Jul 12 2018

Congratulations! Your Website is Live!

Your Website is a Living Thing

Congratulations, your new website is out into the world, ready to be discovered by wonderful people far and wide! This isn’t the end of your journey, however: to get the most out of the investment you’ve made on your website, you’ll need to update and maintain it.

Like a newborn person, your website is all hope and potential and investment come to fruition. Unlike a newborn — thankfully! — there are no diapers or rough nights.  Your website might not need daily attention, but it’s too important to let it go without adult supervision indefinitely. Unless you’re investing in ongoing professional website support, that Adult-in-Charge is you. Don’t fret, though. You’ve got this.

What to Expect When You’re Launching a Website

A few tips to help make launching your website as hassle-free as possible:

  • While it’s still in development, visit your website on all of your devices and in multiple browsers if you can. Ask some friends to do so as well, because fresh eyes can be valuable in finding errors that others might miss. If you find something that seems broken or is not working as expected, give your web team as much information as you can about it. Device and browser information is very helpful, as are screenshots.
  • Read your website content again now that it’s framed by beautiful design. Now is not the time to re-write your website copy, but it is the perfect time to correct copy-level errors. If you have business hours, double-check them. If you have a staff page, make sure everyone’s name matches their photo and bio.
  • Avoid adding new features or functionality near launch. Feature creep is particularly dangerous now, because it is distracting and can negatively impact your timeline. Your developer should be focused on methodical finishing touches, not brand new ideas. If something comes up that you can’t launch without, be prepared to delay your launch date as the project scope is redefined.
  • Get to know the dashboard. If you plan to blog, know how to create a new post before you want to publish your first new entry. If you’re running an e-commerce website, get in there and dial in your shop settings before you make your first sale. Your web team can help you get acquainted, and be ready to explore the support documentation as well.
  • Consider a soft launch before you shout your new website from actual or metaphorical rooftops. A soft launch extends your Quality Assurance period a bit, under real-life conditions. You can test the load speed on your web host, double-check that your security is dialed in, and that everything got put back together correctly after flying over our heads in a million pieces.

    Look! He's up there over our head in a million pieces!
    Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

(Website) Parenthood is Forever

The heavy-lifting of the design, content creation, and development of your website may be over, but the work isn’t done. Now that you have the keys to your finished website, you’re in charge of updating and maintaining it so it can keep working its magic.

Content Updates!

We’ve said before that Content is Queen on the web, and your website was designed to show it off. There’s no firm rule about how often your website content will need a refresh, but it should always be current and accurate.

Read your website copy periodically — does it still reflect who you are and what you do? Has your understanding of your audience or market shifted since your copy was written? If so, it might be time for an update so that your website remains true and authentic.

Software Updates!

Keeping your software up-to-date goes a long way in maintaining the stability and security of your website. This is a great time to backup your database in case your web host experiences an outage — you’ll be able to restore from a recent copy of the site without too much downtime.

After you update your website CMS and any plugins, it’s a good idea to tour through the front end of your site to ensure that everything still looks and works as expected after the update.

You’ve gone on quite the journey to get to this point. Your website is ready to launch. You should definitely feel proud! But you should also feel prepared to handle everything that comes after launch, so you don’t have a meltdown if any issues occur. I hope this blog post helps you feel courageous as you get comfortable managing your new website. If you’d like to seek more of our help, we’d be delighted! Reach out to us today to learn more about our website support options.


May 24 2018

Why Your Social Media Sucks

So you’ve committed to, and prioritized your social media presence. You’ve thought about your audience, found a ton of free image content you can use, and started posting pretty regularly… you think. It’s been about a month, and you’ve lost that determination that got you started in the first place. Your numbers are horrible. You dread logging in to Facebook because that little arrow indicating your weekly total reach is always red, always pointing downward.

So what gives?

