First things first, if you are already familiar with what web hosting is, you can skip this section. For those who are not internet-savvy, a web host is a company with lots and lots of computers who allows you to lease space on those computers to store the data for your website. It is the computers where your text, images, and dancing bananas GIFs () are stored for your domain name (www.mysite.com) . Hosting is something you must purchase in addition to your domain name if you want to be found on the web (unless, of course, you keep a server handy in a broom closet).
Oh, ok. So They’re not all the same?
Heavens, no. Of course, you can pick any one you want, from the cheapest you can find to the most robust supercomputers that could plan and power a fully automated trip to poor, old, evicted Pluto. The problem in taking a random shot with any old cheap web host is that their servers are unlikely be powerful or modern enough to fuel a professional website. They could be slow, unreliable, outdated, poorly supported, or neglected.
What’s wrong some of them?
Well, we all like a good deal. But when it comes to many things, you get what you pay for. The reason some of these hosting sites are super-cheap (like, $1 a month) is because they skimp on important features, like the storage space you receive, the number of visitors you can get each month, the level of technical support you’ll receive if your site goes down, or, in the case of Yahoo Small Business Hosting, outdated server protocols.
Case Study: Yahoo Small Business Hosting
Cover your eyes, it’s about to get very nerdy in here.
We ran into an issue with launching a website on a very basic Luminate/Yahoo Aabaco Small Business’s hosting service. The .htaccess file is a very normal and common part of a website; this is not some voodoo file that casts spells on visitors. Yahoo doesn’t allow an .htaccess file to be uploaded (reputedly for “security reasons”), which can cause an issue when navigating around the complex website we built. The home page looked and worked fine, but if you clicked on any internal link on the homepage, you received an Error 404: File Not Found. The .htaccess file has a redirect functionality, which will resolve ugly and complicated URLs to tidy and easy-to-remember URLs. Without this file, we had to change our permalinks from Post Name to Custom Structure, appending /index.php/ after the root. All the pages in the site after the home page looked like this: www.mysite.com/index.php/my-page, instead of the preferable www.mysite.com/my-page.
Further, Yahoo’s hosting is slow to upgrade to the newer versions of PHP. This can cause an issue with certain features of a modern website, from contact forms to how the site actually renders and functions.
Okay, you can look now; the nerding is over.
Now, we’re not picking on Yahoo here. Cheap hosting is fine for personal sites: simple HTML sites that don’t do a whole lot or for sites that don’t have a whole lot of data (e.g.: mostly text, a few small photos or graphics, and no fancy animations or slideshows). Cheap-o hosting is not for professional sites.
Who should I pick, then?
Well, you can host through us when you purchase a web design package. We can walk you through the entire Getting-A-Website process and tell you why and how we’re doing everything. We offer hosting plans starting at $39/month. Hosting is fast, reliable, and you speak to an American when you call. This hosting is secure, and prevents downtime, SPAM, hacks, and costly data loss. Most importantly, it is robust enough to power a professional website with the allocated resources necessary.
And you won’t regret having a lightning-fast site with nearly 100% uptime, I promise.
Thanks to all of my clients, partners, and colleagues for helping make 2017 a great success in design! Graphic Strategist has earned a 2017 Health + Wellness Design Award and a 2017 American Graphic Design Award, both from the 50-year-old awarding body, Graphic Design USA (GD USA). These mark the fourth and fifth awards, respectively, my clients and I received. These awards acknowledge the team effort and collaboration involved in brand strategy and graphic design. According to GD USA, winning multiple awards in a year is “rare,” and only 15% of the over 10,000 entries are considered for recognition.
American Graphic Design Award
Health + Wellness Design Award
2017 GD USA American Graphic Design Award
GD USA awarded an American Graphic Design Award for Destin Brewery’s Can Label Designs, which were based on the brewery’s unwavering vision of supporting and representing the local community. These cans stand out on the shelves like no other.
