Freebie Friday: Damask Gray Etsy Shop Banner & Avatar

Damask Gray Banner

A while ago, when I first signed up for Etsy, I thought it would be a great idea to sell Etsy shop banners and avatars. Other sellers were selling their graphics for $50 to $100, which I thought was okay so I set my prices to match. But then the prices started dropping, some to as low as $10! Well, I just couldn’t compete with that so I ditched the entire idea and went in a different direction. And, now, YOU get the benefit of my experiments in EtsyLand. Here is one of my designs. The files are Photoshop psd files set to 72 ppi screen resolution. You will need Adobe Photoshop to open these files.

Download the banner. Download the avatar.

Party Like A Single-Celled Organism Card

Hot off the presses, our latest card! This one is for your favorite biologist or anyone who likes a witty line. The outside reads a simple “Happy Birthday” while the inside says, “Party like a single-celled organism”.

Party Like A Single-Celled Organism Card

Party Like A Single-Celled Organism Card

Party Like A Single-Celled Organism Card

Party Like A Single-Celled Organism Card

If you love this card, you can buy it in our store here.

Freebie Friday: Shining Moon

Moon

When I needed a moon graphic recently, I looked through my stock art stash and found absolutely nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. So I thought maybe I could draw my own but of course I had no clue how. I found several tutorials online and picked one to follow. It turned out to be very easy! The moon is shiny and lovely and I also learned how to shade it orange.

The file is a 4″ x 4″ 300 ppi pdf. You may use it for personal or commercial work but you may NOT sell the file in digital form NOR may you sell it in a stand alone printed format. Download it here.

If you use this graphic, please leave me a comment with a link: I’d love to see your work!

Horny Rhinoceros Note Card

We’ve taken a vintage 19th century illustration from our personal collection and given it a fun caption. Two rhinoceros discuss the size of their horns. Typical of male conversation, the exchange is brief. The first asks “Dude…?” The other replies “Viagra!”

Horny Rhinoceros Greeting Card

Horny Rhinoceros Greeting Card

CARD DETAILS
TEXT: “Dude…?” “Viagra!” Blank inside for your special message
SIZE: Folded to 5 1/2″ x 3 1/2″
PAPER: Heavyweight premium bright white paper
ENVELOPE: White envelope sized accordingly

Buy it here.

Love this image? We also have it on a mint tin. I don’t even want to speculate about what you’ll keep in it.

Craft Show Success

One thing that makes me happy is organization. Yes, I am that kind of person. So when I was preparing for my first craft show, I spent quite a bit of time putting together my own checklist so I would not forget anything. Now I’m sharing it with you. You can also download a PDF copy by clicking here.

DISPLAYS

  • Tent and weights
  • Folding tables
  • Ornament stand
  • Notecard stand
  • Magnet stand
  • Rotating necklace displays
  • Black step stool
  • Wicker baskets
  • Table fabric
  • Business card holder and cards
  • Banner & clips
  • Pricing tags and signage
  • Inventory
  • Mirror

SUPPLY BAG

  • Notepad
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Bag of clips: paper clips, butterfly clips, clothes pins
  • Hole punch
  • Screwdriver set
  • Stapler
  • Shims
  • Bag of twine, string, rubberbands
  • Small trash bags

PERSONAL ITEMS

  • Aspirin
  • Allergy medicine
  • Makeup
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Hairbrush
  • Tissues
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand wipes

MAKING THE SALE

  • Thank you postcards
  • Stickers for shopping bags
  • Tissue paper
  • Ribbon
  • Shopping bags
  • Start up cash
  • Cashbox
  • Receipt pads
  • Pens
  • Card reader
  • Phone
  • Calculator
  • We take credit cards sign
  • Vendor apron

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Donated item for their raffle
  • Check and/or paperwork for event
  • Rubber mats to stand on
  • Craft bag with a craft to demonstrate
  • Strong glasses
  • Stool or chair
  • Cooler with drinks and snacks

Please leave a comment to let me know what YOU bring to your shows.

