Hallelujah! Design and storytelling is back. Responsive web design changes everything.

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Click this image to see what the fuss is about.

Responsive web design is nothing new. For those unfamiliar, responsive web design (RWD) is what you see practically everywhere now. It’s a web design approach aimed at crafting sites that offer optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with minimal resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors).

But, from a marketing communications standpoint, it’s so much more than just cool technology.

As a designer and a marketer, who has built dozens of wordpress websites since 2006, I’ve always been a little frustrated with the traditional website art form…a banner, blocks of text, lots of links, and lots and lots of text, that’s there primarily to impress Google that you’ve a done a great job of organizing your content around a particular subject. With responsive, and its commanding full-width jquery sliders, galleries and other features, you can put on one hell of a visual show. You can tell your brand story in ways you never dreamed of.

New technology meets old school storytelling.

Back in the day, when we created print ad campaigns, you followed simple design fundamentals. Find or create an arresting image, add a tasty headline that leads to a strong call to action, and viola, you’re in business. With responsive web design, using the full width of your screen, you can use bigger pictures and less text that tell your story much like a print ad, and persuade the viewer to continue to go deeper into the site, and ultimately take the next step.

If you click on some of the examples of the first responsive sites I’ve created in the past six months, you’ll see what I’m talking about, and hopefully why I’m so jazzed about it. It’s been a lot of work, and a steep learning curve at times, but definitely worth the effort because I feel responsive is changing things for the better.

Soon to come, zoselco.com in responsive.

As the old saying goes, the cobbler can’t afford shoes, and in this case, I need to make the time to get this done.

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NiceMug website, allowed me to describe a unique product quickly.

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Again, another hard to describe product comes alive using words and pictures.

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Locally branded home reseller gets a new brand and an easy to navigate website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few inexpensive stock video clips, a cool music track, some good copy, and presto, instant 60 second promo video.

Yes, it truly is that simple in this day and age. With the help of Apple Final Cut Pro, any garden variety graphic designer/copywriter like myself can morph into a video producer without too much effort. I would estimate that this little promo video below probably took eight hours or less, and the stock clips cost about a couple hundred bucks, maybe.

Anyway, it’s not too difficult to create a really cool, and effective .60 second spot that tells your story in a way that traditional words and pictures just can’t. Just keep your message simple and don’t get too crazy with the graphics and videos.

Streetwise Reports: getting the brand focused in the right direction.

Streetwise Reports feature interviews with industry-sector experts–analysts, money managers and newsletter writers–backed by the latest research summaries, news and company profiles. It’s a combination of information and insight investors can’t get anywhere else.

I was hired last winter by partner Bill O’Neal to help get some some focus on the branding elements is these different websites, working each individual logo, and making sure the sub brands of the various reports did not overshadow the main brand of Streetwise Reports. Fun to work with Bill.

Passionate entrepreneur spreads the word about Thea Holtan’s amazing writing tools.

About a year ago, I met a young gentleman at a MESA group meeting named JJ Parker, Co-Founder of an outfit named Tightrope Media Systems. Long story short, JJ is a highly energetic and passionate guy who was looking for help building a wordpress website to help tell the story of a woman named Thea Holtan who devised a brilliant writing instruction system for kids. Apparently, JJ was one of Ms. Holtan’s pupils back in the day, and swears by her methods for teaching the fine art of research and writing.

To create a website to help JJ spread the word about this, the primary task was telling the story, really breaking down why kids can’t write, and how Thea Holtan’s Thinking & Writing Process can helps kids learn in a simple, logical manner. In a nutshell, the process offers helpful Teacher’s and Writer’s Guides with clearly illustrated instructions that lead the student through the research, organization and writing phases. By following each step, students learn to think logically, and write coherently.

It is very cool to note, however, that the Thea Holtan Website was not a for profit venture for Mr. Parker, at least not what I gathered. But rather, it’s just a project that he wanted to pursue to give something back, or simply create something of value. That I can truly appreciate.

I wish him the best of luck!

Olup & Associates: setting the gold standard for family law in the twin cities.

When an affluent Minnesotan is ready to cut ties with a spouse, attorney Linda Olup usually gets a phone call. Because, when the assets are considerable and things get contentious, Linda is the attorney you want in your corner, not your spouse’s. You definitely don’t don’t want her playing for the other team.

Linda and her firm have been practicing family law for over 36 years, with countless victories to their credit.

Linda heads up Olup & Associates, LLC,  one of the Twin Cities leading family law firms. I was hired by her firm to do some minor re-brandng, and a major overhaul of a site that had close to 70 pages. Having worked with many attorneys in the past, I’m familiar with the somewhat black and white nature of many law websites. In my estimation, many law websites are very grim, bleak, cold even. To really help Olup & Associates stand out, the job was to really breathe some humanity into this site, so that when prospect landed here, they would quickly understand the focus on family law, and the care and sophistication the firm could bring to this highly contentious area of law.