GD USA 2017 Health and Wellness Design Award
The Health and Wellness Design Award was earned for the Three H Medical Logo, a by-veterans, for-veterans prosthetic limb company. The health + Wellness Awards were a newly minted competition for GD USA, started in 2017.
What these awards mean for you, the (potential) client, is that you receive top-notch creative services from Graphic Strategist. We offer branding, identity development, logos, websites, eCommerce websites, online stores, social media management, photography, writing, and a host of other creative services executed to the level of all our award-winning design.
Check out this awesome video we completed for BOTE Destin’s Wednesday night paddle boarding demo! This project was recorded in one evening and edited over the course of a just one week!
Edited and finalized over the course of a week, BOTE Destin received a copy of this file to share across all its social media channels. Your golf course, sports complex, or resort could benefit from showing off its amenities and beauty with the help of an aerial video. Music or no music, this is a service any manager can’t pass up; your potential customers and current clients will gather a full understanding of just everything you offer.
We just wrapped up the design and launched Villa del Mar, an all-inclusive vacation villa in Costa Rica.
Villa del Mar, All-Inclusive Costa Rican Vacation Villa Home Page
Villa del Mar, All-Inclusive Costa Rican Vacation Villa – Interior Photos Page
Villa del Mar, All-Inclusive Costa Rican Vacation Villa – Testimonials Page
Working an international project was no small undertaking. Thankfully, we have a well-oiled team to handle up on this task and distance was not a problem. Together with Gab 4 You Marketing, we coordinated with professional on-site photographer Pura Vida Photo for photography and videography of the property.
The website has a few bells and whistles: a large slide show on the home page featuring the accommodations this villa offers, a live Instagram feed integration, a Google Map location, and a weather forecast for the Costa Rican province in which Villa del Mar is located. Check out the Video Tour which is located both on the home page and as part of the “Photos” menu item.
Villa del Mar will also receive social media management and blogging services to continue the momentum of their new promotional efforts. Follow Villa del Mar’s story on Facebook or Instagram!
Please join me and my clients, friends, and partners on Thursday, August 10 at 4:00 p.m. for my Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. I’m celebrating one year in business in Destin, and I’ll provide beer from Destin Brewery, wine from Vintage Distributors, and lots of elbow-rubbing at the reception to follow.
Click here to see the Facebook event hosted at the Destin Chamber of Commerce, 4484 Legendary Drive, Suite A.
You can buy a logo. You can buy an identity package.
But you can’t buy branding. Why not?
Partially to blame for the misconception that one can buy branding, it seems, is because some people confuse their “brand” with their identity and/or their logo (“brand mark”). This is understandable; many people view these terms as interchangeable, but in reality, they are very different–yet very related–things. And I do use the term “branding” in place of “identity” sometimes because it’s what most clients understand.
Actual “branding” happens over time. It is the impression your customers get from your company. It is how your customers experience, interact with, and interpret your company. Your brand is how you connect with people, places, and missions. It is what customers say about you when you’re not around. By this definition, you don’t even “own” your branding–your customers, colleagues, vendors, and suppliers do.
A post shared by Photo Buzz Studios (@photobuzzstudios) on
You can, however, heavily influence your branding through graphic design and selective marketing. What you really want to focus on, then, is how your customers experience your company. Think about how your colleagues interact with customers, where your products or services are sold, which causes you support, and the creativity with which you implement your identity guide. Communicate the purpose of your company, and your brand will develop much more authentically than advertising your way into people’s hearts.
Sure, you may be thinking of the traditional way of doing things: A company forces “brand positioning” through buying a logo and a tagline, slapping them on everything, and telling customers what to think about the company. That’s not how contemporary brands thrive.
Take Budweiser, for example. During craft beer movement, Budweiser tried beating people over the head with their “cherished traditions” and “hand-made with care” craft-like messaging to regain some of their dwindling market share. But Budweiser finally figured it out: it doesn’t matter what they told people to think about their brand, people had already formed their own opinions about their products. How Budweiser connected with customers, where the company focused their investments and efforts, what causes they supported, and the behavior of the company was already firmly in people’s minds. It was decidedly not “craft.” Budweiser, finally embracing this reality that no one believes they are “craft” beer, launched their Superbowl ad in 2015, marking a turn in its strategy: “if you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em.”
