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Sitecore CMS — a Perfect Match for Well-Branded Websites

July 1, 2010 4 comments

Since 1997, we at DigitalDay have developed or integrated a myriad of Content Management Systems (CMS) on behalf of our clients – some have been good, some not so, and others . . . ridiculous.

Finally, through our partnership with Sitecore, we’ve found a robust .NET CMS solution that allows us to maintain a brand’s design quality and integrity while giving our clients the self-help ability to maintain centralized control of brand and web communication strategies – at a very affordable price point.

We Know of What We Speak

Over the years, we had mixed experiences with several different flavors of CMS applications. Some were better than others, but here’s our take:

  • Interwoven – a massively complex and expensive enterprise CMS product implemented for GE Plastics & Sherwin-Williams
  • SharePoint – a difficult to customize to a brand’s look and feel collaboration platform requiring expensive programming resources
  • Ektron – a medium price-point .Net CMS that’s cumbersome to style properly for old-time sites like OE Connection
  • Kentico – an inexpensive, web-parts-based CMS requiring specialized training for the likes of Mars, Inc. and the Transworld Advertsing Agency Network
  • Custom CMS – implemented on a small scale for client’s like Penton Publication’s Fire Protection Magazine and on a larger scale for the J.M. Smucker Company’s Recipe and Product databases across dozens of their brand’s sites

We Love Sitecore, and Our Client’s Do, Too

As a Certified Sitecore Developer, DigitalDay has now designed and developed several Sitecore powered websites with great results.

  • Our .Net developers have been impressed with its flexibility to allow them to customize it in virtually limitless ways for our clients, without having to “fight” it or engineer cumbersome work-arounds.
  • Our designers like it because they have no restrictions in bringing a brand to life
  • Our clients love it because it has such a great variety of features and allows them to manage content in intuitive ways.

We find ourselves recommending Sitecore to our clients over and over again because it’s a powerful, user-friendly and cost-effective CMS.

About Sitecore

Sitecore’s CMS is one of today’s fastest growing and fully supported Microsoft .Net content management software solutions available enabling us to deliver compelling web experiences for our clients.

With Sitecore, we can help organizations create websites that are interactive and rich in functionality, yet easy to edit and update so that Marketing Departments maintain control of their organization’s brand sites.

In addition to a powerful workflow, advanced security, search engine friendly optimization and XML flexibility, some of Sitecore’s other key features include:

  • Rapid .NET Development to minimize time to launch and custom programming costs

  • In-Line editing lets editors simply click on parts of the website to edit, without complications.
  • Visitor profiling and Multivariate Testing to develop a 360-degree understanding of your visitors, campaigns and the performance of your website itself.
  • Real-Time Personalization to dynamically target content delivery based on a visitor’s profile
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) capabilities to identify new and active prospects and nurture leads
  • An Open API with the code completely exposed to eliminate proprietary approaches to content organization and presentation
  • Strict Separation of Content from Presentation so we can style content for desktops or mobile devices with ease
  • Multi-Site Management for marketers with one to hundreds of brand sites, editors or contributors throughout an organization
  • Robust Language Translation Support to tailor messages to the language of global visitors
  • Rich Integration Capabilities to easily tie in to 3rd Party applications such as email marketing services like Silverpop, DigitalDay’s email service provider, or SalesForce.com

A Scalable CMS for Small, Medium and Gigantic Organizations

Sitecore’s mix of powerful marketing and business features, rich development support and scalability make it an ideal solution for small business to the largest enterprise class organizations.

With DigitalDay’s strategic counseling, design and Certified Sitecore Development capabilities, we’ll help you create a best-in-class, compelling web experience for your brand’s visitors.

Download these Sitecore resources:

To see examples of our Sitecore designed websites, visit these client sites:

Schwebels.com, the #1 Bakery Brand in Ohio


DuckBrands.com, the makers of Duck Tape

SwingsetsOnline.com, America’s Largest Swing Set Manufacturer

BackyardAdventures.com, a 2nd Sitecore installation for our client Backyard Discovery.

FrogTape.com, a Premium Painter’s tape

Compound W for Skin Tags, Canadian Brand Website with French Translation

For more information or personal demonstration, either online or in person, contact:

Mark Vitullo
Partner, DigitalDay
markv@digital-day.com

Phone: 330-940-2565

Custom Designed Website Solution for Small Businesses


At DigitalDay, we’re big believers in the power of beautifully designed, well-branded, search engine optimized websites for all businesses, large or small.

