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Let’s Talk About Websites and the User Experience

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Over the past decade, we’ve experienced first-hand how building a website has become more complicated. This has been a journey for all designers and developers because it seems like something new happens every year to change the course of development. Yet, wireframes are still used to show the general layout of a site and user flow still describes where traffic tends to go. It’s good to know that some things are still the same, even though mobile apps and smartphone navigation have changed the way we create a positive user experience.

Do Some Homework

We have to do some homework before we can get started on those wireframes, because we need to see how potential clients will interact with your site. What is their goal when they get there? Are they searching for information or do they need help right away? Answering these questions can help us enhance their experience.

The site needs to be accessible and easy to use. Is it disability-friendly? How long will it take to load on-screen? It needs to connect immediately with the user and their motivations for being there. They should be able to quickly locate and navigate to areas of the site that are relevant to their needs.

From PC to Mobile

Five years ago, personal computers still dominated the market, but are losing traction quickly. Today, smartphones are now considered the gateway to the internet. Consumers access media and shop online more than ever. A company’s website has to be mobile responsive, or else it will lose potential business. Plus, Google lowers search results if the website is not optimized for mobile.

Visual Design

The best way to engage potential clients is through visual design. It communicates faster than words and solidifies the company’s brand through logos, icons, colors and texture. If this is their first impression of the company, it needs to consistently represent the brand while providing information.

Visual design should improve navigation, not hinder it. When a site is overtaken by too many visuals it gets bulky, especially on a smartphone. As a result users struggle to ignore the constant stream of images. Best thing to do is to strike a balance between recurring brand images and visuals for ease of navigation.

Be Intuitive – Be Engaging

A website needs to do more than just capture attention. It has to sell the brand. The best way to do this is through intuitive design, engaging visuals, and content that motivates. Website content needs to talk about solving problems. In some way, the site has to make visitors’ lives better, which means clearly identifying common challenges and how they get solved. Having a list of features and benefits doesn’t sell unless the “Why?” is there. Same goes for awards. These need to be explained in a way that makes people want to learn more or call.

To design a site from the user’s perspective takes time and some research, but it will increase engagement and funnel in more business. Connect with us if you have an upcoming web project and we’ll see how we can help!

Retail Branding: Treasure Island Cigar Lounge

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The vast majority of Pinstripe’s clients are professional services firms – law, healthcare, architecture, technology, consulting, etc. Over the years, we’ve become pretty good at developing brands and crafting messages that work in those industries, but every once in a while we get a project that falls outside the norm which gives everyone a little shot of adrenaline and inspiration. The latest example is the rebranding of Ginger’s husband’s “retirement hobby” – a cigar bar on the beach.

When he purchased the bar, it had nine years under another name that we thought had a more retail connotation instead of a lounge to enjoy a fine cigar and cold glass of local craft beer. For a fresh start, and to highlight the lounge and to make it more ‘on the nose’ about the location (particularly for tourists checking Google), it became the Treasure Island Cigar Lounge.

Treasure Island Cigar Lounge

The logo was the fun part. Taking inspiration from local pirates, tattoos, a slight reference to his epic goatee, and Ginger’s fondness for octopuses, we developed a final, iconic brand for the lounge.

We don’t have many opportunities to work on consumer-facing, retail brands, so we enjoyed the creativity that comes with a fun project like this. So far, the logo appears on the web site, social media, menus, signage, stickers, coasters and t-shirts, but we’ll soon be producing ads, event materials and more. We’d love to see it as a mural!

Let us know if we can help you with a fun branding project!

Marketing Must Haves for 2018

content marketing

In the 2018 race to the top of relevant search results, companies of every shape and size will be adding more to their online experience. Simply having a website and a few Google Ads isn’t going to be enough to conquer the world of online marketing. And, if you don’t follow a comprehensive approach to strengthen your digital marketing mix, you may fall behind your competition.

The 4 Must Haves

“Must Have” is a great phrase. It implies necessity. And, it’s exactly why the marketing must haves for this year should not get pushed aside for another year.

  1. Website Optimization for Mobile Devices

Last year, mobile and tablet devices accounted for more than half of internet usage worldwide. This comes as no surprise, because sales in mobile devices have been growing exponentially since the inception of the iPhone.

Optimization for mobile devices goes beyond responsive design. It tackles mobile issues, such as connectivity, distractions, and smaller screens. The best website designs will resemble mobile apps.

