Honestly, when I first came up with the name "Design That Speaks" my thoughts were purely thinking of creativity and personal expression. However, in the many years since, (approximately 9) - we have changed our focus from designing for design sake, into 'design' as in creatively crafting a marketing focus website and digital brand campaign to speak to our client's customers in a language that helps generate leads.
Most design companies are good a creativity and personal expression. And when they take on a new client they also try to interpret the client's identity into a presentation that is accurate a visually stimulating.
Other web firms are really just programmers who dress themselves up as designers - but really are best at developing sophisticated systems, applications, and database.
Agencies tend to be good sales and generalist who can farm out the particular details to the best freelancers or specialty firms.
Design That Speaks is a passionate team who can design or redesign clean attractive marketing focused websites with which our client's can manage themselves OR have us manage the website for them.
We understand that most of our client don't really want to do ANYTHING with their websites. They want to have a reliable company whom they can trust to manage, update, advise, and market for them.
Our clients want to be experts in their business and have a company like us manage and market their websites.
We don't work with everyone. Our style doesn't mesh with every company. But for those whom we work best with - these relationships have turned into rich friendships. And that's just they we like it. :)
Here's are a few new ways I'm looking at social media for 2013 ---
If you find anything useful or helpful, please share it and/or take it.
1. Branding over Marketing
To me, the mind set of marketing is ROI - return on investment. I'm normally very critical with my time and thus, I don't want to do ANYTHING, unless I feel that my efforts (especially business activities) will bring have a relatively soon impact on my income.
However, I'm not realizing or see social media as branding instead of marketing.
With a branding perspective, the goal is making a lasting impression in the minds of either prospects or associates who may become referral sources.
With this mindset, I can assume a patient posture, preparing for future not immediate results.
2. Something is better than nothing
I need to fight off the perfectionist part of me that is just the flip side of procrastination.
By committing to do something, I'm resolving that I'd rather show flaws and be seen- than be picture perfect only in my own mind.
3. Outsourcing myself
My business takes care of other company's online marketing needs. But who takes care of mine?
Pride has told me that only I can be the voice of my company. And with that, I'm rarely heard from since I'm usually so busy.
This coming year, I'm going to allow others to speak for me. I'm going to be a customer of my own product and see what I'm worth.
The SEO world has gone through some major changes in the past year.
Unfortunately I'm not old enough to have lived thru major changes, however I am luck enough to have friends and mentors who have advised me as the to ways of world.
Concepts like "bubbles burst" and "tactics change but fundamentals always remain have been ringing in my ear - providing me guidance as I navigate this new landscape.
SEO is a tactic to help a company get eye balls to see and learn about their product.
The fundamental is that businesses need eye balls.
At one point this happened via fax machines (so I'm told) and relics on advertising.
I recall 2 years I sang the song of 'The Yellow Pages are Dead'.
And now I find myself on the brink of worrying whether or not SEO has really come to an end.
Now, of course SEO is not dead. It hasn't come to an end. Google is still making billions each quarter or month.
But the glory days of simple link building to boost website to the top of searches is no longer like it use to be.
Today, with the help and advise of my friends- I've come to realize that I must change with the times. And the my current simply yet profound change is to focus on traffic and conversions as compared to traditional SEO.
SEO is a means of traffic. But this means isn't the only means. It may not be the best means either.
I've always loved helping people. I've never loved SEO. But when SEO could help clients, it became a very easy to create win-win scenarios.
Today, I realize that traditional SEO isn't as simple as it once was - and so, I need to be bit more broad. Give people what they need and not my pet tactic.
Traffic is still critical. And they way we're doing it now is a more encompassing model, using 4-8 tactics.
And conversions is even more critical. Our 'design that speaks' will analyze and improve a websites ability to convert traffic to leads.
It's a time and season of great change, challenges. But we're entering new seas of opportunity with hope and expectation... Will you join us for ride?
There are three basic questions you need to answer when you have decided to build a website.
1. What will be my domain name?
2. Where will I host my website?
3. Who will design / develop my website?
With all of these decisions, the most important things you need to think about are (a) quality services, (b) reliability (c) accessibility -- to me these are the critical components that make a venture successful or incredibly frustrating.
In this post- I want to just speak on finding a website hosting company.
