, , , , , , , ,

How to know if you need a new website

If you don’t have these 4 things, you need a new website.

Online shopping has become one of the easiest and efficient ways to shop. That’s why more and more people are going online to look for products and services rather than going to a physical location. That means your company’s website is crucial to keep up with the times and capture your consumer’s business.

First impressions are everything

I’m sure you’ve heard that expression before. The same goes for your website. Consumers need good experiences so if someone goes to your website and it looks outdated or they can’t find anything, they will more than likely go somewhere else. You may not be hearing complaints about your website, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a problem. If you had an updated website, you could be getting even more traffic, leads, and sales. What we tell customers is to redesign your site every 2-3 years with periodic updates to ensure you’re giving your customers exactly what they want: content, user-experience, and appealing design.

Is your website optimized for mobile?

If not, you need a new website. Something to keep in mind is the importance of mobile. Whether you’re a manufacturing company or a retail company, your customers have phones. There are a vast number of searches every day on mobile devices so that means your site must be designed as such. Responsive design for mobile devices will ensure your consumers have a good experience wherever they look at your website and services.

Is your site SEO capable?

If not, you need a new website. Search engine optimization, or more commonly referred to as SEO, is where your site will appear on search engines. Consider this, you have a solid website, enticing brand messaging and a cool logo, but your website isn’t optimized so no one will ever find you to even see that. That makes all your previous efforts meaningless. Having a site that is ready for SEO is huge so if you don’t have a site that gives you that ability, you are already way behind the game.

Does your website take forever to load?

If so, you need a new website. If your site is slow, your rank on Google will be drastically lowered. Not to mention, people want things exactly when they want them. If your page takes forever to load, people will bounce off your site and onto your competitor’s.

Can you link social media on your website?

If not, you need a new website. We mentioned people go to your website to look at your services and may look up your website on their mobile device, but we haven’t talked about the power of social. A large number of people also want to know what other people have to say about you and whether they want to do business with your company. That means they may go to social platforms to make their decision. It’s important to be on social to funnel your potential customers back to your website. If you aren’t on social, that’s an opportunity to gain even more business, but if you are on social and don’t have a website that links with them, that’s just as bad!

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of reasons to update or get a new website, but if you don’t believe us, just look at your competitor’s website. Technology is always changing and so is the way people do business. If you want to ensure your business is future-proof and continues to do solid business, you may want to consider updating your website.

, ,

Moving Beyond the Fold

Clients often tell me that they think their sites scroll too much. “People are too lazy to scroll,” they say. “We want all of our most important content visible at once.”

I hear what they’re saying. Designing “above the fold” used to be huge in web layouts. But unless you’re still living in the early 2000s, this way of thinking just isn’t relevant anymore.

Designing above the fold means content has to fit in a space the size of your computer screen. That seriously limits design options—and can make your site look crowded as everything gets tinier and tinier to fit. Exactly how much space do you have to work with? That’s hard to judge, too, considering the countless screen sizes, resolution levels, and devices someone might want to view your site on.

I’m not saying you should load down your sites with never-ending blocks of text. The new generation of scrolling sites uses movement to tell a story. They’re perfect for introducing a new company or product: you can walk users through what your product does and how it works, then lead them right where they need to go to learn more—or better yet, buy. These sites are animated—but they require viewer interaction in order to come to life. Check out these examples to see what I mean:

http://www.zensorium.com/tinke/

http://www.milwaukeepolicenews.com/

http://a-class.mercedes-benz.com/com/en/index.html

Sites like these seem like they’d be complicated to build, but they’re really not: most of the effects you see can be created using just jQuery and CSS (get started with a framework like Blueprint or Foundation). Like any new trend, scrolling sites have their kinks: some techniques are only supported in current modern browsers, and adjustments have to be made for mobile displays.

But personally, I’m excited about what scrolling sites have to offer. I could click around sites like these all day and never get bored—they’ve got the power to hook even the laziest of web surfers. And I keep going back to show other people how awesome they are. As a developer myself, I know that’s music to a site creator’s (and client’s) ears.

Is your site trapped in a scroll-less rut? Contact Atomic, and we’ll help you set your site free.

, , ,

Usability Engineering: Why Wireframes, Prototypes, and Specifications Matter

Designing a website without usability testing is like building a boat without a blueprint. You’ll make something, but whether it floats is a different matter.

Usability testing fascinates me; in fact, I’m enrolled in grad school at DePaul University, studying for an MS in Human-Computer Interaction. And when I heard some debates recently about whether current usability tools were still valid, I took notice. The crux of the issue seemed to be the value of wireframes vs. prototypes, and whether technical specification documents are necessary.

