Perspective, tips, and insight

Articles to help you improve your digital marketing

Web design changes: See TBH Creative over the years

In celebration of our ten year anniversary earlier this year (and to play on Kayleigh's recent post about how much web design has changed), we thought it would be fun to take a look at TBH Creative over the years.

It is amazing how much web design and development have evolved and improved in a short period. The technology and design/usability continues to get better and better. The power of Internet inbound marketing has sky rocketed, and we are glad to be a part of it. In 2004, a few familiar websites called Facebook and Flickr were just starting out too. Podcasting began that year, and iTunes had only been around since the previous year. These days, 42.3% of the world's population uses the web.

Just as websites respond, adapt, and connect to the needs and expectations of users, brands also must focus on staying relevant by listening to their customers and anticipating their needs and wants.

Some companies think that the safest thing to do with a brand is to let it be. But at TBH Creative, we believe in active branding. If you don't speak for your brand, someone else will, which is why it's been important for TBH Creative to give its brand a voice.

Storytelling on your website

Strong website communication starts with a story

Stories are some of the strongest communication tools we know. A good story can keep you on the edge of your seat... change your opinion... make you laugh or cry. While your business story may not necessarily be a page-turner, it does have something that all good stories have: the ability to establish an emotional connection. When you're writing for your website, step back and consider this:
What stories do you have to tell?

What is business storytelling?

Web design trends for 2015

It's that time again! The new year is just around the corner, making it the perfect time to reflect on the web design trends from this past year. This article will take a look at what web design trends we expect to carry into 2015.

Web design trends we'll see more of in 2015

Responsive design

More users are choosing to browse the web on a mobile device than ever before, making it even more crucial for businesses to maintain a mobile web presence. Responsive design has now become a standard for modern websites and continues to be a viable mobile solution.

Quick tips for converting website visitors into customers

Every visitor to your website is a potential customer. However, if your website isn't optimized to convert those potential customers, you might be losing out on valuable business. If you have a high amount of website traffic but aren't getting many leads, you may need to rethink your conversion strategy.

A website can start converting more visitors to customers with just a few strategic changes. The following tips will get you moving in the right direction to increase your conversion rate in no time.

Why should all web developers be using version control?

Why should all web developers be using version control?
It's all too easy to accidentally delete or overwrite an important file. If you're a web developer dealing with a large amount of files on a daily basis, this can be a significant problem, especially if you're working as a team. One way to make file management easier and more secure is to use version control.

What is version control?

Version control is essentially tracking revisions made to a file or a set of files. A version control system (VCS) allows you to keep a history of changes made, restore older versions of a file, sync files between team members, and more. This makes it easy to fix mistakes like overwriting or deleting files, and helps to keep files up-to-date.

4 tips for developing a website that's easy to update

Close-up shot of a smiling cafe owner standing at counter and using laptop
Managing and updating a website can be a lot of work, but regular updates and timely maintenance is a key part of a successful website. The good news is there are ways to make this big job easier.

Website maintenance can take less time and effort in the long run when you have a properly developed web strategy in place. The following tips will help you to improve your web strategy and create a website that is future-friendly and easier to maintain.

Here are our four simple tips:

Inbound Marketing: What is it and how can it help?

Choosing an online marketing strategy that will help you stand out among the clutter is hard. Thankfully, one strategy has proven to be especially effective for today's consumers: inbound marketing. Essentially inbound marketing focuses on attracting people to your website and converting them into customers through targeted content marketing.

This article will take a closer look at what inbound marketing entails and how it can help your business succeed online.

Responsive email design: Examples and resources

Mobile email use has been steadily increasing over the years. According to recent email statistics, mobile users account for almost half of email opens. However, many email campaigns are still not formatted to display properly on mobile devices.

One way to maximize accessibility across a variety of devices and email clients is to make the switch to responsive email design. We've previously discussed the fundamentals of responsive email design, and now we're going to take a closer look at some examples and helpful resources to help further optimize your emails for mobile devices.

Then and now: How web design has changed over the years

Check out a newer version of this post! Even more things have changed since we first wrote this post! Head over to our blog for more tips about the evolution of homepages.

TBH Creative is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and there's one thing we can say for certain: the web has changed immensely since we started out.

In 2004, a few familiar websites called Facebook and Flickr were just starting out too. Podcasting began that year, and iTunes had only been around since the previous year.

These days, 42.3% of the world's population uses the web. With the rapid changes in tools and technologies, the web design techniques of today are immensely different from when the first website was published in 1991.
new laptop facing an old type writer
Let's take a look back at just how much web design has changed over the years.

Writing for SEO

Woman writing on laptop
Writing for a website is different than writing for a hard copy marketing piece in many ways. A few of the things you have to consider are different types of calls to action, cross-linking, and keywords. And as any copywriter knows - there are three letters that loom large over any web copy: SEO.

Search Engine Optimization is the holy grail of web copy writing. In a nutshell, it means that you write your site so that search engines will pull it up in results as your prospects are searching for your business or service. How to do that is a bit of a moving target. Over time, search engines change their algorithms which in turn changes some of the copy writing rules for SEO. There are, however, three rules that stand the test of time.

