Questions and answers
Q: How will your designs communicate our brand's vision, as well as solve practical problems?
A: My first step is (nearly) always to discuss with my client where their brand is now, what works, what doesn't work, how they envision the corporate culture of their business. For example, is the business health oriented, contemporary, feminine, international, sophisticated, highly corporate, family oriented, etc.? Also, does the business consider itself to be conservative, leading edge, youthful, creative, etc.?
Each business I work with has their own unique culture. It is my client's responsibility to establish the goals they seek, and to provide me with what I need to know about their business in order to understand who they are and how they intend to grow.
It is my responsibility to translate the vision and the goals into compelling and appropriate design solutions, that address specific practical problems. At that point, the client and myself will collaborate on refining the solution I present.
Q. How do you meet tough deadlines?
A: By beginning the project defining the end goal in as much detail as possible, and in a way that allows us to gauge when we are successfully meeting deadlines. I then prepare a production schedule that keeps us on track throughout the project. The schedule is defined before the work begins.
I rely on an online service called Basecamp.com. On Basecamp, we track every element of a project. If my client posts a question or comment, I reply within 1 business day. If there are changes I need to make, it usually takes me about 2 business days to make most website edits.
Aside from design edits and content changes, the actual building of the website is locked into my production schedule. Because I am the responsible party for building out the website, I track my time on Basecamp so my client can see the progress I'm making.
It is the client's responsibility to reply promptly to my Basecamp posts in order for the project to stay on track and on schedule.
Q: Do you recommend specific instructions to make the final hand-off go smoothly?
A. If a client comes to me who has already been using Squarespace, they already know how easy it is to edit the "blocks". However, most clients want something custom done to their website, so I also include screen capture videos. In my videos, my clients watch as I make edits to specific areas of their website. I also advise all my clients that if they forget how to do something that I built for them, they can always email me and ask for another video.
It's important to me that my clients are comfortable editing their own website, so after the site launches, if the client requests, I record additional tutorial videos to address specific areas of the approved website.
Q: What brands do you admire, and how do they influence your work?
A: I love this question because I was incredibly fortunate to work with the very highest caliber designers in the early 70's as a young intern right out of college. When you work with the best, you develop an "eye" for good design.
I love Apple products and I admire Apple as a brand that is consistently elegant and clean and original. Adobe is also a brand that has a leading edge look and style. Squarespace's brand is similarly to be admired. These companies also share outstanding customer service. I admire that, too.
Apple, Adobe and Squarespace are three companies that have influenced me as a designer particularly, but not exclusively, because of their highly professional, contemporary clean design.
Q: What is an example of a project where you disagreed with your client's feedback, and how did you handle it?
A: I rarely "disagree" with a client's feedback. I believe it's their company and therefore, the client should always have the final word. Instead, I prefer to gently suggest alternative design solutions if I feel there might be a better solution.
Recently, I designed a logo for a wine bar in Pismo Beach. The client was insistent that the name of the business be in an italic font. I showed him 6 other variations with fonts that I thought were more appropriate. He only liked the italic version. And he loves it. My job is not to design for myself, but for the aesthetic of my client.
Some years ago, another client (George Walther at GeorgeWalther.com) insisted on a difficult-to-read type font that he had been using for his print work. Instead of disagreeing about whether it was an appropriate choice, I sent him an article on website font readability. He remains a very loyal client and wrote me a wonderful testimonial referencing this incident.
Q: Briefly describe your design process. What are the major steps?
A: I do not have one design process that I use for all clients. Each client is unique, with unique needs. For example, if the client has good content, but a woefully outdated website with a poor user experience (UX), unclear navigation, and a host of other outdated web solutions, I turn to Basecamp.
I will copy the words from each individual page of the existing website and paste each page's content (words only) into one discussion on Basecamp. The client can then edit old content or make any content revisions.
If a client needs assistance editing their content, I am happy to help with that. I will also check for typos, grammatical errors, duplications of content, etc.
Once we are clear on the content that stays and what goes, graphics, etc., I'll build out a wireframe of how the visitor will navigate the website. It's important to address - at the very earliest stages - exactly what the client wants the visitor to do when they land on the page.
For example, if the purpose of the website is (ultimately) to purchase product, that objective needs to be integrated into the overall design. "Making it easy for the visitor" is at the heart of my web design philosophy.
