Archive for the ‘Visual Design’ Category

More Great Resources for Copyright-free Images

Monday, December 10th, 2012

I’m always on the lookout for excellent sources of free, public domain images to use on my blogs and for my clients’ websites and other electronic media.

One of my favorites is Compfight, which enables you to search hundreds of thousands of images available for use through Flickr Creative Commons. You can search by keyword and find a host of creative illustrations uploaded by talented photographers, amateur and professional, from around the globe.

It’s important to always include credits to the photographers as specified in their Creative Commons license. My preferred method is to paste all the information about the image and usage license into the image’s ALT tag—so that I can be comprehensive without cluttering up the page. Others choose to put a credit in small print at the bottom of the post.

Just recently, I discovered another great site, The Public Domain Review. A non-profit project of the Open Knowledge Foundation, PDR is “dedicated to showcasing the most interesting and unusual out-of-copyright works available online.” Archives include films, audio, images and texts, with a bias toward items that are unique, curious or whimsical. Again, be sure to include appropriate credits and read the fine print about usage before posting.

Here you can find a 1918 film of Tarzan of the Apes19th Century samples of Chinese ornament, a copy of The Practical Magician’s and Ventriloquist’s Guide (1867) and onboard recordings from Apollo 11, to name just a few treasures.

Plenty of material to illustrate your online works, and much to mine for ideas.

Of course, there are also many government resources for public domain images. You’ll find a few places to start in this post I wrote back in July 2011, Your Tax Dollars at Work: 5 Great Government Resources for Free Images.

Happy hunting!

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Extreme Web Makeover IV: Music & Memory

Monday, November 26th, 2012

If you have any experience with a loved one who struggles with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, you know the great challenges and sense of loss for all involved. But what if there were a medication-free way to help your loved one reawaken to the world?

It turns out there’s a simple and elegant solution: personalized music playlists. Hearing personal favorites on a device like an iPod can tap deep emotional memories and enable many of those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and other cognitive challenges reconnect socially and feel more energized and upbeat.

I’ve learned all about this amazing process from Music & Memory, a non-profit based in metro New York that trains nursing home professionals how to set up and manage a comprehensive personalized music program for those in their care. For the past three months, I’ve been helping their great team revamp their website and create a professional, easy-to-navigate user interface designed to boost donations and subscriptions to their webinar training series. The new site went live on November 19.

Capitalizing on a Viral Video

Music & Memory’s challenge was an enviable dilemma: Last April, a video clip from a documentary about their work went viral. The clip told the story of Henry, a 94-year-old with dementia, who is non-communicative and doesn’t recognize his daughter. But as soon as he listens to his Cab Calloway favorites on his iPod, he awakens to his surroundings and can express himself quite effectively.

Nearly 7 million people have viewed the video, which has aroused tremendous interest in Music & Memory’s great work. The non-profit has sought and enjoyed extensive media coverage from major news outlets, including the New York Times, NPR and CNN, among others.

Converting from an Organically Grown Website to Strategic Web Content and User-Friendly Design

But Music & Memory’s website was a jumble of information and calls-to-action that did not effectively represent or explain the quality of their program. The site had grown organically, using a free template. Content was written from the organization’s point of view, rather than the user’s. Benefits were not clearly articulated. Navigation was cluttered and confusing. In addition, Music & Memory was in the process of switching over to Salesforce, a sophisticated contact management system that required a better web platform.

Working with the Music & Memory team and web developer Ed Booth of Insight Dezign, I took these steps to upgrade the site:

  • Defined key target audiences and established a hierarchy of calls-to-action, with donations and enrollments in M&M’s webinar training series at the top of the list.
  • Researched keywords that would boost search; salted these keywords throughout the site, in text, title tags, tabs, headlines and subheads, urls, ALT tags, search result descriptions and keyword tags.
  • Revised and wrote new content for the entire site, creating a conversational, unified tone throughout.
  • Reorganized content into a logical site navigation.
  • Selected the StudioPress Streamline theme template as the starting point for the new design; this template includes options for a hierarchy of multiple calls-to-action, essential for the site.
  • Selected images from Music & Memory’s documentary stills for the featured image within each main section of the site.
  • Laid out all page content within the template, unifying styles.
  • Integrated testimonial quotes throughout the site, including a rotating sidebar widget, a main Testimonials page and forms.
  • Using the Premise plug-in, wrote and designed a vertical sales page for the webinar series to expand the inquiry pool for this important revenue stream.
  • Wrote three Resource Guides—how to run an iPod donation drive, a guide for elder care professionals who wish to bring Music & Memory to their facility, and a guide to creating a personalized playlist for a loved one at home—that serve as free lead-generation downloads.
  • Served as project manager of the site build, in coordination with Ed Booth and Music & Memory staff. Oversaw completion of all details for the site visitor interface.