You may be making some common, key mistakes. As a social media manager, there are major issues I see all the time in the world of small business social media marketing. Here’s how to avoid them:

YOUR POSTS ARE TOO LONG

Facebook’s character limit for a single post is 55,000, but from a marketing perspective, your posts should never, ever approach this limit. Except in rare circumstances, you should even avoid having the “See more…” button appear on your posts.

One guiding philosophy I use across all online marketing is minimize clicks. People have short attention spans online. If your potential customer has to click “See more…” just to finish your post, it is way more likely they’ll lose interest before they get to the content you really want them to see. Make your clicks count! The ideal post both avoids the dreaded “See more…” button, and links directly to your shop/website/article/where you want your customers to go.

What you almost never want to see on one of your posts.

You’ll have to experiment with each post to find how just how long you can make it. There is no official character count before “See more…” appears. It depends on a number of variables (how you attach your photo, the title of your link, size of your screen, etc…) To find out, write your posts in Facebook’s publishing tools, and save it as a draft. From there, you can view the post as it will appear in someone’s feed.

YOUR PROFILE IS CONFUSING

I can’t overstate the importance of having an optimized profile on each of your active platforms. Your profile is the place people go once they’ve already been hooked– either by a post they saw, or looking you up by name– and they want more information about you. This is your opportunity to show your best side, while also directing people towards your end goal.

Yet, all too often, I see incomplete profiles, too-long descriptions in the “About” section, and incomprehensible profile pictures.

On Facebook, the “About” section is best used as a space for a very short description of what you do–I’m talking one, maybe two sentences. These sentences should be both engaging and immediately answer the question, “so what exactly do they do?” A longer description can be put into the “Our Story” section.

Make sure you fill in all the relevant details for your business, too: phone number, business hours, address, and founded date, link to your homepage, etc. This is the kind of information people are looking for.

Instagram is a little different, because profiles have a lot less information. In order to optimize that limited space, the profile description should be even more engaging and descriptive. Feel free to use emojis and hashtags, if you can identify some that work well for your business. The space to link to your website is prized real-estate on Instagram. It’s the only opportunity to point folks in a direction, outside of Instagram’s “Story” feature. Linking to your homepage is fine, but you should consider changing it periodically, to match what you are posting about. Advertising a specific item in your online shop? Change your link to go directly to that item’s page! Now, when you post about it, you can caption the photo with “Link in bio.”

YOU FOLLOW TOO MANY PEOPLE

PDX Alliance for Self Care is a new, local non-profit that is doing their Instagram profile right.

On platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, it’s so important to maintain a low follower to following ratio. These platforms use this ratio, in part, to determine “who to follow” recommendations. These suggestions are a key method of growing an audience.

And really, it comes down to a matter of trust and optics. As a potential customer, would you put more trust in a business that has 560 followers but was following 1100 people, or one that has 495 followers and following 460 people? It simply looks better to

have a lower ratio. It shows people that people are, in general, more interested in you.

One easy tactic to keep this ratio low is to only follow people that are already following you. Most social listening tools have automated this strategy, and allow you to toggle it on or off. But it’s not too difficult to do manually, especially in the early stages or if your overall audience is less than 1000 people.

 

It’s easy to make mistakes and oversights when first starting out in social media marketing. Even if you’ve made all of the mistakes I outlined above, I hope I’ve equipped you with the knowledge to fix them, so your numbers can improve. Rest assured, you’re still doing the right thing by getting serious about social media in the first place. After all, the first step to a successful online presence is an active one!

There are a host of further issues to explore. Social media marketing is an ever-evolving landscape, and it’s difficult to stay on top of things. We can help with that. With Upswept Creative, we’ll work closely with you as a partner in social media marketing. Together, we’ll build a presence that works. Reach out to us today!


Apr 26 2018

Letting Go: 3 Things Holding You Back From an Awesome Brand Redesign

Do you get an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you look at your logo? Do you feel sheepish when you hand out your business card? You may be thinking about a brand redesign, or even know deep down that you need to refresh your brand… and yet, it feels like an awful lot of work that you don’t feel prepared for.

