Business owners are used to wearing a lot of hats and handling everything from the accounting to the janitorial duties around the office. There are tons of companies out there trying to capitalize on this fabulous trait shared by so many entrepreneurs. Business owners are increasingly being told they can quickly, easily, and beautifully build their own websites. And while it’s not exactly untrue, it’s untrue for many. Don’t forget from our Conference Recap: 94% of first impressions are based entirely on design, and 90% of the information people retain is visual in nature.
So how do you want to introduce yourself to your customers?
What information are potential clients going to infer and retain about your business, based on the functionality, professionalism, and the overall look of your website?
These are important questions to ask before you set out to save a few bucks and settle on a DIY website. There is no way to know how much money you might be leaving on the table from customers migrating away from your website because it didn’t feel like an extension of your business. We work with a lot of folks who have started out on their own, and whether we redesign the site from scratch or even spend just a few hours organizing and rearranging things, the site feels completely new.
Working with a professional designer should not be seen as an expense to your business, but an investment in your business.
Here’s a quick case study in the website of Inspirations Catering & Events. We’re not here to call them out, in fact, we love these folks and love their shop even more, but their previous website is a perfect example of a small business owner feeling like they MUST handle everything themselves and doing the best they could. The previous site didn’t include their logo, didn’t make use of their color palette, and some of the pages weren’t very easy to read due to dark type on a dark background or wonky spacing.
Click any photo below to enlarge it.
New Homepage (left) vs. Old Homepage (right):
We were able to take all their existing content and put it into a format that is SO much more user friendly, clean, open, organized, and professional. They are masters at what they do with food, and we’re happy their new website better represents that expertise to their customers. We still have a few new photos to swap in but it’s a huge step up!
The previous website simply didn’t represent the upscale look and feel of this business. Check out the gorgeous interior of their shop and some of their beautiful charcuterie boards from their grand opening:
*And please note those super-cute cheese-board cookies from Sugar Bee Sweets, too!
So whether you’re …
starting a completely new endeavor and need an online presence
you designed a website on your own but it doesn’t feel like the best representation of your business
you worked with another designer previously and need some help with website updates (due to lack of time or skill - makes no difference to us)
you want to switch web platforms (leave Blogger or Wix, for instance)
… we can help! We work on all kinds of websites - Wordpress, Squarespace, you name it. You keep being an expert at what you do, and WE will help you showcase it.
Over the past year, we took every opportunity to attend conferences and luncheons, hear from the best of the best, and take tons of notes with the intention of learning, growing, and of course sharing all these nuggets of wisdom. Please reach out if you would like to discuss any of these topics in more detail, or brainstorm how we can apply these ideas to your business. Here’s a recap:
SXSW Interactive Conference
March 2018 | Austin, TX | sxsw.com
It should be considered best practice to add captions to all social media videos – 85% of videos on facebook are watched without sound on.
Snapchat & Instagram are best channels to reach Gen Z.
Facebook isn’t dead – it’s like a lifelong photo album/footprint (sometimes started by someone’s parent when they were little) that is undeleteable. Kids who are on it may get on it less, but they won’t completely delete it.
It takes 12-14 different pieces of content to get one single point across.
Get the point across with micro-narratives – one tagline & one image – super shareable – no stock imagery. These are like billboards, where you have to tell a story in 6 words or less. Make them even more successful by using repeat images across the pieces.
Audiences are only reading 20% of content delivered with 600+ words.
91% of consumers prefer visual content over traditional formats.
Visual communication graphically represents information to efficiently and effectively create meaning. When necessary, limited text is used to explicate the meaning.
Objections you may hear/have to visual storytelling: That “story” is cute, but we need results; Our message isn’t that compelling; People can just check out our website; We are just going to DIY; We don’t have a budget for that; We just need something quick.
90% of the information people retain is visual in nature.
94% of first impressions are based entirely on design.
Line art/icon style is effective – combines well with photography as a backdrop; original photography – feels more sincere and real than stock imagery. Black & white adds to the urgency/mood. Use colors that resonate with your intended audience. Use ambiguous characters – avoids stereotypes and allows viewers to have a more open mind on the topic.
Motion rules – keep it around 90 seconds (first 30 seconds should make up the problem statement; next 30-45 seconds should explain why your product is the solution; final 15-30 seconds should provide a call to action for the viewer); make it original & custom!
