Perspective, tips, and insight

Articles to help you improve your digital marketing

Five Internet marketing trends to watch

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

1. The shift to mobile will speed up

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

Creating your next UI pattern library

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

Why build a pattern library?

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

Question: How often should you update your website?

Answer: All the time!

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

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

1. Content updates

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

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

2. Site enhancements

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

3. Site redesign

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

Following what we preach: The new website just launched.

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

CSS Flexbox

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

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

Three simple ways to make your website more successful

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is A/B testing?

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

Practical uses of animated GIFs in web design

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

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

Three areas to consider when selecting a web design agency

Are we a good match for your web project?

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

How important is a good website?

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

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

Five reasons your business needs a mobile website

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

Indianapolis Web Design Firm: Answers your Common Website Questions

Frequently Asked Questions Website Design Questions

1. How do I choose a website vendor?

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

Quality vs Quantity in Website Content

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

Many websites have three levels:

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

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

How does responsive design affect web content?

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

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

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

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

How much will a good website cost?

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

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

3 reasons wireframing is useful in web design

What is Wireframing?

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

Mockflow is one software option we use for wireframing.

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

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

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

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

        Mobile Navigation Trends and Solutions

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

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

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

        Putting Twitter to work for your business

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

        Draw your audience in with good home page content

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

        Key Home Page Considerations 

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

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

        2. Clear communication and call to action.

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

        3. Home page design

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

        4. Audience experience

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

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

        When you design your home page DO NOT

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

        Choosing a CSS grid system for your web design

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

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

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

        Fixed vs. fluid/responsive

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

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

        Columns and gutters

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

        Browser compatibility

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

        SASS/LESS compatibility

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

        So which one should I choose?

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

        Gridpak lets you easily create your own grid system.

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

        What to look for when choosing a CSS framework

        CSS frameworks can be a great addition to your web development process. They provide pre-built code to help create the foundation of a website, providing features like grid systems, typography, forms, icons, widgets, and more, all ready to be implemented into your project. By using a framework, you don't have to start from scratch every time you start a project. With these rapid prototyping capabilities, you can have a website up and running in no time.

        Three tips for marketing your local business online

        If you have a business that operates in Indianapolis (or Carmel or Greenwood or Fishers), you might think you do not need a presence on the Internet. After all, you're trying to reach prospects right here in your geographic area. Why would you need a presence on the world wide web to reach people locally? Simply put, your Indianapolis business needs a website because today's customers are using the Internet the way yesterday's customers used the yellow pages.

        CSS3 Series, Part 4: Borders, Shadows, and Gradients

        In this third installment of our CSS3 Series, we are diving right into several elements that are sure to make any website stand out from the crowd: Borders, shadows, and gradients. If you have been following along with our series, you’ve learned about transitions and infinite scrolling, both techniques that can give your website visitors a smooth and engaging user experience.

        CSS3 Series, Part 3: Fixed headers

        CSS3 Series, Part 3: Fixed headers
        Fixed headers are a hot topic in the web design world, and they can be found on all types of websites. As you scroll down the page, you'll notice the header area "sticks" to the top, staying in place as you scroll down. The fixed header is a popular feature for good reason; it can provide a better user experience and improve the overall navigation of a site.

        Fixed header benefits

        The main benefit of fixed headers becomes obvious when browsing a site that has one: navigation. Especially with lengthy pages, a fixed header makes it easier to navigate to a different page without scrolling back up to the top of the site. This is especially important on one-page sites, so users can jump from section to section more quickly and efficiently.

        CSS3 Series, Part 2: Infinite Scrolling

        We've all been here: you're making your way through your latest posts and just reaching the end, when suddenly even more content shows up, and you start all over again.

        If you frequent social media sites, such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest, you're probably familiar with the concept of infinite scrolling. This never-ending content approach is often used to enhance a user's experience on sites that produce massive amounts of content such as the aforementioned social media sites. However, does infinite scrolling really provide a better experience or just frustration? Let's take a closer look at infinite scrolling and find out.

