Houston Website Designers Seminar Explores Crucial Client Conversation Topics

Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the Houston Website Designer Series monthly seminar, hosted by the Art Institute of Houston.  Aaron Long, a VP here at Schipul, was one of the presenters alongside Bo Bothe from BrandExtract, Joe Robbins from Joe Robbins Photography, and Tom King with Forward Marketing.

The presenters each shared stories and tips from their past experiences working on website design projects with clients to an audience of Houston developers, designers, and design students.  I gained new insight about how a design project can either go smoothly and stay within budget or go horribly wrong and become very costly solely on the basis of the types of conversations the agency or designer has with their clients throughout the project.

Designing a Website is Complicated

The process of building and designing a website is often more technical and time intensive than most people realize.  There is also the added challenge that our clients want a website for marketing their products and services to generate new leads.  This adds complex elements to the project to ensure proper branding, communication of the company and what you do, has calls to action and specific content for search engine marketing, plus custom development like a shopping cart for e-commerce, event registration, site login and permissions capabilities, etc.

Designing a complex website requires excellent 2-way communications between the client and the project managers and account executives.  As in every industry, this presents a challenge sometimes.  Lawyers struggle to explain complicated legal contracts with their clients, real estate agents have to explain the title and loan processes to clients, and doctors find ways to discuss very private, medical issues with their patients.

The Keys to Successful Communication

Education

As each of the presenters shared their tips for improving communication, Education was at the core of each success story.

Tom King on Designing Content Strategy

Tom King explained the complications of explaining to clients the importance of creating a content marketing strategy before the website design project kicks-off and integrating the strategy with the overall project.  Many clients want their website to be found in search engines and by new leads, and don’t realize how much time and research is involved in identifying the right keywords and creating the content that will go on the website before it launches and after it launches in an ongoing effort to boost search engine rankings.

To educate clients and prospects, Tom shares videos and resources from Google’s Zero Moment of Truth education series and shows clients these 2 videos that share the Coca Cola Content 2020 strategy:

Tom explained that he shows prospects these videos before the sales meeting because “if they watch these and don’t get it, then we won’t work well together.”

Bo Bothe on Designing Brand Identity

Bo Bothe’s presentation walked the audience through communicating with Marathon Oil’s executives as BrandExtract managed the project to redesign Marathon Oil’s entire brand identity.  According to Bo, education about every step of the project down to teaching Marathon Oil the finer aspects of just what a logo is, was critical to the success of the project.

You can see the results of the rebranding in this video:

Aaron Long on Designing Software

Aaron Long’s presentation stresses the importance of educating clients on the differences between software and preferences in order to keep projects within budget and time lines.  Aaron communicates to clients that the purpose of software is to lower costs, and content management systems are software that are already built and will lower the cost of the website project if clients use it.  Preferences, on the other hand, raise costs and when a client wants to customize software for their project, they need to be aware that custom software development is the most expensive thing in a project.

One tip Aaron shared during his presentation is that it is up to the designers and developers to ask clients more specific questions about what they envision the end result of the website to be.  Don’t just accept it when a client says they want a shopping cart feature with their website, dig deeper and find out what products the clients will sell with the shopping cart, what special functions will this cart need to do for selling products, shipping, collecting customer data, etc.  Aaron suggests showing clients working sites with examples of what is standard so clients can better understand what they are buying when they are buying the software.

Here’s Aaron’s presentation slides to view his other tips for educating clients on the more technical side of a website design project:

Joe Robbins on Designing Web Photography

Joe Robbins brought his experience in creating professional photographs and images for advertising in print and on the web to the seminar to share the importance of having quality photographs on your website. He discussed the conversation designers should have with clients and recommended educating clients on the costs associated with photographs along with the pros and cons for hiring a professional photographer compared to stock photos and photographs already owned by the client.

Joe explained that “a well designed website is very important, but if your choice of photography is poor, all that hard work could come to nothing.  A visually arresting site can be the difference between a sale/inquiry and the customer leaving your site prematurely.”

Website Design is NOT About the Design

Although you might find this ironic, not one of the speakers for a website designer seminar spoke about graphic design for websites or talking to clients about design for the website projects.  They all stressed the importance of creating a website that marketed and sold your company online to obtain new customers.

