Apr 27 2017

Cherry City: A Case Study in Design Work

Working in web design can be a complicated process. A lot of creative decisions need to be made while working under a deadline, and within a budget.  Both functionality and the client’s needs have to take  priority, all while looking prettier than the previous iteration. So how do the pros do it? We’d like to give you an example from a recent web design project we completed for Salem, Oregon’s roller derby league, Cherry City Roller Derby.

STARTING OUT

Cherry City came to us with an outdated website, in terms of both content and design. The platform on which their site was built made it difficult for league leadership to post updates. Key information for a roller derby league would get buried in the design. Upcoming events like fundraisers, bouts, and recruitments  were hard to find. League sponsors were also not prominently featured, making sponsorship a less attractive prospect. That can be a big problem for a non-profit!

ROLLIN’ UP OUR SLEEVES

We knew we wanted to build the site on WordPress. This would be a big usability upgrade for Cherry City, and would help them keep  the site’s content fresh and up-to-date. But, we also had to consider how to organize the content in a more beautiful and less confusing way.  Upcoming events needed to be easily accessible, and presented in a consistent visual format.

All of the important elements, front and center on the first page.

We drew on our experience working with Portland’s roller derby league, Rose City Rollers, to find approaches that we knew worked with this kind of content. We knew that public bouts needed to be at the forefront of their online presence, so we made their games the star of the show. But, Cherry City also puts emphasis on recruiting, and makes a special effort to be a welcoming league that keeps its members and volunteers engaged, so we created space in their Events area to highlight Recruitment events as well.
Keeping track of Sponsors at different levels would be important to growing their sponsorship base. We also knew that the same individuals could be involved with multiple teams or committees. We created structures for both Sponsors and Team Members, so Cherry City could easily manage those details all in one easy-to-find place, instead of updating multiple pages.

THERE AND BACK AGAIN

Make sure your site works on mobile, too.

To get the visual and functional improvements we were all looking for, we communicated regularly with Cherry City’s all-volunteer Board of Directors about our design inspirations. We shared with them our wireframes and graphic mock ups, ensuring that we were persisting in the right direction on the project.
After many rounds of feedback, and all of our tweaks made, we were happy to launch their brand new website near the beginning of April!  Their league leadership is quickly gaining comfort with the new structure we’ve built, and they’ll be able to keep their fans, future skaters and volunteers, and sponsors engaged with ease.


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!

 


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!



Sep 26 2016

Building a Nest for a Happy Brand

When we first met with Emily of Happy Nest, she had a busy day-to-day of running her professional organizing business and caring for her young children. She had the start of an online presence, but her brand didn’t feel like a good fit. “It’s just… not awesome,” she told us. So, we made a plan to turn her disappointment into excitement, and rebuilt her brand from the ground up.

Photography: a view into a brand

Professional Headshots Portland
Professional headshot of Owner, Emily (hair/makeup: Jessica Belknap)

Our photography session was a great opportunity to get to know her work and what drives her. When I moved through the spaces she’d organized, I could quickly see how her organizing work could make an entire lifestyle more orderly. And, as a mother of three (including twins!), she clearly had to be smart and creative with her solutions to keep her own life running smoothly.

Emily’s work is about creating balance and ease, rather than rigid rules. So, “helping you create a more calm and peaceful nest,” was a great way to capture that ease and show that her solutions are designed to fit your life.

Logo Design: making a nest modern

Finding the right look for Happy Nest’s logo was no small feat. The first logo had a flat, illustrated look to it, but we soon learned that Emily craved a cleaner look that wasn’t quite so literal. After a few rounds of design, we arrived at a logo that felt like just the right fit for Happy Nest.

Website Design: simplicity and structure

The Happy Nest web site didn’t have complicated needs, but, “simple,” doesn’t mean, “boring.” We wanted to create a clean look that echoes the structure that Happy Nest can bring to your life, and we’d learned a lot about Emily’s personal style and aesthetic during the project. We saw pleasing colors and clean geometric patterns in her own decor. So, we let photos from our photography session set the tone on her homepage, and framed it with patterns and colors that spoke to her.

Then, we did rounds of testing to ensure that the site worked well on mobile devices, because her clients are often busy, on-the-go people. The end result is a site that communicates her brand more strongly, and makes details about her services easy to find. (and really, if there’s anyone should have a well-organized, easy-to-use web site, it’s a professional organizer! 😉 )

Desktop web site
Desktop web site

Mobile site
Mobile site


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! »


May 06 2016

Bringing strong brand to web design for Random Order Pie Bar

The "Before" Picture: Random Order's old site didn't incorporate their updated branding.
The “Before” Picture: Random Order’s old site didn’t incorporate their updated branding.

When a once-humble pie shop gains a worldwide audience, a lot of eyes will suddenly be looking for it, especially on the internet--a lot of business dream of that level of fame, but not all of them are ready for it! It’s easy for a potential new fan to see you in a magazine or on TV, pull out their smartphone, and go online to find the best pie in Portland. That means the pressure is on your web site to make a great first impression, and give them what they need to find you.