I’m not going to tell you that rebranding isn’t a lot of work, because it does take time and energy! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, however. In fact, if you’re overwhelmed in your work, a rebrand may be exactly what you need.

Even if you think you have to stay the course, here are some thoughts that shouldn’t hold you back from a brand redesign:

“I don’t want to lose the brand recognition I already have. ”

Businesses both big and small can stay strong, even through multiple rebrands. (IBM logo evolution via Hongkiat)

You’ve worked hard to build your customer base, so it’s totally normal to feel hesitation about turning people away. However, we’ve seen a variety of businesses update their visual identity, and still keep going strong–the trust they’ve already built keeps their loyal fans coming back, while updated branding attracts new eyes.

As long as you make the right adjustments to your branding, you can keep your audience and keep evolving your business. Your creative team will often guide you through how to debut and start using your new brand assets, so your customers know what’s happening. It will take your audience a little while to adjust, but new branding will help you make sure the customers you love will stick around.

“My current logo is already on all of my tags, t-shirts, signage, etc.”

It may seem like a lot of trouble to incorporate a new logo and brand messaging. And yet, isn’t it a bigger problem to have a brand you aren’t proud of stamped all over your marketing?

Sticking with your current branding means everyone who engages with you will see an ill-fitting brand that makes the wrong impression. And, that outdated brand will continue to draw in all the same people–including the “wrong fit” clients that you don’t want to keep attracting.

It’s true that printing new business cards, having new signs made, or replacing other brand assets will take some time and resources. But, investing that time and effort now will help you connect with more of the people who are right for you, and that will make your life much easier in the long-term.

“I don’t have time to deal with that right now.”

Time is precious in any business! But, if you don’t have time right now, when will you? Free time rarely appears on its own–you ultimately have to make the time for things that are important to the growth of your business.

And, consider this: how much time could you save if your marketing was refined for who your business is now? If you can attract more of the right customers, and fewer customers that don’t fit, you could save a lot of time in your day-to-day. You could deal with fewer questions or less back-and-forth on pricing, you could focus on your best and most beloved products, rather than maintaining a huge product line. The possibilities are plentiful!

 

Rebranding is daunting–I get it! It’s a big task full of tough decisions. But, thinking critically about your brand is how you not only survive, but thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape. Facing your fears, acknowledging where your brand can do better, and making those tough choices will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated about your business.

Remember, you don’t have to do this alone! Upswept Creative offers all the resources you need to have a successful brand evolution: web design, logo and graphic design, and social media management to get the (new) word out. Contact us right now to start feeling good about your brand again.


Apr 13 2018

Design Monsters: The Committee

Often a project has multiple stakeholders who need or want to weigh in on a project. We call this designing for a committee. Whether your team of stakeholders is co-owners of small business, an entire non-profit Board of Directors, or representatives from each department in your operation, it can be quite valuable to tap into the knowledge and perspectives of a diverse group. But designing for a committee can also contribute to confusion, frustration, and missed deadlines. Here’s how to get it right.

Opposing Opinions

It may be tempting to send your designer a digest of everyone’s feedback. We’re always asking for more feedback, aren’t we?  But this is a case when quantity does not equal quality.

If one person on your team likes the green color in our logo concepts, and another thinks it’s too evocative of grass clippings, that leaves your designer with no clear path forward. We cannot both change and not change this possibly-too-grassy green, and we may not have a firm grasp on whose opinion carries more or less weight within your group.

Make sure you distill your group’s opinion in a coherent way. It should sound like it could be the opinion of one person.

Confusing Communication

Effective communication with your designer is key. As the Committee grows, however, so does the risk for communication breakdown, especially over e-mail.

You may feel tempted to e-mail five of your team members about your project, and copy your designer so they they can “overhear” the conversation, but that can actually be counterproductive! For one, there is a social context that your designer is likely wholly unaware of. They don’t know the dynamics of your team as well as you do. They can’t rely on existing relationships to understand the subtext of the messages.

