Design and marketing tips for growing businesses

Strategies to help businesses grow by Olsen Creative

1. Mobile-friendly website

Customers are using smartphones and tablets to do a lot more work on the go. A responsive layout adjusts to the many different screen sizes and options available.

2. Search Engine Optimization

There's content and there's "deep content". Deep content is the metadata under the hood of your site that helps your site be easily indexed and found in a web search.

3. Social network integration

Meet your customers where they are. Start a business page on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and other communities. Link back to your website, the hub of communication.

4. Brand continuity

This has always been (and should always be) a priority, but especially as businesses reach out in new ways and places, recognition from community to community is more important than ever. Most online communities offer some kind of visual customization, but don't forget that your writing tone also represents your brand. Always use the same voice.

5. Customer interaction

Use your website to get feedback. Let customers post product reviews, use social network "Share" buttons, encourage involvement. Let customers suggest and vote on trends or products. Provide a section where they can upload photos, add comments, show how and where they use your products.

The two ways we design websites

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1) From scratch. We start with a Photoshop layout, slice it up, code it out and add your content with tender, loving care. Totally custom, totally you.

2) From a commercial template. Oh, yes – we said it. Canned design. Why, why, why would we admit to that? Because we're not so big to think that we're the only ones in the world who can design, and we're economical enough to not recreate the wheel. There are some awesome templates out there that might be exactly what you need. (Well, except they look like everyone else's site that uses that template. That's why we always customize it to coordinate with your brand.)

We're all facing tight budgets, which is why you need to get the biggest bang for your buck. Sometimes we need to cut down on design time to put more effort toward marketing strategy. Templates are one way that we can adjust resources to get things off the ground quickly and easily, and affordably.

Either way, we'll ensure that your site will be found in a web search, will be compatible across the myriad of browsers and interfaces in the world today, and will inspire your customers to take action. We'll work with you to find the solution that best fits your needs and budget.

See our websites portfolio

How much does a website cost?

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The easiest way to answer this question is to put it into a context. How much does a house cost?

If you only need four walls, a door, a window and a roof, and you're planning to purchase and assemble the materials yourself, you can do it on the cheap. If you're not handy with the tools used, it still won't cost much in labor even if you have a professional build your small house for you.

What if you require a little larger structure? How many rooms do you need? Do you want to use a ready-made plan, or a custom design? Do you want your guests to have full access to all of your house, or do you want to separate public and private areas? As the project becomes more complex, there is more to consider, more to build and more things that need to function together.

What if the house is not for personal use, but is a business structure? Then you have another set of challenges. What if you have a business that exists in several locations? And/or you need employees to access and control various parts of the structure?

In this website analogy, the basic four walls and roof is like an online brochure. It is the simplest of websites with some information about your product or service and a way for people to contact you by way of some combination of address, phone and email.

The next level of website has more information and some interactive elements that enhance the user experience. It performs some function beyond merely conveying information.

The third represents a larger, perhaps enterprise level website, where information changes and updates often. It is likely database driven (could be e-commerce, product pricing sheets, community elements, a blog, etc), and the content itself may be accessible by different levels of website editors, as well as varying customer level access.

One advantage that websites have over houses is that it's pretty easy to add onto the structure while maintaining the original appearance. Websites can expand over time easier than houses (keeping in mind that poor planning can be detrimental to a project in any industry), and thus be cost-effective by assembling only the parts needed at this point in time. "Build-as-you-go" is an effective web development strategy as long as there is a clear goal and plan for growth.

How much should I budget?

How much you have to spend will determine the growth rate of your website. While a database driven e-commerce website can easily set you back 8-10 grand, for a small or start-up business, depending on your product, it may not be necessary to outlay that kind of cash at the inception. You can get started with a deposit of just a few hundred dollars to begin work, a simple template with a few pages and a growth plan. As you work with your web developer over the span of a few months, your website can start bringing in customers — thus, income — to help fund future growth.

This is the kind of website growth plan that I frequently recommend to small businesses.
1. Go live as soon as you can with what your budget will allow.
2. Get your product or service information out there with a way for new customers to contact you.
3. Follow your growth plan to develop your website from there.

Websites cost varying amounts depending on functionality. Your budget will determine the growth rate. Your website plan will keep you on track as you work toward your goals. By just doing one manageable thing at a time, you'd be surprised at how quickly and affordably you can develop a strong presence on the web.

Tagged in: Budget Cost Planning

I'm an artist. A graphic artist. I only build websites because that's where my industry is focused. I'm thus forced into the world of programming. (So I'm a programmer? Eeeww!) This is the main source of my career frustration - being an artist at heart but creating through the writing of code. Just a little counter-intuitive.