Canopy Tent
The first thing you need to know is that if you search for one online they are called canopies, not tents. I spent an unreasonable amount of time fretting about this tent purchase. I searched the Internet for tents, I visited every sporting goods and big box store in my local area, and I relentlessly questioned friends and family with experience in this area on their opinions. Finally I went out and bought the same tent I probably would have bought in the first place had I not spent all that time and energy worrying about it. Here’s the one I picked:

It’s the Quest Dome Canopy 10′ x 10′ tent. Here’s what the official description says about it:

The Quest Q100 10×10 Dome Canopy is perfect for any outdoor event. Whether you are tailgaiting, camping, or enjoying a backyard picnic with the family, you’ll be ready in a matter of seconds with this canopy. It’s made of heavy duty commercial grade fabric, allowing you and your guests to be protected from the elements and the center or the canopy extends to nearly 10 feet. The Hydra-Tek material allows rain to bead up and roll off. Features:

  • Includes a wheeled carry bag for easy transport and storage
  • Instant set up (sets up in 3 easy steps)
  • New dome top provides increased head room and a larger interior space
  • Spacious dome design
  • Shelter Provides UPF 50+ Protection – the strongest protection available to block 98% of harmful rays
  • 10’X10′ base with 100 square feet of shade coverage
  • Dimensions: 10′ X 10′ base, 6′ 5″ walk-in height, 6″ peak height

I’m including this information because it’s important to get a tent that provides the most amount of shaded area possible. Other tents that are advertised as 10′ x 10′ have splayed legs that do indeed reach out to 10′ but the canopy does not, depriving you of much needed shade and protection. So do not get a tent like this blue one.

I was very pleased with myself at buying my brown canopy. I also got the weights to go around the legs so I can set up on hard ground. It worked perfectly and I loved the brown color, which I thought helped my tent stand out in a sea of white. However, at my second show, the neighboring crafter took my husband aside and informed him that if we were going to be doing a lot of shows we needed to buy a tent like hers, which cost around $250 and was very sturdy and completely waterproof. Well! That took the wind out of my sails. But, I filed the comment in my brain and shrugged it off. I’ll stick with my brown tent until it falls apart and then maybe I’ll get a better one.

La Nuit, La Neige, et La Mer: Night, Snow, & Sea

Made this Etsy Treasury this past weekend. I love the haunting, but calming scenes. Hope you enjoy!

And I also have a Pinterest page by the same name.


Freebie Friday: R.I.P. Lettering

R.I.P. Lettering

R.I.P. Lettering

Today I was making a tombstone for a Halloween shadowbox and I needed some spooky lettering that read, “R.I.P.” I created a Photoshop file with a selection of different fonts set against a grungy background. The lettering comes in three sizes. It didn’t take long and I can use it over and over.

For this week’s Friday Freebie I thought I would share it with you. It’s a 200 ppi 8.5″ x 11″ pdf.

You may use it for personal or commercial work but you may NOT sell the file in digital form NOR may you sell it in a printed format.

Download it here.

I’d love to see your work: leave me a link in the comments to show me what you did with this!

Put Your Logo To Work For You

A good logo is instantly recognizable. Think of a striped apple with a bite out of it; two red bull’s eye concentric circles; or five interlocking colored rings. These logos for Apple Computers, Target, and the Olympics are eye-catching but simple designs that pair strong graphics with appropriate color to brand the organizations they represent. Your logo should do the same for your business.

What is a logo?

A logo is a graphic element, symbol, or icon of a trademark or brand (e.g., Target’s bull’s eye). A logotype is text set in a unique typeface or arranged in a particular way (i.e., the text that spells out the word Target). In popular usage, the word logo is used to signify the graphical portion of a business identity (e.g., Target’s two red circles comprising a bull’s eye) and may or may not include the logotype.

Why you need a logo

A logo gives the first impression of a business. It can promote your business (put it on letterhead, signs, ads, etc.); can attract customers (picture those golden arches of McDonald’s during lunch hour); and can give a unique identity (think Coke versus Pepsi). In many ways, a logo is as important as the business name. When your customers see your logo, they will think of your business. So make sure that both your logo and your business are memorable. A logo is an aspect of your company branding and helps distinguish you from your competitors. It works with your colors, tagline (slogan), and marketing campaign.

