Five Steps to Online Publishing Perfection

If you are using blogging software as part of your web site communication plan - great idea! Blog applications are an easy way to provide timely updates and information to your readers. But beware that ease-of-use does not lead to blog blunders. Here's a checklist to run down before you click "publish":

  • Spell check. Easily overlooked, spell checking is also really easy. Firefox has spell checking built in and many WYSIWYG tools also provide spell checking. Be careful; spell checking can't help all the copy on your web sight.
  • Use at least one image. Photos help illustrate a point, or at least make a page more interesting. No idea what photos to use or out of resources? Look to Flickr or Stock Xchange for images licensed through the Creative Commons.
  • Use internal links. Point the reader to more content on your site. Good for your site, good for search engines, good for the earth.
  • Right-size your photos. Posting images to blog content - good. Posting images that can be reprinted as billboards - no so much. General rule of thumb is to make sure your uploaded images are around 640x480 px at 72 dpi. Any larger and you'll be spinning the clock as people wait to download the files. If you need a handy photo resize tool, check this one out on DLINC's site. You can upload your JPG files and it will spit resized images back at you - one good for blog posting and one good for thumbnails. Give it a try. Save some bandwidth.
  • View your published post. Clicking "publish" is the second to last step - go back and actually read the page you just published. Doing so will help you spot weird text breaks, funny spacing, character freak-outs common with WYSIWYG tools, and spelling issues. Don't let your readers be the first to view your words online.

The great online publishers of the world use many other mental checkpoints to grab a reader's interest, as well as appear sticky-sweet to search engines. But perfecting these five will put you on the right path to publishing perfection.

11.29.2010. 10:00

Advertising Through a Recession

The idea that hard times present opportunities to the prepared is not new; examples of companies, even industries, who grew out of past recessions are impressive. FedEx, Microsoft, and Burger King are just a few on the list.

recession chartRecessions tend to have a 'take a long, hard look at yourself' effect on companies and spin-offs, new products, and refined brands are the result.

The discipline of advertising during a recession is a hard one for companies to stomach and occasionally those dollars get cut before the yearly office trip to Orlando. But taking a look at historical evidence, companies who view advertising as an investment (just like office trips are an investment in employee happiness) instead of an expense benefit from:

  • an expanding customer base
  • better market share as competition falls off
  • better value - advertising rates tend to fall
  • a better-defined brand name
  • expanded product opportunity

This is not an argument to 'spend money to make money', rather a comment that, as tools go, the discipline of advertising can be used very effectively to plant a company soundly during shakedowns. And better-focused advertising is even more effective. Walmart recently cut its advertising costs by over 20%, yet increased share of voice by 67% through targeted spending (1).

In addition, companies who stop advertising have to spend more to regain market share when they do restart. (Looking for appropriate citation, trust me - it's true.)

Fine, but where does the money come from?

This time around, businesses have a bit more ammo in their belt during a tight economy. Social marketing, solid web solutions, cheaper TV and radio buys, and a host of guerrilla campaign techniques mean the money doesn't have to be as much a factor. Even more interesting, the walls that separated big-budget campaigns and low-budget ones are not as high; smart small companies can go toe-to-toe with larger ones for the consumer's attention.

Summing it up: Expanding market share with a tight budget is possible with targeted advertising campaigns.

11.11.2010. 14:26

Content Management - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

When it comes to deciding on the right content management system, WordPress is the good, the bad, and the ugly of all the alternatives available to companies. It deserves special focus because for small and medium-sized businesses, WordPress is the leader in terms of sheer numbers of installs.

In the past five years, the little blog application used by individuals to publish ideas online has made an amazing transformation into a full-featured, heavily developed, and rather complicated, content management system.

Just to lay a base-line, a content management system is (usually) a database-driven set of server pages which enable users to publish media content within a site framework; CMS gets your stuff on the WWW.

WordPress always comes up as an alternative to be considered when deciding on CMS applications. Here's an experienced opinion:

It's Good:

  • It's an open-source tool that's well-supported, ubiquitous, highly extendable, and generally conforms to standards.
  • Generally speaking it is easy for admin users to contribute content and organize pages.
  • The WordPress framework allows for custom applications and other specific tools which a company may need as part of their web presence.
  • Ohhh...pretty Jquery animation.

It's Bad:

  • It's an open-source application available to everyone, including hackers who look for holes to pry open and deposit their nasties. Over the last year, hosts such as Media Temple have needed to adapt their server settings and WordPress code to close down vulnerabilities which WordPress opened.
  • There's a constant shuffle between WordPress upgrades and 3rd party developer upgrades. New version of WordPress? Easy to upgrade - but that plugin running your forum might not support the new WordPress version. Broken forum.
  • Unless set-up properly and maintained, WordPress can degrade into a slow, SEO neutral, and difficult CMS platform.

It's Ugly:

  • Since WordPress powers the entire site, resulting content pages can be messy, full of widgets only useful on certain pages, and generally not a very tuned browsing experience. There are fixes for this, which weave a trail only a web developer will understand.
  • Look at all these neat plugins for free! Look at all this extra JavaScript code and database additions they need to run! Slower page load and messy installation.
  • Need your site to do something not built in to WordPress or available through plugins? The cheap option suddenly becomes a custom-coded site based on open-source code which will need ongoing maintenance.
  • WordPress doesn't help make page content pretty; there are frequent fights between admin users and the content which they create.

