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!


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!

 


Aug 02 2016

Two Photo Apps for Your Phone That Pro Photographers Swear By

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Make your smartphone camera smarter.

An important part of the Product Photos Made Simple mission is sharing techniques that can help you get better photos, even if you don’t own a real camera! And, that means using your smartphone in a way that’s, well, smarter. So, I’m going to share two smartphone apps that even pro photographers like myself swear by:

cameraplusCamera+

When your phone camera gives you ho-hum results, Camera+ can help you fix it. Camera+ gives you control over how your phone camera behaves with features like selecting your focus point, exposure control, image stabilization, even a macro mode for those close-up details! (if you don’t know what these things mean, don’t worry! We’ll cover it in Product Photos Made Simple!)

The app purchase is $2.99, which is honestly completely worth it compared to the value of how much more control you’ll get over your photos. You’re bound to save endless amounts of time and headache with this one, tiny purchase.

Camera+ is available for iPhone and iPad. Looking for an Android equivalent? Camera Zoom FX has a similar set of features for Android users, and for the same price as Camera+.

snapseedSnapseed

When a phone camera photo doesn’t turn out quite the way you’d like, you don’t have to learn Photoshop to fix it–Snapseed is a sweet app that will let you make edits to your photos right on your smartphone.

Snapseed lets you make adjustments to brightness, contrast, color temperature, and more, with just a swipe of your finger. You can also crop and straighten your images, *and* it also includes a variety of Instagram-like filters and effects that you can adjust! (a personal favorite of mine, because default Instagram filters are too heavy for my taste!)

The best part? Snapseed is now completely FREE, and is available for both iPhone andAndroid devices. So, it’s definitely worth trying out!

Want in-depth tips on how to use these apps? There’s only THREE DAYS LEFT to get it!

Some of you are already supporting Product Photos Made Simple on IndieGogo, but for those who haven’t, time is running out! Back the campaign to get the guide at a one-time price, or get a boost for your business with one of our HUGE discounts on fashion and product shoots, especially for our backers!

If someone you know needs a professional photoshoot, share this with them–we can even shoot product that’s shipped to us!

Ready to DIY smarter? Click the button below to start taking better photos:

Learn how to take better product photos, even if you don’t own a real camera!

Get Product Photos Made Simple! »

Got an extra Second? Share this with your people.

Your help getting the word out is valuable beyond words! So, share our e-mail tips with others who might benefit, encourage folks you know to check out the IndieGogo campaign, and share it on social media. The more who jump on board, the faster you’ll get this guide delivered straight to you!

Jun 06 2016

Use Your Web Site to Make Your Business Findable

Summer is upon us in Portland, and that means tourism! People from all over come here for vacations, explore our city, and fall in love with it. You might be making special plans to get ready for the buzz of tourists, especially if you have a storefront or tourism-based business, but there’s one thing you might be missing: is your business findable online?

If you have a web site, take a moment to make sure your web site is ready for summer: here are just a few ways to make sure people can find your business and buy into the amazing things you’re offering!

Include your address on your web site, somewhere.

If you’re looking for walk-in customers, it’s hugely important that your physical address be on your web site, and that it’s easy-to-find. Just one example of why: a recent technology study revealed that 64% of smartphone users convert their search for a restaurant into an actual visit by the end of the day!

Having a mobile-responsive is critical, especially if you get a lot of customers from out-of-town.
Having a mobile-responsive web site is critical, especially if you get a lot of customers from out-of-town.

It’s common for people to search for your location on your web site while they’re on-the-go, so it’s absolutely to your benefit to make it easier for them to find you! Make sure your address exists somewhere on your web site Homepage, even if it’s just in the footer.

Make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

Speaking of customers who search on-the-go, a web site that isn’t easy to use on a mobile device? That can really sink your business. This is doubly true if you depend on tourist business and out-of-town visitors, like Random Order Pie Bar does! Tourists are much more likely to look at your web site on a mobile device, so giving them the best possible experience will help them find you, and become your newest customer.

An added bonus: when your web site is mobile-friendly, it also ranks higher in mobile searches. So, having a mobile-responsive web site will also give you a nice boost in search engine rankings!

