Mar 17 2017

Code is Poetry: Why We <3 WordPress

There are so many options for website management and building these days, it can be overwhelming. Customization, flexibility and ease-of-use are all important to consider when choosing a platform. With these qualities in mind, Team Upswept chooses WordPress as the platform for nearly all of our clients’ website redesign needs. Here’s why:

WordPress HeartEase of Use

The WordPress Dashboard makes it easy to manage and update your own copy and images so that your website is always current and can evolve as your business evolves. The Dashboard is clean and easy to use, and there’s lots of support documentation if you have questions — making it simple and painless to  see and edit your content, view traffic statistics, and manage your e-commerce.

Mature Software & Blogging Capabilities

 WordPress is a mature and stable product, which has focused on elegant user experience and responsible web standards. Launched way back in 2003 by Matt Mullenwig and Mike Little, WordPress began as a personal blogging platform. Blogging capabilities are dialed-in and rock solid making it easy to maintain a business blog and get more eyeballs on your site.

Infinite Extensibility

 There are almost fifty-thousand plugins for WordPress, allowing us to add simple features to your semi-custom website quickly, and affording us huge advantages in building fully-custom sites as well.

Three plugins we love to keep in our pockets

Contact Forms 7  is a great example of a quick plug-in to create a contact form.
Advanced Custom Fields lets us customize and simplify how you manage your content.
WooCommerce is a great comprehensive plug-in for E-Commerce needs.

Search-Engine Magic

 WordPress is great with search engines, and a lot of SEO-friendly code structure is built right into the platform. This gives us a leg-up in driving search-engine traffic to when your website is new.

WordPress Heart Logo
WordPress Heart by Foomandoonian

Seriously, we love working with WordPress. The customizability through plug-ins and access to back-end organization is a dream to work with. The platform’s user-friendly layouts and interfaces also allow us to be confident when we hand over the management of a site to our clients after the site goes live.

Want to get started on your website redesign with WordPress? Schedule a consultation with us to find out how we can bring this magic to your business!

Mar 02 2017

How to Give Feedback to Your Designer

Designers have a reputation for being fussy, opinionated, and disinterested in client feedback, or even for needing to have things their way concerning your project. But your pals at Upswept are here to say that when you work with us, that is simply not the case. We believe that design is a collaborative process between client and creative, and not some mystical and unquestioned transformation that happens in the secret chambers of our studio.* When we put our expertise to bear on your project, we need to hear from you along the way to ensure the end product be everything you hoped it would be at the outset.

Whether you are working with us or another design firm, we present below some advice on how to make the most of giving feedback to your designer so that it can be pleasant and productive for you both.

Define your problem; discuss how you’ll measure success.

Consultation over coffeeEven before you set to work on space and color, meet with your designer and. Your problem may be as simple as, “My business has grown and we need to update our logo and branding.” Or more complex: “Our website is 10 years old and looks clunky and outdated, so it needs a contemporary look and a new content hierarchy, since our focus has shifted from written to video content. Six board members have to approve the new design, and we need it live in three months.” Budget is often a big constraint, as is turnaround time. Be forthcoming about your needs and constraints and expect your designer to do the same. Starting work on a poorly-defined project often leads to frustration as well as wasted time and money.

Extend this problem-solving philosophy into giving feedback.

Instead of talking about what you “like” in a design, stay focused on which aspects are solving the problem most effectively.  Of course you have to like what your designer creates for you — really, you should love it. But framing feedback in terms of affection isn’t all that useful in refining your design. No matter the nature of your redesign, the product needs to be both aesthetically pleasing and do the job you need it to.

Avoid design by committee.

Often a project has multiple stakeholders who need or want to weigh in on the project. Take a moment to consolidate everyone’s feedback, whether you are meeting with your designer in person, or sending an email with notes. Putting your feedback into one unified voice will make it much easier for your designer to understand and tackle your list, and help to mitigate communication overload.

Get curious.

Every element, from font choice to color, should be chosen intentionally by the designer.  If there is a component that you don’t like or just don’t “get,” it’s OK to ask your designer to explain her thinking behind that element. You don’t have to agree with the result of your designer’s cognitive process, but approaching critique from a curious place instead of a critical one can help illuminate the path towards brilliant success for both you and your design team.

