than a static image. Using animation adds a sense of interactivity to your content and can have a bigger impact on users.

Email marketing

Email marketing is another area in which animated GIFs are used in creative ways. It's hard to capture the attention of email recipients with all of the clutter in inboxes these days, but incorporating animation in your messaging is a great way for businesses to stand out. Developing creative content for HTML emails can be challenging when working with such a limiting medium, but animated GIFs open up new opportunities for showcasing products and services. Take a look at some examples of animated GIFs in emails to see how companies are utilizing this technique.

Want more? Check out some creative uses of animated GIFs on the web in our animated GIFs and SVGs showcase.

Three areas to consider when selecting a web design agency

Are we a good match for your web project?

There are some key things you should consider when you start looking for a web design and development firm. Those criteria will help you make sure you get the best fit for your needs and budget. We’ve compiled a list of suggested items to analyze when you are in the process of selecting a web design and development firm:

1. Design Needs:

  • Are you looking for a unique, creative, and compelling design that represents your brand?
  • How big is your site/how many pages?
  • Do you want a design that can grow with your company with the ability to add features over time?

2. Functionality Needs:

  • Do you need custom functionality as part of your website?
  • Do you want the ability to maintain pages and content yourself?
  • Do you need complementary services such as email marketing, search engine optimization or social networking assistance?

3. Intangible Needs:

  • Do you have challenges that require expert guidance, recommendations and options?
  • Have you earmarked budget money to create and manage a high-end website project?
If you answered yes to most of above questions, TBH Creative would be a great match. The team at TBH Creative understands that a website project—whether a redesign or brand new website—is more than just a website. We thrive on projects that take your website to the next level. We offer design, application development, customized functionality, content management systems, online marketing services and more. When you need the whole picture, you need TBH Creative.

If you are at the phase where your website design and development needs aren’t quite that big, there are some great resources available to you. Try using a template site, freeware, or contact your local college to hire a student. And when your business grows to the point where you’re ready for a professional online marketing strategy—we’re ready to talk.

Still not sure if we’re the right match? Give us a call. We might be able to help. Sometimes it is hard to determine upfront and we are happy to talk through some options with you.

How important is a good website?

A professional, strategic website can move you ahead of the competition.

We’ve all been there. You click on a website and find it an eyesore. You can’t find the information you need. The home page keeps crashing. You leave frustrated. A bad or outdated website can cost you clients.

It's not enough to just have a website. These days everyone has a website.

Don’t settle for good when it comes to your corporate website—be great. Visible 24/7 to people all over the globe, your website is your most powerful marketing strategy. No printed brochure or magazine advertisement reaches more potential clients or offers the flexibility to easily update content as your business grows.
Business owners, consider this:
How much money did you spend on your office lobby? The fancy leather couch, the cherry wood floor, the custom lighting, the artwork? Now, how many people come through your lobby each week? 10, 20, 30?

Compare that to the thousands of visitors who might show up at your website on any given day... No lobby even comes close to reaching such a broad audience.

A strategic online presence is your most powerful investment

Don’t take shortcuts with your public face. No other marketing tool offers a better opportunity to grow your business and see real results. Your website can deliver substantial return on investment, and TBH Creative can help get you there.

Creating and maintaining a great website is a huge responsibility. It must be updated often, be usable and informative, and also visually appealing, fast loading, and functional. This can be an overwhelming job for a business owner or marketing manager. Let TBH Creative lend a hand with our expert website strategy services.

If your website doesn’t make your company, group, or organization shine, it’s time to take advantage of the opportunities a well-designed, easy-to-use, and informative website can offer. TBH Creative is excited to help you get started.

Ask yourself
  • Where does your company website stack up in the mix of bad to great business websites?
  • Is your company professional, knowledgeable, reliable, error-free, and better than the competition? Yes? Then make sure your website communicates your greatness.

