New Website for Heinzen Smith Properties

Client Margaret Smith, of  Heinzen Smith Properties, has a 150 year family history of building homes just north of Chicago. Each house is custom designed and blends beautifully with existing homes in the Wilmette area.

Margaret contacted us with lots of ideas for her web site and we have been able to translate those ideas into a site that perfectly captures what she wanted to achieve.

Home builder wilmette IL Chicago

After developing a color palette inspired by a slate roof with weathered copper gutters, we designed a home page which gives site visitor a quick glimpse of some of their most eye catching homes and focuses attention to New Homes for Sale.  We were spoiled for choice when it came time to select  photographs as the client provided so many stunning homes to pick from. Not wanting waste an opportunity to showcase them further, we carried them through to the inner pages of the site and cropped them to center on doors as a “welcoming” gesture.

chicago home builder website

The site was also designed and coded as one that is fully responsive – see here for an explanation of responsive web design

Here it is on a desktop

responsive web design chicago
On an ipad in portrait and landscape orientations
reponsive web design chicago
And finally an iphone
responsive web design chicago

You can visit the site at heinzensmith.com

Three questions to consider for mobile friendly websites

How much traffic is my website getting from devices like ipads and smart phones?

While you may not know the answer, I can guarantee it is more than you were getting a few years ago.  A quick look at the statistics for our own web site shows a 100% increase in the amount of traffic we are getting from mobile devices in just the last 12 months. A personal site I write, creativeinchicago.com, derives 40% of it’s 35k monthly traffic from mobile devices. Numbers like these are difficult to ignore and there is no doubt that mobile access  is a growing trend that is here to stay.

What does my site look like on mobile devices?

There are quite a few online tools that have popped up that emulate how a site will look on a particular device and while they can’t guarantee how you site will behave on any given device they do provide a quick snap shot. You can test your site on a simple emulator HERE . It will show you what your site looks like in different window widths, which is a simple but effective simulation technique –  to see which window size corresponds to which device click on the device sizes button.

A responsive website will adjust itself depending on the size of the window (or type of device) as shown with our site. This means that the site will be easy to use and offer the user an optimum experience regardless of what type of device they are using to visit from.

reponsive web desig in chicago.

 

A site which is not responsive will not adjust as illustrated in the site below. The simulator will display horizontal scroll bars in this case.

unpresonsive website

Most tablets and smart phones will actually shrink the website down to fit their screen instead of making the user scroll horizontally so the simple simulator used above is not accurate in that respect.

A more rigorous  simulator to try is Mobile phone simulator .

Here are the same two websites plugged in.

responsive and unresponsive web sites

The responsive site has adjusted to offer the user and optimum viewing experience but the unresponsive site offers tiny text and  unreadable navigation. These can be magnified  of course but the site makes the user really have to work to see it.

Can my website be converted to a responsive web site?

To behave responsively a website needs to be coded in a unique way. In many cases the existing design can be used, as in the case of a recent responsive conversion we carried out for ruthellenhasser.com. We made almost no changes to the overall design of the site but completely revamped the code powering it

RESPONSIVE DESIGN CHICAGO responsive_design_chicago_2 responsive_design_chicago_3

I am ready to move forward with a mobile friendly website

If you are looking to move forward either building a new website that is mobile friendly or converting an existing web site to behave responsively we are here to help. Call 847 607 8679 to get started today.

Re-designing a Website: 5 Things to Consider

There comes a time in the life of every web site when a re-design is in order. This can be driven by a new brand image,  making better use of advancing web technologies or simply the need to provide a better organizational structure.

Needing to re-organize was the driving force behind a design shake up of Creative in Chicago, a craft and home decor blog and the outlet for my personal creative endeavors.

When I first started this blog  I opted for a quick and easy Blogger template,  simply adding a custom header and working with the template designer to add a unique background and set the blog layout.  It was fully functional but not the most appealing site in the world, but as I had no idea if it was something I was going to write on a regular basis, I didn’t want to invest a load of time in setting it up.

Creative in Chicago

As it turns out the blog now has over 200 posts with over 30K visitor a month and was in dire need of a shake up, so it underwent a redesign . For regular blogging I generally recommend using WordPress but because I did not want to spend more time than necessary, I decided to stick with Blogger.

redesign website

During the redesign process I wanted to address

    1. Look and Feel
      The overall look and feel of the blog was very bland and I wanted to punch it up a notch but still let the content of the site do most of the talking.
    2. Reorganization/Navigation
      The posts in the blog had all been categorized but I wanted to refine the categorization process and then use it as a navigational structure, making posts and topics of interest much easier to find.
    3. Readability
      To enable visitor to quickly scan new content from the home page or a category page I wanted to move from the full post to a summary post format.
    4. Advertising
      The site receives around 30K visitors a month and I wanted to explore the advertising opportunities available for generate revenue from the site.
    5. Responsive Design
      Around 20% of the traffic comes via mobile devices so it was important that I provided a site that was optimized for those visitors.