Ed built the site and added in many modifications to the template, enabling Music & Memory to fully realize their vision. Working closely with M&M tech pro Melody Ward, he integrated all forms with Salesforce. As always, he worked his magic on every technical challenge and request for greater functionality that we threw at him. He also patiently fixed whatever broke or jammed, all the inevitable problems that arise in a complex site build and launch.

Promoting the New and Improved Website

Whenever a site goes live, it’s always a thrill to see it in action. We coordinated the site launch with a year-end appeal letter that is scheduled to arrive in people’s homes today, November 26. Next steps for Music & Memory include an emailed site launch announcement tied to the annual appeal and a targeted email campaign to drive elder care professionals to the webinar training landing page. We’ll be following Google Analytics results to see how the site performs and making any needed modifications in the weeks and months to come.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity to help such a great organization strengthen their ability to attract more donors and reach many more people who can benefit from this affordable, uplifting form of personal care.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

What Goes Where on Your Home Page?

Monday, October 15th, 2012

There’s a lot of important information to include on your home page: your brand, site navigation, search, email sign-ups, main content, links to social media, your blog roll if you have one, testimonials and other social proof of the quality of your work. The list can go on and on.

So, how do you know what goes where?

A good place to start is with a proven template. I’m a big fan of StudioPress, if you’re on a budget and can’t afford a custom design. These templates include the underlying Genesis framework, which takes WordPress one step better and protects your site from hacking—a liability of WordPress open-source code. With the help of a good web developer, you can customize the templates to your own taste. But the basic structure provides a sound foundation.

Whether you choose an existing template or work with a designer, here are six key points to keep in mind for home page design:

  1. Place your brand in the upper left corner, unless you have a good reason to do otherwise. Users tend to look at the center of the page first, then the upper left corner. Web usability studies that measure eye tracking show we spend a fraction of a second glancing at the middle of the page, then move to the upper left. This has a lot to do with what we’re accustomed to finding: a logo in the upper left that identifies the site. There are other viable options for logo placement, as long as your brand is easy to spot at the top. Some web designs are now using full banner headings, like a newspaper. On my own site, my logo stands out from a clear field of white across the top of the page.
  2. Put the most important information at the top. Users look for a hierarchy of information, going from top to bottom. This just makes sense. When a page loads, you see the section “above the fold” first—the top chunk of the webpage, just like the top half of a folded newspaper. So decide what’s most important and be sure that’s at the top of your homepage. Use consistent styling of headlines and subheads to help users determine priorities.
  3. Place navigation in a horizontal bar across the top of the page. In the past, many websites vertically stacked the nav bar in the left-hand margin, but this set-up is not as flexible as a horizontal navigation with drop-down tabs. Whatever you do, never use vertical navigation with sub-navigation that shoots sideways across the web page. It’s clunky, blocks important content and is just plain confusing.
  4. Explain what your site is all about, front and center. When visitors come to your site, they want to know, within a few seconds, what it’s about, whether it’s what they’re looking for and what’s in it for them. Don’t make them search for this information. Key messaging, with informative, skim-friendly headlines and subheads, should make up the bulk of your homepage above the fold.
  5. Use compelling graphics, but don’t overuse them so they compete for attention. Just as you establish a hierarchy of text with headings and subheads, do the same with images. Your most important graphic should be the largest. Other supporting pictures or icons should have some uniformity of size and placement so the user intuitively understands their relationship to the text and relative importance.
  6. Place supporting content and links in a side column or in multiple columns below the fold. How you do this depends on the template you’re using. Again, however, think in terms of priorities. What do you want the user to see first? second? third? That’s the order of placement. If everything you want to include seems equally important, take a step back and rethink your priorities. Who is your ideal client and what’s most important to her? For example, do your latest blog posts establish your expertise, or would your visitor rather see testimonials from clients about your work? Put yourself in her shoes to determine your hierarchy on the page.