We also believe it’s very important to update your business’ website on a regular basis to keep it fresh, current and alive in the search engines while encouraging visitors to return often.

Integrate WordPress to Bring Your site to Life

For small businesses, DigitalDay offers a great solution in the form of a WordPress integrated custom design providing a simple way to manage your content and update your website effortlessly.

WordPress is a free, open source blog publishing application. It features integrated link management; a search engine-friendly, clean permalink structure; the ability to assign nested, multiple categories to articles; multiple author capability; and support for tagging of posts and articles.

But, with the right strategy and design help, WordPress doesn’t have to look like a blog. We work with small businesses to:

  • Define your online marketing and search engine optimization strategy
  • Design your site’s Information Architecture, write copy and create your site’s professional, custom design
  • Develop the HTML templates and integrate the WordPress platform into your site
  • Deploy your custom, content-managed site on our servers or yours

Original Content is the Key to SEO and New Business

When using WordPress for your website, we’ll set up a static front page that doesn’t look like a blog at all, and then have a link to “articles” area on your site, where you can easily publish content rich articles.

This articles area is a list of the blog posts that you create, and the content acts as “spider food” for the search engine crawlers. All you have to do is write and publish the blog post, and the article page gets updated automatically for you, and WordPress lets the crawlers know your site has been updated.

Regularly publishing quality articles and content to your website gives search engines more content to crawl, and provides value to your web site visitors. For example, if you are a Veterinarian, you can publish short articles that address the needs of your pet-owning market, as the Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic has done with these recent articles:

The Sick Cat: A Master of Hiding Symptoms

Exercise! Healthy Living for Dogs and Cats

Microchip, a Decision for Peace of Mind

This is a great way to provide value to your visitors, and help your website rank better in the search results. And if your content is good, other people will link to your site, helping you even more.

And when your website is set up with WordPress, it takes minutes to post the articles, and Google finds them within a day or less. This means other people can find them too, and in turn find your website and your business.

How to Get Started

While the WordPress software is free, our services are not . . . sorry. Before you contact us, set aside website design budget of between $5,000 and $10,000. Then, to minimize your costs and the website’s design and development time, organize the following as best you can:

  1. Create an outline of all the navigation sections and pages that you’d want to fully describe your business
  2. Write copy or collect all of the information (brochures, press releases, etc.) that would populate each of those pages
  3. Gather up artwork and photos to support your information – or get a photographer to shoot it for you

The more you do up front, the lower your costs will be. If you don’t have the time or skill, we can do it all for you and we’ll provide a detailed estimate of our costs and manage the entire process.

For more information, contact us today to see if we can help your business get its fair share from online marketing.

Samples of our WordPress Integrated Work

To help give you a sense of how WordPress can look, take a minute to review these recent WordPress integrated sites we developed for our small business clients.

Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic


Conte & Company, CPA

Volunteers of Bow Wow Beach

Expanding basic web font stacks

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment

For years now, typography on the web has been pretty simple – unless you could use images for text, or something like sIFR, you were stuck with a very basic font stack: typically Arial, Georgia, Times and Verdana being the most prevalent. Countless great designs have been made with those basic tools, but designers have wanted to broaden their typographic resources for quite some time.

Currently, it’s an exciting time for type on the web. Tools like sIFR are still around, there’s also JS based techniques like Cufon, as well as commercial solutions like Typekit, and even @font-face embedding for modern browsers. Each of these has their positives and negatives, but a simple compromise solution comes in the form of simply expanding the basic font stack.

This has been written about before, but it never seems to have gained traction in the design community. That’s a shame, because there are some great options available.

Quite simply, this is the idea that instead of just choosing fonts that have 100% compatibility (which limits you to the common choices), specifying fonts that are very common (I’ve chosen ~80% or higher, though it’s up to your discretion), and then using traditional fonts as backups if a user doesn’t have the font in question. This is incredibly easy to code, degrades very gracefully, and doesn’t require a download or installation of anything for the user.

You have to be willing to accept that less than 100% of people will see your design with perfect accuracy to the original, but the payoff is that for 8 out of 10 it will be more interesting and offer a richer typographic experience, whereas 2 out of 10 will simply see standard fonts.