Random Order Pie Bar was more ready for fame than some, when Travel & Leisure magazine first rated their Vanilla Salted Caramel Apple Pie among “America’s Best”. When the owner of Random Order reached out to Team Upswept, they had updated their signage, menus, and other brand assets with a bolder and more polished look, and they also wisely gathered high-quality photos of their beautiful and positively scrummy pies!

But, even with all of these assets in their hands, their brand refresh was far from complete. None of their new brand imagery was being used effectively in their online presence, and they were also losing potential customers because of their not-so-mobile-friendly web site. The overall look-and-feel of the old web site felt heavy and staid, which didn’t fit at all with the welcoming and active environment of their cafe. That’s where Team Upswept came in!

Our new homepage design made bigger, better use of Random Order's updated logo and gorgeous pie photos. (click to embiggen)
Our new homepage design made bigger, better use of Random Order’s updated logo and gorgeous pie photos. (click to embiggen)

Our first order of business was designing the new web site to make the best use of their brand assets. Their updated logo now shows front-and-center with a gorgeous, full-width photo of their now-famous pie, and brand fonts are also used prominently, to tie in with their printed menus and advertisements. Their “Pie to the People” tag line also appears in multiple locations throughout the site, so this clever catch phrase can stick in the minds of future tourists and customers.

We also updated their menus to highlight both their pie flavors and cafe selections, with prominent calls to action for special ordering your favorite pie, or visiting the shop for a coffee drink and a slice. And, of course, we incorporated more of the lovely photos of the food, drinks, and cafe space throughout the site, to share the quality of their hand-crafted treats, and the community they’ve built over the years.

Random Order's new mobile site achieves the goals of the desktop version and makes it easy to view for people on-the-go.
Random Order’s new mobile site achieves the goals of the desktop version and makes it easy to view for people on-the-go.

And, now that Random Order’s reach extends far outside of its Portland, Oregon home, we made sure their web site would be easy to use for visiting tourists and local enthusiasts alike, by building a web site design that displays gracefully on mobile devices. With more and more people using mobile devices to learn about their pies–especially when traveling in from out of town–it’s absolutely critical that Random Order Pie Bar have a mobile site which is easy to use.

The new mobile site for Random Order achieves the same goals as the desktop version, and brings the brighter, more welcoming look to people on-the-go, and folks who are looking to sample a slice or a whole order of their famous pies can easily find their location or contact them with questions or special orders.

If you know me, then you know that I get more than a little excited about pie, so working with people who make some of the absolute best pie in Portland was a total blast. My only complaint? Looking at all of those photos made me so very hungry pie. Maybe that’s my cue to head up to Alberta St. and grab a world-famous slice for myself! 😉

Portland branding and web design by Upswept Creative


Jan 11 2016

Breaking It Down: Setting Goals for 2016

The Future Is In Your Hands! Start Setting Goals and Make a Plan for 2016!

It’s a new year, and everyone has resolutions and setting goals on their mind. If you’re anything like us, you might start feeling sort of anxious or overwhelmed about all the possibilities. You keep telling yourself to floss more, drink more water, go on vacation, catch up with friends and family, do yoga, etc.

Setting Goals for business: physical, emotional, relationalTo help combat the anxiety that comes with having so many options, we like to break our goals up into categories: the Physical, the Emotional, and the Relational. Some of those examples may apply more directly to you as a business owner (seriously, go on vacation!) than others, the basic principle still applies. In what ways can your business improve physically, emotionally, and relationally? Here are a few suggestions:

The Physical

Everyone has something about their office that makes life harder. The printer never works. You don’t have enough space. Where have all the pens gone? Take this time to reflect on your physical space, and come up with some ways that you might be able to improve it.

The Emotional

Have you ever noticed how great it feels to do something nice for someone else? Find an organization that matters to you and give what you can. whether it’s time as a volunteer or a regular donation, you’ll notice your happiness levels increasing.

The Relational

Is it time to expand your network? There’s nothing like bouncing ideas off fellow business owners for feedback or support. Think about joining a network or organization that’s related to your business to spice up your relationships.

Don’t Know Where To Start Setting Goals? We’ve Got Your Back.

We’re growing and changing here at Upswept HQ, too, and that means we can do more for you AND do it better. We have some awesome new team members coming aboard to lend you a helping hand, whether it’s with the small stuff, or the big visions. (you’ll meet them soon!)

  • Struggling with the Physical? We can help you make your business look fabulous on the outside with strong design, attractive and usable web solutions, and smart content strategy.
  • Looking for the Emotional center of your business? When you do a branding and web project with us, we’ll be taking you through a more in-depth Discovery process, so you feel confident in your message and do better business.
  • Feeling disconnected on the Relational side of things? We’re now taking on Social Media Management! We can help you create new content, manage campaigns, and navigate the technical side for you, so you don’t have to waste your precious day-to-day on Facebook.

We can help you formulate an action plan for making your brand image smarter and prettier in the new year. A consultation with us is always free, and we love helping you grow! Click the link below, answer a few questions about your project, and we can take the wheel.

Talk to us! We like you already. »

Hearts, successes, and good vibes to you in the coming year!


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!