Benefits of a mobile first design process

Benefits of a mobile first design process
Optimizing websites for mobile use is a key element of a successful web strategy. Special consideration should be given to mobile use throughout the website development process as the number of users accessing the web through mobile devices continues to grow. One approach to ensure that a website is properly optimized for mobile use is to adapt a mobile first design process.

The basic concept of "mobile first" is to start out focusing on how a website will function for mobile users, and then adjust the features and content for devices with increased capabilities. Currently, the more common approach is first designing for desktop and then adapting the design as the screen gets smaller. However, a mobile first approach can help you maximize the reach of your website across a variety of devices and improve the overall user experience. This article will take a look at the major benefits of a mobile first design process.

Celebrating ten years of Indianapolis web design

It’s our anniversary! TBH Creative has been successfully designing websites for ten years. That’s a long time in this business! We are glad to have evolved and grown right along with this fast-paced industry.

I started taking on freelance projects while finishing school in 1999. Then in early 2004, while finishing my Masters in Technology, I officially started TBH Creative with just a handful of clients. Sooner than even I expected, the projects multiplied and TBH Creative evolved into a full-time career and business – I haven’t looked back since.

We are celebrating this anniversary because we have the best clients who refer us to others and continue to come back to TBH Creative for website projects and consulting. This post is really a thank you note to each and every one of them. We have the best clients! They helped make TBH Creative what it is today. They also had some part in the following ten fun facts. I had fun pulling these together, and I hope you have fun reading them.

What makes TBH Creative different from other web companies

A decade committed to putting our client's success first

We just celebrated our 10th anniversary in business. Ten years of helping clients bring their concepts alive on the web. We are lucky to get to do what we love and we try to make sure that comes across in all of our relationships. Over the years we've learned what we're best at and we try to focus our efforts on those things that set TBH Creative apart in the sea of web developers.

Three reasons TBH Creative is a great website development partner...

5 goals of a design research strategy

When starting a website design project, it's tempting to dive right into the design process, but there's an important step that must come first: research! Design research is an essential step that should be a part of your planning process. The information gathered during the research phase will help to shape your website strategy and aid in decision-making during design and development. This article will look at some of the major goals when engaging in design research.


Website best practices for common pages, part 3: Products/Services pages

Welcome to part three of the Best Practices for Common Pages series. Today we're looking at products and/or services pages.

Products and/or services pages should display information about whatever  your business offers. It's important to pay special attention to this page, even if you aren't selling anything online. It should be created to capture interest and push users to engage in purchasing a product or utilizing a service.

Facebook: To boost or not to boost?

Getting the most from your Facebook page.

Under current Facebook algorithms, an update you post on your Facebook page will be seen by approximately 5% of your fans if you do nothing more than post it. If the 5% that organically found your update liked or shared it, the percent of exposure will go up. That might be just fine for some of your posts. But what if you want to make sure you reach more of your fan base? What if you want to grow your audience on Facebook? Relying only on organic efforts isn't likely to make an impact in today's Facebook. You're going to need to consider boosting or more targeted advertising options.


Website best practices for common pages, part 2: About pages

In this second installment of Best Practices for Common pages, we're going to look at About pages. An about page represents your business and gives you the opportunity to explain your background, goals, vision, and more. It's the page a user will visit to decide whether or not they are interested in what your company is all about. It shouldn't be created as an afterthought, but as a strategic marketing tool.

Apps vs. Mobile vs. Responsive vs. Adaptive—What does it all mean?

As more users move toward accessing the web on their devices, many companies face the question of how they can reach customers most efficiently and effectively, no matter how they are finding them online. Without a website that is specifically optimized and customized for mobile devices, you might be losing customers—and no one wants that!

When it comes to web marketing, do you know what solution—or solutions—are the best fit for your online communication needs? When determining what is the best solution to optimize delivering web content to your customers, it's best to start at the beginning and look what all the different buzzword solutions really mean and what benefits they can bring.

Multi-device web design, charted. (Image by Jeffrey Zeldman, CC BY 2.0)

Should you create an app? Do you need an app if you already have a website? 

To keep things simple, think of an app as being a software program that you use online or with mobile devices like a Blackberry or an iPad. Apps are downloaded onto a devices and live there. Sometimes they use the web, sometimes they work without an Internet connection. Sometimes apps are faster and more interactive than websites, and in some instances apps can integrate with all kinds of other phone features—from GPS to microphones to cameras—making their customization options nearly limitless.

While there’s no question that some apps provide useful content and make sense as part of a company's online marketing portfolio, there are many instances when an app is overkill and therefore a bad fiscal business decision. For most web marketing needs, a responsive website is a smarter investment choice.

Here’s why: App development can be pricey because apps can take a lot of time to build and maintain. This is primarily because you need to build a version of your app that will run on any device, no matter if your user has the latest Samsung smartphone or an older Apple iPhone. You have to create many versions because these devices all run on different platforms that require different apps.

Is creating a mobile website a good idea—and, what's the different between a mobile website and a responsive one? Will a responsive website suit all your needs? What does adaptive mean?

Before you pick the best web marketing solution for meeting your customers' needs, you need to ask yourself what are their objectives when they visit your company online?

Is it more important to have a website that is readily accessible and viewable from any device than it is to give a streamlined solution that maybe online works on one or two devices? When customers access your website from mobile devices, how are their needs different from those who visit from desktops. Are they are looking for different things? Getting a clear picture of usage will help you strategize your solution plan.