        Website Redesign & Strategy: Logansport Memorial Hospital

        We launched an updated website for Logansport Memorial Hospital today.

        TBH Creative has been working with Logansport Memorial Hospital since 2011. In 2012, we upgraded their technology as a primary focus. We gave them a quick facelift at that time, but planned for a more thorough redesign and focus on content in 2013.

        CSS3 Series, Part 1: Transitions

        In this series, I will be focusing on CSS3 tips and techniques to enhance certain elements on your website and give users a smooth user experience. Look for future posts about other CSS3 techniques in the upcoming weeks.

        Understanding transition effects
        Transitions allow for more graceful and elegant transitions between elements over a specified period of time. Rather than an abrupt transition of background colors or content, transitions give website visitors an elegant and smooth experience.

        CSS3 Series, Introduction: Transforms, Infinite Scrolling, Fixed Headers, Borders, and Shadows

        Female programmer working at home
        During the upcoming weeks, we'll explain how to use a few CSS3 techniques and tips that can make a big difference in your website.

        For web designers, keeping up with industry trends not only helps us grow as professionals, but enables our clients to shine by having beautiful and intuitive websites. Becoming familiar with these new features not only adds that extra touch to websites, but helps move the industry forward creating an ever evolving environment.

        In this series, we will dive into several techniques that will give your users a smooth experience when interacting with certain elements on your website. Additionally, CSS3 gives web professionals the flexibility (while being fast to implement) to incorporate various styles and features in a website.

        Four useful strategies for handling online reviews

        Social media can be a blessing and a curse. Its blessing is that it can provide inexpensive consumer research because your customer is right there. Plus, it can provide free advertising for a job well done from people "just like us," not some super model with gorgeous hair who says she uses Brand X shampoo (yeah right). However, it can also be a curse. Dissatisfied customers can say things from a distance that they are not brave enough to say in person. This can cause real problems especially, for small businesses.

        The value of the meta tag to your website

        The value of the meta tag to your website
        Once upon an Internet, meta tags were very important tools to help make sure a website was found by search engines. Today, the tags don't serve much of a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) purpose but they still have an important place in website strategy. When your site is found in a search engine, the meta tags give the user valuable information about your site.

        Type talk: Improving your typography

        Capline, meanline, baseline, beardline. X-height, ascender, decender. Kerning, leading, font size, set width. When it comes to typography, there are a lot of technical terms to learn to become an expert, but you don't have to know every last detail to talk intelligently about type and make decisions about what type to use and how best to use it.
        (Photography by Relly Annett-Baker, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

        Refine your digital presence with web fonts

        Web fonts are web-safe fonts that offer more flexibility for designers in terms of typography. Before web fonts, there were only a handful of fonts (like Arial and Verdana) that were rendered the same by almost all web browsers. With web fonts, designers now can creatively use just about any typeface online without having to embed fonts as graphics.

        Icon fonts to the rescue! Making icons look great on all devices

        In a previous post, we discussed the implications of Retina display on a website's images. Maintaining the quality of an image across all devices is key, and there are a number of new solutions to help websites provide the best images as possible to as many users as possible. One such method that has been gaining popularity is the use of icon fonts.

        Icon fonts are just what they sound like - fonts that are made up of icons. They have quickly become a widely used alternative to using images for icons, and they are quick and easy to implement. Let's take a look at the benefits of using icon fonts, as well as what you need to know in order to start using them on your website today!

        What comes first the design or the content?

        It's like the age-old question of chicken vs egg: When planning your website what comes first the design or the content? The answer will likely vary depending on if you're asking your designer or your copywriter. After all, you can’t have an effective design if you don’t know anything about the content but you can’t write impactful copy without knowing how it flows in the design.

        Don't worry. It's not an impossible situation. It just requires the designer and the writer to work together on two key steps:

        Site architecture 

        Before the design starts, you should develop the site architecture. The menu will guide much of the design and, obviously, the content. Your writer may lead this part of the planning but, more than likely, a team of people will have input into the site map and structure.


