Good Web Hosting Matters

I never aspired to be a web hosting reseller.

It’s true. In fact, I never aimed to design websites for clients. My first commercial WordPress site was something my client had to twist my arm to have me do. It worked out because I had to twist her arm to let me design a logo for her.

This is what the website part of my business felt like then:

That was five years ago this summer. I have learned so much since then. It’s hard to believe how much time has passed and how quickly it has gone by. The world has changed since then. My business has changed. And believe it or not, my clients’ businesses and organizations have changed.

This is what the website part of my business feels like now:


While I didn’t really aspire to be a web designer or a hosting reseller, I have always aspired to do good work. I want the things I do for clients to provide clear value. I even want to provide long-term value. So instead of rolling on with the status quo, I’m starting to rethink the way I’m managing websites to better serve my clients.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last few months as the realities of being more or less responsible for 45+ client websites settle in:

  • Websites can be fleeting. As permanent and stable as we wish them to be, they are still temporary. And even when they are static, they are dynamic. WordPress updates are released. There are updates to themes and plugins. It takes a decent amount of work, over time, for a website to remain available — even if the owner of the site never wishes to change it. In addition to that, in fewer than five years, I’ve already seen the business cycle and organizational consolidation result in shutting down websites.
  • Websites can be fragile. This is true because website are, by nature, held out to the public Internet. And the Internet can be a very harsh environment. If the sites of giants like Amazon and Facebook stumble through occasional downtime and problems, be assured that your identity website with a desired reach no bigger than your ZIP code will take a beating. How much more sites with national aspirations? It’s not so much that sites are delicate; the hazards are just relentless.
  • Websites can be frustrating. It’s a challenge to cling the search ranking mountain. It’s hard when you need x amount of traffic and you need to convert y% of those visitors in order to keep the lights on. It’s mind-numbing to find spammy links pop up out of nowhere on your site. It’s a hassle to forget where things are and get locked out of your own site. Yes, it happens!

Websites are still worth the headache.

Despite the challenges, most businesses and organizations find their website to be a critical part of communicating their identity to the world. A site with even a modest amount of traffic can result in thousands of impressions every year. For small businesses in a local market, there usually isn’t a more efficient marketing option.

Since websites are so important to my clients, they have become important to me. Instead of slapping together one or two sites once in a while, website development has grown into a substantial percentage of my business. While it made sense at one time to have a hands-off approach to domain name and hosting, I’m now re-evaluating how I’m doing everything concerning website hosting and management. I expect I’ll be providing clients significantly more value in the area of hosting. Will it cost more? Probably. But it will be worth it.

My clients have been so good to me over the years. They are worth my best efforts and the best solutions I can offer.

I’ll post again as I solidify my plans for a better hosting configuration.

Adobe Creative Cloud 2017 Release Splash Screens Roundup

2017 Adobe Creative Cloud Splash Screens

Adobe Released a Major Update to Most Creative Cloud Apps

Adobe just released major updates for the flagship Creative Cloud apps including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and others. The apps receiving updates also received new splash screens. Super critical, right? No. But they are almost always good conversation fodder for designers! If you’re curious about the art Adobe selected for the splash screens, scroll on down. But first, let me give you some brief information on what I experienced when I updated.

My Experience Upgrading to the Latest Apps in Adobe Creative Cloud 2017

I’m using a 2015 MacBook Pro with 15″ Retina display. Here is my system information:

screenshot-macbook-pro-specs

My initial upgrade action involved clicking “Update All” in the notification within the Creative Cloud app. I noticed that the progress indicator for Photoshop froze at 84%. I found this article that instructed me on the process to fix my hung-up installation. Before I knew it, I had removed ALL my Creative Cloud applications. Scary!

Thankfully, it wasn’t painful or time-consuming to reinstall the Creative Cloud desktop app and install the new 2017 applications. And everything works so far. The installation process even preserved my saved workspace in InDesign.

And now, here are the new splash screens.

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway…) that these images are the intellectual property of Adobe and the artists who created them. They are provided here as reference and are for review only.

Adobe Photoshop 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Photoshop 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Illustrator 2015 Splash Screen

Adobe Illustrator 2015 Splash Screen


Adobe InDesign 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe InDesign 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Dreamweaver 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Dreamweaver 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Audition 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Audition 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Premiere Pro 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Premiere Pro 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe After Effects 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe After Effects 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Experience Design 2017 Intro Screen

(There is no true splash screen like the rest for xD…it just displays a start panel with a video. Here is a still.)