Instead of focusing solely on creating a solution for one or two mobile devices, it's important to create a web strategy that prioritizes creating an effective design your website that works on all devices, from tiny phones to huge living room flat-screens. Responsive designs can help you get there  because with responsive designs, the server sends the same stuff to every device but includes information about how to display content depending on the screen. Mobile websites are usually just a set of custom webpages that have been designed for a specific mobile experience different from desktop.

There are some things that should be shared across all devices, like content, and there are some things that should be designed for the device, like photographs. Neither responsive design nor a mobile website offer both so it's important to have a clear sense of what you need and what your customers need as you develop a web communications development strategy.

Want the best of both worlds? Like some features of mobile and some from responsive design? Think about going with an adaptive design in which some CSS files are common to all, but where smartphones will get custom sizing and layout instructions different from those sizing and layout instructions sent to desktop users. Though new, some content management systems, like Drupal, allow for adaptive design because of their built-in browser detection and response capabilities.

Where do I start?

As a minimum starting place, you need to adjust your business's existing website to accomodate today's Internet users. Every business must pay attention to the fact that more than a billion people primarily access the web from mobile devices, and that number only continues to grow.

Even if you aren't ready to get into development-based solutions, you can start refining your content to make your website more friendly for those accessing it from mobile devices. Look at your analytics and see what pages people are visiting. In almost all instances, people access your website for three reasons: to save time/look up information, to connect with you/others, and to waste time. Knowing these priorities, reorganize your content to give customers quick and easy-to-find access to  contact information (including links to maps and directions) and then incorporate blogs, videos, and other diversions to keep them on your website.

Website best practices for common pages, part 1: Contact pages

Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing tips for some of the most commonly created website pages: Contact, About, and Products/Services.

Each of these pages has its own needs and considerations to be successful. Understanding the unique goal of each page will help to you to refine your content and better reach your audience. In this series, we'll explain best practices for improving these pages and provide examples to help guide you in the right direction.

Three tips for writing effective headlines

A strong headline makes a huge difference. It's fair to say that if you don't craft a compelling headline for your blog post, email campaign or web page - it won't be read. Some studies say that 80% of people will read your headline but only 20% will continue reading the article. (Source: CopyBlogger)

You can have the smartest content or the most entertaining video but if you don't convey that information well in the headline, people may never find it. Headline writing isn't something you can slap on an article when you're done. It's something that should be carefully crafted and drafted before the article is written. A clear headline can keep your writing on task and make the end result more powerful.

There are many great articles about writing effective headlines (we share some with you later in this article). Our goal today is to give you three key tips that will improve your headline writing. Read on and refresh your headline-writing skills.

Areas of expertise in the web industry: A client's guide

Have you always wondered about the difference between a web designer and web developer? Do you find job titles like "content strategist" and "information architect" confusing? The web industry is made up of professionals with a broad spectrum of skill sets, and you might encounter a variety of these experts during the website production process. This guide will help you get an idea of who might be handling the various aspects of your web project.


Six key elements to a successful company blog

Blogging can be a great way to promote your company online, as we’ve discussed before, but it can also be a struggle. If you’re finding that your company blog isn’t achieving its goals, it might be time to re-evaluate your approach. There are certain elements that you can add to your blog to help transform it into a successful marketing tool for you company. Take some time to analyze your blog and ask yourself the following questions, and you might find that you’re missing out on a key element to success.

Web development case study: An adaptable, customized website

With the tagline: imagine. innovate. inspire. Midwest Studios clearly tells you that it is in the business of creating something special. From computer animation to 3D Printing, museum models to mobile apps - the team at Midwest Studios are technical storytellers, helping people communicate their concepts at any scale.  

Project Background

Midwest Studios was referred to TBH Creative in 2008 and has been a client ever since. TBH developed their first website with our content management system (CMS) and added several custom functionality pieces. Over the years, we have worked on other creative projects for Midwest Studios. Most recently we helped them plan a full website upgrade project including strategy, implementing a redesign, adding responsive coding, and a focus on custom application development.

Three problems to avoid when collaborating on website development

TBH Creative is a full service website design and development firm. Sometimes clients come to us for a specific service - say they have an internal development team and only need or design services. Or perhaps they have a set design standard from a marketing firm but need that design to be developed into a website. We are happy to step into these collaborations and have a track record of successful projects when collaborating with other groups. (See our post Two Key Steps for Successful Website Collaboration.)

As with anything in life, not all projects go as smoothly as others. In the spirit of learning from our mistakes - and helping you avoid them - we've come up with three problems to avoid when collaboration on a website design or development project.

6 tips for integrating social media into your website

As of January 2014, 74% of online adults are using social networks according to recent data from the Pew Internet Project. That's a statistic that business owners can't ignore; social networking has become a major factor in a company's success. Websites and social media go hand-in-hand, and it's important to consider how they can work together when developing a digital marketing strategy. Integrating social media with your website can help you engage your users, reach a wider audience, and increase interaction with your business. Below are some tips on how to get social interaction up and running on your website.