Five reasons your business needs a mobile website

With continuous advancements in mobile technology, it is becoming increasingly beneficial to have a mobile website for your business. A standard website may work on different devices but websites not developed to be mobile-friendly may steer customers away. Poor usability on website not formatted for mobile use might display text that's hard to read or integrate a navigation system that's a hassle.

Indianapolis Web Design Firm: Answers your Common Website Questions

Frequently Asked Questions Website Design Questions

1. How do I choose a website vendor?

Choosing a website company can be difficult because there are so many options. First consider if you need a professional website company or a design or marketing agency. If you are planning to do some of the work yourself, you likely don’t need either.

If you have decided to use a web design firm, we recommend that you select a few based on referrals and/or samples of their web design work. Have a conversation with your top choices. These selected companies should be based on referrals and/or samples of their web design work. A trustworthy company will be happy to show samples, provide references, and give examples of similar projects to yours.
Tip: Be aware of the service you receive when starting the bidding process. How quickly do they return your calls or initial email of interest? Are they friendly and help explain options? Are they willing to listen to your needs and goals?
Contact TBH Creative if you're looking for a high-end website solution for your business. We welcome the chance to impress you right from the beginning.

2. I’m no design expert. What do I look for when I’m reviewing design work?

Simply put, you should look for something you like. It doesn’t have to be in the same industry, but it should have a professional style and quality that you want for your website. Do not choose a company whose samples of work you don’t like because you will likely receive something very similar in quality and style.

Contact TBH Creative and ask to see our work—or take a look right now. We welcome the chance to impress you right from the beginning.

3. How much does a website cost?

A freelancer versus a full service web company will offer significantly different prices – and also very different results. The first thing to do is figure out what you really need and define your online plan. We understand that everyone wants to know numbers and pricing is a realistic question to ask. Remember that all projects and clients are different, but our guidelines will give you a fairly accurate idea.

Read more about How much will a new website cost?

4. When will my website be done? How long will the project take?

For TBH Creative, this question will vary based on your project size, our current project pipeline, and a few things on your end as well. Sometimes the biggest hold-up in a project is on the client’s end as they draft content or linger over approvals. As a general idea, a small website (10-15 pages) can be completed in 2 months. A medium website in 2-4 months. A large website can be anywhere from 3-9 months.

Remember, we recommend a phased approach and continual web services throughout the year for maximum effectiveness. Overall, we are pretty flexible to meet your deadlines if they are realistic and you have your 'stuff' ready to go.

Contact TBH Creative to get your timeline started.

5. My website is not found in search engines. How can I change this? What is Search Engine Optimization?

Clients often say, "I want to show up higher on the list in Google." Our response: “For which phrase or keywords?” A question often answered with: “I have no idea.”

If you want to rank in search engines, the starting point is to determine for what terms you want to be found. Our search experts can help determine if those are smart targeted keywords, worth your dollars for ROI, and often give suggestions for better targets.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process to increase visitors to a website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. SEO should be done separately from the initial website design project – although a quality firm will do internal optimization during web development and keep SEO always in mind. SEO requires an ongoing effort to beat the competition and stay on top of the search engine changes. Remember, you aren't the only one who wants to be on top!

Learn more about our search engine optimization services.

6. Do I need a blog? What about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+?

Social media can be a powerful online marketing tool. Used correctly, social media can:
  • Increase your search engine recognition and ranking.
  • Build authority and raise awareness of your expertise
  • Impact your public image and attract new customers, supporters, or sales.
  • Serve as a platform to inform about your services, products or cause.
  • Drive new business, promote events, and answer industry questions.
  • Grow company connections and morale through competitions or staff spotlight segments.
  • Distribute audio, video, forms, survey, and other interactive ideas.
Blogging and social media may or may not be the right solution for your company, but it should definitely be considered as part of your online plan.

Learn more about our social media services.

7. How can I make updates to my web pages? What is CMS?

There are essentially two primary ways to make changes, additions, and updates to your web pages.