Rather than struggle to read broken text and awkward drop-down menus, 61% of visitors to sites without optimization will leave the page. That’s a lot of opportunity lost! But, if the site is optimized, 67% of consumers are more likely to use a service or buy a product.

  1. Content strategy

Late in 2015, Google released a major update to its search parameters that included: frequent site updates, relevant content, and links to and from other credible sites. This was meant to eliminate poorly performing search results that gave irrelevant and outdated content to their users.

Over the past two years, Google continued to change many of the parameters to fit the needs of its users. Now, search engine optimization feels like shifting sands beneath our feet. A strong content strategy can provide some solid ground.

Company websites need to become a resource for all consumers—past, present and potential. This means frequent updates with articles, blogs, and case studies. Companies also need to develop relationships with media outlets and provide frequent press releases. Over time, this strategy improves search results and user engagement.

  1. Video

Dwell time is another parameter for Google’s search rankings. A “sticky site” can have visitors reading great articles, but what they would really prefer is to watch a video instead.

Videos provide an entertaining way for visitors to get more content, faster. A company’s brand message can be conveyed within seconds! The key here is entertaining, because visitors have a short attention span and they won’t watch bad videos. Professionally produced videos give an air of credibility and class, as well as faster brand recall.

What makes an entertaining video? It has to be interesting, relevant and useful. Tell a story. Present a narrative. Quality graphics, animation, professional photography, scripts, and production can make most subjects entertaining, even one about logarithms.

  1. Email list

Email marketing is still the most cost-effective way to reach your target market. According to MarketingSherpa, over 60% of consumers are open to weekly promotional emails and 91% prefer email promotions to other forms of advertising.

It’s time to clean up your current email marketing list. It’s time to grow it throughout the year, adding the leads you receive via tradeshows, website inquiries, and sales leads. Don’t forget to include your weekly or monthly email newsletters in your content strategy.

Maybe in a Year or Two…

Augmented and virtual reality is being used more and more on mobile devices. Some of the biggest companies in the world, IKEA, Facebook and Apple, are using these advanced technologies to capture the attention of more consumers, which means they are making it more mainstream for other companies to follow. Maybe in a year or two, we’ll be talking about them as must haves, but for now, this is the year to really focus on some core, online best practices.

If you don’t know where to start with content strategy, shoot us an email and we can help.

Keep It Fresh!

content marketing news

No one likes stale bread, stale news, or stale anything. Neither does the Googlebot. Savvy marketers know that the Googlebot looks beyond keywords embedded within a website. The Googlebot looks for frequent content updates to websites, often found in blogs, videos, press releases, and case studies. They call it crawling. These frequent updates increase the chances that a site will be placed higher in the search results.

It makes perfect sense if you think about it, because embedded keywords alone won’t bring the best search results. The world’s biggest and best search engine reaches around the globe for new and interesting content to fulfill their users’ search parameters. The trick is to keep your site fresh and looking new.

DIY

The do-it-yourself method of updating the company blog, special events, success stories, and general news requires planning and commitment of many employee hours. Let’s not forget, it also requires some creativity, which means you need to step away from the noise of the day and devote three or four hours to writing one piece.

Before publishing it, always remember to edit your material, either a couple times by yourself or have one of your coworkers help you. It’s hard to get your thoughts on the page to read exactly how you want them (even for seasoned professional writers), so please be careful when you do-it-yourself.

Time Is Money

Hiring a firm to do the writing also means you’re hiring them to plan, organize, and execute it. The cost may seem out of reach at first, but when you add up all the hours you would be spending on a properly run plan, you’ll see that it will make you money over the long-run. If you’re the owner of the company or head of marketing, that time spent writing could be time spent doing more pressing work and contributing to the bottom line.

Here’s a good example. In one week, your company may need to write a blog post and a press release. These take a professional writer less than 10 hours to complete. On average, it will take an inexperienced writer double that time.

Some Accounting Required

If you do the math, you’ll see how hiring a firm to handle the constant flow of updates to your site can save you money. More importantly, it will allow you to focus on what you do best, so you can increase revenue and profit.

