What is a WordPress strategic partner and why you need one

So it’s the new year, and you are working on a new site. Maybe it’s for your company, or maybe it’s something you are working on for a client and you are shaping the content and creative for them. We all know WordPress is amazing, powers 50% of the websites out there today, and offers a very deep resource pool of free or low cost add ons.

Fast forward a few months, and you are all done. But it’s not the dream project you had envisioned. The journey to this point was long, and had a lot of bumps in the road. The theme needed more work to customize than you thought,. You now have a ton of plugins, widgets, and options to round out the gaps in the theme. The comments to the developers support forum took 2 weeks to get a sub par reply. Now moving the site from staging to production is a daunting task.

We hear stories like this almost daily. That $59 theme is now all the sudden getting more expensive with the hours you put into it, and the lost ROI with launch delays. All those bells and whistles from the feature list now look more like a long list of things to manage instead of great benefits.


Enter the WordPress strategic partner.


Let’s tell a different story here. You have an idea for a new site, and even some great examples of the end goal. Working closely with the admin team, designers, and project managers, together we craft the needs, features, user experiences, timeline and budget. As the designs go through the wireframe process, and later full design comps, our development team is reviewing & discussing options. Options and ideas to achieve the designed goal, outlining potential hurdles that may arise with the feature, timeline, budget, or end administration of content.

Together we go through several rounds of this. Finally landing on an amazing stack of designs that work across multiple devices sizes, with clarity on expected functions, content management, and performance. Our team dives into the code. Using our 11+ years of experience with CMS tools, we craft a custom WordPress theme that meets the goals and objectives planned, with a very specific task of making the design and the administration work together with unity and grace. No goofy plugins, widgets, short codes, or worse, code in the editor panel.

You are now left with a site custom built to meet the exact specifications, features and planned outcome of the site, and a design that matches up perfectly to an administration experience. This eliminates the need for manuals, training sessions, or guesswork. Our quality assurance process has checked the site on a wide array of physical tablets, smart phones and laptops for the ultimate test in compatibility, as well as optimized the site for speed and SEO. Fast forward 3 years, and the site is still running great. Maybe a few plugin updates here and there, but nothing that risks crashing the site, since we coded in the critical functions, leaving a few plugins to handle auxiliary things less critical to the site.


What to look for in a strategic WordPress partner?


With any long term project, relationship is key. We have had some of our clients over 10 years with many sites together because relationships win. When you have a partner, you have someone to call when things aren’t working right. You learn to get comfortable with details like finances and project risks. It’s a 2 way street. Our partners pay our invoices in a timely fashion, know what is critical versus important, they know that good work takes a little time, and they know to listen to our advice. Not in negative, don’t challenge our opinion, but in a respectful, purposeful, intentional way. The best partners are on a journey, together.

Look for agencies that have credibility, i.e. have they been actively developing for WordPress for a few years, and know how to make custom themes. Look to chat with long term clients. We are always more than happy to have a potential client call up a partner for a reference. Finally notice what they ask about you. Do they care about your bigger business goals and how they fit in, are they happy to share resources and ideas to help you get there?


What about the costs?


Can’t beat around this bush. You get what you pay for and good works costs time and money. But if you are looking for a partner to go to the next level in your business, know that it’s going to take some time, effort, and funding. We do our best to always be upfront, and clear with how much something costs. If that’s too high, say so, and share what you can work within. A good partner will help find solutions.


How does a strategic WordPress partner work with agencies?


Working with an agency who finds and manages the client relationship is tricky. We know that these relationships can go two ways. The first way, the developers are behind the scenes, white labeled, and never talking to the client. These are tricky, there ends up being a “telephone game” of communication, where the developer and client never talk, leaving designers and project managers in the middle to translate. Sometimes this leads to a mess when it comes to technical discussions. Additionally, this can leave clients feeling a lack of trust if (more like when) they figure out the developers are not staff, damaging all relationships along the way.

