Understanding Your Client

Over the course of the year I’ve dealt with clients from one end of the spectrum to the other. Every client has also given me valuable learning lessons. The most recent being a training session. The key lesson learned  - understand your client’s expectations of site and their level of computer and web knowledge.

Before handing off a newly developed web site, you need to train the client on how to maintain it (unless you’re going to maintain it). From the previous assessments made about the client’s tech saavy knowledge, you will be able to produce a better training presentation. They will have to be individualized to each client.

If the site was designed using dynamic web templates (DWTs), the client will be able to change only the editable areas and upload to their hosting via Dreamweaver or Expression Web. In content management systems(CMS), they can edit the content via an Internet access log in and have various user access levels.

I just had a training session with a client. In this case, I used DWTs in my design in order to maintain consistency throughout the site, and I didn’t have too much experience with CMS as of the time of design and development. Prior to the training session, I felt the training materials were thoroughly put together and the web site was done very simplistic for their level of understanding of web development. As the end of the training session drew near, I had a sense that the client was unconvinced they could handle the maintenance. Reflecting back on the experience, I realize now that I may have overwhelmed the client with information. I may have had to use just step-by-step directions instead of the all the step-by-step directions AND web content tips/training.

After the session, I handed off the project and reassured the client everything will be just fine. It isn’t as difficult as they think it is. I reminded the client that if after reviewing the training materials, they could contact me with any additional questions – I would be there to help.

I know clients are unique and handle things differently from one another. It is a great reminder to have such issues arise to help make your total learning experience truly invaluable. All the little details and issues will only make your training and education get that much stronger.

A “New” Business Promotional Tool

It may have been launched in 2008 but it is definitely new in the Milwaukee area. It is called It is a daily coupon for an unbeatable deal on stuff to do, see, eat and buy in your city. They call it “collective buying power” since the participating businesses are promised a minimum number of  customers in turn offering discounts not found anywhere else.

Miss Groove is a great example of its success. Miss Groove is a friendly neighborhood boutique located on Milwaukee’s historical Brady Street.

Pam decided to try out the new marketing tool and have a $35 gift certificate available for $15, which was offered on May 4, 2010. Just that day alone, the Miss Groove web site got almost 1,000 hits! Previously their highest was 70. Talk about exposure. As for the actually number of gift certificates sold, it was 173. I couldn’t believe the turnout. With all of those gift certificates sold, that means they all are coming into store as well.

With Groupon there is a commission, but it is worth it if you get a great turn out. Traditional marketing methods of radio and print advertising doesn ‘t necessarily guarantee the foot traffic into your store, but this does. If people are willing to go online and purchase the coupon, you’ve made a sale either way.

So how does it work (as a consumer)?

First sign up to receive the daily Groupon. When you find a deal you like, just click “Buy” before the offer ends at midnight. If the minimum number of people sign up, Groupon will charge your card and send you a link to print your Groupon. The Groupon has a redemption instructions and a map right on it. If there wasn’t enough people to join, no one gets the deal and they won’t be charged.

Since many Groupons have an expiration date, you don’t have to use the Groupon the same day you buy it. You can also buy a Groupon for someone else as a gift. The only catch is that if you decide to use it, try to use the whole Groupon value because you won’t receive store credit or cash back for whatever you don’t use.

Interested as a business to participate?

Check out how Groupon works for businesses

I had originally heard about it from Miss Groove’s web designer and my co-worker Sandy. It really intrigued me and when I found out the success I was astonished. I think this is going to be a great promotional tool in the area. So far it is in Madison and Milwaukee (for Wisconsin), but who know it just might expand even more. They are growing fast. Feel free to make a suggestion to Groupon for your city.

