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!

Can you read this secret message?

I came across this recently

Can you read this

 

It is amazing how the brain can quickly become wired to comprehend something that seems so alien.

So in the spirit of making your brain work, I have designed a little  teaser. Can you read this secret message?

can you read thisIt requires a little thought and as a  hint you will need to print it out …you can download it  here

Comment if you solve it.

© Chicago Web Designer

Digital Detox.

Much of my life is spent dealing with digital technology so every now and again I need a complete digital detox to recharge my creative juices.  no phone, no email, no blogging, no Facebook, no Pinterest,  no Google, no voice mail, no Photoshop, no key word analysis, no coding, no CSS, no debugging, no pulling my hair out because of Internet Explorer.

The answer…a holiday. Getting away from Chicago and heading to the coast. Give me a good book, a warm ocean, sandy toes, sea breezes, hunting for shells,  underwater handstand lessons from my teenager, key lime pie, no access to a computer and a phone that is turned off …AAAAAAAAH bliss. I find it completely liberating.

Of course coming back to work is hard even though I love my job. But I have web sites to create, brochures to design and SEO strategies to execute.

So I will have to make do with a few “digital memories” today.

 

digital detox of the chicago web designer

How about you…did you manage a digital detox this summer. Dd you succeed or did you have a sneak peak at your email?

© 2012 Chicago Web Designer

Indigo Image : Having fun with your business name

Following my post yesterday on the anatomy of a company name I thought I’d put together a short list today, of fun things you can do with your business name.

Make an anagram

You never know an anagram may reveal a fantastic marketing message. There is no need to sit down and work them all out yourself, plug your letters into an online generator like wordsmith.org and out they pop.

Here is a sampling of what was generated for Indigo Image

I going media
A Doggie Mini
Go maid genii
A midi egg ion
I imagine God

No mind blowing marketing messages there but a fun exercise nevertheless and through Wordsmith.org you can even create an animation of your anagram.

anagram of indigo image

Taking an anagram approach can sometimes be useful for coming up with a product name. Consider the Toyota car Camry, it is an anagram of  my car.

Produce a Graphic

Plug your company name into the Tagxedo creator to create a fun graphic. You can set the font, color palette, select a preloaded shape or even upload your own. Here is a fun Indigo Image graphic I created in literally 5 seconds.

 

Indigo Image star

 

Create a QR Code

QR codes encrypt data which can be easily decoded by a QR reader app you can download to your cell phone.

This Qr code decodes to read ” Indigo Image : The Chicago web designer: 847 607 8679″

 

indigo image qr code

Creating a QR code couldn’t be simpler. There are a number on free online generation site such as Kaywa which allows you to generate a URL, text, phone number or sms QR code

Use your Qr code on

  • Business cards
  • Marketing material such as brochures and flyers
  • T shirts
  • Real estate signs
  • Promotional freebies
  • Product labels
  • Store fronts

© Chicago Web Designer 2012

Local Search Directories offering free listings

Gone are the days when people would use the trusty old “yellow pages” to search for services they require. Now the first port of call is the internet and many times will turn to an online local directory such as Yelp.

Does your business have a local search presence? Getting listed in local online directories can help the overall ranking of your site and give you more opportunities to connect with potential customers.

There has been a real growth in local directories over the last couple of years and generally getting listed in them is easy…although quite time consuming.

Here is a list of 43 directories that offer FREE listings.

