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.

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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.

Often when I’m talking with a potential customer, they get stuck one question. Is improving their website really worth the investment?

They might want a good website in theory. But paying for it can seem like money spent on overhead, without much return on investment.

That’s why I help customers figure out clear business goals for their website, before they get started. Goals intended to help their business grow.

Those goals could include things like having more customers:

  • Fill out a “request for estimate” form
  • Click a “chat with a salesperson” button
  • Download a brochure, sales flyer, or white paper
  • Watch a sales video
  • Download a coupon
  • Sign up for a mailing list
  • And, of course, make a purchase!

Once we set goals for a website, its value becomes more clear. And our job as web developers also becomes clear: design a site that will achieve those goals.

We do that in a lot of ways. By creating a professional website that lends credibility to the business. By building intuitive navigation that lead visitors through a desired “path” in the site. By making contact information easy to find. By creating easy-to-use forms. And by designing effective calls to action.

The proof in the pudding is when we measure results against the goals. We can measure just about anything using Google Analytics. But we also love to hear firsthand results from our customers. Like when HotSpring told us that the majority of their sales were now coming in through their website. Or when K12 Gallery told us that online donations were starting to roll in.

From my perspective, a beautiful website is great. But if it’s not helping your business grow, it’s just so much ink on … well, a screen.

As Atomic’s project manager, my job is to plan our projects and keep them on track. Sounds easy enough … maybe even boring. But there’s one little thing that keeps my job challenging.


Scope changes. Schedule changes. Software changes. You name it, I’ve seen it. In fact, it seems to me that no matter how carefully a project is planned, some level of changes are inevitable. That’s just what happens when a creative concept evolves into a reality.

So instead of closing my eyes and hoping that changes won’t happen, I’m always ready for them. Here are some of the strategies I use to keep our projects on track in the face of the unexpected.

  • Talk openly about the impact of changes. Sometimes a client thinks of a new requirement or new idea partway through a project. We can always accommodate these requests, but it’s my job to make sure the client understands exactly how those changes would affect schedule and budget. That way the client can make an informed decision on whether to implement the changes or stick with the original plan.
  • Be honest about delays. Every now and then, it takes us longer to execute a task than we thought it would. (Yes, it’s true – we do make mistakes!) In those situations, I always let our clients know right away that we need to bump our schedule back a couple of days. Clients appreciate this honesty, and it helps them to better plan their review cycles accordingly.
  • Constantly monitor and adjust milestones. If we miss a milestone in our project schedule, we don’t just throw up our hands and say, “well, we’re sunk now.” Instead, I constantly readjust project milestones as needed. If we get behind on a deadline, I find out if we can expedite subsequent ones. And, if needed, I crack the whip and get our team really cranking to help us meet a deadline.

Of course, in my fondest dreams, all projects tick along perfectly, with every milestone met to the minute. I’ll keep hoping for that … but in the meantime, when changes come along, I’ll be ready for them.

Email Marketing

Here at Atomic, we talk a lot about organic search – getting your site a high ranking on Google through strong website content, without using paid ads.

But paid ads do have a role in search, and pay-per-click is one of the best ways to utilize them.

Pay-per-click involves advertising your business on a search engine like Google. When people search for one of your keywords, your ad appears next to the search results. People can click your ad to make a purchase or learn more about you. The system is called “pay per click” because you’re charged only when someone clicks your ad, not every time the ad is displayed.

How do you know if pay-per-click is for you?

  • You need paying customers quickly. Maybe you just invested in a new location and need to start recouping your costs ASAP. You can’t wait a few months for customers to find you through organic search – you need customers in the door now.
  • Your business depends on web sales. Maybe you don’t have a storefront – you’re an online business. In that case, getting qualified buyers to your website is of prime importance, every day.
  • You’re targeting highly competitive keywords. If you’re one seller in a crowded marketplace, relying on organic search alone won’t cut the mustard. To stay on par with your competitors, you need the help of pay-per-click.
  • You have a changing product lineup. Organic search involves optimizing your site for keywords of ongoing importance – “DVDs,” for example. But what if you want to let customers know that you’ll have Star Trek in stock THIS TUESDAY? In that situation, organic search can’t get the message across quick enough. You need a pay-per-click campaign targeted to that specific release date.
  • You need to advertise a special sale or promotion. Maybe your business is having a once-a-year sidewalk sale, and you want to move as much product as possible. In that scenario, you want to take advantage of every advertising opportunity that you can afford – and pay-per-click is one of the most effective and most affordable options out there.

