By Liz DeJesus, Marketing Manager

I know, Part 1 was such a nail-biter that you’ve been waiting with bated breath for part 2! (Don’t worry, if you did happen to miss it, make sure you check out Part 1.) I’m not one to disappoint so let’s get back to the good stuff!

Audience & Messaging

Before you and your design team dive into the technical elements, the color schemes, the layouts, etc., it’s your responsibility to know who your audience is and what you want them to know about your company. We recommend setting aside about 3-4 hours one day for a brainstorming session. Use this time dissect your current website, create idea boards and start thinking about your messaging priorities. Some questions you may want to consider:

  • What do competitor websites look like? How can you be different?
  • What is the first thing you want and don’t want visitors to think when they land on your homepage?
  • What are some pain points for your target audience? How can you identify those challenges and highlight your solutions?
  • Does your audience primarily use desktops or mobile devices? How do you want your website to behave on mobile devices?
  • Is your company’s service or product easy to understand? Do you often get confused with other types of businesses? (People always think we’re a bus company!)
  • How can your website and social media efforts enhance your web presence and your value to your audience?

This will help you prioritize content and navigation and will pay you back in dividends during the design process.

Show Me the Money

A good website design isn’t going to be cheap. This is a fact. That being said, there are things you can do to keep costs down and stay on budget. Make sure you understand how your design company charges. (Most charge by the hour) Make a point to periodically request breakdown of the hours you have used and the hours you have left. Your website company should be open with you about your hours and be willing to answer any questions. Empower yourself with this information so that you don’t get halfway through the process only to discover that you’ve used 90% of your hours. That spells O-V-E-R B-U-D-G-E-T.

Images and More Images

Perhaps one of the most tedious tasks associated with our web design process was sorting and organizing our thousands of images. We had images saved on just about every imaginable format – hard drives, phones, the cloud, discs, tablets, USBs and even the archaic medium known as…FILM! Nothing was organized.

You will need to have a pretty decent stash of high resolution images for your website. Sure, you can buy stock images but that’s so boring! Don’t be boring. And trust us, if you’re thinking about expanding your marketing efforts at all, you should get in the habit of meticulously organizing your company photos. It’s just a smart idea.

Copy

The holy trinity of website design might be: functionality, aesthetic and good COPY. Your copy is your voice. It is how visitors will come to know you. It is how they will finalize their impression of your company. It should be informative, yet interesting. After all, what’s the point of spending hours writing website copy if no one will actually read it?!

We decided to write our own website copy because it’s cheaper AND our old website already had a BUSLOAD [pun intended] of great copy that we were able to use as a starting point. In fact, we had so much copy that we spent a significant amount of time cutting it down.

It’s actually really difficult to start writing copy until you have an almost-ready-for-development website design. When you see the different sections and layouts, it really helps you understand how much and what type of copy you will need.

[Warning] At times, writing your own website copy can bring about feelings of insanity. We suggest surrounding yourself with funny coworkers, soft lighting, snacks and wine (after 5:00 pm, of course) throughout the process!

Hold or Fold

Like most things in life, it’s important to know when to hold and when to fold. You know your company better than anyone. Remember that. There will probably be some things that your design company thinks are irrelevant. They may suggest you scrap some copy or certain design elements. Weigh those suggestions with your own insight and respond accordingly. Sometimes you will need to let go, but sometimes you need to stick to your guns. A good design company will support your decisions.

Conclusion

No matter how amazing your website design company is, the entire process is incredibly exhausting. If you can accept this going in, you can mentally prepare yourself, your coworkers, your husband, your children, your dog….just kidding! But just because it is exhausting, doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Go into the process with a positive attitude, the right team to help you through it and an amazing website company to keep you going.

All of the hard work will pay off and you will end up with a finished product that you and your staff can be proud of. After all, owning and/or working for a small business is by its very nature a labor of love, why would designing the perfect website for your small business be any different?

by Liz DeJesus, Marketing Manager, Stewart Transportation Solutions, Inc.

As a small business, the decision to design or redesign your website is no small undertaking. It’s an extremely time-consuming process with a lot of moving parts. Once you make the decision to embark on the journey, you have no choice but to stick with it. Our redesign journey took us almost 9 months (!!!!) but we learned a lot along the way.

Selecting a Website Design Company

In order to tackle this project and see it through to completion, we knew we needed to be very strategic. We also knew we needed to hire the right design company. We started with a simple list of what we wanted in design company.

  • Culture Connection: The relationship needed to feel right. We sought a company that understood our office culture and our company values. We also wanted a company that valued open and honest dialogue.
  • Time Management: We needed a company that understood our time constraints and could keep us on track with deadlines, tasks and everything in between.
  • Vision: We needed a visionary to bring our ideas to life!
  • Expertise: We didn’t just want our website to be pretty, we wanted it to be what we needed in order to be successful. We wanted a company that valued the visual component just as much as all that technical stuff (SEO, analytics, keywords, etc.).

What we needed was Cabedge. We knew from the first meeting that they were the right fit for us. They said all the right things and the best part was, we knew they meant it. They cared about the design just as much as the functionality. They took the time to understand our company, our industry and our values.