Additionally, details can also be easily lost in long group e-mail discussions. Sifting through e-mail threads to look for possibly-actionable directives isn’t an effective use of your design team’s time or expertise. A clearly-stated action is guaranteed to get the job done faster.

The Committee by Indigo Kelleigh, 2017.

Curb the Committee

Being mindful of your communication and workflow can make all the difference in keeping dangers of The Committee from derailing your project. Here are our top tips:

Develop a trusting relationship. At the risk of sounding like a relationship counselor, you’ve all got to trust each other. Keep in mind that you’ve hired your design team specifically for their experience and expertise. Making you look awesome is why they’re here, and your cooperation and trust lets them do their best work!

Set expectations and boundaries, and speak up if something’s not working well for you. Talking about expectations at the outset of a project is an important part of getting started, and becomes even more critical if you’re working as a group.

  • Ask for a transparent project plan and an estimated timeline.
  • Discuss the ways you’ll all help to keep the project on-track, such as responding to queries within an agreed-upon period of time.
  • If your designer hasn’t provided you with any, ask for feedback guidelines to help make the most of your review.
  • If you have a problem, let your designer know what’s up promptly instead of simmering in your dissatisfaction. Sometimes workflows or communication plans need fine-tuning.

Assign a single point of contact to communicate with your designer. It’s likely that they have one individual who’s managing the details of your project, so your point of contact can take on a similar role. Over time, you’ll get to know each other’s communication styles, making collaborating on the project easier and more rewarding.

Take a moment to consolidate everyone’s feedback, whether you are meeting with your design team in person or sending an e-mail with your notes. Putting your feedback into one unified voice will make it much easier for your designers to understand and tackle your requests, while taking advantage of the richness of multiple perspectives.

Are you feeling as excited as we are about leveling up your brand’s presence online and in print? Team Upswept can’t wait to dig deep into the design problems keeping you up at night. Let us know what’s on your mind and schedule your free Clarifying Consultation today.

 


Mar 30 2018

Social Media Tools for Success

Running a full-scale social media marketing campaign for one business is a lot of work. You’re responsible for creating and scheduling content, keeping up on analytics, honing strategies, and developing a brand voice that engages directly with potential customers. All across multiple accounts, ideally with some coordination between them (but without too much crossover).

Luckily the tools that assist in this kind of work have become more sophisticated. As a social media marketing professional, I’m here to tell you about the most essential apps and services that you can use to succeed.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash.

Post Scheduler

This is the number one essential tool. It makes managing posts across platforms much easier. You can plan and schedule your content in advance, across multiple platforms, and a whole lot more depending on the service you choose.

Hootsuite is the most well-known and popular scheduler, but there are many options out there. Services like Buffer, Sprout Social, and Social Pilot all have the same basic set of features. However, their user-interfaces and other functionalities can be wildly different. To find the one that works for you, consider the scale of your project(s), budget, and the ancillary tools that come with some platforms (phone app in addition to web browser, social media analytic tools, etc…). Don’t be afraid to try a new platform and find out how it really works. Many of these platforms have free trials or even full plans for free. Trying something is the best way to determine if it will suit your needs.

Listen Socially

“Social listening” is the process of monitoring an account or set of accounts 24/7 in order to get the most data points as possible- a feat not many humans can pull off! Advanced social media analytics is impossible without some kind of social listening tool like Hootsuite, BuzzSumo, and TweetDeck.

It can be tricky to find the right one, or collection, especially on a budget. I recommend taking a look at what each platform you’re active on has to offer for free. From there, you can determine what additional information you’d like to have, and seek out the tools that can fill the gaps.

Holy Utility, Batman!

