Archive for Graphic Design

5 Tips To A Great Website Home Page Design

Your homepage is the most important web page on your site. It’s the one that the vast majority of your online visitors will see first. It acts as your virtual front door, your online business card. Remember, you won’t get a second chance to make a great impression. If a new visitor doesn’t like what they see on your home page, their first reaction will be to hit the “back” button and move to the next site in their search engine results.

OK, so you got their attention. But it takes more than looks alone — it also has to work well. That’s why the best sites aren’t just great looking, but they also include the following design “Must Haves”:

  1. Clearly answer who you are and what you do
    Visitors need to know that they have landed on the right site. One that will service their needs or solve their problems. You have less than 10 seconds to get this point across.
  2. Use appropriate calls-to-action (CTA) in the right spots
    A call to action is an instruction to the visitor intended to provoke an immediate response, usually using a phrase such as “call now”, “find out more”, “sign up here”, or “visit our store now”. This is usually delivered using an eye-catching graphic or font.
  3. Include a compelling value-proposition
    Tell your visitors why they should notice you and take the action you’re asking for. Let them know you have what they need and that you can help resolve the reason they are here.
  4. Optimize for mobile devices
    With mobile traffic continually increasing, mobile friendly design provides a greater user experience. One can visit a particular site using any device and still have a great viewing experience.
  5. Update frequently
    Search engines like updated websites – Search engines record how often you update your website. The more you update your website, the more they will rank its web pages, and the more people will find you on search engines.

As indicated in #1, you have 10 seconds (or less) to hold the attention of your visitor. A well-designed home page builds trust, communicates value, and compels visitors to take the next step. Who are your best customers? What kind of presentation would seem “right” to these particular people and attract them to you? These questions can open the door to designing more effective websites that appeal more specifically to your target audience.

Great home pages effectively use layout, clear navigation, CTA placement, whitespace, images, videos, colors, fonts, and other supporting elements to attract and keep online visitors.
Designing your website is a critically important task. One that many businesses sadly don’t put enough emphasis on. Make sure you invest the appropriate time, money and effort into making your website the best marketing tool that you possibly can. After all, your business may depend on it.

Why Use a Single Service Provider for Marketing and Branding

An integrated marketing strategy is something most businesses would say they want because it sounds good. However, many are not really sure what that is, what it looks like or why you need one.

The Approach

An integrated marketing strategy is an approach that delivers a consistent message across all marketing channels. Its objective is to insure that your target market receives the same brand image and message about your goods or services, no matter where they see it.

Here are examples of marketing and branding a business might use:

  1. Business Logo
  2. Letterhead/Stationary
  3. Business Cards
  4. Promotional Brochures and/or Flyers
  5. E-Newsletter
  6. Website
  7. Blog
  8. Online Business Directories
  9. Social Media Sites
    1. Facebook
    2. LinkedIn
    3. Twitter
    4. YouTube
    5. Google+
  10. Magazine/Newspaper/TV/Radio/ ads

And this list can go on, and on depending on the business…

In theory, it sounds pretty simple. In practice, it can be surprisingly difficult. Especially if your implementation is fragmented and different people/vendors complete various components. Consistency in colors, fonts, text, graphic styles and message are more difficult to integrate.

The Single Service Provider

The right service provider requires a diverse set of skills. These include web design, graphic design, branding, search engine optimization and social media marketing, just to name a few. Working with the right firm provides the opportunity to develop a branding and marketing strategy that is consistent across all marketing channels before you begin. To find the right service provider, make sure to research your options. Look at their past work, look for reviews or comments on the quality of their work and ask questions.

The Vision

Start with a common vision of what you are trying to achieve. Whether your organization is large, medium or small, the key is to make sure that all decision makers share and agree upon a similar vision of what you are trying to accomplish and why.

The Process

Identify your current position. Quite often, a business will already have one, two or more of these components in place. This requires analyzing the quality of the existing components/materials and determining whether they can be integrated with the overall vision or whether they need to be altered or replaced.

The How

Identify the channels you will use to communicate with your target market. Where will you need to be so that wherever your potential customers look, you are there with a consistent brand appearance and message? This doesn’t mean that you need to be everywhere, or be all things to all people, it just means that you should prioritize your efforts so that the largest part of your target market gets your message.

The Team

Plan for the resources you will need. An integrated marketing approach needs to be worked consistently and across all channels which requires coordination and effort. When you look at failed marketing strategies, as we often do, you find that a top reason they fail is due to a lack of priority. Other factors come into play taking focus away from the plan. Consistency is not easy. One approach many clients use, especially smaller ones with limited resources, is to outsource part or all of the program. This not only brings additional resources to the table, but also objectivity/accountability and specialized skillsets.

The Monitoring

Consistent monitoring and occasional tweaking are necessary. We continually refer to the old adage “if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Successful programs always monitor their implementation, measure their success, and make “tweaks” as necessary. Marketing is never a “set it, and forget it” proposition.

The Conclusion

The bottom line is that working with a single qualified service provider to guide you through this maze of tools and techniques is more cost effective, more consistent, you have a single point of contact which reduces confusion and finger pointing, and it typically results in a more cohesive approach with better outcomes.

5 Simple Steps to Online Success: What Every Small to Mid-Size Business Must Know

If you are a small to mid-size business with more energy than cash to get started in the online arena, this is for you. These actionable tips can be done on a reasonable budget and are the bottom line necessities for any small to mid-size business today. This article is stripped of heavy techno-lingo and allows most anyone a jumping off point whether they go it alone or are about to meet with their agency and need a guideline of must-do’s.