  1. Google ( view our Google local directory listing)
  2. Bing ( View our Bing local listing)
  3. Yahoo ( view our Yahoo Local listing)
  4. Yelp ( view our Yelp profile)
  5. Merchant Circle ( View our Merchant Circle listing)
  6. Linkedin ( view Indigo Image profile)
  7. Yellow Pages ( yp lisiting)
  8. White Pages (local lisiting)
  9. Local Pages( listing)
  10. SuperMedia (listing)
  11. Mapquest ( view listing)
  12. Local ( view our Local Listing)
  13. Think Local (listing)
  14. City Slick ( view our listing)
  15. Show me Local ( listing)
  16. Insider Pages ( Chicago web designer listing)
  17. Manta(Manta Listing)
  18. Volta.com (Indigo Image Volta Listing)
  19. Zip.pro (our profile)
  20. Twibs (listing)
  21. Localeze (listing)
  22. Localdatabase (Chicago web design company listing)
  23. Yellowwise (listing)
  24. MojoPages ( listing)
  25. Tulapo (Indigo Image profile)
  26. Best of the Web (profile)
  27. Yellowbot(Listing)
  28. Yellowee (listing)
  29. City Squares (listing)
  30. Kudzu (listing)
  31. Brownbook (chicago web design profile)
  32. Match Point (listing)
  33. Hot Frog (listing)
  34. Zoom Info (listing)
  35. Magic Yellow (listing)
  36. UScity
  37. Yellowbook
  38. City Search
  39. Yellowassistance
  40. Localdex (Indigo Image-Chicago web designer listing)
  41. Business Journal
  42. US yellow Pages
  43. City Search

If you are looking to increase the visibility of your business in local search give us a call to see how we can help: 847-607-8679

© 2012 Chicago Web Designer

Looking for a Marketing Visual: Try Tagxedo

Here is a interesting application to quickly and easily generate tag cloud images, Tagxedo.

It grabs the most frequently used words from any web site or blog feed , search term or Twitter Id.

The fonts, color palette and shape can be easily customized.

tagxedo Chicago web designer

and you can even upload a custom shape …here I uploaded the icon of our logo.

tagxedo custom shape

The images it creates can be saved in a number of formats. A good idea for a really quick marketing idea.

©: 2011 Chicago Web Designer

Elements of a good email signature

The New Year often give pause to thought on how you are conducting your business. Are you making the most of your opportunities, using your time efficiently, attracting the right sort of clients? It is a time for reviewing and updating and I have a number of things I will be updating over the next few weeks for my own business.

On the agenda today was  my email signature and as much of my business communication is done via email, it is an important little snippet at the bottom of every email I send. It essentially acts as an electronic business card.

What are the elements of a good email signature?

  • Your name
  • Email address
  • Telephone number
  • Fax Number
  • A very brief statement on what you do and offer
  • Link to company web site
  • Links to social media profiles such as Twitter and Facebook
  • Keeping the signature short and sweet

In my signature I also have my logo and also the word “Thanks” so I don’t have to type it out every time.  The signature can also be edited on a per email basis, so if I need to have a more formal finish I can easily delete “Thanks” and replace with something more appropriate. The same goes for adding my surname.

Here is how it looks.

Elements of an effective email signatureSetting up an email  signature in Outlook is easy and there are great instruction on how to do so here.

© 2012 Chicago Web Designer

The Chicago web designer on istockphoto.com

As a web designer I know an image can sometimes say a thousand words and stock photography companies like istockphoto play an invaluable tool in my web designers’ tool box.

I recently got approved as an istockphoto photographer and while photography is something I only dabble in, I like to challenge myself to take photos worthy to post online!

Chicago web designer istockphoto

You can view my collection so far at www.istockphoto.com which feature photos taken in the North shore area of Chicago this past fall. I am the first to admit I am no Ansel Adams but I find the creative process fun.

Chicago web designer stock photography

© 2011 Chicago Web Designer

We have a summer intern

Throughout the month of July we have a new addition to our office, a summer intern.

She is technically savvy and artistically gifted but comes to us with no knowledge of web design. However her eagerness to learn is energizing and the fact she has a blank slate when it comes to the world of web design is a plus, as we can point her in the right direction to how things should be done.

We have got her started on an HTML tutorial and she has dived right in, she is coding by hand which is the best way to learn.

Welcome aboard Chloe!

© 2011 Chicago Web Designer