Here's an amusing anecdote from something that happened to me yesterday:

The challenge was to create a "BUY" link button by having a red rectangle with white type inside. Rather than delve into detail, let's just say that I found the place in the style sheet where I could write in "rectangle=red, type=white". (It was black with white type originally, so all I had to do was write in "red" where the word "black" was. EASY switch!)

Then I went back to my word "BUY" and framed it with the code that would tell it how to act. Essentially, [red button] BUY [/red button].

No go. No red button no matter what I did. It stayed the original black. VERY frustrating! Just another WTF Moment in the life of an artist-turned-programmer. I tried every kind of troubleshooting I could think of, and then went to Google to search for the problem. That takes a while when you don't know exactly where the problem is. But I'll get to the point.

THE FIX:
I had to insert the snippet "!important" into the line of the style sheet - and BINGO, it worked.

!important ??? What are some of the alternatives? !whenever-you-have-time ?? Or !if-its-not-too-much-trouble ?? Or !you-better-or-I'll-kick-your-ass ??

This PROVES that Computers have Evolved! You can't just make a simple change and have it accept it without question. You have to let it know that the change is !important for it to take effect.

Those of you who think that computer programming is some cut and dry, boring, unimaginative, pocket-protecting head space, let me tell you - you are mistaken. It requires a certain level of tact and understanding. Like any relationship.

Perhaps next time I should try " !please " ...

Who has time for social media?

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I spent the last couple weeks testing what happens when I link my site to social networks like Facebook and Twitter (I was already linked to my LinkedIn profile). There has been a marked increase in visitors to my site and blog. 

 

In this new media world, there are obvious benefits to using social media and networking to encourage new visitors to come to your site. More visitors means more potential clients. After less than two days on Twitter I racked up two dozen Followers without even trying. What's not to like? Some people on there even have tens-of-thousands of people following their "tweets".

 
But hang on. For one thing, wow - that's a lot of information coming at me all at once. I had information overload after only modest effort. Plus, I bill clients by the hour. Time spent tweeting is time away from building a website for an existing client. And if my clients are all out tweeting, they aren't doing that thing they do, either. 
 
I had been studying the activity of professional social mediacs. How does a small business owner of a product or service manage the time it takes to go make all of these social contacts? You can't spend ALL day at the water cooler.
 
John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing outlined his routine for social media yesterday. For those of you just starting out in social media it will seem very time-consuming (and perhaps a little OCD). You will probably say that you don't have the time to devote to such a strategy. But keep things in perspective: Rome wasn't built in a day, John Jantsch markets for a living, and even modest effort really does create measurable results.
 
Here are the goals I've set for myself for 2009:
 
  • Update my Olsen Creative website once a month (I also added news links so there's new content on there every day)
  • Post to my Short-term Strategies blog once a week (set to distribute posts to my website and Facebook notes)
  • Create and maintain a del.icio.us list of bookmarks (I've started a personal list, but want to create one for business)
  • Twitter about olsencreative at the beginning and end of my day (I had a deadline today and didn't tweet about it - just got to work)
  • Start a Facebook Page for Olsen Creative
Are you using social media? What services? What are your goals?

Joshua Green Building Website

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Along with start of the coming school year, I am excited to announce the launch of yet another website by Olsen Creative!

We have just completed design on a website for the Joshua Green Building Restoration which is just getting underway in downtown Seattle at 4th and Pike. The website focuses on the vision, direction and leasing opportunities (office and retail in a prime location) for this historic building, set to reopen its doors in 2009. Built in 1909, it has been owned and maintained by the family of Joshua Green - the Joshua Green Corporation - ever since. Isn't that some kind of record?

http://www.joshuagreenbuilding.com/

The website project was commissioned by Urban Renaissance Group, a full-service commercial real estate company based in the Pacific Northwest. The driving force behind Urban Renaissance Group is a core belief that America is poised for a re-urbanization of its major cities, and for the creation of urban villages in its suburbs. This change is a distinct departure from land use trends marked by sprawl and de-centralization over the last 50 years.

The mission of Urban Renaissance Group is to be a catalyst that understands and ignites this change.

I wish to thank Renee Evans at UrbanRenGroup for igniting this project. The opposite of longevity is the speed by which this got pushed through. Start to launch in two weeks. Renee, thank you for providing complete, concise information - you're on fire! No really, I see smoke... (kidding)

http://www.urbanrengroup.com/

For more information on the Joshua Green Corporation, please visit their website. Be sure to click the About Us tab for their very interesting family history:

http://www.joshuagreencorp.com/


Revitalization of our urban centers - fresh, new websites - a NEW SCHOOL YEAR! We are giddy with excitement!
Tagged in: Launch

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