Monthly Archives: March 2015

March 2015

Keeping Your Website Updated

The 7 Chakras of a Connected Website

Combined campaign example with a website and postcards.

Having a website with a content management system (CMS) that is also a responsive website design is the best type of website for small businesses. CMS sites, such as WordPress websites, allow you to keep your website updated even if you don’t know web coding. CMS sites that are responsive can be updated easily and can be navigated smoothly on all devices including smart phones. Updating to a responsive website with a content management system is the smartest marketing investment a small business can make right now… read more…


On the Blog:

Professional Printing Checklist – preparing a digital file for print

In the age of digital apps, conscious budgeting and google images, small businesses are creating print marketing materials in-house. This isn’t always easy to do, but it can get simpler. Follow this professional printing checklist to prepare a digital file for offset or digital printing.Read more…


Monthly Spotlight

Kodiak Emergency Vehicles

We recently completed a new website design for Kodiak Emergency Vehicles.  Owner and founder, Ahren Taszreak built his original WordPress site but wanted an update that reflected the growth Kodiak has experienced since it’s launch. We worked closely with Ahren and his office manager Deanne to create a site that highlighted the brands Kodiak represents and the expanded  used vehicle department  A large percentage of emergency vehicle searches are done on smart phones and tablets so a responsive website format was ideal.

In the short time it took to revamp the website, Kodiak moved to a larger facility and is getting so busy the web management Ahren planned to handle is now on Deanne. We spent an hour or so with Deanne training her in the CMS how to make pages edits, add photos and new used vehicle posts.

If you are planning to update your website we can train you or your staff to make edits, plus we are still here to keep your website current while you return to the business of running your business. Check out Kodiak-EV.com – on your desktop or smart phone!


Professional Printing Checklist – preparing a digital file for print

Professional printing checklist grpahic by Connection Group

In the age of digital apps, conscious budgeting and google images, small businesses are creating print marketing materials in-house. This isn’t always easy to do, but it can get simpler. Follow this professional printing checklist to prepare a digital file for offset or digital printing.


Professional Printing Checklist – Print File Preparation

  1. proofread it
  2. have someone else proofread it
  3. check with your printer about pricing options
  4. make sure document is created in the correct size (consider proportions)
  5. quote any original text (cite author)
  6. use only photos and graphics you have permission to use
  7. photos and images must be in cmyk format or a specified Pantone ink or black
  8. images must be 300dpi resolution at 100%
  9. Print your file on a desktop printer check color, layout, flow of information
  10. Check the fold. Are copy and images formatted in the panels as intended?
  11. Save the file as a high-resolution print quality pdf (Adobe Acrobat file)
  12. Send to print vendor

(Professional Graphic designers see note below)


Whenever possible it is helpful to receive a physical proof of the document from your print vendor. If an in-person proof is not possible a digital proof from the print vendor helps verify the file transferred as designed.

Talk to you printer if you need help preparing a document. Graphic designers and printers can make adjustments to your layout if you request these services. Layout and design services are based on an hourly service fee. After the initial proof, industry standard is time-based billing for additional editing and proof services.

If all of this sounds greek to you Connection Group and other graphic designs firms can print and design sales sheets, brochures and postcards for you. When hiring a professional design firm  expect expertise in design and print.

Design:

  • professional layout
  • font and color selection.
  • create custom graphics
  • photo art selection with licensed access to stock photography and art

Print

  • recommendations for print cost savings
  • choosing standard paper sizes (for cost savings – unique sizes can be used also)
  • paper weight
  • follow US postal service print regulations for first class and bulk rate mail

Additional Print Preperation Step for Professional Graphic Designers

Along with the above professional printing checklist, there is a couple of extra steps of file preparation for graphic designers who are preparing files for publishing. You already know to choose quality fonts and consider graphical effects,  color theory  and the type of digital art, vector vs raster, which software is the best to use for page layout,  etc.

If you are using Adobe InDesign for preparing page layout files for professional printing projects always package the folder prior to sending the final file to the printer. Choosing package under the file menu in InDesign will create a complete folder for your final document. There will be a copy of all the files, fonts, graphics and photos used in the document nested in this folder. This helps for future retrieval when the document is re-ordered and requires changes.

The other benefit of packaging a file is that InDesign runs a test for pre-press of the entire file. This pre-press test looks for missing fonts, missing graphics and photos, use of  RGB  or other color models in graphics and photos within the document. This pre-test allows you to go in and make edits to the print file elements prior to sending it to the printer vendor. The more work you can do to create a trouble free file, the lower the printer fees, time delays and  the higher quality end product.

Remember to add crop marks, printers marks, trim marks and bleed on your final pdf before sending it off to your printer too. Good luck with your print project, call us if we can help.

Stay connected!

Connection Group is located in mid-Michigan. We love to work face to face with our clients in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and everywhere in Michigan in between. Our digital design and online print service ordering area serve St. Petersburg, Florida to Vancouver, Canada from south to north and New York, New York to Big Bear California east to west. National on-time service paired with genuine small business attention.

7 Chakras of a Connected Website – Keep your website updated

Having a website with a content management system (CMS) that is also a responsive website design is the best type of website for small businesses. CMS sites, like WordPress websites, allows you to keep your website updated even if you don’t know coding. CMS sites that are responsive can be updated easily and can be navigated smoothly on all devices. Contracting a local web design firm to create a responsive webiste with a content management system is the  smartest marketing investment a small business can make right now.

The main components and considerations of a website:

Websites are like hairstyles, you can pinpoint the decade or year they were created at first glance. Your brand image can quickly look outdated with the ever-changing technological advances in online marketing and digital communications these days.