A lot of social media management happens from your smartphone. Creating good, engaging, and professional content on the go seems daunting, but phones these days are incredibly capable. These apps will help you work on the go:

Adobe Premiere Cut (iOS and Android) is the go to app for video production for social media. This free app allows you to edit video files on your phone, and the amount of options is very impressive. Soundtrack support, color and lighting touch-ups, and combining clips from multiple sources is all supported. If you plan on doing regular video content in your social media marketing (it is very engaging), this app comes highly recommended.

Datally (Android only) is an app that Google put out that empowers heavy data-plan users to take control of their data usage. A social media manager spends a lot of time on their phone. Unlimited data plans are expensive, and not always an option. Datally makes sure you only use data when you want to, which can help curb overall usage by 30%.

Clips (iOS only) is another video editing app, but this one is of a different breed. It excels at creating cute, short videos that feature graphics, live captions, and animated photos. It’s the perfect app for creating fun videos to share on Instagram. Cute catches the eye on social media, and this tool can definitely help do that.

 

Being a social media manager is a job where you get to wear a lot of hats. Copy editor, statistician, and graphic designer all come into play. It really is a lot of work, and many people who are starting their own business underestimate the time commitment and level of expertise required. That’s totally understandable. Lucky for you, Upswept Creative can help! Our very own Social Media Maven is not only a social media expert, but also an expert at meeting each client where they’re at in terms of budget, time commitment, and experience.

Find out how she can help you and your business today! Reach out and schedule a consultation, on us.


Mar 15 2018

Design Monsters: Scope Creep

We’ve already discussed one of the most formidable monsters of them all, the Problem of Good, Fast, and Cheap. Now, let me tell you about Scope Creep, how to stop it in its tracks, and still achieve the final product you want.

The Siren Song of a Private Patio

When I was a teenager, my parents decided to add a room to our house. Before very long this discussion ballooned to include an additional bathroom and a private entrance (via a small enclosed patio!) to my bedroom. Soon we were looking at catalogs of shiny fixtures and carpet samples because, my folks reasoned, if we were already doing some work, we may as well do all the work.

Thankfully, a voice of reason intervened and wrangled the project back down to its original scope, chastising my parents for submitting to a case of “While We’re At It-itis.” I never did get my private patio.

While We’re At It-itis, better known as Scope Creep, is a well-known monster we encounter frequently in all kinds of design projects. Scope Creep leads to unforeseen changes, because it keeps moving the creative target, which can be frustrating, expensive, and time-consuming.

Be Strong; Resist Temptation

Scope Creep is dangerous because it is distracting to both client and designer.  There should be some room in a project to pause and adjust course if new constraints or ideas come to light, but beware of veering too far off of the planned path—it can be hard to find your way home again.

Scope Creep is expensive, too, in terms of both time and money. When you want to add components or features that weren’t part of the original project, your design team must research the new idea and figure out how it will affect the structure of project as a whole. That means they have to divert attention away from doing the work you’ve already contracted them to do. And, once the door is open for more work, it’s so easy to lose your grip on deadlines and budgets.

Scope creep monster by Sarah Giffrow, 2017.

A “No” is Not Forever: Plan a Phase Two

It doesn’t have to be a negative experience when the designer you’re working with pushes back against incorporating new ideas into the work they’re doing for you. When inspiration strikes late or the problem you’re trying to solve changes shape, bring it to the table to find out if it can be reasonably included in the project scope you all already agreed on. Sometimes the answer is Yes!

Other times, though, the Creepy Monster must be put at bay, and one of the best ways to do that is simply drafting a Phase Two. Like you did at the outset of your work together, collaborate with your designer to make a new list of desired features for Phase Two —  Integrate your shop’s POS with your website’s e-commerce engine! Schedule a photography session to create high-quality visual content for your marketing materials! Plan a new managed social media campaign to show off your shiny new assets and drive traffic to your new website! Just because a new feature doesn’t fit right now, doesn’t mean you have to give up on it forever.