Tom King’s remark was that content brought new visitors to your website via search engines and not the design or appearance of the site.

Bo Bothe insightfully said “You can’t just make things pretty anymore, you have to make things that work.”

“Funny makes money, not necessarily pretty” was the comment from Aaron Long regarding creating websites that drive revenue.

And Joe Robbins demonstrated how to incorporate quality photography into your website for a more visually appealing site that reflected your brand in the same way companies use glossy print advertisements offline.

The presenters recommend that we steer our focus away from the flash-based, graphic-heavy websites that make it difficult to add and edit content on and also are poorly ranked by search engines.  Instead, focus on a strategy that integrates your marketing efforts with your website design.

This seminar explained the importance of talking with and educating clients and hopefully the videos and presentations I’ve included from the seminar will give you a better understanding of the process involved with building a complex website.  I encourage you to attend the next Houston Website Designers Seminar coming up in July if you are interested in learning more.  The seminars are always free to attend.

If you want to learn more about Schipul’s website design process to build complex websites that generate leads and revenue for companies, contact us and check out our training calendar for upcoming web marketing events and webinars we’re hosting!

 

Orange Show Gala brings sparkles, costumes + jazz to 2011!

The Orange Show Gala 2011 by Ed Schipul

We love working with all of our clients (seriously, they are amazing), but few clients can throw a costume and glitter festival like The Orange Show.  Check out some of our photos (taken by Ed Schipul and Derek Key) from their 30th Anniversary Orange Show Gala and tag yourself on the Orange Show Facebook page if you see yourself!

The Orange Show Gala 2011 crowd

Happy faces at the Orange Show Gala 2011

Welcome to the Orange Show Gala 2011

Dancing at The Orange Show Gala 2011

Great friends at the Orange Show Gala 2011

 

Learn more about The Orange Show (one of Houston’s art and creative treasures) on their website and be sure to connect on Facebook to attend their next awesome event!

Nerd Alert: Get your CSS menus in front of the new YouTube player

In an effort to keep up with HTML5, just like Vimeo, YouTube has started to implement <iframe>s for their <embed> codes as a means of displaying their videos. By doing so, it allows a wider variety of devices to view an embedded YouTube (or Vimeo) video.

However, for all you developers out there, this means the old-school way of fixing a CSS-only drop-down menu from going behind an embed code no longer works. Previously (and this still works with the old code), you had to use z-index and wmode=”transparent” to make sure your menus show in front of the video.

The Previous Way

Old embed code:

<object width="640" height="390"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/fDX7tevXO1E?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><param wmode="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/fDX7tevXO1E?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" wmode="transparent" width="640" height="390"></embed></object>

Emphasis added. What is in red above was necessary to put CSS menu drop-downs in front of the YouTube player.

The New Way

To get your videos behind the menu as they’re meant to be, the “wmode” is now part of the query string added to the end of the source of the YouTube video:

<iframe title="YouTube video player" width="640" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/fDX7tevXO1E?wmode=transparent" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

This will fix your issue.

It should also be noted that, so far, this has only been noticed in Chrome and IE. Firefox appears to behave as normal.

NTEN 2011 Knowledge Share: Using Video to Raise Funds

This year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) was one for the record books. CiviCRM was a buzz, making open-source software the hero for a multitude of constituent management woes. Speaking of CRMs, have you ever heard of a SocialCRM, yep…it’s coming people! And of course there was Google, never one to show up empty handed, launching “Google for Nonprofits” with the most adorable chocolate bars in tow. There were so many new, and often misspelled, online fund-raising technologies being discussed that many might have walked away a tad overwhelmed.

So what’s an organization to do? What is the best way to raise money online?

One word – VIDEO. And let me tell you why…

While meandering around NTC, a session caught my eye called, “Videos that Raise Money” (See3 Communications). I like videos, and I like helping our nonprofit clients raise money so I figured this would be a win/win situation. Then BAM…statistics were thrown right in my face:

“In December 2010 ComScore reported that 85% of US internet users watched online video, 88.6 million people watched online video on an average single day and the average American spent more than 14 hours watching online video (ComScore, February 2011)”

Geez, whatever happened to playing outside, but I digress…

This data cannot be ignored, and with all of the inexpensive ways to produce videos, nonprofits need to utilize this growing audience to increase awareness and of course, increase online donations.

