Eye of a St Louis web designer: Call to action

As a web or graphic designer one of our jobs is to create design elements that result in an action by the viewer. Whether it is a button to click on, a web site to visit (think banner ads) or creating an interface which is easy and intuitive to use we are constantly thinking about the “call to action” of our designs.

Nature does a fabulous job at this. Take a look at these beautiful purple flowers (anyone know what they are?) blooming in my garden. A flowers job or “call to action” is to entice insects to visit so they can cross pollinate.  They do this using color, contrast, shape and scent to direct the insects to where it’s all happening the in center of the flower. We don’t yet have scratch and sniff monitors so scent is not one of the tools us web designers can use. Maybe it will be an internet technology of the future!
call to action in nature

2010 © St Louis Web Designer

Life of a web designer

I have been running my own business for 10 years now and can truly say I have found my career passion. Along the way I have experienced some fab and not so fab things, met some great people, listened to some bizarre business ideas and  been exposed to a huge variety of businesses.

Here are a few things I have encountered

Exposed to

Industrial sized washing machines, a huge freezer warehouse, news helicopters, machines that make corrugated cardboard, building stripped down to the studs ready for rehab, luxury multi million dollar homes,  engineering plants and an online TV station to name a few.

Met with

Doctors, lawyers, authors, wedding planners, photographers, entrepreneurs, realtors, software developers, IT professionals, constructors, publishers, fitness trainers, small business start ups and many more.

Most bizarre business idea

A guy who truly believed he could make a million bucks from selling an everyday office supply bent into a peculiar shape.

Most inappropriate prospect

It is never ok to undo you pants and proceed to “break wind” during a meeting!

The life of a web designer is never dull!

2010 © St Louis Web Designer

A Website redesign mini makeover project

Over the years I have had my fair share of web redesign projects, in fact a quick look through my web design portfolio and I can count about 20 projects that are  re design efforts. The majority are for new clients but there a few long standing customers who I work with (and with much appreciation) again and again.

Web redesign is an expected cycle in the life a web site.  Sometimes a full scale project is the only way to accomplish your objectives (  Your web site…is it time to re design? ) but other times a small cost effective maintenance project will suffice.

This was the case with one of my long standing customers Fair Market Inc.

After a mini makeover, we re-launched their web site earlier this month, giving new copy and photographs a fresher more appealing look/feel completely reworking the home page and adding blog functionality. Although the content of the site is all new the basic framework remains the same, with the same approach to navigation.

The site however is fresher and nicely up to date all without blowing the bank.

Home page
 fmi website

Products page

 New fmi website

How about your site? Could it benefit from a mini makeover?

2010 © St Louis Web Designer

The Digital age and Earth Day

Just about everywhere you look today you will find news about Earth day. According to Wikipedia “Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth.”

In this digital age it is easier than ever to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Here are a few easy tips

  • Bills still arriving by snail mail, go paperless and receive them via email.
  • If possible pay all your bills online, saves the cost of a stamp and you don’t need an envelope.
  • Don’t print out anything unless you absolutely have to and if you do set your printer on draft mode, it’s generally faster and will save you ink.
  • Have something you no longer need or want? Don’t trash it.Post it as a free item on Craig’s List or join a local free cycle group.  I have recycled everything from a desk to an old kitchen sink. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

2010 © St Louis Web Designer

One of my most memorable business card designs

Fabulous design elements, creative use of color, usual shape, some funky die cutting?


This is one of my most memorable business card designs. I discovered it yesterday during a spring clean, it is tatty and scribbled on but has a great story associated with it.

business card

This card was created about 9 years ago and featured the artwork of my then 3 1/2 year old daughter, Chloe. I was going to a late afternoon small business trade show to do a little networking but had no sitter so decided to take my little one along. I thought it would be fun to make her some business cards to hand out.  She drew me a picture which I scanned, quickly put together this unique card and printed a bundle out on my desktop printer.

Her cards were a huge success and contacts I have today from back then not only remember them but still have them. How many business cards do you have from 9 years ago?

2010 © St Louis Web Designer

Banner Ads on your website

If you are a website designer or an owner of a web site that offers advertising this post is for you.

website advertising 4 ideas

Yesterday I revealed a branding project I have been working on which included the creation of a logo, business card, website and banner ads. An important part of the website was that it be able to accommodate banner ads as this was to be a major source of revenue for the site.