 

Look/Feel and Readability

In re-designing a site I wanted to keep some semblance of the original site so not to completely alienate my readers with something totally new and unexpected.  I kept the background patterns and type face of  “Creative in Chicago” the same but completely reworked  the header, creating a little more pop with the use of color and simple design elements and also integrated social media icons and RSS feed subscription.

I also moved away from the full post format on the home and category pages. Instead the reader is now offered a summary of each post with an thumbnail picture. It is much easier to see at a glance the content of the site.

creative in chicago blog

Reorganization/Navigation

Although I had been using  categories to define content there lacked a definite structure which I could use as navigational tool.  I reassessed and ended up with five main categories : Art – Crafts projects – Decorating – Free Stuff – Garden projects and within these categories I defined a number of sub categories. For example the category Decorating has five sub categories: Before and Afters – Painting – Decorative Accents – Wall Art Ideas- Windows .  The navigation bar was reworked to include these main blog categories, with  drop down elements for the subcategories. A search bar  was also prominently placed.  Posts that were buried deep within the blog are now much more accessible.

 

creative in chicago website navigation

Advertising

I decided to incorporate Google Adsense into the site and allotted a spot high on the sidebar for placement.  I wanted a position that would work both well for click throughs but not to be too invasive for my readers.  I am also experimenting with in-line advertising through infolink. Both are working nicely!

Responsive Design

Fortunately Blogger makes this really easy and it is as simple as selecting a pre-made template to display when anyone accesses the site with a mobile device.

In Progress: Website for Chicago Home Builder

Here is a sneaky look at a new web site we are working on for a Chicago custom home builder.

The client has provided an abundance of photos and we have been spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting which ones to use. During the defining stage of the project we discussed color palettes and the idea of taking inspiration from a slate roof with copper gutter was born.
New website for Chicago builder

The project is in development stage of our process and should be live in a few weeks.

Web Site re-design for Chicago Suburbs Business: AED Battery Exchange

Launch today is a freshly re-designed website for AED Battery Exchange aedbatteryexchange.com. Located in the far north suburbs of Chicago, they are leading the way in re- celling batteries for Automated external defibrillators and wanted a web site which truly matched their innovative product.

Also on their want list was a professional looking site which was easy to navigate and appealing to their target audience.

We created a very clean look and feel, the home page featuring an eye catching Call to Action banner to “Find your AED battery”.
AED battery exchange

They batteries were categorized in terms on manufacturer and featured images which can be enlarged so the user can clarify the correct battery.
aed website chicago

The site is definitely a step up from their old one

aed battery website chicago

An Example of Small Business Image Branding

Here is another project which showcases the consistent use of image branding elements as I talked about in my post Brand Image Tips for Small business Owners.

I started working with Restore North Shore, a Chicago remodeling company, a few years back …creating a set of basic brand image elements for them … logo, color palette, type face selection. These element were then integrated into a website and more recently I have created Lawn signs, Car Magnets and t-shirts, working from the elements I originally established.

branded car magnet North Shore ChicagoNorth shore Chicago t shirt design

north shore chicago t shirt design

And here are the branding elements all working together, delivering a strong and consistent look for this small Chicago business.
restore north shore chicago branding

If you would like help building a branded image for your small business we are happy to help, learn more about our branding services or contact us today

The Eye of a Chicago Web Designer

As a web and graphic designer my “design” eyes never seem to rest. If I am out and about driving, I am reviewing and critiquing logos on the sides of vehicles, if I am waiting at a clients office for a meeting to start I am analyzing the patterns in the carpet or on the wall coverings. Just sitting here as I type I can see patterns every where from the wood grain on my desk to the grill of my computer speakers.  I am constantly absorbing design all around me; patterns, textures,  shapes, color palettes, color combinations, type faces … to many it may sound exhausting …but to me it’s not!

Even at 30,000 feet the “Chicago web designers eye” is primed and ready. As I peered out of the window on a recent flight to Vegas I was greeted by an amazing patchwork of shapes and contours that had been highlighted by a sprinkling of snow.  How cool is that!

