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Truly “Mobile Websites” vs “Mobile Friendly” Websites

We get this question a lot.  Will my website be mobile-friendly?  Our answer here…of course.  In this age of growing mobile technology, people use their phone for more and more and surfing internet on phones or tablets is a new standard.  But that being said, there is a difference between being “mobile-friendly” and being a truly “mobile site.”

Mobile-Friendly Websites:

This simply means that your site works as it should on mobile devices.  Not using flash or any technology that wouldn’t work on a phone is a good practice and one that we follow here at creativeNicole.  Usually, if your site is mobile-friendly, your site looks and works exactly  like it does on the web, only smaller.  This is great news as you don’t have to  develop a separate site.  However, as users become more accustomed to having an app for everything, they also prefer when mobile sites look and feel more like an app, and less like a website.

Truly Mobile Websites:

Truly mobile websites are websites that are designed and created specifically for mobile devices. They automatically detect when someone is using a mobile device to access the site and direct them to the mobile version.  The mobile version is usually an extremely simplified version of your site with very little text that uses your basic branding, and maybe a few very simple graphics, but has mostly larger menus, buttons, and gets the user to where they need to go extremely fast.  The user won’t have to zoom in scroll at all.  They basically look and function very similar to an app…without the hefty price tag associated with app development.

mobile websites san diego

There is also a growing number of sites that are now using “responsive” designs, which automatically resize and move objects around according to what device they are being viewed on. These can be great as well…you just have to know your audience and what format is going to work for the type of information you are presenting.

We will always make our websites mobile-friendly, but if you can squeeze it in your budget (and you should), we would encourage you as well as our clients to think about opting for a responsive design or getting an actual mobile website, depending on your client-base and the type of content on your site.  Users take less than a second to decide if they are going to stay on your site or bounce to someone else’s, so why not give them the best user-experience possible?

Read more about our options for mobile websites or  get your mobile website now!

How to Choose the Best Graphic Artist & Website Designer for you

All great business start with a simple idea…but once you have this idea, what’s next?  You get your business plan in place, you start thinking about marketing, but before you can spread the word about your business…you need to establish your identity and brand.   Or maybe you have an existing company, but you realize that your branding and website is way outdated… embarrassingly outdated maybe, and doesn’t at all reflect your company and isn’t helping you acquire new business.

So now it’s time to find a designer who can help you get your branding in order and/or create a website that will make your business look as good visually as it operates fundamentally.

Here are 10 tips to help you find the right graphic artist or website designer for you:

1.  Establish a basic idea of what you want your visual presence to say about your company and/or what specific things you will need your website to do.

It doesn’t need to be set in stone, but you should have some kind of basic ideas.  Look at other websites, either in your field or outside and figure out what you like about them and what you don’t.  Find logos and visual images and even basic colors that resonate with your business.  This is sooooo important.  You will never be able to find the right person to create a visual representation for your brand  if you yourself don’t even know that is.

2.  Establish a realistic budget and/or phases.  

Key word, realistic.  If your budget is small, you’re gonna have to keep it simple, but maybe phase 2 involves a little bit more.  Establish the things that you must have initially as well as a wish list and future plan so you can communicate that with your designer when the time comes.  They should be able to tell you what they can do for what kind of ballpark range but you want to be sure they are aware of the end goal so that they can create something that can be added upon.

3.  Ask for referrals.

Ask people you know, or even people who have websites & branding that you like who did theirs.  Word of mouth is sooooo powerful in this industry.   creativeNicole gets 90% of our business from word of mouth.  If people like something, they will share it.

4.  If you can’t find referrals, try searching your network on LinkedIn, Yelp or Google.

Before contacting them, check out their website and get a feel for who they are and what they can provide you. If you are a small business who focuses on a small niche market and needs a basic presence, most likely you will not be using the same company as a large business with a huge budget that wants all the bells and whistles.