Adobe Experience Design 2017 Start Screen


Adobe Animate 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Animate 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe Character Animator 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe Character Animator 2017 Splash Screen


Adobe InCopy 2017 Splash Screen

Adobe InCopy 2017 Splash Screen

A Blog Post About Not Blogging Enough

I’m composing a post about how much I write for my blog. Or how much I don’t write. Yep, I’m blogging about not blogging enough. Okay, I really just got tired of seeing the latest post in the most recent slot, knowing it was old news and knowing that it wasn’t really compelling. So maybe a quick cathartic rant — laced with a little bit of empathy and encouragement — is just the ticket! Need a new blog post? Write one about not writing. That’s a very Jerry Seinfeld thing to say, is it not?

JUST DO IT! MAKE YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE!No, the irony isn’t lost on me.

So what do you do when you know you ought to blog but you can’t find the time? Well for starters, here’s some encouragement from Shia LaBeouf.

How Much Do YOU Need to Blog?

Maybe a better approach is to ask yourself, “Self, do I need to blog all that much?” The metrics on blog frequency and successful lead generation are a ridiculous burden for most small businesses to bear. I recall one article shared on the Fuel Your Photos Facebook group showing through data that  the most successful companies publish more than 16 posts per month on their blog (!). That may be realistic for several types of businesses, especially those with a business-to-consumer mode of operation and those who have someone with a full-time responsibility for marketing. However, in my experience, 16 posts would be a good year in blogging for most small business websites.

By the way, Corey Potter is an amazing wealth of insight and information concerning SEO and marketing. Check out Fuel Your Photos on their website and their Facebook group. It’s geared toward photographers, but I have found the information to be applicable to pretty much any small business.

More Is Better, Right?

Anyone with a website and a blog knows that more content, more traffic, more conversion is always better. It’s the lure of productivity. There is certainly a point at which more web traffic (and more blog posts that give a place to that traffic) is a good thing. But let’s look at a reminder from Sabrina:

More isn’t always better, Linus. Sometimes it’s just more.

But to be honest, from a SEO perspective, it’s better to have more instances of your keywords and your message occurring in the index. SEO algorithms are somewhat unintelligent in that they generally equate quantity to authority. For example, the more I blog about business friendly graphic design, the more the search engine considers me to be an authority on the subject. The organic results from Google, Bing and Yahoo would agree.

Reaching for An Excuse — and Hope

Okay, you got me. I’m not really making a case for blogging less. I’m just reaching for an excuse to justify how I could possibly be content with such an infrequent and irregular blogging frequency. Yep, that’s pretty much it.

But really some businesses do okay not blogging once a week or once every two days. But a target like once a week is a good thing. If you mess up and only do half that much, over the course of the year you’ll have 26 blog posts. And if you do a good job of staying on message while learning just a little bit about SEO, your website will have at least 26 more opportunities for people to find your content and maybe become interested in what you offer. Ah, there’s the hope.

And here’s a little real-world example of how this plays out: I was inspired to create a new post about 9:42 a.m. I said, “I wonder if I can knock this out by 10:00 a.m.?” That didn’t happen. It’s 10:24 a.m. and I’m not quite done yet. But I’m about to hit the Publish button, and I’m only about a half hour over what I aimed at. Not too shabby.

If you strain for a goal that’s beyond what you think possible, you’ll do more than if you simply don’t try.


When you’re ready to “try” but need some direction, contact us. AJ Design can help you get started with a blog, website, or ecommerce platform.

Featured Photo credit: Thom

Three More Reasons to Love Shopify for Small Retailers

We love implementing Shopify for small retailers. It was so good a few years ago that it was a slam dunk for most small-ish retail businesses that want to sell online. It’s still that, but it’s even better today. And AJ Design is a Shopify Partner with a growing base of small retail clients using the system.

Here are three quick new reasons for retailers to love Shopify even more:


1) Amazon.com Integration

Shopify is working on some seamless integrations with Amazon. Users will be able to log in with their Amazon account, and eventually Shopify merchants will be able to sell via Amazon.com. This is big. Amazon is huge, and many small retailers may not feel they have any opportunity to compete with Amazon. Shopify is taking the bull by the horns and enabling their merchants to reach that massive customer base. Don’t try to beat Amazon. Let them do what they do best, and you keep doing what you do best. And when this integration is mature, you will have the opportunity to gain sales within the Amazon market. Read about what Shopify is planning here.

2) TaxJar

Filing sales tax isn’t too tough if you don’t mind working with the month’s order data in a spreadsheet and doing some math. But that’s something not practical for everyone. TaxJar simplifies filing sales tax. You might want to look into it if sales tax is a dread for you. Learn about TaxJar in the Shopify App market.

3) USPS Shipping Integration

If you ship a lot with USPS, the new USPS integration will help you save time and money. Remember when PayPal, eBay and USPS were integrated and you could print shipping labels directly from within eBay? Yeah, it’s that cool. Read more about Shopify’s USPS integration here.