Slow down.Ask More Questions image

First impressions of the design will be important when your design is working in the wild, so they should hold a lot of weight in the feedback phase.Your thoughts on the design may not change overnight, but you may have an easier time delivering concise and useful feedback once you’ve slept on it.

Mention the good parts.

Not only is it practically useful for us to know which elements you think are working well, it also feels nice to receive positive feedback before we get into what still needs adjusting.

Let’s work together.

You are the expert in your business and your knowledge and feedback are critical to the success of your project. Design is our jam, and together we can uncover the problems that must be tackled in order to propel your business forward with find effective, bad-ass looking solutions.

*Sadly, no real secret chambers here.

Feb 17 2017

Climb the Google Ranks with SEO

WHAT IS SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the practice of building your website in a way that makes it easier for a search engine to find it, and give it a high-ranking in search results. Think of it as improving your website’s communication with search engines. I’m not going to lie, implementing good SEO can be technical and tedious. That’s why I’ve written this simple guide for some SEO basics. Besides, good SEO principles overlap with qualities of a user-friendly website.

PAGE TITLES

Most search engines utilize tools that transpose key information from your web page into readable, user-friendly search engine results. For example, a page’s title tag will often appear in the first line of a result if the content matches the user’s inquiry. This is a great place to have additional information about your business. Try to think of what someone might search online when looking for a service or product you provide. This might include the name of your business, a quick summary of what your company does, or some services you offer.

 

 

EASY URLS

A good URL often means one that a human being can easily recite from memory without confusing anyone. Most people keep this in mind when choosing their URL, but page titles are just as important! URLs are included in search results, so you have another opportunity to include relevant terms people searching out your business might search.

Many web hosts make this easy to achieve by letting users define static URLs for individual pages. In WordPress, for example, you can find this feature by logging in as an Admin, navigating to Settings > Permalinks. This will display your options for how to structure your website’s URLs.

GOOD CONTENT

It seems obvious, but having good content on your website is an essential first in enticing the right people to visit. Everything else I’ve talked about in this guide won’t be as successful as it could be if your web content falls flat. Make sure your subject matter is directly related to your business and brand goals, and use good web-design principles. Now that’s good content!

Good design is what Upswept Creative does. We’re offering a new packages, all centered around helping you build your brand with elegant design:

  • Brand Essence to design your perfect look and authentic brand message
  • Online Smarts to infuse your online presence with beautiful branding
  • Empire Builder to tailor your web site to YOUR specific goals, so you can step up your business game!

 

Feb 02 2017

How To Build A Brand That Reaches Your Dream Clients

Branding can be a hard thing to understand. You know that a strong brand can help you land more clients and make more sales, but you may wonder: how does that happen?

It’s important to make your brand distinctive, so it sticks in your clients mind. That means knowing your own values and staying in touch with your Why, instead of focusing too much on your competition. But, knowing who you are is only one piece of the puzzle: you also need to know who your customer is.

Know Who Your Brand is Talking To

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all brand. It’s often said that, “you can’t please everyone,” and that’s especially true for branding. A brand that appeals to a hip, trendy 20-something isn’t likely to attract a 40-something shopper who’s more interested in quality than trends.

To build an effective brand, you need to know who you’re talking to. That means making choices about what kind of people you want to attract! Think about their age, their preferences, their habits, and you can start making choices about how your brand will engage with them and appeal to them.

Choosing your audience might seem scary, at first. You might feel as if you’re turning away other customers by choosing an ideal audience, but trust the process! Your brand will be much more powerful when you tailor your brand to a specific group, instead of trying to please everyone. If you try to attract too wide of an audience, you can easily end up with a weak, non-specific brand that doesn’t resonate well with anyone.

Are You the Same As Your Customer?

When you’re an independent business owner, it’s easy to think that building your brand is just a matter of choosing things that appeal to you. If that’s what you’ve been doing so far, STOP for a second, and ask yourself: “are my ideal customer and I actually alike?” 