On the opposite end, sits the strategic partner. With transparency, we work together to craft a proposal, project features, and it’s well known that Factor1 is your WordPress strategic partner for this project. Shaping the conversation from the beginning that you are the branding and design experts, and we are the WordPress experts needed to launch this critical project. We work mainly behind the scenes, but when things get hard, or ready to launch, the client, your team, and our teams can comfortable jump on a call with no concerns about who is who.

Down with the rockstars and ninjas


Every day I see or hear companies touting they are design rockstars, or only hire WordPress ninjas. Can we stop with that as a work culture in general. I know I for one do not want to hire a rockstar accountant, or a plumbing ninja. It’s just not the kind of people I like to do business with.

Think about it with me.

When you think rockstar, do you think of dependable, in the office before 8am, quick to follow up, and someone who is eager to solve your problems? I know I don’t. I’m sure there are some really great rockstars out there that are super nice stable people, but that’s not my first expectation by any means.

What about ninjas? They are often well trained with years of experience, so far so good. But next thing you know they are stealthy, rarely seen or heard from. Not what I want from my web designer or developer thats for sure.

So maybe we just don’t have catchy names? Maybe we just embrace honesty and humility. Factor1 is a staff of real people, no ninjas, rockstars, or vikings (what, that’s not a thing?). We have our strengths and weaknesses like you. We enjoy being creative, building solutions and pop-tarts. Sometimes we get distracted by shiny things or ramble on a little too long about our weekend. At the end of the day we care. We want what’s best for the client.

I’m not sure about you, but I’ll take that any day over a rockstar or ninja.

Mobile friendly for better SEO


While we have been long pushing mobile responsive sites for our projects over the last few years, google is making much bolder moves. We here at factor1 think the user experience on all devices adds up to a positive interaction with your brand. We see the reports that more and more people every month use their mobile devices to surf the web.

Mobile friendly is getting a lot more critical. In a recent update with google’s search algorithms, SEO experts are seeing either positive search ranking changes for their mobile friendly sites, and very negative results on non mobile sites. Google even sent out a warning to its webmaster tools users that they may see a decrease in their rankings. While google has not commented on the algorithm change, the results are pretty clear.

Mobile matters.

Google search results now show a small green label next to search results indicating a site is mobile friendly when you search from a touch device. To earn a mobile-friendly label your site needs to pass a set of criteria. You can find out if your site meet’s Google’s standards or not by using the mobile-friendly site testing tool.

What now?

So your site is not mobile responsive, and maybe failed the test above. Making a site mobile responsive after the initial build can be difficult. We have done it a few times, and the costs may be higher than building a new site with mobile in mind. It’s best to talk to your web designer and developer about your options and go from there. We’re happy to chat with you about it. Fill out our contact form and one of us will get back to you asap.

Our take on site speed metrics

So there is a large focus on sites being fast. Google rewards sites that load quickly and meet their speed criteria. Go ahead, run your site through googles page insight tool.


What grade did you get? Was it under 50/100 on desktop? You won’t be alone. That’s actually pretty normal.

We have had this issue pop up many times in the last few months. So we spend a few hours tweaking the site. We minify it(compressed HTML, CSS & JS), cache it, and gzip it for the browser. This will usually bring up the speeds and scoring a bit. So thats the good news here.

This leaves us with images. We are almost always getting terrible scores because we are serving users retina images. This means the pixel density is tight, resulting in crisp, sharp images on all devices, and especially on retina screens. Unfortunately the fix for this is to basically stop serving retina images. These scoring tools are usually based on old tech. The ONLY way to serve the high res image is to compress it to the containing box. So a 400 x 400 image inside a 200 x 200 box = 2x the pixel density. But this method is a giant red F on site scoring tools because in the olden days, this was considered “wrong”.

