Is your small business on board the social media wagon?

The internet is ever evolving and as a web designer an important part of my job is to stay current with the tools and applications.  One of the hottest trends over the last few years has been  social media. It is a trend that is here to stay.

What can I do with social media

Sharing: From a video on YouTube, a simple 140 character tweet or a submission to a news sharing site like  Digg. Social media sites offer the ultimate platforms for freely sharing ideas, knowledge.

Opportunity: Your clients and customers are using social media. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to converse with them on these platforms.

Conversation: If I had to chose just one word to encapsulate social media it would be conversation. Those conversations can build trust, give higher visibility and ultimately generate sales.

Interaction: Collaborate, combine and connect. Ask questions, offer solutions to  questions posed by others. Join in discussions.

Awareness: Use social media to build, maintain and create awareness of your brand.

Listen: The art of a great conversation is to be able to listen.

Marketing: Build a focused fan base through networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. You have a ready made target audience for your marketing campaigns.

Engage: Generate responses from your followers by including open ended questions, polls and offering information that will be truly useful to them.

Dialogue: Social media is not a single voice. If you tweet join in conversations.  If someone comments on a blog post post a comment back and generate a dialogue.

Involve: Ask for feedback on products/ideas/services.

Appropriate: Is Facebooking what you ate for lunch appropriate material for you social media profile. Do not dissolve your brand image with inappropriate information!

©: 2011 Chicago web designer

A Teenage Chicago Penthouse, in my Basement!

Who doesn’t love a before and after comparison, I do them for web sites quite a lot, ( here here and here)  to showcase how a few design tweaks can make a huge impact on the appeal of a site. But today I am going to show you how I used my graphic design skills and tools to transform a very dingy, quite disgusting Chicago basement room into a light and airy teenage “penthouse” hang out.

basement penthouse

My canvas for this room was horrible wood paneling which has the texture of drift wood but nowhere near as pleasant. I primed then painted everything white, it took 3 coats before it looked good.

Then came the fun bit.

To be certain the skyline idea was going to work in terms of scale and look/ feel, and what colors looked best, I did a little Illustrator and Photoshop mockup.

First I designed the skyline in Illustrator. It was then imported  into Photoshop and superimposed  a photograph of the wall I intended to paint. ( I used the multipy function and distorted the illustrator graphic to fit the wall dimensions) After a bit of color tweaking, playing around with different shade of gray we settled on a simple black and  gray color palette.

painted skyline

Because of the rough nature of the paneling my initial plan to carefully tape off and paint the skyline failed so I ended up painting the whole thing free hand. If you look carefully I did not stick religiously to the illustrator design but it was enough to point me in the right direction. It turned out pretty well.

I have a bit more work to do on the furniture on the other side of the room… more painting which I will share soon!

© 2011 Chicago Web Designer

Changes in Facebook Feeds: Chicago Web Designer Tip of the Day

Here is the Chicago web designer’s tip of the day.

Facebook  has recently introduced quite a few changes, some are easy to see others not quite so.

The default for feeds appearing on your home page are those Friends and pages you interact with most. To change it to all your friends and pages do the following.

© Chicago web designer

What color is Chicago Snow?

It is hard to escape the abundance of snow in the Chicago area at the moment. Ask most people what color is snow and the answer will be white. Ask a graphic designer and the answer will be, “white but also  think soft grays, delicate lilacs and even dramatic blues.”

As a web and graphic designer color is one of my favorite “tools” Here are the colors I see in snow.

©2011 Chicago web designer

Tips for Going Paperless

Since moving to Chicago I have made a concerted effort to go completely paperless. It was driven by a sheer horror of the amount of paper work that had built up over 10 years in business and a huge desire not to pack it all into boxes,  transport it all and then never unpack it. Who’d have thought a web and graphic design business could result in so much paperwork? So I purged big time,  my recycling bin overfloweth,  my shredder over heated and eventually kicked the bucket.  I pared down my paperwork from a huge ugly filing cabinet/cupboard, to a single, well organized draw. I gave away the unsightly filing monster so I could not revert to my old ways. It was so ugly the only person who wanted it was a scrap metal merchant.

Now five months down the road I am sticking to my guns and feeling liberated. Here are some of the things I do to keep the paperless system in smooth running order

  1. Sign up for paperless statements and  billing.  From utility companies to telephone providers. This has saved me a ton of unwanted paper and some companies will actually give you a credit for going paperless. Setting up accounts is generally a simple process and most offer an archive of statements, billing history etc, so it is easy to find everything and look up past bills.
  2. Organization. Just as a paper filing system works best when maintained in well thought out folders, the same is true for a paperless  system. It takes very little time to set up computer folders but is essential to have an effective system. Setting up email folders is a great way to keep track of automatic payments and statement alerts.
  3. Don’t download everything. When I first started my paperless campaign I felt the need to download every statement/invoice etc and file them away in my carefully crafted computer folders. But what is the point of filling up my hard drive when I can quite easily access everything I need via the accounts I set up online. Now I only download and file what is absolutely necessary.
  4. Backup. I backup on an external hard drive.
  5. Don’t print anything out unless you absolutely have to.

© 2011 Chicago web designer