For more about good home page design, check out these links:

6 Design Tips That Will Have Your Audience Licking Their Screens—Copyblogger

Design 101| 7 typographic Resources, and 1 Type Joke—Big Brand System

F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content—Jakob Nielson’s Alertbox

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

With Infographics, the Picture Tells the Story

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

I’m a visual thinker. So I enjoy cruising the burgeoning world of infographics, which explain abstract, complex ideas in a mix of colorful designs and brief explanatory text.

This goes far past your basic pie chart or bar graph. Infographics, at their best, tell a story about complex ideas though words and pictures. They are visually structured to lead your eye through the content in a logical sequence, often beautifully illustrated and, well, just fun to look at and learn from.

While infographics have become a hot new medium for conveying all kinds of information, the idea of combining data and design to explain a complex concept is far from revolutionary. Edward Tufte, Yale professor emeritus, has built his career demonstrating how to display data clearly and beautifully to tell a story. Here’s an interview with Tufte by AdAge, that lays out some of his concepts for quality infographics.

And here are a few examples from around the Internet that show how infographics convey a compelling story in a snapshot:

How do Colors Affect Purchases?
This is a fun look by KissMetrics at the art and science of color in consumer packaging. It spools the information vertically, breaking up content in logical horizontal slices. A good summary of some fascinating marketing research.


Michael Anderson Resume
This infographics designer put his skills to work to get noticed. Creative, fun and easy way to get a sense of both his background, his design skills and his personality.


International Influence of Starbucks and McDonalds
Great graphics and a parallel design structure help to tell a complex story of international trade and commerce. Infographic by Flaming Toast Productions for the Princeton University International Networks Archive.


Left v. Right
This detailed overview of the politics dividing our country, by David McCandless and Stefanie Posavec, takes a bit more effort to consume, but it works well because of the careful, parallel layout and arrows that guide your eye through each section. The designers made it easy to make comparisons (whether or not you agree with the characterizations).


The World of Seven Billion
This stunning, interactive infographic by National Geographic does what this medium does best—gives you an immediate understanding of extensive comparative data about world income levels and life styles.


Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Should You Invest in a Logo for Your Small Business?

Monday, July 16th, 2012

If you’re updating your website or creating a new one, you’ve probably wondered whether you should invest in a professionally designed logo. When you’re a small business professional, you’re watching every dollar and may not have the means, or may think you don’t have the means, to invest in branding.


And, what’s the point, anyway? You’re not Nike or Starbucks.

Consider this: You don’t have to see the name of either of those brands to connect the swash with great athletic shoes or the sea maiden with great coffee.

A Professionally Designed Logo is a Competitive Advantage
Your logo is a mnemonic device that helps potential customers think of your business and pick you out from the crowd. It’s also a visual expression of who you are and what distinguishes your product or service. The Nike swash, like a jazzy checkmark, embodies speed and choice. The Starbucks siren, with her open arms and smile, conveys a sense of welcome and intrigue, as well as Starbuck’s Seattle maritime roots.

Capturing your brand’s essence in a memorable visual is a complex design challenge. That’s why big businesses pay big bucks for their logos. You undoubtedly can’t afford a million dollar design team, but you should think carefully about a logo and visual branding and consider investing in quality, to the best of your ability. With logos, you get what you pay for.

Here are six factors to keep in mind as you evaluate logos for your business:

1) Clean and Simple
The less visual clutter, the better. Don’t mix a lot of colors and typefaces. Your logo may be paired with a tag line, but it should be able to stand on its own to convey your unique brand identity. Think of Apple’s logo—simple, sleek (like their products), inviting—as easy and pleasurable to use as biting an apple.

2) Memorable
Just because you’re a lawyer, don’t feel you need to include the scales of justice in your logo. Avoid visual clichés and strive for a design that is precise and unique, as well as conceptually easy to grasp. Pair it with a typeface that expresses your values and personal aesthetics.

3) Works in Black-and-White
You may utilize print marketing strategies that don’t use color, such as newspaper ads or business-card-sized ads in a program book. Be sure that your logo works in all print formats.

4) Scaleable
Your logo needs to look good as a small thumbprint as well as on an outdoor sign, if you have one. Understand how your logo will be used and be sure that it works in all visual formats, electronic and print.

