Recent Work: Invasive Species Website

In New York, the invasive species ‘PRISM’ network is tasked with educating and coordinating people on invasive species control and management.  Last March, we released a website built for the Adirondack office, and yesterday we released a new website for the Finger Lakes office. In a few months, we will be releasing a new website for the Western New York office.

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Even though each office is managed independently and has their own identify and set of partners, the common theme is ‘invasive species in New York,’ and the ‘PRISM network’.

We felt it was important to maintain a thread of relationship through each site, while preserving their own brand identity. Therefore, we chose the same design theme (WP-Bold), which gives the site its basic structure and functionality. Then we added unique branding, photos, logos, and content. So even though the sites are different, they appear in the same family.

The clients receive several benefits from choosing one contractor for the projects.

  1. Should the network ever decide to promote the umbrella identity in the future, it should be much easier to manage.
  2. Partners and recurrent site visitors can develop expectations for how to navigate among each of the sites to find information.
  3. The clients shared the custom work we did to display invasive species profiles (see one below for Alewife, an invasive species of fish). This includes the novel programming plus the images and content, which makes it easier and faster for each new website owner to complete their site. And who doesn’t love easier and faster?

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The clients are also benefiting from each other’s experience in dealing with the web development process, which can be very confusing and daunting. They can rely on each other for advice and troubleshooting tips as time goes on.

It’s been a great pleasure to work on these two sites and I look forward to the next one.

 

Websites Are Like Babies

"You know you can't follow me forever, Mom."     "As long as you're still interesting, I will."

Websites are like babies. I carry them around for months on end and, like any mother, when it’s time to send them off into the world on their own, I can’t totally let go. I want to be there to watch the website grow, see it make friends, and be there to pick up the pieces if it runs into any trouble. And sometimes I just like to gaze at it and think – did I make you?

Weird, right?

So that’s why I keep tabs on all the websites my team has built or contributed to, whether I’m on a maintenance contract or not (I do highly recommend a maintenance contract for many reasons).

One thing I like to do once a site takes flight is to monitor visitor traffic to the site using Google Analytics. I also like to do Google searches on a related topic to see how well the organization stands up to its competitors for related searches.

So you can imagine how cool it is to do a search for “birding tours” and see TWO of my clients show up on Page 1 of the search results – both High Lonesome BirdTours and Tropical Birding.

If you’re a developer, try this with one of your latest websites. Seeing your web baby stand proudly among its peers lets you know you ‘raised it right.’ Maybe you and the client chose the right platform (WordPress, in both my examples), developed the right content strategy, or you applied all the best SEO practices to help the site rise above the rest. Whatever you did, it worked. So you can breathe a sigh of relief and work on birthing the next big project.

This digital parenthood thing can be pretty rough sometimes, but it’s your destiny and worth every minute. Except when it steals the keys and won’t let you back in…that’s why you keep all passwords locked in an iron vault!

 

 

Recent Work: Birding Tour Website

I am thrilled to announce the recent release of our latest project, a birding tour website for High Lonesome BirdTours.

High Lonesome Birdtours Website

The challenge was to transition the owner’s website from a poorly organized, visually ineffective website built on an open source framework called CMS Made Simple to an organized, visually appealing site with high search engine value. Most of all, the owner wanted his customers to easily find his site when searching for birding tours on Google, and easily navigate to make a purchase. Our previous work on a different birding tour site had impressed our client enough to make an inquiry. Our “professionalism” during the proposal process impressed sealed the deal, even though our price was “a bit higher” than other quotes.

We implemented a customized WordPress solution utilizing custom post types to design each custom tour detail page. A great deal of content strategy went into the information layout. We did our best to interpret a typical customer’s mindset as he/she lands on the home page and tries to find an ideal destination to travel to. We took into account that a motivated customer may wish to find a specific tour by region (e.g. “I’m seeking a tour to Alaska!”) or find a tour during a specific time span  (“I need a birding tour in April of next year!”). But we also tried to appeal to the casual dreamer who stumbles upon the site and surfs from region to region until his/her interest is sparked (note to self: visuals matter a lot to dreamers).

We took into account that some users are visual learners while others ignore images to read only text. Because I’ve done quite a bit of birding travel myself, I realize how information hungry birders are. So it was just as important to provide quick overviews as it was to provide easy access to detailed itineraries and trip planning information.

Each tour page provides an overview, details, full itinerary, downloadable itinerary, info on accommodations, top birds and mammals lists, habitats covered, as well as trip reports and travel planning suggestions (recommended readings, clothing and gear, and other attractions). Luckily, most of this information was available in some form or another on the former website, though it took considerable effort to move it over into its new format.

Another notable addition is a shopping cart that keeps track of the number of spaces left on each tour – to avoid booking too many people on these small-group tours. Custom forms were built to court the user through the booking process, culminating in a Make Payment page that lets the user make a deposit either via check or online via Paypal.

We are thrilled with the results but even more so, the process of working with our client, who allowed us to “get into his business” and solve problems unique to his company and the tour shopping process.

Nothing interests us more than solving problems – and we never lose sight of the fact that every problem we solve must have positive implications for the client’s business (or it’s not worth solving) and have respect for his work flow. 

Better yet, our client seems happy, too:

I asked Laura Kammermeier and her group, My Digital Nature, to help me build a new website after mine became outdated. We started working together in August and, this month, we were able to launch the new site. I’m extremely happy with the results. The site is professional and user-friendly, exactly what I wanted. Laura was highly responsive and helpful. She was always available to answer questions and work through problems. I can highly recommend Laura and her group, without reservations.” — Forrest Davis, owner, High Lonesome BirdTours.

BUT DID THE SITE IMPROVE BUSINESS? Time will tell but here’s a good indicator: within one week the site crawled up in the Google search engine results from oblivion (not within the first 20 pages of search results) to page 2, #7. Impressive what a SEO-friendly platform, sound content strategy, and smart implementation will do.

P.S. Special and abiding thanks to those that helped make this project possible: Bill Klingensmith (mydarndest.com) for custom design and coding; Sean Koch for content entry; Stina Kennedy for logo and design work.

 

Recent Work: Yoga Website

We recently released a new website for a fledgling yoga studio in Belgium. The goals were to:

  1. create a low-cost new business website that fuses nature and yoga,
  2. highlight classes, workshops, and events,
  3. make sure students can easily find the hours and location of each class,
  4. create an easily updated class and pricing schedules and,
  5. demonstrate the fun, enthusiastic personality of the studio owner.

TreeofLifeStudioOur solution wrapped mainly around an off-the-shelf theme that provided a sensible information architecture, several hours of custom tinkering to overcome idiosyncracies of the theme, integration of an existing logo into the design, creation of the fun tagline, and custom Contact Us and e-newsletter forms…sprinkled with, of course, the requisite social media buttons.

Using images taken by the owner, and inspired by the yoga studio itself, we used soft, green colors against a backdrop of a wooded forest with ferns and moss. (This particular studio offers nature inspired classes in addition to kids’ yoga.)

Designer Bill Klingensmith did a fantastic job with coding and design. The client played a part in the creation of the site by providing site content and images and editing most of the content once it was placed online. I admired her tenacity in learning new tools and wanting to make it ‘just right’ for launch.

Now my client has a website where she can actively recruit new students and send traffic from her Facebook page to her domain, where she can turn traffic into leads.

Please visit her site at TreeofLifeYoga.be. Let us know what you think!