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A St Louis web and graphic design company.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Your blog as an Internet Marketing Tool - Six Tips

Blogging is a great way to market you products or services. But are you making the most of this internet marketing tool?

Here are six tips that will help maximize your blog's potential.

  1. Post Title

    Use key words in your blog post titles and make the title meaningful.

  2. File Naming

    Ensure that the file name generated by your blogging platform for each of your posts includes the keywords you want to target. Google's blogger will automatically generate the file name from the title of your post but Wordpress need to be configured.

  3. Post Content

    Write content that will engage your visitors, use imagery to add interest and format text so it is easy to read. Remember to include the key words you have targeted in the post's title.

  4. Promote New Posts


    • Use social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to announce new posts. Facebook can actually be configured to pull all new blog content directly into your page.

  5. Subscription

    Offer your visitors a number of subscription options. For example allow then to subscribe via a reader such as Google's Reader or have new posts delivered as an email.

  6. Comments

    Make sure visitors can comment on your posts. All good blogging platforms can be configured so you can approve comments before they get posted to your blog and answering  comments is a great way to engage with your visitors.

 2010 © St Louis Web Designer

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to work with your web designer during the design phase of a project

Last week I talked about How to Hire a Web Designer , today lets tackle what to expect and how to work with your web site designer during the design phase of a project.



What to expect
  • Your designer will create a look and feel of key pages of the site and you will be presented with jpegs of these pages. Nothing will be "clickable" at this stage.
  • The site will most likely be populated with Lorem Ipsum. This is because the designer needs you to concentrate on the graphical elements and layout of the site and not get bogged down in copy. 
  • The design phase is a very collaborative phase, expect a few rendition of a design based on feedback you give.
  • You will be given a time frame in which to critique. Imperative to keep your project delivery date on target.
How to Evaluate
  • How do you feel about the overall look and feel?
  • Does the color palette work for you?
  • How about the white space?
  • Are there intuitive navigational elements
  • Are there obvious call to actions?
  • To what element of the design is your eye drawn?
Giving Feedback

Don't be afraid to be brutally honest in your feedback. If the design is not working for you on any level it is much better to be upfront. However a simple "I don't like it" is no help. Your designer needs to understand what it is about the design that is "not floating your boat" and will help guide your evaluation process to fix on the elements that need to be addressed. For example, imagine you have a real aversion to the color purple and the inclusion of a purple element is causing "tunnel vision" Sometime just tweaking the color palette of a design can have the effect of " I don't like it" to "I love it".

In short being able to articulate  your likes and dislikes will ensure you end up with a design you absolutely love.

Signing Off

Once your designer produces the "winning" design" you will be asked to sign off on the design. Making drastic design changes after this point can effect the coding efforts during the next stage of the project and typically incur additional costs.

2010 © St Louis Web Designer

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Friday, February 05, 2010

How to hire a website designer

Hiring a web design company can be a daunting task. Here are three steps to make it a little easier.

The Planning
  • What are your internet goals. Setting your objectives is the foundation of any project and creating a web site is no exception.
  • Create a "must have" list. For example it may be really important that your site include a blog or that it is configured so you can maintain it yourself.
  • Got some ideas on the architecture of your site? Get out a pad of paper and pencil and create a rough sketch
  • Don't be intimidated to do a little research, e.g Check  Godaddy to see if can you get the domain name you want.
  • Get online and start browsing, bookmark sites you like, they don't have to be in the same sector as your business or organization but this exercise will help determine what appeals to you and also enable to articulate your design preferences.
  • Check out your competition
The Search
  • Try a simple Google search for your area. Here are the results for St Louis web design.
  • Word of mouth, ask members of your business network if there is anyone they can recommend.
  • Found a web site you really like? Very often a web design company will have a simple link at the bottom of the site directing visitors to their web site.
  • Draw up a shortlist of design companies you would be interested in meeting.
The Meeting
  • Arrange to meet three design companies.
  • The research you have already done will put you in a great position to talk about the specifics of your project.
  • Do they seek to understand your business?
  • Are they goal/objective driven?
  • Do they listen?
  • Ask to see a portfolio of their work. Does it show a diversity of style or does everything look the same? 
  • Do they know their limits or will they try and sell you "everything"
  • Discuss the creative process they follow. Is it flexible?
  • Do they seem like a good fit for your project, do you feel a connection?
  • Will you enjoy working with them?
  • Ask them to put together a comprehensive web design proposal which outlines all the specifics of your project, pricing and terms and conditions.
You're Hired!

The contract is signed, the deposit  paid and the project  is well underway. Is it time to site back and relax? Next time I will talk about how to work with your web designer.

2010 © St Louis Web Designer

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

A couple of time saving Google Tools

Here are two time saving tools recently launched by Google.