Elements of a good logo

Since your logo will represent your business and will be seen by many potential customers, it’s important to consider the design carefully. Most importantly, the logo should represent your company appropriately. In other words, don’t choose an orange sun for a bottled water company. Be sure your logo displays basic design principles such as color, form, line, and space. A logo should look good in black and white as well as color and should retain its integrity whether reproduced small or large. A logo that looks good on your company’s letterhead may not necessarily be readable at a smaller size on the web or at a larger size on a billboard.

Put your logo to work

Place your logo on everything you print: letterhead, invoices, business cards, websites, company vehicles, pens, t-shirts, signs, and ads. Who knows, maybe your business will be the next Target or Apple Computers. A strong logo is an important part of your future success.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Designing a Logo, Case Study #1: Miniature-Boxes.com

Sometimes it’s helpful to see a logo built from concept to finished product. There are many striking logos around, but not many tutorials on how designers create a logo from scratch. Here is my thought process from the germ of an idea to finished design.

I needed to create a logo for my new store, Miniature-Boxes.com. This is an online retail store that sells small keepsake and trinket boxes like this:

Miniature Trinket Boxes

Miniature Trinket Boxes

I knew that I wanted to use rich jewel tones for this website, using the colors in the boxes above as my inspiration. My first step was to open up Photoshop and create a new document 1000 pixels wide and 900 pixels high. I chose a 300 ppi resolution because I’ll need to print this logo as well as use it for the web. I like to choose a larger workspace when creating a logo so I can bring in inspirational elements like the box pictures above.

I typed out the words “Miniature Boxes” and set the color to 9900cc, which also happens to be a web-safe color. I then tried out various fonts to see what worked. A script font seemed to be a good fit for this logo since the items I’m selling are geared toward women.

Trying Out Various Fonts

Trying Out Various Fonts

I messed around with this for a while and finally found an ‘M’ that I liked. I set the entire word in the script font but it was too difficult to read so I picked a simpler font for the remainder of the words. I then moved things around a bit and added one of my boxes to fill in an empty space.

First Draft of Logo

First Draft of Logo

This looked okay. I was careful to square up my lines of sight, so that the words were justified at the right and bottom. But I didn’t like the photo of the box as part of my logo. I wanted something more general and abstract. I decided to draw my own. I picked the ellipse tool and drew a purple oval right over the upper part the the box in the picture. This was the lid. I then drew another oval underneath the first and gave it a slightly different color. This was the container part of the box. I then chose the ellipse tool again, held down my shift key to constrain it to a circle, and drew three dots for the feet and clasp. I turned off the layer with the photograph.

Creating the Box

Creating the Box

I liked this much better, and I spent some time pushing the words and the box around and trying them in different combinations. Unfortunately, the more I messed around with this, the less I liked it. The clean lines of the box didn’t seem to work well with the script font. I decided to start again with the font so I dragged the entire workgroup to the “Create a New Layer” icon on my Layers box to create a new set of layers.

I decided to go for a cleaner, more modern look this time, something more Web 2.0-ish. I found a cool font called “Geometr231 Lt BT” and set my text in it. Perfect. The curving lines of the font, especially in the letter ‘b’, echo the curving lines of the box I drew. I set everything in lower case to further make this connection. I replaced the letter ‘o’ in the word ‘boxes’ with the actual box to integrate the graphic into the logo. Then I added the tag line, being careful again to line up the edges of the words so that the logo fits into a even rectangle. In order to make the word ‘miniature’ fit properly, I had to increase the tracking (space between letters) to 200. This has the added benefit of making the word look more modern. The final result is below.

Final Logo

Final Logo

UPDATE:
Miniature-boxes.com turned out to be kind of a sucky business idea so I’ve closed down the shop. I still love this logo though!

The Wonderful Web

Would you like a website for your business but don’t know how to get started? Read on for a basic web primer.

Web Basics For Dummies

First, what is the web? The WEB (or INTERNET) is a network of computers spanning the world. You access the web through a BROWSER, a software program that allows you to see pages on the web. Examples of browsers include Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Netscape Navigator. A browser is a free piece of software that typically comes installed on your computer. You can have multiple browsers should you choose.