5) Necessary
Sometimes, a good type treatment of your business name can be as effective as a logo. Not all businesses require a logo. If you go the type treatment route, as I have for Herwitz Associates, pick distinctive, quality typefaces that express the essence of your business. For me, the red cursive typeface in Herwitz Associates projects the elegance and personal touch that I bring to all my projects.

6) Professional
We respond to quality design, whether we recognize it or not. Chances are, if you have a well-designed logo and your competitor does not, a potential client choosing between you will lean toward your business. When you look like a professional, your engender trust. When you look like you just slapped some visual elements together, you raise questions about how serious you are in your work.

Once again, with logos and visual design for your website and other business collateral, you get what you pay for. Here are a few more resources about best practices in logo design, to help you make an informed decision:

The Fundamentals & Best Practices of Logo Design Mashable Tech

Vital Tips for Effective Logo Design Smashing Magazine

Creating or Updating Your Logo? Learn These Five Fundamentals Before You Start Sixty Second Marketer

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Five Reasons Why Your Website Content Isn’t Working—And How to Fix It

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

When was the last time you looked up a business in the Yellow Pages? I’m willing to bet, at best, maybe once in the last six months, assuming you can even find a copy of your phone book.

Now, when was the last time you looked up a business online? Probably yesterday, if not within the past few hours, right?

Effective Website Content Is Strategic
My point is this: If you have a business, you need a website. But having a website isn’t just about posting a few pictures and some general info about your work and contact info.

You need content that distinguishes you and your business from your competition, that clearly explains your product or service, and that gives your ideal client a compelling reason to contact you or make a purchase. And you need a website design that’s attractive and easy to navigate, that guides your reader to the information that’s most important.

Here are five of the biggest mistakes I see when asked why a client’s site doesn’t seem to be bringing in new business:

1) No Clear Statement of What Sets You Apart
All too often, websites spout a lot of generalities about a business, offering a summary about a profession on the homepage and overused descriptions of benefits (e.g., “we pride ourselves on great customer service”—well, everyone says that, and if you didn’t care about your customers, you shouldn’t be in business in the first place). It’s the gotta-put-something-up-there-now-that-I-have-a-website syndrome.

Web content, especially on the homepage, needs to clearly state what you do and what distinguishes your business from your competitors. To write this well, you need to understand the following:

  • Who is your ideal client, what problem she’s trying to solve and how your work will help her. More on this in #3.
  • Who else is out there doing the same work, how they present themselves, and how your approach is more effective for your ideal client.

If you’re struggling to answer these questions, check out Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid. Work through his exercises to clarify your value proposition.

When you have your answers—and believe me, this takes time and a lot of thought, and evolves as you develop your business, so it’s worth revisiting—sit down and revise your homepage content, with your value proposition high on the page. You don’t want visitors to have to scroll too far to get the point.

2) Text Is Clunky, Rambling and Impersonal
Good web copy is like any good writing—clear, concise, using strong nouns and active verbs. It needs to be easy to skim, but substantive enough for the serious reader to learn more. These two posts will help you to write copy that meets those criteria:

One other point—we all respond to content that connects on a human, personal level. I don’t mean you need to spill your guts to your target audience. But don’t be afraid to be yourself! What do you care about? Why are you in this business? What do you love most about your work? Be sure to capture that essence in your web copy. One of the best places to get more real is in your About page. Here’s a blog post that will help you write a compelling personal profile for your site:

3) Content Is Written from Your Point of View, Rather Than Your Ideal Client’s
This ties to both of the above issues. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of writing all the stuff you think is great about your work. But what you think is important may not be what your client actually cares about. You need first to understand your ideal client, everything from economic status and lifestyle preferences to where she gets her purchasing information and what worries keep her up at night.

Then put yourself in her shoes and ask why she’s come to you. How do you help her solve a key problem or answer a pressing question? One way to get at this is to write yourself an email, as if you were your ideal client, inquiring about your business. Then revise your web content with her in mind. This exercise may be a tectonic plate shift for you—if so, good. You’re on your way to writing some compelling content for your site, from your ideal client’s point of view.

4) Design Works Against Easy Reading and Navigation
There are plenty of free templates out there to choose from, or maybe you asked your next-door neighbor’s kid to code your site to save money. But it’s critical to choose a quality design. Effective websites are based on some basic principles of usability—what makes a site easy to read and easy to navigate.