If you are thinking about where to host your website - I would recommend you NOT WORRY ABOUT IT! Seriously, I think you should first find a website design and then decide where to host it. This is because you will not be able to determine what features are required for hosting your website until it is built!! And even after it is built, when troubles arise you will likely need a technical expert to communicate with that company.
Many web companies will want you to transfer your website hosting to their recommended servers when you start working with them. I use to wonder why they did this since the amount of money they make is so small - it never really mattered to me. However, I've come to realize that when I design my clients websites - I become their first point of contact when there are technical/hosting problems. So when the website is not hosted on my servers, I have to go thru a third party company whom I have no relationship with and try to get answers for my clients. This becomes an unnecessary headache.
At Design That Speaks, we host our clients websites at NO COST for the first year, and only charge them in future years if we are not providing any marketing services. If you just starting to build a website and have questions about hosting, domains, or designs - please give us shout!
With the recent completion of our own mobile website - www.dtspeaks.mobi - we are now offering mobile website design services for existing and new clients. (Note: You don't have to visit that link - just visit the main site and you'll be redirected) This experience has taught us a lot about what needs to be done to create a Wordpress hosting mobile website that works well with an existing site...
NOTE: Though our company is continuously shedding our design services to become more effecting marketing and lead generation, we decided to get into mobile website design because when it comes to marketing, seo, and social - mobile is where the future is heading...
See the following mobile web/usage stats:
By 2015, mobile usage will increase by a factor or 26. [source]
Mobile browsers are 45% more likely to search for local services. [source]
In the first six months of 2011, mobile website usage 77% [source]
1/3 mobile searches have local intent (The Kelsey Group)
One thing I can say about Flash design / development - was that those who had a passion for it, have a passion to be inspirational. I know when I first began designing in flash, I was drawn to it because of it the creative liberty.
As I mentioned yesterday, with the advent of Apple's decisions and HTML5 Flash is a dying art, but I wonder if people will be as passionate about HTML5 as they were about Flash.
I doubt it.
Why? Because Flash seemed to flow out of people who loved design and story telling - not writing code. Though of course people who now work with Flash code as well - I don't think that is the average candidate. I recall hearing an interview of Hillman Curtis - one of my original Flash heros. He no longer does anything in flash. Rather video. (In my understanding) He explained that flash turned into a programmers tool instead of designers tool.
So anyway, the question is - are there any inspirational designs out there? Are they all made from non-iPhone friendly Flash and take 3 minutes to load?
Well, I'm not going to offer any answers but I did want to list 4 of my favorite places to see inspirational design:
This the classic corporate sponsored national awards site for website design. What I like about is it's diversity. You can select through multiple category and types like : Fashion, Media and blog, etc.
Ministry CSS is a gallery of church, missions and ministry websites. Even though it seems like 90% of it's selection come from one company, I still like to go there whenever I'm going to design a non-profit and church website.
Smashing Magazine is not a simple gallery like the rest, but rather a blog. The cool thing about it, is that you see styles and trends for various countries or years. You can see inspirational navigation menus or call to action buttons. It's not just websites, but sub-sections or the components that make websites awesome to see and use and sell stuff.
Do you have places where you go for inspiration online? Please share in the comments area!
When you hear that Adobe - the maker of flash has come out with a HTML5 builder program - you should know the end is here. Geocities... Netscape... and now Flash. All memorable relics in the history of the web.
I began abandoning Flash when I started learning about search engine optimization and how to help my clients get traffic to their website. I quickly realized that Flash was not helping to communicate to search engines. Especially the clients who had full flash websites with either an "enter here" or "skip into" links - exclaiming the irrelevance of their slash page.
So then, we only used Flash sparingly, for things like rotating banners and video. Sometimes for image galleries and other times for fancy navigation menus.
But CSS navigation menus became or effective and jQuery came around... With tools like SlideDeck for creating large image sliders easily and efficiently without using flash and easily embedding into Wordpress. Where else would you need Flash?
Few Tulsa companies know the benefit to blogging for SEO. (Not that Tulsa is in anyway unique, but it's just where I live... It's a small / traditional business mindset that is slow to embrace new trends, etc. I think we all suffer from that a little in various ways...)
Anyway - And for that reason Design That Speaks offers blogging service for them as apart of our search engine optimization process. Blogging is an incredibly way to help the effectiveness of web, seo, retention, lead generation and social media strategy!
Yes, it does help in all those areas.