In comparison we ran big sites like CNN, CharityWater, Vox.com, IGN.com, Mic.com, etc. And in our quick research, any nice, modern, retina ready site got about the same score as us. We used a few tools to check it. Want to know one site that ranked well? Google, yes google ranked great. See by offering few to no images, text only, and very little style, you should achieve an A rating.

So this brings me to our goals with any site. We want to serve your visitors a robust site that highlights great information, infographics and photographs that tell a story. Can we do that with low res images, sure, but thats not the direction of technology. All iPads, iPhones, most laptops over $1000 and many android phones and tablets are retina / HD displays. This means that a low res image would look worse than normal. they tend to look blurry or fuzzy.

So my two cents: We take our D+ speed rating and know that we have razor sharp images, graphics and are meeting current technology trends with ease.


10 years

If feels like just yesterday I convinced my very supportive wife I should quit a well paying easy job to start something new. Feels like yesterday, but it was actually 10 years ago. Oh I should also mention what a leap of faith factor1 was. At the time she had been laid off from a downsizing retailer and was not having a ton of luck with finding a new job, and we had little saved being so young. Yeah, we were that crazy.

The last 10 years have been amazing. We have grown a lot, both in size, great clients, partnerships, knowledge and experience. We have had a many of our current clients almost as long as we have been a company, and that’s saying something I think.

We stayed small, nimble, bold, courageous. We know the more people on the elevator the more work it takes to go up, so we kept our staff to a handful. We embraced the slow cooker model, and have grown slowly  year after year by word of mouth from great relationships and hard work. I am super thankful we haven’t lost any of these traits that made us who we are. I am also very proud of the work we get to produce here, and the work our employees produce on a daily basis.

I want to say thanks. Thanks to all our awesome friends, clients, partners, staff — past and and present. So much of where we have been and where we are going is because of our relationships with you and I thank you.

So what does the future hold? Not sure to be perfectly honest. We are going to keep doing many of the same things. The technology may change, the tools will get updates. We all know adobe acrobat will update 3x a week. But we are going to keep doing the best work we possibly can. We are going to ask the hard questions, provide bold strategies that push our clients and ourselves. We are going to keep the pace that finishes the long race with passion and character.

The History of Typography

We spend a lot of time working on the right font pairings in our projects. We try not to get super geeky on you, but sometimes we do want to share the process, get your feedback, or just communicate why we did something.

This is a great short animation on the history of type, showing great key points for anyone.

Also a great read is Seth Godin’s Simple typography for non-professionals (who is Seth Godin you ask?)

Change the rules

Sometimes systems and industries get big. The way its always been done grows bigger and bigger as time and more players join. The cost of entry becomes higher and the reward is smaller.

I love what Actor / Writer / Director Zach Braff is doing on Kickstarter. The film industry has a broken model of funding. Zach highlights it really really well by outlining the issues. The money guys have too much say in the production, casting, etc. And I totally get why they want a say, but they are also investing for the wrong reasons.

Radiohead changed the game with their last 2 albums being self released and a “pay what you want” model. A price point that did really really well for them. Nine Inch Nails, and many others have tried this model and found great success.

When you change the rules, you change the game, and who the winner is. When the winner is the customer, trust me, I think everyone wins.

Hackers Point Large Botnet At WordPress Sites

Are you using wordpress for your website content management system or blogging platform? If so you need to read this.

In recent news over the last few days, hackers have been targeting and sucessfully gaining access to wordpress admin panels by brute force. The most common issue is out of date plugins / wordpress files, and simple dictionary based passwords.

So what do you do?