The moral of the Budweiser story is: you can tell people over and over again who you are, but they will form their own opinions about your purpose. Patagonia, through the causes they support, how customers connect with the company, and the way people talk about Patagonia have allowed storytelling to create their brand. They didn’t say, “THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD THINK.” They said, “This is our purpose. You decide what to think about it.” Granted, they carefully planned and chose how to influence their audience, and they did so successfully.
Branding is simply how people experience your company’s purpose. And if you think about it, the word “brand” originally came from the Viking Norse word for burn (brandr). We branded cattle with a red-hot iron. Is that really how we want our customers to experience us?
Emerald Coast Brew Review is Destin’s craft beer news and events site. They cover beer releases, industry leaders, brewery news and events, and businesses in the industry. I have lots of experience designing for craft beer, and Emerald Coast Brew Review took notice.
People often think of a website as a one-time purchase: you pay for the design, the designer launches it, everyone high-fives, and you move on. Like most things in business–daily accounting, fleet vehicle maintenance, dusting the shelves, or following up with customer inquiries–a website requires routine attention to serve you best. Further, the web isn’t just some static being that sits and waits for people to interact with it; the web changes continuously.
Web programming is always evolving, getting better, more secure, and more powerful. Some of the tools web designers use to make your site better, secure, and robust also change continuously. These include content management systems (CMSs), like WordPress; payment gateways, like PayPal; and IDX feed integrations, like MLS.
Even if you purchase the most basic maintenance offered, here are very good reasons to purchase a maintenance package:
Many web tools require manual security updates. A friend of mine had a property management company whose website was hacked. The hackers took his entire website down and replaced it with a photo of a masked man pointing a gun toward the viewer. This is well-documented and does happen. He ended up paying his web designer several hundred dollars to fix it.
Having your website taken down isn’t the only thing that could go wrong. Mean people do all sorts of things: change your site’s information, reroute traffic, steal your or your customers’ data, distribute malicious code (malware), and a host of other things.
Third-party vulnerabilities are related to security updates. For example, on WordPress-managed sites there are powerful tools called Widgets and Plugins. Widgets are small info blocks that perform a specific function. A PlugIn is a separate piece of software that performs a group of functions. These are often developed and maintained by someone other than WordPress. While they improve the functionality of your website, they can also create vulnerabilities. Since these both run some sort of code, they will need to be monitored for bugs and security updates.
If you’re telling yourself, “Well, I just don’t want any PlugIns or Widgets,” then you are also saying you don’t want payment gateways, a Facebook feed integration, a contact form, a professional-looking photo gallery, or your contact information on the sidebar of every page.
If you want a hand-coded page (no CMS like Joomla, Drupal, or WordPress), that’s fine, too, but they cost considerably more, take much longer to create, and are far more expensive to update. Hand-coded websites are neither cost- nor time-efficient.
All reliable CMSs require updates. WordPress, for example, will eventually force its most critical updates to your site after it’s noticed you’re running very outdated versions of its software, but this is risky. The new version may not be compatible with some of your plugins or widgets, theme functionality, contact forms, photo galleries, or other tools that make your site sing. You risk losing all your data, or breaking your site entirely. Eventually, if your site has been neglected and only received these forced updates, it will break. It is like playing Russian Roulette with your website.
Creating a copy of everything on your website is important in case you move your hosting, allow only forced updates to your site, get hacked, or someone messes something up while tinkering on the back-end. Without a recent copy of everything, you risk losing purchases, inventory catalogs, order histories, customer databases, messages, testimonials, and anything and everything else on your website.