3305 Hennepin Web SiteThe truth - WordPress has been presented as an option for more than a few DLINC projects. It's particularly suited for smaller real estate projects and companies who rely on a blog as part of their primary marketing drive.

Before putting a finger on WordPress, ask yourself these questions:

  • How often does my site content need to be maintained and what's the technology skill level of those doing the work?
  • Am I willing to trade off a shorter development cycle for less flexibility?
  • Am I OK with occasional costs for application maintenance and increased development costs for custom applications?
  • Am I OK owning the content (as a business asset), but not the application which powers my web site?

Alternatives - Not to lead anyone away from using WordPress, it could be the perfect option, but here are a few others which might be a stronger match to your needs:

  • Hard-coded main site with a CMS built into certain areas. This site, for instance, has hard-coded main pages, but the area you are reading right now is admin'd by a very light-weight blog.
  • More powerful CMS - Movable Type, CMS Made Simple, and Magento to name a few.
  • Full custom CMS application. Best suited for companies who have a specialized way in which they store and display information. Frameworks such as CodeIgnitor make the reality of a custom CMS cost effective and safe.

11.10.2010. 10:56

Advertising is simple

It's the message which can be hard.

The right message can grow a company, while an ineffective message is money down the drain.

The best messages are justifiable, creative, and built for results. And companies seem to inherently know when the right message is hit on; it's like fitting into a pair of comfy jeans or finally taking a personal photo you are proud of.

The right advertising message:

  • Has a 10 second and a 30 minute version
  • Is easy for every employee to remember and repeat
  • Is exciting to discuss
  • Translates the company mission, vision, goals into a memorable, distinct story
  • Lasts

And, above all, advertising should be FUN.

Comments (0) 10.27.2010. 10:01

Ads I didn't do

Along side all the print ads everyone wishes they thought of themselves sits the awkward sibling category: ads and marketing blunders which make us wonder what was going on during client meetings.

Here are a few:

If I had Bihuleproblemer, I would probably not be fixing it with a blue horn, based on this ad.

Individually these billboards are two completely passable ads, together they collide in a cultural train wreck.

Originally not intended for the U.S. market, this Absolute ad DID get noticed. By Americans. The ad was pulled when they discovered the it was created by an agency actually living in the 1850s.

If you've got worse examples of bad ads, send them over!

07.26.2010. 14:41

Design isn't about pretty pictures

Although the result hopefully contains a few. Introducing a new proverb that will stick with you after this page is gone: You'll always notice GOOD design, but you'll rarely notice GREAT design.

Darren Leet Inc. print adWhy? Great design directs the user past what they see. Whether it is an advertisement, trade show booth, CD cover, t-shirt, or automobile. Great design moves past the hard object and accomplishes the reason why the object was made in the first place.

That's why design itself should not be noticed. It is busy telling about the three (or four) distinct reasons why your product is better than a competitor's. Or perhaps it should draw a hurried viewer in and guide them to what they need to see. It might even make a user feel personally connected to a product or idea. Great design integrates purpose and presentation.

Design initiates movement.

All theory aside, when you buy design services, you should be buying results. There are many good designers. There are fewer designers who understand that if an ad or a brochure does not accomplish anything besides look good, it is just another pretty picture.

07.10.2010. 09:11

New web site launch - Offset Options

Darren Leet Incorporated is proud to announce the launch of, the public face to a company with a great new spin on the idea of voluntary carbon offsets.

Who is Offset Options?

Offset Options screen shot

(From the web site) Offset Options was founded by a team of technology experts with a great idea on how to leverage their experience and knowledge of technology for good.

Other services of like type exist, but Offset Options promises partnering corporations the magic combination of low cost, seamless integration, better choice, and transparent records

Among the industries targeted:

  • Travel and Tourism
  • Events and Entertainment
  • Logistics and Shipping
  • Consumer Goods

What Darren Leet Incorporated Provided

We took the logo design and ran with it, developing a complete corporate brand identity. First of which was the web site, coded in PHP to allow for individual language translation files. The web site illustrates how Offset Options' approach to carbon offset services is the most trusted and innovative on the market.

In addition to the web site, DLINC ponied up designs for a trade show booth, corporate ID suite, intranet templates, email newsletter, presentations and more.

06.30.2010. 14:37

The force and the bean

T-shirts might be an afterthought for some companies, but Café Imports has a different idea. Each year they issue a limited-edition shirt to Barista Guild members and the garments end up as sought-after collector's items.

Specialty Coffee Wars shirtThis year it was Café Imports against the mighty Kuerig coffee machine - making the point that specialty coffee will be here to stay. We came up with the Star Wars analogy and BAM a shirt was created based on the classic original movie posters. Isn't it true - R2D2 does look like an espresso machine and the Keurig unit is a bit Darth Vader-ish.

Anyway, the shirts are all gone, doled out to the lucky few. Sorry.

06.30.2010. 14:27

Shut your vuvuzela

Vuvuzela free zone

World cup soccer used to be just millions of rabid fans screaming. Now it's millions of rabid fans with those crazy Vuvuzela horns.

Personally I think they should hand out different tone Vuvuzelas and at least get a decent harmony going, but this life-hacker has changed the game by creating software that edits the sound out altogether from television broadcasts.

Cheers to all the developers in the world coming up with creative software solutions to life's every day problems

Jeers to all the vuvuzela-blowers in the stadium who believe that THEIR horn is not as annoying as everyone else's.

06.30.2010. 10:06

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