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Countdown to Graduation

The Finishing Touches

After a couple weeks of work, I finished the prior learning exam for a web course credit demonstrating ASP.NET and Expressions Web. I’m glad I made the extra effort because I gained a little more experience through this venture. While I was required to do certain tasks, I took the initiative to take things a step farther by implementing behaviors that would have been quite simple on an XHTML page into ASPX pages (ie image swap). That’s just who I am. After documenting my work and reflecting back on my positive experience, it is still a wave of relief seeing the instructor’s approval of the work done. Yea! One more step closer to graduation. It just has to go through the proper channels now to get the actual credit.

I’m getting excited as the end draws near. I know I’ve already been through two graduations (high school and Associate Degree in Graphics), but this one has a little more influence. I am not a student fresh out of high school, but rather a 12 year veteran in the work force. I have a family and work full time. I did the secondary education in my spare time in order to make my skills more competitive in the design industry.

There were some trying times, but I strived to do my best in all my aspects of life. It was quite the balancing act. In the end it has all paid off. I will be working across that stage with my family watching and with high honors.

I am truly grateful for my teachers, family and friends with their understanding and support as well as the clients for giving me  valuable experience.

Thank You!


How Much Do I Charge?

The Ultimate Question

I recently had a conversation with a fellow classmate about web design rates. I thought good question. For all my internship web projects, I had a proposal with a set hourly rate, but is that really the way to go?!

In my initial discussion with the classmate, I feel I was able to help her out with a few ideas because I had prior freelancing experience. But on that same note, she brought to light questions I didn’t realize I needed answering also. It was a win-win situation.

Things I started pondering after our conversation:

  • Should we set an a la carte price list?
  • Should we just use an hourly rate?
  • Should we have a base and then anything over that get charged accordingly?
  • Does it vary based on the maintenance contract?

Well I decided to do a little more investigating for myself to get a feel for what other web design companies are doing? I did a search and found several different ideas I’m going to use.

One site was a calculator for potential clients to use in order to get an idea of what a site they’d want develop might cost. Then I found several sites that gave different package levels with their various inclusions – both local and out-of-state businesses. Lastly I also found one that helped how to determine rates with figuring in overhead costs and other possible expenses, experience, etc. All the sites were great resources. Now I just have to sit down and determine what I would charge for my own freelancing services in my  area. I want to stay competitive. I don’t want to undercut myself or overprice myself out of a job.

I have a feeling that although school is almost over this is not the end of the line for our friendship. I’m sure we’ll be bouncing ideas and questions at each other since we do work well together and are in the same boat. It is great networking too.

So as things are slowly winding down, I will do a little more investigating to get a more definitive rate sheet for my freelance work. That way if potential clients call I will be thoroughly prepared to answer questions they may have.

Ahh… All the little things you need to consider when working for yourself, but I don’t mind it :)


Future Endeavors

What’s Next for Me?

Just because the classes are done, doesn’t mean the learning will stop. I will continue to work on my developing skills and my networking. I love learning – always have. With the web developing industry continuously changing, I have to keep up on the trends and technologies.

I have several potential clients I have to touch base with in the next few weeks. From my experience, word-of-mouth has been a great tool in my marketing tool box. It was worked for me as a graphic designer and now proving to be an asset for me as web developer too.

My non-profit project’s event, Laura’s Smile Mile, is coming up fast, and I will be volunteering as well as participating in the run too. So far it seems bigger than last year. It will be a blast and for a great cause – ovarian cancer awareness. This project has been a pleasure working on.

I want to continue working on building network connections. I will try to attend more local social networking gatherings and try to get the word out about my skills. I have been blessed with great connections for several businesses as it is. It can only get better.

I’m even considering taking my education to the next step, but I want to see where this one leads me this summer. If I do go on, I have to figure whether what school to go to or what online certifications can be completed.

There is so much to think about. One thing is for sure… I will always be a designer. It is not just a job, but my passion.


The End is in Sight!

Internship projects completed…
Classwork being finalized…

One month left and then I graduate… again. It is for the advancement of my career and personal growth.