        The designer will take the lead here. Using your defined site architecture and stated website objectives, the designer will develop a set of wireframes that will give the design and content a framework. The wireframes will account for pages that need to communicate different types of content and give a structure for the content writer to work within. That framework will also provide necessary constraints as the design is developed.

         Read more of our thoughts on the importance of site architecture and wireframes. 

        Once the wireframes are approved and communicated to your team. The heavy lifting starts. Now the design concepts are created while, often at the same time, the content is developed. When the two pieces come together, there will likely be some fine-tuning involved to tweak the content or rewrite calls to action to best fit the design.

        With the right planning, design and content come together to create an effective, strategic and functional website.

        So which comes first? Neither - it's all about the strategy. Need some help developing your website strategy? You've come to the right place. Let us help you realize (and maximize) the potential of the Internet.

        Using CSS Preprocessing to Speed Up Development

        Using CSS Preprocessing to Speed Up Development
        As websites become more complex and designs break the boundaries of standard HTML, we are seeing a rise in the use of CSS preprocessors. CSS preprocessing allows developers to write clean code in a programming language, rather than static syntax. The preprocessor rewrites this code into the CSS. This process greatly increases development workflow and reworks how developers think about CSS.

        The importance of the call to action

        One of the key differences between writing for the Internet and writing a print piece is the call to action. Yes, all good marketing writing includes a call to action, however, on a website the call to action has functionality. On your website you have the opportunity to guide the reader right where you want them to go. That could be through a series of pages, to a contact form or a featured service or product. On the Internet the CTA doesn't just direct traffic, it leads people down the right path.

        How do you incorporate calls to action in your writing?

        First, consider what you want users to do when visiting a particular page. Do you want them to continue deeper into the site? Maybe you want them to email you for more information? Or perhaps both are viable options to capture the interest of readers at different levels of interest? You should have goals for your website overall but each page should also have a communication objective. Now that you know the objective for the page, write the content to lead them there:

        1. Consider placement: Don't limit yourself to the basic, 'line of copy plus button' at the bottom of the page. Yes, that's a good call to action but it's not the only one. Use text links within your content where appropriate. Place buttons in the middle of the page. Create feature boxes in the right column. Is the page long? Consider having a CTA in the middle of the page and at the end. Try to look at the page from your prospect's point of view and consider where he might take action - then give them a way to do just that.

        2. Don't just use a phone number: People on your website are often there because they don't want to pick up the phone. Even if your ultimate goal is to convince users to call, give them good alternatives. Create forms that are easy to complete to start the lead-gathering process. Include a link to an email address (and make sure someone answers it promptly). Invite people to attend an event or watch a video or listen to a webinar. Don't ignore your phone number, but consider that this may not be the most desirable action for your prospects.

        3. Feature + Benefit: It's Marketing 101. If you want a prospect to take the next step, give them a good reason. Don't just include a big button to Watch A Demo! Tell your reader why they want to watch the demo. Then include the big button to make it easy to do so.

        Pay attention to the design of your calls to action to make them more effective.

        If your page has more than one call to action, it's critical that you consider the design of them to make sure you communicate their relative importance. After all, not every CTA deserves a large button. Even if your page has just one call to action, don't make people hunt for it. Whether you use graphics or text for your calls to action, make them obvious and you'll have more success getting your prospects to take the desired action.

        Make the text link bold. Make the button large and distinctive. Use white space effectively. In short, use design to make your calls to action more effective. Read more about call to action design tips and view examples. 

        To be effective, a call to action needs to be well-written and well-placed. Want more information on improving your calls to action? There are some great tips and examples in this article: Ten Techniques for An Effective Call to Action

        Calls to action should never be considered as an after-thought. The objectives behind them, their design and implementation should all be part of your website strategy from the beginning. Not sure where to start? TBH Creative can help. From start to finish we can help you create an effective online strategy and improve your website's functionality. Contact us to learn more. 