Browsers allow you to view WEBSITES which are collections of files owned by companies or individuals that are stored in a certain part of the web and accessed by their own domain names. A DOMAIN NAME is a unique name you choose to identify your site. Examples include verizon.net and netflix.com. Tip: yournamehere@gmail.com is NOT a domain name but an email address. The domain name in this instance is gmail.com. Domain names must be purchased through an authorized registrar. See www.internic.com, the central organization for domain name registration, for more information on how this system works.

A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is essentially your web address and is made up of parts including the protocol, a method of transferring files (for example, http://); the host, which is your domain name, (for example, www.cats.com); and the path to a particular file or folder (for example, siamese). Put together, the URL for this example is http://www.cats.com/siamese. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, a method used to transfer information via the Internet.

Once you have a domain name, you need to find a WEB HOSTING SERVER. Numerous companies offer this service. Your files are stored on a computer directly connected to the Internet that responds to requests from a user to view a website. Tip: your home computer is not a server. You can find a server by searching online or asking a design company.

Now that you have a handle on web basics, you are ready to start thinking about how to design your site! Start by reading Web Design Basics.

If all this talk of HTML, URL, HTTP, domain names, and hosting services has you crossing your eyes and rubbing your head, don’t despair! There are many design companies out there to help you through the complicated world of building a website. Too expensive? Read on to discover what to do when you can’t afford a web designer.

What To Do When You Can’t Afford A Web Designer

If web design prices have your head spinning, why not join the ranks of others and build your own? It may take a little more time, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you did it yourself. This is a particularly good route for new business owners or for people wanting to build a family or hobby website. Hiring a designer could cost you anywhere from $750 and up, but you can build your own for much less. Be sure you have plenty of time to invest, because there can be a substantial learning curve.

Let’s start with some assumptions. I’m assuming you don’t know and don’t want to learn the basic coding languages for building websites: HTML (hypertext markup language) or CSS (cascading style sheets). I’m also assuming you don’t own and don’t want to buy any professional design software such as the Adobe suite of products that include Dreamweaver and Photoshop. I do assume that you have a working knowledge of the Internet, email, digital photography, and word processing programs. If not, you’ll need to do a little remedial learning before starting on your website project.

SMALL BUSINESS
Small business owners should first check with their industry’s professional organizations to see if they provide or can refer you to any website providers. Then try a search online for the name of your industry plus “web builder.” There are companies out there that specialize in websites for a particular industry like dentalwebbuilder.com for dentists and photobiz.com for photographers. Or look into general do-it-yourself small business site builders like smallbusiness.officelive.com, hostway.com, citymax.com, and homestead.com. Some of these, like Homestead, offer web-based templates that you can customize with just a few clicks. You’ll still need to pay for these services, but it should be cheaper than hiring a professional to start from scratch.

PERSONAL SITES
For hobby and family sites, which don’t necessarily need a professional look, you have more choices. Try any of the following: vistaprint.com, geocities.yahoo.com, google.com, or weebly.com. Also check with your Internet service provider to see if they offer anything in the way of websites. Most of these sites offer free websites and templates that you can customize to suit your needs.

BLOGGING
If you are in the market for a blog, try wordpress.com, typepad.com, or blogger.com. There are many others, as well. You can find them by typing “blogging” into any search engine. Most are either free or inexpensive. If you have strong writing skills and can commit to at least one post per week, a blog might be a great way to get your business or personal site on line quickly. Disadvantages include not being able to customize the site to the extent you might want and being limited to a yourwebsite.bloggingsite.com domain name.

ECOMMERCE
Design of e-commerce sites is best left to professionals, but if your budget precludes this cost, you can still get your goods online in a variety of ways. First and foremost, consider an eBay store. If your item is handmade, see if etsy.com is a good fit for you. If you make t-shirts, stationery, or coffee mugs, try cafepress.com. Yahoo Small Business has a web-based e-commerce solution for new businesses selling small volumes. If you want to save money and bypass a designer, this might be a good option for you. Find out more at smallbusiness.yahoo.com. If you sell books or goods, you could use Amazon.com’s business solutions. Go to the bottom of their site and click on “Build an eCommerce Site”. Another option is designer218.com. These are just a few ways to get started selling your items online. There are many other e-commerce solutions out there for the do-it-yourselfer. Just do a Google search on “do-it-yourself websites” or “e-commerce.”