As someone who believes that a focus on usability should be the focus of building a successful web site or application, I definitely had an opinion. I believe that each of these tools has a distinct place in today’s web development cycle. And as a web developer who handles new projects daily, I’ve seen firsthand how these tools expedite development time and directly reduce the number of bugs found and revisions required after development.

Let’s take a look at how each of these tools works.

  • Wireframes – Wireframes are basic layouts for a site or application. The goal of this phase of usability testing is to focus on determining the basic information architecture and interaction design for a site, without the distractions of interactivity or design elements like color, font, and images. By removing these elements, the development team can focus on the best possible placement for the individual elements of the site or application. They can also begin to think about options for interaction design.
  • Prototypes – Prototypes are beta versions of a site or application that allow information flow and interaction testing. The actual functionality of a site isn’t implemented. However, a user can click through interfaces to get an idea how a site will look and feel. By getting feedback from project stakeholders at this stage and making needed changes, you avoid the difficulty and cost of making revisions after development has taken place.
  • Technical Specification Document – This document combines the information flow, interaction design, and functionality decisions reached during the wireframe and prototype phases of development. It’s presented to the site developers along with other tools generated during usability engineering, giving them a complete, accurate understanding of the site’s usability and functionality requirements. This document also enables clear communication between stakeholders (agency, client, users, designers, and developers) regarding what functionality is expected for each interface.

From my perspective, all three of these tools are essential. They enable a reasonably pain-free development process, and significantly cut down on revision and rework. One small change made during usability testing can save literally days of time and struggle — and beau-coup dollars — later in the process.

So for now, I’m sold on these tools. I’ll be ready to learn about better ones as I continue my studies, but for now, they’ll stay in my tool belt.

, , ,

Customizing Social Media

Custom Social Media

Using social media channels is a great way to promote your business. But a lot of companies view social media only as a means to an end – as a way to push people to their own website.

From my perspective, these companies are missing a key point about social media: the fact that most people don’t want to be redirected. They’re on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube for a reason. They want to be entertained. To catch up on the news. To interact, comment, get in on the conversation.

With that in mind, smart companies are focusing less on getting people away from social media sites – and more on establishing a strong brand presence within them.

Here are some great ways to do that.

  • Facebook. Facebook pages aren’t fully customizable, but they do have some strong features. You can create custom tabs on your Facebook page and sell things using PayPal. You can also create custom landing pages. If you search for “Starbucks” on FB, for example, you’ll go straight to their Starbucks Card tab, rather than their Wall. All of this customization is done using FBML, Facebook’s proprietary markup language.And although this isn’t exactly customization, some companies are using FB as a customer service portal. Look at the posts and comments on Best Buy’s page, for example. Best Buy is resolving customer complains within FB – not wasting time redirecting customers to its home page. What a great concept.
  • Twitter. Like Facebook, Twitter also lets you customize your page to reflect your brand. Atomic’s Twitter page, for example, is decked out with our logo, contact information, and brand colors. We’ve also included with headshots of our staff and their Twitter handles.
  • YouTube. YouTube allows for elaborate customization – look how Coca-Cola has designed its YouTube channel to reflect its current “Celebration” campaign. Dr Pepper hasn’t done quite as much work – its “I’m a doctor” campaign videos run on a standard Dr Pepper background. But still, the channel is customized. That means you don’t have to go to these companies’ websites to experience their brand; they’ve brought their brand to you.

Here at Atomic, we’ve been helping lots of companies take their website presence and apply it to social media sites. Ready to do the same?

, ,

Cubicle Envy

Atomic Interactive‘s new space was well thought out and planned, creating an environment optimized for productivity and creativity. We explored options, looked at swatches, and came up with a unique end product that surpassed expectations (the same thing we do for our clients every day).

Here is a little taste of some of the thought that went into creating our awesome, super-sweet space that has created much more than just a little jealousy.

taurine-free energy

In an attempt to create some natural energy and reduce our addiction to energy drinks, we took advantage of the talents of interior designer Heidi Miller. Heidi helped Atomic balance an organic feel and modern design in a space with an industrial appearance. The balance is one of the first things you notice when you enter the studio – exposed ceilings, brick walls, plants, lots of natural light, modern (yet comfortable) furniture. Yucca Cane and Golden Pothos plants were added for their beauty and because researchers have suggested these plants are capable of reducing air born pollutants caused by office equipment and produce above average amounts of oxygen, which helps feed our brains.  Our collaboration with Heidi ensured that our team would be positioned in a loose framework and bathed in natural light every day to avoid turning into “cubeville.”

hippie tree huggers

We’ve switched to using energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs to reduce our energy consumption. A majority of the new furniture we purchased is made from manufacturing companies with low carbon footprints and we integrated refurbished furniture, which otherwise would have been thrown in a landfill. Even our bean bags are stuffed with environmentally friendly materials! You can call us crazy…and you’d be right, we’re crazy…crazy about the environment.