Firstly if you are a blogger and use Twitter to promote your blog posts (it was one of my best uses of Twitter - Can Twitter Help My Business), Google's Feedburner now incorporates a "socialize function". This allows Feedburner to automatically tweet any new blog post directly to Twitter. It can be customized in a variety of ways including

  • Post content: Title, Title and body or body only
  • Inclusion of a link
  • Automatic creation of hash tags
  • The ability to add custom text

A nice little time saver, you can read more about it here: AdSense for Feeds: Socializing your feed with Twitter.

Secondly is the Share button built into the latest Google Toolbar, download it here.
The share button enables you to send any page you visit to a huge variety of social networks, blogging accounts, email address anything from Facebook to Yahoo Bookmarks. It provides a shortened version of the URL - particularly useful for Twitter accounts where you are limited to 140 characters.

As usual both of these tools are offered for free. What tools are you using to save time?

Click for more tips and tricks

2010 © St Louis Web Designer

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Web design contracts: Are they important?

Before starting any project we always put together a comprehensive contract - and only proceed when it has been signed by the client. I always explain to my clients that it not only protects my business but their investment as well.

Our contracts cover:-

The scope of the project
This is essentially what will be included in the project and can cover such things as the number of pages, type of functionality, content management systems, internet marketing and even the number of revisions offered in the process.

The scope is established during the discovery process of a project and while it is unlikely that a client will know exactly what they want on every single page of the site during those early stages, it is essential to get a good feel of the requirements. Getting a good definition of the scope helps keep "scope creep" in check (- in its simplest form, "can you add a few more pages here" or more the extreme, "I'd like to add a shopping cart") .

We always build in provision to allow a project to expand to accommodate addition request by our clients and it is vital to have this in writing.

The Creation Process

Communication is key to a successful project and we break our web design projects down into logical phases. Our creation process will outline these phases along with any client expectations such as providing timely feedback to posted design concepts or the delivery of web copy.

Payments

We outline the total cost of the project and the payment schedule. The costs associated with out of scope requests are also covered here

General terms and Conditions

The general terms and conditions provide legal protection for both parties and may seem over the top but are invaluable if things go "pear shaped"

Our general terms and conditions include the following;
Authorization, Nondisclosure, Assignment of Project, Copyrights and Trademarks, Ownership to Web Pages and Graphics, Design Credit, Limited Liability, Indemnification, Search Engine Submission Service, Additional Expenses, Cancellation, Payment, Arbitration, Entire Understanding.



It certainly takes time to put these contracts together but it is time well spent.

2009 © St Louis Web Designer

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Greetings from the St Louis Web Designer.

I like to produce a digital holiday card for my customers each year and this year have spiced it up with a custom video produced using xtranormal. "If you can type you can make movies". Its a great application and easy use. You can select from a whole bundle of characters, give them different accents set the background, camera angles, make them move and apply ambient sounds... and all for FREE. What's not to love about that.
So sit back and enjoy my little message from this fabulous green robot ( he has an English accent of course). I think I may have to make him my mascot!

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Evaluate your web site with our easy website check list.



Got a website?

Use this quick checklist to evaluate it's performance.



  1. Does the site look appealing and engaging?
  2. Is it consistent with the rest of your branding elements?
  3. Are you archiving your website goals?
  4. Does the site load quickly?
  5. Is it easy to navigate around?
  6. Is the content fresh?
  7. Are there any broken links?
  8. If you have a blog have you written a post within the last week?
  9. If you are using any social media tools such a Twitter or Facebook does your site provide a link to them?
  10. Do you have a custom 404 error page?
  11. Is your site performing well in the search engines for your targeted key phrases?
If you have all those areas covered you are doing well. If not we can definitely help you.

2009 © St Louis Web Designer

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What is the difference between web design and web development.

Web design and web development are two completely different jobs required to produce a web site. To someone looking to hire a company to create their web site this can be confusing.

What does a web designer do?



Web design is an art. A web designer is responsible for creating the look and feel of a web site, creating an intuitive navigational tool, laying out the copy and images and producing an overall look which is appealing and engages the user. A web designer needs to understand how to create design elements to influence the user, whether to get them to fill out a form and share their information, or lead them effortlessly through the checkout process of an e commerce site. Typically a web designer will use Adobe Photoshop.

What does a web developer do?



Web development is technical. A web developer will take the file produced by the web designer and render it in a form that can be understood by web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Safari etc. They do this by coding it. Basic web sites require just HTML and CSS with maybe some snippets of PHP and java. More complicated sites, such as dynamically driven e commerce ones, require more advance coding languages.

The crossover
Many web designer are also web developers, which is the case here at Indigo Image. There are various level of web development from basic to advanced and we are capable of handling intermediate requirements. However for projects requiring advance development we collaborate with a local St Louis web development company.

2009 © St Louis Web Designer

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Friday, November 20, 2009

ipod earbuds fall out of my ears. Do yours?