SOFTWARE
If you’re not crazy about the web-based solutions I’ve outlined above, you can try to take your site to the next level by designing it yourself using free (or inexpensive) software. There are a number of HTML editors available. Try coffeecup.com, barebones.com/products/bbedit, or w3.org/Amaya/Amaya.html. Irfanview.com offers free graphic software as does getpaint.net. See freebyte.com/graphicprograms for a comprehensive list of other freebies.

A brief glance at the web sites highlighted above should give you confidence in your ability to select the most appropriate one for your level of skill and for your degree of interest as well as for the kind of subject matter you wish to convey. As you become more knowledgeable, your site will no doubt become more attractive and more informative. Good luck in your new business venture or personal site!

Blogging: What is it and should you be doing it?

What is a Blog?
A blog is an online diary or journal, usually devoted to a particular topic, that combines text, images, and links. Entries are arranged in a reverse chronological order, are permanently archived, and can be retrieved by category. Most blogs are text-based, consisting of a series of observations, news, or commentary, but there are also video blogs and photo blogs. Several million people worldwide use blogs for publishing web content.

Blogs can be personal or business oriented. Personal blogs relate life stories, lessons learned, opinion, or commentary on any variety of topics. Business blogs are tools for communicating with current customers to share knowledge and with potential customers to build confidence in a brand or product. Business blogs can also build website traffic, increase search engine ratings, and expose a small business to a larger audience. One business blog that is effectively managed is blogs.ancestry.com for the Ancestry genealogy site which posts news and tutorials for their software and new products. To see more blogs, visit delawareonline.com/blogs.

Anatomy of a Blog

A blog archives content in reverse chronological order, with the most recent post appearing at the top of the page. Earlier postings can be retrieved by clicking on the appropriate link. Postings can also be assigned a category to help organize the content. For example, in a blog about pets, posts would be assigned to categories like cats, dogs, and birds, enabling the user to browse content in the category of his choice. Each post has a title, a date, and keywords associated with it.

Characteristics of a Good Blog

A good blog should provide interesting and valuable content that is updated regularly. A good blog stays on topic; don’t get sidetracked writing about your young child’s cute antics on a site devoted to fishing. Original material is key to a successful blog. No matter how well-written the post, if it doesn’t say something worthwhile, it won’t be read. Be prepared to spend a chunk of time every week creating new material for your blog; many blogs are abandoned because their owners lose interest or don’t have time to update them.

Some Blogging Terms

The word blog is derived from web log. A post is an entry in your blog. Think of it as a short article about a particular topic. Each post receives comments from readers. These are usually listed underneath the post or are accessible through a link. Comments can be problematic because they can be used as spam. A permalink is a permanent URL or a path to a specific post in your blog.

Publicize Your Blog

A blog’s content will eventually be picked up by a search engine and indexed like any other webpage. However, bloggers can go a step further to spread the word about their new blog. Many search engines now have sections devoted to blogs. Go to blogsearch.google.com and type in any subject for a list of related blogs. Technorati.com and blogsearchengine.com are other useful sites to publicize your blog.

Getting Started

You can start a free blog at movabletype.com, blogger.com, or wordpress.com, as well as at many other blogging sites. This is an ideal choice for a personal blog. Blogs can be set up in a matter of minutes so you can start posting content immediately. You can also choose from a number of designs to change the look of your blog.

For business bloggers or those wishing a more customizable platform, or a more specific domain name, try wordpress.org or textpattern.com. Setting up a blog this way requires some coding knowledge, access to a server, and possibly some specialized software. A web designer can help in this area.

To Blog or Not to Blog?

Do you have a unique viewpoint or specialized knowledge about a subject or event? If so, sharing your opinion or expertise with the world at large may be a great idea. Perhaps your business might benefit from a blog where additional content can be posted, the availability of extra information convincing a potential customer to purchase your product or service. So, to blog or not to blog? Why not! Reaching out to others through the written word has a long history of success. You can do it, too!