It is such a great feeling of accomplishment when getting this far. I’m excited to be able to be a role model for my children as well. They will be able to see their mother receiving an additional diploma for higher education. I want to show them that nothing should get in the way of their dreams.

I’m just finishing up the work for a class I’m working on testing out of. I had taken a class that would have been the equivalent about 10 years ago, but since that technology has been outdated, I needed to show my knowledge and skills with this new technology. It was been moving along quite smoothly with just a few small bumps in the road. Nothing that I can’t handle.

I am also working getting the last project I’ve been working on handed off. It is for the Corrections Science Club of Moraine Park Technical College. I am pull all the training materials together as well as the production guide for the web site design. Hopefully I can train within the next couple weeks.

Corrections Science Club of Moraine Park Technical College web site

Corrections Science Club web site

Also on my plate to finish is the classroom work for the actual internship class. That is also going smoothly – just seem to be procrastinating and focused on the other task at hand. It is just a matter of pulling all my ideas together and putting it on my site. It should be finished within the weekend.

I have also been maintaining Laura’s Smile Foundation web site with updated sponsors for the upcoming event and assisting with getting the sponsor logos to the respective people for printing T-shirts and goodie bags. I will also be assisting with the event as the event gets closer. I am excited to see the turn out to the event.

I try to touch base with my internship clients to make sure the site is continuing to work well for them.  The sites are getting great responses, which makes me feel like it was a job well done. They have also agreed to write testimonials for me to display on my web site. Now I’m just waiting to hear back from them.

I can’t believe how quickly this semester has gone. I have been able to build more connections this year than I could’ve have imagined. Now it is a matter of staying contact because you never know what might might be headed your way – new clients referred, new business ventures developed, or even just new friendships.



What’s Really Yours and What’s Not

As I was reflecting on my online portfolio, I thought of something – copyrights. With working at Conley Services for over 10 years, I had produced quite a bit of portfolio quality work beside what I had done freelancing. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t infringing on any copyright issues by putting my design work on my online portfolio.

I wasn’t quite sure who to ask in the company so I went to the publisher. I figured since this site is going to be a regular thing, I better make sure everything is correct. I didn’t know if there was paperwork to be filled out and signed or if there was a watermark to be used, etc. After my first initial discussion with him, he came back to inform me that all it had to do was add the:

  • Copyright right symbol
  • Company name
  • Year it was published

I didn’t think it would be much more than that, but you never know with certain companies. He also said we should technically be adding that to every ad that we said to other publications. The main thing to know is that even though you completely design a piece from start to finish, you don’t own the right to reproduce it when it is published by the company you work for. That company owns the copyright on all its publications.

I had learned quite a bit about the use of intellectual property in one of my classes and what to do if someone steals your work, but it really hit home when I started inquiring about my online portfolio pieces. Too many times I hear, “Oh just Google for the image.” That’s so not what to do. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it free.

Click to view my class report on various legal issues. Here you will find the discussion of the issues as well as some great resources.


Web 2.0

It’s All About the People

When I first came back to school to finish the Web Development program, I kept hearing Web 2.0 and didn’t think much about it. Then a friend asked me about it. I wasn’t sure exactly until one of my classes. Web 2.0 is about the people and building connections and communities. Aha! That’s why everyone was in a buzz about joining mySpace and Facebook. Well as time as passed, the web development projects I worked on have been implementing social media.

My latest intern project – Laura’s Smile Foundation – is in the process of working on PR especially with their annual Laura’s Smile Mile 5K Run/Walk coming up. The foundation has acquired a few more interns working on the marketing aspect for them.

Over the last week or two, I have been assisting these new interns with their projects of customizing the new Facebook page, Twitter account and blog. I set up their blog using Wordpress and have now been customizing the design to match the main web site through the use of colors and logos. Since I’m still learning Wordpress, I was determined to get it more customized to the site. I had to “sift” through the code to find what I needed and then edit. Then I started thinking about mobile users. I found a plug-in to make the blog more mobile-user friendly. What a week. On top of that, I had also written their first entry. 