Emerging Tech Trends Report from Future Today Institute - download here: www.bitly.com/FTITechTrends2018
Learn to distinguish between a trend and “trendy”
It is the beginning of the end for smartphones
Non-visual UI will be at least 50% by 2021
AI is not a trend, it is the next era of computing
78% of consumers will trust you/your brand if you create customized content
Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.
Step 1: know who you’re creating content for
What activities interest them?
Topics they love talking about?
What motivates them? Convenience? Quality? Affordability? Belief System?
What are their pain points/challenges?
Step 2: Let your audience inform your content
Relatability (make them go “ha – that’s so true!”)
Keep it entertaining/funny – people love content they can personally relate to. Brands often run the risk of becoming detached from their audience and presenting content that serves the brand, rather than presenting content that serves the people.
When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later.
8 Elements of Visual Storytelling
Show, don’t tell: Don’t tell your audience something if you can make them see it. Use vivid text or images.
Remember First Impressions: The human brain is programmed to make quick impressions followed by fast decisions Make the first impression one that sticks for all the best reasons.
Make it Move: This doesn’t necessarily just mean video or animation, although it can. A photograph can also be made to portray dynamic movement.
Build an Arc: Remember that a story must have exactly that – a story arc. This means having a clear beginning, middle, and end. In other words, it must take us on a journey.
Conflict: Without some form of conflict, there is no story.
Use Effective Images: These are the meat and potatoes of your visual story. Use images that complement the story well and help it to flow.
Hold their Focus: Don’t get lost in providing details, details, details. Some are important, of course, but remember to keep the intended message out in front.
Remember the Hitchcock Rule: basically states that the size of any object in your frame should be proportional to its importance to the story at that moment.
When you tell yourself you can’t do something, this is the “fallacy of uniqueness”
Go back to basics – Get the right people the right message and the right time
B2B & B2C are Dead: Now What (Evernote) Read/Listen to this session here
People are overloaded with information
64% feel “very or somewhat” stressed/overwhelmed.
We're feeling overwhelmed. The avalanche of stuff that we're expected to keep up with absolutely sucks. We surveyed our users and almost two-thirds of them say they're feeling somewhat, or very, stressed out in life.
Organization is personal
Teams are the future of work
Getting Things Done
Capture. We need to capture ideas big and small, and we need to park them somewhere. That allows you to free your mind of the obligation to carry your ideas. The notion of an idea can be the most inconsequential thing in the world or it could be game changing. You never know if you don't capture those ideas.
Clarify. Once you capture it in a trusted way, you have to go back and clarify what that was. So is that idea a project? Is it a bucket list type of thing versus something you need to act upon right away?
Organize. Organize these different things in terms of context. So you know when you should go back and find it. What is the context in which that information would be useful?
Reflect. Probably the most important, and one that people do the worst at. Spend the time to understand what matters to you in your life and really be diligent about clarifying the stuff that you're doing in your life that goes against the higher order and your 'North Star' objectives.
Engage. Take the time to determine "What should I be focused on in this moment? What is the highest and best use of my time at this point in time?"
Millennials will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025
What this notion of productivity and organization really has to do with is the rise of the millennials. The Wall Street Journal estimates that, every year, knowledge workers spend about six weeks just looking for stuff. That translates into multiple hours per day. Millennials are already the largest force in the segment in the workforce population. Forbes has estimated that by the year 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce. Why should we care about that? Because this is the group of digital natives, and they demand that every aspect of software and technology be really, really good.
Evernote staff attended many of the SXSW sessions and did what Evernote is best known for - they took notes. You can access loads of course info here: Evernote SXSW 2018 Notes
Lunch & Learn: Emotional Intelligence
August 2018 | Arlington, TX | arlingtontx.com
The definition of emotional intelligence is “the learned ability to manage emotions effectively AND interpret messages correctly.”
The 3 Cornerstones of Emotional Intelligence:
Awareness (The takeaway: Your thoughts trigger your emotions, so be careful what you think about.)
Understanding (The takeaway: Give people conversational grace and forgiveness.)
Influence (The takeaway: It doesn’t matter what you say. It only matters what they hear.)