SEO Blogging 101
When it comes to helping increase your website's page rank and authority in search engines - writing articles on the blog that is integrated to your website will help you generate more indexed pages in the search engines. Having more indexed or cataloged pages helps your website to be perceived as having importance and value because of the depth of information it provides on your subject of product or service.
Blogging with links that direct people and 'search bots' to your main service pages, special, and other articles will also help the validity of those pages your are linking to.
Lastly, I'll share when you are regularly posting new informative articles to your website - this can increase people's time spent on your website ( lowering your bounce rate ), keep your website fresh and relevant drawing people back to your website, and it can give you something interesting to post on Twitter or Facebook.
NOTE: There are many more reasons and benefits for blogging. This post just scratches the surface.
We understand that most people who half understand the benefits but don't have the time or presumably the creativity to keep the blog going decide to just not do anything. And for the reason we've decided to write blog posts for our clients.
I recently read this article on search engine optimization on Elance.com. In the article the writer was making the case the all entreprenuers and business owners need to not only understand seo, but they also need to have a practical plan for using it within their own business.
I personally could not agree with them more.
Now, of course I am biased since seo is what I do for a living. However, you need to understand that I didn't originally do any seo or internet marketing. I was your typical website design and graphic designer. I got into this business because I loved creativity. The problem was, though many people came to me for my design work, they really wanted customers. They wanted a professional presentation in order to get new clients - and I was the one to help.
And so, I started building websites, designing logos, etc. But then I noticed years after those clients were still struggling. They had the "if you build it they will come" mentality. And that just doesn't work. Thus I we searching to discover how to help my client's get the success they really wanted from their webiste. And so that was when I discovered seo.
In my little word of design and marketing, seo and social media I NEVER hear anyone asking for graphic design or looking for graphic design firm. People inquire about website designs and logos - but graphic design, 3-fold brochures, and offset printing have all been relegated to other words like Flip phones, Yellow Page listings, and Circuit City.
So anyway, there seems to be a mix up in my thinking. Even though I no longer offer graphic design services, and all the graphic designers I know have conformed to designing for the web or picked up photography or video- people are still looking for them.
So what's the point?
I think for me, I need to recognize my geeky digerati world might not be the world my customers and their customers live in.
As I mentioned in my post last week, we need to meet people where they are. This also includes speaking their language. Pay attention to what 'normal' people say and use those words. Maybe don't know what a cosmolift is? They just want liposuction. Or they don't know what periodontal disease is - they just want a teeth cleaning or whitening.
In theory, blogging will help you get more traffic to your website. So they say. . .
But in practicality - how does blogging help you and why is it important?
HOW BLOGGING HELPS
Blogging on subjects related to your website, related to your primary products and services create branches that stretch out from your website thru and to all the various search engines and content curating system on the web.
Your "virtual real estate" increases with every new page you create.
And with this increase of territory, you are more likely to have new visitors stumble upon your website.
Even though there are keyword and search engine tools out there which help you find what people are searching for. There is no way to know everything. So when you write informative articles on your own blog, you tap into a variety of topics that search engines piece together from your post relative to what people are looking for.
For the past few years, I've dedicated my time to learning how to optimize website properly and link build with the most authoritative sites to help my clients get the traffic we've predetermined would be best for them.
However, in recent months as we've added blogging services for our clients and as I've begun blogging here, I've seen tremendous increases in traffic which enter into our sites - not thru the optimized pages, but thru the various blog articles.
TEN REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD START BLOGGING
If the above information hasn't yet convinced you, to start blogging, here are 10 black and white benefits to adding a blog to your website.
1. Blogging is a quick and easy way to update people on company news, specials and sales.
2. Blogging increases the marketing reach of your website.
3. Blogging establishes your self/company as a thought leader in your industry.
4. Blogging helps your website traffic increase.
5. Blogging makes your website content fresh and gives people a reason to come back.
6. Blogging with comments turned "on" allows your website to be interactive; creates community.
7. Blogging with comments turned "on" gives your visitors a voice.
8. Blogging makes your company more personal and approachable.
9. Blogging with links to your home and other pages increase the overall SEO of your site.
10. Blogs easily integrate with social media sites like Twitter and Facebook - helping your website spread.
We currently blog for seven different client websites across four different BEAUTY / HEALTH RELATED industries. These blogs are either apart of the client's website, or are on a separate domain. But either way, they still help the client's brand to reach more people and increase their website traffic.
