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.

1. Use proper placement.

Place your form prominently on your website. If your form is important, don't place it in the footer of your website or on a separate page. Include it on every page in a location that users can't miss it. The more it stands out, the more likely users are to fill it out.

Vimeo makes their sign-up form one of the most important pieces of content on their website by placing it in the header.

2. Design to stand out.

Use good design principles to help your form attract attention. Make sure the form stands out from the rest of your content while still matching your website's overall aesthetic. Pay close attention to details and style each element of your form, such as the buttons and input fields. Use a straightforward layout that won't confuse users. Also, take mobile users into consideration, and make sure buttons and fields are large enough for smaller devices.

The SVN2FTP website uses a creative design for their log-in form. It matches the look and feel of the site while still using a unique design in order to stand out.

3. Ensure usability.

If your form isn't easy to use, you run the risk of users abandoning it before it's completed. Provide clear instructions and use appropriate field labels. Include additional information or assistance for any fields that might not be clear to users. Most importantly, make sure the form works! Test it out on a variety of devices to ensure that all users can successfully complete your form.

4. Include error validation.

Users should be appropriately notified of any errors or mistakes when filling out a web form.

Ambiguous error messages quickly cause user frustration, so it's important to provide clear and useful guidance in the event of an error. Enough information should be given to the user to make it obvious what the mistake is and how to proceed in order to complete the form.

For more information about form validation, check out our post Form Validation: A Quick Win for Website User Experience.

5. Keep it short.

One of the easiest ways to increase the amount of users filling out your forms is to make those web forms as short and simple as possible. The less time your web form takes to fill out, the more likely users are to complete the process.

Consider what information is absolutely necessary and eliminate any unneeded fields.

The sign-up form only requires three fields, making it quick and easy for users to get started.

6. Provide an incentive.

Another way to get users filling out your form is to offer an incentive.

For example, if you want more users to sign-up for your email newsletter, consider offering a free download, coupon, e-book, or other enticing benefit that they will receive once they have provided their email address.

Social incentives can be great motivators as well. Some companies have had luck by displaying the number of people who have previously ordered a product or signed up for a service as a way to promote user interest.

The newsletter sign-up form at Web Designer Depot provides incentive by promising useful resources. It also entices users to sign-up by displaying the number of subscribers underneath the form.

Having trouble getting results form your web forms? We can help you to evaluate your strategy and make improvements to get you on track. Contact TBH Creative and find out where to start.

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:

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.


Apple is well-know for a large hero area featuring their products.

Pottery Barn uses a hero area to promote important content such as sales.

Campbell's Kitchen Australia incorporates a recipe search into their hero area, while enticing users with photos of prepared recipes.

The Terra Nova Church website uses photos within its hero area to make an impact.

The Doris Research website incorporates its marketing message into its hero area.

Pros & Cons

As with any design element, the hero area has its pros and cons. Here are some things to take into consideration:


  • Focus viewer attention. A hero graphic creates one large focal point. This allows users to focus in on and connect with that particular piece of content, as opposed to multiple content areas competing for their attention. This makes hero areas great for displaying a call to action.
  • Make a first impression. A hero area should contain a meaningful message. This will generally be the first bit of content a user encounters on your site and associates with your business.
  • Encourage users to view more. A well-designed hero graphic will capture the attention of users. Once you've generated interest, users will be more likely to browse further into your site to find out more about your business. 
The site prompts users to view more by placing an arrow at the bottom of their hero area.
  • Flexible content. Hero graphics are a flexible design element. They can be used to put the focus on your most important content, whether that's a marketing message, advertisement, or featured product.


  • Takes up space. Most hero areas are very large, taking up a good amount of screen real estate. This can be an issue if it would be pushing down important content that users need to find quickly.
  • Hides additional content. Depending on how large your hero area is, it may be unclear to users that there is additional content below.
It may not be clear to users that there is more content below the hero area on the Alto Labs website.
  • Not as impactful for mobile devices. Another downside is that if your website is responsive, once your hero graphic is taken down to a size fit for mobile, it may lose it's visual impact.
  • Large loading time. If you're using a large banner image in your hero area, this could increase the loading time of your site.

Want more hero graphic inspiration? Check out some creative examples in our unique hero graphic showcase.

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."

Partnering for success

MSD of Lawrence Township called on BitWise Solutions to develop a website platform for all of their schools and the main district website. BitWise recognized the design challenge inherent to this project and called on TBH Creative to create a design that was attractive, flexible, and functional. These two Indianapolis website development firms have worked together before when they come across projects that best fit each other's strengths. Together they worked with MSD Lawrence Township to develop a website solution that met each school's needs while also best representing the district as a whole.