If your website is fairly "static" (doesn't change often and not connected to a database), you will contact your website developer to make changes. If you are the technical and/or DIY type, you will need to purchase and learn how to use basic web editing software such as Dreamweaver or Frontpage to make changes and load to a web server using FTP.

If your website changes often and has been set up with dynamic capabilities, you will use CMS software to update your website. A Content Management System (known as "CMS") is online software that allows your staff to maintain your website pages in-house without technical expertise or knowledge of HTML. You log in, choose a page, make changes in a WYSIWYG (What You See IsWhat You Get) editor, and save. Changes and additions can be made at any time, immediately, and without desktop software.

Learn more about our flexible and powerful content management system.

8. How will I know that my site is successful?

Building a website is really just the first step. Evaluation, testing and planning are an ongoing effort. It is important to understand that web strategy is integral in your online success.
It is no longer the days where if you build it, they will come. That's okay though, there is so much more available now and we thrive on giving our clients the advantage. Our Site Success Manager is a good place to start.

Learn more about our results driven online strategy services.

9. Can someone help with writing content for my web pages?

Absolutely. In fact, we strongly recommend you receive professional help writing or editing your web page content. Why?
  1. Writing web page content is a HUGE job. Many of our projects are put 'on hold' while a company tries to write the information themselves. Oftentimes, ending with our expert editors stepping in afterwards.
  2. Online Communication is not like writing in any other medium – because people read quicker and scan online. It is a learned skill to write effective messages for the web.
  3. There are a lot of technical things to consider that a professional writer can offer, such as inserting keywords, defining title, inserting appropriate on-page links, and using search-worthy headlines.
  4. Many companies have different people from the company write different pages. This leads to poor flow and unprofessional messages. Your pages should all have the same style and tone.
  5. Trained writers are clever and witty. Not that you aren't, but these guys do it for a living.
  6. An experienced writer will always keep your goals and audience in mind and can craft inviting Call To Action areas that will help your conversion/success.
Professionally written website messages enhance the user experience, improve your SEO and help effectively tell your story or answer your visitor's questions. We encourage you to start putting draft information together as a starting point. That will help the writer or editor get started and ask appropriate questions to support the information already provided.

Learn more about our web page writing and editing services.

10. Do I need a mobile site?

The percentage of people accessing the Internet via smart phone or tablet increases every month. Pull up your website on your phone. How does it look? Is it easy to read? Is it fully functional? There are a few different ways to tackle a mobile solution and TBH Creative is ready whether you want a mobile design or a full responsive design.

Learn more about our mobile solutions.

11. Can you help me make sense of web statistics and analytics?

You don’t have to be a numbers geek to understand the importance of measuring traffic and audience behavior. We have access to a variety of tools to help you stay on top of your website and take advantage of its inherent flexibility. We’ll sort through the data for you and give you sound recommendations.

Learn more about our analytic reporting services.

12. I don’t just want a website. I need an online application, can you do that?

Yes! TBH Creative is a full service web design and development firm. We can handle all aspects of a website project from strategy to design, from application development to content writing, from online marketing to mobile solutions and more. We’d love to hear your needs and plans and determine the smartest way to accomplish your goals.

Contact TBH Creative to get the discussion started.

Quality vs Quantity in Website Content

Website planning sketches (Photo by Garrett Coakley, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
We've all heard the saying "less is more." That is never truer than when we consider web content. It can seem exciting to have unlimited page length to write as much content as you desire—after all there are no print margins or word counts to consider on a web page—but if you pack a page too full of content, you're likely chasing away your audience.

Many websites have three levels:

  1. Home page
  2. All pages linked off the main menu
  3. Pages that are linked off main menu items
On the first two levels it is important that you keep content short and direct with clear calls to action. Check out our post about the importance of calls to action. The main purpose of these pages is to introduce yourself and draw people deeper into the site. Once someone clicks through to the third level (or deeper on large sites) you can introduce more content. At this stage the reader has proven an interest in what you have to say and if you force them to click much deeper for information they will be frustrated. 

