Posts Tagged ‘website design’

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.

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.

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.

 

How Web Design Can Make or Break Your Site

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

How many times have you surfed a website, only to give up because you couldn’t find your way through the navigation, or the text was so tiny and cluttered that you couldn’t keep reading, or the content was chopped up by distracting images?

No matter how compelling your web content, if your website’s design is cumbersome, amateur or downright ugly, you’ll lose visitors—and respect for the quality of your work.

So how do you know if a website is well designed? It’s not simply a matter of color choice and typeface. And it’s not just about subjective, personal taste. To quote Richard Grefé, Executive Director of the American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA), “Design is the intermediary between information and understanding.”

Good Design Guides Your Eye Through Content Hierarchy
Where do you want your visitor to look first? Type choice and size, selection and placement of color, contrast, images and white space all work together to guide your eyes through your web pages. For example, throughout my website, to make my narrative easier to skim, my designer highlighted key phrases in the text and added breathing room in the line-spacing. Strong images, especially of human faces, draw attention. So does text surrounded by white space.

Research shows that we read web pages in an F formation, scanning across headings, chunks of intro text and subheads, and down the left column if the site uses a sidebar menu. I’ll be interested to see how those findings change as we see more sites imitating the Pinterest bulletin board model. AIGA’s website has adopted this format, using bold headlines, strong images and grayed-out blocks of text that highlight when rolled over to help break up the content and establish a visual hierarchy.

Good Design Enables Easy Navigation
Especially when you have multiple layers of information in a complex website, good design is critical for ease of navigation. In one glance, visitors need to understand how the site is organized and where to click to get the information they need.

For Attorney Marcia Tannenbaum’s website, in addition to the horizontal navigation bar, we included a sidebar on every page that lists all of her professional services, with links for each topic to the description within the professional services tab. At the top of the sidebar is a prominent Contact button with a call-to-action for her free half-hour consult. This enables visitors to quickly understand the depth of Marcia’s practice, find the information they need with one click and easily set up an appointment.

Within my own site, I use an accordion-style layout within both the Services and Getting Started pages to create a hierarchy of detail. This design enables you to skim the page with a minimum of scrolling, with the option of digging deeper into content as you click on each subhead. I like this format for FAQ pages, as well—an easy way to include a lot of information on one page without overwhelming the viewer.

Good Design Conveys a Professional Image
Clean layout, easy-to-read text, quality images and graphics all combine to present you as a professional. You wouldn’t show up to an important client meeting in rumpled clothes and mismatched socks. So don’t do the equivalent on your website.

For the law firm of Mountain Dearborn, we used a rotation of strong, original graphic images on the homepage to illustrate each aspect of the firm’s practice. Related images are tied to the detailed descriptions within the site. The design is both understated and inviting, reflecting the firm’s corporate culture. We also strove to facilitate ease of reading by marrying client-centered copywriting with generous use of white space and chunked text.

Good Design Sets You Apart From the Crowd
Of course, maybe you like to dress like Dennis Rodman. If that’s part of your image, what sets you apart from your competition in a way that draws loyal clients, then by all means have your design reflect it. Funky graphics, unusual colors and unique typefaces all help to distinguish you and your business, as long as they work together to effectively convey your brand and your message.

One of the best things to happen to web design in the past few years is the option to choose a unique typeface. In this site, I’m using Typekit to embed Chapparal Pro as my typeface. It’s clear, readable and distinctive, a visual expression of personal goals for my own writing. While Typekit is a subscription service (for a very modest fee), Google now offers a wide range of open source typefaces through Google Web Fonts, vastly expanding the range of free options for web typography.

These are some of the most important reasons for using good web design. And here’s one more: Good design makes the world a more beautiful place. We all spend so many hours in front of our computers and mobile devices, it’s well worth the time, effort and resources to invest in an aesthetically satisfying experience for your website visitors. They’ll enjoy the view—and take more time to look around.

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.

Why It Costs More to Have Your Best Friend’s Neighbor’s Kid Do Your Website

Monday, August 15th, 2011

You’re launching your new business, and you need a website. Your best friend tells you that her neighbor’s daughter, a high school senior, is a whiz at computers and can build it for you.

“Great!” you say, thinking how that will save you a bundle. And, anyway, kids these days know a whole lot more about the Internet and social media than adults, since they grew up with keyboards in their cribs, right?

Sure, you can save some money that way. But unless this kid is also a whiz at strategic content development, graphic design, search engine optimization and Internet marketing, chances are you’ll end up with a site that looks, well, amateur.

