What Design Is… and Isn’t

11 01 2013

Dawn Tomczyk-Bhajan giving a web design presentationMy husband’s a great guy. And because he’s a great guy, he insisted on supporting me at a recent speaking engagement at Eastern Michigan University, through a seminar-based company called Web Adventure Workshops.

I was asked to give an overview of Website Design.

While my mind was awhir with psychologically strategic content placement, target audience impact, and structural integrity across browsers, my husband was, very understandably, not-so-eagerly awaiting a 45 minute schpiel on how to make a website look “pretty.”

Happily, my podium time gave me the opportunity to dispel this popular myth for more than just my better half.

While I’m on a roll, let me clear up this point here, too…

Design is NOT the art of “making things pretty.” Design is the psychology of making messages effective, of initiating action via sensory stimulation.

In simplest terms: it’s getting people to do things… not in a creepy or mind-controlling way, but in showing them how your product or service provides a solution to their problem, whatever that may be.

More than that, design does not always have to be “pretty” to be effective. Looks play a role, but it’s not the end-all-be-all goal of a successful designer.

Here’s the thing… the purpose of a website is to elicit some sort of action from a targeted group of people, preferably within a desired time frame. That could be a call to contact the company, read its blog, follow its tweets, visit its store, leave a donation, pass on information, watch a video… the list goes on. And it can be several of those things at once.

A web designer – or any designer, really – needs to think about the psychology, the science, and the math of making that happen. The “pretty” part is icing on the cake.

Corporate culture, existing branding, structure, competitors, and mission all influence how the message is presented. That’s design.

Audience age, gender, income, interests, location, and culture all influence how a message is perceived. That’s design, too.

Colors, layout, navigation, style, imagery, and content all influence whether a message is acted upon. And that’s definitely design.

So, when you contact DMT Artistry LLC with your next design project, anticipate a fascinating, in-depth conversation that will not only help ME create effective marketing for you, but will give YOU useful insight into your own company and clientele.

And you can rest assured that we will make it look pretty, too. The artist in me is always happy to oblige.

“An object imbued with intent — it has power, it’s treasure, we’re drawn to it. An object devoid of intent — it’s random, it’s imitative, it repels us. It’s like a piece of junk mail to be thrown away.”  ~ John Hockenberry

Dawn M. Tomczyk-Bhajan  |  DMT Artistry, LLC   |  www.DMTArtistry.com

All content Copyright © 2012 DMT Artistry, LLC, unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved.

How to Know When It’s Time to ‘Dump’ Your Old Website

13 10 2011

Dumping your old websiteYou know that girlfriend who’s been playing discus with your glassware, or the boyfriend who encourages friends to wipe Cheetos-fingers across your white couch? Sometimes it’s so easy to know when they’ve simply gotta go.

But websites that misbehave, misrepresent or just completely miss the mark are surprisingly agile at ‘dump’-evasion. The reason? Time.

Business owners and entrepreneurs are, by definition, time-deprived. Clients, dilemmas and opportunities are constantly (and rightfully) laying claim to the limited landscape of our schedules. So, an ineffective website can, and frequently does linger online for years past its expiration date, while our attention is elsewhere.

When’s the last time you combed through your website? Heck, when’s the last time you even visited? It’s easy to get hyped at its initial launch, then forget it’s there as the years go by. Too many sites are filled with irrelevant, expired or inaccurate information. And, unfortunately, those inconsistencies are making your company look bad.

Facing the reality of how critical an online presence is these days, we have a mission: Determine if our existing site is destined to go the way of the dinosaur. Here’s how you can tell if it’s time to ‘dump’ the old site:

1) When it no longer accurately represents your business. It’s important that your website reflects the look, the feel, the culture, the clients, the mission and the message of your company.

2) When it’s difficult to use. If your navigation is clunky, your website resembles an advanced level maze, there’s acres of page scrolling or your customers can’t figure out how to get past the home page, it’s time to let your old site go.

3) When user response is negative or non-existent. If your customers don’t like interacting with your site or, worse yet, AREN’T interacting with your site, then it’s definitely on its way out.

4) When its out of date. This warrants refreshed content at the very least and, optimally, a fresh, new design. Retro can be cool, but not when it means that your website looks like it was built in a prehistoric, glitchy edition of Publisher.

5) When you can’t update it yourself. This is something I feel strongly about. With today’s technology, you should always have the ability to tweak your own site content. Hours change, prices fluctuate, images need refreshing. If you prefer to leave that in the hands of experts, as a web designer, I applaud your decision. We designers can apply our creative skills toward making those updates look exceptional! However, you should never be locked out of your own site’s maintenance, particularly when frequent updates may benefit your website’s traffic flow.

6) When it’s not multi-device friendly. With the rise of hand-held devices – iPhones, iPads, iPods (yep, I’m an Apple fan), Droids, Blackberries, etc – your website has to at least be viewable on a variety of different systems and screens.

7) When it can’t grow with your business. This goes along with the updatability of #5. Your business is constantly evolving, so the needs of your website, the needs of your customer and the needs of your company are going to change. Your website should have the flexibility to grow, morph and support those changes along the way.

8 ) When it’s no longer benefiting your business. If it’s not serving the purpose it was intended for – whether that be an online brochure, e-commerce store, resource center or place for customers to connect – then it’s time to ditch the site.

DMT Challenge of the Week
Give your website a once-over for potential problems. Then run through it again with a customer’s perspective in mind. Was it easy to navigate? Does the ‘look’ suit your business? Is it welcoming? Are the text and photos all current and correct? Do you have administrative access, so that you can easily make updates, as needed?

