Random Thoughts

National Geographic's Second Choice

It was soooo exciting when the (that is... THE!) National Geographic Society contacted me to work on their Squarespace website. Wow, what an amazing honor. I was thrilled.. and I really enjoy bragging about it.

Well, I had 2 phone interviews over the past month. The second interview was with their creative team. They told me they were "exacting" and "persnickety" and "demanding". This is how they described themselves to me.

As the interview progressed, I started to wonder how I would ever service my existing clients if I was under contract to them... and I started to get scared to bid on new work.

One of the services I pride myself on offering is being readily available to my clients. I know how to manage my time... and sometimes it gets a little crazy, but I really have to make a conscious effort not to overbook, and stay on track.

The thing is, 2 of my most recent clients came to me with relatable horror stories. They had both hired other Squarespace developers and paid them a retainer... and got absolutely nothing after weeks of waiting and promises.

That's just amazing to me... and lucky for me because they're both awesome, fun and creative projects. 

Well, anyway, back to the point of this blog post: I was really impressed that the National Geographic Society called me to tell me I was their second choice, and if it doesn't work out with their "first choice", they will be calling me back.

I hadn't even provided a proposal. They had the nicest things to say about my work. The NGS is a class act, to be sure.

The happy news is that I am so relieved - yet honored - to have been considered by such an impressive company... because now I have this awesome story I can tell... AND I don't have to stress about the amount of time that would be required to provide the level of service I like to provide.

All good. Happy, happy.

Color

There are endless articles, blog posts, opinions, theories, philosophies on the topic of color. I've changed my personal brand color palette at least 3 times in the past 15 years. In fact, just recently, I changed my "logo" to what's on this page because the colors suited my mood (or where I like my mood to be) and these colors continue to make me feel happy.

I don't expect everyone to love my colors, but I hope to attract those clients who have a similar positive outlook toward life.

Even as a designer, I do not presume that I know how my client responds to color. I will offer my advice on how your market may be responding if I know a color isn't going to work for whatever reason.

Of course, I'll want to offer complementary colors to whatever your logo is, if you already have one, to maintain your brand.

However, if you want to change the look of your website (or anything in your life, for that matter) color is going to make a difference.

Here's a great tool for helping you make your color choices: Adobe Kuler

kuler.png

Not only is the page beautifully designed, it's really fun to play with you. It's free, and all you need is an Adobe ID... also free.

p.s. Adobe has some other helpful free tools you can access with an Adobe ID.

What are you writing about?

One of the challenges - that many of us face when confronted with social media - and staying current - is knowing what to write about.

Those of us in advertising are inclined to write ad copy. I know I've made this mistake, and sometimes I can't even help myself. That good ol' fashioned ad copy sometimes just flows right out of my fingers, and I know how cheesey it sounds even as I'm writing it. 

Now that I'm helping with Casso Media's social media, I know my job is to show off Linda's personality. Linda's clients hire her BECAUSE of her skills and her sparkly personality... and communicating the essence of this seasoned pro is the intention of my direction for Linda's social media campaign.

By the way, I have to take this opportunity to brag that Casso Media is on page 1 of Google for Christian radio advertising... which is her target market. We moved her site to the number one position following the SEO recommendations, and using the nice clean code from Squarespace.

Just last week, Linda emailed me that she had 2 new inquiries which were directly from Google searches. We really love that! In any case, as I have been developing Linda's social media strategy, I decided it was time to try out Basecamp as a place we can keep track of the progress for her leads. Her current Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin accounts will soon be demontrating that Linda truly is an expert in radio advertising.

Source: hallme.com via Jennifer on Pinterest

Casso Media's new social media provider

I'm so stoked!

For months - and even years - I've been sending endless emails telling my clients how they can manage their own social media, and get to the top page of Google. It just takes work.

But so few folks even take the time to edit their websites. (Of course, there are exceptions! Ashley, of Recovery Networks, for instance, rocks the social media for the website I built for them last month.)

Well, when Linda Casso contacted me yesterday to make some edits to her Campaign Monitor email template, we got to talking about social media. Months ago, she had found a "social media expert" online. This gal took weeks to answer emails, and her strategy was so boilerplate, it could have been a social media marketing plan for any generic business. And she had to pay a hefty fee to get this "strategy" in the first place!

Clearly, the "expert" hadn't taken the time to research Linda's agency, Casso Media! 

So, today Linda contracted with me for a 6 month social media whirlwind. Since I know Linda's business from designing several of her websites, and I know WHO Linda is as a person and a business owner, I'm excited about promoting her through social media. 

Social media marketing is about showing the world WHO you are... and developing trust. People want to work with people they trust. At least, in my world, that's true. 

As part of my strategy, Linda and I are working on adding a new resource to her website: a library of information on the topic of buying radio and television spots. We'll be promoting her service on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Merchant Circle, and monthly HTML email marketing.