To refresh your memory here it is again
website sbradio
Designing a web site with ads  in mind poses a  challenge. You need a site with conflicting call to actions.

Call to action A

Engaging your site visitors with your site’s content – happy surfer and web site owner

Call to action B

Encouraging your site visitor to leave your site by clicking on a banner ad – happy advertiser

So how do you design a website to  please both surfer and advertiser? Successfully accommodating banner ads into a web site is all about balance between space,  size, color and movement.

Space and Size

There are industry standards for the size and shape of Ad units suggested by Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).  This list of acceptable shapes and sizes is growing each year but to create a website to accommodate all  is not wise.  A better approach is to pick a few of the best performing sizes/shape (do a search to see the current hot list) and create your website design around those blocks.

The thoughts of ads on a page can sometime conjure up an image of clutter and disarray but careful spacing and positioning of the  units can optimize the performance (click through) of the ad, while minimizing the invasive effect they have on the surfer.


The banner ads provided by the advertisers are likely to be multi colored and certainly not designed to compliment a web site with a complicated color scheme.  The best approach is to keep the color scheme of your site monochromatic, in the case of the SBradio site we selected tones of gray. This approach helps the ads pop, happy advertiser, but enables the site visitor to easily switch focus to the site content, happy surfer.


Many banner ads have an element of movement, either a flash animation or a rotating gif.  To overcome the competing effect of an animated element it is best to ensure the host web site has no or little movement itself.

So ads vs content, let the competition begin!

2010 © St Louis Web Designer

Blog Post and SEO

I have been writing this blog since June 2005 ( quite shocking!) and in that time I have seen the internet do it’s magic and produce and ever increasing stream of traffic to my site via my blog. I have accumulated readers, subscribers and clients as a result, I thank you all.

It’s not really magic at all, its a combination of consistent posting and writing unique posts relevant to my business area, web and graphic design.  Here are a few tips for blog posts that will help generate traffic via SEO or other means

  • Select a good title for each blog post which contains  key words relevant to the post’s copy.
  • Write something unique and make sure you include the key words or phrase you have in your post’s title.
  • If your post contains an image, include key words in the image file name. Also make sure the image size is optimized for the web.
  • Share your post, include links to common social media networks like Twitter or Stumble Upon
  • Comment on other blogs and if appropriate include a link to a relevant post you have written. Do not spam other blogs though.

Blogging can be an excellent internet marketing tool, it has certainly worked for me.

2010 © St Louis Web Designer

What makes a lead generation web site sucessful?

A few weeks back I announced the launch of hardscapestl.com . The site offers a wealth of information for those looking to beautify their yard with a retaining wall, patio or any other hardscape project. For the client it is a highly targeted lead generation tool.

The secret of success for these types of web sites is in the planning stage.

Start by defining your user groups, give them names – it helps cement their unique attributes.
For the hardscape site we focused on three user groups:

  • Those just starting to think about backyard upgrade and in the market for design ideas. – the Designer
  • Individuals who are further down the buying path, know what they want and looking for someone to build for them. – the Do it for me
  • Hard core DIYers who want to build themselves. – the Do it myself

Once you have your user groups defined how do you engage them. Each of your user groups are more than likely looking for different types of information.

  • For the Designer it was all about ideas and we created custom slide shows of pavers and retaining walls.
  • The Do it for me are itching to get their project underway. We provided information on finding and hiring a contractor and an excellent visualizer tool that enables them to view different products in situ.

  • The Do it Myself user is interested in the more technical aspects and a custom designed project calculator application allows then to get down to the details of their project.

For lead generation web sites you want to capture pertinent information about the users. Requesting information is a balancing act, making users fill in forms, and jump though hoops for every scrap of information on a web site is futile. They will be hitting that back button in no time and trying a different site. It is a give and take process, give away some information but request contact details for others.

“Download our coupon” was our main call to action on the hardscape site,  but we also tailored call to actions according to the user groups

  • The Designer was offered project design tools, with download offered for free and a simple online form to receive product samples.
  • Both Do it for me and Do it Myself we offered a free estimate

Understanding your user groups, how to engage them and capture their information is key in lead generation site.