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.

5 Cashless Ways to Improve Your Site’s Searchability

8 12 2011

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)It was while responding to a client’s email that I unintentionally wrote today’s blog. So many of my customers want to know what this “SEO” thing is all about. What does it mean? What does it do? How do I use it?

All great questions, because SEO can have a tremendous impact on the success of your business!

“SEO” stands for Search Engine Optimization. It has everything to do with making your website easier to find. When you visit Google or Bing or any other search site and… well… search something, there’s a hierarchy of sorts; the most optimized sites appear first on the list. The further down the list you go, the less likely those sites will be found. It’s like real estate… location is key. Few people have the time or inclination to surf much beyond the first few pages.

SEO is the process of calling the most amount of attention to your site. But in addition to targeting us, SEO “markets” to search engine “bots” (aka “spiders” or “crawlers”). Search bots are actually just software designed to perform repetitive tasks… like using complicated algorithms to determine which websites get listed in what order when someone pulls up a search. Wild, right?

There are a million and one things these search bots “look for” – hence, a million and one ways to optimize your website’s searchability. Several do require a cash outlay, but my focus today is on some of the most powerful SEO available… and happily they’re all free AND things you can feasibly do yourself:

1) UPDATE FREQUENTLY.  A stagnant website goes nowhere fast. Search bots target fresh content, so the more often you update, the better. That is precisely why blogs and RSS feeds are such a great addition to a web site – it’s a continual source of fresh content!

2) MAXIMIZE KEYWORDS.  While adding content to your website and blog, incorporate terms people might use to search for your kind of business. If it makes sense, incorporate them often. Search bots can’t locate what isn’t on your website. However, do NOT go the tacky route – packing your site with nonsensical paragraphs of keywords. You’re better than that, and there are other alternatives.

3) SOCIAL NETWORK LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW.  Have you noticed that, in many cases, when you search a person or business, the first thing that pops up is their Facebook page, Twitter feed or LinkedIn account? There’s a reason for that: Social networking sites are the most frequently updated sites online. People/businesses post new content multiple times a day. A Facebook business page may not be your actual website, but guess what… it’s the perfect place to post frequent link-backs to your website! Exposure is exposure, and it all funnels back into boosting your SEO.

4) LINK!  This one involves some networking. The more sites that legitimately link back to your website, the better your SEO will be. Be sure to put your website on ALL of your social networking pages. Ask your friends and family to link to your site from their own pages and websites. Ask your vendors, sponsors, business partners, chambers and community listing services to do the same. Just remember that association is important – make sure that the sites on which you list YOUR website are ones that you are proud to be associated with!

5) INCREASE TRAFFIC.  Give people a reason to visit your website as often as possible. The more heavily trafficked your site is, the higher you get bumped in search rankings.

DMT Challenge of the Week
Pick a search engine and run some searches for your business using terms you think your customers would use. Where does your business fall on the list? Take a look at the top listings. How are they using blogs, key words, social networking and/or links to their advantage? Choose 3 things that you will do this month to improve your own website’s SEO.

“It is not the job of search engine optimization to make a pig fly. It is the job of the SEO to genetically reengineer the Web site so that it becomes an eagle.”  – Bruce Clay

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

All content on this site is Copyright © DMT Artistry, LLC. 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

Time for the Designer to Become the Designee

23 03 2011

Dmtartistry.com is getting a facelift!Over a year ago, I posted a blog entry about remembering to treat yourself as a client first and foremost. How you integrate your products or services into your own life is a direct reflection on how strongly you believe in what you’re selling.

Imagine a Ford salesman tooling around in a Chevy. Or a nutritionist on a first-name basis with the donut shop clerk. It’s like saying – without actually saying – “My product/service isn’t important or valuable enough for me to use in my own life.”

Mm-hm. Well then, it’s obviously not good enough for me either!

And that is why I’m giving my website the facelift it has long deserved. Business has been terrific – thanks to all of my wonderful clients! – so it’s time to spend all spare moments on representing myself with a fresh, new, online image. Here’s what you can expect:

  • http://www.dmtartistry.com will take you to a fun, vibrant and informative website, while http://www.dmtartistry.wordpress.com will continue to be your online marketing tips resource. Each will be easily accessible from the other.
  • Feature clients and client links – they’re the ones who make it possible to do the graphic design that I love to do!
  • Fun graphics that will change frequently to keep the site fresh and exciting
  • DMT Artistry, LLC’s founding purpose and mission
  • Easy access to DMT design samples
  • And, by popular demand, DMT fine arts!

In the meantime, I appreciate your patience, as the DMT Artistry blogsite morphs over the coming days. Your suggestions are always welcome, and your readership is always appreciated!

Stay tuned for next week’s DMT blog post..

“Whatever good things we build end up building us.”  – Jim Rohn

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

Bagels & Bites: A Foodie Favorite Gets a Website Makeover

9 02 2011

Ask just about any local and, guaranteed, they’ll have met a friend, cut a business deal, staved off post-exercise hunger, launched their morning or grabbed lunch-on-the-go at Bagels & Bites of Brighton, Michigan.

Talk about a local hot spot. This café/deli has everything a hungry patron could want: fresh, wholesome food; rich, gourmet coffees; and the friendliest staff you’d ever want to meet. And did I mention their bagels? Yum. Just yum.

In short, Bagels & Bites Café and Deli is a business that has built a fanatically devoted fan base (a few pointers on how to do this!) on the sheer excellence of their products and the way they make you feel like you’ve come home.