Web Design Basics

Imagine this scenario: a potential customer lands on your website and wants to find out about your business. She starts to surf around on your page. What is this experience like for her? Does she see a clear focal point with a short description of what your site or business will do for her? Is she able to navigate from page to page, easily finding the information she is looking for? Does she notice clear graphics that load quickly and complement the content?If your website falls short in these areas, your potential customer may become confused or frustrated and leave your site for someone else’s. Don’t let that happen! Incorporate good design techniques to not only increase traffic to your site but, ultimately, to sell more products or services.

FOCAL POINT

How many times have you landed on a site that gives no indication of what it is about? Don’t do this to your potential customers! Give your visitor a clear idea of what your site is about by using an identifiable business logo and name near the top of the page with short explanatory text that conveys what you do and the service you offer.

NAVIGATION

Once your visitor has landed on your home page and has had time to orient herself to your site, you need to provide her with an easy way to move through your site. Make sure your navigational links are easy to read and understand and are consistent throughout your site. Don’t force your visitor to guess which button will lead her to your contact page – spell it out for her by adding text to your buttons. So-called “Mystery Meat” navigation is fine for a teenager’s personal website, but NOT for your business.

WHITE SPACE

Don’t fill up your entire page with graphics and text – give yourself and your readers some room to breathe. If you have a text-heavy site, don’t despair, simply break up your large blocks of verbiage with headlines and subheaders, bullet points and numbers, and shorter paragraphs. Add a well-placed graphic for emphasis and you are all set.

GRAPHICS

Please, please, please make sure your graphics are of high quality and are crisp and clear. But don’t make them too large or too small; just like Goldilocks’ bed and bowl of porridge, they should be just right. Don’t clutter up your page with them. Choose an appropriate number (always a judgment call, like everything else) and stick with it. Use Photoshop’s “Save for Web” feature (or something similar for other imaging software) to compress your graphics appropriately. Use tags to add a text descriptor for those using a screen reader. Know the difference between a gif and a jpeg. Lastly, make sure that every graphic supports and substantiates your content.

COLOR

Choose colors that complement your business type. For example, trendy colors work well for a clothing boutique while more somber tones are appropriate for a law office. Use darker text on a lighter background for readability. Limit the number of colors you use (it’s a website, not a rainbow).

AND MORE

There are many other components of a good website design, but these will get you started down the right path toward design success. To learn more, try searching online for design tutorials.

6 DESIGN MISTAKES:

  1. Advertisements – Please don’t subject your visitors to pop-up ads for unrelated businesses or those Google ads you see everywhere. Why dilute your message? Keep the focus of your website about your business.
  2. Frames – Nasty things from the 1990’s, frames are no longer de rigueur for web design – lose them!
  3. Font tags – These are deprecated (outdated) in HTML 4.01. While they won’t become obsolete any time soon, why not start now to rid your pages of extraneous code? For more control and flexibility, use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) instead.
  4. Tables – Way back in the old days of web design (like a few years ago!), designers depended on code-heavy tables filled with sliced graphics to lay out a design. No more. Today’s designers use
    (division) tags with a CSS style sheet to create a design. Not that tables are evil and need to be eradicated from the face of the earth, mind you; au contraire, mon ami, many sites still use them for presenting data and forms. The key is to use them wisely and as needed.
  5. Hard-to-find contact information – Why force your visitors to search high and low for a way to contact you? Don’t! Instead, place your contact information on EVERY page. You want more customers, right? Well then, make it easy for them to get in touch with you.
  6. Annoying animated gifs – If you have one of those little gifs of a flag blowing in the wind on your website, remove it immediately! These horrible creations proliferated in the early days of web design but just are no longer cool.

To find out more about design mistakes (and for a good laugh), visit webpagesthatsuck.com. For more on design that works, browse through webdesignfromscratch.com. The advice and information in these two sites, along with some of the basics covered here, will provide a solid foundation of good design elements for your business website. Good luck and happy designing!

Building Web Content

You sit down in front of your computer and put your hands on the keyboard. A blank monitor screen stares back at you. You want to write some copy for your new website, but where do you start? Lucky for you, website content has coalesced from a random collection of information into a cohesive set of standardized pages that web surfers are not only accustomed to, but expect. Follow this basic formula for sure-fire success:

Home Page

Think of the home page as a storefront window. Here, surfers will peer in at your contents and decide whether to enter your site or keep on walking by. Weigh that choice in your favor by making your home page visually appealing and easy to comprehend. Surfers want to find out about your product or service, and they want to do it with a minimum of effort. They’ll be asking themselves, “What kind of site is this?” and “What can I do here” along with the most important, “How do I contact this company?” Make it easy for them! Provide links to each major area of your site, much like a table of contents. But don’t clutter up the home page with too many elements. Keep it simple and allow your page (and the people looking at it) a chance to breathe.