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.”

The end result

A design that works well for all schools and offices
TBH Creative created a design that is flexible enough to give each school the freedom to share school colors and pictures of their students and school buildings. At the same time the design layout is the same across all 22 websites so that important information is easy to locate on any school website.

TBH Creative also designed a mega menu that is used on all sites making it easy to navigate between schools  – a great feature for parents with students in different grades.

A new way for the district to share timely information
One of the top needs for MSD Lawrence Township was the ability to use their websites to quickly and clearly inform their parents and partners of delays, schedule changes or weather cancellations. TBH Creative developed an alert that feature that does just that on all of the district's websites and is easy for staff to update whenever it is needed. Announcements, events, and news articles can be posted on the Global level (all 17 websites), District level (just the District site), or any individual website or combination therein.

A communication tool that is easy for the schools to use
BitWise used Kentico as the content management system behind the website. This easy-to-use, robust, and flexible CMS empowers each school and office with the ability to make their website truly their own. It was important the content management system was designed to accommodate various user roles and permissions. We were able to build a system that clearly gives access to multiple users:

  • Primary Webmaster – can edit, approve, administer all sites including global
  • Secondary Webmasters – have access only to their school’s static content
  • Associates – can create, edit, and remove the following for one or more locations: calendar entries, news articles, staff members, announcements, lists of extra-curricular clubs, and post documents to newsletters section.

TBH Creative was particularly thoughtful in the home page design to give each school flexibility and plenty of places to easily add current information. From the home page of each site you can see that BitWise and TBH were successful! The schools are making great use of the content management system. Each site profiles news, events, awards and more that are happening in their school community.

District home page composition with placeholder images, news, slider, and showing mega menu.

School home page example with alternative color following template.

Interior page sample with optional right column and announcement graphic template.

About the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township

Located just outside of Indianapolis, the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township serves approximately 15,000 students across four Early Learning Centers, eleven Elementary Schools, two Middle Schools, two High Schools and a Center for Innovation and Technology. Learn more at:

Do you need to pull many different divisions together under one website roof? TBH Creative can help. Our services range from website design to application development, from mobile solutions to social media strategies. Learn more about our Indianapolis website design firm and share your Internet challenge with us. We look forward to helping you.

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.

Top Four Social Media Channels

aka the places where you should consider an active presence

Facebook It's one billion+ users are hard to ignore. Use Facebook to share your hours, engage with your customers, post special offers and share some behind the scenes fun. It's a great place to have some personality.

  • Who will you reach? Everyone. Though users tend to be primarily female and in the 18-29 year old age range. But trends are showing that age range getting older each year. According to a Pew Research study last fall, 71% of all adults are using Facebook.
  • Who's doing it well: Burt's Bees You'll find related content (read: not just product promotions), coupons and high interactivity. No wonder they have over 2 million likes!
Twitter is built for short, clear communication - share offers, incentives and events. And you might be surprised at just how effective those 140 characters can be: A recent Twitter survey shows that 60% of respondents have purchased something from a small-medium size business because of Twitter and 43% intend to purchase regularly.

  • Who will you reach? Twitter seems to be the great equalizer of demographics. It is equally used by men and women, it trends higher in the 18-29 age group but the 30-49 age range isn't far behind.
  • Who's doing it well: Etsy @etsy Etsy posts customer reviews, highlights new products and uses Twitter as a direct connection for customer service. 
LinkedIn: Let's get down to business. Company announcements, employee connections and more all belong on LinkedIn.

  • Who will you reach? Professionals with college degrees or higher. More men use LinkedIn than women and it should come as no surprise that most of its well-educated users fall between the ages of 30-64.
  • Who's doing it well: NPR Yes, they post career information and give a sense of their organizational personality. But they also post interesting, truly valuable information. Fits with the culture and helps connect with people all at the same time.
YouTube The home to video tutorials on anything under the sun and clips from your favorite tv shows - YouTube is a great tool for businesses to post their own video communications.

  • Who will you reach? everyone. Over three billion hours of video are watched on YouTube each month. These videos are shared across other social media channels and websites. 
  • Who's doing it well: Kraft Kraft has done a remarkable job featuring itself and its products on YouTube. It's main channel includes cooking demonstrations with recipes, television spots and uploaded videos from "fans" of Kraft. They also have set up channels for each product line. 

Our Social Media Honorable Mention

Are there other social media channels you should consider? Sure! Talk to your customers and ask them what social media options they use and start exploring your options. Here are a few you might want to check out:

Pinterest: Think of Pinterest as a series of bulletin boards. People "pin" things they want to try or do or buy. If you have a product or service that is communicated well with pictures this could be the place for you.