Don’t be accused of having a mullet or big hair website. Update your outdated site to one that is easy to navigate and can be updated easily to keep it current and inspiring.

Responsive websites are the latest and greatest way to present your company web content professionally to people, even when they view it on various devices.  A responsive website will format to fit on a desktop computer monitor, laptop screen, tablet, or smart phone. Responsive website designs for small business are becoming the industry standard because they adapt to the users devices. Small businesses benefit because they eliminate the need for two separate sites; a stand-alone mobile website and a stand-alone desktop website that each require their own updates. Many responsive website designs utilize the widely accepted WordPress content management system (CMS). CMS allows for ease in updates by companies who want to update their site in-house but do not have staff who are trained in web development or coding.

1. Home Page

Typically the home page is the first page visitors will come to on your website. If a visitor enters in your domain name they will come to your home page first. Because your home is usually the first impression a visitor has of your website  your home page needs to be eye catching and hold attention. Contact information and site navigation should be easily identified.

When a visitor lands here they should have a clear understanding what your site is about right away. Consider how to add an interactive element like a video or slideshow to keep visitors on the page longer.

Questions to consider for your website home page design:

  1. How will the visitor know what your business is and what the website contains?
  2. What needs to be included in the main website navigation (products, services, shop, gallery, etc.)?
  3. What photos, graphics, or messages will be used in a photo slideshow that depict your product or service well? also link to website content on internal pages?
  4. Do you have photos for each category of your product or service that link to website content on internal pages?

2. Web Forms and Contact Forms

The web is 24/7, most businesses are not. Web contact forms can be your 24/7 administrative professional or sales representative. Visitors who don’t want to call or wait until you are open can fill out a form quickly, provide their contact information and
ask specific questions. The form will be waiting in the employee email that you designate to receive each online web form inquiry.

What Web Forms Will you Need?

  1. How many web forms do you need?Who will the web form be sent to (identify the email of the person who will receive
  2. Who will the web form be sent to (identify the email of the person who will receive
  3. the inquiry form in their email)?:
    Do you just need a contact form?
    Do you need a quick quote form or detailed quote form?:
  4. Do you need an order form?
  5. How about an application form for membership or employment?

3. Product / Services Page

Even if you only offer one product or service you should have a designated page for it. Customers shopping for your company online want to get as many answers as possible on their first
visit. Your product and services page should include photos, detailed information (preferably keyword enhanced!), how to order, possibly pricing, shopping cart, web inquiry form, and a direct way to contact someone.

Products and Services Page Content:

  1. How many products and services do you have?:
  2. Do you have various product or service categories to include? Get the list together
  3. Do you have photos, descriptions and/or prices for each? Share as much detail as possible!

4. Landing Pages

When you have a specific intent such as a product or service feature or giveaway, landing pages are ideal for getting action. Landing pages are a stripped down home page or product / service page with a clear call to action. Promoted through various media like direct mail, tv advertising, radio, magazine ads, email marketing
or online advertising they offer clear direction to the customer and opportunities to target tracking.

Landing Page Planning:

  1. Identify featured giveaway, contest, product or services for sale
  2. Are downloads or online purchases available or who will receive email inquiries?
  3. How will customers find your landing page?
  4. What media will you use to promote it?

5. Content Management System (CMS)

Websites that have an administrative back end access allow for easy website changes and updates for small businesses. Website changes can be made by people who don’t know code. This is a great service for small businesses to help keep your website updated and keep outsourcing costs down. Administrative roles can be set with varying levels of permission. Staff with access can add photos, articles, blog entries, videos, etc. as easily as they can in a word processing software. The main administrator can add or delete users and their level or access.

How will you keep your website updated?

  1. Who in your office will be in charge of updating?
  2. How many people will need to be trained in the CMS?
  3. How frequently will your website be updated?

6. Blog

A web log holds company information, news and updates that is tied to your company website. Blog entries help to provide informaiton to cusotmers and visitors to your website. If you offer valuable content visitors can subscribe to blog entries in an RSS feed or receive email alerts. Blogs also help bring your website up in search engines better than sites without blogs. You come up in searches better because search engines like it when you keep your website updated with frequent posts. The other reason is relevant content, search engine inquiries response is based on a websites relevant content. When you post information that is connected to your product or service in your blog the content will be of value to search engines and your site will be more apt to come up when inquiries are made that match your blog content.

Is Blogging in Your Futue?

  1. What types of blogs will you write?
  2. How frequently will you post new blogs?
  3. What categories should be included for searching blog content (general, product names, press, etc.)
  4. What are the primary keywords for the website

7. E-Commerce Portals / Member Access

If your website is going to serve as a shop for people to buy online there are a number of decisions to make right away as you are planning the site.

Specialty stores, publications, trade associations and other groups often have an area of the website where members can log on with a password or user name to gain access to specialized information.

Some of the questions to ask yourself when planning these types of websites:

  1. Will visitors pay online?
  2. With Paypal or another payment portal?
  3. Approximately how many products or product categories will you need to include?
  4. Have you considered what your shipping cost will be for each item?
  5. For password protected members, only areas on websites what content will be included?
  6. Who will manage the database of members?
  7. Are there dates when memberships will expire? How will the member be alerted to subscribe again?

You have your homework. Your test will be determining if people will find your website, if they find it easy to navigate, and visually appealing and if you keep your website updated with relevant content. If this all seems overwhelming to you contact us. We can provide consultations. We can help you organize your website content, determine navigation and of course build and design your website – whether you choose to keep your website updated or you would like us to help you with that marketing component as well, we’ll get you connected.