Products or Services

This page is probably the most important one after the home page. Here you will describe for your customers what types of products and services you offer along with prices or rates. Don’t just list them randomly – categorize and subcategorize to make the information more user-friendly. For example, a garden center might categorize its services as Landscaping Design/Build; Retail Sales; Garden Maintenance; and Planting Services, with a short description of each and links to a separate page of more detailed information.

News

Use this page to post relevant content about your business. If you are expanding your business, tell about it here. Sales or special promotions can go here as well. Post informational articles related to your products or services here. For example, if you run a yoga studio, including an article about proper breathing techniques can go a long way toward keeping surfers on your site AND coming back. Informative, well-written, interesting articles will build your company’s reputation by positioning you as an expert in your field.

Company History/About Us

Potential customers who are uncertain whether to buy from you will be reassured by a short company history emphasizing your solidity as a business. This is your chance to establish your reliable reputation and your company’s worth. Familiarize visitors with your qualifications, describe how your business has grown, and to provide a human face for your organization.

Just remember two points when writing this page:

  1. Forget the word history. Avoid droning on and on about the founding CEO’s childhood or the fact that your deliveries were once made by horse and buggy. Think CliffsNotes rather than encyclopedia.
  2. Promote a professional appearance and profile. Get a professional photographer to take your picture instead of posting that snapshot of yourself in a Hawaiian shirt at the beach. Keep the focus on professional accomplishments. Nobody cares about your favorite pet cat Fluffymittens needing a flea dip. Save this for your personal blog.

Testimonials

How many times have you wanted to try a product or service, but were unsure of its worth? What do you do? Ask your friends! In an online environment, people want reassurance when buying items they cannot see in person or when engaging services from an unknown business. The customer who hesitates decreases your sales margin, but increases your bandwidth by returning to your site again and again as she makes up her mind. Tip the balance in your favor by providing her with testimonials to help her feel confident and ready to buy. Testimonials are statements, written by a third party, that endorse your product or service. There are many ways to collect these; the simplest is to ask for permission to quote when a customer compliments your business. Put your testimonials on a separate page linked to from the bottom of your company history page.

FAQ

If you find yourself repeatedly answering the same types of customer questions (Where are you located? Do you take credit cards? Do you deliver?), you might need a Frequently Asked Questions page. Ask the people who answer the phones and those at the front desk at your business what questions are asked most often. Don’t get carried away with this, however. Nobody wants to scroll through hundreds of lines of text to find the answer to a single question. Perversely, if your FAQ is too extensive, people will simply give up and call you, exactly what you were trying to minimize in the first place.

Contact Page

Usually composed of an email link or form that permits users to contact you, your contact page allows visitors to find out how to get in touch with your business. But don’t make it the only place. Your business address and phone should be posted on every page of your website. Make it easy for your valuable potential customers to find and contact you. Include a street address, even if you don’t use it for mailing. A physical location reassures customers that you have a permanent business presence and aren’t just some fly-by-night charlatan. Driving directions and business hours can also be posted to the contact page.

While each business is different and has its own set of requirements for a website, these 7 basic pages will ensure that you are off to a good start. If the task still seems unmanageable, try jotting down the information using bullet points. Once you have listed all your facts, it will be easier to combine the phrases into complete sentences. (That’s how this article was written!) As you shape your rough copy into sparkling web content, keep in mind some of the following guidelines for good writing.

Effective Writing

Reading text on a monitor screen for long periods of time creates eye fatigue. People will be reluctant to read reams of information at your site. Attention spans are short, so keep your copy short and to the point. Break up large blocks of content with subheaders. Use bullet points to allow readers to quickly scan for the item of interest. Provide “find out more” links that point to additional content. Put the most important information at the top of the page where it will most readily be seen. Use good grammar and correct spelling or hire a proof reader or copy editor. Write in the active voice. Instead of: “The passive voice should not be used,” try “Don’t use the passive voice,” or better yet, make it a positive statement, “Write in the active voice.” Revise, revise, revise.