4 easy steps to keep your site secure

  1. Stop using ADMIN as the username.
    If you are using admin, login, create a new user with full admin rights. Then logout as admin, and in as your new user. Delete the old admin username, and assign all posts, content and pages to your new user.
  2. Use secure passwords
    8 – 12 characters long, with upper, lower case letters as well as a number. Using names, birthdays and uniqe spellings can help. Like Thom@s1198 would be secure.
  3. Keep WP and all plugins up to date.
    WP makes this process pretty easy. Regular updates should not take long, and are usually pretty painless. In your apperence > Plugins screen you will see which plugins need updated. And WP core can be updated from the dashboard home screen. Be sure you have a recent database backup before doing these updates.
  4. Avoid using too many plugins.
    Yes, there is always an app for that. There are 100k+ plugins for wordpress. Anyone can write a plugin. Often plugins can leave security holes and cause a drain on the server. Remove any and all unused plugins, and always check the plugin reviews before installing.

Need Assistance?

Factor1 members: We’ll do this for you automatically. We do these checks often, but will make a special effort this week to keep your site secure.

Not a member? We can perform a full site security scan, which includes a database back up, run all WP core and plugin updates, evaluate all user logins, and remove any and all issues we find. We have a one time fee of $50.

Start here and we’ll have your site security up-to-date within 2 days.

Sometimes you need to start over to get it right

When was the last time you used a company’s mobile app, and their desktop web site side by side and been shocked that the mobile is better? Yesterday I was using the ebay app on my ipad. I have buying and selling for years. Seriously, I think it drives my wife nuts. For years I have seen ebay upgrade their desktop experience, but also over complicate it every time.

Yesterday I spent some time listing a few things on the ipad app. Sure I shop and monitor from the ipad, but always assumed listing would be painful as it is on the main desktop site. I was pleasantly shocked.

With mobile apps, you are forced to start over, and re-think the process, the way you plan a user flow, and the interface for touch. So many businesses just continue to adjust the current version, but rarely do they tear it down to start over. The usual reason is time and money. But saving a little time and money by the company costs their customers time and money. This can lead to customer loss over time, and leave room for a competitor to come in and out innovate you.

Start over every now and then. Strip it back to the process and flow, and build something fresh. Use that experience and insight you have earned from the current version and make something better. Build the 2.0.

Sometimes you have cross the line

Who says public service announcements are limited to actual problems? I give huge props to  The Martin Agency for their Cool Whip ad and for breaking the rules and really making a legit problem blown out of proportion with a PSA. I mean come on, who hasn’t ruined a cake when spreading some icing.


Good Design is…

I love reading about designers and what their personal mantras are. Dieter Rams is one of the most influential industrial / product designers in our time. He made Braun a household name in the 50s and 60s by creating simple products that worked well. Design trends that are still being followed and copied today.

When asked if he thinks his work was good, he responded with the statements he designs by


Good design:

  1. Good design is innovative.
  2. Good design makes a product useful.
  3. Good design is aesthetic.
  4. Good design makes a product understandable.
  5. Good design is unobtrusive.
  6. Good design is honest.
  7. Good design is long-lasting.
  8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
  9. Good design is environmentally friendly.
  10.  Good design is as little design as possible.

I look at these 10 guidelines, and I think they apply to every facet of design. Web, print, branding, but further, and into architecture  interior design, landscape design, fashion, etc. Im pretty sure Ikea, Apple and Audi follow these rules as much as they can, and I think it shows.

What you already know about the web

It’s a common dilemma  you want to build a fantastic new web presence, but you have many voices in the office competing to be heard and postulating about what will make for the most effective next iteration of your website. A lot of questions get thrown around in brainstorming sessions, but what you might need is a very simple roadmap to make use of all of the opinions and allow key players to weigh in and be heard. Matt won’t brag about it, but he has written some fantastically helpful articles that will aid your team in mining your internal data about what you already know about the web in such a way as to put your thoughts and insights into some groupings that any design or marketing team can use.

So, go read this ARTICLE on Church Marketing Sucks.

And you can also read THIS ONE that Matt outlined and wrote for the author.

If you want to follow up with us to launch or lead your next big project, you can share your team’s findings HERE.

Every team that is deeply involved in the success of your organization possesses valuable knowledge, insights and  understandings of your core audience. Don’t leave that data un-mined; put it to work for you and take ownership in communicating about who you are and what you do in a powerful, creative and beautiful way.