Instagram: Instagram is a photo networking service. Similar to Facebook, you have a bit more space to share your ideas in a caption but the focus is all on the picture. For an example of a company that's using Instagram well - check out Starbucks:

FourSquare: Perhaps the best way to describe FourSquare is as a social city guide. If you operate a retail business or restaurant, you should definitely look at how you can leverage FourSquare to increase awareness and attract more customers.

Google+: has gotten a bad rap in some circles and with Google scaling back on its involvement in this social tool, it's not worthy of the top five. Still, it can be helpful as an SEO boost. It's tools are also excellent to use for customer engagement and to host a live video conference

The Bottom Line

No matter where you choose to be - follow good communication standards. Post regularly. Target your message. Ask for engagement. Promptly respond to queries. Remember that hard selling doesn't work on these communication channels - participation and sharing are where it's at. Want to learn more? Check out these great articles:

Note demographic data taken from Pew Research Center Study 

Want to know how you can make the most of social media? We can help you with everything from developing a social media strategy to writing ghost posts. TBH Creative is an Indianapolis-based Internet Strategy Agency. Our services include web strategy & planning, website design, mobile solutions, application development, and analytic reporting. Contact TBH Creative and ask how to get started with your social media plan.

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.

We also took this opportunity to enhance the content with video storytelling that allows them to tell their story in a more compelling fashion. Video is a content tool that more and more companies are starting to use.  It is a great way to quickly and powerfully impact your viewers. It can make them want to read more information on your site. And, as in the case of the Megan S. Ott Foundation, video content can do a better job calling for action. "Creating one longer, storytelling video or a series of short, key point videos lets our clients really make an impact," notes Tatum Hindman. "Videos work hand-in-hand with good copy and strong calls to action to make a website work even better for many of our clients. We partner with an excellent video production company to help make the process seamless and easy for our clients." Because the stories are so compelling, we chose to go with a longer video format that shows strong emotions, and early site measurements show that it's working - more people are staying on the site longer than ever before.

The Foundation also requested a shorter Public Service Announcement video. We created a simple visual message to promote donations and raise awareness. The PSA was aired on WISH and WNDY 82 times over a period of 2 weeks. There was an increase in website unique and new visitors during that time period and continued increase in site traffic in the following month after the ad aired. Direct donations were collected from the TV viewership and the commercial raised awareness for the Foundation.

The Foundation will run the PSA again in October for breast cancer awareness month.

Online marketing efforts with the Megan S. Ott Foundation

The goals for the Foundation website are to tell Megan's story and convince people to donate their time or funds. Using website analytics we are closely monitoring how audiences are engaging with the website and making adjustments as needed. The results are a testament to how relatively small enhancements to a website can make a big difference.

Online donations are on the rise.
A common issue for the not-for-profit website is using strong calls to action and easy donation options. The Megan S. Ott Foundation seeks donations to aid their efforts supporting families who are fighting a day-by-day battle against breast cancer. The online donation form is easy to use, works well on any device and is fully integrated throughout the website.

Attracting more people and engaging more action.
The videos we helped the Foundation create add a compelling "ask" for donations. This new video outreach has quickly made an impact on their website statistics. They are attracting 47% more visitors than before. And those visitors are reading more pages of the site - with the addition of video content and the ability to easily read the website on any device, we've seen that visitors are staying on the site 34% longer than they were the year before.

Strong branding is a communication tool.
From the very beginning, TBH Creative has worked with the Megan S. Ott Foundation to create a strong brand identity that will last and clearly communicate the important, valuable work they do. TBH Creative established their logo, supporting collateral and website. Learn more about how TBH Creative helped them establish their brand in 2010.


The Megan S. Ott Foundation is fortunate to have found TBH Creative.  With the knowledge, guidance, and support from TBH Creative team we have been able to build our on-line presence. Not only do they host our website, but they give thought, detail, and input into our content and everything that goes into our website making sure we get the maximum exposure.  The team could not be easier to work with and they seem to always want to help in any way possible which is hard to find.  We are honored to work with TBH Creative and look forward to working with them for years to come.

Nicole Carnahan
Megan S. Ott Foundation

About Megan S. Ott Foundation

The Megan S. Ott Foundation is the legacy of Megan Snyder Ott. Megan envisioned an organization that would provide financial support and "sunshine" to families fighting the battle of breast cancer. Learn how you can help at

TBH Creative is web design company located in Carmel, Indiana. We help our clients tell their story with strategic websites, compelling content and robust web development. Learn more about our website design services.

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.

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