Headlines and subheads, color-blocking to break up text, short paragraphs and careful use of white space to make a site easier to skim, clear navigation with simple drop-down menus, quality graphic images that establish tone and focus attention (but not too many competing images on a page)—all of these are elements of good design. Here’s more to consider as you evaluate your website:

5) No Call-to-Action
This one may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many websites fail to include an effective call-to-action. What is the goal of your site? What do you want visitors to do when they finish reading? Be sure you can answer this question, and then be sure that your visitor can easily find your call-to-action on every page of your site.

At the very least, you want her to contact you for a free consult or other free service, to open a relationship with you. Or maybe you want to capture her contact information to build a quality email list for future product offers. In that case, you’ll need to create a free download of valuable information that’s relevant to your work and her needs, that your visitor will receive in exchange for her contact information.

While you’re at it, be sure to cover these basics in constructing your Contact page:

When you’re through evaluating and revising your site, test it on your best customers and friends who fit your ideal client profile. Ask if they can tell you what sets you apart and why they do business with you, or what would compel them to do so in the future. Their answers are your best indicator of whether your website content is effective and what you need to refine it further. Added bonus: you can use the positive feedback as testimonials.

And if you’d like a professional assessment of your website, please contact me. I offer a free half-hour consult to new clients, and I’d be glad to give you feedback on your website’s effectiveness.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

The Key to Effective Homepage Content: Focus, Focus, Focus

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Your website’s homepage is the most important page in your site. That seems obvious, doesn’t it? Your homepage is your storefront, the first thing visitors see when they arrive at your site. It establishes your professional image and, if it’s well-written and designed, draws readers deeper into your site to learn more about your work and why they should do business with you.

So why are so many homepages so cluttered? Because all too often, we try to cram every bit of important information we can think of into that one page, hoping that our visitor will find what she’s looking for. If we leave something out, she may miss it and move on, right?

Less is More
Not so, especially now that mobile devices are becoming such an important means of searching the web. You can’t fit much information on a smart phone screen, so it’s essential to focus on your key message and call to action. That goes for full screen views, as well. Too much information is distracting, confusing and will cause your visitor to click away.

When I’m writing website content, I always save the homepage for last. Once I’ve created text for an About page and Professional Services, answered FAQs, and developed Resources and any Case Studies or Testimonials, I have a much clearer sense of the core message.

Here are the key points to keep in mind as you craft your own homepage text:

What Is Your Business About?
When someone lands on your site, the first thing she wants to know is what you do. To answer that question, you need to understand why she’s come to your site. What is the key problem she’s trying to solve, and how do you provide the answer? Keep it short and tight—remember, this text has to fit on a smart phone.

What’s Your Call to Action?
What do you want your visitor to do before she leaves your site? Buy your lead product? Contact you for a free consult? Donate to your cause? Download your free e-book? Your call to action needs to be clear, prominent and above the fold (no scrolling) on both a mobile device and computer screen. It should appear on your homepage and on all pages deeper in your site (this can be accomplished with a sidebar widget).

Can Your Visitor Easily Find More Information?
It’s essential to have clear, user-friendly navigation. A helpful way to think about this is described by Steve Krug in Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. In this very accessible book, Krug emphasizes that different people have different ways of finding information. He uses the metaphor of entering a department store: Some people look at the signage to find the goods they want, some look at the floor map and some ask a sales clerk for directions.

As you create your navigation—using an excellent web template, such as StudioPress, or working with a good designer—keep this metaphor in mind. Be sure you have easy-to-read “signage” in your nav bar and redundant links in graphics and text, as well as a good search function to help your visitor find what she’s looking for in one or two clicks.

Can Repeat Clients Find What They Need Without Wasting Time?
This is an issue of design as much as content. You want your valued customer to get directly to the content she’s looking for without wading through basic information or waiting for a slide show to load.

Is Your Message Easy to Remember?
We’re bombarded with messages all day long. You want yours to be easy to digest and easy to recall. Keep your text clear and focused. Use headings and enough white space in your homepage layout to enable your visitor to skim for key points and read more by scrolling if she’s interested. Test your content by asking someone who fits your client profile to read your homepage and answer these five key questions.