        2013 Color Trends for the Web

        2013 Color Trends for the Web
        The web has fads that come and go, and color is one of these trends to keep in mind. The use of color on a website sets the mood and visually communicates the brand personality of a website. For 2013, we are seeing both the use of calmer, more subdued color palettes as well as palettes pairing bright neons with gray hues.

        These trends are also influenced by Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2013, which is emerald.

        Using style tiles to streamline the web design process

        Narrowing down a website design can be a tricky process. Sometimes it's perfect on the first try, sometimes it takes multiple versions of design mock-ups before settling on a final look. This is commonly just an accepted part of the design process, but wouldn't it be great if there was a better approach? Wouldn't it be nice to save some time for both the client and the designer? Well, that's where style tiles come in!

        Style tiles are a design tool that can help designers and their clients streamline the website design process. Style tiles can be used when a wireframe might not be detailed enough, but a full design mock-up would be too much. The purpose of style tiles is not to represent the final version of a website, but to set its overall look and feel.

        Technology Trend: Adobe Creative Cloud

        For web designers and developers, using cloud-based software has become the norm. Our days are spent creating Google Docs, sifting through DropBox, screen-sharing for collaboration and Skyping on client calls. One of the design community’s longtime tools, Adobe Creative Suite, has ascended into the cloud with their new software, Adobe Creative Cloud. This is a trend among computer software companies, which allows them to reach their users in an entirely new way. Cloud-computing changes the way we interact with one another, collaborate, share documents, and communicate.

        What's the tone of your website?

        What sort of personality does your website have? No, this is not a trick question. Think about it. When you read your website are you "hearing" the voice of a professional wearing a suit? Maybe a woman leaning back in her chair wearing jeans? Maybe that guy down the hall that can always make you laugh? Or maybe you don't sense a consistent voice at all. Maybe you get one tone from the home page but a completely different tone from the interior pages. Hmmm... this question is sounding more valid by the second isn't it?

        Before you start writing your website you should give some serious thought to the tone of your writing. That tone should be based on three key factors:

        1. Your established brand: If you have a brand statement you probably have the tone well-defined already. Do not vary from that tone. Consistency is the key to brand marketing.

        2. Your mission: Even if you don't have a brand statement or established identity, your organization has a purpose. Your tone should reflect that purpose. If you are a fitness company, your tone should be energetic and even motivating. If you are a funeral home, you should have a soothing, comforting tone. Yes, those are obvious examples but every company has a mission that can be supported by the right voice. 

        3. Your audience: Market research is a great tool when establishing a voice for your organization. The more you know about your audience, the better able you are to communicate to them. To hit their hot buttons. To talk in a way that hits home with them. Don't have the time or budget for full-blown market research? Build Audience Personas and let them guide you. Learn more about Audience Personas.

        Let's step back for just a second. What exactly is voice and tone in writing?  

        I think Grammar Girl (one of my favorite resources for writing dilemmas) says it best:

        Voice is the distinct personality, style, or point of view of a piece of writing or any other creative work. Voice is what Simon Cowell is talking about when he tells "American Idol" contestants to make a song their own and not just do a note-for-note karaoke version. Many musicians have played "The Star-Spangled Banner," for instance, but there's a world of difference between the Boston Pops' performance and Jimi Hendrix's, even though the basic melody is the same.

        In writing, the New York Times and the New York Post may cover the same story, but their headlines are likely to be quite different. For example, when Ike Turner died, the New York Times had a straightforward headline: "Ike Turner, Musician and Songwriter in Duo With Tina Turner, Dies at 76"; whereas the New York Post went for a bad pun: "Ike 'Beats' Tina to Death."

        Let's continue with that example and examine a common website headline: About Us. Nearly every website has an About Us page and if any page communicates your organization's style - it's this one. 
        • A company with a no-nonsense, conservative tone might say:
          Learn more about us.