Ok, so where should an organization begin? According to the guys over at See3, fund-raising has a life cycle and video becomes increasingly relevant during each stage.

Video Fund-raising Life Cycle

Awareness & Identification

Get people to think about the problem and how your organization is dealing with it; and remember, simplicity can force someone to listen.

“It’s in Your Hands”www.tippytap.org

Solicitation

Go ahead and just ask; allow your donors to create social capital.

“Seriously, Serious PSA”www.malarianomore.org

 

Acknowledgement

Just say thank you.“The Boy Who Lived”www.uncultured.com

 

Engagement

Show your donors where their money went and how much it has helped your organization.“Prayer Answered in the Form of a Dairy Cow”www.worldvision.org

 

Stewardship

Let your donors know the bigger impact.“Stand With Haiti”www.oxfam.org


 

 

Check out the entire presentation on See3’s slideshare!

What Would Warhol Do?

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” – Andy Warhol, 1968

I attended a screening of Warhol on TV presented by Aurora Picture Show at the Menil Collection last Friday night. The film was a collection of excerpts of works created by and featuring Andy Warhol. The film was curated by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA.

Andy Warhol’s obsession with celebrity and the lives of the rich in famous is well documented, and very evident in the film. What hit me was his fervent dedication to documenting his life and the world around him in photographs and video. Take this photo I took of a video of Andy being done up in drag.

In today’s pop culture, our obsession with the lives of the rich and famous is at an all time high. The entire Charlie Sheen saga has been a grim reminder of how much we thirst for a good celebrity train wreck. But a democratization of the velvet rope has occurred with the proliferation of camera phones. Whether it is the video of Cyndi Lauper singing Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun in an airport terminal . . .

Or a little girl singing the new Lady GaGa single . . .

 

There are moments of Warholian fascination being born (this way) every day. It’s had me thinking about what Andy Warhol’s art would have looked like if he was armed with an iPhone. The glut of photography apps on the iPhone, particularly those dedicated to creating a vintage look to your photos, make your iPhone reminiscent of Warhol’s ubiquitous cameras. Here are a couple of my favorites

Instagram – FREE

Instagram is incredibly simple. Take a picture, apply a cool filter, share with other user and over your social networks. They recently added hashtag support allowing users to tag their photos, making them searchable. Instagram is great to get quick snaps of random things going on around you. The in-app feed is great for those moments when you want to just look at something interesting in the middle of the day. You can also like and comment on your friends photos. There is also a Popular button that takes you to a collection of the most liked photos taken by Instagram users.

Hipstamatic – $2.99 plus multiple $.99, Hipstapaks (app currently on sale for $1.99)

I’ll warn you now, this app can lead to a serious obession. I LOVE Hipstamatic. While the app comes with a nice set of equipment up front, the real fun is adding the Hipstapaks, expanding your lens, film and camera options. I doubt I’ll ever learn how to use this app to its fullest potential, but I know it’s going to be fun trying. Another great feature of this app is the Hipstamart. You can upload photos from your phone into the Hipstamart, and order high quality prints! They come in a nifty little envelope that folds into a stand-up frame.

Hipstamatic just takes great photos. You can also share them in Instagram, doubling the AWESOME! One more thing, if you’re going to be using Hipstamatic, you might as well invest in SwankoLab as well. It’s like having an entire dark room in your pocket!

8mm Vintage Camera – $1.99

I haven’t been able to use 8mm as much as I would like. As you can probably imagine, it turns your iPhone into an 8mm camera. Like Hipstamatic, it comes with a small collection of lenses and films to experiment with. Turn your videos into home movies from yesteryear!

Fortunately, the bad fashion from the 70’s is not included.

With an iPhone and these apps, anyone can lead the life of Andy Warhol. And getting your 15 minutes of fame just got a bit easier. Happy content creating!