Music can often be a great inspiration to me when I am in designing and my ipod is always on my desk. However, hands up if your ipod earbuds fall out of your ears? Mine do, the standard ipod earbuds were swiftly replaced with an in-ear pair but I still have problems with "fall out".

A St Louis company, Yurtopia™ has come up with a fabulous novel product to end this misery: the yurbuds™. They convert the standard ipod earbuds to custom fitting earbuds which are not only more comfortable but they DO NOT FALL OUT!

A pair costs just $19.99

Visit

www.yurbuds.com

and get free shipping with this code: QF5SG






2009 © St Louis Web Designer

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

How to Subscribe to a Blog: St Louis web designers tip of the day

If you, are like me, and read a lot of blogs, it is not a good use of time to visit your favorite blogs every day just on the off chance there is something new to enjoy. A far more effective way is to subscribe to the blog and have new content delivered to you as and when it is published.

For those of us who have been blogging for many years this may seem like second nature but there are plenty of people out there for this is a whole new arena.

On a well designed blog there will be a button looking something like this




which is the universal icon for RSS feeds - a file associated with your blog.

Clicking the button will lead you to a page like this


Once on this page you are offered an abundance of ways to receive the content from the blog. One of my favorite is Google reader, which sends the new content of all your subscribed blogs to a single page - you can visit this page or set up a simple widget on your Google home page which allows you to read your content from there.

If you prefer you can subscribe to receive content from your favorite blogs via email.

The St Louis Web Designer's tip of the day!

2009 © St Louis Web Designer

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Can blogging help my business?

Last month I wrote "Can twitter help my business?" this month question is
"Can blogging help my business?"

webdesigner blog

Visibility
Blogging regularly about topics relevant to your business and target audience is a fabulous way to increase your visibility among the search engines. Over the last year the client web sites I have launched with blogs, get listed faster and rank higher with the major search engines. For search engines, content is king and blogs, by their very nature, rule the day with their fresh new content.

Reputation
Whatever your area of business blogging is a great platform on which to build your authority and reputation. Write about issues relevant to your services, use your blog to pose questions to your readers, offer solutions to problems. Your expertise will show through.

Interaction
Engage with your readers through blog comments and don't worry about your blog being blighted by spam. All good blog platforms have the ability to moderate comments, they can be configured so you can see the comments and approve them before they appear on your site.

If you can commit to writing a post at least once a week then a blog can definatley help your business.

2009 © St Louis Web Designer

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Web design creative block? Try color sampling

Suffering from creative block? Try color sampling a photograph you are drawn to. The result, a color palette which may kick start your web design process.



St Louis web designer tip of the day.

© 2009 St Louis Web Designer

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

I can't see the changes to my website: Browser refresh

You have just heard from your web designer that all the changes you wanted made to your web site have been made. You visit your site to check things over and nothing appears to have changed. Does that sound familiar?

If so, the most probable cause is that you are looking at a cached version of your web site. The solution is easy - simply refresh your browser.

If you are using one of the more common browsers, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome, it is as easy as clicking on the refresh button and to make it even easier we have put together a set of graphics below to show you the location of each button

Internet Explorer
Explorer Browser refresh


Firefox
Firefox Browser refresh


Safari
Safari Browser refresh


Google Chrome
google Chrome Browser refresh


The St Louis Web Designer's tip of the day

© 2009 St Louis Web Designer

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Can Twitter Help my Business?



I have been using Twitter on a regular basis for nearly 7 months now, the results of my experiment started back in April are ready to be published! In that time I have tweeted 315 times and amassed 343 followers and followed 442 tweeters. Not huge numbers but I belong to the quality vs quantity school of thought.

Here are the questions I asked myself at the start
  1. This is the big one. Can I use twitter to secure new projects?
    Too good to be true. The answer is no... not yet anyway
  2. Can Tweeting increase the traffic to my website?
    I have promoted every new blog post using www.bit.ly to shorten URL's and track click though rates. I have seen a definite increase in traffic to my blog, so the answer is YES! More traffic is a good thing.
    A client of mine recently experienced the viral nature of Twitter with an enormous spike of hits to their site. It was due to a British actor picking up on a blog post they had written and tweeting about it.
  3. What other ways can I use Twitter to help my business?
    Twitter has been a useful tool for trouble shooting. I have had questions quickly answered on problems I was having with Quickbooks and a Dreamweaver quirk. Tweets pertaining to problems really benefit from using # tags e.g #dreamweaver or #HTML.
All in all it has been a successful experiment and I will continue to use Twitter. Be warned though, if you tweet about the weather, what you are eating for lunch, or start tweeting philosophical quotes, I am very likely to "unfollow". If you are interested in following me click stlwebdesign

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Free Credits for istockphoto

Here is a great tip if you are looking for free credits for iStockphoto.com

I regularly use them to source images for web and graphic design projects. They have a wealth of very reasonable priced images which is always popular with my clients. The cost of stock photography can really rocket if you are not looking in the right places.