Take the time needed to get your homepage right. Be clear on your goals for your visitors, test and revise until you get the response you’re looking for. For the most-viewed page in your site, it’s well worth the extra effort.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.


Extreme Web Makeover II: The Good People Fund

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The Good People Fund (GPF) is a wonderful philanthropy that supports small to mid-sized, grassroots non-profits that are finding creative, hands-on ways to help alleviate poverty, hunger, social isolation, homelessness and more in their home communities.

I should know. I’m on their Board of Trustees. I’ve also been helping GPF redo their website, which needed a major overhaul to better represent the organization’s great work. We just went live with the new site last week, which is already starting to generate more traffic and donations.

Here’s the back story:

Founded in 2008 when its predecessor foundation closed doors, GPF has been growing steadily for the past four years, carefully screening, mentoring and supporting non-profits in Israel and the U.S. that meet its criteria of low overhead and highly effective programming. The organization created a website soon after it went into operation in order to have an online presence.

The site served its purpose, providing a basic explanation of the philanthropy’s mission and vision, listing information about leadership and financials, providing links to grantee’s websites, and sharing heart-felt stories about how people benefited from GPF grants through the Tzedakah Diaries, written by Executive Director Naomi Eisenberger. The site had a form for online donations and educational materials for families and Jewish educators.

So far, so good. But as GPF grew, the site needed work. The Board agreed that there were several major issues:

  • Upgrade the website’s amateur design with a friendly, professional image.
  • Update content to better explain GPF’s mission and focus, as well as the value-added of giving to GPF (screening, mentoring, matching donors to grantees).
  • Explain the work of grantees, replacing links to their websites (which drew traffic and potential donations from GPF’s site) with clear and compelling descriptions of their work.
  • Convert the Tzedakah Diaries to a subscription-based blog, distributed via social media as well as email.
  • Create user-friendly navigation and add graphic images and videos to enhance the user experience.
  • Ensure that the Donations call-to-action has a prominent place on the site, on every page.
  • Improve search optimization.

Working with the Board, Naomi, a wonderful designer who prefers to keep his contribution to the project anonymous, and Ed Booth of Insight
Dezign, I directed the site upgrade. I came up with a new tag line, “Small actions, huge impacts,” which our designer incorporated into a beautiful new logo that expresses the global nature of our work as well as GPF’s Jewish roots. He adapted the green and blue color scheme of the original logo and created an upbeat design for the website that alludes to earth and sky, and to the Jewish art form of paper-cutting. The text is set in Verdana, a clean, web-friendly typeface, and titles are in Mrs. Eaves, adding a touch of sophistication.

Naomi and I spent many hours writing and rewriting content for the site. Much of the program description text was adapted from GPF’s Annual Report, revised for the web to make it easy to skim. I wrote all of the key marketing content for the homepage, and revised the Mission, Vision and Overview with input from Naomi and the Board. We reviewed all of the text from the old site, tweaking and tightening for readability. I conducted keyword research that guided my creation of search-optimized, branded urls for each page, as well as site content.

Naomi collected images for many of the grantees, and we added videos that were created by editing and repurposing existing footage, thanks to Eli Katzoff of Stormport Productions.

Ed worked wonders with all of the design direction, executing many rounds of refinements with equanimity and attention to detail. He tied the site into the original back end of the old website, which was a key criteria for the project’s success.

Now we are working with Ross Plotkin, Head of Paid Search for Kahena Digital Marketing, to enhance search with Google AdWords. Thanks to Ross, GPF received a Google Grant for an AdWord campaign that has already begun to generate more donations.

It’s been a huge project that has stretched over many months, but the Board is thrilled with the results, and we look forward to growing our donor base, enabling GPF to help support even more worthy endeavors.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your good work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.


What Makes “Fair Use” Fair?

Monday, April 16th, 2012

The Internet makes borrowing content easier than ever. You can copy and paste just about anything you read or see into your own website. But you need to be careful about how you use someone else’s copyrighted material, or you could end up in court.

The safest route is to ask for written permission from the author or artist. And you should always attribute the work.

The legal concept of “fair use” enables you to repurpose copyrighted material to comment on, criticize or parody the original without permission—but you need to understand the rules. Here’s an overview, which I’ve based on an excellent, detailed explanation from Stanford University Libraries on Copyright & Fair Use:

How and Why Are You Using Someone Else’s Work?
At the heart of any fair use determination is whether you’re lifting someone’s copyrighted work in its entirety (NOT okay) or transforming the material in some way—reinterpreting the work, giving it new meaning or adding value to the original through new insights, information or aesthetic embellishment (MAYBE okay).