The next thing on the agenda was the networking accounts. I set up the profile image on both Facebook and Twitter. I was able to customize a little more on Twitter, in which I was able to use the same background image as the main web site. That really makes it stand out and ensures the visitors they are in the foundation’s account.

I feel that this project has taught me more than I have ever imagined. With some of their requests, I felt challenged, but then with a little thought and troubleshooting, I was able to help achieve their goals.

Laura’s Smile Mile is coming up fast – Saturday, June 5th to be exact, and I’m sure the pace is going to quicken even faster.

With all the assistance I’ve been giving to the other interns, I still have to do my regular maintenance and updates.

The foundation is getting great feedback on the site and it’s more than they ever dreamed of. With that said, it makes me feel all that hard work and effort has paid off, especially for such a great cause and group.

The foundation is about educating the people and bringing them together. They are well on their way to spreading the word about ovarian cancer and their events in a much more viral environment – the world wide community.


Writing for the Web

Let Go of the Words

I just finished reading a book that really shined the light on how to write for the web – Letting Go of the Words by Janice (Ginny) Redish. I know I have a tendency to write using traditional methods. The book re-enforced the idea that people don’t want to READ, but rather skim to find their answer and go. They don’t want to read a novel on their computer. Web users are usually there to find an answer to a problem or browse for something. You really need to understand the audience coming to your site – just as you would when designing the site. Do the audience analysis – gather information, characteristics, questions, stories, etc.

The book said to write your content, proofread and edit. Someone else proofread and edit, several times. Set it aside for a little while and then come back to edit it again. You should have cut your content in half, making it ready for the web. Wow, I couldn’t believe all the editing. Think topics, not books

A few things to make content more user friendly:

  • Use lists to breakup the content
    • Bulleted – Items, category of information
    • Numbered – Instructions such as cooking directions
  • Use tables – More than one category of information, show comparison or relationship
  • Keep paragraphs short
  • Make it easy to understand – Don’t have to plug full of jargon, make it easy for anyone to understand even privacy policies which are full of legalities
  • Use headings to break up text – use as questions when people come with questions
  • Use meaningful links – don’t make people think, use action phrases for action links, think ahead by matching page titles and links
  • Give the people what they want, not want you think they need
  • Use illustrations effectively

One great way she helped make things easier to understand is with before and after examples. There are examples of a page and her comments on it – let it be good, back or okay and sometimes she would show how she’d set up the page.

Ultimately Ginny said, “Think conversation.” She’s right! Most web sites today are written as if they are trying to have a conversation with you. One of the best suggestions, use “you” instead of “he or she”. Also don’t mix pronouns with “you”. Stay consistent and “talk” to the visitor.

If you need some more tips and tricks, please check out this book. It is a great reference tool.

Career Development Plans

Never Stop Learning

As I am trying to make sure I have everything together for the end of the semester so I can graduate, I am also trying to increase my knowledge base even more. First of all I plan on upgrading my diploma to an Associate Degree. It only makes sense since I am practically there anyway. If all goes well, I just might go onto to get my Bachelor’s Degree. But let’s just take one step at a time for now. I will most likely enroll in a summer class or two to help keep things moving along for my career goals. I still watch some training tutorials on to help learn new web developing coding languages and practices in order to stay current.

Next on my agenda is preparing for another wedding photography project. Recently I upgraded from my Canon Rebel 35mm camera to the Canon Rebel T1i digital camera. I am currently in-depth training on all the features and extra settings and what it is capable of. It is going great so far. An added bonus is that my lenses and external flash work perfectly with my new camera – so no having to buy all new stuff. For those who know me, they can tell you I enjoy everything creative from photography to drawing/painting to both graphic and web design.

I love learning and will never stop – to me it is a positive challenge. One that pushes me to do my best.