Okay, we’ll stop gushing now, but the reality is, the company you pick to design your website is absolutely critical. You’re going to be working with them A LOT so if you don’t mesh and if you don’t feel like you can be honest, it’s not going to work. It just won’t. And if it doesn’t work out, you will have wasted your hard-earned money. No small business can afford that.

The other critical piece of the puzzle is the designer. If you’re not exactly savvy (like us) when it comes to understanding the intricacies of graphic and web design, you probably need a designer who doubles as a mind reader. For instance, your designer needs to be able to make sense of the nonsense that comes out of your mouth when you’re trying to describe some random feature you saw on a random website once upon a time. You need a designer who understands your vision and can bring it all to life.

What You Want vs. What You Need

While we do suggest that you spend a significant amount of time looking at various websites for inspiration and ideas, try to be realistic. You might think you want your website to be the combination of every cool feature you’ve ever come across, complete with all the bells and whistles, but just because it seems cutting-edge, doesn’t mean it’s what you need.

Think about your website design from the user’s perspective. To determine how we wanted our website to look and function, we found it helpful to think about the website features that drive us crazy as users. Here is our list of website pet peeves:

  • Homepage Music: You know, you’re in that library-quiet coffee shop, you click a website link and without warning some cheesy, smooth jazz starts blasting from your computer. No, thank you.
  • Hoops & Hurdles: You just want information! And you don’t want to watch a video or ad, give out your information, download an article or promise your firstborn child just to get it.
  • Mobile Unfriendly: If the user can’t navigate your website on a tablet, then you’ve missed the mark. Your website should be responsive. It should work across all platforms.
  • Squished Pages: What’s up with those websites where everything is squished in the middle of the page? We just can’t get on board with tiny font and wasted space.
  • Website or a Book? SO.MUCH.COPY. If you want to bore your website visitors to death, or worse, drive them away altogether, you should cram in as much copy as you possibly can, preferably in single-spaced paragraphs on a squished page.

All of this to say – just because it may seem like the coolest design feature in the history of website design, doesn’t mean your visitors will think so. Which leads us to the next piece of the puzzle – understanding your audience.

Stay tuned for the second part of this miniseries and we’ll fill you in on what you need to know (or at least what we think you should know) about messaging, budget and bringing your website baby to life!

by Karen Robbins, President, Stewart Transportation Solutions

Adult Adele Penguins Grouped On Iceberg

If you’ve spent some time on our website, you may have noticed a few penguins here and there. No, it’s not an accident. Penguins are a part of our company culture. In fact, there’s quite a story behind our relationship with penguins.

It all started a few years ago when I came across a company that specializes in employee recognition, Baudville. They have some really cool stuff on their website, but it was the many different teamwork pins that caught my eye. Each one had a story, but the one that stuck with me the most was the story of the Australian Fairy Penguin.

The flightless fairy penguin of Australia stands less than a foot tall and is clumsy on land where the fox is its natural enemy. Alone, one penguin wouldn’t survive for long. So after each day, in the water, they gather where the surf meets the shore waiting until the last penguin joins them. Then, shoulder to shoulder, they march up the beach to their burrows. They support each other, they rely on each other and everyone except the fox wins. We’re a stronger team because of you.

I immediately thought about our team and how hard they work. I thought about how sometimes, the things they do together as a team are so enormous (moving 10,000 people five times in one 22 hour day) and challenging (moving 9,000 people in over 200+buses to Red Rocks Amphitheater in the Rocky Mountain Foothills) and in such undesirable conditions (heat over 110 degrees; cold under -10 degrees and rain & storms that, yes, brings tornadoes and microbursts) that they are a lot like the Australian fairy penguin. Or, any penguin for that matter!

Penguins are known for their loyalty, their devotion to their clan and their ability to create friendships for life. It doesn’t hurt that they are cute and almost always, without a doubt, make people smile when they see them. That’s our team, too.

I gave out the penguin pins to our entire staff that year. I told them the story and how I thought of each of them as penguins because of their trust and loyalty and their friendships to each other, to us and our clients. I give the pins to the newbies we hire and to people we meet that want to be a part of our culture – even if just for a little while.

And for a silly reason or maybe a really great reason – it stuck. Penguins were suddenly everywhere and the team started sending videos and pictures of penguins they saw somewhere on the road or shopping on a Saturday afternoon. Penguins are on wine bottles, on coffee cups, clothes and jewelry!

The penguin became a symbol of our culture – the little bit of glue that is a fun reminder that we don’t leave anyone behind and we always help each other out. And, if that doesn’t happen for one reason or another – we call each other on it and remind ourselves that penguins stick together through thick and thin.

The penguin has come to symbolize so many things that are good, happy and right in the world for us and our team. And don’t you think that we can all use a little bit of that every day?

So, that’s the deal with the penguin!

#STSPENGUINSRULE.

Headquarters


2814 Columbine Place
Nashville, Tennessee 37204


Toll Free 888-292-6040
Seattle Office 425-502-8018
Fax 615-292-4887

sts@stewarttransportation.com