Mizner Park CAC site completed

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Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center

The new website for the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center in Boca Raton, Florida is now online! The site is built on WordPress with a custom template I designed.

I got the call a couple weeks ago that the client needed to have a website to promote their facilities. They had tried to build the site themselves with their hosting companies website builder, but it wasn’t really working for them. They wanted a “simple” website that was easy to navigate for their mostly older non-computer savvy clientele. They also needed a logo but didn’t want to pay another agency the $5000 they were asking.

Visit miznerparkcac.org

Muse Hauling & Grading Updated

screenshotI spent this past weekend updating the website for Muse Hauling and Grading, a local business here in Denver, NC. I originally designed the site back in 2009. Since that time I’ve had to learn to keep up with the constant improvements in web design, including updates to HTML and CSS as well as the other developments in programming such as jQuery which has quickly become the standard over Flash in such now common things such as animations and slideshows.

Looking at the statistics for the site it was obvious that something needed to be done. Although the site came up well in local searches on Google and Bing, it was still not bringing in the visitors the client needed. A local search for ‘clearing and grading Denver NC’ put the site at the top of the first page (when viewed her from Denver). But a search for  ‘clearing Denver NC’ saw the listing move to the second page. Looking closely at the listings on the first page for that search showed that those listings were really big sites like Angie’s List, Yellow Pages, and so on. Clearly it would be difficult to knock such big sites off page one for that particular search. Other searches for services plus ‘denver nc’ also found the site listed on page 1 or 2.

So, while local search results are good, the challenge now is to get more visitors to the site. Getting links from other sites is a good tactic to get more visibility on the web. MuseHG.com does have listings on Angieslist.com, yellowpages.com, manta.com and a few others. We’ve searched out a few business directories and included the site on those as well but perhaps that is not enough. I’ve advised the client to create a business page on Facebook which hopefully will bring in some more visitors.

In the redesign of the site I’ve taken what I hope will be a good step in increasing the sites visit numbers. The previous site was a static site, which I updated when the client provided me with new content. Unfortunately this was not as often as I would have liked. Obviously when it comes to Google and Bing, content is king! If a site doesn’t grow or doesn’t get updated frequently the ratings tell the tale. Now, by building the site into a WordPress template, the client will be able to update the site himself. And, by using the WordPress JetPack plugin, new posts will automatically be pushed to the new FaceBook page which creates more links and more content at the same time. Seems like a win win situation.

I’ll be keeping an eye on MuseHG.com in the coming weeks to see how well this new strategy works.

Never enough time

I spend most of my days working on various projects from print advertising to website design and maintenance. My days are pretty full making sure that I routinely check my clients sites to ensure that they are updated with the very latest versions of whatever. So you can imagine my surprise when I logged onto this blog and realized that I hadn’t updated it in quite some time.

First thing I did was try to update the WordPress application. Click here and there and what? I get a warning message. Version 3.2.1 requires PHP 5… Uh oh. Check the server. Sure enough it’s set to PHP4. A couple searches and I find the correct location and update to PHP5. Back to wordpress, update to 3.2.1. OK.

Now I see that there are three plugins that need updating. Simple enough. Click, click, 1, 2, 3 and it’s done.

Hmm, seems I’m using an old template for the design. Problem is, the update to that template doesn’t have the sliding images like this one does. Guess that’ll have to wait. Anyway, I’ve been doing some custom template design lately and, since this is my own site, perhaps I should devote some time to creating my own template. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

First things first though. Got to finish those client projects and bring in some cash. This might take a while. I’ll let you know when I get around to that new template.

5 THINGS SOCIAL MEDIA CAN’T DO

Despite the numerous benefits that social media can bring to a business or individual, there are many misconceptions about what it can and can’t accomplish. Far too often, unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment. Knowing what social media can’t do will make it easier to harness the power of what it can accomplish.

5 THINGS SOCIAL MEDIA CAN’T DO:

Replace A Marketing Strategy

Social media is powerful, but it isn’t a stand-alone substitute for a marketing strategy. Effective marketing strategies can and should incorporate social media elements. However, simply launching a StumbleUpon account or Facebook Page isn’t going to cut it. Continue reading 5 THINGS SOCIAL MEDIA CAN’T DO

Social Media Marketing and OsmonicAir.com

As we all try to keep on top of technology and try to bring in more visitors to our websites it seems that there is always another method to try. By now most of us know that site like FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace are huge. These social networking sites allow people to interact with each other almost immediately. Is it no wonder that businesses are now using these sites to connect with their customers?

Creating and keeping up with one of these accounts does require a little time but they’re pretty easy to use. Maintaining multiple accounts is another matter.

About a month after OsmonicAir.com went live we realized that the site needed to bring in more clients. The SEO methods we used were working fine for organic search results but we knew they could be better. With the help of Bruce Muir of IDS Partners, we made some design changes to the site, and added a blog. The client then decided to bring in Brookstone Marketing Group. Brookstone offers several packages for online marketing, including pay per click campaigns and Facebook and Twitter setups. I’ll be interested to see what kind of traffic is generated through these methods in the coming months.

Osmonic Air now online

osmonic-2OsmonicAir.com is now online. Osmonic Air is a local small business that installs HEPA Air Filtration and Central Air Vacuum systems. Although HEPA filtration systems have often been used for hospitals, manufacturing and the Aerospace industry, they are being installed in homes more frequently now due to the growing concern of Indoor Air Pollution, otherwise known as IAP. IAP can contribute to many health issues, such as asthma, and other respiratory diseases. IAPs range in size and shape. Human hair, dust, dust mites, pollen, mold, and tabacco smoke are just a few types of IAPs.