The eye of the Chicago web designer

 

How much does a website cost?

how much does a website cost

How much does a website cost?  If you are visiting this page looking for a definitive answer then I am going to disappoint because pricing a website can be a complicated process but it is a question on every potential client’s mind. The cost of a web site is a little bit like the cost of  a house, the  bigger and more complex the heftier the price tag.  So lets break things down a bit to give you an insight as to where the costs lie and walk through some client scenarios.

Lets first consider the type of company quoting your project. A design agency with a portfolio full of fortune 500 companies and a trendy studio in a skyscraper in down town Chicago is going to charge more …well.. because they have to to cover their costs. If you are large company with mega$$ they may be a good fit. An offshore, say,  Indian based web design company, may give you an unbelievably cheap quote but how comfortable are you doing business that way?

A good approach to selecting a company to quote your project is to take a good look at their portfolio and services and if their offerings match what you are after, they are worth a call. Also don’t be afraid to check out any testimonials.

Any decent web design company will lead you through a discovery process (ours is free) to understand what it is you want to accomplish with your web presence. Come prepared to talk about your marketing objectives, the type of functionality you’d like on your site ( e.g shopping cart, content management, video integration, social media, blogging capabilities etc.), who your customers are, who you competition is and what makes you unique. The more information you can provide at this stage the better, as the information  will be used to create a comprehensive proposal which will outline the best plan of action to achieve your goals and a realistic price.

Whatever the goals of the project, the cost to create it can generally be broken down into the following categories

Design

  • A captivating design to engage you site visitors
  • Home page and inner pages of the site
  • email template design
  • Imagery selection
  • Navigation design
  • Definition of branding assets e.g color palette, typefaces
  • Working from a predefined brand style guide

Programming

  • Converting your design to a form which can be understood by web browsers
  • Integrating all content
  • Building and integrating functionality e.g  shopping carts, databases
  • Integrating with a Content Management System (CMS) e.g WordPress
  • Integrating 3rd party application e.g newsletter management, Google analytics
  • Mobile version of site
  • Browser compatibility testing

Launch

  • Domain registration/configuration
  • Hosting setup
  • Email setup
  • Upload to server
  • SSL certificate
  • uploading data ( e.g for e commerce)

Marketing

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Submission to basic search engines
  • More extensive search engine, directory, portal submission e.g Targeting Local directories
  • Social media profiles e.g Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest
  • Email campaigns
  • Paid Advertising Campaigns e.g Google Adwords
  • RSS subscription

Now not every project is going to require all aspects of these categories so lets take a look at a few client scenarios

Client A: Online Brochure Website

A small interior design business requires a simple online brochure type website to market their services. They would like to set up a Facebook page, an email management tool so they can send out a newsletter and a Pinterst account to pin photographs of their design work. They serve a local area and would like to rank well for anyone carrying out a local search for an interior designer- they are not interested in paid advertising although this may change depending upon the site traffic. They already have an offline brand image but require a domain name. The site will be between 10 and 12 pages in total.

Project Estimate

Design: 12 hrs
Programing: 18 hrs
Launch: 4 hrs
Marketing: 10 hrs

Total: 44 hrs = $4,400

Client B: Content Management Website

A company offering summer camps wants a web site they can manage themselves. The would like to upload photographs of camp events and allow parents to register their children – they already have an online application to allow this through a 3rd party but this need to be integrated seamlessly into the site. They would also like to be able to write a blog. They have a Facebook profile already set up but this to be linked to the site.  Most of their customers are by word of mouth but they would like a basic SEO and search engine submission.  They have a comprehensive offline style guide and already have a domain name. The site will be approximately 25 pages.

Project Estimate

Design: 24 hrs
Programming: 50 hrs
Launch: 8 hrs
Marketing: 5hrs

Total: 87 hrs = $8,700

Client C: E commerce Website

A small business want to launch an online store to sell their products. They also want the ability for their clients to sign up for an e-newsletter which will offer monthly promotions. They need assistance in selecting a provider for these email blasts and a custom template designed for the newsletter.They already have a merchant account set up and are interested in paid advertising to generate traffic. They have a logo and all copy for the website ready.

Design: 35 hrs
Programming: 70 hrs
Launch: 20 hrs
Marketing: 20 hrs

Total: 145 hrs = $14,500

As you can see the price range for a website can vary dramatically depending on what you want it do do and want to achieve.  If you would like us to quote on your next website give “The Chicago web Designer” a call at 847 607 8679, we may be a Chicago web design company but we don’t have a trendy studio in the city and don’t charge ridiculous prices!