Importance of frequently updated content

One of the biggest mistakes website owners can make is to never update their content. While some static content is okay, it's important to also include areas on your website that you can keep fresh and relevant to your audience. Consider some of these popular types of dynamic content:
  • Blogs
  • News/announcements
  • Events
  • Calls to action
  • Social media feeds
  • Galleries (photo/video)
  • FAQs
  • Testimonials
  • Case studies
So, what will you gain from incorporating these types of content on your website? Here are the ways in which frequently updating content can benefit your website:

Meet Kayleigh, Web Developer at TBH Creative

Hi! I'm Kayleigh, the newest web developer at TBH Creative. I started doing freelance work for TBH Creative over the past year, and I’m excited to now be an official part of their team. I’m looking forward to putting my skill set to use in helping develop creative solutions for clients!

I got interested in web design in middle school, and I’ve been creating websites ever since. I carried that interest with me into college, where I studied Visual Communication Technology at Bowling Green State University. I got my first internship as a web designer at a design studio in Bowling Green, OH and I loved it, so I decided to make it my career! After I graduated, I worked in the industry for a year before deciding to go back to BGSU to pursue a Master’s degree in Learning Design, which I finished up last May.

How to choose the best font combination for your web design

Typography is an important part of any web design, and choosing the right combination of fonts can be tricky. The seemingly endless amount of options and overwhelming variety of styles can make it a daunting task. But don't worry! You can make the process easier with the following guidelines to help point you in the right direction.

Good strategies for bad comments on social media

One of the reasons some companies avoid creating social media accounts is because they're unprepared, especially for dealing with negative feedback. This intuition that with social media you're bound to encounter the bad with the good is unfortunately accurate, but it shouldn't be a deal breaker for growing your community online.


People are more likely to continue to be your customers if they feel like they know your company, they can believe in your company, and they like you. No one (and no company) is perfect. Errors are bound to happen. The key to making these errors work in your favor it to show your company is responsive when things do go wrong. When handled appropriately, negative comments can become an asset to your web marketing campaign.

Improving web forms: 6 tips for getting results

Web forms help users perform all types of actions online: contact, sign-up, order, subscribe, register—the list goes on. What do all of these types of web forms have in common? They need to be filled out.

No matter what action you want your users to take, if your web forms aren't designed to get the job done you aren't going to see results. Here are eight strategies to follow to help you increase the amount of users filling out your web forms.

How to choose the right website development firm

How to choose the right website development firm
Choosing the best company to design your website can be tricky. How do you know you're picking the best partner for your website development project? Start by looking at three key website development variables to make the best decision:

Quality: Quality of design and quality of the programming behind the scenes are important things to consider. If you are in an industry where it's important to look cutting edge or use the latest in technology, quality of design and development are going to be your top priority.

7 tips for website homepages that capture attention

Once you've attracted visitors to your website, how do you get them to stay? The best place to start is with the first thing visitors will see - the homepage. A well-designed homepage will capture the attention of your website's audience and keep them returning to your website as well as link them into the important information you company wants to share. Below are some tips to help you create a successful, engaging homepage.

1. Implement an appropriate design

It's important to make a good first impression on those visiting your site, and the look and feel of your website is your first chance at doing so. Therefore, ensure that your design is closely aligned with your marketing strategy and is appropriate for your target audience. An attractive, professional design will better engage viewers in your content.

2. Simplify your design

A simple design can hold attention better than a cluttered design. There should be a clear focal point on your homepage, whether that's a product, service, or message. This ensures that users are focusing on the most important content without being distracted by less important information.

The Birchbox website features it's subscription services on its homepage in a clean, straightforward format.

3. Streamline your content

Your homepage should allow your visitors to quickly determine what your business can do for them. Therefore, streamlining your content is just as important as simplifying your design. Make sure the text you include on your homepage is clear and straight to the point. A homepage is generally not the best place for long paragraphs of text, as that could overwhelm visitors. Use short, attention-grabbing headlines that will quickly stand out and entice visitors to find out more about your business. Read more about writing better content.

4. Use strong visuals

Images and graphics generally capture attention more easily than text, so using impactful visuals on your homepage is a must. Consider strong visuals such as a hero graphic or a video at the top of your homepage in order to generate interest in your content. Use images and graphics that help support your overall message.

Take a look at the Pack website. It uses a video for the background to capture attention and emphasize its message.

5. Provide dynamic content

Increase engagement on your homepage by including sections such as news, updates, blog posts, or other dynamic content. These frequently updated sections also encourage visitors to return to your website for new content.

6. Add social interaction

One of the best ways to capture attention is to make your website more interactive. Social media is a quick and easy way to get visitors interacting with your content and sharing it with others. Consider implementing a Twitter or Facebook feed on your homepage, as well as page sharing capabilities. Find out more in our post about social media websites your busines should be using.

7. Include a call-to-action

Once you've engaged your visitors with your homepage, it's important to make it clear where they should go next. At least one call-to-action link should be included on your homepage in order to guide visitors to your most important content. Display call-to-action links using strong design elements, such as large buttons, so that they appropriately stand out.

The call-to-action on the Mailbox App website is the most prominent element on the page, encourages users to download the app.

Is your website's homepage not engaging enough? Get in touch with TBH Creative and we can help! We can analyze your homepage and pinpoint what improvements will get your homepage attracting more visitors in no time. Find out more about our web design services or contact us to get started.

Two key steps for successful design and development project collaboration

Here at Indianapolis website design firm TBH Creative we have resources for all aspects of website development from discovery through design; from application development to website buildout. From time to time we run into a situation where our client is already tied to a development group and is just coming to us for our design expertise (or vice-versa).