5.  See examples of work & make sure it’s in line with what you’re looking for.  

See MULTIPLE examples of work that you like and be sure that they have at least a few examples that have a similar style as what you’re going for.   They may be great at creating crafty pink and yellow blog sites, but is that type of design going to work for your contracting business?   Also, make sure they have actually done all of the work on projects similar to yours.  Are they showing you a bunch of great sites that they did the coding for but had someone else design?  Or are they showing you a bunch of beautiful sites that someone else coded?  You don’t want to get stuck with someone who says they can do something that they can’t.

6.  Get references.  

Maybe you’ve seen a few websites from a designer that are just what you’re looking for…great!  But how was the process of working with them?  Did the end result take 10 revisions?  Did they take two weeks to respond to emails?  If they don’t have testimonials or reviews on Yelp or Google you can check out, it may be wise to ask them to provide you with a few previous clients they can call.  Any reputable designer will have at least a handful of clients that will rave about them.

7.  Don’t automatically go for the cheapest price!  

Everyone wants to get the most for their money, but if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  If you set out to get 3 quotes about a new website and one comes in way under the other two…there may be a good reason for that and it could cost you more in the end if you end up having to pay two people.  There’s a slim chance that freelancer/company doesn’t know their own value, but more often than not, that’s not the case.  That old saying “you get what you pay for” can be so true.

8.  Know what you are getting for the price.

It’s so important to know what’s included in the quote…how many rounds of revisions, what kind of access you have, what file types you get, etc.  Think about the end result and everything involved and know what things you will be responsible for and what they will be responsible for.  Do you have stock photos that are included?  Are they adding content or is that up to you?  Can you make changes down the line and what does that cost?

9.  COMMUNICATE!

Be very clear with the designer you choose exactly what you are looking for, what kind of timeline you have, and what your expectations are throughout the process.  Also, choosing your words wisely and not using insulting language is going to be best for both of you. If the first round isn’t exactly what you are looking for, tell them what specific things aren’t working or would be more in line with your ideas. Saying “I don’t like it, what am I paying you for?” isn’t helpful, but saying “This looks ok, but I wanted more of this color and and that other color and I want a font like this site has” will help you get what you need in the end and make then want to work harder for you.  Be concise with your criticism…good designers can take it, but no one likes to be insulted or talked down to.

10.  Get it in writing.

If you don’t have your agreement in writing, you could get seriously taken advantage of.  Your agreement should clearly state prices, timelines, revisions and all of the work that is included, and what happens if the work goes beyond the scope.

These tips come from years of having clients come to us after a painful experience with a previous designer or website developer.   It breaks our hearts to see so many people struggling and get taken advantage of, but ultimately, we are happy that we can provide them with what they were looking for all along.   At creativeNicole, we don’t claim to be for everyone, and we don’t try to hoard our clients or our client’s files because we know our value and aren’t afraid of losing them.  We know that if you are good to people, good things will come your way.  Of course we think we are the bees knees, but even if you don’t choose us for your next project, hopefully by following the 10 tips above, you will be able to choose the right fit for you.

QR Codes…what are these things anyways? And how can they help me?

Unless you’ve been hiding out for the last few years, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a QR code or ten…even if you’re not quite sure that’s what it was. While us technology nerds are using them on every piece of marketing we can, there are still a handful of people out there that have no  idea what these little black and white square designs are, or what to do with them.  But luckily…more and more people are starting to catch on.  If you’re not one of them, here’s the downlow on how you can start using them in your business or personal life.

Basically, a QR code is similar to a UPC code (except it’s 2 dimensional, instead of one dimensional) that can be scanned by your phone, and tells your phone to do something… usually this is to go to a web address (although they can also be used to have your phone call or text).  To scan them, you simply open the app, hit the scan button, then voila…your phone does the rest.  If you don’t already have one, check out RedLaser and ScanLife (for iPhone) or QR Droid and Barcode Scanner (for Android).  Most of these apps can also be used to scan UPC codes of any product and find out where you can buy it online or locally.  Not too shabby huh?