Why you need to host with a reputable server company

Last week a friend of ours mentioned he was having website issues. As we dug into the conversation, we found out that ‘issues’ actually meant his site had been offline for 4+ months. Yikes!  Now he hosted his site with a friend, who was “working on getting it back up”. But 4 months is too long for any level of friendship when it comes to business if you ask me!


So why do you need to host with a reputable company.

To avoid the horror story we just heard, here are a few things to make sure you have when finding a good web site host.

  • Server load. How many clients do the have on one server. Some of the cheapest companies have thousands of accounts on one server. Think of that like a roach motel.
  • Server access. Do you have FTP and control panel access?  You want to be able to log in, and manually save down files, run backups, etc. Maybe not you directly, but you want to make sure you have the access so you can hire someone else if needed.
  • Storage and bandwidth. Most businesses need under 1gb of storage, and 5 – 20gb of monthly bandwidth. Churches that podcast are a different story. You want to make sure you have a hard number. Companies that offer unlimited have a limit, they just hide it and decide on a case by case basis. I know far to many people with normal usage sites, that have been suspended for “resource abuse” by these unlimited companies. Frankly It baffles me that they can advertise this.
  • Support. Can you actually get a hold of someone when you need to? Many companies have amazing support, some make you wait hours. Find one you are comfortable with, because it hurts to have a massive site issue, and no one to talk to about it.
  • Backups. Do they run nightly and weekly backups? Are they offsite? Is the database included with that?
  • What restrictions do they have on WHAT you can host. More important, what are they keeping off the server that other users may be hosting. You never want to be on a server that allows porn, torrents, file sharing, etc. Its bound to tie up the server, and possibly get shut down.

So next time you need to find a great place to host your site, make sure you think through these points. And in case you are wondering, YES the factor1 severs meet all the above with flying colors and we are super picket who we host. We rarely, and I mean rarely host anything unless they are a client of ours.

Developing a strategic marketing plan

Like life, emotion can also rule in our business lives, especially when it comes to marketing. Despite decades of proof about developing strategic marketing plans, we still let our gut instincts or the most powerful voice in the room dictate the paths for how to best engage with our audiences. Especially handicapped in the marketing arena, small organizations by their very nature, do not have a team that is dedicated to developing a strategic plan for how to connect with current customers and new prospects.

We all need a plan.

A plan that we have thought through, consulted, checked, double-checked and really worked on. The plan needs to aim at our goals and our dreams. But, working a plan is harder than running on emotions and “in the moment” results. It takes intentionality to get these end goals that we are each seeking.

The rewards of developing and tracking on a marketing plan are great. A plan can leave contingency for opportunities, spontaneity, and “going with our gut”, but a plan well developed can act as a compass or reference during these key moments. A plan influences how we spend our time, how we treat people, what we do and what we will not do. Achieving our greatest dreams and goals are the ultimate reward.

So what is your plan?

  • Have you thought through you target demographic?
  • Have you researched thoroughly what has worked for you in the past and what is working for your current competitor?
  • Do you have a list that is power-ranked of all the available marketing opportunities for your company?
  • Have you brought in any outside ideas, resources or professionals to elevate your ideas to a new height.
  • What about a budget? Did you scrape together some intentional money yet to attract new customers and retain your best?

Go get it!

Start developing a strategy for how you are going to get from here to there. Then work the plan and stay with it long enough so that you can give it a fair evaluation as compared with your goals.

Using great video to promote concepts

Samsung released a new video promoting its eco-line of washing machines. They used a common modern video style of documentary / user produced look, even though its highly produced with skilled directors and video teams.

The take away here, for me, is that telling your story in a simple, clear fashion, is an easy win. The video is cute, funny, and minimal. Few words are said, no motion graphics or gimmicky bullets. Simple video, with a splash of creativity. Probably the best washing machine commercial I have ever seen. Is the product more environmentally friendly or better cleaning than the others, who knows, but If my needs for a washer change, I know I’ll likely give samsung more credit than I did before.