Remember how I said the web is continually changing? This means web programming languages are enhancing mobile friendliness, usability, accessibility, speed–even the web languages themselves. Archaic or antiquated HTML won’t look clean or function as nicely in a modern browser, and some programming protocols have become completely obsolete and browsers flat-out ignore them. These may sound like fluff, but they are important; a poor user experience hurts your credibility–both to the actual users and to search engines.
You don’t realize the value of someone monitoring these tools until something goes wrong. Often, it is more expensive to fix problems after you’ve neglected maintenance because basic security must be updated before the problem can really be fixed. I encourage all my clients to purchase web maintenance. It will make your life easier, invoices less expensive, and relationships more productive.
The Office of Advancement at Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) has a newly expanded program, the Corporate Affiliates Program (CAP). This program develops strategic relationships between students, the college, and successful businesses in the Atlanta Metro area. They called me and asked if I could help them develop an identity and online strategy for this new program. The tricky part of this identity and strategy was that the CAP identity could not use any of GGC’s current or past logos or institutional marks. Further, any programs, departments, or organizations affiliated with GGC were not allowed to incorporate new fonts, create new color palettes or new logos. With all these restrictions, CAP still had to look like it was part of GGC.
There were more restrictions than there were liberties. But that’s fine by me. Having worked with University of North Georgia’s re-branding efforts, and guiding the use of that institution’s new marks, I was well-equipped to design around these restrictions. Aware of my branding experience, they hired me right away and said this strategy needed to be in place and operating before the summer’s end.
My research began. I scoured the internet for information about the program, its goals, what people were saying about it, what it was doing. I look for participants, affiliates, businesses–anything that would help me give GGC a sound, educated recommendation. GGC also sent over some information to help me understand CAP’s objectives.
After a consultation with the Office of Advancement’s CAP team, I worked closely with them to develop an online strategy, program identity, social media graphics, custom hashtag, and Microsoft Office templates. I identified which social media platforms would best reach their target market, and what to post on each. I talked about creating a “Voice” for the program to use online, and gave them descriptors for how the Voice should sound.
Once I developed everything they needed, I sent all my advice over in a Strategy Guide. They received a custom MS PowerPoint template, MS Publisher tri-fold brochure template, plus flyer and invitation templates. I customized social media logos to use in those templates. These mostly-blank templates were designed with “holes” in them where GGC can drop in photos, graphics, text or content updates. The structure and design of the templates remains the same, but I prepared them to easily incorporate updates as the program evolves.
They received everything they needed to get this program running and looking like the professional organization it is. In the end, they received an extensible, flexible visual strategy they could use for years to come, yet stay within the college’s visual media restrictions. See the deliverables in my portfolio.
You see, Photo Buzz Studios works with a lot of exclusive clientele. They aren’t setting up photo booths with goofy hats and wonky glasses at weddings, these rock stars set their aspirations even higher. To align with their goals, I suggested truly eye-catching, memorable pieces which would feel like gifts. My idea would most certainly catch the eye of industry executives, but this was not going to be a cheap venture. For these “gifts,” I designed ultra-thick, metallic-edged, suede-coated black cards stamped with two foil colors. They were, indeed, as exquisite as they sound.
But you probably also noticed in my portfolio the white business cards. There was a strategy to designing two sets of cards, each with a very different price point and purpose.
I surmised that, in addition to the un-economical idea of doling out the black business cards willy-nilly, they also needed less expensive cards they could hand out indiscriminately. These cards still needed to feel “high-end.” Enter here the second set of business cards: suede-coated, white business cards. The white set has the same basic design as the black set, but the white cards are printed with two Pantone colors on 16pt stock. Each set shared a non-traditional size, butter-soft suede coating, and matching layouts to connect them conceptually.
Photo Buzz Studios is gonna blow their clients away with their attention to detail, and I know they have many years of success ahead of them. I was honored to be a part of their story and look forward to seeing their name in lights someday. Good luck, Photo Buzz Studios!
Have a gander at the gallery:
White, suede-coated business cards
Suede-coated black paper with 2-color foil stamping