At all levels, you should carefully consider what and how you want to say it. Set goals for each page—goals in the main points to communicate and goals in what you want your audience to do after reading the page. Make this part of your planning and your website will be more successful. 

How does responsive design affect web content?

Responsive design—a design that scales and works on any device whether a laptop, tablet or phone—is most likely driven by a desire for your site to work well and present itself cleanly on any size screen. Of course the design and layout are important in that process but so is content!

As a design scales the content on the page is likely to shift—say move from three columns wide to two or even one column. Sidebars often drop to the bottom of the page. And sometimes, content drops off the page entirely in an effort to make the page more manageable on a small screen. Now, you can't write separate content for a responsive design since it's using the same content by its nature. However, you can keep this scale-able movement in mind when writing content.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do with content is create content categories and work with your design team to decide what happens to each category as the page shifts in size. Then, instead of an important call to action in the sidebar always dropping to the bottom of a page—you can have it display further up the page as the design narrows causing the sidebar to drop.

A few great articles about responsive design and content:
The take-away from this article? Give your content the same planning and forethought that you give to the rest of your site and you'll have a website that reaches your audience no matter how they are accessing your site.


How much will a good website cost?

Defining how much a website should cost is one of the most common questions in the web design world. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for calculating the cost of a website project at TBH Creative because we don’t create one-size-fits-all solutions. Our solutions are custom built around your specific needs and goals.

When considering the cost of a website project, remember that your website is a 24/7 marketing tool. It can make huge impact on business success, gaining new clients, and winning project bids. Learn more about the importance of a great website.

Comparing web design services is not apples to apples.

If you have not worked on a web project before, expect to see a large range of costs from different vendors. When you compare web design portfolios and proposal offerings you will see the difference in the solutions offered.

Let’s talk dollars.

Research shows that your website offers the best and most measurable ROI. So let’s get down to business and determine a realistic budget.

We recommend that you spend at least 50% of your marketing budget each year on your online marketing strategy. For the sake of quick math, let’s say your monthly marketing budget is $8,000—that would be $4,000/month for website work. Maybe you spend a large chunk the first year to get a new website in place. Then, the following year use the dollars for analytic reporting, social media strategy, complementary email marketing with landing pages, search engine optimization, or other Site Success Manager™ projects.

The best things about your website is that you can easily test out new things, check statistics, adjust, tweak, and do it all over again to find what works best. By keeping money in your budget for online strategy year round, you will be ready for new ideas or technology to maintain a competitive advantage.

3 Reasons Wireframing is useful in Web Design

What is Wireframing?

Wireframing is a process many web designers use to architect the structure of their web site. It is a visual tool for a designer to propose a layout for any given page. It proposes a design for the overall way the content is to be shown on the web site. Wireframes can be done by sketching with pencil or paper, creating mockups in Photoshop, and in many other programs.

Mockflow is one software option we use for wireframing.

Wireframing is usually focusing on the functionality or the priority of content. It is not usually a focus for design elements like typography and color. Many designers want to skip the wireframing step and go directly into working on the design. Although it is alluring to skip over wireframing, it will save the designer time in the overall process because the idea is to layout your ideas before beginning a high fidelity design.

Here are 3 ways that wireframing is useful and matters in any web design process:

1. Wireframes work as a communication tool
    • Wireframes can help communication between team members on the structure of what needs to be created. Designers and developers can provide perspective on functionality using a wireframe has their visual tool. Ideas are presenting more clearly and expectations can be set. 
    2. Wireframes can help your client
      • By providing the client with a wireframe, the client can provide feedback that can be easily changed. A wireframe can help the client understand what content they will want to provide on their web site or web page. A client could reject the design. A visual representation can help the client realize things they are missing or don’t need. 
      3. Wireframes can save you time and money
      • Wireframes are quick and easy to produce. They can easily be discarded or revised for changes.  When the client has been involved in the wireframing process, they are more likely to approve the final design. Wireframing sets a clear plan before development and design begin, which is cost-effective. Spending more time in the beginning will help the website be stronger in the end.
        Which software? It does not matter which software you use for wireframing. The idea is that you get the ideas down in a sketch-like format for review and confirm before high fidelity design composition begins (or before you get too far down the design process where changes can be costly). We have used MockFlow and Balsamiq and even Word or a hand-drawn sketch.