How can you help separate design and development teams work well together? 

Here are two lessons from TBH Creative's experience.

1. Clear communication from the start

It's important to make sure that everyone has the same expectations from the very beginning. We recommend setting up a meeting to discuss:
  • What format of files does the developer need from the designer?
  • How will those files be transferred?
  • When will the designer have access to the pages for testing and review?
  • How will design tweaks and revisions be handled during testing?
  • What is the process when the developer has suggestions on the design related to performance or simplification in development time?
  • How closely will the final website match the design compositions?
Real life example: IUPPI
The Indiana University Public Policy Institute came to TBH Creative as they were undergoing a significant brand shift. In order to best communicate their expertise and services, they wanted to completely redesign their website making it easier to access their extensive database and presenting a more professional look.

The database is the core of the IUPPI website and is managed by a university development team. As part of Indiana University, the Institute was tied to this application development resource. The challenge was for TBH to work within the university constraints while also meeting the Institute's marketing challenges. TBH Creative worked on the strategy, design and created the HTML/CSS/JQuery and passed to the IU database team. They took the page code and connected to a robust CMS and database for easy client management.

We were successful because we started working with the database team from the very first meeting. They were in the loop long before their services were needed so they knew exactly what was coming and how to prepare their team. "Having the developers involved in the design presentation meetings was a huge help," notes Project Manager Barb Ruess. "They could see what features we were proposing, make recommendations on how to make those work seamlessly, and eliminate any surprises through the process."

Check out the final result: http://policyinstitute.iu.edu/


2. Present a unified front

It's likely that you know ahead of time that you'll be working together. Make a point of contacting your new partner on this project and schedule a meeting before you meet with the client. Things to discuss at this initial meeting:
  • Division of responsibilities: It's important to be clear to each other and the client so everyone knows who is responsible for key components. Discuss the details for transferring files, reviewing, feedback, scopes of work, etc.
  • Best way to communicate: Will you set up a shared Google Drive? Plan on weekly email updates? Talk on the phone every week? We also recommend you plan for "internal" reviews before showing the client so that the client never sees any differences of opinions and you present a more professional image.
  • Client knowledge: What do you each know about the client and the project? If you're going to be working together, you don't want to leave your partner in the dark (or be the one that's left behind). Share what you know - especially if you've worked with the client before. It will make for a better collaboration.
Real life example: Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township
Sometimes the client finds a strong development group and that team seeks out TBH Creative as a design partner. Such was the case with the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township. MSD Lawrence came to BitWise to develop a robust, flexible website that could accommodate all of their schools and offices - a sum total of 21 different websites. BitWise knew that the design of these websites would be just as important as their development so that they presented a unified front to users. That's when they called TBH Creative.

Bjorn Carlson, Business Development Manager at BitWise notes, “The MSD of Lawrence Township project was a unique collaboration between the school district, the technical and functional expertise of BitWise Solutions, and the user experience and web design capabilities of TBH Creative. While these scenarios can often present distinct challenges, the partnership between BitWise and TBH Creative to deliver an outstanding product for the school district of Lawrence Township proved to be very fruitful.  With an extremely well-received and successful end result, Tatum and her crew really demonstrated why TBH Creative is a thought leader in the web design space.”

BitWise and TBH Creative came into the project as partners from the very beginning. They clearly understand each other's role in the project and were able to develop a work schedule and divide responsibilities to accomplish the client's goals.

Learn more about this project: A case study for flexible, functional design. 



Collaboration between designers and developers can be a positive learning experience where everyone is happy at the end of the day. What happens when it doesn't go quite so smoothly? Stay tuned next month when we reveal some lessons learned from projects that could have been handled better.



The pros and cons of hero graphics

Designing a website that will make an impact on its viewers can be tricky. There are lots of ways to capture attention and engage your audience, and choosing the best method for your website can be a challenge. One increasingly popular attention-grabber is the hero graphic.

A hero graphic is an introductory-type area of a website that generally consists of a large banner image accompanied by a minimal amount of text and/or a call to action. This typically is the first thing a user encounters on the homepage of a website.

A case study for flexible, functional web design: Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township

What do you do when you have 21 different websites and want them all to have a common appearance but a distinct identity? That was the challenge that the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township brought to TBH Creative and their partner on this project, BitWise Solutions.

The MSD of Lawrence Township consists of four early learning centers, 11 elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and a Center for Innovation & Technology. Each of those school facilities needs its own website - and the district needs its own website that ties them all together. "The real challenge wasn't coming up with a consistent look and feel that best represents their image," notes TBH Creative President Tatum Hindman. "The real challenge was keeping that consistent look and feel while also giving each facility the opportunity to use their own pictures, logos and school colors."

Top places your business should be on Social Media

Social media has been a fantastic marketing tool for small-medium size businesses. Customer relations, marketing, public relations and even market research can all be done on these free social networks. As social media channels explode in growth, you might be asking yourself: "Which social media channels should my business be using?" 

The answer varies a bit depending on your industry. A training company should certainly be posting videos on YouTube but may not fit the demographic on Pinterest. A jewelry designer should be on YouTube and Pinterest but may not see good results from Twitter. The bottom line is that you need to pick 1-3 social media channels that fit your marketing communications goals. It is far better to be smart and strategic - to do social media well - than it is to scatter yourself on every hot social media site and hope for the best.