  1. Have a Website. While you might have a Facebook page, and that is important, it is not a substitute for a Website. Your website must be well-constructed and up-to-date (see step 4). It is important that your website is visited (see the rest of the steps) and visitors stay once they find it.
  2. Be on Social Media. Though it takes time, getting known and building “social” relationships builds a solid market where once there was none – and you can drive those followers to your blog or website to build even more activity for your business. I suggest Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And to manage your time, try Buffer, which allows you to delay your links and other information to be posted to each of your social spaces when your readers are most likely online for the best impact.
  3. Be Graceful. All of your actions should not be self-promoting. Take time to promote others’ work and business as well. Link to others. They will notice and be more likely to treat you well in return. Also be sure to provide superior customer service to keep everyone talking about you.
  4. Blog and Create Content. You’ll keep your website higher on results pages with updated blogs because search engines tend to pick up the quality content found in blogs. Moreover, because your blog regularly changes, you have an excellent way of keeping your website fresh and up-to-date. No time to blog? Ask your staff to submit short articles, or hire a writer specifically for this task.
  5. Connect Your Way to Success. Your website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever social channels you choose, must connect to one another. Don’t forget to point your offline and online marketing efforts to each other as well. These connections make up the smartest, most effective way to impact your market.

As you apply this information, keep in mind that sometimes less is more. Be certain that your information is not only compelling, but that it is clear. Have someone outside of your business try out your website for ease of use and clarity. Be sure your customers are getting the best care you can offer. Here’s to your success and be sure to share this with someone you know.

(Parts of this article from 5 Tips for Boosting Your SEO on a Tight BudgetBusiness 2 Community by Ken Mueller)

Inspiration Comes in Many Ways

As most of my friends and “fans” know, I’m not a huge blogger. I do get a few atta-girls every now and then for writing a small post, but not blogging as often as I should definitely rates an “oh sh_t” instead. Because, as we all know, life is a series of atta-girls(boys) and oh-sh_ts.  But today, I will write.  And I don’t need the atta-girl.  I’m passing out atta-boys and atta-girls today because this week, I have been inspired.

This week, I was invited to attend a meeting for the Milwaukee Chapter of EWI – Executive Women International by a good friend and business associate.  What a fantastic opportunity she presented me with. EWI was established in San Francisco in 1938 by Lucille Johnson Perkins.  Ms. Perkins recognized the importance and potential of an association bringing key women together to promote their firms and improve their community. I plan to join this organization’s Milwaukee Chapter because it embodies many of my beliefs and it will provide another way for me to give back to the community. One of the greatest things that I left with after this meeting was a renewal of spirit and drive courtesy of this group of lovely, friendly, professional women. They shared a fantastic poem during dinner that every person should read. They should read it to their daughters and their mothers and their friends. It is quite simply called “She”, by Kobi Yamada. Not only was I inspired by its words, but I was inspired to create the image in this post reflecting the words of that poem. Click on it and read it. And then celebrate and share it with a woman you know and love.

My second atta-boy is posthumous. As has been relayed across every media channel yesterday and today a thousand times over, a great man, Steve Jobs, has left us. I have only become an Apple fan in the last couple of years after purchasing both an iPhone and a MacBook Air. I can tell you that I’m a huge fan of both. But it’s not the products that bring Mr. Jobs the atta-boy or me the inspiration – it’s his pure, unadulterated quest to follow the beat of his own drummer. It’s his speech to Stanford University in their 2005 Commencement. It’s his brilliance in forward thinking. It’s his resilience in the face of once being fired from his own company. And it’s his obvious determination to keep moving forward until the last hour – even as he battled his life threatening illness. This is deserving of an “atta-boy” – and so much more. And I just needed to say that. Rest in peace Steve Jobs. Your body may have left us, but your legacy and your spirit will live on and inspire so many more. And your family is in our thoughts and prayers.

So, for you, today – move forward, give back, aspire to do more, inspire those around you.

A Failure to Design is a Design to Fail

This blog title is just a bit of a spin on another commonly used phrase – “A Failure to Plan is a Plan to Fail”.  Ultimately, they are unified.

Recently, we did a complete remodel of our home office space.  It turned out EXACTLY as we planned.  And I mean EXACTLY.  I truly believe that this was due to a long thought process about what we wanted and several iterations of a plan using the office planner available on IKEA’s website.

Susi Schuele Workspace Before Office Makeover

Susi's Space Before

The process we used in designing our office should be applied to any type of graphic design for success in achieving your desired result.  Here are 5 things to consider:

Elements. We knew the elements we needed for our space.  There may have been things we wanted, but to maximize efficiency, we did our research for the pieces that would serve us well.  Think about what kind of symbol would best represent your business and how that will integrate with your name in your logo or graphic.

Sizing.  Our space is very small.  We had to make sure that the elements we had chosen would work well within the small space. We measured and planned down to a quarter of an inch!  But it worked. Where will you use your graphic?  On your blog header?  Your website?  Your business cards?  An avatar?  Think about how long your business name is.  Decide on whether including your tagline will enhance or detract from your graphic.

My Virtual Project's Office Makeover - March 2010

My Virtual Project Combined Space - AFTER

Colors.  We incorporated the colors from our logo right into our office space but they all blend and there are not too many.  For a logo, keep your colors to a minimum.  3 is OK, but 2 is better. Remember to stay consistent in your branding.  Other graphics can be colorful, but printing them can then be more costly.

Simplicity.  Our office has very clean lines and is modern but is simple.  Simply stated, clutter doesn’t look good no matter where it is.  Don’t clutter your logo or graphics with too many styles or elements.

Budget.  Because we did our research and took the time to plan, we ended up saving money. The more you plan and do your research, the more information you can give to your designer.  If your designer works on an hourly basis, this can save you a bundle because they won’t have to research for you.

In summary, our office makeover end result was a beautiful, clean, productivity enhancing, affordable solution that was exactly what we wanted.  We planned the design and the design succeeded.