Does your website need a fresh look? How to know if a website needs to be redesigned.

There are many factors that go into redesigning a website. Many experts suggest you should focus the majority of your budget and efforts on content and not on design. I could not disagree more! While the content of a website is of the utmost importance, the design is equally important. If the design is not clean and engaging to catch users’ eyes, they will quickly move on to the next site. Don’t get me wrong; if your content is not relevant to the visitor’s request, you will lose the opportunity to convert them to a customer. With that said, there has to be a balance between quality design and excellent content.

Good design attracts people and helps them focus on what the design team feels is important, but good content retains and converts them to customers. There are people who only care about content, but there are also many who care about the combination. Take a car, for example. Some people look at a car to get from point A to B, but most people care about the looks of a car, the features, and how it functions. A website is similar in that if it’s designed poorly, doesn’t function properly, and has bad navigation, a visitor is not going to be as interested in engaging with your content. This is why they are equally important.

A website is an additional component of your brand and should be handled with the same minimum standards as any other aspect of your brand. The voice of the content should complement the layout and design of the site so they are portraying the same message. If they don’t, you’re only going to create brand confusion. Below are a few questions to ask yourself that will help you decide if you should start thinking about a redesign.

  1. Is your website code outdated or obsolete?
    As technologies change so do the languages they’re written in. It’s very important to make sure your site stays current with the latest standards or your search placement will be effected. If your site is built completely out of Tables, that’s a good sign you need to consider a redesign and rebuild of your site.
  2. Can you manage your website?
    Today there is no reason why a site should not be built on a CMS (Content Management System). A CMS gives the site owner the ability to make updates to your site without the knowledge of HTML. This is extremely important these days if you want to stay relevant in the search engines. You have to continue to keep your site fresh and a CMS will help you do this easily.
  3. Has your company had a change in focus?
    Websites are often built when a company first launches. If this is the case, you need to evaluate the site and make sure the products and services are current. You also need to revisit the goals and make sure they are in line with the ongoing vision of the company. I have seen many companies offering a product or service on their websites that they no longer support. This is why having your site built on a CMS is very important.
  4. Has the company brand changed?
    If your company has updated or rebranded but neglected to update the website, then it’s time to redesign. There’s nothing worse than reading marketing materials and then visiting a website and it looks like a different brand. This will make people question your credibility.

These are just a few of many questions that can be asked if a site needs to be redesigned.  If you find yourself answering any of these questions, then you should put an action plan together.

Here are a few tips to consider when thinking about redesigning a website.

  • Have specific goals in mind
    You need to define the goals before you redesign the site. You should also create a list of wants and needs for your new site. This is very important as some items may be out of reach depending on your budget, but they may be phased in at a later date.
  • Inventory your current assets
    It’s important to make sure you inventory all of your current assets and make a list of what needs to be incorporated into the new site.
  • What features do you need
    Do your research and look at competitors’ sites to find any features you feel are important for the new site. Your old site may have just listed products, but now you’re ready to sell online. You will need an eCommerce function for your site.
  • Content strategy
    A content strategy is important to develop during a redesign. You should be thinking about adding value to the site over time. You will have better positioning on the search engines the more active you are with adding content to your site.
  • Make sure you have a budget
    Create a budget for this redesign. A budget will help manage the expectations of everyone involved.
  • Long-term marketing strategy and budget
    Now that you have decided to redesign your site, make sure you think about the long-term marketing strategy. You have to have a plan in place to help drive traffic to the site. It’s more than just publishing your site to the World Wide Web. You should also consider a budget for this ongoing effort. Things like Pay-Per-Click advertising and ongoing execution of content strategies will cost money but can be measured and adjusted as needed. Often times, this is forgotten and there’s not money left in the budget. Don’t let this happen to you.

So do you feel your site needs to be redesigned? If so, I would love to hear why.

photo credit: Kemeny_x via photopin cc

Will there be broken panes on Windows 8?

windows 8

With Microsoft soon releasing Windows 8, it is a good time to open up the window and take a deeper look inside. There are some exciting features being released in this new version of Windows. The big question is will this version be free of broken panes? As many Windows users know, when Microsoft releases new versions of their operation system (OS) it’s not always a good thing. In some cases, its been an outright disaster.

Windows 8 could be the OS to get Microsoft back in the game and potentially make them a contender for the leading OS against Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. One might consider Windows 8  a hybrid OS because it’s designed to work both on a standard type of computer or a touch-based device. Being able to toggle from the new Metro UI to the standard Windows UI is extremely important due to the limited amount of touch-style devices. I believe Microsoft is opening the door for device manufacturers to develop a laptop style device with touch capabilities that has computing power to handle everyday tasks.