It helps to think of organic search and pay-per-click as dual strategies, working together to drive traffic to your website. Organic search is a long-term strategy that involves getting the best search results for your site over time. Pay-per-click is an immediate-term strategy that can get results quickly, when you need them the most.

Wondering if pay-per-click is for you? Talk to us today.

We mentioned in our previous blog entry that we’re a little bit obsessive about project planning. And we admit it—we are. But that’s because we’ve seen too many web projects derailed because of poor planning, or no planning. And that’s not what we want for our customers.

So we take planning and project management seriously. One critical step in those efforts is creating a wireframe for any new website.

What’s a wireframe? A wireframe is very simple design that lays out the essential elements that go on each of your web pages. A wireframe for a common webpage, for example, might include placeholders for a header, navigation, body copy, an image, a search function, a “call to action” box, and “contact us” information.

It would look something like this:

Why are wireframes so important?

  • Wireframes save time because they give web designers clear direction on what needs to go on each page of the site. With a creative brief in one hand and an approved wireframe in the other, a designer  begin developing a great visual image for your site – without having to worry that he might be leaving a critical functionality off of one of the pages. Too many web projects jump straight from creating a sitemap to beginning design, without creating a wireframe in between—and too much information falls in the gap in between.
  • Wireframes also save money because the basic elements of the site have been determined and approved before the creative design process ever begins. So there’s much less chance that a design will have to be torn apart and done over—which can drive costs up quickly.

Even though we’re a newfangled interactive firm, I guess we believe in the old-fashioned principle of “doing things right the first time.” We know that’s the right thing for our customers.

Want to learn more about wireframes and Atomic’s project management strategy? Contact us anytime.

What if you developed a website based on a content management system optimized for one or two browsers? And then found out that your client is using neither — and can’t access your system or tools?

Say “buh-bye” to your new business.

Or, what if you sign a contract with a new online vendor for a key business process — accounting, for instance — only to find out that the application runs on an outmoded browser, forcing your entire team to ditch their upgrade or run two different versions of the same browser, one to work with the application, and one for everything else?

Say “buh-bye” to your sanity.

The new choice in browsers — with Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Google Chrome challenging the still-dominant Internet Explorer (IE) — is forcing us to change the way we think about and choose browsers.

A central question in evaluating Web browsers is this: What, exactly, does your business — or your customers — do online?

Do you rely on Web-based applications for many of your business processes? If so, picking a compatible browser is vital — as is making sure it remains so even as new versions of the application are released.

Many Web-based applications will run on almost all browsers, but exceptions abound. Constant Contact, the well-known Web-based email marketing tool, supports some browsers but not others (one of its rivals, Vertical Response, also works best in Firefox or IE). As eWEEK recently noted, other applications will run on most browsers, but may not perform optimally in each.

If you are developing online products or experiences for your customers, are you assuming everyone will gain access using the same browser? If so, you might be making a big — and costly — mistake. More and more people are attracted to different browsers for different reasons, so taking the time to find out where they are — um, browser-wise — might go a long way to establishing good customer relations and generating repeat business.

A single solution for picking the best browser probably eludes us, but here are a few tips:

  1. Evaluate what you’re doing most online to make sure your choice of browser won’t conflict with your online applications, slow you down, crash your systems, or frustrate your staff.
  2. Investigate and test browsers to see which one — or which mix of two or more — works best for certain tasks.
  3. Read all the different reviews, stay up on the latest evaluations, and know the impact of any upgrade on either application or browser performance.
  4. Learn what your customers are doing online and don’t make assumptions.
  5. Choose vendors and developers that understand browser technology, features, compatibility, customization, and performance and can match you with a system that meets your needs.

Do browsers still bewilder you? Contact us for more insights.

How usable is your site?

If you asked your customers to discuss the fine points of web usability, you’d probably get a blank stare.

