Social Networking Overload: Tips to Prevent Insanity!

Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, blogging. Are you getting bogged down in managing your social networks? They can become like black holes consuming your precious working hours, sucking away minutes here and minutes there. Before you know it you have spent half your working day tweeting about this and that and checking your Facebook page.

Here are a few tips to keep your sanity.

  1. Set aside  specific time(s) maybe once or twice a day to engage in your social networks. Once your time is up, shut them down and get on with your work. Set a timer if that helps.
  2. Configure each application so updates are not emailed to you, this can be very distracting.
  3. Use an application like Hootsuite which allows you to manage  multiple social network profiles. You can also  monitor particular key words/phrases, and even pre schedule tweets and status updates.
  4. Relax! Social networking is not about how many followers you have, how often you tweet or how fast you respond. Ask yourself why you take part in social networking, what is your master plan? Stick to that plan.

2010 © St Louis Web Designer

St Louis web designers tip of the day: Protect your Computer

This week has seen some quite spectacular storm roll through St Louis. I had the misfortune of having my house stuck by lightening Tuesday night. Aside from the ear splitting bang, the strike blew a chunk out of my garage, tripped every fuse in my fuse box, and fried my phones and DSL modem to the land of complete non function. A nearby tree was also stuck and now bears an impressive scar.

After dealing with all this commotion yesterday it got me thinking about the computer “what if’s”. Here is a handy list of three easy tips to help prevent a catastrophic storm induced disaster.

  • If you know a storm is on its way unplug your modem, and not just from the electrical outlet,  unplug the cable providing your signal. If I had done this I would have saved myself the inconvenience and expense of a new modem.
  • Always use a surge protector for your equipment.  I have used surge protectors with a battery back up in the past. They are really useful for sudden power outages but in my experience they have a short lifetime. I  just use a standard protector and obsessively save my work as I go along.
  • If the worse comes to the worse and your computer gets fried during an electrical storm do you have your data backed up? There are plenty of options available these days from online services to stand alone hard drives.

Anyone else have any tips?
stike by lightening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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!