There are good lists of fonts available here (Windows) and here (Mac). Keep in mind you can use these together, specifying first a Windows-prevalent font, then a Mac version, then the more standard type after that. One of the most exciting choices is Arial Narrow (~89% on both platforms) which finally gives you an option for condensed type in HTML text. I’m also interested to see Franklin Gothic Medium (a classic in the design world, 97% on Windows), and Palatino/Palatino Linotype (gorgeous serif face, 97% Windows, 80% Mac).

Office Chatter: Design Patterns


Eric sent the following internal DigitalDay note out the other day, and it’s worth sharing:

Subject: Design Patterns

One thing we all deal with in every site we do are interface elements (like tabs, modal pop ups, etc).

Sometimes we pull from experience or other sites we’ve seen (which is great), but we’re also guilty of doing stuff because “it’s cool” or we just saw it on a site, or someone just made an extension so it’s easy in jQuery, or just because a client did the same. Adam and I were talking awhile back about trying to have a more structured approach to this; choosing things that best serve the content and the user for each case.

Helpfully, some clever and generous people have created huge libraries of these elements. This first in particular is great because it lists when you would want to use a certain technique vs. some other technique. There’s rationale, pros and cons, etc.

http://quince.infragistics.com/UX-Design-Patterns.aspx

Also some good stuff here – http://www.welie.com/patterns/

And here – http://designingwebinterfaces.com/explore

So, whether we’re planning interface elements in IA, in design or in programming we can use links like these (and I’m sure there are others) to build things with a purpose and choose the right tool for the job. They can also serve as some fuel to help counter a client who insists on something we know isn’t the best way.

-Eric

Categories: Web Design

On the Web, Size Does Matter

April 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Determining the appropriate width of a website has always been a tricky matter. Different monitor sizes, non-maximized browser windows, toolbars, adjustable OS elements all add to the variability. Early on there were some clever approaches, like this (just resize your window to the width of the image!). There were also many novice designers who built things at literal screen resolutions, say 800×600 or 1024×768. The problem is that with browser chrome and OS elements in place, your actual usable browser width was nowhere near that, more like 760 or ~960.

There’s also the long running debate of fixed width sites versus fluid or dynamic width sites.  There are several ways to implement a fluid width. Early sites simply didn’t specify a width, which on modern screens leads to absurdly wide columns of text which are awful in terms of readability. If you’re page is filled with content you could also break it up into smaller chunks and have them float to the right of each other, so that on a wider screen they’ll appear horizontally but on narrower screens they’ll cascade vertically.

Another more recent approach takes advantage of the CSS tags min-width and max-width to set limits, which help adapt the page to different sizes, but still retain the same general layout and readability (here’s a nice example). As usual though, these properties aren’t supported in IE6 so hacks and workarounds are used. In broad terms there are good reasons and cases for both types of layout, but in the CPG and other consumer marketing sectors we typically work in, brand guidelines and design specs usually lend themselves to the more tightly defined fixed widths.

For several years now, the predominant screen resolution for general purpose sites has been 1024×768, meaning that we could build sites at 960 – 980 px wide and fill those users screens fairly well. What we’re beginning to see though, is more diversity in screen sizes above 1024 wide. Widescreen monitors up to 30″ (both 16×9 and 16×10 aspect ratios), older 4×3 monitors, and people using HDTVs as monitors bring dozens of possible resolutions into play.

How do we accomodate these…what’s the new 960? Some people have picked conservative estimates, but those don’t seem to really utilize much of the space available on many systems. A counterpoint to that is also the success of netbooks, ie tiny laptop computers, whose screens are typically much lower resolution, though often widescreen in ratio. Bring mobile phones into the equation (some that use mobile styles and others like the iPhone that pull the full site styles), and you’ve just got a mess on your hands!

Different style sheets can help, and perhaps we strive for more use of min and max widths, but what are your thoughts on a new standard in fixed widths?  Is it time, or do we need more stats on larger resolution screens? Are we destined to work at 960 for years to come?

CPG Brand Colors – Why is Diet always so boring?

February 10, 2009 4 comments

Head to the soda (pop, whatever) aisle of your local supermarket and take a look around. It makes for a fascinating study in branding, color trends, and CPG marketing in general.