The HEPA filtration systems Osmonic Air installs in your house are built to the same standards as those used for industries and businesses. True HEPA filters can remove as much as 97% of IAPs as small as 0.3 microns. These filtration systems are installed so that they trap the AIPs which flow through your homes air conditioning and heating system. This method allows the filters to keep the IAPs from recirculating through your house.

In addition to HEPA filters, the use of a Central Vacuum system can also aid in reducing IAPs. Particles trapped in carpeting or resting of floors can become airborne when walked over or picked up by air currents. Vacuuming frequently can reduce the amount of IAPs on your floors and carpets. The problem with most common portable vacuums is that their canisters are not airtight and might release the IAPs back into your home. Central vacuum systems are a better solution, since the debris is carried out of the house through a sealed system and deposited into a canister outside of homes air system, usually in the garage.

For more information about how Osmonic Air can help you protect your home and family from Indoor Air Pollution, visit their site, www.osmonicair.com or call 704-200-4001 to schedule a In-Home consultation and  Free Indoor Air Pollution test.

Sportsman’s Daily now all WordPress

SportsmansDaily.com static version
SportsmansDaily.com static version

I’m a little late in getting this posted but, a couple months ago I was asked to convert the html version of The Sportsman’s Daily over to a WordPress templated site. The site was already using WordPress for it’s blog, but the client’s wanted to re-design the blog to resemble the main site, thereby carrying over the design and enabling them to maintain and update the content themselves.

My first thought was, “What about all the work I already did on the site?” I had spent months creating the original design and another six months maintaining it for the client. Then I realized that converting the site again would give me another challenge to overcome and more skills to add to my arsenal.

Objective #1 was to take the ‘static’ html design and adapt it to the ‘dynamic’ design employed in WordPress websites. Luckily WordPress has extensive documentation as well as a very active community forum. Sure, there were some hits and misses along the way, but in short time I was able to figure out what needed to be done. Some of the bigger hurdles was figuring out how to edit some of the php code to do what I wanted to do. Why a hurdle?? Because at that point I knew nothing about php. I’m still not a php guru but after completing this project I felt pretty good about getting around the basic php code.

tsd_v2_ssSome of the major goals in the design was to take the header and the two navigation bars and bring them into the template. This actually proved easier than I thought. I just had to find the correct php pages and place the html code into the appropriate places. Of course I had to edit some of the original WordPress template html and css code to make sure that everything worked correctly. Integrating my css into the template css proved tricky, but I eventually got it going.

Objective #2 was to redesign the left content column. The static site had employed a area inside a iframe to display the four most recent stories. This was a real PITA to maintain, since it actually rotated five individual pages inside the iframe. Since the client’s would not have the photo editing tools to resize pictures, or the ability to edit outside of wordpress, an alternative was needed. The basic WordPress template already lists posts in chronological order, but the client wanted to have a section above the posts to display a the most recent story in the “Breaking Sports” category. They also wanted a section below that to highlight some feature posts. I tried using some pre-existing templates, like the Magazine template, but wasn’t getting the results we wanted. We finally compromized by not including the features.

tsd_ad_ssSince the redesigned site went live, The Sportsman’s Daily’s numbers have started to rise again. I was then asked to create a “After Dark” template. This proved to be a lot easier as it only needed the header edited and some of the side panel.

Mission accomplished! The client’s are happy that they are now able to update the site themselves. In the process I got the opportunity to learn some PHP and how to create a WordPress template. Of course, now that I’ve learned a little PHP I find myself wanting to learn more. Ah, technology! “Learn or Become Obsolete” has become my mantra.

Muse Hauling

muse-screenshotLast week I was contacted by Robert Muse, owner and operator of Muse Hauling and Grading here in Denver, North Carolina. Robert contacted me because, like a lot of local small business owners, he is currently experiencing a downturn in business due to the economy. And, like many other business owners big and small, he needs to be careful with how he spends his money. He has tried newspaper advertising and the yellow pages, with very little effect.

A lot of my website design business is through word of mouth. That is how Robert found me. After a brief consultation we formed a plan to create a small website to target his primary business services: Clearing and Grading, Hauling, Demolition, Retaining Walls, and Concrete & Brick work. Richard pointed out a couple of sites he had seen for me to reference and I went to work.

The design process went relatively quickly and in a few short days I had a comp for Richard to see. Except for a couple of small item he was please with the design. A few days later I had the site cut up and the html pages and CSS files ready to go. All in all the site was up in less than a week.

Of course, getting the site posted to the web is just a small part in the battle against the search engines. I followed all of the guidlines posted by Google and the SEO “experts”, including descriptive page titles, metatag description and keywords and the robots.txt file. I also submitted a xml formatted sitemap to Google. Then I submitted the site to MSN and Yahoo as well as the DMOZ.org directory. Now the wait begins to see how long it takes to get indexed into the search engines.

Since my last post I’ve learned a couple more things about SEO strategies. After watching a online webinar I realized that I had already been following a majority of the points presented. Such as graphically designing a site to focus on priority items. Using larger text for more important things. Using unordered lists (bulleted) for navigation and high level lists. It was no shock to me that perhaps the most important thing is a descriptive title for your page. It doesn’t make sense to title your page Welcome if your selling shoes or boats now, does it?

Some of the things I didn’t know, or may not have realized were important, included using broader words in keyword phrases. For instance, use a plural of a word and Google will automatically associate it with a non-plural word search. Don’t over repeat keywords in your text, using only 1-2 keywords per page. And when it comes to inbound links, quality over quantity will win out every time.

Search engine optimization is a big hurdle in getting your site on the first page. It is a ongoing process that is often confusing and sometimes aggravating. Following the guidelines helps ensure  that your site will have a fighting chance of being placed higher in the search engines.