Crate Coffee branding preview

Just a quick preview of a new brand we recently developed for Crate Coffee. Featuring locally roasted beans with unique blends specific to their markets. We designed the logo to have a rough, painted look, so to finish the brand implementation we used a rubber stamp on the business cards and coffee bags. It is a very manual process, but the look is spot on.

Full details coming soon in the portfolio.


Inspiration from everything

As designers, we like to say inspiration can come from anything. The following video showcases just this. Mine Kafon is a project from Massoud Hassani, a designer who grew up in Kabul. Using childhood toys, he modeled a land mine detonation device. It’s fascinating to see how much like his toy the final result is.

Mine Kafon | Callum Cooper from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Why should my company blog?

We build WordPress sites here at factor1. We love using it, and love what we can do with it. WordPress is most commonly known for its blogging tools, but has really risen to the top for Content Management Systems (CMS). I recently saw some stats that WordPress now powers 22+ million sites, and 40% of the top 100 sites.

Most of our WordPress development is for organizations, not bloggers per sé. These are mainly non-profits, churches and businesses.  While most of the sites we build are page focused, promoting products, services or general awareness, there is still the built in WordPress functions of posts and blogging. We get this question the most, and I thought blogging about it would be the best way to share the answer.

Why should my organization blog?

A notable close second: What should I blog about?

Blogging tends to have the mass public confused as to what it is, what it should be or why. Most often its associated with personal use. My definition of blogging is content that is clearly categorized, date and time stamped, and on a single topic. Blogging uses the the term ‘post’ to reference a single entry to the blog. A blog as a whole is a collection of posts. Much like a newspaper is a collection of news articles. The term ‘Blog’ has also become a verb, as one is often ‘blogging’ about a topic, in this case, it is synonymous with writing.

So why should we blog as an organization?

Search Rank
Blog posts are highly visible as new, relative content to google and other search engines. If you continue to offer free advice, tips, insight, case studies and relative industry information, google will reward you for that, for terms that align with each post based on their content.

Users also see this content, and it can form the base of your credibility with them. Active blogging organizations win new clients, because the prospects see activity, growth, community, and openness.

Reference / Archives
The blog also because a great repository of reference material, and a location to house full articles you mention in conferences, emails or social media.


What should my company blog about?

Any content worth calling someone about to tell them, or mailing them a letter, is worthy of blogging. This very post is my clear example of what to blog about. We have insight and expertise to share, and we hope the people reading this find it informative. Would I call a client or send them a letter on this topic? YES, and it is our clients who ask about this topic that lead me to write it.

You can use your blog for:

  • Case studies
  • Testimonials
  • Industry news
  • Company news
  • Insight to your product or service
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Education on a topic your organization is passionate about

I don’t think you need to pick one of the above, but ALL of the above.

Any questions?


What if the personal experience stunk?

Everybody loves apple.

Don’t they?

OK, let’s just say everybody loves Apple.

Everybody loves Apple but what if the personal experience stunk, just once? How many more times would you go back to their website, walk into the Apple store or buy more products? Would you keep going back if you loved the hardware but hated the people? Would you go back if you couldn’t get the help you needed? How many more units of merchandise would you buy if Apple nickel and dimed you at every point of interaction?

Seth Godin has some great pointers today about marketing. What stands out on his list is that most of the marketing that we can so easily do begins and ends with the personal experiences of our customers.


Visual Information Moves People To Act

We’ve talked before about info graphics.

It is an extremely powerful tool when you can take your data and simplify it into a easy to understand graphic that your target audience can read, see, experience and most of all, understand. Visual information moves people to act.

And now it seems that Pinterest is info graphics on steroids which translates into sales and also donations. Have you ever questioned the need to invest a little more in your marketing or in your digital design budget? When this article by Fast Company publishes I think it will be well worth our time to study and then translate into our businesses and nonprofits.