Their stock is priced in terms of credits and they offer three options to purchase these credits via "pay as you go", subscriptions or via a corporate account. Pay as you go works well for me.

However there is also a way to earn free credits. If you have incorporated some istockphoto stock into a project you can submit it via the Designers Spotlight page, you do need to be a member but membership is free. Every piece goes through an approval process but if it is approved it gets added to the new projects album and you are awards five free credits.

Don't you love free stuff!

View My Portfolio

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Generate revenue from your websites: AdSense

Looking for an easy way to make some additional revenue from your web site? Try Google AdSense.

A small snippet of code placed on your web site will generate Goggle ads earning you revenue based on a cost per click or cost per impression basis. You can fine tune the look and feel of the ads to compliment your site, have control over the size and shape and even block competitors ads from appearing on your pages. It is completely FREE .

Is Adsense right for your website? Here are a few things to consider
  • What levels of traffic does your site experience? Sites with a high volume of traffic will bring in more revenue.

  • Does your site rank highly for any popular keywords or phrases? Our site on counterfeit detection ranks very highly for the key phrase "counterfeit detection". Due to the popularity of this phrase there are plenty of Google advertisers bidding on this phrase for the display of their adverts and hence no shortage of ads to display on the site.

  • Are you comfortable having advertisements on your site? Despite the high traffic and favorable key phrase ranking Indigo Image gets, we are not comfortable having Google Ads featured on our site. They could offer our visitors a reason to leave and explore the services offered by another web design/ graphics arts company. It is possible to block competitors sites but blocking all advertisers bidding on a generic key phrase, e.g. in our case something like logo design, is not feasible.

  • Do you have a suitable area on your site to display ads? To get the most out of the ads they need to be placed in a prominent place. Does the design of your site accommodate this?

I have a couple of personal site with pretty high traffic and excellent rankings on the search engines that are a perfect platform to display Google ads. The ads were configured to compliment their color schemes and feature prominently at the top of each site without being too intrusive. They provide a steady stream of revenue.



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Monday, September 21, 2009

Website Copyright Infringement : An update.

copyright
I recently wrote a post titled " Has your website content been stolen" after a client discovered another website owner was using her copy. I did a quick check on Indigo Image, using the tools I described in my post, and found that not one but two two web design companies were using chunks of my copy.

I contacted both companies and pointed out my areas of concern asking them to change their copy. After two days I hadn't heard back from either it seemed they were both taking the "lets bury my head in the sand approach and hope this goes away". I contacted their hosting companies and made a copyright infringement complaint. Both companies, Bravenet and Bluehost, took my complaint very seriously. My issues were run through their legal departments. The end result, both offending web design companies have had their sites suspended.

©Indigo Image 2009 at the bottom of each page of the web site is there for a reason. Everything from the design and copy is copyrighted material and can't be used in any form by someone else unless they have authorization to do so.

Have you checked your web site recently? Is your web site copy being used by someone else?

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Has your website content been stolen?

Last week a client contacted me with news that she had discovered a web site that was using her web copy. It was a site offering the same type of service and operating in the same geographic area. Not good news.

I suggested she contact the site owner to point out the obvious copyright issues. After an initial acknowledgment and a promise to fix things the site owner is now refusing to make any changes.

Turning to an attorney is the next step but I have also suggested contacting the hosting company of the offending web site and making a copyright infringement complaint. I took this approach many years ago when copy and images ( even code) from this web site were taken. The hosting company suspended the infringing site very quickly which paved the way for immediate discussions and a solution.

My customer's experience has spurred me to to a little research on our own web site today and low and behold I have discovered a web design company who have stolen huge chunks of our copy. They have been contacted and ask to amend the site and I have put in a copyright infringement complaint with their hosting provider.

Here is a list of resources that can be useful in these sort of cases.

www.whois.net
Useful for details of the domain name registrar and hosting provider

www.copyscape.com
Search for copies of your page on the web. Has a premium service

www.plagiarismchecker.com
Free service to check for plagiarism, simple enter your URL

www.archive.org
The way back machine. Useful for establishing timelines

www.google.com/dmca.html
Notify Google of the infringement - must be done via snail mail or fax




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Thursday, July 02, 2009

A web and graphic design portfolio: A lead generator

I met with a potential client earlier this week, looking to create a logo and web site look and feel. A start up company, they have a great idea and a hefty business plan - a sure sign to mean that they really mean business.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of start up companies I meet who have no business plan just a vague idea. They want to start developing a brand image with no idea of who they are targeting, their competition, price structure and any of those other elements a good business plan will detail.

The start up company I met this week had found us via Google and had spent a considerable time going through our extensive portfolio. We had impressed them enough that they called and scheduled an appointment. A great example of our web and graphic design portfolio working as a lead generator!