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that their customers are just like them when, in reality, their customer is much different. You are not your customer, and even though you may both like your work, they may be drawn to it for different reasons.

When you’re building a refreshed brand, it’s important to find the balance between your own values, and what will appeal to your customer. You don’t need to pretend to be something you’re not (please, don’t do that!), but you DO need to make choices that appeal to your ideal customer.

“How Do I Start To Identify My Ideal Customer?”

This can be a question with a lot of layers, depending on where you are in your business. If you’re an established business looking at a refresh, you can learn a few things from your past customers and experience. If you’re a newer business, however, you’ll need to operate more on research and instinct.

As a starting point, here are a few questions that businesses at any level can start with:

  • What are my ideal client’s demographics? Think about age, gender, family size, income, education, and so forth.
  • What are their habits? How does their typical day go? How do they spend their free time?
  • How does what my business offers fit into their life? What problem will it solve for them?
  • What do they value most? What is important to them? Style? Practicality? Uniqueness? Being socially conscious? Choosing high-quality work? Etc.

Understanding your ideal customer’s mindset is huge for building a strong brand that helps you grow and succeed! Try putting yourself in their shoes and seeing how they think. Walk yourself through what their experience with your business might be like. You could learn a lot from it!

Need more help understanding your brand?

Our Finding Your Brand Center workbook is free, and here to help you build your brand foundation. >>

Get Instant Access »

workbook_finding-your-brand-center

Jan 12 2017

Mistakes to Avoid When Building an Authentic Brand

SLG_5999-EditBuilding and nurturing a strong brand is a process. It take time and focus, and the process isn’t always clear. It’s easy to put your focus in the wrong places when you create a new business brand, or rebrand an existing business.

Here are a couple of mistakes to watch out for during the process, so you can make sure your precious time is spent on making your brand, and your business, as strong as it can be:

Focusing too much on the competition

A lot of business dreams start with a big goal. Maybe you dream of creating a product that’s as coveted as a Coach bag, or as innovative as Apple tech. You might be so focused on that big-dream success that you meticulously study your competition’s strategy. You’re starting in a different place than either of those companies, though, and your business journey will definitely be different than theirs. So, what works for your competition may not give you the same results.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s smart to occasionally check in on your competition. You can learn from their successes and failures, and use that knowledge to refine your own brand strategy. But, a big part of what makes a brand memorable is uniqueness. If you’re focusing too much on the competition, you can lose sight of who your business is, and lose your unique voice.

Instead, use your competition to help you highlight your own strengths. Ask yourself:

  • What’s special about your product versus your competitor’s?
  • What do you do better than your competition?
  • Is there anything your competition does well that you aren’t interested in doing?
  • What’s your secret sauce?

Finding that uniqueness is a great way to strengthen your brand.

Not knowing enough about your values

A big part of building your brand is being in touch with your values. Why did you start your business? What do you want it to do? What does success in your work look like to you? It’s important to know the answers to questions like these, so you can build a brand that supports your successful end goal.

What happens when you build a brand that doesn’t align with your values? You might miss out on customers who’d love your work, or attract customers who don’t see the value of what you offer. It could also create confusion about what your business does, leading to unhappy customers. Or, it could even build an audience for a product or service that you aren’t even interested in providing!

Running your own business isn’t easy, so at the very least, it should make you feel fulfilled! So instead, take time to think about your business values:

  • What do you love to do?
  • What projects inspire you?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How do you want to help or serve your audience?

Finding the answers to questions like these will help you make sure that your brand is a tool to help you, not hinder you.

Need more help understanding your brand?

Our Finding Your Brand Center workbook is free, and here to help you build your brand foundation. >>

Get Instant Access »

workbook_finding-your-brand-center
Dec 08 2016

Stealing Photos is Bad

Photography usage in the digital age has, unfortunately, been a big problem. Stealing content is not ok – ever! Knowing the rules and etiquette surrounding using work that is not your own is an important part of being an ethical and responsible business owner or creative professional. I’ve written this post as a quick guide to help you avoid making hurtful and costly mistakes with photo usage.