Does your web site need a mobile facelift, but you’re not sure where to start? If so, it might be time to hire a creative team to refresh your web site, and make it look its absolute best on every device.

Use prominent call-to-action links.

Whether you’re a walk-up business or an online shop, a prominent call-to-action does a lot of the work for you–an eye-catching message with a clickable button makes it easy for customers to buy in. One great example is Beer Quest PDX–there’s a “Sign Up” link built right into the top of the web site, so customers know exactly where to click to buy in, and sign up for a beer tour adventure.

What do your customers need to buy into what you offer? Make it easy for them to buy in: design your web site with an appealing call-to-action, and put it in a prominent place, so they can make that purchase the instant they decide to choose your offering.

Just Say No to PDFs.

Have you ever visited a web site and clicked on the link to their menu or rate sheet, only to be faced with a PDF that’s hard to read online? That can get pretty frustrating, right?

Imagine doing that on a mobile device? Even worse! The print is surely too small to read, and you have to clumsily swipe and scroll and search for the information you want.

Again, this is about making it easy for people to want what you’re offering, and to learn more about it. Using a PDF instead of a standard web page may seem easier for you, but is that worth hindering your potential customers?

I’ll admit, “No PDFs” isn’t the most hard-and-fast rule–PDFs can have their place on a web site, especially if you’re selling a e-books, or if your content is the product. But, for simple information that your customers and clients will want to access quickly, create a standard web page for that content.

What else can you do to make your web site do the work for you?

There are awesome brand and design strategies that can be built right into your web site, so you spend less time worrying about marketing, and more time doing what you love. But, that means getting more specific, and building a web experience that’s a perfect fit for your business. If you’re ready for a refreshed web site that does the work for you, just click on the button below and tell us a little more about your business. We’d love to hear from you!

Tell us more about you! »


Jan 27 2016

A Pie-Filled Peek at Smarsh Week 2016

We were pretty pleased to return for Smarsh Week this year, to capture some of the happenings during their activity-filled multi-day event! Employees from the many global offices of this tech company converge in Portland every year, to engage in a variety of events and mixers in and around their Downtown PDX headquarters.

A special treat on the Smarsh Week 2016 agenda was a pie smashing event, done to support fundraising for the Movember Foundation, to help them in their continuing fight against cancer. A dozen-or-so employees offered themselves up as tribute–including several members of their Leadership Team–and together raised over $1000 for the Foundation.

We couldn’t resist this incredibly GIF-able moment featuring CEO Steve Marsh, braving his pie-in-the-face like a champ. Big ups to everyone at Smarsh for being all-around lovely people, and for doing good in the community!

Smarsh CEO supporting Movember fundraising efforts by getting pied in the face.
Smarsh CEO supporting Movember fundraising efforts by getting pied in the face.

Sep 25 2015

Freelance Web Designers & Developers: We’re Seeking You!

web design and development in PortlandAre you a freelance Designer or WordPress Developer? It’s looking like a busy Fall here at Upswept, and we might just need your help! So, we’re updating our resources and looking for smart, fun, and all-around-stellar people to work with us on current and future projects.

DEVELOPERS:

We have front-end development projects coming up in the very near future, and potentially back-end projects further down the line. You should have:

  • Strong knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP.
  • Experience building WordPress themes from scratch is a must!
  • Experience with coding mobile-responsive sites is a huge plus.
  • Knowledge of Bootstrap and Sass are also plusses.

DESIGNERS:

We handle a variety of projects for independent businesses, including brand design, web sites, photography, and other creative endeavors. Here’s what we’re looking for from freelance designers:

  • Web Design experience is a must, as that is our biggest need.
  • Experience with logo/branding and print design is also a bonus.
  • Agency experience is a plus.
  • Familiarity with 12-column and responsive design would also be great.

Portland is our home. Hopefully it’s yours, too.

We believe in giving back to our local economy whenever we can, so we have a very strong preference to work with freelancers who are located in PDX. We want to be able to meet with you face-to-face! However, there is a slim chance that remote work may also be possible for the perfect person. Individuals only–please no firms or companies. Please no inquiries from outside of the U.S.

Sound like you?

