Archive for the ‘Site Design’ Category

Wholesale WordPress Services for Designers

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Your customers, our technical expertise, no poaching.

Every designer is concerned with maintaining their best customers over time. Subcontracting for prepress & printing was easy enough, because every project starts and ends with design, and most printers do not offer high quality design, in-house. Most prepress people don’t have great design skills, so they aren’t competition.

When websites came along, the process required designers to learn some new things, but, in the end, it was still a process of design and implementation. The implementation was done once, behind the scenes, by technically-minded (not design-minded) people. And it was still a page-by-page design process; You spec the design, the technical people implement to those specs. The only ongoing intrusion by the technical side were in the limitations of HTML, and the web hosting of domains and sites… and sometimes email configuration came into play. But the hot side stayed hot and the cool side stayed cool.

But now, there’s content managed sites, e-commerce sites, blogs…

The technical side of the game is much more technical, the design side is much more impacted by ongoing content changes and additions; The stuff you design has to adjust to a dynamic, customer-edited site.  The site doesn’t just sit there; It grows. There are things like databases, JavaScripts, PHP… all programmatic, and so different than the normal design process. Things move, morph, and over time, they can get ugly. As a designer, you hate that.

And what of search engines? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) seems like a black art, and all these people claim to be experts, but can they be relied upon to deliver? What about video, credit card processing, and all the other peripheral issues that pop up when your customer wants control over content, without content design or even writing skills?

At this time, there are a multitude of choices and approaches and no easy answers. All anyone can do, technical people included, is interview the customer to determine their needs, go through a process to specify the features that will fulfill those needs, and adapt the most current technologies to meet those needs, then do our best to help the customer to adapt to the technology, after the site is live. But that’s expensive and time consuming. And it puts technical people in front of YOUR customers. That requires trust.

But here’s the good news: It means your client may actually have MORE work for you. Because the key to content-managed sites and blogs is that new stuff is being added all the time.

So, I’m developing a set of packages and choices you can present to a customer to get started in the needs assessment. I’ll set up an experimental site for you to play with, to learn the daily experience your clients will have. And, I’ll work with you and your clients while always deferring to you for billing, sales, and pricing.

What I get in return: I don’t have to find the customers and get the initial design together. You can provide PSD or PDF mock-ups, and I’ll take it from there. And when it comes time for the client to learn, we teach them how to use the site. When it comes to ongoing support and maintenance, we can help them, but you bill them a retainer or per-incident amount… take a markup, you’re worth it.

What happens behind the scenes: I work with you, and my team does the technical implementation. We work concurrently on all aspects: Domain and hosting changes, template modification and custom features (integrating your design), installation and configuration, content migration, and ‘going live’.

Top 10 ways to get traffic on the web, and the best video I’ve seen on that subject…

Monday, July 13th, 2009
  1. Get WordPress. These techniques require blogging… yes, it is a good thing to blog!
  2. Install Google XML sitemap plugin… this insures rapid inclusion in Google search.
  3. Install Twitter Tools & get a Twitter account.
  4. Get a custom design. Templates may look good, and may be a good starting point, but they don’t represent you as a unique entity. It’s all about branding!
  5. Hire a company or individual who can do a quality design AND a quality WordPress template. The template code matters when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I can help with this (*SSP).
  6. Post at least twice a week.
  7. Post 2-3 times on your subject-matter, then throw in something humorous or personal.
  8. Use an image on most posts. Make them large. They don’t have to be literal, they can be symbolic or conceptual… but they must be LEGAL. If copyright isn’t EXPLICITLY granted to your type of usage, it isn’t yours to use. It is theft.
  9. Use video. Upload to YouTube, and/or Vimeo, then embed in your site. This’ll get you more traffic than just putting video on your blog, and it’s easier, too.
  10. Keep at it, the payoff starts 3-9 months after you begin!

There are many other great things you can do. Costs vary. The amount of effort required will also vary. Generally there is a trade-off between cost and time commitment. Less time = more money and vice-versa.  But if you do just these 10 things, you should build traffic. What level of traffic is partly chance, partly subject-matter, and partly your talent at writing and targeting your content.

By the way of *Shameless Self Promotion (SSP), I can help with design and implementation for a reasonable fee. I used to get unreasonable fees, for great websites that weren’t so darn easy or cheap, but, in the end, this stuff works for a cost that is relatively low.

Below is a video by Tim Ferris. It’s the most useful single video I’ve found, but it may not entirely make sense to people who haven’t lived this for awhile. Still, worth a watch. Check it out:

This blog post, created on iPhone

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

…using a free WordPress iPhone app called, simply, WordPress. Not the easiest way to post, but handy to have around.

I can easily add a photo, and then, voilà.

Is your site iPhone ready? 3 Questions to ask yourself.

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Apple did an amazing job of making the iPhone Safari web browser work with existing sites. But there are many sites it won’t work with. If you have a site that’s useless, or even hard to use on the iPhone, you should ask yourself the following questions:

a) What are the odds someone with an iPhone will view my site?
b) What will I lose if I don’t accommodate that user?
c) What is the cost/benefit of making my site work with the iPhone?

What kind of content do iPhone users access on their li’l web browsers? I, for one, mainly wait to look up sites until I have a nice big screen, unless there is an immediate need. I think it’s safe to assume this is typical. I’ve looked up restaurants and lodging. I’ve looked for particular retail stores (where can I buy a bottle of Advil at 11pm), and I’ve looked up attractions like parks, museums, trails… But you know better than I do, if you fit that list. If you do, it might be worth an investment.

What will you lose? If the transactions you handle are small, and the odds of finding customers this way are small, the cost/benefit may not be high, but don’t stop reading…

The other half of cost/benefit: What will it cost?
It might take a good developer all of 2-5 hours to make your site better, if not ideal, for iPhones. What should change?

Alternative home page: Got flash? You need alternative content for iPhone users. Even if the iPhone adopts Flash soon (we all hope it does) likely your Flash presentation will need rethinking given the scaling issues, and readability.

You don’t need to redo your whole site… Likely the user is just trying to find your contact information. IF you need to work on the cheap, just put your logo, what you offer (sales and/or services), contact info, and a link to Google Maps. You might also welcome them as iPhone users, so they know they’re looking at a special site, just for them. Why Google Maps, and not Mapquest, et al? Simple: the iPhone has a specially-developed Google Maps interface. It’s easy to use and navigate on the iPhone. When the user clicks the link, it’ll go to that map browser, automatically.

What else can you do?
If you have a modern XHTML site without Flash, it might work just fine. But there are little tweaks that might be worthwhile. Consider how the iPhone does web pages:
A double tap zooms into chunks of content on a page, and rotating the phone makes the browser wide, instead of tall. Links and buttons work pretty normally, but forms do some unusual things.

a) Put some line spacing in, so text is easy to read. This is called “leading” in the print world. I usually use 1.2em for small body text.
b) Put some padding between your buttons and links, so its easy to click the right link, not the one next to it.
c) Don’t make people click tiny icons.
d) Use <div>  tags with zooming in mind.
e) In forms, drop-down menus become scroll wheels. They might be a good choice over “Radio Buttons”.
f) Make frequently-used form fields (like login areas) widely spaced and easy to zoom. Try to limit typing, whenever possible. If someone types their information once, keep it in a cookie to automatically fill later fields (like the e-commerce fields).

These suggestions are just a start. Please comment below if you have other ideas! And if you have other questions, contact me.

The iPhone doesn’t do Flash (yet) and it also has a rather small screen.

Now my twitters show up in my blog sidebar, and my blog titles go out on twitter…

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Is this perpetual motion 2.0?