CREATOR RULES

Photo generously provided by Mac Reid. Check out their work at www.macreid.com.
Photo generously provided by Mac Reid. Check out their work at www.macreid.com.

The photographer who produced the original image likely owns it, and is therefore entitled to decide how it’s used. When contacting the original creator, it’s polite to describe how you plan to use the photo in question, so they have a better idea of whether or not it’s something for which they’d like to give permission.

The owner might ask you to pay them for your usage. They might also request that you give credit to them. Giving credit is not only courteous, but it’s often simple. If you aren’t sure, you can always ask the original creator how they would prefer to be credited.

STOCK SOLUTIONS

Stock photos can be a quick and easy photo solution. There are many online stock photo databases out there, and each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. Photos you’ve paid for you can usually use however you’d like – just be sure to check the usage terms on the site you bought it from.

DIY

If the perfect photo isn’t out there, why not make it yourself? Photographs you produce you’re allowed to use however you’d like. This might not seem like the most convenient route, but it is one way to get exactly what you want out of your photos. Lucky for you, we’ve written some posts on how to take professional quality photos, and you can always subscribe to our newsletter for more in-depth tips. Feel the power!

BOOK A PROFESSIONAL PHOTO SHOOT

If stock photos don’t feel right, and the Do-It-Yourself method isn’t working out, there’s another way to guarantee you can use your photos freely: Hire a professional photographer to take the photos you want! You’ll be able to share your unique brand vision with your photographer, you’ll get high-quality photos, and you’ll often get a more authentic look than a stock photo can provide. Upswept has some options for photo shoot sessions, if you need help in that area.

Different photographers have different standards for how their clients use their photos, so you may want to check with them to find out what’s okay and what isn’t. But, as a general rule, you should have a lot of freedom to use this type of photo in your branding and marketing.

Nov 18 2016

Feel Good About Your Website

Creativity can be a boon in difficult times. Self-expression is an essential part of being human. Finding an outlet is especially important when the world around us seems intent to silence individuality. The image of the Artist mining their pain for the page or canvas is a popular one, but it’s important to remember that painting and poetry aren’t the only avenues for creativity. Many of us make inspired decisions in the course of day to day life, especially if you run your own business. Here at Upswept Creative, we help people express their true selves through their business ventures with innovative branding solutions, especially in website design.

Your website isn’t just a digital storefront, it is a visceral experience you impart to every visitor. Your web site is often the deciding factor if they become a paying customer or not. Taking a fresh look at your website design and incorporating new elements can feel liberating.

If you don’t have a website yet, planning is essential. Assembling a good plan and following through feels powerful and gives you momentum that can carry over into other aspects of your business.

Make Your Website Awesome

Not sure where to begin? Start by asking yourself these questions to nail down some basic elements of design for an awesome web experience:

Look at how the image size, top menu, and logo design all work in conjunction here. Does it make you want to order pie right away?

What is the goal of your website?

Is it to make sales? Have visitors sign up to your newsletter? Ask questions about your products or services? Try to be as specific as possible. Your goals shape the whole experience of visiting your website, and what a visitor sees first. Is it a mind-blowing splash graphic that sets the mood for viewing your art? Or would a horizontal-scrolling bar showing off featured store items be more appropriate for your goal?

How did visitors come to your site in the first place?

The answer to this might require combing through your analytics, but it can still be an important step in the planning process in the meantime. If you use your social media to promote click throughs to your website, you’ll want to have the relevant content front and center.

What kind of image content do you need?

Product photos, team member profiles, or the perfect website background are all major elements in a cohesive web design plan. Make a list of all the types of images you think you’ll need to show off the best of your business to the world.

Will your website be viewed by people on-the-go? Be sure and consider your design for mobile platforms as well.
Will your website be viewed by people on-the-go? Be sure to think about your design for mobile platforms as well.

Don’t you feel better after newly considering those aspects of your website? Now is the time to follow through. Upswept Creative offers free consultations to folks just like you – people who have put serious thought into their business and are ready to take the next step in accomplishing their overall branding goals.