Here’s where the subject gets murky. What constitutes a fair use transformation of someone else’s original work is subject to much legal dispute. Using excerpts of copyrighted works for research, scholarship or educational purposes—to explain a point, as part of a critique or a review—is usually considered transformative and within bounds of fair use.

Courts are most lenient regarding parody, because reproducing an original work is essential to its ridicule. Think of all the American Gothic parodies you’ve ever seen—take-offs on that famous Grant Wood painting of the dour-faced farmer holding a pitchfork next to his dour-faced wife.

What Kind of Work Are You Using?
If you’re copying from a non-fiction work, chances are you have more fair-use wiggle room, because you’re spreading facts and information that benefit others. The boundaries are tighter if you copy from works of fiction, derived purely from the creator’s imagination.

Beware of copying from unpublished works; you may be violating the author’s right to determine when the work first appears in public.

See links below for guidelines on fair use for visual images and videos.

How Much and What Part Are You Using?
You might conclude from all this that the less you use, the safer you are. While that may be a good rule of thumb in general, if you copy what’s considered the heart of the work, the most memorable essence, without permission—even one line—you could get sued. In other words, don’t lift the phrase “Go ahead, make my day!” from Dirty Harry for your next ad campaign without permission. Parody is the often the only exception.

Does Your Use Deprive the Creator of Current or Potential Income?
Making money from your transformation of someone else’s copyrighted work, even if it’s something the author would never have thought of doing or didn’t have the ability to do, can also land you in court. Before you proceed with selling your adapted creation, get some good legal advice. Once again, there’s more legal leeway with parodies.

What If You Acknowledge Your Source? Isn’t That Good Enough to Protect Yourself?
Sorry, not so. It may help your case if you end up in a fair use dispute with the work’s creator (assuming you’ve met the above criteria), but it won’t protect you from being sued for copyright infringement.

What About a Disclaimer?
Even if you state in a prominent place that your work is an unauthorized use of copyrighted material—say, the unofficial guide to Beatles trivia—the disclaimer itself is no guarantee that you (a) have met fair use standards and (b) couldn’t be successfully sued for copyright infringement.

What About Fair Use of Visual Images?
This is a hot issue right now, given all the controversy over sharing images on Pinterest. In one case of a search engine that placed and indexed thumbnail images of copyrighted artwork on its website—images that were significantly smaller and of poorer quality than the originals—the court ruled that this practice would not undermine the artists’ ability to sell or license the original, full-size images. So, thumbnails seem to be okay, so far, but stay tuned for future refinements of the law as visual image networking sites come under closer scrutiny by copyright experts.

You can learn more about the specifics and gray areas of fair use and copyright infringement from these online resources:

Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center Stanford University

Copyright Information Center Cornell University

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video Center for Social Media, American University

Copyright Fair Use and How It Works for Online Images Social Media Examiner

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your good work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.


To Pin or Not to Pin: Is Pinterest Worth Your Time?

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Pinterest continues to make headlines as the fast-growing visual sharing social network struggles with growing pains over copyright infringement. Last week, Pinterest changed its terms of use, revising previous language that frowned on user self-promotion but, by default, opened the door to a host of liability issues when users shared copyrighted content without permission. As of April 6, Pinterest now states that users can only pin content they own or have permission to use.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s reelection campaign has become one of the most recent Pinterest adopters, hoping to connect with the site’s largely female following—a strategy driven by current political wisdom that the November election hinges on women voters.

Here’s a round-up of recent articles on Pinterest’s copyright debacle and how savvy marketers are leveraging their Pinterest content to drive website traffic and conversions:

Pinterest’s Growth Comes Back to Earth The Street

Pinterest Terms of Service Get Updated Huffington Post

The Copyright Question: How to Protect Yourself on Pinterest Mashable

Hey Girl, Obama’s on Pinterest! Forbes

Is Pinterest Traffic Worthless? Copyblogger

56 Ways to Market Your Business on Pinterest Copyblogger

Pinterest vs. Google+: Which New Social Network Is Worth Marketers’ Time? Hubspot

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your good work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.