Is that how you want to come across to your target audience?

I didn’t think so.

Keys to a Professional Internet Presence
There are four basic elements to a successful website:

  1. Content that is clear, authoritative, easy to skim and speaks to your ideal customer’s needs, capped by a compelling call-to-action that converts visitors to buyers.
  2. Design that is attractive, expresses your business persona, enables the viewer to easily find what she’s looking for and draws her eye to your call-to-action.
  3. Strategically selected keywords that potential customers use to find your kind of business, which are integrated throughout your site, in headlines, sub-heads, text, urls and page tags.
  4. Fresh content that you produce on a steady basis, providing valuable information for your ideal client, which you distribute via media that she uses regularly—whether it’s a blog, Facebook and Twitter and YouTube, traditional media, word of mouth or some combination—to build in-bound links to your site and draw customers to your business.

Invest in a Website for the Long Run
It’s all about establishing yourself as an accessible, trusted authority in your field, making yourself easy to find online, and—once your ideal customer has found you—ensuring that your site will hold her attention for more than just a few seconds and convince her to do business with you.

That kind of website requires an investment of time and thought and, yes, more money than you’d pay your best friend’s neighbor’s whiz kid to build. But the payoff, in the long run, is well worth it.

And you are in business for the long run, right?

Your Tax Dollars at Work: 5 Great U.S. Government Resources for Free Images

Monday, July 25th, 2011


So, you’ve written a great blog post about environmental pressures on our national parks, and you need a stunning image to hook your reader. Where to grab the perfect illustration without worrying about copyrights and royalty fees?

Just ask Uncle Sam.

Many federal government websites provide a wealth of free images that are in the public domain, requiring only a photo credit. After all, since the images were created by government employees, you already paid for use privileges the last time you filed your income taxes.

Here are five sites that offer intriguing finds:

The Library of Congress
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html

Here you’ll find an incredible array of images on topics ranging from the history of baseball in America to photos of the Wright brothers’ experiments with kites. It’s easy to get lost browsing through the digital database. Be sure to check usage rights, as some images do have restrictions.

US Antarctic Program
http://photolibrary.usap.gov/

Love penguins? Need an illustration for your piece on global warming? This site features beautiful images of the Antarctic created under the auspices of the National Science Foundation.

NOAA
http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/

If you’re fascinated by clouds, hurricane chasing or creatures of the deep, this is your url. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website includes images of sky, sea and a wide range of wildlife.

Flags and Maps from the CIA
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html

Need a flag of Bhutan or a map of Afghanistan to illustrate your political analysis? The CIA’s World Factbook is your go-to site for downloads.

Natural Resources Conservation Service
http://photogallery.nrcs.usda.gov/Index.asp

The NRCS’s site, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, features both stunning and sobering images of the American landscape that illustrate human impact on our environment.

Many more sites are worth surfing for free images. Check out the listings at Wikipedia’s public domain image resources. Just beware: Double-check the actual websites to be sure there is no copyright restriction language.

How We Created My Website: The Web Coding Challenge

Friday, April 1st, 2011

From the start of this project, I knew that I wanted a WordPress site, because this platform is favored by Google in searches. I teamed up with Karen Callahan of adventuresonline.com, an experienced WordPress developer based not far from my office. I found her easily on the Internet, so I knew she understood search optimization.

Pushing the WordPress Envelope
With Karen’s ever-patient, good-humored assistance, we converted Ben’s designs into a working website. No design converts precisely from a graphic to web code, but Karen was wonderful to work with, nudging the spacing, adjusting type size, moving this here and that there as I pushed for perfection.

In addition to content, I wrote all of the web page addresses and Internet search descriptions, based on keyword research that I’d done early in the project. Karen coded this information as meta-text, to help with search engine optimization (SEO).

The site went live on March 28, 2011, and I couldn’t be more pleased and grateful to both Ben and Karen for helping me to realize my dream of what this should be.

Adding Fresh Content Via Blogging
So, here I am, telling stories about my work, adding fresh web content via a blog, following the advice I’ve been giving to others for a long time. I plan to share stories about projects I’m working on, challenges I’m facing as a marketing consultant, books I’m reading that contain valuable lessons for marketing, and whatever else seems relevant and interesting to me, and, I hope, to you.

I’d love to hear your feedback about my new site—what works, what doesn’t. And be sure to let me know how you found me!

Credit: Free images from acobox.com