Using web analytics to improve your website

Man viewing analytics
So you have analytics set-up for your site - but now what? Consistently evaluating your analytics data will help you to better understand your website’s audience and adjust your marketing strategies and objectives as necessary. Analytics reports provide valuable insight into a website’s strengths and weaknesses, and can help you to pinpoint the areas on your website that could benefit from improvements.

This article will help get you started analyzing your website's data by providing interpretations of common analytics statistics, such as: audience demographic, returning visitors, traffic sources, keywords, page views, visit duration, exit rate, and user technology. It will focus specifically on Google Analytics, one of the most popular choices for web analytics.

Megan S. Ott Foundation: Using online tools to tell a powerful story

Telling a powerful story online

The Megan S. Ott Foundation has a powerful story behind its mission of providing immediate, custom assistance to families who are fighting breast cancer in the Indianapolis Metro community. To continue their great work, they need that story to be shared and donations to be raised. TBH Creative has been happy to help with in-kind web design and marketing services since 2010.

Our latest work with the Foundation has been focused on helping them communicate with prospective donors, volunteers and grant recipients in new and exciting ways. TBH Creative recently stepped in to update their website with a responsive design to make sure it is presented clearly and with a strong identity whether viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile device.

Five signs it's time for a site redesign

Think of your website as the lobby of your office. How are things looking in there? A little dusty? Are the magazines all out of date? Is your receptionist cheerful and capable? If you've been ignoring your website content and design, it's just as bad as asking your customers to walk into a dingy, dirty lobby for a meeting. How do you know it's time for a website redesign? Here are five questions to ask yourself:

1. Is your website responsive? Is it easy to read and fully functional on tablets, mobile & desktop? If you don't know, now is the time to pull it up on a variety of devices and test it out. If your website doesn't work well across platforms, it's time for an upgrade.

 

2. Has it been more than three years since the last update? There's nothing worse than pulling up a website that is using obsolete technology or outdated design ideas. It screams "no one is paying attention" and that's certainly not an impression you want to give your clients and prospects. Even if you love your design, if it's been three years - it's time to freshen it up.

3. Is your message clear with strong calls to action? Have you looked at traffic reports lately to see what pages your users are reading and how much time they are spending on them? One of the strengths of a website is the ability to easily and cost effectively shift your message and call to action to address today's needs and focus. It can be all too easy to forget the big picture when you're adding a page of content here and there. Spend some time really reading your website. If it isn't directing people clearly, it's time for revisions.



4. Have you introduced new products or services? Have you shifted focus to a different revenue stream? Your website needs to keep up with your sales activity. A good benchmark here is to ask your sales staff how often they refer people to the website for more information. If they're not then it's time to step back and redesign the website to meet your goals and support your sales team.

5. Does it just feel old? Does it use Flash? Does it look like someone wearing bell bottom pants? Things change on the Internet quickly. What was trendy last year, is often old news today. Take a look at your competitor's websites, review industry websites and make some comparisons to your own. You want to make sure that your website portrays your company's image accurately but also in a way that feels up-to-date and well-maintained. If your site doesn't stand up to the competition, it's definitely time for a redesign.

Image credit: Derek Davalos, shared via CC by 2.0

Want to know more about current design trends? Check out our article outlining key web design trends for 2014

And one bonus question... are you embarrassed to tell people to go to your website? This happens more often than you might think. It's an all too common problem: invest time, money and energy in a website and then realize a few years later than no one is paying attention to it and it doesn't portray your company well at all. If you're not excited to have people look at your website then it's time for a redesign.

If this article has convinced you that it's time to upgrade your website, talk to TBH Creative. Whether you want to add a few new tools to make your website more useful or are looking at rebuilding from the ground up, we can help you strategically review your website's performance and make smart recommendations for a redesign. Our services range from application development to mobile solutions and from website design to analytic reporting. Learn more about what we do best and then contact us to do the best for you.

Art to Remember: A case study for custom web design work

Helping a creative business distinguish itself with custom illustrations and website strategy

The challenge 

The Art to Remember team had worked with a number of other groups for design assistance when they came to TBH Creative with a multifaceted challenge: to take design elements that were started by another firm and use them as a springboard for a brochure website design, custom illustrations and a new logo.

Smart website management

You've launched your website, now what?

A lot of work goes into launching a new or updated website. Oftentimes, teams are pulled together to plan site organization, develop content and review designs. Then once the site goes live, those team members go back to their regular responsibilities and the website is left to fend for itself.

Go viral and meet your marketing goals with social media

If your business hasn't entered into the social media stratosphere yet, right now is a good time to start. Going social with your business is a vital component in achieving your goals. Most of your clients are likely active on multiple social media channels. If your business already has social media presence, work toward strengthening your presence to compete with other businesses.

Optimizing images for your website

Screengrab of a recent TBH Creative blog post that incorporates an optmized image
When adding images to blog posts, use accurate
file names, minimize file sizes, and add relevant
caption information.
Have you visited a web site that loads slowly because the designer embedded a really high resolution photo on the page? Ever landed on a web page from a search result that includes a piece of art that confuses you because it's not labeled and has nothing to do with the content?

