WordPress Plugin Updates

If you have a WordPress website, you need to know that it’s becoming more important than ever to make sure all the plugins on your WordPress website are up to date. Contact us if you want HLJ Creative help do this work for you…

Before you build a website…

Before you set out to create a new website or hire someone to build a website for you, it’s important to be sure that you’ve invested the time to think strategically about your business or organization. Oftentimes people are busy and uninterested, and don’t realize how much their website and marketing efforts will benefit from –

  • Careful analysis of the company or organization’s brand
  • Defining the goals of online efforts
  • Determining the needs of the target audience
  • Providing solutions to the target audience’s needs

Websites don’t need to be a laundry list of your accomplishments. Keep in mind that people are coming to your site not to hear about how great you are, but rather to find out about how you can help them.

Upon visiting your site, a person should be able to “get” what it is that you do after scanning the home page. If visitors have to dig to figure out what you are offering,chances are that you will lose them.

These are just a few thoughts that might help you before you get to work on your new website. After you develop an overall strategy, then you can get into the deciding the design elements. As one of my clients said to me, how do you know where you’re going if you don’t have a plan?

Getting started with a website and online marketing? Here’s what you need…

When I’m out and about and chatting with people, they sometimes ask me what I think they need if they are about to focus on their web presence.  The list below includes the generic answer that I would give to anyone ranging from a sole proprietor, to a political candidate, to a non-profit agency, to an owner of a huge company.

If you are getting ready to begin building an online presence, you need:

  • An overall marketing strategy with an understanding of the target market.
  • A realistic budget.
  • A great logo and tagline.
  • Nice-looking business cards.
  • Facebook and Twitter pages, and depending on your business or organization, a Pinterest, Google Plus, and LinkedIn page.
  • Local listings (Google Places, Yelp, City Search, etc.) that are populated with data about your business or organization.
  • A Mail Chimp or Constant Contact account.
  • A website.
  • Well-written copy for your website.

The next question people usually ask is about what features their website needs to have in order to be eye-catching, fast-loading, feature-rich, and flexible for future growth.  Below is a list of what I tell them…

What features does my website need to have?

  • A striking design that makes a statement, but that is not so striking that you forget about the content.
  • Original images and/or stock photography that complements the website design
  • Content that is well-written that addresses the audience’s problems and offers a solution.
  • A CMS (content management system) backend that supports growth and flexibility.  The best CMSs are ones with easy-to-install form builders, slider modules, photo galleries, e-commerce plugins, blogging modules, search engine optimization tools, and other types of add-on functionality.
  • Ties to social media sites.  This includes both links to your own social media pages as well as social media sharing buttons that allow people to hit the “like,” “tweet,” “pin,” or “share” buttons.
  • A blog that is updated regularly and that people can subscribe to by submitting their email address.
  • A navigational structure that is intuitive and search engine friendly.
  • A text editor that allows for easy formatting and content editing.

These lists can be a good starting point for anyone who is getting ready to establish an online presence or to enhance an existing one.  If you have everything on the list and even a little bit of motivation to ensure that either you or someone you’re paying is pushing out fresh content, it will be impossible not to increase awareness of your business or organization.

Good luck and for more information, contact me anytime…

Seven Design Mistakes to Avoid

I’ve been entertaining the idea of writing a post that displays some of my design work from the old days so that I could show my evolution as a designer and provide tips to new graphic designers on what not to do.

Then I reconsidered…I figured that on a website where I’m attempting to sell myself as a graphic designer, it might not be the best idea to showcase substandard graphic design. What if the ugly picture got indexed by the search engines and associated with my name? What if the client I did the work for sees it and sees me bashing what he/she paid me good money to create?  (Although…I do everything I can to either a) dissuade a client from a poor design choice or b) make the best of what I have to work with…)

Instead, I’ll just attempt to laundry list examples that come to mind of thumbs down work…

Overuse and/or goopy-looking use of the blending options in Photoshop

When you’re just learning Photoshop, it’s easy to get excited when you discover all of the built-in effects that are available.  You might apply the effects without being aware of all the settings that can be adjusted to prevent the look of over-beveling, drop shadows that are too thick and dark, a stroke that is too wide, etc.  The “less is more” design principle should always be given some thought when a designer is in the midst of working with the blending options effects in Photoshop.