Jot down the issues, and decide whether it’s time to ‘dump’ your old site and launch your company back into online orbit with a fresh, new website.

You know what I do. You know I can help. Please feel free to browse samples of DMT web designs, and contact me for a quote. It would be a privilege to light the spark of life under your online presence!

Dawn M. Tomczyk  |  DMT Artistry LLC  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com

Website 101: So you need a new website…

6 04 2011

Starting your website design adventureLaunching a website – new or renovated – is truly an adventure. And like most adventures, the happiest endings start with the most informed plans. So, in honor of the spring surge of DMT website design projects, I give you three of our top pre-design considerations:

What is the purpose of your site?
Is it to act as an online billboard? Be a resource? Generate hype? Sell?

Be aware, many businesses wax enthusiastic about a plethora of purposes and, like anyone with a 3-mile long to-do list, they overwhelm themselves into inaction. This is where it’s vital to prioritize. Determine your primary, secondary and, if necessary, tertiary purposes and use those as your guiding design stars.

If you’re having trouble pegging down just what you want your site to accomplish, try starting with this question: What ACTION do you want your online visitors to take? If you want them to buy your widget then and there, then your web design should encourage quick-click sales. If you want them to contact you for a quote, then your web design should act as an online business card, with phone number and email address always at the fore.

Who will be visiting your site?
The next step is to determine your target market.

This major component is the determining factor for the overall appearance and “functionality” of the site. A techno-savvy teenage crowd devours the hype and hoopla of a splashy, intricate, quick-byte site, but Baby Boomers? Forget about it!

Fitness fans, businesswomen, antique collectors, missionaries… your website design needs to mirror the demographic it’s targeting. Why? So that it will be inviting to your key crowd. And “inviting” sites generate more traffic. And more traffic is a beautifully manicured road to more business!

How do you want your company to be represented?
It’s equally important to integrate your company’s core culture into your website design. When your business’ personality is well-represented, it gives people a flavor of what to expect from you. Will it be a rip-roaring buying experience or a comfortingly professional one?

After all, you don’t want just any buyer. Both your business and your clients deserve better than that. You want to attract buyers who will enjoy working with you, as much as you enjoy working with them. Your site should give them enough of an insight to help them make that determination.

How would you answer the above questions for your business? Does your current website reflect those answers? What changes could be made to create a better match?

DMT Artistry LLC has also taken these questions to heart, and our own website will be re-launching within a month! Please check back soon, and let us know what you think!

Dawn M. Tomczyk  |  DMT Artistry LLC  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com

Faith Meets Web Design: UU@Home

16 03 2011

UU@HomeAmy Derrick is, among many things, a mother and wife, a writer, a religious educator, a Unitarian Universalist (UU) and a genuinely likable person. Combine all of these elements and you come up with an ideal blogger… which is precisely what Amy has become.

Tapping on day-to-day life experience, Amy captures her journey of faith and family in a warm, witty and interactive series of blog entries. Reading her reflections is like being invited in for a cup of coffee and lively conversation. You enjoy every minute!

Better still, Amy has designed a month-by-month faith development program – UU@Home – that she unveils on a (what else?) month-by-month basis.

All of this warmth and fun and faith was previously parked on a rather sterile, utilitarian blog site. Amy wanted something more welcoming, so she called in DMT Artistry.

The Challenge: UU@Home needed an online home that would capture the personality of its author, the tone of its content and the attention of Unitarian Universalist families everywhere. Additionally, it needed to act as a portfolio of Amy’s writing skills, and a resource for budding UUs.

The Solution: At DMT, we shifted her content from Blogspot to WordPress, to tap into WordPress’ powerful customization capabilities. We gave the template a complete makeover that reflects the crafty, creative, friendly, organic nature of Amy’s blog content. Amy’s logo was turned into a watermark as a “signature” for the end of every blog. Imagery, textures and layers were added. Pages were built. Coffee, a critical UU staple, was integrated into the design…

Success was achieved.

Please swing by UU@Home‘s new online home, and let us know what you think!

UU@Home website design by DMT Artistry, LLC

Living by the Lakes is Looking Good

9 12 2010

Christina Ehli is the type of person you would instantly describe as “genuine”. She’s warm, witty and quick to smile, and carries a work ethic a mile wide.

It’s the sort of personality you’d love to see in any industry, but it just so happens that Christina is in the real estate business.

Christina, along with her husband Jeff, launched Living by the Lakes, a Keller Williams Realty company. Living by the Lakes serves Commerce and a large diameter of surrounding communities in this lake-rich region of Southeast Michigan.

The Challenge
Christina’s existing websites were incomplete and stuck in a rigid “corporate” template. She wanted a site that would generate repeat visitor traffic, be a resource and show some vivacity. Most importantly, she wanted to be able to maintain the website herself.

The DMT Solution
We gave Living by the Lakes a customized, real-estate-specific blogsite. The lake theme is front and center, while rotating graphics and ever-changing blog posts keep the website lively.

Her pages are packed with bonus bytes of helpful information, links and calculators for buyers and sellers alike. Cool home/property search features are an additional resource that bring visitors back again and again.

Best of all, after a couple consultations, Christina was confidently posting and updating on her new blog! (Click the image below to visit her website.)

Living by the Lakes

Want to translate your professional passion into a website that spotlights your company’s “awesomeness”? Contact us today for a complimentary quote on your website design or redesign!

DMT Artistry, LLC  |  Dawn M. Bhajan  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com