After we agree on the content and how the pieces fit together, I'll start building out the website design.
It is also important to note that logo design is a separate project from web design. If the logo requires modifications or a new logo entirely, this task is best completed before the website design begins. However, as mentioned above, all clients are unique, sometimes I can use a "placeholder" for the logo and develop both projects simultaneously.
At all stages of the site development, I am constantly communicating with the client through Basecamp. The client sees the website evolve online and we remain in communication with each other throughout the development until the site launches.
Q: Has a client ever asked you to create a site without content? What do you do?
A: Many clients come to me without any content. They have an idea for their business, but no words, no graphics, no logo, etc. Concept only. I start the process by talking with them. I listen. That's the key.
Next, the client and I will collaborate, using Basecamp, on what the objective will be of the website. (Commerce, Education, Health, etc.) and the pages will start to be created. Typically, there are always 4 main pages to any website: Home, About, Services, Contact.
We start there and expand as the site requires.
If the client has a limited budget and no photography, I will direct them to some of my favorite online resources for inexpensive photography. We will discuss what the concept needs to be for each page and collaborate on what makes sense for that page.
It's very important to me that my client knows I'm on their marketing team. If I see something that will work or that isn't working, I'm going to address that. If I know their marketing efforts will improve with the addition of a blog, or a newsletter, or a pop open window, I start a discussion on Basecamp for that specific topic. This way, we can discuss the merits and whether that's something they want to take advantage of.
Because of my many years in the trenches of some of the top LA advertising agencies, my service provides so much more than just a pretty website. I enjoy being on the marketing and design team. When my client sees his or her sales improve, I'm thrilled.
My main objective is to make the experience a positive one for everyone.
Q: How do you measure the success of your designs?
A: Clean, elegant, sophisticated design is important. Also easy navigation, mobile friendly, good SEO, but the most important measure for me is when the client tells me how pleased they are with the results.
Q: How do you compress your images to optimize performance?
A: Squarespace optimizes images within their software. Best practices for images on a Squarespace site would be uploading them between 1500 and 2500 pixels. If an image needs to be optimized beyond that, I like www.tinyjpg.com
Q: Which portfolio pieces are you most proud of, and why? Please give examples of problems you may have solved within.
A. I take pride in all my work, and for different reasons. My portfolio page (as of 1/9/18) is being updated. Check back to see new portfolio samples on 1/14/18.
John Clark had used Squarespace years ago, but jumped ship and went to WordPress. He hated it because he could not edit it easily himself and had to invest in hiring his website developer to make even the smallest changes. However, he liked the design. The problem I solved was re-creating a WordPress website on Squarespace, and setting up the site so the client could very easily edit every area. John is an active marketing enthusiast for his home remodel business. I'm also proud of helping John add Google Tag Manager to his site so he could track his free downloads. A wonderful client.
Cuyahoga Board of Health
CCBH contracted with me in 2011 to build them a new website. They were so pleased with the results, they put me under a year contract. I built a total of 4 different websites, 2 annual reports, a new corporate identity, tradeshow banners, and so much more. I loved working with CCBH. Sadly, because they are a government agency, they could not retain me for another year. The beautiful website I built had to be shelved. However, the marketing director was so pleased with my work, I am currently working with him now to create a new consulting business in Ohio. The site, 334 Consulting Services, is under construction now. I also designed their logo, business cards and other print collateral.
A web design business hired me to clean up their code for this international petroleum company, headquartered in Austin, Texas. Ultimately, they turned the site over to me and I re-designed the site to match the corporate identity. I'm so proud of the work I do for Lonquist. They have subsequently hired me to build 3 other websites, for other subsidiaries of Lonquist.
The marketing director recently hired me to build her ragdoll cat business website. I'm proud that this client is so happy with my work, I continue to be hired by businesses they refer to me.
Dr. Campbell has the highest rated podcast in her category of brain science. When Dr. Campbell found me she had far too much content on her website, and it was scattered all over the place. There was no organization. Her listeners couldn't find what they needed. It was my job to organize all the myriad of elements into an effective design to help the visitor find what that needed at a glance.
Dr. Campbell also required a website she could keep updated herself, sell product, upload her podcasts, receive donations, and much more. I'm very proud of this website because it was such a disaster when I was awarded the project and visitors can now easily find Dr. Campbell's wonderful resources.