Fantastic! Just e-mail us at ask [at] upsweptcreative [dot] com using the subject line, “Freelancing is Awesome.” Include your resume and a portfolio link, and a brief paragraph about who you are, what you love, and why you want to make pretty with us, and we’ll reach out to you soon. Thank you!


Jul 01 2015

Open Source Bridge Day 2: You Are Not Your User

Day Two of Open Source Bridge encouraged us to look beyond our own experience, and try to see the world through a different lens. Not only does it help us be more compassionate as people, but it also helps us create and code better design and user experiences for everyone we want to reach.

Algorithms Can Have Powerful Consequences

Open Source Bridge Keynote: Carina C. Zona talks about using data insights responsibly.
Carina C. Zona talks about using data insights responsibly.

Carina C. Zona opened Day 2 with “Consequences of an Insightful Algorithm” and talked about the incredible number of things we can learn about people through data, and subsequently, the potentially hurtful actions that can stem from it. Zona brought up several examples of big-name companies who have used their data less-than-responsibly, such as FitBit’s public exposure of sexual activity on profile statistics, or even more disastrous, Target’s advertisements towards pregnant women exposing a teen pregnancy. Big companies can learn a great deal about their customers by gathering and analyzing customer data, but they can easily fail at using that data responsibly.

Inadvertent algorithmic cruelty–a phrase coined by Eric Meyer–is, “what happens when code works in the majority of cases, but fails to take other use cases into account.” These types of things often happen because the consequences of how data is being used aren’t being thoroughly considered, which is easy to do when you assume that your customers and users are similar to you. That means that people outside of the assumed majority can get hurt.

We all have biases, whether we’re aware of them or not, so it’s important for us all to consider what motivates our choices, and how that can affect others who don’t share our biases. Data can be an extremely powerful tool, but it’s up to us to be honest and trustworthy, to use data responsibly, and to actively counter the biases that exist in ourselves and our culture.

Good User Experience Means Seeking Other Perspectives

With the Day 2 keynote fresh in my mind, I attended multiple sessions that encouraged all of us in tech to reach outside of our own perspectives, to think and learn about users who are different from us, and use that knowledge to create better user experiences for everyone.

Amelia Abreu facilitates a session about creating better design with user research.
Amelia Abreu facilitates a session about creating better design with user research.

Amelia Abreu and Rachel Shadoan facilitated a longer-form session, Dog Food is for Dogs: Escape the Crate of Your Perspective with User Research,” which focused on escaping the limitations of our own perspective through user research. We know our own projects inside and out, but our users don’t have that same advantage, so it’s part of our job to do the research and learn more about the people we’re designing for.

The session focused on a couple of different strategies to help us learn to see beyond our own experience: first, we looked at a photograph and brainstormed about everything from the circumstances and feelings of the people in said photo, to potential solutions to their problems. Later in the session, we broke up into several groups and explored different scenarios, so we could strategically think about the different types of people who might work with our projects, what’s exciting them about our work, and what their struggles might be.

The clear message here was that we need to consider a variety of people when we create user experiences. People tend to congregate with others who are just like them, so that can easily lead us to assume that our experience is the only one that matters. Our user scenarios should be based on field research, or we risk falling into tropes and our own biases.

In a similar vein, David Newton tackled the topic of making web design more inclusive in Universal Web Design: How to create an awesome experience for *every* user.” Newton looked at successful examples of universal design in the real world–such as curb cuts to improve accessibility for wheelchairs, strollers, and bikes–and then expanded on the concepts of universal design and how they can apply to Web Design.

Creating web design that’s intuitive, flexible, and easy to use in a variety of situations was a big topic here, and it’s one that I loved talking about. A good universal design works for us, and we don’t really think about it until it’s not there when we need it. No matter what type of web site we’re building, be it business, personal, or community, our number one goal? We want people to use the site. If you have a web design that’s confusing, or that isn’t easy to use for all of our users, then your web site is falling down on the job.

Newton went into a detailed run-down of tips, concepts, and best practices for making web designs more accessible. And, he also stressed the importance of listening to and considering a variety of users. Diversity is not only about the user, but also how they access the web, what devices, connection speeds, and so forth. We were encouraged to listen to our users, respond to their email feedback, do focus groups, and do our best to learn what they need, so we can create a better web site experience for everyone.