When images are improperly incorporated on websites, it can frustrate users, but that's not all. Bad images may also hurt websites when it comes to user experience issues related to accessibility as well as search engine optimization problems, like bounce rates.

It takes a bit of extra time on the front end, but proper image optimization results in better web pages. When it comes to ideal image optimization, though, the solution is easy. Just follow these best practices:
  • Use labels,
  • Minimize file sizes, and
  • Provide context.

Labels

Make sure you always name your files logically and use accurate and tidy descriptive labels.

File names

Your search engine rankings will improve if you add descriptive names to your files. Keep in mind what you want the image to rank for when you pick the name. This keyword (or set of keywords) should play a part in your file's name. For example, for a photo of a smartphone, which file name do you think would tell more valid information to a search engine: IMG_8922.jpg or smartphone.jpg?

Alt attributes

Images' alt attributes (sometimes referred to as "alt tags") are that provide alternative text when  images don't render on screen.

In simple terms, the copy added as a value to an image's alt attribute is meant to be an alternative for the image in instances when the user cannot view it (e.g., slow connection, error in the src attribute, or if the user uses a screen reader).

The alt attribute is supported in all major browsers.

Helpful hints: As you write the text for the alt attribute, keep in mind what information would be useful to someone who cannot see the image. The text should describe the image if the image contains information. Use alt="" only if the image is used for decoration.

File size

To keep users happy, make sure your image file sizes are as small as possible (without sacrificing quality) to minimize download times. Note: page load times also influence SEO rankings, which is another reason to keep image files optimized.

Compression tools

Even if you don't have a fancy image editing program like Photoshop, you can use one of several free options online to reduce your image file sizes. Here are some options we like:
To learn more about file image compression check out TBH Creative's recent post blog "Quick Tips: Optimizing Images."

Context

We've all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that's why captions and credit lines are so important: they provide context.

Jakob Nielson’s important web usability study from 1997 revealed that 79% of web users scan rather than read. When scanning web pages, along with bold headlines, users are naturally drawn to images. Take advantage of this known user behavior by making sure to provide additional, relevant information through the use of captions and credit lines paired with your images.

Captions

According to KISSMetrics, "captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself, so not using them, or not using them correctly, means missing out on an opportunity."

Captions, also called cutlines, are the succinct and informative text blurbs that sometimes appear with images. Most of the time, captions explain what is happening in the image that isn't obvious to help explain why it's included on the page.

They can be deep—long enough to intrigue your user to dig in and read the body copy—or they can be snappy—short enough to act strictly as a descriptive label.

If you don't have a caption style set-up for your website yet, this Typophile guide will help you get started.

Helpful hints: If you want your images to show up on a Google Images search? Captions can help. They are a good place to incorporate keywords.

Credit lines

Credit lines identify the photographer, artist, and/or copyright holder for images. This text will often appear as part of caption text or adjacent to or overprinted on top of photos. It's the equivalent of a byline for copy.

Choosing a color scheme for your website


Colors help give life to a website, and influence the overall feeling it invokes. A well-thought-out color palette can be used to influence the emotions of your viewers and support the message you want your website to portray. This article will help you get started creating your color scheme by providing considerations and tips for making your selection.

Things to consider

Match your existing branding

If you have existing marketing material out there, consider carrying over the same color palette to your website. It’s important to retain consistency throughout both print and online marketing so viewers can easily identify your brand.

Creative content ideas for email newsletters

Creative content ideas for email newsletters
Email marketing is an important part of an online marketing strategy. Newsletters and announcements are excellent ways to reach out to your audience and keep them engaged and aware of your business. Many organizations struggle to come up with valuable content for a monthly newsletter. That's why we've come up with some creative content ideas for your email newsletters and marketing initiatives.

Overview of CSS selectors

Programmer Typing New Lines of HTML Code. Laptop and Hand Closeup
As one of Indianapolis’ top web development companies, it is important for us to understand technology and its benefits. We consistently look for new tools and best practices to improve our development process so that we can deliver the best websites possible to our clients. In this article, we're going to explore one of those tools: CSS selectors.

Understanding CSS selectors is crucial to the web development process. They can help you target website elements in new ways, leading to cleaner, more flexible styles. As a result, your website will be easier to update and maintain.

Get better SEO results with a long-tail strategy

A successful Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy certainly targets keywords or phrases but also stretches out to encompass longer phrases. As Google continues to enhance its search mechanisms to better respond to "real questions," the long-tail keyword is experiencing a resurgence in effectiveness.

Target the right audience with more specific terms.

Long-tail keywords have lower search volume and thus are easier to target and tend to be more effective when captured. For example, a search for "web design" is certainly a potential target for TBH Creative but is that a search for a web design firm? A person who wants a web design job? A designer looking for inspiration? It's hard to tell and therefore, hits captured off that keyword target are going to offer mixed results.

Benefits of Email Marketing

Email marketing continues to thrive as more people connect to their email through their smartphones, tablets, computers, and other devices. Not only are many people checking their email but also many check their email multiple times during the day. With this in mind, it is important for business owners to to consider email marketing as a tool to connect with consumers to promote their business.

With the click of a button, email marketing is a way to instantly send out information to consumers.

Content Marketing Trends to Watch

We are always watching content marketing trends and have a short list that you should consider as you review your Internet strategy for 2014.

