Archive for the ‘Web Development’ Category

Hiring the right firm for your new website (an only partially biased article)

March 17, 2010

Most of the problems that we see when it comes to how people hire website companies comes from a lack of clarity from the person doing the hiring regarding what they want out of their website.

There are three primary types of website companies.

1. The IT company.
2. The Design Company.
3. The Marketing/Advertising company.

There is nothing wrong with any of the three; they each have a specific niche.

The real problem is that all three say they are fully capable on any front when they aren’t. The issue is compounded when a client doesn’t know the difference or doesn’t know what to look for when hiring the firm.

The IT guys.
There are many levels of Information Technology (IT), web development starting from the company whose main work is fixing your computers all the way up to the enterprise level company that solves large technical problems. You can easily spot an IT firm at presentations because they focus on the technology first and the marketing communications second. These providers can be the right solution for the smaller level companies without large budgets. However, in many instances, organization assume that all websites are technical tools which should automatically go to an IT firm when modern websites are usually marketing tools that an IT firm isn’t best suited to build.

The Design Shop
You can spot the design firm presentation because they will focus heavily on their past designs or showing you designs of what your new website might look like if you hire them. Assuming it’s a good shop, a design firm can help your web image look fantastic. There are many mid-level design firms that can get you on the web at an affordable price. Often times design focused firms will hire out freelancers to actually do the technical work on the site while they focus on making you look pretty.

The Marketing Guys
The Marketing or Ad Firm can be the best or worst decision among the group. Usually, they are most expensive due to high overhead (i.e. employees, buildings, offices, etc.). You can spot the Marketing Agency because they will talk about results first with design and tech as simply parts of the solution. The trick is being able to separate the good firms from the poor, as well as managing expectations. A good firm can deliver impactful change for your organization on the web. A weak firm may leave your wallet empty and you wondering what happened.

Here are some steps to help decide and make your new website experience more fruitful.

First, start at the end.
Define what it is you want from this website: What do you want it to do? More sales? Better image? More awareness? Provide a service? Once you know what you want to provide on the web, the type of firm you should hire will become much more clear.

Ask about Time, Project Management and Process.
A website is a multi-part process that can vary in production time due to a multitude of factors. The agency you hire should be able to clearly demonstrate how they will mange the project, as well as give you time estimations based on your particular variables. This point goes for every type of firm. Ask questions. At what stage of the project will we see what? Will they just disappear and show up with a “finished” site three months later? What work are they outsourcing? What happens with maintenance and support after the website goes live? Many firms will not show a design until the site is built. While for some this is okay, most organization like to see an illustration or sketch of what the end product before hundreds of hours are spent building it.

Define Deliverables
Because some clients are uncomfortable when talking about the web, they fail to ask for specific deliverables from their agency. Not defining deliverables or having them defined for you can lead to an open ended relationship where the web people are delivering what they think you want or the minimum they think they can get away with. But building a website is like building a building or any other product. You need to know what to expect. So, at the start of the project, outline specific functions of the website (i.e. timelines, content, etc.). If you can’t define these deliverables, ask them to define them so there is no inconsistency in expectations.

Where’s the beef? (Content)
Content is overlooked consistently but it’s what fills up your website, it’s what visitors will be looking at, and it’s what Google uses to rank you in searches. Is your content going to be text, pictures, video, some combination, or something else? Does the firm develop the content for you? Do you want them to? The IT Firm typically doesn’t develop content. The Design Firm usually subcontracts it out. And the Marketing Company does it at a premium.

Education
Do you want to be educated on the possibilities of the website and have a relationship with the firm so they always keep you on the cutting edge? It’s a good idea to look for a firm that talks about the present and the future.

How much money you got?
Figure out what your budget is going to be for this website because that will determine the level of service that you will receive. Spending more does not necessarily mean you will get more. But, like your father said, you get what you pay for in life. You don’t necessarily need to share your specific budget with the firm, but try to determine the amount you could conceivably budget on the project keeping in mind your goals (if you want a site to make you millions, you probably should spend more than $500). Different agencies charge a really wide variety of prices based on factors like expertise, location, staff size, and more. Websites can range from $1,000 to $200,000 and its a good idea to know what priority you give your site.

Check the References.
This gets overlooked more often than we like to think about. Ask and check references because it can save you time, money and sanity. If you call ten references and eight had amazing experiences, it’s much better than if none or one did. Think of it like you’re hiring an employee or accepting a tenant. You wouldn’t hire or let someone live in your house without checking their backgrounds. Why should hiring a web contractor be any different?

One other thing to keep in mind if you’re really small or have a super tiny budget: There are services out there that make building your own website (within templates and without any custom functionality) fairly easily. Companies like SquareSpace.com and Moonfruit.com are resources for this type of project.

And, finally, no questions are bad questions. So ask your firms the most basic of questions because, once your site is complete, it will always be more about you than it will be about them.

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So What Is This Social Media Stuff Anyway?

March 18, 2009

A lot of people talk about Social Media (or Web 2.0) – but not everyone knows exactly what it really means.

That’s okay. Like your mom told you when you were 13, it’s okay to be curious.

Web 1.0 was the first decade of the web, where the internet was a place to look and read. The information flowed one way: from a website to the user. Think of it like reading a brochure that happened to be online.