Instead of saying “does that make sense?” ask, “What obstacles do you foresee that I haven’t considered?”
Silent expectations kill relationships!! (personal & professional)
Inspired Women Luncheon
October 2018 | Arlington, TX | arlingtontx.com
Organized by the Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce, featuring Keynote Speaker Kelli Finglass of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, who offered inspirational and humorous stories, and let us in on how she organizes her week:
Make a Dent Monday (start a project or make headway on a long-term project!)
World Class Wednesday (use this time to work on your DREAM project and make it come to fruition)
Thankful Thursday (send your thank you notes, gifts, emails of gratitude)
Finish It Friday (tie up loose ends)
Spirit & Soul Sunday
The Texas Conference for Women
November 2018 | Austin, TX | txconferenceforwomen.org
Enjoyed the morning keynote with Nina Shaw, entertainment attorney & co-founder, Time’s Up; Renata Quintini, venture capitalist and partner, Lux Capital; Marjorie Clifton, principal, Clifton Consulting, LLC; and Tyler Haney, founder & CEO, Outdoor Voices. Afternoon keynotes included Dr. Brené Brown, research professor and #1 New York Times best-selling author; and Reese Witherspoon, actor, producer, entrepreneur and advocate.
From Dr. Brené Brown, on having the hard conversation…
“Choose discomfort over resentment.”
“Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.”
“Courageous leaders are never silent about hard things.”
Re: Venture capital, men are thinking of world domination and women are thinking of survival - we have to change this (men tend to ask for more money than they need and factor in structural growth plans with it; women tend to ask for just enough to get by)
We have the unique struggle of balancing confidence & warmth… if you have confidence without warmth, you’re a “bitch” and if you have warmth without confidence you’re a “pushover.”
Breakout session: Why Simple Wins by Lisa Bodell
Emails are for information, meetings are for decisions!
Simplification Code of Conduct
I PLEDGE TO:
Eliminate redundancies & unnecessary work.
Not create false urgency.
Use clear jargon-free language when I communicate.
Keep my emails, documents, meetings, and conversations short.
Limit the amount of information I need to make a decision.
Empower others to make decisions without me.
Make information available to others (unless illegal to do so).
Say NO whenever possible.
Kill stupid rules (if you could kill or change any 2 rules at work, what would they be, and why?)
Start Simplifying… ask yourself:
If I had to eliminate 25% of what I do every day, what would I eliminate and why?
What can I start saying no to?
If a new CEO started at our company tomorrow, what processes would s/he immediately observe as the biggest time-wasters?
What zombie meetings serve no purpose and should be stopped?
Tips & Tricks:
Want less email? NNTR (include in subject line - stands for No Need to Reply)
Want more decision making? Who’s the ‘D’? (D for “decision maker”)
Want fewer zombie meetings? Change the frequency & see if you can do without.
Want more accountability? Create a “cut the crap” committee
We designed a website for BRIDGE Fort Worth a few years back and the board has been doing a stellar job operating the site independently ever since! BRIDGE is an organization for young black professionals in the Fort Worth area, focused on community involvement, education, and professional development. Green Apple Lane proudly supports diversity and inclusion and it is our hope that leadership positions in every type of organization continue to become more reflective of the communities they serve, and the population as a whole.
We were more than happy to create a site that better served BRIDGE's needs. The board wanted to have an online home for the organization to showcase event photos (with easy access to update with new photos and self-created event graphics often), promote upcoming events and professional opportunities, as well as the capability to sell memberships online, and the ability to host separate content for different membership levels, accessible by only members of that level. We were excited to jump in and find a solution to these challenges. As part of the design process, we also created some graphics to break up large text areas and to organize their information most efficiently, like the graphic shown above reflecting the difference in benefits between their two membership levels. BRIDGE has been very happy with the functionality of the site – they were able to take the reins and they've done a fantastic job ever since!
Most folks are familiar with the historic Junior League organization, one of the oldest women's clubs in the country (active since 1901)!
The 2017-2018 President of the Junior League of Arlington, April Pettitt, approached us prior to officially taking office to help develop a look for her theme for the year, "Heart is Key." We were proud to create a logo for JLA, and we love seeing it pop up continually on everything from social media graphics to members' T-shirts on the field at Dallas Cowboys stadium. These ladies are doing a ton of good in our community!