Would you like to see the blogs we write for our client? Learn their schedule and our pricing? Or would you like to discuss how to get a blog setup on your website?
Send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or just call: 918-200-9572.
When it comes to finding your style or method of communication, how do you decide what to do or what to use?
There is a simple and profound saying I keep hearing that goes:"
Meet people where they are.
If they are on Facebook all day everyday, then why not use Facebook? If they are visual and have a habit of subscribing to video channels; you probably should start a Youtube channel.
But then again, if they are NOT on Twitter, post-pone the tweets. If they aren't responding to your direct mail, or Yellow Page ads, you need to find a new method of communicating.
And so the moral is - don't be afraid of technology - especially if your customers or prospects are using it. If needed - give us a shout for consulting or training on the best uses of social media or anything else internet related.
This post is the fourth of a series of blog posts on things you need to do before you build your website. Please share your thoughts and feedback. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.
Below is a 6 minute video of how I do market research online. I like to know who my or my client's competitors are in Google in 4 different areas. In addition, I like to know what my customers are typing into the search engines when they are looking for a product or service related to my offering.
I'm sure you will be able to gain a few keys to help you as you are planning out your website project.
Please feel free to give us a call in your need more thorough analysis especially if you are marketing on a national level as supposed to a local one.
I want to run down a few thoughts and theories - some proven some not- about what makes a website design successful. Comments are welcome and encouraged. :)
1. You have a phone number near the top of the page.
Not hidden where no one can find it. Not just on a contact us page. Most people are 3x more likely to call you when interested in your company as supposed to filling out a contact form.
(image is from BerkshireDentalGroup.com)
2. You have an interestingly written about us page.
Other than the home page, your company page / about us page is the most popular page on your site. It normally gives basic background information on your company and lets people know a general overview of why your company exists and who is in charge.
In times past, small businesses would write as little as they could in order to make themselves look big. Nowadays, companies should be a bit more person and share the story of how the company came together even if it's still only run part-time by two people with other jobs.
(image is from Wufoo.com)
3. You have a clear call to action on every page.
You should know in advance what you want people to do on your website. And that thing you want them to do should be stated very clear. Within the text you should say what you want them to do. At the top and bottom you should have a larger text link or button declaring that same desired action. "CALL US", "SIGN UP FOR MONTHLY NEWS", "BUY THE PRODUCT AND GET 15% OFF UNTIL THE 15th OF THIS MONTH." Stuff like that.
(image from WorldRelief.org)
4. Your creativity doesn't compromise communication.
You've designed a website that stands out from your competitors and yet you also do not confuse people. Your website visitors should not have to think. They don't have wonder what it is that you do. You communicate very clearly what you're all about from the moment they arrive.
(image from Influencers.org)
NOTE: I know there are many other things that make a good website design and I welcome you to share some below. Thanks!
This post is the third of a series of blog posts on things you need to do before you build your website. Please share your thoughts and feedback. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.
When you are planning to build an online business or website, I recommend you budget more money on marketing than on development.
Now to be clear, I'm referring to website's from which you expect to make money. Either directly with online sales, or indirectly from sending your leads and phone calls to your business. The fact of the matter is, many people have this crazy "if we build it, they will come" idea. But in fact this a FAR from reality. The truth is, most websites are utterly lost at the bottom of the search listings. If you do not have a serious game plan, the only people who will know about your website is your Facebook friends and your mother.
In a recent video on how much websites cost, I mentioned that - given a twelve month period, I would plan to budget 75% of the total costs towards marketing and the remaining design and development. Now to me the point is pretty clear, but if it doesn't yet make sense you - please read on.
The fact is, it takes time for people to find you and trust you. And these two steps are mandatory before they will pay you. So why would you invest tons of money building or designing a site but don't have any traffic or know if your product will sell?
When you reduce the development costs and focus on marketing, you have the chance to test the market and see whether or not they are interested. . . once you have had a little success, you can invest more into the website knowing you will likely be compensated for the work. Likewise you can also invest more info marketing to get more sales quicker.
Got questions? Comments? Please share below or email me at: info at dtspseaks.com.
Website design prices can vary tremendously. Yet most business owners doing research have NO IDEA what to expect... I created this video to help potential clients research, budget and set expectations.
P.S. See for listing of the most popular companies in Tulsa and their claimed price ranges for website design and development.