don’t feed the creatives

Our new space has ten foot ceilings, which researchers determined increases creativity. Upon learning that researchers at Ohio State University concluded that lemon balm plants help increase creative thought, we placed these plants above the desks of our designers and developers. All of Atomic’s employees have access to the community library, which contains books ranging in topic from logo design to CMS development to Ogilvy on Advertising. We even have a nice collection of cheesy self-help books. Our employees have also added their own personal touches, from a mustachioed cactus to a time-traveling DeLorean that help make our office more like our home.

love, peace & ping pong

Along with our happiness and creativity-inducing plants and natural light, we have a number of recreational resources at our disposal that serve as much-needed stress relievers. Namely, our ping pong table, Foosball table, big screen television and Nintendo Wii. Nothing allows you to get away from it all like an overhand smash against your greatest office ping pong rival. For celebrating victories after hours, we have a Red Bull mini fridge stocked with energy drinks and a certain liquor that goes well with energy drinks.

Atomic firmly adheres to the “work hard, play hard” mantra. We believe that ensuring that every one of our team members enjoys coming to work will allow us to continue to create award-winning, industry-leading design work.

so there you have it

A bunch of research + a lot of planning + a team that knows how to get stuff done = the coolest 3,500 square feet in Dayton, Ohio…maybe even the world (excluding all places that have roller coasters which were slightly outside of our budget).

If you’ve read all this, you might be interested in calling us and setting up a tour. Don’t be surprised if you get stuck here.

,

Why Email Marketing Rocks

Email Marketing Campaign

As a web designer at Atomic, I’ve found that more and more of our customers are turning to us not just to manage their websites, but also to manage their email marketing. That’s great news, because email marketing software is more powerful than it’s ever been.

Here are some of the reasons I’m excited about email marketing, and where I see it really helping our customers succeed.

  • It’s measurable. If you create an email campaign using the right software, you can track all kinds of detail. You can see who opens your mail and what stories they click on. You can see how many people forward it, and how many people unsubscribe, bounce out, or mark it as spam. You can even see which email client your readers prefer – so you can tweak your design accordingly. Having this level of detail helps you see what’s working for your readers – and what’s turning them off.
  • It has great ROI. Multiple studies have shown that email marketing has the highest return on investment of any form of advertising – as high as $43.62 for each dollar spent. Moreover, many email marketing systems are set up so that you only pay when you send – giving you complete control of how much you spend, and when.
  • It reinforces your brand. The days of text-based email marketing are pretty much over. Today’s software lets you design great-looking email templates that reinforce your brand identity every time you send a message. And, the best software out there lets you import your own designs, in your own software, with the click of a button—meaning you don’t have to waste time and money re-creating your branding elements in awkward WYSIWYG editors.
  • It’s personal. Again, with the right software, you can personalize your email messaging to the max. You can include your client’s name or the last product they purchased right in the email. You can make sure it’s delivered to them at the right time according to their time zone. You can segment your mailing list and send targeted campaigns to distinct groups of subscribers, or even change the way the signup or opt-out process looks for different types of viewers.

A few months ago, we contemplated whether email marketing was dying. Honestly, at this point, it seems to me that it’s just getting better and better.

, , ,

Atomic Wins Gold at Hermes 2010

Dayton Web Design Award

Each year, the Greater Dayton Advertising Association and the American Advertising Federation honors creative excellence in advertising by inviting accomplished advertising and design firms to take part in the Hermes award competition.

There are three levels of Hermes awards: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Recipients of the Gold award are publicly recognized at an annual banquet, given the opportunity to say a few words of acceptance and gratitude among their creative peers and, most importantly, given a life-size bust of Hermes himself.

This year, Atomic Interactive was honored to receive its first Gold Hermes Award for excellent creative design in the Public Service category. It is rare for a company as young as Atomic Interactive to be honored with a Gold Hermes Award. We at Atomic showed our appreciation and excitement with the nomination and eventual award when every employee of Atomic, along with our significant others, attended the awards ceremony at the Dayton Masonic Temple.

Atomic was presented with a Gold Hermes Award for creating a website for GetUp Montgomery County, an initiative to encourage the children of Montgomery County to lead healthier lives. Atomic created a beautiful, fun site that appeals to both adults and children alike.

At Atomic, creating an excellent website relies on establishing a functional and pleasant relationship with each client, which is precisely what happened when Atomic collaborated with GetUp. We were more than pleased to work with Lorraine Russel, Chris Schlorman and Jim Gross, Montgomery County Healthy Commissioner. Each of these members of the GetUp team played an integral part in the development of their award winning website. We feel grateful any time we get to work with a client who is receptive to our creative vision and GetUp displayed a great amount of confidence in our abilities as a design team.