Consumers are shopping and they make decisions based on what they can see and understand.

More sales.
More donations.
Bigger impact for you.

Social Media is Wrong For Your Business

More is better, or at least that is what we are told. We are also told there is no such thing as bad press. That simply isn’t true when it comes to social media. Your business could be in danger of just being a part of the noise. So how do you know when social media is wrong for your business?

Social media is wrong for your business when:

Your website is stale.
Don’t rush to be online with twitter or Facebook when your website isn’t up to date or a hub for all of the essential things that people really need to know or would want to know about your business. Social media can very easily distract you from being excellent at the core aspects of your marketing plan because it has a way of sucking up so much important time every day. Do the basics first, then focus on additional online conversations and arenas.

The conversation stops suddenly.
Often times social media for companies seems like speed dating. Well intentioned people rush into a conversation and then get distracted and quickly move on to something else. Cultivating a respected voice or dialogue on your area of business will take time. Don’t jump in if it’s just going to be a Friday night fling, because it will harder the second time around for you to get people interested if you drop the ball on the first go around.

There isn’t a reason for people to keep coming back.
What you do or what you sell is always more interesting to you than it is to us. So ask yourself the hard question, “why would people continue to pay attention to what my business has to say?” Are your going to offer regular FREE advice in your area of expertise? Coupons? Great deals? Irreplaceable insights? Profound teachings? You need to be incredibly unique or niche for us to stay engaged.

Bottom Line: Social Media isn’t for everyone and most who attempt it fail miserably. Truth is that google is still the #1 place that people go when looking for goods or services that they need or want. So evaluate first, how are your doing with your website and your local marketing plans?

Effectively Spend On Marketing

As part of our monthly work with UMC Boulder City, we are currently engaged with them on developing a comprehensive marketing plan. UMC Boulder City is a smaller church in a smaller and aging community.

Are you a small, locally based organization or business?

Their pastor sent me her team’s initial marketing plans and ideas. I have to say that I am impressed with the thought and research that they have done. So much so that I thought I would share their categories with you and also give you an idea about how you could effectively spend on marketing, just $250 a month to start experimenting with what works for your organization or your business. Take a look. Keep in mind that you can try 2-3 month experiments and then move money around into different categories until you find the right blend of marketing that works for your team.

Effectively Spend On Marketing

Needless to say, we are excited to work with such an aggressively minded organization that really wants to get the word out about what they have going on for their community. It will be fun to help them develop both their print collateral, their messaging and their online marking presence.


9 Tools That Will Increase Your Productivity

It wasn’t easy for me to convert to Mac, mostly cause I’m not the prototypical artist or designer, that’s way more Matt’s thing. But now that I am here I am definitely an evangelist for the performance and the intuitive programs. But, regardless of platform, here are 9 tools that will increase your productivity. Give them a shot… you will not be disappointed.

#1 Evernote – Notes & Ideas
Simply the best, most complete place to start, develop, keep and share ideas. Ditch your wordprocessing program right now.
PLUS it’s Free!

Google Docs – Documents, spreadsheets, word-processing, pdf’s & more
Google Docs started as a cute alternative to word processing on your own machine but is now a viable replacement for ever again paying for a Word or Pages. The best improvement in google docs is the upload feature enabling a simple import for document that anyone sends you. Edit it. Share it. Download it. Convert it. Great stuff!
PLUS it’s Free!

Dropbox – Easy File Sharing
“Get your files anywhere” is the company’s explanation, and that pretty much sums it up. You can also quickly sync files, share files and back-up files of all kinds.
PLUS it’s Free!

Hootsuite – Social Media Management
They explain it better than I do.. “Improve productivity by managing all of your social networks within HootSuite.” Yep. That sounds right. Manage facebook, twitter, blog posts and a ton more.