If your business is interested in advertising on radio, get on Linda's email list to learn more.

It looks sooooo easy

These days, seems like most everyone thinks they can build a website. And yep, they're right! It could not be easier to build yourself a website. All the tools, templates, resources are right at your fingertips.

And guess what? After all those hours you put into constructing your masterpiece, your web presence, 9 times out of 10, it's going to LOOK like you did it yourself.

It's positively tragic and sometimes even comical, when I visit a random website and think: "oh yeah, this guy (or gal) wanted to save some money and do it themselves." I'm not usually thinking: "wow, what a great product or service"... or "oh well, they tried".

Sometimes I even feel sorry for them. I usually can't tell if they have a good product or service. All I can see is a sad attempt at building a website that doesn't work.

Someone I know - and who will remain nameless because I like him - and who has a service business in a market that spends big bucks... is advertising that he (not only) built this website himself, but he didn't bother taking off the fact that his website uses one of the most widely used (free) Wordpress templates. Yipes. He might as well replace the built in tagline and put a new one that says: "I don't bother with details."

 

 

Do Whatever You Want

A prospective client asked me yesterday if I would be able to build a Squarespace website that matched his very sophisticated design. His carefully drawn website had all kinds of tricky animations, sliders, and other web goodies.

Well, of course I can build this custom website... because very few of my clients have ever said to me: "do whatever you want."

In fact, even those clients who hire me to create a custom look always request certain customizations appropriate to their business. Maybe it's just a slider, or a custom navigation bar, but it's always something that requires code to be written specific for the design.

A custom website is (quite simply) going to require custom work. So, I told my fellow business owner that he could certainly have all the features he wanted, but I offered him a tip on how to save on any developer's fees.

I recommended that he visit CodeCanyon or ThemeForest (see my resources blog to learn more), because it saves gobs to time to purchase code that has already been tested on different browsers... instead of reinventing the wheel and causing web developer nightmares.

Getting lots of traffic

A few weeks ago, I noticed I was getting quite a bit of traffic to my website.

(If you have a Squarespace site, it's very easy to check your site statistics in the Website Management > Statistics.)

As any obsessive designer would do, I decided to tear apart my site and rebuild it. Of course, if a client had asked me to do the same thing, I would begin by exploring their market, understanding their brand, presenting a static PDF design for approval, building a test site remotely, ya da ya da, before I even touched one dot of code.

I started by messing with this blog page... I wanted to test a gradient CSS background that also works on IE7. (As a web developer, I'm not sure sure why anyone still uses IE7, but let us all acknowledge that some folks never upgrade anything. I believe in being tolerant of all.)

And that's how it all began.

Before I could stop myself, I had pulled my home page down. (Arrgh, hopefully, that's what I'll be working on today, and if I can squeeze in a few more hours, I'd also love to get my testimonials page back up.)

People are visiting!! And my web house still hasn't received the new coat of paint!

Yes, I am obsessed to get my new design uploaded... and show it off. And I'm not sure when I'll get to it. I'm just hoping anyone visiting will also read this blog post. 

Falling under the category of "do what I say, not what I do", I always recommend that a "excuse our dust" notice is posted and hide the pages we're developing. 

If you're looking around my site this week, please put on your hard hat!

Small Business Marketing Primer

Last week, a past client, who owns a small service business in Orange County, gave me call. I built her website about 6 years ago.

She called because she wanted to change the phone number on her brochure-style website. When I suggested that we could get her website much higher rankings with a Squarespace website, she told me all her clients are referrals and she doesn't get any business from her website.

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You Can Learn (almost) Anything Online!

Last week, a client I hadn't heard from in ages called out of the blue. I'll call him "Bob". Well, Bob had run into another client of mine at a networking event. (I'll call him "Kevin").

Bob asked Kevin if he knew any good web designers. I had only developed print materials for Bob years ago, so he thought I was a print designer.

Bob had built his own website using Dreamweaver. (He is a specialist in a professional service field... 180 degrees from web development/design... left brain stuff.)

Kevin has already hired me to design 3 websites in the past 5 years, and we're working on a 4th. So Kevin gave me a glowing recommendation. (Bless his heart!!! hugs and kisses!)

Bob knew the website he had built himself looked amateurish and he wanted my help. Of course, I immediately told him how great Squarespace is and he should check it out... which he did!

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Adventures in Social Media

My (very social) daughter - and her entire extended family and friends - use Facebook. She chides me often for avoiding posting to Facebook. Fact is, I've had a Facebook account long before her friends or family had even heard of it. They now all embrace it. I am (practically) repelled by it.

The mistake I made was combining my business with my personal profile years ago. (Of course, back then, that was the only option.)

Now, on the rare occasion I log in, not only do I see myself on family vacations, with personal notes on my wall, but my client's get to see me floating down the river, too. (merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream...)

Clearly, this is a big topic these days. Since I'm not the only business owner who freaks at this concept, FB has added a business profile option relatively recently.