But would your customers recognize a site with poor usability? You bet. And by recognize the site, we mean leave the site – immediately.

Usability is about creating websites that make life easy for your users. So they stay on your site, easily moving through your navigation, easily finding how to contact you, easily making purchases.

Unfortunately, too many sites make life tough for their users. We won’t go into all the ways this can happen, but here are a few of our pet peeves.

  • Confusing navigation. Too often navigation is structured from the perspective of the company rather than the user. For example, we recently tried to register our kids online for summer camp. First we tried Registration, then Programs, then Events. Nada. Finally we took a wild guess and tried Classes – under which we found summer camp. Do you really want your customers to play guessing games before they can buy something?
  • Links that don’t behave predictably. Web users have become accustomed to certain navigation elements behaving in certain ways. We expect to click on your logo and be directed to your home page. We expect to click through long content using Previous and Next buttons. When we can’t do these things we get frustrated with you. We lose belief in your site.
  • Hidden Contact Us information. There’s nothing more frustrating than searching fruitlessly for a company’s phone number or address. First you look for a “Contact Us” page at the top. Then you look in the footer. Then, with increasing annoyance, you start digging through pages with names like “Our Firm” and “Get to Know Us.” When customers are at the critical moment of converting to a sale or seeking more information, it should be incredibly easy for them to contact you – not incredibly annoying.

So many elements go into creating highly usable sites; several basic checklists are available online. But all of them are based on a focus on the user – what she is looking for, what she expects, what she needs from your website and your company. Without that focus, all is lost.

Want to talk about your site’s usability?

In our previous post, we talked about the importance of including keywords in your site structure.
What we didn’t say is that keywords mean nothing if they’re embedded in cruddy content.
By cruddy content, we mean content that’s poorly written or organized. That’s salesy or full of typos. That’s been pulled from a print publication and slapped into your site without being webified.
As web developers, we’d like to think that we can create perfect sites using clean code alone. But we can’t. It’s the content in your site that matter most. Great content helps establish you as an expert in your field. It gives customers a reason to visit your site. And it helps Google understand your site and classify it properly in search results.
Need help creating great content? Here are a few tips.

  • Unless you’re a professional writer yourself, hire one. And not just any writer – one with experience writing sites optimized for web readability and web searchability.
  • Write for your customers. Yes, your website should tell your story. But think first about your customers’ story. Who are they? Why are they visiting your site? What information do they need? If your content consistently addresses your customers’ questions and interests, you can bring them back to your site again and again.
  • Remember that size matters. To optimize search results and get Google visiting regularly, you need lots of content – and you need to update it regularly. How much content do you need? Start with at least as much as your competitors have, and go from there.
  • Don’t write for search engines. Yes, keywords are important.  But if you overload your copy with keywords, you’ll lose credibility with your readers. Plus, Google knows that trick and is so over it.

The bottom line is that customers come to your site for content. Give ‘em that, and they’ll always be happy.
Want to talk with our SEO copywriter about your content? Contact us today.

Most people know that including keywords in your website helps improve searchability.

For example, if you sell backyard playsets, you’d want to include terms like swingset, gymset, and playhouse throughout your site – terms that customers might use when Googling your products.

What most people don’t know is that you should include keywords in the structure of your site as well as the text.

Why? Because when Google “reads” your site, it doesn’t start with the text. Instead, it starts the same way you would – with the title of the site, the navigational structure, and the names of the pages. If your keywords aren’t included in those elements, Google won’t understand and classify your site as well as it could. And your search results won’t be as good as they should.

At Atomic, we work with our clients before planning or building their site to decide on the right keywords. We use a four-step process:

  1. Our clients brainstorm several keywords for their site
  2. We research those terms to find out if customers are actually using them in searches – or if they are using alternatives or derivatives of those terms
  3. Together with the client, we pick the best keywords
  4. Finally, we build the site structure around those keywords, embedding them in important elements like the title tags and heading tags.

For clients who are serious about optimizing search, we revisit their keywords regularly, helping them evaluate their effectiveness and pick new ones as needed.

Wondering if you’re using keywords as effectively as you could? Contact us anytime for a free consultation.