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Monday, June 22, 2009

A brand color palette. Eye of a St Louis web designer

A few weeks ago these beautiful irises were in full bloom in my St Louis garden. Notice anything about the colors in this photograph? They are essentially the palette of colors we use in our brand.

I love using nature as an inspiration during web and graphic design projects and as this image shows a simple photograph is sometimes all you need to build a great color palette from which to work.



St Louis web designer tip of the day

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Adobe Illustrator Layers Palette has disappeared

I have been working on a new logo today for Warson Capital Partners, my tool of choice for logo design is Adobe Illustrator.

Every once in a while I encounter an annoying problem with Illustrator - the layers palette just disappears and nothing I do within the program itself will bring it back.

Here are the steps I take to fix the problem

  1. Close Adobe Illustrator
  2. Locate Aiprefs - this is the file where all the runtime preferences are stored. This is a hidden file so run a search on your system disc.
  3. Delete Aiprefs. This is completely safe as Illustrator will generate a new file when it is next started.
  4. Re-open Adobe Illustrator. The menu palette will now be accessible once again.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Are you all blogged out? St Louis Web Designer's tip of the day

If you are blogging for business, pleasure or both there will be days /weeks, when you come up empty in creating that next killer blog post. Welcome to Bloggers Block .

Here are some of the tips I use to keep those creative juices flowing.

  1. Keep a running list of blog post ideas and add to it frequently - skim over your list and pick something that appeals to you.

  2. Think about recent interactions with clients. What types of questions have they asked. Can they be worked into a blog post?

  3. Got a new client, launched a new project or service? Blow your own trumpet and blog about it.

  4. Flick though a magazine or newsletter relevant to your business, industry or organization. An image or article may be all the inspiration needed.

  5. Member of any social networking sites, Twitter, Facebook LinkedIn? Check what's happening with your friends/followers.

  6. Get away from your computer. Sitting in front of a blank"New Post" screen desperately thinking of something to share is not conducive to ideas. Go for a walk, have a cup of coffee, crank up your favorite music on your ipod.

  7. Find inspiration from the natural world...everything from systems, processes, life cycles, shapes color, texture

  8. Lastly don't sweat! While posting to a blog regularly is important missing the odd day or even week is not the end of the world.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Custom 404 error pages.

Does your web site have custom error pages? If a visitor types in the address of a page that has been moved or no longer exists are they greeted with this?



Does this screen engage your users? No and you are missing an opportunity to direct your users to the information they are looking for.

Take this "error" opportunity to present your visitors with custom 404 error pages, ours has full site navigation and a site map.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Twitter experiment

Are you using Twitter yet?

I have had a Twitter account for quite some time now but only really started using it recently. Twittering is like micro blogging; you have 140 characters to have your say. It is quick, easy and free.

As with any social networking tool there is a time commitment, albeit relatively small for Twitter, so I have set myself a number of goals to see if it is really worth the effort.

To follow me on Twitter click here

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

New web site For Marshall Friedman Law Firm

Launched today is a new web site for St Louis law firm, Marshall Friedman.


When hired a few months back to complete this project one of the most pressing problems we had to address were the Google search results for the original site. The site had been hacked into and infected with a virus and while the virus had been removed Google was carrying a "this may harm your computer" notice on all it's search results pointing to the site. We removed all traces of the old site from the web server and installed a splash "under construction" page. Google provides a nice help section and we were able to have our new splash page reviewed. Once Google was satisfied there was nothing malicious about the site the warning notices were removed from the search results.

The new site is a big improvement over the old one, with a clean but professional design and "don't make me think" navigation, we focused on giving the user a fast easy platform to use.

You can visit it at http://www.marshallfriedman.com/


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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Adding a blog to your Internet Marketing mix?

2009 brings us to our 4th year of blogging, which is not bad considering our blog was started as an experiment.

There are many business advantages to having a blog but my favorite is what they can do in terms of your Search Engine Marketing

To search engines, like Google, content is king and fresh content rules the day. Writing regular posts on topics relevant to your business will help people find your web site more easily as Google will visit your site more frequently and quickly index anything new. Blogs can really help your page rank too.

If you are looking to add a blog to your internet marketing mix contact us to learn how we can help.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

St Louis Web Designer tip of the day

I recently started using Skype to call my family back home in the UK, resulting in a substantial reduction of my phone bill.
Its allows you to make calls over the internet, is easy to use and as an added bonus you can have a true video call.

To get started visit Skype.com, download the application and create an account. Calls between Skype users are free!

Today’s tip from the St Louis Web Designer

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Help to prevent online form spamming

Do you have an online form that is being spammed?

One way to reduce the junk is to incorporate a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) script into your form. A CAPTCHA is a program that protects websites against bots by generating and grading tests that humans can pass but current computer programs cannot. For example, humans can read the text shown below, but current computer programs can't.