        • A company with a professional but casual tone might say:
          Check out the people behind the scene.

        • A company with a sarcastic, humorous tone might say:
          Pull these facts out next time you want to bore your friends and family.
        Three titles for a page with the same type of information, but three very different voices. Each of those examples is equally valid because they are targeted to a different market.

        How do you find your voice? 

        You start with those three key factors I mentioned earlier. You might also need to do some brainstorming - anything from listing adjectives that describe your organization to reading your competitor's materials (so you can make sure you stand out). You should read things that appeal to your market to get a sense for the tone and voice that attracts them. There are lots of methods to finding a voice and what works for one group, may not work for another. Here's a good article with some exercises to help you find your voice in writing.

        Now that we've got you thinking, we encourage you to step back and do some reading - of your own website. Need help finding that voice? Ready for a rewrite? Let us know, we'd be happy to help.

        Spend time on content at the beginning for a stronger website at the end

        When people are ready to update or create a website, they often want to jump straight to the design. Colors, logos, pictures, layout - those are the fun parts of website design. (We think so too!) Here at TBH Creative we recommend a different approach. One that pushes the design further back into the process but ultimately makes that design stronger. When we start a website design project we start with content - specifically Site Architecture and Wireframes.


        Site Architecture is the map of your website. Literally.

        Content planning. Information Architecture. Site Map. No matter what you call it - the site architecture is the backbone of a good website. At this stage you are not thinking about design or copy. Instead, you are carefully considering your goals for the website and what type of content you'll need to meet those goals. There is software out there to help you create a site map, but you don't need any technology for this stage. In fact, a lot of people like to use index cards or large flow charts for brainstorming.

        Here are some great tips for site organization from Smashing Magazine:
        • Organize content according to user needs, not an organizational chart or company structure.
        • Give pages clear and succinct names.
        • Be sympathetic. Think of your typical users, your audience personas, and imagine them navigating the website. What would they be looking for?
        • Consider creating auxiliary way-finding pages. These pages would lie beyond the main navigation of your website and structure various pages according to specific user needs.
        • If you can’t succinctly explain why a page would be useful to someone, omit it.
        • Plan the architecture around the content. Don’t write content to fit the architecture.
        • Keep everyone on point with constant reminders of the true goals of the website.
        • Not everything has to be a page. Use your hierarchy of content as a guide. Some items might work better as an FAQ entry or as sidebar content. Make sure your architecture-planning method does not blind you to this.
        Read the rest of this article on site architecture.

        Now lay out the content in a wireframe.

        A wireframe is not a design layout. A wireframe does however let you take all that carefully considered site architecture and put it into the basic framework of a website. It helps you start to consider the flow for your user. It helps you assign appropriate prominence to content. A well-designed wireframe will become the guide for the design and content phases to follow. And while it may seem counter intuitive, taking the time to create wireframes will save you time in the development process.

        You and your design team might create wireframes with pen and paper:

        More likely, you'll use software to come up with something that meets your needs:

        Creating wireframes are a bit of an art and a bit of a scientific process. Each designer does them differently but the goal is to create a site that meets your objectives and provides a structure for your architecture. Read one web designer's process on The Fine Art of Wireframing for a more in-depth perspective on the design process.

        Want to learn more about Wireframes? Check out this article: Ten Simple Ways to Make Wireframes More Useful.

        Form validation: A quick win for website user experience

        User on mobile device
        When the simple task of completing an online form is difficult, users are likely to become frustrated; however, effective form validation will guide the user step-by-step when encountering errors and minimize their frustration. Form validation is the process of notifying a user of any errors when entering data to submit the form. This is a crucial part of the user experience when filling out a web form and allows a user to be immediately notified when a mistake is made.

        Finding the SEO Balance

        Often people search for their site on Google or Bing and are not satisfied with the results. They want to see their site higher in the search results or they want it to appear for certain search terms. The logical next step is to look at Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques. What SEO steps should you take? We recommend you carefully consider your SEO actions.