Once you have completed your text and posted it to your site, you may be tempted to check off that task and forget about it. Instead, be sure to return periodically and reread your web content with a critical eye. Refresh your site with new photographs and revised text. Good content is worth every minute you spend on it. Communicating effectively to your customers will ensure good long-term business relationships. So get those fingers typing and fill up that blank screen!

Increase Your Website Traffic

So you’ve got your website up and running. Now you can sit back and watch new customers pouring in, right? Well, maybe. First your potential customers have to find your site. How do you ensure that this will happen? Of the millions of websites in existence today, how do your customers find yours? The answer is a combination of a good marketing campaign and good design and coding techniques which will result in increased search engine ratings. In this article, we’ll discuss marketing.

Put Your Address Everywhere

One of the most important steps to take in publicizing your website is the simplest one of all: put your website address everywhere. Put it on your business cards, print ads, newsletters, brochures, magnets, pens, even your company car. Set up a signature on your email so that your name, business name, contact information and website is automatically added to the bottom of every new email you send. (Look under “Tools > Options > Signatures” for Microsoft Outlook or some combination of the above for other email programs.) Drop your website name into every business conversation. For example, if someone calls for hours or directions, give the answer and add that the information is also available on your website.

Search Engines

Submit your website address to the top search engines, including Google, Duck Duck Go, Yahoo, MSN, AltaVista, Ask, and Dogpile. Look for a link called “Add URL” and follow instructions for each search engine. Once your website has been added to a search engine’s database, you can work on pushing your site up in the rankings. Very few surfers will browse past the third results page so it’s important to be listed in the first few pages. (This is where good design and appropriate coding come into play.)

Local Search

Don’t overlook the local search options on Google and Yahoo. Start with Google Maps and look for a link reading, “Add or Edit Your Business.” You can add not only your website address, but email, hours of operation, photos, and a short description of your business. You can even add a coupon. Yahoo Local has a choice of paid or free listings. Start with the free one. You’ll need a Yahoo account but that is also free to set up. Yellowpages.com permits free listings and has a section for reviews. Finally, submit your site to a local directory like delawareontheweb.com.

Collect Inbound Links

How do those search engine sites determine who shows up at the top of the ratings anyway? Nobody knows for sure! They use carefully guarded algorithms that are not shared with web designers or the general public. But we do know that the number of inbound links a site has helps to determine page rank. Inbound links are links on someone else’s page that point to your site. The more you have, the better. How do you get them?

  • Contribute to an industry specific site like brandywinebuzz.com, a family activity site for the Brandywine Valley, or shoplocal.com for retail stores. ” Join the local tourist bureau for a listing on the web and in printed guidebooks. This is ideal for restaurants, hotels, museums, retail stores, and other tourist attractions.
  • Add your business to a professional association website. National directory sites exist for many industries, including allpropertymanagement.com for real estate property managers; yoga.com for yoga studios; dojolocator.com for martial arts dojos; and asla.org for landscape architects. Chances are there is some kind of professional organization geared toward your industry. Find it and ask them to post a link to your website.
  • Write an article for an online magazine. These can be industry specific (aikidojournal.com) or regional (thewomensjournal.com). Make sure there is a link back to your website.
  • Leave a comment on someone’s blog. Usually there is a place to leave a website link after you enter your name and comments. Be sure to leave a pertinent comment or it may be blocked as spam. Pick a blog whose content is related to your business.
  • Start a “friends” section on your website and have other business owners you are friendly with do the same. Everyone will benefit from increased links to each other’s sites. Increasing your site’s traffic may take some legwork, but the payoff in the long run is more customers coming to your website and more sales for your business.

Dance Like a Halloweenie

My “Dance Like A Halloweenie” mint tin is in my shop now.

Dance Like A Halloweenie Mint Tin

Dance Like A Halloweenie Mint Tin

You can buy one of my mint tins here.

I also have it in a magnet:

Dance Like A Halloweenie Magnet

Dance Like A Halloweenie Magnet