If spam is a problem on your web site contact us to see how we can help you.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Eye of a St Louis Web Designer

The fall colors have been fabulous in St Louis this year. There is nothing like color in nature to inspire creativity.

1. Start with a colorful photograph
2. Sample the photograph to build a palette of colors
3. Use your palette to design a quick fun graphic



Todays tip from the St Louis web designer

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Customizing Google Maps

Adding an interactive map to a web site can be a great feature. I am currently working on a new web site for Saint Louis Associates in OBGYN and needed to add a map for their two locations.
Google Maps allows the creation of customized maps and I tried this out for the first time today, successfully generating a map that delivers exactly what I wanted it to show.

You can view the map I created here

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Monday, September 29, 2008

How to open .RAR files

A client recently sent me a .RAR file which I was unable to open. A little internet research revealed that .RAR files are compressed archives similar to .Zip files. RAR has the benefit of creating an archived file which is 8 to 30% smaller than Zip archives.

Like .zip files, .rar files require a piece of software to extract or uncompress the data. There are lots of free solutions out there but this one from 7-zip.org worked very well for me.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Four web lingo terms explained

When talking to our customers or potential customers about web design we try and keep the techno speak to a minimum. After all they are after an end product and generally it is not helpful to bombard with geek speak. The following phrases come up quite often so here is a brief desciption

HTML - Hyper Text markup Language
The programming language used to create documents for display on the Web.

CSS - Cascading Style Sheets
CSS provides the ability to separate the layout and styles of a web page giving more control on the way a web site can look.

CMS - Content Management System
CMS is a computer application used to create, edit, manage, and publish copy within a web site

SEO - Search Engine Optimization
Creating and improving a website so that it will rank high in the search engines and help potential customers or clients find the website.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Download Googles New Browser: Chrome

Here is the link to download Google new browser Chrome. It is free

I have just downloaded and installed and already  am impressed with the clean sleek design which is so typical of Google. There is no fluff just a simple box where you can type search phrases or enter the url directly ...same box dual function. As you type into the box the browser makes suggestions which I can already see will expediate the whole browsing process. The lack of fluff at the top of the browser increases the amount of screen avaiable for page viewing.

Pages appear to render faster too.

So far so good. 

I am going to do a bit of testing over the next few days to evaluate browser compatibility issues. Is the browser rending web sites as they were designed and coded to be displayed?

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Google Launches a new Web Browser: Chrome

I am a huge fan of Google and was delighted today to see they are launching a completely new web broswer, built from the ground up.
They have produced a comic which describes in layman terms the features of their new system. The browser is due for launch today and I will be keeping an eye on the official Google blog for that magic download link.

The new browser includes:-
  • Tabbed browsing where each tab gets its own process, leading to faster and more stable browsing. If one tab crashes, the whole browser doesn’t go down with it.
  • A distinct user interface that places tabs on top of the browser window instead of right below the address bar
  • An “incognito” mode that lets you browse the web in complete privacy because it doesn’t record any of your activity
  • A new JavaScript engine built from the ground up for speed
  • Malware and phishing lists that automatically update themselves and warn you of bad websites
  • A default homepage that displays your most commonly used sites and other personalized information

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Website Design: First Impressions count.

What kind of impression does your web site make, especially in those critical first few seconds? Are you engaging your users to explore further or sending them away? Recent studies show that if a web site has not captivated a user within 4 seconds then they will abandon your site.



Here are a few things to consider.

  • How quickly does your main page load?
    What pops up first? How quickly can you begin to read any text? It's critical for the most eye-catching elements to load first and near the top of the page. The page can then continue and finish loading while the visitor is checking out what's loaded first.


  • Is it clear what your web site is about and generally what's offered from a quick scan of the page?


  • Is the navigation clear and obvious so your visitors can quickly see where to find your products or services or are you forcing your user to think to much?

So is your web site meeting these simple criteria or failing and sending your traffic away.?
It doesn't matter how much effort you put into search engine optimization, pay per click programs, internet marketing etc. If the first impression or your site is lacking your visitors will go else where.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How much does it cost for a web site?

"How much does it cost for a web site?"

This is probably our most often asked question, and not one that can be answered without going through our discovery process. If you went to a builder and asked how much it costs for a house, he would say it depends ...are we talking a massive mansion or a 1 bedroom starter home. The concept is exactly the same for web sites.

During our discovery process we try to learn as much as we can about our clients, how they serve their customers, who are their competitors and most importantly what they want to achive from their web site. From this imformation we put together a comprehensive proposal which will help them achieve their goals. It is only after we have gone through this process that we can give them an accurate price.

