The WestEnd Celebration is an annual, late-summer festival in Sand City. While they celebration committee had a local artist develop the look and feel of the site, they needed someone to take that design and bring it "to life" online.

Whether it's something haphazardly drawn on a napkin, or the other extreme - mapped out in fine detail on Photoshop - it's always helpful to have the site in draft form before building. Site development begins with this 'architect's plan', what I like to simply call a storyboard, then progresses to finalizing a template. These are just a few of the steps involved in the process.

This new site takes advantage of a rotating photo gallery on the front page that will work on all mobile devices. Many website developers still rely on Flash development for these types of animations, but Flash will not work on many devices. On others, Flash simply doesn't work well. Does your website use Flash? If so, it may be time to swap out those animations for something that works!

The WestEnd site is unique in that we've developed the site and just released it, but because the festival is in the early stages, there will be much monthly maintenance while sponsors, vendors, and musicians are added. Check it out at www.westendcelebration.com.

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There's so much junk on the 'net. Really. We're all bargain shoppers, so it's typical we're attracted to all the free stuff. I teach K-8 in Carmel when I'm not doing web design, and it's a common problem for them to see all the "free stuff" (usually in big bold letters and blinking on the page) - and promptly download it, only to find it's riddled with malware. And doesn't even do what it advertises. We do the same thing - find the free stuff and we're quickly disappointed.

Even free Wordpress themes fall in this category, or the seemingly attractive plugins. Well, we get what we pay for.

Google Analytics (www.analytics.google.com) is the rare exception here. They offer a comprehensive set of tools that highlight statistics for your site. Want to see who visited your product page? Want information on where people are visiting from? Like to find out what marketing is working for your site? Analytics can do that and more. Website managers can even share the data through automatic emails to teammates.

Do you know how your website is doing? You should. Ask your web designer to install this tool for free - or, contact us to do it for you, usually in a matter of a day or two, and even show you how to manage the account.
Click for larger example
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Before we rang in 2011, Chef and Owner Dory Ford from AQUA TERRA met with me to talk about a new site that would match the evolution of his business - including new services and products. The old site was built piecemeal when AQUA TERRA was still coming together, so it began to burst at the seams from quick changes and workarounds.

We threw around some ideas over a fine homebrew from my friend Luke (great Hefe, Mr. Spence!) and left with some goals: Professional look, drive the audience to take action, easy to navigate... and my interest was to make it easy to maintain. If I could build in the option for Dory's staff to take the wheel at adding content, it would be even more valuable. We needed better SEO as well, given the future growth beyond the region and state.

The new site, formally announced today, grew from a powerful template that's layered on a blogging tool. We have the flexibility of feature banners that rotate on the front page, and highlights that can be used throughout the site. Perhaps the best feature is the weblog, which can be maintained by anyone on staff or myself, and has a special template for sharing their many recipes. Those posts then trickle down to Facebook and Twitter. Automatically.

Speaking of Facebook, we paired this site update with a new Facebook page that takes advantage of the FBML code, allowing us to create a custom tab "Who We Are". A great landing page for visitors - check it out.

Kudos AQUA TERRA, for bringing together this wider vision and all the necessary content! Check out their new website today.
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You don't need to hire someone to make a website.
Yep, I said it. In reality, so long as you can make a Powerpoint or a Word Document... so long as you understand basic layout and good design, YOU can make a website. Yes, there are all these fancy widgets and CSS, coding and other aspects to site development. But what if you just need a 3-page site that says what you do? Or maybe just a short portfolio while job-seeking? Maybe you've listed your house and want to advertise it online?

Weebly allows for FREE website creation. They offer new templates every year, so to keep your site looking fresh amongst the rest. The elements of a website, including photos - video - forms - menus and more, are all created by drag and drop. Give it a try!

So where does Alma St. Designs come in? There are some advanced features available in Weebly. For example, you can have your own domain for your site (the free sites look like this: http://name.weebly.com). Or, maybe you want to customize one of those templates? What about Google Analytics for your site, or really great Search Engine Optimization? How do you tie your site in with Facebook? These are the next steps for a site - and options that we can help you with. When it's time, send us a letter and we'll lend a hand.

In the meantime - Weebly might be all that you need.
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Blog will begin in 2011...

12/29/2010

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Ironic, wasn't it? The list of projects grew exponentially in 2010, and we signed on with a significant ongoing project with Aqua Terra Culinary. But - we were much too busy to work on our own website. After repeated self-imposed deadlines passed, we decided it was time to finally take action so those "Site Designed By" links were actually going somewhere. We decided to represent our work on Weebly, a great template-based web design tool. Free accounts are available, but we've made some business out of helping businesses and organizations taking it a step further by customizing their sites, then showing them how to "take it from there". Education is an integral part of a handoff!

Hoping to post to this blog 1-2 times per month with project news and some ramblings and reflections about what's happening "in the cloud", so to speak.

In the meantime, check out the most recent project - also on Weebly - with Robyn's Chocolates & Confections. Life is sweet - representing her work via the website and product photography. Enjoy!
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