In short: “Remove barriers. Make things easier for users, even if it’s a little harder for us [as designers and developers].”

Did you miss out on the conference? Look back at Day 1 of Open Source Bridge, and take a look at some of our photos on Facebook.


Jun 25 2015

Open Source Bridge Day 1: Everyone In Tech Matters

We’re spending a big part of our week at Open Source Bridge, both taking in wisdom and taking photos! On Day 1, I spent a lot of time wishing that I could be in multiple places at once, but I did make it to a couple of different talks which drove home the message that tech needs to strive to be more inclusive, more socially aware, and more collaborative.

Stepping Towards True Diversity in Tech

Kronda Adair opened the Open Source Bridge conference by talking on what we really need to do to encourage diversity in tech.
Kronda Adair opened the conference by talking about what we really need to do to encourage diversity in tech.
Kronda Adair kicked off Open Source Bridge with “Put Up or Shut Up: An Open Letter to Tech Companies Seeking Diverse Teams,” which gave direct talk about the problem of diversity in the tech industry, an industry that continues to be dominated by white males. One startling statistic: “50% of women in tech quit the industry within 10 years.”–not simply their jobs, but the entire industry. Hiring more women and other underrepresented demographics into tech companies does help, but as Adair stated, it is simply not enough.

Adair emphasized the importance of companies throughout tech stepping up and putting real weight behind their stated desires for diversity.  Empathy is key to creating an environment that is welcoming to all, and a supportive work environment is key to retaining people from those underrepresented demographics.

In short, it’s important to create a space that’s safe for everyone, and that allows diverse groups to flourish. It means not allowing members of your company or community to act badly without consequences. Value interpersonal skills as well as technical skills. Give access to tools and education, and inclusive healthcare. It can even be as simple as taking the time to learn an unfamiliar name. When you think on diversity, don’t simply wonder, “how do I add diversity?” but ask, “how do I make things better for everyone?”

When Fear Takes Hold, Reach Outward

Adam Edgerton shares what happens when fear hits on a project, and how to handle it.
Adam Edgerton shares what happens when fear hits on a project, and how to handle it.

In an afternoon session, Adam Edgerton looked at what happens when the project management cycle gets scary in “Project Fear.” He touched on the very real issues of burnout in all facets of tech–Edgerton suggested that burnout is one major contributor to why people quit the industry–and the feelings of uncertainty that come with joining a new project or a new company. “Impostor Syndrome is most strongly associated with high achievers,” so even those who are expert and capable, and performing well, may feel the fear that comes with uncertainty

New hires can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to gain the background knowledge about a company that’s needed for them to perform well, so patience is key. Edgerton suggests reaching outward to help combat uncertainty–asking questions and doing research to gain the background you might be missing can help you find the “a-ha” moment of understanding. It’s also important to balance your gut feelings and your logic, much like our friends Kirk and Spock. And, allowing yourself to talk about struggle and share it with others can help relieve the pressure that leads to burnout.

Your Job Impacts Your Community

Kelsey Gilmore-Innis talks on the surprisingly long reach of tech dollars in politics.
Kelsey Gilmore-Innis talks on the surprisingly long reach of tech dollars in politics.

An afternoon session with Kelsey Gilmore-Innis, “Your Job Is Political,” dove into the long reach of tech dollars in politics. Using her knowledge of tech leaders in the Bay Area, she went into extensive detail about venture capitalists in tech, the surprising number of tech companies they’re tied to and invested in, and most importantly, where their political interests lie–and subsequently, where their millions of dollars are going.

A sad truth of our political system is that money continues to command a great deal of power, and the work you do as an average tech worker contributes to advancing political interests that you may not support. If you don’t take a position, but your bosses invest revenue from your labor in politics, you are not impartial. Be aware of who is at the top levels of your company, and what they are doing (or not doing) to benefit your community.


May 28 2015

WebVisions PDX: Design is about People

I got to drop in on the WebVisions Portland conference earlier this month with a longtime collaborator, Jen Barth of Big Small Brands. The conference was a multi-day affair, but even a one-day peek felt like time well spent!

The two talks I attended on Friday morning weren’t especially similar, but they had one very important thing in common: they were people-centered. A design can be the most aesthetically pleasing thing in the world, but it won’t be successful if it doesn’t consider the people involved in making it, and the people who will be using it.