With any web site there a two types of cost to consider:-

  • Initial Set Up costs
  • Recurring Costs

The intial costs will depend upon the size and functionality requirements of the site, whether it will be optimized for performance in the search engines (SEO ,search engine optimization), will it be integrated with a content management system (CMS)

The recuring costs cover things like domain name renewal, hosting costs, general web maintenance, additional search engine optimization, pay per click management etc.

Our discovery process and proposal preparation is always free, so if you are looking to cost out your next web project we would love to hear from you.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Your web site...is it time to re design?

Re-design is a natural cycle of having a web site. What worked well ...say eight years ago, may not be performing up the mark for you today. While many changes can be made by a little web maintenace here and there, there comes a time when only a full scale redesign is going help you accomplish your objective.

But how do you know when that time has come? Here are four tell-tale signs that the time has come to re-design.

  1. Your Business has grown or changed
    While any good web site will be designed so it can accomodate moderate business growth, if your business is booming and you have extended your service offering it is likely that your original web site is not doing you justice. The same goes if you have changed the direction of your business.


  2. Outdated Design
    You only get one chance to make a first impression and if the overall look/feel of your site is radically "behind the times" you can lose credibility. If your site features animated clipart, is coded as frames or looks like a "Front Page template you are the victim of an outdated design!


  3. Your information lacks organization
    If you have been adding to your site over the years it is likely that your navigation has become a little confused. Making your visitors "think" when navigating will not engage them to the same extend as a well thought out navigation and information structure.


  4. Poor Performace in the Search engines
    Poor rankings in the Search Engines can be a result of not optimizing your site well. Poor search engine ranking can also be a result of bad design choices or coding on your site. Make sure that your site isn't designed using frames and that the text is coded in HTML. Flash sites are also more difficult to optimize for Search Engines.




If any of these senarios describe your web site contact us at info@indigoimage.com to see how we can help bring you up to date in the web world.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Our web and graphic design blog

We started our blog in June 2005 and nearly three years later are still going strong.

You may find this blog intresting if you are looking to hire a web or graphic designer, you are interested in web site usability and search engine optimization or are a web/graphic designer looking for some tips and tricks.

Today I am going to talk a little about the sort of subjects we cover here for any of our new readers. Each of our posts are given one or more label to categorize them so I thought it would make sense to talk about our categories:-


  • Design Snippets
    We cover subjects here that are useful to graphic and web designer. For example Meaning and associations of color, What is Ipsum Lorem and Favicons.

  • Eye of the St Louis Web Designer
    A picture speaks a thousand words and most of the photographs we feature in this section are of something that has given us inspiration, from a fabulous natural color palette to a great texture or pattern. As mentioned thoughtout these posts a designer's eye never sleeps

  • FREE
    Who doesn't like free stuff. We cover everything from free custom i google designs, the free definition phase or our projects to our much visited recipe for a garden deer repellant.

  • Graphic Design projects
    A showcase of graphic design projects, from brochures, letterheads, banners, menus, logos, newsletters, greeting cards and packaging.

  • Indigo Tips
    Tips to improve your productivity and internet experience

  • Internet marketing
    The ever changing world of Search engine optimization.
  • Logos
    A showcase of our logo design
  • Project Progress
    We multi task big time and this section illustrates the current projects we are working on

  • Random Thoughts
    I think everyblog needs a section like this..a little bit of everything here..and as the title suggests ...random

  • STL Marketing executive
    A category written by our guest writer. He shares perspectives drawn from his experience of branding, global business management and marketing in a B2B environment.
  • Web design Projects
    A showcase of our web design projects

  • Web Site Usability
    Considerations for giving your site visitors the experience you want them to have.


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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Celebrating a blog milestone


Writing a blog takes commitment. Obviously there is the element of time it takes to write a post but there is also the commitment to deliver quality content and post regularly.

Today we are celebrating our 200th post!

A tool I have recently started using to read blogs is Google Reader Another great free application from Google, Google reader allows you to subscribe to your favorite blogs and then delivers any new posts to your iGoogle page via a widget. (For more information on iGoogle see this post). Using the reader allows you to keep up to date with the blogs that interest you and saves time from actually visiting the blogs.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eye of St Louis web designer

The shapes and colors found in nature are inspirational to all types of designers, interior designers, graphic designers, web designers, logo designers ...

I love this photograph of a Star fish taken some 1782 miles from St Louis on the Oregon coast. The photograph has a fantastic color palette.


I used Google Maps distance calculator to work out the distance.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Your blog voice

In a post I wrote last week I talked about creating branded blogs and mentioned we were currently creating one for St Louis based Throttlenet.

The blog is now up and running, visit it here>> ThrottleBlog

Throttlenet have their blog set up so various team members can contribute, which is a great approach for a multi faceted corporation. It will give the blog a very rounded "voice".

We have two "voices" on this blog me..St Louis Web Designer and St Louis Marketing Executive

We have very different styles but that is exactly how a blog should be. Each contributor has a unique voice and personality, and brings to the blog something that no one else can.