CC by 2.0, photo by Gerd Altmann
One of the strongest things you can add to your website strategy is a content marketing plan. Done well, content marketing can improve your SEO, enhance your brand awareness, improve lead generation, engage your customers and more. Content marketing plans require thinking beyond traditional web content and looking at new ways to enhance and expand what you offer your customers. That’s why we've highlighted the following content marketing trends - to help you be aware of what's happening and consider how to take advantage. Contact TBH Creative to learn how you can capitalize on these content marketing trends.

Three predictions of content marketing trends that will matter in 2014

Content will explode.
The sites that appear highest in search results on sites like Google have a solid combination of appropriate keyword content and current, regularly updated content. That content includes social media posts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and more), enewsletters, blogs, case studies, videos, white papers, webinars, infographics, mobile apps, digital magazines and more!

>The strongest websites are those that take advantage of different content mediums to present valuable information to their customers.

Content will be more relevant.
Organizations will soon start to realize (if they haven't already) that their website is far more than a brochure. A website is an opportunity to engage, connect and influence their audience. Good content will attract the right audience. Relevant content - content that teaches something about today's trends or helps a person understand how a news event or regulation impacts their work, content that goes beyond what an organization does and talks about related subject matter - that content keeps the right people coming back and telling others about your site.

>The most relevant websites are those that seek to connect with their audience on a regular basis.


Maybe it's time for a content audit of your site. TBH Creative can review your site and make recommendations for improvement. We can also help edit existing content or write new content. Learn more about our web content creation services.


Content marketing plans will become more common.
With content taking on more importance in websites, it will become even more important to develop a well-structured plan for that content. And with today's shifting world, it is likely worth revisiting this plan every quarter. A good content marketing plan should encompass a variety of content while also relating that content back to the service that an organization provides. The content marketing plan makes sure the increasing volume of content is relevant - it ties it all together.
>The most successful websites are those that plan to take advantage of content marketing trends.

For more on this topic, we recommend reviewing the 2014 Content Marketing Institute’s marketing research report on B2B Content Marketing.




Four Examples of Great Interactive Annual Reports

Check out a newer version of this post! For more recent examples, head over to our latest online annual report showcase.

Business man pointing to an annual report
As more companies begin to go beyond print-only and compliment their annual reporting by presenting this information online, one of the first questions that may come up is "How do you make an interactive annual report?"

Many companies—from Facebook to Proctor & Gamble—host their annual reports online in straight-forward, archival pdf format. This direct strategy makes annual reports easy-to-download and simple to search; however, going with the pdf format limits what can be added with ease in the future and many times it doesn't taking advantage of the Web's interactive capabilities.

Content Tips: Know your website audience

Content Tips: Know your website audience
Our website content writing advice: Define your website audience. 

When writing content for your website, it can be easy to get bogged down in search engine optimization (SEO), keyword phrases, long tail content, calls to action, internal linking, headers... yes, all of those things are important. And yes, there’s a lot to think about when writing content for your website. But there’s one thing that even Google says should take precedence when writing content for your website: your audience.

Quick tips: Optimizing images for mobile use

Do you have a mobile optimized website? Are you serving the same images to your desktop users as your mobile users? If so, image optimization should be an essential step in your workflow.

Optimizing images served to mobile users is necessary to avoid both poor website performance on mobile devices, and requiring users to download more data than is needed. Consider the following tips for optimizing your mobile images.

Saving files

Use the appropriate file type.

Using the correct file type for your images is one of the basic steps towards optimizing an image. Here are some guidelines:
  • JPG is typically the best format for photographs
  • PNG is ideal for graphical elements, or if you need transparency in an image
  • GIF is generally used for animated images, or simple graphics such as icons

Photoshop's "Save for Web" feature

The "Save for Web" feature is an extremely useful tool when preparing images for use online. By saving your images this way, you can significantly lower the file size of an image by adjusting quality. The "Save for Web" feature's dialog box lets you preview the difference in your image—and its file size—as you adjust the quality.


Consider alternatives.

In some cases, there may be a better alternative to using an image that could save your users loading time. Consider some of the following:
  • Consider typesetting with a font for icons instead of using images (For more information, check out our popular post about using icon fonts.)
  • Use the SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic) file type instead of PNG or JPG for logos and other vector-based images. SVGs are generally much smaller in file size. For extensive information on how to use SVGs, take a look at the Using SVG article on CSS-Tricks.com.
  • Integrate CSS to achieve effects like drop shadows or rounded corners instead of using images.

Sizing images

Resize photos to their proper size.

Don't save out your photos at a larger size than they will ever be used. Consider how they are going to be used on your site, and determine the maximum dimension needed. The larger the image, the larger the file size, so saving your images at an optimized size can make a major difference in loading time for your users.



Compressing images

There are various tools and programs out there to help you compress your images down to smaller file sizes. Here are some online image compression tools to help get you started:

Indianapolis Web Design Glossary

(Illustration by Tsahi Levent-Levi, CC BY 2.0)
Web design has a lot of techno mumbo jumbo.

We created this web design glossary to help make web lingo make sense to non-developers.

AJAX
Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is a way of programming web pages with data, content, and design merged together resulting in interactive web applications. For example: AJAX allows one section of page to stay up to date by getting new information regularly at a set frequency without the need for the website visitor to keep refreshing the entire page.

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