Within a month or two of frequent updates, the Googlebot will reward your company by ranking it higher than before. Trust us. We’ve seen it happen, time and again. Let us know if we can help.

b2b marketing

Spotlight On: Matt Foreman, Co-Founder of Shoot to Thrill Media

matt foreman web development

When it comes to dependability, the guys at Shoot to Thrill Media, a web design and development company in St. Petersburg, FL, are unparalleled. We feel like we hit the jackpot when we met Matt Foreman and his partner, Mark Lombardi (who you’ll get to meet soon as well). Friendly, responsive, smart, creative, AND fun … we knew we needed to Spotlight them. We are proud to call them Pinstripers, and simply love working with them on our web projects.

Name: Matt Foreman

Title: Co-Founder

Company: Shoot To Thrill Media

City: St. Petersburg

Web site: shoottothrillmedia.com

 

What inspired you to start Shoot to Thrill?

I love businesses! While I was freelance web designing I noticed I was helping out many different types of businesses. So as an entrepreneur I knew I would be able to provide a service that could help other businesses grow online. I knew I had an incredibly talented friend/partner in Mark, so it wasn’t a hard decision to pursue something bigger than freelancing. Shortly after, Shoot To Thrill Media was born.

What do you like most about the your industry and community?

Web design and marketing allows (and rewards) creativity. Whether it’s a new type of design or a new service we start offering, I love being able to think outside the box.

What challenges does your industry face?

I think one of the biggest challenges that the web design world faces is the fact that many people try to cut corners when it comes to web design. Whether it’s a DIY web builder, cheap hosting, or even just not knowing or understanding the value of a strategically built website. Your online image is one of the most important aspects of your business and there are so many things that can tarnish that image that may promote itself as “cheap but effective.”

How do you measure your success?

I think I measure success a little differently than most. I love taking (calculated) leaps of faith, so I put myself in a position of struggle when I’m at a point of wanting/needing to grow. Typically these ‘struggles’ either impact my personal life (like skydiving or riding a motorcycle) or my work life (offering a new service or investing in an unproven system). I measure my success by determining if those decisions are no longer a struggle, but a thrill or a successful endeavor.

What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career?

Being able to help other businesses grow while successfully growing my own business. Our one year anniversary is right around the corner, so knowing that we survived while shouldering all that responsibility is a huge accomplishment for me.

What do you think is the biggest mistake companies make when working in your industry?

Over-promising and under-delivering. We see it all the time, where a company or freelancer will bend the truth (lie) about their skill set just to secure a client. It’s hard to watch clients get away, especially ones with big dollar signs behind them, but knowing your limits and holding yourself to those limits to not harm the client and your own reputation is a great skill to have and it should encourage you to continue learning.

What is the most interesting trend you see in your industry?

I think it’s interesting (and great) that people are realizing more and more the importance of a mobile friendly website. It’s been super important for a few years now, but we’re really starting to notice clients being proactive in ensuring their website is mobile responsive.

How has technology helped/hindered your work?

Well, we wouldn’t be a company without technology, so we appreciate the strides technology has made in the recent past. But specifically, WordPress has come such a long way. It now powers more websites than any other platform, and it continues to grow at such a fast pace. Rightfully so. WordPress is amazing!

How do you stay on top of your field?

I can always admire and appreciate other great websites. It often times encourages me to learn a certain new design, or website function. I personally like to stay on top of my field by always learning and keeping an open mind when it comes to design, so as not to get stale.

What resources do you recommend? (Books, magazines, web, etc.)

If you’re interested in learning WordPress yourself, I recommend Treehouse. Some great courses that definitely helped me along the way. If you want to learn the basics, and how to troubleshoot, check out WPBeginner.com. And as always with WordPress, check the WordPress codex for all your technical questions.

If you could give one piece of advice to Tampa Bay companies, what would it be?

Keep crushing it! Tampa Bay is doing some amazing things. Growing up in the entrepreneurship community here has shown me how creative and determined the community is. Also, look for strategic partnerships. They’re SUPER beneficial for both parties and it’s always great knowing another expert has your back when you need them.

What was your first job?

I worked at the car wash down the road from my house when I was 15. I dried the cars that came out of the wash. Hated the job. My neck was permanently sunburnt.

What are your hobbies?

I love to travel, especially out of the country. I’m always up for an adventure, and the more physically demanding, the better!

Favorite food?

My grandpa’s t-bone steaks. They’re out of this world!

Last book you read?

Startup Stories by Jordan Raynor. Loved the book so much I reached out to Jordan, and eventually interned for him. Now he’s a great friend and mentor of mine.

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