It’s All About The Interface.

Sarah Hall talks at WebVisions about how design affects people, and how people can inspire design.
Sarah Hall talks at WebVisions about how design affects people, and how people can inspire design.
Sarah Hall talked about “The Science of Art,” and got nerdy about the way our brains work, and how we can use that to make better design. The human brain has a variety of ways to perceive and interact with the world, and good design considers how people will respond to it.
Why are we so obsessed with Web Design and UI? Hall summed it up wonderfully: “Your interface affects how you understand and process the world around you.” So, if you want your work to be understood, you need design that helps the people you want to reach understand what you do, and reach out to you.

How You Connect People and Ideas Can Make You Memorable.

Ultimately, design is about connecting, and connecting isn’t just about person-to-person, either–it’s about how our brains connect and relate things together. Sometimes, things that might otherwise be completely unrelated feel like a natural connection, in your own mind. One of the roots of creativity, as Sarah Hall put it, “is divergent thinking, and how you make connections between disparate things.” When we consider how the people we want to reach will link one idea to another, we can make design that’s easier to understand, or design that catches the user’s attention and becomes more memorable.

Good Design Means Working Together.

Adam Connor’s talk, “Working Better Together: Characteristics of Productive, Creative Organization” was focused on the creative team, rather than the end user, but the people-centered approach still rang true. He talked about how each person’s role in a project can overlap, and stressed the importance of understanding each person’s role, looking for shared values, and building trust within the team and with the client.
One thing we do a lot of at Upswept is encourage our clients to give good, honest feedback, and Connor’s approach is similar: he encouraged everyone to be involved in the design process. Each person is important to making the end product Awesome, and having everyone–even the client–involved makes that final result even better.

Good Design Thinks About The Next Step.

Another comment from Adam Connor that really hit home for me is that, “real design does not have an end point. It is infinite; it is iterative.” It makes perfect sense for our clients, too, in my mind: your business is always growing, changing, and evolving, so your design should grow and change with it.
Don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean having a web site that’s constantly under construction, or ordering new promotional flyers every other day. But, the web site or branding that’s perfect for you today probably won’t fit you so perfectly a few years from now. Your business depends on how people respond to it, and your design should reflect that.
So, when you’re thinking about the next steps for your business, think about how that might affect your design needs, and plan for it. Even a great design can be improved, whether it’s right now, or sometime in the future.

May 06 2015

Don’t Get Left Behind – Get Your Web Site Mobile-Friendly for Google!

Upswept Creative is Mobile Friendly!
Upswept Creative is Mobile Friendly! Are you?

What’s invisible, super powerful, and affects us in Portland as much as people on the other side of the planet? Climate change? No, it’s the Google search algorithm. The most powerful search engine in the world is doing it again: changing the way sites get ranked! Not as bad as climate change by a long shot, but hugely impactful for everyone who relies on search traffic, especially from mobile devices. Roughly 1/3rd of internet traffic now comes from mobile devices (including tablets), so it was already a good idea to have a mobile-friendly site, but with this announcement, it’s even more important.

What It’s About

On April 21st, a Google algorithm change was announced for mobile users, meaning that, when we use Google search on our phones, we’ll see different search engine results on mobile than when we use Google on desktop devices.

How are these results different? Well, for searches coming from mobile devices, Google is now making “mobile-responsiveness” a ranking factor. If a site is mobile-responsive (also known as mobile-friendly), it’ll show up higher in a search performed on a mobile device than a site that isn’t, even if all other factors are the same. As of right now, this doesn’t make a difference when searches are made from desktop and laptop devices, but this may come in the foreseeable future.

What It Means

This is great news for many of our clients who’ve already invested mobile-friendly sites: it means they’ll rank higher than any competitors. But, if you’re concerned that you might not be among them, you can run it through Google’s mobile friendly test, which takes only a couple of minutes. If your site is not mobile friendly, you’ll want to make sure it is before you see a dip in revenue. Even if you’re not yet working with us, we can help you sail through this change. We’ll adapt your existing site to keep you up-to-date and running smoothly!

Get Our Mobile-Friendly Special »