It takes time to develop a blog voice but the more you write the more your style and voice will evolve.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

St Louis Web Designer - tip of the week

Ok this has nothing what so ever to do with designing web sites but a is a tip for all those St Louis gardeners battling with deer infested gardens. This is a nugget of gold found online and provides a very cost effective way of protecting your plants from " deer digestion" Many web designers I know are very keen gardens so I felt I should share

Ingredients:-

2 eggs
1 cup of skimmed milk
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons of dish detergent

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into a old "409" type spray bottle. Spray all the plants in your garden that the deer like to eat.

The deer are repelled by the smell of rotting eggs... but I have been unable to detect much of a odor. It is cost effective and bio-degradable.

I whip up a batch of this a week and it does the trick

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Are you using iGoogle?

As a web designer I spend a lot of time online and Google continues to make those online hours easier.
They have recently introduced iGoogle which allows users to personalise their searching experience and create a talyored interface with user defined content. I have the feeds from my favorite blogs, bookmarks to expediate my work process, St Louis weather forecast and a spell checker. The variety of "stuff" you can add to your home page is huge, tools such as a translator, windows short cutes, a To-Do list, feeds, joke of the day ....the list is endless.

iGoogle also offers the opportunity to add a theme to your home page. I selected beach ...a dynamic theme in which the sun moves throughout the day mirroring the position of the sun at my Zip code! There is also a bus stop theme which matches your local weather.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Email content filters

Back in May, I updated the content filters on my regular email account and as an experiment kept a tally of the number of emails the filters have sucessfully re routed to my junk bin. Today the tally hit 10,000!

The content filters do need tweaking everynow and again but is well worth the time and effort to save me wading through such a huge amount of unwanted rubbish!

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

St Louis web designer: Tip of the week.

As a web designer I spend many hours online. One of my daily tasks is a quick review of my email spam folder to make sure nothing is there that should be in my inbox. The spam is then deleted..in the last month my deleted spam was 1525 emails!

While this task takes a few minute to complete it is nothing to the task of sorting through the junk that comes via the mail man. In these days of identity theft I shred all "You have been appoved for our fabulous credit card" applications and sometimes I have up to six a day.

..and then I discovered optoutprescreen.com.

Visit this web site and you can opt out of offers from credit and insurance companies. It works!

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

St Louis web designer: Tip of the week

As a web designer any tool I come across which improves an internet surfing experience, is a good tool.

Take Google ToolBar ..it's features are many including blocking those annoying pop ups and highlighting search terms, just to name two. It goes down in my book as a good tool.

Download it for free at

http://toolbar.google.com/?promo=mor-tb-en

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

St Louis web designer: online company

As a web and graphic designer I spend many hours in front of my computer. I am passionate about design and my business so on the whole this is a good thing!

I have recently been investigating the wealth of online radio stations for a little company as I work. My favorite are BBC Digital Radio and Virgin radio. BBC digital radio offers a huge range of listening experiences ... my favorite station is radio 4 where I enjoy their Afternoon Play.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Email Hijacking

We have recently been under attack by an email hijackers who are apparently trying to use our contact forms to test for "open doorways " to route their own spam emails.

Their attacks result in us receiving numerous emails with all form fields filled out with email addresses from the domain in which it was sent and a little further checking revealed that the messages also come with a BCC address of jrubin3546@aol.com.

A little research has revealed this to be a wide spread problem with a list of about 10 BBC addresses in use .. intrestingly the hijackers all have AOL email addresses so this is clearly something AOL could sort out.

We are currently installing a fix into the scripts which powers our form to stop this abuse. There should be severe penalties for these people! Spam is one thing, but hijacking form mail scripts and spoofing other people’s domains and email is downright wrong.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

St Louis web design company : Money saving tip

Here is an easy way to save money and conserve energy.

Configure your computer to "hibernate" automatically after 30 minute of inactivity and it will turn off in such a way that it does not have to re boot when you resume work.

In Windows Hibernation is activated through the power management tools in the control panel. On a Mac the same thing can be achived using the energy settings under system preferences.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

Protect your passwords

I recently had a call from a long standing client asking if I knew anything about a company who had been constantly calling them requesting the user name and password to access their hosting account.

The answer was no and the company in question was obviously up to no good.

My client had the good sense not to give out the user name and password. As a web design client of Indigo Image you will never be asked to give out your user name or pass words.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Protect your computer from "pests".

Is your computer infected with Trojans, spyware or other nasties..do you even know? Is your browser being hijacked?

My browser was being hijacked a few months ago ... automatically taking me to sites seemingly at random. I ran a Norton virus scan but everything was inorder.

A web developer colleague suggest I try Ad-aware ..it worked perfectly, ridding my computer from a load of "pests" and sorting out the browser hijacking problem

It can be downloaded for free.

For more information visit:-

http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/

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