For the logo, we created a key graphic with a heart bow, and if you look closely, you'll notice the key cuts are edges of a heart, alternating between the point and the curved edge. Thanks for all you do, ladies!
Sam Houston High School is the second oldest high school in Arlington and one of the largest public high schools in the entire state of Texas, with a student body of well over 3,000. In 2013, the year of the school's 50th anniversary, a small group of alumni came together and quickly formed a full-fledged 501c3 non-profit organization. Since then, members have raised tens of thousands of dollars to support their alma mater and its recent graduates in the form of scholarships. Green Apple Lane is proud to have developed the branding for the association, as well as its website, which the current board members operate all on their own now (and they do quite a fantastic job). We still provide design services for their business cards, stationery, and social media graphics for a few of their ongoing drives and fundraising projects throughout the year, a favorite of which is the "Texans Helping Texans" program, shown below:
This organization does so much good for SHHS students, faculty, and staff, as well as the surrounding community and all of East Arlington!
The Inspired Women Luncheon is an annual event organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce Women's Alliance to celebrate women, recognize community leaders, and award college scholarships. This was our fourth year to serve on the IWL committee and also as design sponsor for the event! The growth of this luncheon has been astonishing, and for 2017, we were excited to create a logo, branding the event for years to come. Our designs for this year's IWL event included:
- Social media square graphics & Facebook page cover images
- Logo design & branding guide
- Flyer design to promote sponsorship throughout the year
- Event signage
- Event program
- Print ads in Arlington Today magazine
Below are a some select images of our work for this year's event as well as a few photos from the event itself, including the phenomenal speaker, Carrie Wilkerson, and sweet centerpieces by Sugar Bee Sweets (that's right; who needs flowers when you can have cakes, cookies, and cupcakes for centerpieces?!).
Green Apple Lane is a proud member of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and we have loved participating in this wonderful event and helping it grow from around 300 attendees four years ago to over 650 this year! Save the date for 2018 – one thing's for certain, it will be FABULOUS.
Sometimes we work with a client on a project basis for their logo, website, a specific promotion, SEO, etc., but sometimes we serve the function of a design department, a marketing consultant, and an advertising agency all rolled into one with design projects sprouting up each month or even each week – such is the case for Pantego Christian Academy! Initially, we were brought on to help PCA brand its inaugural gala event last year, the planning and promotion of which spanned nearly six months. Since then, we have worked many projects for the school, and we are excited to start promoting the second annual Exalt gala again soon! Included below are just a sampling of the many projects we've created for PCA, including:
- Social media square graphics & Facebook page cover images
- Felted pennants
- Brand/theme for the 2017-2018 school year
- On-campus photo shoot
- On-campus event invitations
- T-shirt designs for alumni, senior class, cross country team, etc.
- Postcard mailers
- Event branding, including logo design & Save-the-Date for 2018 Exalt gala
- Social media management
- Retractable banner signage, foam core signage, and hanging vinyl banners (not shown)
We love working with PCA – it is always a fun challenge to act as an in-house designer because we certainly don't want every design to look the same, but we have to differentiate each piece while generally using similar font families and incorporating the school's color palette and branding, of course. The resulting pieces are very different from our corporate work in that we get to use some really fun typefaces and bold layouts to appeal to children, teens, and families – we want PCA's promotions to be a bright, fun spot in followers' feeds – far from run-of-the-mill! Keep up with PCA on facebook, instagram, and twitter.
When Worthington Lawn Care approached us to create a logo for their new business, we were excited to jump right in! At their request, we created concepts that included leaf and tree graphics, and in the end, the leaves were especially appealing because they tie in with the branding of the owners' other companies. We love the pairing of clean, modern slab and sans-serif typefaces for a professional look in their logo, business cards, and shareable social media graphic, all shown below.
This is not our first time to work with the Worthingtons... we go way back to their first business venture, Worthington Monuments, which has recently grown to include a fifth location in Colleyville, Texas (joining Burleson, Arlington, Stephenville, and Grand Prairie). We recently created a digital email invitation graphic to promote the opening, and updated their letterhead and business cards to include all five locations. Also shown is an ad we designed for placement in an event program where Worthington Monuments was a sponsor.