        How will retina displays influence the future of web design?

        Eye scan technology
        Retina is the new buzzword around web designers and interactive marketing teams. This new technology has not only improved the way we see web content, but retina is starting to influence how developers build websites. As a strategic web company,  it's TBH Creative's goal—and responsibility—to ensure a satisfying experience for users browsing the web, regardless of display.

        Write your way to a better website

        (Photo courtesy morgueFile)
        What do people want from your website? No matter what you're trying to communicate, the right words can get you there.

        No matter who is your users are, the key to effectively communicating with users is simple: make sure that your website answer questions and meets needs.

        This starts with strategically planning content that is smart and strategic and written in a voice with a tone that matches your brand.

        Focus content.

        When a user comes to your website, they don't want to hunt for the content they need. No user is happy when their web browsing turns into a game reminiscent of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? or Clue. Users are depending on your website for information, enlightenment, entertainment, and/or guidance. Focus content to help them meet their goal.

        Chances are that your users aren't stupid; however, they are likely very busy. Respect people's time. As you're writing, follow the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) philosophy to focus your content. When you keep the writing simple, you'll make it easy on your users. Remember:
        • Plan your content. 
        • Think about content as a conversation. 
        • Label your links accurately.
        • Make your content scannable; add subheads and bulleted lists when useful.
        • Less is more. Keep to the point.
        By using the right words presented in the right place, you'll meet your users' needs.

        Determine tone of voice.

        Voice and tone are critical in shaping the success of those experiences, for both you and the audience. Clarity is critical. Remember:
        • Avoid jargon and acronyms.
        • Use the simplest word that works for the meaning.
        • Write accurate and helpful titles.
        Aim for consistency in your voice and tone across your website's content. This consistency will help users know that they are in the right place. Writing with a consistent voice and tone builds trust and rapport, and ultimately, better relationships with users. Don't forget that you're writing content for people, not robots.

        Does your website content need a tune-up? TBH Creative specializes in website writing and editing for organizations and businesses. We'll help you write your way to a better website. Let's get started.

        To blog or not to blog, that is the question.

        Does any of this sound familiar? Your organization has a website. You make sure the content is up-to-date. You check the stats from time to time and wonder if there's something else you should be doing.  You've heard about blogging, maybe even follow some blogs from time to time - heck you're reading a blog right now. What's the value behind a blog? Should your company start a blog?

        The short answer: Yes. Your company should have a blog.

        Want the longer answer? (We thought you might.) Yes, your company should have a blog for these reasons:

        Three Key Reasons to Add a Blog to Your Web Presence

        1. Traffic

        We're not saying that if you write a blog you'll suddenly see an increase in traffic (though stranger things have happened). However, thanks to the power of search engines, you will see traffic that might not have come your way otherwise.

        Writing a blog gives you a chance to talk about specific aspects of your business and services. The more you talk about those things, the higher credibility your site carries in search engines. More credibility means your site will appear higher on the page when people are searching. When you write a blog you are adding keywords to your site and keeping your content current - two things that search engines like very much.

        2. Increase your credibility (and your knowledge).

        Traffic is nice but even if you don't see extra traffic from a blog it's still a worthwhile exercise. A well-thought out blog post requires you to do a little research and to stay on top of trends in your industry. And when you are well-read and informed about your industry, you are a better spokesperson for your business. If you write articles that are useful to your customers and prospective customers, they'll start relying on you for advice... and be more likely to turn to you when they need your service.

        3. Build community and loyalty. 

        Promote your blog in offline marketing activities. Make sure people know that you're putting out worthwhile content. Keep your blog active - posting at least weekly. These things will convince people to visit your blog regularly. That kind of loyalty is gold when it comes to establishing repeat business and word-of-mouth marketing. Your blog should give a peek into your personality and let people know what to expect when they do business with you. If people feel like they are getting to know you through a blog, they will be more comfortable doing business with you now and in the future.