Having an outdated website is like sporting a pager and while everyone else uses a cell phone. Even if your business is primarily offline or in a traditional industry, your website appearance speaks volumes about you to others. You don't need to have all the widgets and fancy stuff as everyone else. But you do need to be current and effective.
Below is short checklist of things for you to look at to make sure you're not presenting an outdated brand.
Your website was built without a content management system. - Thus you need to call your inaccessible over priced website designer to change your phone number or service prices.
Nowadays, it's pretty much standard that business owners can make basic changes on their website without knowing html or using a FTP program. The most popular content management systems are Wordpress, Joomla, and Drupal. These tools can be primarily backend systems while the look and design can be just as customized and search engine friendly as static html pages.
At Design That Speaks, we normally build custom websites using Wordpress - simply because it is the easiest for client to use. We can however build websites on top of any back-end system.
Your website was built completely in Flash. - Flash was so cool... in 2004. Only new movie productions and rap artists build 100% flash websites. And some other people use it for minor aspects of their website, but rarely for the entire site. iPhones BANNED flash usage. Search engines cannot pull out from flash the text of your website. Thus your site is invisible for iPhone users and anyone using a search engine to find your product or service.
Nowadays, people people use jQuery and or HTML5 to create similar effects as flash. And with these newer technologies, the website is readable on mobile phones and search engines.
Your website is powered by: YellowPages, YellowBook, Yodle, Homestead, GoDaddy, Yahoo, FortuneCity or some other generic site builder. There are other modern tools which allow your to build a website quickly and often inexpensively. The key is that you need to be able to have control of your website. You need to have the ability to make sure your website is not a cookie cutter copy - both in design and content..
Nowadays, as mentioned in number 5, you can get a website built using Wordpress or Joomla for a pretty inexpensive costs. Or you can use a system like SquareSpace and have something that looks alot better.
At Design That Speaks, we can help you write your content so you don't have to sacrifice your quality by using the same copy that appears on every other site the company built like yours.
Your website is width is 760px - built for 13 inch monitors. Again, that was standard in 2005. But now, you're wasting valuable real estate -hoping people will click thru or scroll down.
Your most important content and call to action needs to be "above the fold". Accessible without scrolling. But if your website is very narrow you will not have the room to say everything in the more looked at areas.
Your website has splash screen that says something like "ENTER SITE" on the home page. Come on now. Once again you are wasting the users time. Unless your website has some type of disclaimer and warning the person before they continue - there absolutely no reason for that screen.
The basic point here is that times have changed. The reasons behind website design practices in 2004 are not all applicable today. Your website is communicating your understanding or lack or modern online communications. Now of course the average user is not going to automatically notice everything I've mentioned and discredit you. However, if your website is hindering them from finding you, knowing or contacting you based on these or any number of additional reasons - you will loose business and credibility.
*** I know I didn't list everything here. Things like scrolling text, black background with red text, and animated .gif...
Please share things you see that turn you off because they scream 1998, 2006 or any era in between.
Today I was told that "SEO is dying industry". And this was from a website professional who has likely been in business a lot longer than me...
I remember back in 2000, when I was in undergrad and had first learned how to code HTML. Many of my computer science friends had already been making websites years before me. Then around 2002 when I was hired to redesign some departments at my school, Western Michigan University, those same friends were surprised that I was getting $100-$150 per hour making flash websites...
Fast-forward to 2008, when I started my current company Design That Speaks, and I was still making "plain old websites" - my friends had gone on to learn highly advanced software languages or had transitioned into real estate and other types of businesses. When we would touch-base they would sound surprised that I was not only still working as web designer, but had built a company and been able to support my wife and daughter with the business.
And so today when I heard that 'SEO is a dying industry' - I'm reminded of my previous experiences.
With all the hype of social media and facebook and twitter and mobile - one might think that search engine optimization / SEO is going away. The problem is that this is opinion of early adopters. Of techies and geeks. This isn't the mind of Joe and Jane business owner.
The internet, and all it's glory is just a kid. A teenager. And there are many business who do not yet even have websites. Many industries do not use the internet for marketing or sales, but just for branding. There are businesses who are still paying hundreds or thousands of dollars per month with the yellow pages or newspaper ads.
And so as long that is true, I know that my business - making website and doing SEO to help business get traffic and sales - will be around for good little while.
And to the other web companies that come and go, or jump on every new fad without digging deep into a specialty - we'll stay right where we are and assume responsibility for the client's you leave behind.