For Atomic, the Hermes award ceremony was a tremendous success. Along with the Gold Award, we were also honored to receive three Silver Awards and three Bronze Awards. The Silver Hermes were for the design of Buckeye Business Solutions’ website in the category of Interactive Media; in the Public Service category for the design of a Digital Learning Portal website for the Public Health Department of Dayton & Montgomery County and for a Digital Storytelling website for the ThinkTV Network, also in the Public Service category. The Bronze Hermes were all awarded to Atomic for design in the category of Interactive Media for the following website designs: Bullen Ultrasonics, Siesta Key Vacation and MacTown.

Currently, our Hermes Head is proudly displayed in our Downtown Dayton office. It will serve as a reminder to all of our employees of the fun time had at the awards ceremony and as an incentive for creating websites in the future that are also deserving of the Hermes Gold Award.

,

Using jQuery to simplify web development

Dayton Web Designer

 

If you’re a web developer and you’re not using jQuery, I have three words for you: get with it.

jQuery is a JavaScript library that makes working with JavaScript a lot easier. Basically, it helps you code more efficiently and more cleanly than you could using regular JavaScript code. It cuts out a lot of the mundane work that used to be required to add different types of animations and interactions to a page. In short, it helps you find whatever you want on a page, and make it do whatever you want.

If you’re not a web developer, the main thing you want to know about jQuery is that it can help make your website interface much more user-friendly. For example, you can use jQuery to …

  • create calendars that let customers click on a date to make a reservation for an event
  • create seating charts that let customers select a seat on a plane, or in a theater
  • create forms and make sure that customers fill out forms properly
  • let customers “rate” shopping items by clicking on a certain number of stars
  • let customers magnify part of an image – such as the image of a product they’re thinking about buying

Having your developer use jQuery is also important because, frankly, it saves so much time. That means we can build more functionality and more interactivity into your site more quickly. That keeps development costs down and helps your project get done in a timely fashion.

I like to think of jQuery as a library of shortcuts for web developers … effects that we can pick up and plug in to your site without reinventing the wheel. Again, this saves you time and cost.

Nearly every site we build at Atomic uses jQuery in some form or fashion. A great example is our site for MacTown. We used jQuery to create a horizontal slider on the homepage to highlight different product categories. We also used it to create a shopping cart with drag-and-drop functionality, which simplifies the purchasing process. And who doesn’t want to make it easier for customers to buy stuff?

Interested in talking about how animation and interactivity can make your site more user friendly? Contact us anytime.

, ,

Three questions to ask about your logo

Designer Sketchbook

One of the things that we’re proud of at Atomic is that we’re not just a bunch of development geeks. We’re also … design geeks! And part of design is creating logos.

Sometimes we’re working with a new company that doesn’t have a logo yet. So we’re starting from scratch. Other times we’re working with an established company whose logo may be outdated, or just not as strong as it could be.

Whatever the case, we help our clients with logo development whenever it’s needed. A logo is the heart and soul of a company’s brand identity, and when someone’s building a great new website, they usually want to make sure a great logo is part of it.

Creating a logo isn’t easy. You have to blend a company’s products, personality, and presence together and somehow distill the mix into a single image. When I’m working on a logo design, here are some questions I ask to help determine whether or not the design is working.

  1. Is it clear? This refers to both visual clarity and conceptual clarity. On the visual side, can a viewer tell what the logo represents? Can it be scaled larger and smaller and still be readable? Is the typeface legible? And on the conceptual side, what message is the logo supposed to convey? Will viewers clearly understand it?
  2. Is it unique? How well does the logo create a unique identity for your company? Does it set you apart from your competitors? Does it help you stand out – but without being so off-the-wall that it confuses or offends viewers?
  3. Is it clever? In a nutshell, does the design make you smile? Does it have a hidden image, like the arrow in the FedEx logo or the Golden Gate Bridge in the Cisco logo? Does it have a hidden message, like the sun inside the BP logo that suggests renewable energy?

Asking these questions isn’t a magic formula. Logo design is still more art than science. But it can help keep you on the right track, and help you spot weaknesses in a potential design.

Want to talk about your logo or site design? Contact us anytime.

, ,

New Demo Reel & Studio Tour

[hana-flv-player video=’/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/atomic_final_vmed.flv.flv’ /]

We had the pleasure over the last three weeks of having Casey Spitnale, an intern from The School of Advertising Art join our team. Casey is an uber-talented young designer with a passion for interactive and motion design. We gave Casey a rough idea for a motion design piece that would show off the killer design work and not-so-serious environment of Atomic Interactive. Casey infused his creativity and technical knowledge to create a fun, professional looking piece that exceeded our expectations.