        Hopefully we've given you some food for thought when you consider adding a blog to your website. Ready for more? Check out this article about the pros and cons of blogging.

        We're obviously fans of blogging. We think it brings great benefits to your business and marketing presence. Want to learn more? Read some of our previous articles and then give us a call. We'd love to help you establish a blogging presence.

        When is a one-page website a good option for a website?

        When is a one-page website a good option for a website?
        Single-page websites can be a great solution for small businesses and clients with modest budgets. These types of websites display content on a single page, giving users a unique experience by encouraging vertical scrolling rather than clicking through to interior pages.

        Today, we'll explore the benefits and risks associated with developing a single-page website, as well as showcase examples—across various industries—using this web solution successfully.

        Proactive website maintenance

        Proactive Website Maintenance
        Remember when you designed your website? You probably had meetings, gathered consensus, spent time (and money) on making sure everything was just right. Do you give your existing site half that attention?

        A website is designed to be an active component of your organization's marketing strategy. As such, the content should never be static. We strongly recommend that all of our clients use a Content Management System (CMS) to help update and maintain their own website. In fact, most of our clients have control over 95% of their website content. They are able to add and remove pages, update information, add pictures and more. A good CMS is often the difference between waiting until your sales staff complains about an outdated page and making sure the site accurately reflects today’s business.

        Sketch your way to user experience success

        The well-known adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" means a lot when it comes to planning a website. In his book Sketching User Experience, UX guru Bill Buxton wrote that sketching "does not represent a refined proposal, but rather simply suggests a tentative concept." It's the freedom, energy, and minimal detail of simple sketches that invites the flow of suggestions and refinements that lead to stronger, more refined concepts and ideas.

        Sketches are an inexpensive and timely tool that help everyone involved with the creation of a new website (or those participating in a website redesign) to visually understand how users will interact with content. While words can help explain functionality, sketches that show everything from the location of navigation and placement of buttons takes concepts to the next level by adding concrete complexity. 

        2013 Web Trends

        It wouldn't be a new year without a new set of lists. January is a time for making educated guesses about what the year will hold. Many blogs have focused in on specific areas of web development and technology to make predictions.

        At TBH Creative, we might work on an email marketing strategy for a client in the morning, social media ideas around lunch, and a responsive web redesign project in the afternoon. We've closely examined lots of different lists for a variety of web-related needs, and the following trends stood out as ones you can expect to see more of in 2013.

        Mega-menu: Another solution to cluttered navigation

        The term mega-menu was first used by usability expert Jakob Nielsen, who summed it up in this article, as a "big, 2-dimensional drop-down panels group navigation options to eliminate scrolling and use typography, icons, and tooltips to explain users' choices." (Source: Nielsen Norman Group)

        For several years now, e-commerce websites, among others, have see the benefits of mega-menu navigation. This type of dropdown menu gives the user the ability to choose from any link in one, single glance. Below I take a look at why mega menus are important and explore a few websites using this type of navigation successfully.

        Know your audience: The value of the audience persona

        The value of the audience persona
        It seems like a simple statement: Know your audience. One of those concepts that's so obvious you shouldn't even have to say it. But many people charge forward with their website design without taking the time to know their audience. When that happens, the result is almost always going to be short-lived.

        Facebook Tabs Example 8: Social Media Feeds

        We are continuing with our series about Facebook tabs with some specific examples of how they can be used to further promote your Facebook business profile page. We recently reviewed Email Newsletter Signup Forms and Location Maps. This week we will discuss integration of social media feeds into your profile.

        Why is this relevant and important? It is smart marketing to re-promote your social media efforts because the integration will give your followers everything in one place. For example, if a visitor has found you on Facebook, why not show them what else you are doing on Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and other social media profiles without requiring them to leave for another website. If your other profiles are filled with good information, it will keep them on your Facebook page longer—ultimately learning about your company or organization.