Team Upswept loves getting to know you and your business, and creating a project plan that solves your problems with beautiful and strategic design! Get in touch to schedule your free consultation so we can get started slaying those design monsters together!


Feb 20 2018

Social Media Trends 2018

One of the biggest challenges of social media is that it’s always changing. Old platforms switch up their interface, lose users, or disappear entirely. New, confusing platforms pop up to fill the gap. Even the old stalwarts go through massive changes over the course of a year (installed the new Snapchat update yet?). Social media is an ever-evolving landscape, and 2018 will be no exception. As a social media marketer, it’s my job to research, anticipate, and prepare for possible trends on the horizon.  Here are the trends I see having an impact on social media marketing in the coming year.

New Tech = New Trends

Technology evolves rapidly, and the tech companies that run social media platforms need to implement and cater to them in order to stay relevant. Digital hangout platforms like Houseparty became hugely popular with young people in 2017. This is a good indicator that larger social media platforms will eventually incorporate some of the key functions of hangout apps into their own platform. Facebook tends to do this by purchasing an up-and-coming app, and folding that app’s functionality into their own system updates.

While new functionality can be intimidating, I think of instances like this as an opportunity. Many brands will be experimenting with new ideas. Nothing is set in stone. Explore the new technologies as they appear, and take the chance to do some experimenting yourself. You may end up setting the standard for how brands use that function to market!

Rearranging Chairs in the Twitterverse

Believe it or not, Twitter is starting to show signs of decline. For the first time, Twitter failed to increase it’s active users for the entire second half of 2017. The first sign of a dying platform is seeing a halt in active user growth. While it won’t happen as fast or be as dramatic as the sinking of the Titanic, this slowdown is worth keeping an eye on in 2018.

We can expect Twitter to throw some curveballs this year, similar to their decision to increase the character count of tweets near the end of last year. They might even try some outlandish things to stay afloat, which will affect existing marketing strategies. Keep an eye out for changes so you, too, can adapt and keep your market efforts effective.

The (Facebook) Sky is Falling!

Facebook Live is an example of a feature from another app folded into the system. Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

One of the most dramatic changes in the social media marketing landscape happened at the end of 2017: Facebook changed the algorithm that determines how a user’s feed is populated. The changes are intended to prioritize posts from family and friends, and reduce “spam” from business pages. While this change has been live since November 2017, social media marketers are still adjusting.

So far, we’ve learned that the new algorithm punishes pages that use “baiting” strategies to boost engagement. This blog post goes into detail on what the algorithm will flag as bait, and how using those strategies will actually hurt the reach and engagement for future posts. As we approach the end of Q1 with these changes, updated strategies that take the new algorithm into account will solidify. Experiment yourself, and pay attention to what other brands in your field are doing differently.

Change is Scary, but We Got This!

The ever-changing landscape of social media makes marketing in these spaces a unique challenge. But if you stay engaged and up-to-date, you will be better prepared to make the necessary adjustments, and keep your online marketing relevant, engaging, and successful.

Of course, your real challenge may simply be that you don’t have enough time to stay on the cutting edge of social media marketing. That’s where we come in. Upswept Creative offers social media management packages designed specifically for each client. We will meet you where you’re at in terms of expertise, budget, and brand voice. Reach out to our Social Media Maven today to schedule your free consultation.


Feb 02 2018

Collaborate with Us!

Partnership and Collaboration are two of our core values at Upswept Creative. We bring this collaborative spirit to all of our projects, not only putting our individual skills and expertise to work as a team for our clients, but also nurturing partnership with our clients.

Getting to know you and your business over the course of our work together makes the final product more genuine and truly representative of what you do and who you are. When that authenticity shines through from your social media accounts, brand identity, and website, you attract more of your ideal audience — the kind of folks you want to work for, and who will appreciate your work.

Starting Strong

We want working with us to be pleasant and easy, and maybe even a little fun. We know that you’re plenty busy running your business without adding website design to your to-do list, which is the whole reason you’ve decided to look us up in the first place!  Your investment on some level, however, is necessary in order for us to make the awesome happen.