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Why I have that big ol' picture of myself

... on the home page of this website... clearly, I didn't even use Photoshop, though tempted. 

What I intended to communicate by displaying my mug is what's different about my service... it's me!

There are many talented web designers out there. (Squarespace, WordPress, Joomla, Drupal... as web developers, we all have our favorites, and p.s., if you haven't noticed, the lines have been drawn. I'm clearly inside the Squarespace chalklines.)

Anyway, I love looking at everyone's work, from all mediums.

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A fun thing I learned today

Well, I thought I'd just wait until Squarespace 6 came out before I would be able to successfully add a full screen background... but, during a search for adding "responsive" code, I found this wonderful resource: Squaretuts.com. Cool, adding the code was a snap. How awesome.

Now, my home page has this cool, kinda 70's vibe background. I checked it using Adobe's Browserlab and it works A-OK.

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I wish I knew EVERYTHING web related!

A friend of mine emailed me this morning and asked me to help her with her email signature. I use Mac Mail. She's on Windows something or other. She wasn't sure. (p.s. my friend will be the first to tell you the degree of her computer-phobia is nothing less than extreme.)

Well, I know adding an email signature is very simple. That is, as soon as you find where - within your specific email client - you can make this adjustment. And every email client developer puts that signature preference option somewhere different.

My first impulse - when I can't figure out how to do something - something that I know I can do - is to Google for it. Guaranteed somebody out there will show you how, and 99% of the time, it's a free tutorial.

I was happy when my GF wrote me back about 30 minutes later. Not only did she figure out how to make the change, she felt really good about it after she figured it out. I was very proud of her because over the years, she's been resistant to editing her VERY EASY TO EDIT website with even a simple blog post.

For me, the beauty of learning new things is feeling GOOD when "it" works... especially when I have to work to learn "it". 

Every day - and I mean EVERY DAY - I'm learning something new that's web-related. Hey, but I'm very proud of my accomplishments and the sheer massive amount of graphic-related stuff I know... that's in spite of my scary transition years...

My transition years: The Drawing Board to MacPlus Era. The Quark to InDesign Era.  The Print to Web Design Era. The HTML4 to CMS Era. And, I guess I'm now in the CMS to HTML5 Era... even though I hear the ground thumping some years ago, we're here now... and I have to learn it.. and like it.

So most days I feel like Sisyphus, but when I figure it out and get it to work, well, that feels really good.

I like to feel good. I like to learn.

Introverts Unite

Recently, I listened to a podcast by Susan Cain as part of the wonderful Ted Talks series.

Then, just this morning, I received an email from Learn Out Loud with a coupon for her new book: "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking".

Coincidentally, I've just been thinking how overwhelmed I feel by the amount of chatter and bragging on blogs and Twitter and Facebook. When these tools first appeared, I signed up for everything. I remember thinking how great this stuff would be for any business owner (and, of course, social media truly is the best free way to promote a business).

But quickly I realized this non-stop chatter wasn't for me. (No judgment toward anyone who loves social media... my daughter, for instance, lives on Facebook... and she's extremely extroverted.)

Susan Cain quietly spoke to my soul:

"At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer."

I'm no Van Gogh (although I do enjoy painting landscapes) and I certainly wouldn't compare myself to any inventive genius other than I prefer listening. I'd rather read a good book than go to a raging party. I'd rather innovate and create in both my private hours and my working hours. Even though my business is promotion, it takes great motivation for me to promote my own skills and services. I do enjoy brainstorming, but typically, I've already come up with some ideas before I start the collaboration process.

I'm just quietly sayin'... 

 

So much to learn

I've been testing out the waters with the beta version of Squarespace 6.0. I'm also studying HTML5 at Lynda.com, and heaped onto that is my latest re-design of this website.

As of today, it's still not where it will eventually be. Tweak, tweak, tweak. Constantly tweaking. I think editing my website is my new hobby... when I'm not working on income producing client projects, that is. ;-)

Now that I'm thinking about it, I've had a completely different website every couple of months for years now. And this one isn't even completely redesigned yet. Yipes, with the beta version of 6, it's entirely possible I'll have a completely different website in another few months. 

My latest rant on SEO

Not sure why anyone would think once you achieve a good ranking on Google or Bing that now you're all set for eternity. Search engine positioning is a trial and error endeavor. Believe me, success is transitory. If you're on the top today, that's likely going to change tomorrow. Your ranking can often change as much as every hour!

Maintaining top position requires CONSTANT tweaks. And nothing is guaranteed... so if someone tells you they can guarantee your website a top ranking, they simply cannot control the search engines.

BTW, I think that's a good thing! If someone figured out the secret formula to getting and keeping a top ranking, Google would write code to change that.

The game is changing every day. Pay attention... and make your content relevant to your visitors.

And with Squarespace's SEO friendly websites, it makes it really easy to keep your site fresh.