If you are looking for someone to help you establish a Shopify website or POS system — or better yet, bothcontact AJ Design. Implementing Shopify for small retailers is a joy for us, and we are excited for the growth it brings to our clients.

Designer Responds to Apple's Decision to Drop Helvetica for San Francisco in iOS 9

One Designer’s Response to Apple’s Decision to Replace Helvetica in iOS 9

I wasn’t really excited about iOS 9, but I decided to install the update anyway. There are some nice new features, really. And it is pretty cool that my iPhone now matches the ?Watch. But as soon as it was installed and I was moving in, I knew something wasn’t right. Helvetica was gone.

It took me a while to come around to Helvetica, but I’ve come to count on it. I know it’s used too often and with as little thought to typography as the elementary school teachers and healthcare professionals who use Comic Sans. But once Helvetica was the system font on iOS, it just seemed to fit. I think it worked very well, personally. I will miss it.

As a cathartic tribute to the typographic fixture that is Helvetica, now conspicuously supplanted by San Francisco on iOS 9, I submit this open letter to Apple.

Designer Responds to Apple's Decision to Drop Helvetica for San Francisco in iOS 9

A Cold Calling Epic Fail

There’s a place for unsolicited interruptions in marketing. But for most of us, including myself, that place is the dustbin of marketing history. The reasons people may cite for disregarding an unsolicited sales pitch are legion, but one reason may be that the person you are calling really doesn’t need what you’re selling. Case in point? Here’s a Facebook post from my personal account:

facebook-post-seo-cold-call

Business Friendly Graphic Design is what this website is all about, and search engine results reflect that.

In addition to that tagline, AJDesignCo.com also ranks well for more general localized searches like graphic design greenwood sc or web design abbeville sc.

If you’re going to employ cold calling without landing a cold calling epic fail, make sure your people are geared toward open-ended networking and discovering opportunities, not just rattling off a script hoping to capture someone with a pulse.

Adobe Creative Cloud 2015 Splash Screens

Looking for the December 1, 2015 Splash Screens?

I haven’t had time to post those yet. Got work to do and promises to keep.


 

Note: This is a follow-up to my post showing images of the new Adobe Creative Cloud splash screens back in 2014 when a major update was released.

New Adobe Apps, New Splash Screens

Adobe just released a major update to Creative Cloud, complete with new splash screens for many of the applications. Illustrator has some major performance enhancements for rendering. And there are tighter integrations with Adobe’s mobile apps. One notable addition is Adobe Stock, a built-in stock asset marketplace. Sadly for existing Creative Cloud subscribers, Adobe Stock is priced as a separate, add-on subscription that will add $30 to your monthly subscription this year. That’s a 40% savings, per Adobe. Who knows what the price will be next year? The pricing uncertainty is probably the only downside to Adobe Creative Cloud. But Adobe has stepped up their game and delivered a fantastic experience for creative professionals, despite the occasional pricing discomfort or uncertainty. In my opinion, the value is a good match for the price. Get the latest Creative Cloud pricing here.

Now, without further adieu, here are the 2015 splash screens. Click to view the full resolution image, then use your arrow key to advance.

Photoshop CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Photoshop CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Illustrator CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Illustrator CC 2015 Release Splash ScreenAdobe InDesign CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe InDesign CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe After Effects CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe After Effects CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Dreamweaver CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Dreamweaver CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Muse CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Muse CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Flash Professional CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Flash Professional CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Audition CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Audition CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe InCopy CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe InCopy CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Prelude CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe Prelude CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe SpeedGrade CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Adobe SpeedGrade CC 2015 Release Splash Screen

Look at your phone. Creative Cloud is there too.

The iPhone apps were sadly neglected by my 2014 splash screen post. How rude?! I can’t make up for that, but I’ll make sure to show off a few of Adobe’s mobile splash/launch screens going forward. Want to see the rest of the story? Check out Adobe’s full lineup of iPhone and iPad apps.

Adobe Brush CC Splash Screen

Adobe Brush CC Splash Screen

Adobe Shape CC Splash Screen

Adobe Shape CC Splash Screen

Adobe Color CC Splash Screen

Adobe Color CC Splash Screen

Adobe Hue CC Splash Screen

Adobe Hue CC Splash Screen

Adobe Illustrator Draw CC Splash Screen

Adobe Illustrator Draw CC Splash Screen

 

Adobe Preview CC Splash Screen

Adobe Preview CC Splash Screen

Adobe Lightroom for Mobile Splash Screen

Adobe Lightroom for Mobile Splash Screen

Adobe Photoshop Mix Splash Screen

Adobe Photoship Mix Splash Screen

Adobe Edge Inspect CC Mobile Splash Screen

Adobe Edge Inspect CC Splash Screen

Adobe Creative Cloud Mobile Splash Screen

Adobe Creative Cloud Mobile Splash Screen

Adobe Creative Cloud Tutorials Splash Screen

Adobe Creative Cloud Tutorials Splash Screen

Here are the Nerdy Details

The desktop screenshots were taken on a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. I used the built-in feature to take a partial screenshot (Cmd + Shift + 4 then hold the space bar over the desired window). The resulting images are unedited.