        The things you want to include in a wireframe are:
        • Header
        • Navigation
        • Footer
        • Sidebar
        • Main Content Area
        • Graphics
        Wireframe examples and tools:

        Mobile Navigation Trends and Solutions

        Site navigation is a crucial part of every website development project. It requires full design attention. With the increasing popularity of mobile devices, having easy–to-use navigation can increase user satisfaction and convert new visitors into returning visitors.

        In 2012, a Google study found that 96 percent of users came across a site that wasn't mobile-friendly and 72 percent thought it was important that brands should have a mobile-friendly site.

        It's pretty clear. Helping mobile users find what they are looking for more quickly and with less effort will create a better user experience—and, possibly increase conversion rates.

        According to a recent report, Apple smart phones are responsible for 68 percent of mobile sales. Android smart phones made up an additional 31.4 percent of those sales.

        There are many different solutions for mobile navigation, depending on your need, site design, and business goals. These include drop down menus, toggle navigation, footer/anchor, and sidebar navigation. Each solution has strengths and drawbacks.

        Mobile Navigation Solutions

        Window Shade
        The window shade menu style displays in the foreground and underlying content is behind it. Users tap on the horizontal bar as the visual cue and drag the navigation up (or down) to view menu options. Here's an example from the Inc.com mobile site:




        Popover Drawer
        The popover drawer menu style works well when the content of the navigation is light. It's good for websites where the user is likely to jump between each section frequently. Avoid using this type of navigation when content is long and requires a lot of reading.

        Twitter app for iPad

        Double Drawer
        Facebook iPhone app uses the double drawer solution. This is good to use when there are separate types of navigation (e.g., main nav and tools/settings) and allows users to navigate between these areas without digging to deep into content.



        Dashboard
        The dashboard solution is great use of icons and displaying high-level information, but it can be very limiting because there is only so much space for the icons/text on the home screen. The content should only cover one screen. If it covers more than one, find a different solution.



        Carousel Menu
        The carousel menu utilizes a small space for sub-navigation items. To switch between items, users swipe the horizontal bar to see more sub-menu items. This option is useful if users can see the menu items peeking in from either side as a visual cue to swipe.

        Etsy iPhone App


        Radial Menu
        The radial menu option is relatively new and really fun. The radial menu has an icon that when touched, fans out a menu of links. Unfortunately, it is limited to the amount of real estate in the corner of the screen and to about 6 menu items.


        Quick Tips—

        • Try not to overwhelm menu real estate with branding. Keeping a seamless experience between your desktop site and mobile site is important, but be sure to trim down content and remove extraneous information.
        • Avoid two icons next to each other.
        • Avoid using buttons when simple links suffice. This will relieve some much needed screen real estate.
        • Tabs should be placed horizontally. This allows users to switch between different content views rather than scrolling to cover all tabs if vertically stacked.
        • Avoid using your logo as the menu icon. This can create some confusion as the logo is often meant to take users back to the homepage of a site.

        Additional Resources—


        There are many different options for mobile navigation depending on business needs and goals. Having an effective navigation can lead to increase conversion and returning visitors to your website.  Does your business need a mobile site or refined mobile navigation? Let TBH Creative help on your next website design project.

        Putting Twitter to work for your business

        Has your Twitter account grown stagnant? Do you have a Twitter account but don't know what to do with it? Maybe you are hesitant to jump into Twitter as a marketing communications tool? Let us help you determine why you should be using Twitter and how you can make the most of it. As with any conversation, there are two sides to Twitter - talking and listening.