So why use these in your own marketing?  Well…now that people use their mobile phones for almost everything, it’s an easy way to connect people who are in your store, or who you meet in person, to your website or any other site you’d like to direct them to (Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, or Google Places even), with just a few clicks on their phone, rather than having them type in a web address manually.  This is a time of instant gratification, and a QR code connects your customers to you faster than traditional means of print media.  And on top of that…they are super easy to generate.  Just use a site like goqr.me, and just type in the URL, and the online generator will generate one for you.

How do we suggest using them in your marketing?  Well nowadays, any print marketing piece you do should have a QR code, it’s kind of acts as a big call to action button on your website, sending users exactly where you want them to go.  Do you want them to see a special deal on your site?  Have them sign up for your newsletter?  Contact you immediately? Or maybe it’s on a piece that you give to current customers to leave a review for you.  There are a lot of possibilities, check out the one we did for Sagewood Group below:

So now you you can be one of the cool techy folks who’s on board with the latest trends.  And if you have your own business and would like creativeNicole to come up with a really powerful print marketing piece, feel free to contact us. 

 

Why use WordPress as a CMS (Content Management System)?

When it comes to choosing the best platform for your website, you have a few options.  But these days, you can’t touch a mouse without running across a site built on the WordPress platform, which is what creativeNicole uses to build all of their websites.  But why do we use WordPress over the other platforms out there?  Well…it may have started as a place for bloggers, but with the help of a strong developer community worldwide, it has made its way to the front of the line.  Here are our top 3 reasons why we think it rocks, and you should too:

Updates:

Back in the stone-age days of the first websites, you had to have a pretty solid understanding of HTML to make any kind of minor updates to websites (even just adding an image or editing text).  With the introduction of content management systems like WordPress, that is no longer the case.  While setting up a beautiful, custom site still takes a professional, once it’s set up, making updates is as simple as using Facebook.  Change the text on a page? Add a photo? Add pages?  Start blogging and juice up your SEO?  Yes…you can do that.  And if you get your WordPress site through creativeNicole, you will have a video tutorial to show you just how easy it is (but don’t worry, we’re always here if you have questions or need help along the way).

Plugins:

Social media integration? Check. Event manager? Check. eCommerce, membership, lead-conversion? Check, check, check.  There are tens of thousands of plugins available that can transform your WordPress site into a powerful tool…the possibilities are endless. The question is not what can plugins do for your WordPress site, it’s knowing how to use the best ones to accomplish your online goals.  At creativeNicole, we’ve done our homework, and we know exactly what to “plug-in” to your site for the best user experience possible.

SEO:

Search Engine Optimization…it’s a hot topic these days.  There are thousands of books and articles and people who can help you get to the top. But even the best SEO specialist is limited if your site isn’t built on a solid infrastructure.  Between dynamic content integration (blogging), social media sharing capabilities, permalinks and SEO plugins available (We like All-in-one SEO Pack and Headspace2), you can be sure that your site is built on a solid SEO foundation which ensures your efforts won’t go unrewarded.

So if everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you?  Probably not. But if everyone else is heading to a beautiful tropical beach, instead of jumping off a bridge, it kinda sounds like a good idea.  Make WordPress be the tropical beach of websites.  If you have any questions about custom wordpress websites, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

 

 

Sneak Peak at the New Turn-Key Websites

Why create Turn-Key sites when our custom sites are sweet?  While our sites look great, sometimes the thought of putting together a custom website can be overwhelming for a small businesses.  It’s the law of supply and demand, and the demand is coming from small businesses who need something beautiful, cost-effective and quick…they always say you can’t have all three, but our aim is to prove “them” wrong.

You have a business, you have some info and you need to get a web presence…stat.  Wouldn’t it be great to see a handful of predesigned layouts with optimized pages and functionality for your business?  And then you could just choose the one that works best, insert some rockin’ graphics (that’s where we come in)  and walk away with a Web 2.0 site that’s designed to drive business and easy to update.   Our Small Business Solution and Turn-Key sites do just that.

They officially launch next month, but we are so giddy about these, we set up a few basic ones that will give you a little sneak peak before we finish all the bells and whistles.