Microsoft not only revamps the user experience in Windows 8, they also introduced a new design feel into the interface. I have to say they did a really good job from what I have seen thus far. It has a clean and modern looking design that’s refreshing to see. Microsoft is slowly doing away with the bubbly glossy look and moving to a flat, clean iconic-based design.

Windows 8 Release Preview

Only time will tell if Windows 8 will live up to its full potential and not become a bust like many of its predecessors. If successful, it will be very exciting to see how Google and Apple respond as well as device manufactures. As a designer I want nothing more than a touch-based computer powerful and large enough to design on.

You can download a 90 developer trial if you would like to test-drive it.

Bringing Creativity Back to PR

Being a public relations practitioner is so much more than sending out press releases and pitching stories. Yes, for some, getting client coverage in the Wall Street Journal is the Holy Grail of PR, but for industry professionals, should the goal be a bit … different?

I’m talking about creativity (or, at times, lack thereof) in the field.

Practitioners have the responsibility to push the envelope when it comes to creativity in PR and clients have the responsibility to let public relations professionals do great work.

Sometimes, all it takes is some inspiration to remind us all that public relations, as a part of the marketing mix, is multi-dimensional. (Thanks to IKEA, a Port-O-Potty and an Italian agency’s creative thinking for inspiring this post.)

Channel surfing TV title sequences for design inspiration

As a designer, I’m always looking to stay inspired. I was recently asked to build a newsletter template for the Viking Culinary Center in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. While this project is not very complex, for me, the creative process is similar whether the job is an in-depth website design or a smaller-scale direct mail piece.

Before I start designing, I dig into my bucket of ideas to get the creative juices flowing. For this project, I decided to go beyond my typical sources of inspiration turning instead to TV title sequences.  With today’s technology, many people fast forward through TV selections not realizing they are missing out on some brilliant design concepts.  For me, TV title sequences can be great sources of typography and motion graphics inspiration.

If I were writing this in the ‘90s I would have never looked at a title sequence for inspiration. In fact, I would probably be asking, “Where is the fast-forward button?”  Take the TV show “Growing Pains” as an example. You’ll no longer see that cheesy montage of photos zooming in and out and the poorly placed typography. In today’s programming, with high-definition TV, new technologies and  innovative digital educational opportunities, title sequence designs have become much more visually pleasing.  In fact, some sequences are so well executed they’ve been awarded Emmys.

Here are brilliant executed TV title sequences:

 

 

 

 

 

“The chair is not my son.”

I was in a meeting the other day, discussing the merits of “optimizing”  copy for a client’s website, when I was reminded of an old David Lettermen bit.

Dave was trying to decipher the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

He wondered: Did Jackson sing the lyrics, “The kid is not my son” or “The CHAIR is not my son”? Letterman played the song for the audience, but had stagehand Al Frisch say the word “CHAIR” in a thick New York accent over Jackson singing the word “kid.”

It was quite funny…and quite obvious that “kid” was the correct word in the song.

Reading branded web copy that has been optimized can have the same forced feeling of Al Frisch’s interpretation of the ”Billy Jean” lyrics. Your hidden agenda (ranking) becomes not-so-hidden and you risk eroding your brand’s personality.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important, but there has to be a balance between creating a brand voice and shoe-horning key words (CHAIR) for the sake of a Google rank.

What’s the right balance?

Depends on you, your agency and your client philosophies, but I prefer creative content that resonates with humans first, then SEO spiders.

Marching to the beat of a different drummer

Unsatisfied with the 200+ offerings on television the other evening, I decided to see what I could find on YouTube. I stumbled upon “Dream Theater – The Spirit Carries On Episode 1.” I’m an eclectic music junkie and while I’ve always admired Dream Theater’s technical prowess, I can’t say I’m much of a fan. 

But, for some reason, I clicked the link.

I come to discover that Dream Theater’s original drummer of 25 years, Mike Portnoy, had left the band and that “The Spirit Carries On” consisted of three 20-minute videos in which the four remaining bandmates searched for a new drummer.

What on earth does this have to do with advertising or brand marketing?

Well, it called to mind when a brand — in this case, Dream Theater — searches to find a new agency — in this case, drummer — and the importance of chemistry in that search and eventual client/agency relationship. 

It also reinforced my belief that there is no shortage of great creative talent in the world and that each brings their unique point of view to the table — or drum kit. Most clients already know, or assume, that an ad agency produces solid creative work or they would have never reached out in the first place. 

At the end of the day, it comes down to who in your selection set feels right. 

Well, watch the videos below. Who feels right to you? Who would you have picked to be the next skin pounder for Dream Theater?