        Use Twitter to Engage, Connect & Influence


        Those are your marketing communication goals. Now how do you get there with a Twitter account? As with most marketing communications goals, it's all about the content. You should carefully consider what you want to post on any social media with these three guidelines:

        Social media content guidelines


        1. Content you believe will help your audience: Call it thought-leadership to use a buzz term. You know things that are of value to your audience. It might be directly about your product or service. It might be something that influences your product or service. It might be advice on how to get the most out of your product or service. This content doesn't get stale. This is the content that reaches out to people who may not know about your product. These ideas are the ones that get passed on (retweeted) to new prospects. This is how you engage. This example from Runner's World illustrates sharing an opinion and information about a topic that is important to its audience:



        2. Content based on current issues: The best example here is retail - in November you start seeing Christmas decorations. They are giving their audience reasons to interact based on timing. In your business that could be seasonal but it could also be related to something in the news. Keep your ear to the ground and interact based on what's really happening. There is certainly something engaging about this type of content and you can expect some spreading of the word but this content takes the next step and connects with people. It gives them a reason to interact with you. This post is being written in August and Walmart is capitalizing on the back to school time of year (and also Shark Week on the Discover Channel just for fun):



        3. Promotional content: There's a reason this is last. If all you do is hawk your wares on Twitter - you will turn people off. With that said, there's a time and place and people who are following you like your product or service. They want to know when you're having a sale or event. This is the content that can influence action. See the second post from Diet Coke below. They were running an event and giving people clues only on Twitter - if you're a fan of Diet Coke, that's a great incentive to follow and pay attention to their tweets:




        Helpful resources:

        Use Twitter to Listen to Your Customers

        A good social media plan isn't all push. Successful use of Twitter requires listening and many organizations are discovering a lot of value in social listening. Social Listening, defined as social media monitoring or measuring if you're a data geek, is determining what is being said about your organization online and assessing its value to your marketing strategy.

        One of the biggest shifts in the business-consumer relationship has happened with the explosion of social media. Twitter, Facebook and the like have given consumers a megaphone to tell the world what they think of your service or product. It's important that you hear what they have to say - both good and bad.

        You will be more successful at achieving your social medial goals if you're listening to customers and prospects. That doesn't mean inserting yourself into every conversation or tweet about your company. It does mean jumping in where you can be helpful or to thank someone for a compliment. Good social listening helps you improve your service and builds relationships with people. Listening and appropriately engaging people online creates advocates. And their grassroots marketing becomes invaluable down the road.


        More on social listening:



        Draw your audience in with good home page content

        When writing or updating a website one of the biggest challenges is the home page. It can be very difficult to determine what content should be given the prominence of the home page. If you're not careful, your home page ends up a dumping ground that will confuse your audience and drive them away instead of pulling them in.

        Key Home Page Considerations 

        1. Your goals for the site and your home page. 

        Think through goals clearly before you start drafting content or design. What information do you want to make sure your audience leaves with when they visit your site? That should be the guiding factor in the design and content development process. If you don't communicate clearly - again with both design and content - your audience will never get past the home page.

        2. Clear communication and call to action.

        We're talking "elevator pitch" clear. You have a very short time to grab the attention of your audience - less than a minute according to most studies. You need to clearly, concisely and directly tell people what you do and why they want to learn more. And you need to give them an obvious next step and a reason to take that next step.


        3. Home page design

        This is one page above all others where design and content must work hand in hand to accomplish your goals. Navigation off the home page is critical. Some users will never even read that carefully crafted content mentioned above and will instantly start scanning your menu. You should consider both types of readers as you design your content flow and navigation. The goal is to get people where they want to go within one click. Again, simple and clear (are you sensing a theme here?).