Andretta’s Music Services

Betsyfood.com

February 2012 Special – Free Hosting for New Custom Websites!

Through the end of the month, creativeNicole is offering free hosting for the first quarter ($75 value) or a $75 Visa gift card for any referral on any custom website design started in the month of February.  Sweet deal huh?

Just head over to our contact page to request a free consultation and we’ll make sure you get hooked up.  If you are referring someone, be sure they put your name in the “How did you hear of us?” referral box.  Couldn’t be more simple…

*Please note this only applies to new custom sites starting at $1,599 and does not apply to our Small Business Solution Turn Key sites. 

 

 

Stop SOPA & PIPA

There’s a dangerous legislation lurking in Washington known as the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Giant sites all over the web are blacking themselves out today to help spread awareness because they understand the importance of stopping these acts. Watch the video to learn more about what these mean and then sign the petition below!

 

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

So what can you do?  I urge you to sign this petition to have your voice be heard!

Free Facebook Cover Template for the New Timeline View

Facebook finally unrolled the new timeline view for the mass public.  Some love it, some hate it, but in the end, you’ll learn to accept it because what else are you going to do?  Stop using Facebook?  Right….

Although the new Facebook may remind you of MySpace, the timeline is actually kinda brilliant and a cool way to look back on your life once you get used to it.  In addition, they’ve allowed for some slight customization of your profile page with their new “Cover Photos”.

For the cover photo, you can upload any larger sized photo and Facebook will crop it for you, but for those of you who want a little more control, you can size it to 850×315 to see exactly how it’s going to look.  OR…you can use the template below to see how it will look with your profile photo.  If you are a photoshop pro (or even a newbie) and want to get a little creative, I’ve included a photoshop version as well.

Download the Facebook Cover Template for Timeline View (JPG)

Download the Facebook Cover Template for Timeline View (PSD)

Not artsy, but want something snazzy?  Check out some of the Covers we’ve done here at creativeNicole:

Custom Designed Facebook Cover – Nicole Brors

Custom Designed Facebook Cover – Jim Marks

Custom Designed Facebook Cover – Bev Thorn

Custom Designed Facebook Cover – Greg Sexton

Custom Designed Facebook Cover – Dee Marie Fisher

And guess what…you can get yours for only $75!

Contact us for your customized Facebook Cover photo today!

 

 

eCommerce, Membership and Conversion…oh my!

Occasionally a client comes along with a website that is severely outdated and needs a huge overhaul.  And when they are 100% on board to roll with the results of the consultation, it’s quite rewarding to be able to put everything you’ve learned up until this point to use…even if it does take about 10 design revisions (which ultimately look like the initial design we presented).  But finally, WiCONnetwork.com  is to a point where it’s gaining traffic, increasing stickiness (how long a user stays on a site), and converting leads.

Their old website…which was built without any kind of content management system, call-to-action buttons or lead capture system, has been transformed into a website that not only allows users to sign up for membership or services in multiple ways, but has more organized information, is easy to manage on the back-end and–of course–is way better on the eyes.

Looking for great looking email signatures?

Look no further.  Welcome WiseStamp
.  For those of us who prefer to use Gmail instead of Outlook, but still want an ultra professional email signature, WiseStamp is the solution.

Not only can you insert images and links for all of your web emails, but you can set up icons for all of your social networks, pull the latest post from your blog, or pull your latest tweets.  Want to share more?  They have a ton of apps you can integrate including eBay, Etsy, Eventbrite or a multitude of charities.  Pretty sweet huh?

But what if you don’t want all your professional contacts to see your personal Facebook account or blog?  WiseStamp has you covered.  The basic free version allows you two signatures to choose from.  Want more options?  Their Plus and Pro versions offer even more signature options and the ability to create custom social icons.

If you use web based email for any kind of business, are trying to grow your social network, or promote any kind of blog or special cause, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be using WiseStamp. So what are you waiting for? Head on over and check it out at WiseStamp.com