We want you to know that no matter what message you’re getting from society at large, the team here at Upswept Creative knows that your individuality matters, and so does your right to creatively express yourself. Let’s hit your creative goals together!


Oct 26 2016

Party With Us and Celebrate 5 Years!

2016_5year-partyUpswept Creative is turning FIVE years old, and we want you to party with us! Join us for a sweet soiree to celebrate five years of creating strong, smart, beautiful business brands.

Way back in 2011, Upswept began as a one-woman show with a different name, but now we have a small-but-fierce team to help you make your business flourish online, and we have YOU to thank for it.

Come party with us in November for our 5-Year celebration! We’ll have drinks and edibles, and show some newer work along with some classics from our past.

Whether you worked with us in the early days, or are a current client, you’re a part of our journey, and we’d love to celebrate you!

RSVP ON FACEBOOK »

Upswept’s 5-Year Anniversary Party!
Thursday, November 10th
6:00pm – 8:00pm

811 E. Burnside St. #224
Portland, Oregon

Oct 13 2016

Are You Our Next Project Manager Extraordinaire?

NOTE: Applications for this position are now CLOSED! Thank you for your interest!

Professional organizing photos

We’re hiring! We’re seeking someone who’s interested in project management for the creative industry, particularly in the area of branding and web design. It’s currently a part-time role, but it’s growing into a larger time commitment–the more you bring to the role, the better it is for both of us!

We’d be a great fit for each other if…

  • you’re interested in helping create purpose-driven design that helps independent businesses grow and prosper
  • you know how to communicate high-level design and tech concepts in a way that’s easy for regular people to understand
  • you’re inquisitive and ready to connect with clients and learn about what drives them, and what makes their work special
  • you’re laid-back and maybe even a little geeky, but always on top of important details
  • Bonus: if you have skills and experience in design or web development, we’d love to give you opportunities to get involved with design/production for our clients!
  • Also a plus: you have interest in helping us develop workbooks and online courses centered around branding and web design

A taste of the things you’d be doing:

  • Communicating with clients and keeping them informed and happy — strong written and verbal communication skills are a must, as is experience working with Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and/or Microsoft Office.
  • Gathering and sharing info and assets between clients and our team
  • Setting clear expectations and keeping clients on track
  • Task management — experience with Freedcamp, Basecamp, or similar is a plus!
  • Helping to facilitate client consultations and face-to-face meetings
  • Writing, editing and creating proposals for new clients
  • Building the right team for our clients, by choosing and managing the right talent for our larger design and development projects
  • Helping our clients get comfy with the WordPress Dashboard and facilitating in-person trainings when needed.
  • Scheduling, photoshoot coordination, and other administrative tasks; keeping calendars up to date, invoicing and receiving payments — Quickbooks experience is a plus!
  • Contributing to our blog and/or social media presence — if you have opinions about design, marketing, and creative, we’d love to have you share them!

We’d like you to be able to commit approximately 1 hour Monday-Friday mornings to the position. Your work hours may vary a bit from week to week, but you can generally expect to work at least eight to ten hours in a typical week. You’ll need to come to the studio for client meetings, so if you have a flexible schedule, that would be ideal! Outside of face-to-face meetings, this position is flexible, and much of the work can be done from your home or your favorite coffee shop, if you like. A fast internet connection is a must, however!

We believe strongly in working with local talent, and we want to grow and create opportunities in our own super-gifted Portland-y garden. With that in mind, we are only interested in candidates based in the Portland Metro area.

We’re a young company, and we have a lot of experience producing solid work, but our process is always evolving and improving. We welcome any wisdom/ideas that you can bring to the table.

So, if you’re a good listener and communicator, and this sounds like something you could grow into, let’s talk about it! Or, if you can think of a trusted human who’d be a good fit, we’d love to hear from them, too.

Rate is $18-25/hr, depending on experience.

How to apply:

  • E-mail us at ask (at) upsweptcreative (dot) com and tell us why you’re awesome!
  • Include your resume and any professional references you may have.
  • Use the subject line: “I’m a Project Management Bad-Ass!” when you e-mail us.

Please be sure to apply by Friday, October 28th. Thank you!