Social Media is a completely different beast. Over the last half-decade, the internet has changed from a one-way conversation to an active conversation between multiple parties.

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Blogs. e-Newsletters. Twitter. Facebook. Myspace. LinkedIn. Wikipedia. They’re all ways for anyone and everyone to take AND contribute information.

Since Social Media is where your customers, clients and donors are spending their time and money, it’s smart business to get in on that conversation with Permission Marketing.

It takes time and effort. Web 2.0 and Social Media tools require fresh, relevant and changing content all the time. But it’s worth it to stay connected with your market.

Want To Get Found On The Internet?

February 12, 2009
SEO doesn't have to be a blind shot at the target.

SEO doesn't have to be a blind shot at the target.

Is your website really optimized?

Good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means that your website is ranked highly by Google, Yahoo! and other search engines when your clients or prospects look up keywords.

Being found by a third party site like Google is great for business. It positions you as an expert in your field before you’ve even said a word.

So how do you get your website optimized? Here are three simple tips to get you started….

1. Update your website regularly. The days of set-and-forget websites are over. Google wants to see websites updated regularly because that’s what Google’s users want to see.

2. Link, link, link. Being linked to other websites or blogs increases your relevancy. So contact your sister organizations, clients and vendors and link to each other on your sites.

3. Put up video. Websites with video have a higher retention rate for visitors. So they get ranked higher than sites without video. Does your website have any video on it?

Remember that Google, Yahoo! and others change the rules every few months. So it’s important to always be working hard to make sure your website is optimized.

Tweet, tweet…it’s your brand flying across the park on Twitter

December 18, 2008

Is Twittering going to work for business and marketing? Still yet to be determined in a meaningful way. There are lots of opinions on it out there. Here’s one now.

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We like Twitter. Want to know what we’re up to? Sign up to follow Chris’ tweets by clicking on his photo here.

Is Online Writing Real Writing?

December 11, 2008

Seth Godin had a really interesting post today about how the Pulitzer Prize committee is finally getting (sort-of) hip to the fact that online writing is making a huge difference in the world – and is, therefore, worthy of being recognized with their fancy-schmancy award.┬áThe screwy part is that only writing associated with big outlets will be considered.

The web is a huge place. A lot of the content on it obviously isn’t associated with those big outlets. And a lot of important work is happening outside those big outlets.

Here in GrafiQa Land, a lot of our clients are having great success positioning their businesses or not-for-profits as the leading experts in their fields through business blogs or e-news tools. Some of them have experienced such success that we think they should get an award. I guess it just won’t be the Pulitzer.

New Web sites launch

October 12, 2007

A little over a month ago, our fearless leader, Chris, and his wife had a beautiful baby girl. Meanwhile, our fearless web developer, Jason, and his wife are expecting a baby this December, and I just returned from a trip to Florida for another friend’s baby shower.

So maybe it’s because I’m thinking in terms of new life, or maybe it’s because I’m still the new gal in the office, but when we launch a new Web site, I always want to hand out chocolate cigars and tie a Mylar balloon to our mailbox that reads “It’s a Web Site!”

Here are a few spankin’ new sites that GrafiQa helped bring into the world:

Matco Electric
Specializing in large, industrial jobs for clients such as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Tioga Downs and numerous healthcare facilities, Matco needed a site that showcased the company’s expertise and would serve as an alluring resource for potential clients. GrafiQa designed a site that reflects Matco Electric’s high level of service. We gave them a fresh, modern design, and a user-friendly navigation, as well as an online portfolio.

We also trained representatives from the company on the software they can use to easily update the site themselves whenever they need to, without incurring extra technical costs or delays.

Riverwood Gifts
Shoppers who love browsing through Riverwood Gifts on Cooperstown’s Main Street can now visit the store’s new Web site, which was designed by GrafiQa. The site, designed to capture and communicate the personality of the store and its owner, Rick Gibbons, features original photography, Flash animation and retail commerce capabilities.

Landfill Service Corporation
Landfill Service Corporation, based in Binghamton, offers a unique product: A spray-on covering system for landfills that reduces volume, eliminates odor and prolongs the life of a landfill. It’s also easier and safer for workers to use than other methods, such as tarping. GrafiQa created a site that uses streaming video to communicate the benefits of the product, and show it in use.

Beaver Mountain Log & Cedar Homes
Beaver Mountain Log & Cedar Homes needed a Web site that reflected the company’s status as one of the premier builders of log homes in the Northeast. People come from hundreds of miles away to visit Beaver Mountain’s amazing workshop, where entire homes are built, then drystacked, component-by-component to test for accuracy before being broken down and shipped to the building sites.

We built a Web site that comes as close as possible to giving homeowners and potential clients a cyber tour of the facility. We also optimized the site so that when people do Internet searches for log homes and other specific keywords, Beaver Mountain’s site will rank high on the results.

If you want to know more about the work we do on our clients’ Web sites, or you would like to have our expert audit your existing site to make sure it’s doing everything it could, you can reach us at 607.433.8837 or call me at etb@grafiqa.com.

Blugguge 1.0

July 28, 2007

GrafiQa is a marketing agency and graphic creative services firm in Oneonta, NY. We specialize in brand, print and web development. Employees of GrafiQa will be using this blog to talk about projects, insights, links, articles and anything we feel like posting about. Visit our website at http://www.grafiqa.com to find out more.