Before we meet with a new prospective client, we like to get to know a little bit about where you are with your business and your branding, which is why we ask you to fill out a short Get Started questionnaire. When you meet with us for a consultation we’ll talk about your pains and goals in even greater detail.

We want to meet you where you are, and  if you can speak to these questions, even loosely, that makes it a lot easier to find you on a map.

Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash

 

  • Why am I starting this project now?
  • What is working now with my current website and social media?
  • What problems do I hope to solve with this work?
  • Do I have a sense of how I want this to look and sound when it’s done?
  • What resources can I give to this right now?
  • What does my ideal partnership with a creative agency look like?

Digging In

When you work with Team Upswept, we keep you in the loop with preliminary mockups and planning documents. We ask for your feedback all along the way to ensure that our understanding of your business goals and your aesthetic preferences are as solid as our expertise in design.

We won’t  get your website launched in a week, even if you ask us very sweetly to do so, simply because a week is not enough time to make a researched, strategic, cohesive, unique, and totally rad-looking solution that shines your light to your target audience (like squid to a bright jig at midnight).

You have the most important role in any job we take on.  As the client, we are looking to work both for and with you in order to deliver a product that authentically represents you, your business, and your brand. Want to know what it’s like to collaborate with us? Fill out our short survey and schedule a free consultation! We’ll get your project started off on the right foot — with teamwork!


Jan 19 2018

How Much Will Your Website Really Cost?

When we talk website design with potential clients, one thing we hear pretty regularly is, “I have no idea what this kind of thing costs.” It’s not just about shopping around between different providers, either–there are a lot of factors that can affect your total investment.

If you want to get a better sense of what you can expect to spend, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

Good, Fast, Cheap: what are your real priorities?

image courtesy Berkonomics

There’s a saying in the creative world that Good, Fast, and Cheap doesn’t exist: you can only pick two.

What does that mean? Well, if you need your new website “ASAP,” and you want it to be both beautiful and effective, then it’s not going to come Cheap.

Conversely, if you’re looking to save money, you’ll end up “paying” for the project in other ways–you’ll either be waiting a long time to finally get your new Good website, or you’ll get a website that was created Fast, but is low-quality.

If you want to pursue a new website, make sure you know your priorities. I suspect you won’t want to sacrifice Good on your web project, so be prepared to either pay more, or wait longer for its completion.

What resources do you have?

Once you know what your priorities are, it’s time to look at where you’re starting from. There are a lot of moving parts to a website. A good website professional will be there to take on the design, coding, and strategy for you, but there are other important pieces to building a website that works well:

  • Your brand voice. Do you know who your business is? Do you know who you’re trying to reach? Your website team needs to know those things to create a website strategy that works for you.
  • Written content. Do you have descriptions of your services or products? Do you know what to put on your homepage? Your website pro can guide you, but someone needs to create the words that help your website sell.
  • Photography. Do you have professional-quality photos that represent what you do? Do you have a clear photo of yourself for your About page? Good design can get you part of the way there, but photos are what will put a face on your brand, and help tell your brand story.

These are just a few major project pieces that your web design professional will need to make your website work well for your business. If you’re missing any of these pieces, you’ll need to either need to create them yourself, or pay someone else to do it for you.

How much time do you have available?

Now that you’ve figured out what pieces you have, and what pieces you’re missing, take a look at your work week How much time do you have available? Realistically?

It’s easy to get excited about the idea of a new website, and say “yes, of course I can get you that content,” but creating good content takes time. Even if you have the best intentions, if you’re already too busy to answer your emails or post on your Instagram, then you probably won’t have time to create a customer persona or craft a brand statement.

If you do have some time to spare, there may be ways you can use your own knowledge and skills to help the process along. Just remember: nobody gets good at something new overnight, and it could take you hours upon hours of work to get it right. And, even if you *can* handle content yourself, there may just be better ways for you to use your precious time to keep your business running!