Recently, I noticed something obvious, yet never really discussed. For each brand or flavor of soda, there is a distinct color, logo, and tone in design. With each brand’s diet flavor though every brand I could find did the exact same thing – took the normal style, and made it grey. They took out the color, desaturated the packaging, or just generally swapped neutral colors in for the bright bold colors the regular brands get. Some examples:

Comparison of regular and diet soda cans

Comparison of regular and diet soda cans

Is that really the best that millions of dollars ad budgets and legions of designers, art directors, marketing people, and brand managers can come up with? It gives you the distinct impression that the diet version will be a blander, less fun, less bold version of the regular. I understand you want to retain the value of the original, but surely there’s value in distinguishing the diet flavor as its own product, not simply to be a watered down, less interesting version of the regular?

Let’s see some originality here; there’s no rule (I’ve ever seen at least) that says diet soda has to look and feel just like regular soda. Give it a brand, give it its own personality! From my experience the consumer who regularly purchases diet soda may not even be interested in the regular version. Should they not be engaged and treated as well as the consumer interested in the regular equivalent?

How to Make Flash SEO-Friendly

February 7, 2009 Leave a comment

The team here at DigitalDay is about to embark on a Flash-heavy website design and we want to make sure we’re minimizing any negative SEO impact.

In doing a little research, Dina, one of our designers found this article:

5 Steps for Building a SEO-Friendly Flash Site Using SWFObject and SWFAddress

The article outlines the following steps:

  1. Use SWFObject
    SWFObject is that it allows you to serve Flash to people who can support it and (X)HTML to people who can’t. Also, search engine crawlers index the (X)HTML alternate content you serve, meaning that if you put your content in there, it will get indexed.
  2. Create HTML pages for each of your flash pages
    For each of your Flash pages (home, about us, contact us, etc.), create an HTML page that mirrors its content. That means all the text, all the links, all the pictures, etc.  This will allow search engine crawlers to make proper sense of the content on the site.
  3. Use SWFObject and multiple Flash files to hide the content
    So you have all these pages, but you don’t want anyone who can support Flash to SEE them – only search engines. That’s where SWFObject comes in. On each of these HTML pages, you will use SWFObject to embed the same Flash file, but have the non-Flash content reflect the HTML you built.
  4. Use SWFAddress and deep linking to direct Flash users to the proper content
    SWFAddress allows you to read information from the URL and then use that within your Flash. The most common reason for doing this is to be able to do deep linking in Flash.
  5. Add a JavaScript call using SWFAddress to direct your Flash to the right section
    This helps direct users who come from a search engine to the right content within your Flash.

Swiss cheese fonts for greener printing?

December 19, 2008 Leave a comment

The effort to go green is growing every day, and we can all do little things to reduce our waste and our energy footprints. But, have you ever considered the environmental ramifications of your fonts?

Well, a Dutch company has created a typeface called EcoFont that claims to reduce the amount of ink (and therefore energy used) in printing by 20%. They do this by literally punching little holes in the characters. At a large size it looks absurd, but the idea is that at a normal print size for office documents, say 12 or 14pt, it’s virtually indistinguishable.

ecofont

Does it really work? I’m a little skeptical that the resolution and precision of the average cheap inkjet or laser printer is fine enough to print a dot/line that can really utilize the holes in the characters. It also remains to be seen if the average office will swap their mainstay Times and Arial fonts for something they have to download and install themselves.

Regardless, I applaud SPRANQ for trying something different, and illuminating how we might make common little tasks more eco-friendly.

Retiring a Vintage Jelly Website Design

November 27, 2008 Leave a comment

After what seemed like an eternity, Smuckers.com’s circa 2000 website has finally been retired. Earlier this month is was replaced with a modern, optimized, professionally branded design by DigitalDay.

smuckers-home-page-redesign

For posterity’s sake, here are a couple screen captures of the old 800 x 600  “Jonathan” design the new DigitalDay inherited back in 2001.

smuckers-home-page-old

smuckers-recipe-oldR.I.P.

Supporting Healthcare Providers with Cost-Effective Micro-Sites to Drive Appointments

October 29, 2008 Leave a comment

To help our client LasikPlus support health insurance providers, DigitalDay developed a cost-effective set of micro-sites that explain the benefits to each network, guide members to local centers and encourage them to schedule their appointments.

Each of the micro-sites leverage an interactive Flash locator map to guide members to their nearest LASIK facility. To make scheduling as easy as possible, the client’s centers are tied in directly to the scheduling application designed and developed by DigitalDay.

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