        4. Audience experience

        Finally, keep your audience in mind. You may love home pages that have lots of columns or very short bits of content but does your target audience? You should know enough about your market to know their comfort of Internet use and technology. You should know what your audience wants to get from you and how they want to get it. Let that help guide you as you craft home page design and content that effectively reaches out to them.

        Keep the audience at the forefront. Develop clear channels of communication. Make sure efforts match your goals. All important tips for creating effective, powerful home page content.

        When you design your home page DO NOT

        Before we leave, let's run through a list of what NOT to do.
        1. Create a text-heavy home page.
        2. Let design overwhelm the content.
        3. Provide a "cute" but dysfunctional navigation.
        4. Give too many options. Yes, calls to action are important but if you have too many - where is the user going to click? (Answer: away from your website.)
        5. Assume once is enough. There's a common marketing mantra that you should touch your prospects three times if you want them to remember you. You may not need three repetitions on the home page but if something is important, your audience should be able to get to it in more than one way.
        Think you're ready to start planning out your home page? Here's a fun set of exercises to help you get started.


        Choosing a CSS grid system for your web design

        A CSS grid system consists of pre-written CSS styles that are used to help create the structure of a website. They are usually made up of some combination of rows and columns to aid in layout creation. Using a grid system for your website is important. It helps to improve the overall design by providing consistency and balance amongst elements. Using a pre-defined grid structure can speed up the production process as well.

        Zurb.com uses a grid-based design to achieve a balanced, well-structured appearance.

        With so many grid systems available, it can be hard to choose between them all. The first step in making that decision is to know what aspects of the grid you need to take into consideration. Not all grid systems are created equal, and you want to make sure you are choosing one that is best suited to the needs of your website.

        Here are some of the most important factors in deciding what type of grid system to use:

        Fixed vs. fluid/responsive

        Probably the most important question you need to ask before deciding on a grid system is whether or not your site is going to be responsive. If so, you’ll need to rule out any grid systems that have a fixed base width. For example, the 960 Grid System is based on a fixed width of 960 pixels with no fluid column options, and thus wouldn’t make a good choice for a responsive design. Some grid systems allow for both instances, as is this case with Bootstrap’s grid. The CSS classes you use determine whether or not the columns will be responsive.

        Bootstrap’s grid system adjusts it’s column and gutter widths for different devices

        Columns and gutters

        Once you’ve determined what type of grid system you want, the next thing to consider is structure. As mentioned earlier, each grid has a base width. If you want your site to be a specific width, you’ll need to choose an appropriate grid to accommodate that design choice. Gutters are also an important structural feature that should be given attention. Gutters are the space between columns, and each grid system treats gutters differently. The size of gutters can vary, and some grids don’t include gutters at all. They could be measured in pixels, ems, or percentages. There’s no particular standard for gutters, so make sure to think about your site’s design to determine what would work best.

        Browser compatibility

        Browser compatibility is a crucial factor in choosing a grid system. If your website needs to support older browsers, such as Internet Explorer 7, make sure the CSS code being used is compatible. Some grid systems use properties like “last-child” or use fixes for clearing floats that may not function properly in older browsers, thus breaking the layout. If you need to support a specific browser, take a look at the documentation for your desired grid system to ensure that it fits any special criteria.

        SASS/LESS compatibility

        If you are using a CSS preprocessor like SASS or LESS, consider choosing a grid system that comes with code specifically tailored towards that. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel and try to fit a grid system into your desired format when it may already exist. For example, the Golden Grid System offers both SCSS and LESS versions of their grid code, providing greater flexibility and ease of use.

        So which one should I choose?

        Using a grid system is the important part; which grid system you choose essentially boils down to personal preference and project requirements. You may even decide to build your own, or modify one that already exists. For example, the website Gridpak allows you to create your own grid and then download the files you’ll need.

        Gridpak lets you easily create your own grid system.

        To help get you started in choosing a grid system, here is a list of some of the most popular options:

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