A professional creative has years of expertise that helps them get the job done faster and better than the average person. If your time is valuable to you, then keep it for yourself, and pay for a professional assist.

What are you willing to do? What do you NOT want to do?

You’ve gotten this far. You know what you need, you have the time to make it happen. Now it’s time to be honest with yourself: what are you actually willing to do to keep that website working well?

If you love blogging and want to regularly update a blog on your website, then hey, that’s great! If you used to work as a copywriter and want to craft your own website copy, then that could be helpful.

But, if the idea of writing your own bio makes you break out in hives, then maybe you should ask your website team for a copywriting quote. If HTML terrifies you, then ask your website professional about a maintenance package, so you don’t have to update the site yourself.

Whatever you choose, be honest with yourself about what you can do, what you should do, and what is better left to the experts.


Sep 14 2017

Content is Queen: A Case for Content-First Design

A letter without a message is just a blank piece of paper in a fancy envelope. (And who wants to look at that?)

How Design Communicates

When we build websites, draw logos, and make marketing assets, we’re using our (awesome) creative powers to help our clients share their message.

We use colors, shapes, letterforms, photo assets, and spatial relationships to communicate visually and optimize the message. You could say that design is a method by which we package and deliver content in a pleasing and accessible way, so that everyone who receives your message wants to learn more, sign up, buy, or donate.

Your Message + Our Design = People Compelled to Act!

Making Sense and Looking Awesome

When we know what content we’re working with, we can create intentional, purpose-driven design to showcase the message — tailored just for you. We don’t just drop your content into off-the-shelf themes or templates. Every design is customized for each project’s specific needs, which we help you uncover through Discovery and research.

Dialing in your messaging is so important here in the early phases of design. Whatever it is that you want people to hear from you, you’re going to need some words. The right words, even, that say what you mean with precision!

But Copywriting is Hard!

For most of us, even when ideas come easily, it can be challenging to commit them to precise, effective writing. We know that the Internet has a short attention span (are you even still reading this blog post?), and the pressure to get to the point and pack in all of the critical information is real.

A bit of planning now can save you from a big mess later.
Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash.

Often when you get into the thick of creating or editing your content, you will likely find that the words and organization change shape — you might need a second level of subheads, or block quotes, or inset boxes, or so many other things! These may seem like minor changes, but they can have a big impact to the overall way your content behaves on a page. If you’re designing for print, the addition of a subhead can add pages to your final count, or require a whole cascade of other visual changes to make the document work and feel cohesive.

Enlist help with your copywriting if you need it. A great editor can help you shape and refine your message without adding a ton of time to your project or to your financial investment. Approaching your designer with ready-to-use copy will save you time and dollars in the design phase.

Get Real

In book-publisher school, I learned that a nascent book moves from editing to design to production — in that order and in only one direction. While that’s a really great system, I have literally never received a project to design that was content-complete while working in the actual world.  For the first few years, it really bothered me.

By now though I have consigned myself to the reality that content may will change a bit during the design process, and I’ve committed to having some grace about it. When a client sees work that they’ve only known in a text editor come to life in a webpage mockup or sample chapter, some new revelations about aesthetic preferences and/or how the content is working often crop up — that’s a normal thing that we expect and build into our process.

So what should we all do? As a client, you should approach your designer with as much ready content as you can — this includes written copy, photos you have the rights to use, and anything that the designer won’t be creating such as logos, forms, and barcodes. Make a plan with your designer that clearly states who is responsible creating, editing and gathering each piece of content. Create a timeline. Understand that your designer can only get so far into a project without your real content. The closer your content is to completion when we start, the more seamless the design process, making the final product that much better.

Whether you are still working on your content, or it’s all ready for design, Team Upswept has your back. We’re a comprehensive creative studio, offering copywriting and editing services, graphic design, photography, as well as web and print design. Get in touch to learn more!