Poor Font Choices on Websites

Nowadays, there’s no excuse for anyone to launch a new website that includes text written in Arial, Tahoma, Verdana, Times New Roman, Trebuchet, or Georgia (although I might make an exception for Georgia, because it can be pretty when used creatively).  With the wide variety of fonts that are available in web-safe formats, and especially with the availability of Google Fonts, everyone has access to thousands of fonts that will render on your website without needing to be embedded in graphics.

At the moment, my favorite Google Font is “Satisfy,” as you may be able to tell since I’ve used it throughout my website.  I also really like “Varela Round” and wish that it was available in bold, italics, and thin…

Poor Font Choices in Graphics and Logos

If you are at all observant, you know the cliche fonts out there that have been ridden hard.  Zapfino, Papyrus, and Trajan Pro were everywhere.  With the many free fonts websites out there, no one should open a yoga studio and create a logo written in Papyrus.  And no local magazine should use Zapfino as an accent font.  Period.

Oh my goodness – this is incredible.  I just took a minute and googled “logo with papyrus font” and look what I found: http://www.papyruswatch.com.  It is an entire website dedicated to pointing out the overuse of this font!  It says, “Papyrus Watch sets out to document and expose the overuse of the Papyrus font.” Wow, I have seen it all…this is a clever site for sure.

I need to stop and get back to creating the list, but I just found this blog article: http://courtneyrosecs.com/articles/overusedfonts (note as of May 4, 2016 – this blog is no longer live).  The writer’s list of overused fonts is right on the money – Comic Sans, Curlz, Zapfino, Copperplate, Papyrus, and Zapfino.  Couldn’t agree more.

No Regard for Line Spacing

When lines of text have no room to breathe, it hurts your eyes and can detract from the overall quality of the design of a web page, poster, newsletter, etc.  My rule of thumb is that line spacing should be at least 10-15 points or pixels larger than the font size.  So if your font size is 14px, then your line spacing should be 24px at a minimum.

Use of Uncustomized Themes

If you are developing a website and are planning on using a pre-built theme, never assume that you can get away with not customizing the CSS. Some people who deploy websites may think that it is aesthetically acceptable to apply a theme to a website without making adjustments to the cascading style sheet file(s).  It is possible that coincidentally it could not look bad, but in general, a website that uses a generic style sheet looks like a site that uses a generic style sheet.If you are hiring a web designer to design a website for you, make sure that the designer knows CSS, and look at his or her portfolio to ensure that spacing of objects, font sizes, line spacing, navigation menus, hyperlinks, and all other elements on the site have been given close attention.

Use of Lackluster Banners with Un-compelling Text

If you are going to have large banners with featured information, take the time to find some interesting subject matter.  We don’t need to see a panoramic shot of your waiting room.  Are you trying to sell your waiting room or are you trying to sell your service or expertise?  We don’t need to see a picture of your office with the name of your company beneath it.  No, we want to see your office at a cool angle and an engaging tagline to go with it.  Catch our attention!  Convince us to get in touch with you and give you our money!

Use of played-out, unpleasant, or stereotypical color combinations

Based on my research, it is arguable about the exact number of colors there are that exist in the world, but it is fair to say that there are tens of thousands – if not millions – of colors that the human eye can perceive.  Because there are so many choices available, it can be hard to find color combinations that work and that are also inviting.  However, if you are a designer, it’s your job to take the time to find colors that make people stop and say, “Wow, orange is not my favorite color, but I love how it’s used here with this vibrant shade of maroon” – or something along those lines.

If you need inspiration for coming up with interesting color combinations, check out this website: http://madelineweinrib.com.  You might wonder why I’m sending you here, but once you see the interesting color combinations on the fabrics and throw pillows, you’ll understand.

I’m coming down of my soapbox.  Thanks for your attention and comment or write me and let me know what I’ve left off this list!