Wunderlist – To-Do (GTD)
Since Apple can’t seem to ever get it right with a simple and powerful ‘to-do list’ program, everyone is left searching for the best thing. Here it is.

1Password – Universal Password
Worth every penny. Save & recall all of your passwords in one very secure application. This is a life saver with every website having their own log in requirements. The ‘auto-fill’ feature is time saving both for log-ins & for purchases.

Wufoo – Online Form Builder
A what?! A form builder. You will never hate forms again. It’s super easy to use and even easier to install sexy looking forms onto your webpages.

Pocket – Web Reader
It might seem frivolous like an app only geeks would use, but give it a try. Pocket saves articles for later, in an easy readable – text only format. Looks great on an iphone or ipad too.

Quickly share images, links, music, videos and files. We rely on this app every day for interacting with clients in flash.

Email newsletters and you. A true story.

So often we all get busy, and our once monthly newsletter goes the way of quarterly, then yearly. It’s okay. Admitting you have done this is the first step to recovery. No judgment from us, we have the same issues. But lets talk about why email newsletters are important, and how you can best manage your newsletters.

So why should you send an email to your customers / supporters / members?

In the world of social media, its easy to see email as outdated or obsolete. Email, especially HTML email, receives a bad rap in general, especially from web designers. For some, it has become a synonym for spam, thanks to the very real problem of mass unsolicited sending. Email done right, on the other hand, is a powerful tool that can produce real value for both the sender and recipient.


5 tips to planning a website that works

Planning a website can be a big task. All the content, users, ideas, and don’t forget the SEO and images.

Pretend your friend Tom just remodeled his house. An amazing kitchen, knocked out down wall and turned a spare bedroom into space for the master bathroom and closet.

Now you see how happy they are, and you want the same thing! Great, you tell your contractor to copy it, and you will be happy. So now you are done, but you remember you don’t need that much closet space, and now you no longer have a home office. And since you would rather just eat out, this bigger kitchen makes coffee and pours a mean bowl of cereal, but thats all it gets used for.

Sure the construction and materials may be top notch, but if the function doesn’t meet your needs who cares, you needed your own solution. It could be made with the finest materials in the world, it still won’t work any better for you.

So don’t approach your website with the same approach. Let’s start with some fresh thinking.

Who uses this site?
Silly question maybe, but really ask WHO. What are your visitors here for? Checking through your site traffic logs may identify key pages and where people spend their time. Maybe it’s research on a product or service, maybe it’s finding your locations, or maybe its to browse and buy your product directly online. Identify the top functions your site must do and do well.

Whats wrong with the old site.
By stepping back and identifying the issues, the pitfalls and things you need changed will help identify HOW they get addressed on the new site. Is it hard to manage? Are the gaps in content and shopping experience? Maybe it’s just out dated and dying.

Knowing the wrong will help identify the right fix.

How should your site work?
Don’t worry about the technical details. How do you think a user should find your site, navigate, and walk away with? Now look at your best customers, what did they do? Did they buy 5 products because the related product widget suggested it? Or did they view your entire portfolio before calling you? This is a harder questions because you may not have specific data to back it up, but knowing what worked for a good customer vs the way you think it should work is key.

How can you simplify?
No one wants to make something more complicated. Adding functions and features often leads to complexity. So in what ways can you expedite the site to fully meet the users needs with less clicks, less searching and less confusion?

Where can we be the best?
Not where can we do what that other site is doing, but where can you be the leader? So often we are asked to simply do what the other guy is doing. This rarely works out well. Recently we had a project for an organization here in Tempe, and they really broke down how their site would be the best site for their mission, vision and audience. They had clear answers on where their site would be the easiest and best communication tool for their organization. This was refreshing. The site is still in development and will be live soon, but its already a great site because they wanted to be the best they could be.

Now that you have some of the first 5 things to work on, you are on your way to crafting a better website.

Want to talk about these questions with a pro? We are here to help.