        Web Design: Klapper Eyelid & Facial Plastic Surgery

        We launched a new website for Klapper Eyelid & Facial Plastic Surgery. You may view Dr. Klapper's new website at

        We started working with Dr. Klapper in 2010. At that time his current site was confusing to navigate and difficult to update. We helped Dr. Klapper organize the information for his prospective audience by clearly dividing his offerings into two main categories - description of his services and patient education information about the problems they may be having. The addition of impressive photos showing patients before and after procedures highlighted his services and ability.

        Why optimize your email for mobile devices?

        With the growth of smart phones and tablet use, responsive web design has quickly become a web design standard. But, as an email marketer, where does email fit into the interactive space? Many email communications are designed for desktop users, but with a 48% increase in email opens on mobile devices in 2012 (Source: Litmus Email Analytics), it’s time to make the shift to responsive email design. If your main interaction with your customers happens via email, it's crucial these communications are optimized for users with mobile and tablet devices.

        Mobile Design: When is it time to take the plunge?

        As a website manager or business owner, you're already aware of the fact that more and more people are using a mobile device to access the Internet. You might have even pulled up your website on your smartphone to see how it looks... and you think it's okay... at least for now.

        The fact of the matter is that a website not designed to be viewed on a mobile device is hard to read, hard to use and, in many cases, will turn away your audience. And your audience is, indeed, moving to mobile devices. According to a study done by Pingdom, 8% of all web traffic in the United States came from a mobile device in 2012. That's a number that's rising each month. In fact, Microsoft predicts that mobile Internet use will overtake desktop Internet use by 2014.

        Still not convinced?

        According to reports from Google, 27% of smartphone users search for local information on their phone every single day. More than half of those people then called or visited the business they found as a result of their search. It's true, Internet use by mobile devices affects organizations right here in Central Indiana.

        More statistics from Google that illustrate the importance of presenting your organization in a mobile-friendly fashion:
        •    60% of people expect a mobile site to load in 3 secs or less
        •    40% of people have turned to another website because of a bad mobile experience
        •    61% of users call a business after searching and 59% visit the location
        •    90% of these people act within 24 hours
        •    81% of users prefer mobile sites to apps for researching prices

        The question isn't if you should incorporate a mobile design into your web presence. The question is when.

        When is it time to invest in mobile design?

        There's no denying that overall trends are pointing to increased use of mobile devices to access websites. But how does that impact the website for your organization based in Indianapolis, Indiana? It's time to watch traffic reports. If you're not already monitoring page views and visits from a mobile device, you should be. (And if you don't know how or where to access that usage statistic, ask us and we'll help.) We recommend that when your mobile traffic accounts for 20% of your overall traffic, it's time to make the move to a mobile design. If your mobile traffic is more than 10%, we recommend that you start planning for a mobile design so that you can stay ahead of the trend.

        How do you incorporate a mobile design into your web presence?

        Developing a mobile-friendly website can give you a competitive advantage - and that's where TBH Creative can help. You don't need to change your brand, your colors or your style. You do need a design that is built to work in a mobile format. You need a design that uses Responsive Web Design (RWD) and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) - technologies which recognize the type of device a reader is using and adjusts the site specs to fit it. And if you haven't updated your web design in a while, now is the time to consider it. Your website should be based on HTML5 - the most current version of markup language that supports the latest in multimedia technology. Incorporating these technologies in your primary website and mobile site are steps you'll need to take to ensure that your audience is still able to get the most out of your online presence.

        Tech terms aside - you need a design that is easy for your users to see on their smart phone or tablet. 

        Here's an example from a recent TBH Creative project. Before investing in a mobile design, the CareerXroads website was functional on a mobile device. Users could access key information but had to zoom in to read the text and the links were very difficult to use simply because of their small size. After evaluating traffic trends, CareerXroads decided it was time to implement a mobile design. The result? A site that quickly and easily takes people to key information. In the first few months after launching the mobile site, CareerXroads has already noticed a difference in how long mobile users are staying on their site and clicking deeper.

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