The mobile screenshots were taken with an iPhone 5s.

Thanks for reading! Love them? Can’t stand them? Comment below!

Too Much Work: A Good Problem to Have?

Friend: “How is business?”

Me: “I am soooooo busy! There’s a lot to get done. I’m trying to keep up.”

Friend: “That’s a good problem to have!”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that phrase, “a good problem to have,” I would have some serious coin.

A “good” problem. How is that possible? The implication is that it is better to have too much work than to constantly be running low on sales and trying to drum up business.

Well, my all-to familiar response is something on the order of, “Yeah, but it’s still a problem.” My clients who have been so kind to me in dealing with my capacity issues know this to be true. But my “good” problem is simply their problem. It’s their delay. It’s their broken promise or blown timeline.

Let’s all agree that even the good problems must be solved.

I’m tired — and I’m certain a few of my clients are tired — of this chronic good problem of operating at or beyond capacity. I know I have to say “no” more or arrange for more capacity through multiplied effort (subcontractors or employees). I’m doing both (saying “no” and lining up help), but apparently not quickly enough for some.

That’s something I deeply regret.

Keeping promises is one of the greatest strengths and most vital of my business and personal values. It is inordinately painful to see yourself as the go-to provider of business-friendly graphic design and yet live in a near constant state of trying to catch up.

This post, my first in quite a few months, is even something I’m questioning the value of doing, given the state of a few critical and overdue projects. However, I’ve decided that it’s a cathartic, therapeutic process for me to help decompress and process what I’ve allowed to happen in my business. It’s confessional and hopeful in nature.

The next few weeks and months will be very telling for me and for the treasured relationships I have with my clients. Will I be able to keep the promises I’ve made? Will I be successful in identifying like-minded and talented individuals to help carry the load? Will I be able to shut down the thought processes and decision matrices that lead me to say, “Sure, we can do that,” or, “Yeah, let’s meet and talk about that project.” Time will tell. And time won’t lie. I’ll keep promises I’ve made, as God gives me strength to do so.

But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.
Matthew 5:37 HCSB

Improve Communications with Five Less-Is-More Tips

Communication is the Lifeblood of Nearly Everything We Do

Whether your goal is to drive sales, educate or inspire, effective communication is at the heart of practically everything you do. If you must work with or through others to get something accomplished, you need effective communication. Speaking well is certainly important, but I want to share with you a few tips that can help you improve your effectiveness in written or visual communication. If you sometimes struggle to write letters, memos or other documents — even ad copy or web content — I think you will find these tips to be helpful.

1. Consider Your Audience … and Limit Your Message Accordingly

The words you may use to connect with 5th graders would be very different from those you might use to address peers in business. We would also communicate differently with entry level employees and the board of directors. A good first step toward improving your communications is to identify your audience. Once you understand clearly the audience you are trying to reach, you can omit communication that is not appropriate.

2. Use Fewer Words

Google provides the definition of brevity as follows:


brevity definition


We may have developed a bad habit of inflating our word count to meet a quota in high school. But brevity is critical for clear communication in business. Use fewer words that convey the same meaning whenever possible.

3. Use Clear Space to Bring Attention to Your Message

Before an orchestra begins, the conductor calls the musicians (and the audience) to silence. Think of words as sound and white space as visual silence. With sufficient silence, you create room for sound — your message. Margins are a simple way to add silence to your content. Another place we find clear space is within images: copy space. Many of the best magazine ads and billboards use images with copy space. Use the silence of clear space to provide a place for the message you intend to convey.

4. Use Clip Art Sparingly If at All

Clip art is rarely necessary. Not all clip art is bad, but some of it is downright awful. If you intend for your message to be light, informal and comedic, clip art may be justified. The problem is that a lot of people seem to use clip art habitually rather than intentionally. Think of the brevity principle. If your message stands alone without clip art, leave it out.

5. Know When to Call a Communications Professional

You  may not be an art director or a marketing manager, but small businesses occasionally need the services of a copy writer or a layout artist. Think about the cost associated with a mistake. How many people would be affected? If business is on the line for a print ad, a billboard, or a press release, consider enlisting the services of a trusted professional.


 

We hope these tips make your communications more effective. If you have specific questions or if your current needs are beyond what you can handle, contact us today online or by phone at (864) 554-5061.