The goal from day one, was to communicate that Olup offered the Gold Standard in all areas of family law. And with over 70 pages of family law content, all carefully edited by Linda Olup herself, the site hits the mark with flying colors.

It was time for a facelift, and new SEO plan. Fibercare gets both.

Several years ago, we built a website for a local company named Fibercare who specializes in hotel cleaning services for national hotel chains like Marriot, Sheraton and the like. This past Summer, I rebuilt the site in wordpress to refresh the brand, and create a more up-to-date CMS using wordpress. This is a pretty straight forward website design, incorporating a form on the home page for easy lead generation, and links from the home page widgets wot each of the site’s main pages.

But at it’s core, there lies a really solid Search Engine Optimization plan that accounts for roughly a dozen solid leads a month based on their primary keywords…hotel carpet cleaning, hotel cleaning services, etc.

I also shot and edited a promotional video that plays on the front page that tells their story of their cleaning capabilities. Finercare is a great client, super easy to work with. A pleasure doing business with them.

Getting married? Romance Leaders can hook you up with a fabuous destination wedding anywhere in the world.

Romance Leaders is a new division of Travel Leaders, a twin cities based travel agency, that specializes in destination weddings and exotic honeymoon vacations anywhere in the world. We designed and built this full-featured wordpress site for the new division that their in-house marketing staff / travel agents will be constantly updating the content, and creating special private landing pages for clients, new partner pages promoting a number of travel vendors.

With the new features in WordPress 3.42 along with other handy widgets supplied by the Genesis Framework, it was easy to hand the keys over to the staff at Travel Leaders.

At Home Restoration: a very cool WordPress site for a very hip guy. And a monster conversion rate to boot.

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At Home Restoration owner and Expert Finisher Jon Dominguez has a unique passion for refinishing and restoring antiques, furniture, interior wood trim, and cabinetry. But he is unlike most tradesman you might bring into your home. Jon is an artist in the true sense of the word. His mission is to create beauty where none exists. His medium just happens to be wood. His results are impressive, his pricing is reasonable. He loves his work so much, he might even do it for free.

Free, really? As Seth Godin puts it,

“Art is what we’re doing when we do our best work. Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.”

And that’s precisely what Jon brings to the table. Like me, he consistently over delivers when it comes to quality, whether the client appreciates it or not. That’s why it was a rare pleasure to create a branded wordpress website for this interesting character. Jon is also a very talented musician and songwriter, BTW. Fun to be around, no doubt.

About the site, it converts at a very impressive rate, probably higher than 10%. Just a guess. But the site competes very well organically for terms like ‘furniture refinishing minneapolis,’ ‘furniture refinishing minneapolis mn,’ ‘wood refinishing minneapolis,’ and many other localized terms that put his site #1 on Google.

Unimax LineOne: a focused new direction using WordPress as a micro-site.

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I’ve had a long-standing relationship with the good folks at Unimax going back at least five years. The telecommunications software marketer has traditionally sold it’s flagship product, 2nd Nature, to enterprise companies with thousands of employees. Suffice to say, 2nd Nature is a big ticket item, with a long sales cycle.

Instead of depending on sales for the flagship product, Unimax tried a different approach. They created products designed products with specific features aimed at solving specific problems, at a much more attractive pricepoint. LIneOne is a such a product. To take LineOne to market, Unimax needed a simple solution for both branding and marketing. And WordPress was the solution.

Instead of creating complete new websites to promote the new product, we created a simple microsite off the main domain, http://unimax.com/lineone/. This way, they could have a complete site, while continuing to build on the primary domain. For lead generation purposes, they use the site primarily as a landing page for email marketing, webinars, and other communications done with partners. Seems to be gaining traction, as I see a steady stream of leads on a daily basis.

Facebook firestorm creates instant traffic for new Eagan, MN yogo studio.

In this day and age, builders of WordPress Websites like us are often tasked with creating Facebook Fan Pages. It’s just part of the deal. But being a fan page admin, it can be kind of be a pain when your page attracts new followers like the folks at Sparrow Studios in Eagan, MN.

We built this sleek, stylish WordPress website for owners Erin Zosel (2nd cousin) and Brigitta Sharpe back in Early August with the goal of opening the Yoga and Fitness studio in the south suburbs. With the growth of Yoga and fitness, and what promises to be a growing economy (knock wood), Sparrow Studios seems poised for success. With Both Erin and Brig having huge Facebook Friend lists, acquiring 400 fans to their page was a slam dunk, and and should bode well for their new business. So when the site and fan page launched, I began receiving dozens of notifications daily of folks liking the page, and showing enthusiasm for the new fitness venture. Which was awesome, BTW, but a little surprising.

A great lesson for anyone starting a business these days: build a following withing your closest group of friends, who’ll gladly spread the word for you.