Bagels & Bites former website - sterile and unwelcomingThe Dilemma – Online / in-store disconnect

Bagels & Bites previous web presence (left) was limited to a bland, rigid website that the owners Roger and Marie Barrow described as “corporate”. It was built from a generic, sterile and unremarkable template – in fact, a polar opposite of the actual Bagels & Bites shop culture. Their website wasn’t the destination spot or online “hug” that it needed to be.

In short, Bagels & Bites website was just itching for a personality infusion.

The DMT Solution – A scrumptious website makeover

Bagels & Bites website

First on the list: scrap the generic, dead-pan template, and build a custom design from scratch. Their website needed to be warm and inviting – like a cup of Bagels & Bites steamy Café Mocha on a shivery, Michigan winter morning. It needed to be lively – like the cheerful banter of the Bagels & Bites staff. It needed to evoke hunger – we wanted stomachs to growl as visitors perused the site. Here’s how we made it happen:

  • Rich, caramely chocolate colors warm the site, while fresh white spaces represent the cleanliness that their customers expect and appreciate.
  • The straight, rigid boxiness of the former site was ditched for an organic,  round-edged design that exudes comfort and bonhomie.
  • A “life-size” background image sets the scene, and makes you feel like you’re actually there!
  • Blocky photos? Forget about it! The photos used in Bagels & Bites new website were designed to look like you can reach in, pluck them off the page and taste them.
  • Personality radiates from the fun graphics, charming verbage and image-rich pages.
  • A bit of HTML cleverness allows the owner to switch up his vast store of wonderful sayings on the Home Page “Chalkboard”.
  • Additionally, every page contains morsels of food to whet the appetite.
  • A blog page gives the owners a chance to keep the website fresh, and to post specials, food photos and other fun tidbits of information.
  • We also optimized their website with keyword integration for more effective searchability.

The Result

Whoa, nelly. We’re accustomed to a positive response, but this one takes the cake for sheer volume of responses! Bagels & Bites enjoyed a positive slew of fan commentary on Facebook, phone calls and emails of congratulations to the Roger and Marie, business to the shop, new customers, and fresh “fans” of the Bagels & Bites Facebook page.

We’d like to add our own accolades here: Congratulations, Bagels & Bites, for a successful launch and a well-earned spotlight on your business. We’ll be by for lunch!

We’d love to design personality-packed marketing materials for your business! Contact us:

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

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

Simplicity Sells: An Elegant New Website for Greens Consignment

2 07 2010

Bargain hunters, welcome to Paradise!

Greens Consignment is a cornucopia of clean consignment pieces and elegant antiques. A 6,000-square-foot shop houses everything from gently-used furniture and housewares to vintage architecture and collectibles. There’s always something new, and always a good deal to be found.

I’m a customer myself… visiting to feed my salt-and-pepper shaker collecting addiction – er, hobby.

The Challenge: Owner, Donna Melzer, recently relocated Greens Consignment to a roomier store, where her consignment trade is taking off. With questions pouring in about directions, consignment policies and hours, Donna needed an online presence that could act as a customer resource.

The DMT Solution: Greens’ website, therefore, had to be simple and informational… but without forgoing personality! I built up a feminine and elegant, but contemporary and fun web design, playing off of Donna’s favorite color. It’s simple to navigate, and all information is “above the fold”, eliminating the need to scroll. Clean lines and rounded edges make the design both orderly and organic. (Click below to visit their site.)

DMT Website Logo Design for Greens Consignment

DMT Logo Design for Greens Consignment

DMT Website Design for Greens Consignment

DMT Website Design for Greens Consignment

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

A Beautiful Blend of Photography and Design: Limiteditions Photography

18 06 2010

Handling everything from family, professional and senior pictures, to commercial photography and custom album and design work – Karen Huckabone of Limiteditions Photography is the definition of gifted AND versatile.

But like many successful artists, Karen’s packed appointment book was hindering the evolution of her own marketing materials. When the time came to update both her logo and website, she called on DMT Artistry to make it happen!

Karen has a well-developed eye for design, so I was determined to produce something she would be proud to have her name on.

The First Challenge: The original logo was ready for a time warp and personality infusion. It’s utilitarian appearance wasn’t reflecting the creativity that Karen uses on a daily basis, or the fun that her clients inevitably have during their photo shoots.

The Second Challenge: Karen’s website was a throwback to an earlier era, when text overruled imagery. As such, it no longer captured the essence of what Limiteditions Photography (and Karen!) had evolved into.

The DMT Solution: I revamped Karen’s formal, upright logo, so that it would exude personality and creativity. Heavier emphasis on her name symbolizes the personal connection Karen forms with her clients. Dimension was added with complimentary swirl graphics.

For Karen’s website, we took the emphasis off of text content, and placed it squarely on Karen’s masterpieces – her photography and design. A warm, contemporary color scheme and swirl imagery coordinates beautifully with her new logo design. This, combined with Karen’s wonderful writing skills, resulted in the new and improved www.LimiteditionsPhotography.com! (Limiteditions can also be found on Facebook – click here!)

DMT Artistry, LLC logo design for Limiteditions Photography
Limiteditions Photography logo

DMT Artistry, LLC website design for Limiteditions Photography
Limiteditions Photography new website

Ready for a marketing materials renovation? Contact me any time for a free quote:

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