What’s Good about WordPress?

There are a lot of things that WordPress, the widely used content management system for blogs and websites, has going for it. Here are just a few:

1. It’s DIY. If you are tech-savy you can set up and maintain a WordPress site yourself. If you’re not so inclined, however, West Design can set up a WordPress site for you and even take care of it, if you don’t want to be bothered.

2. It’s expandable. Start small and add features as your business grows. Just selling a few products at the moment? You probably don’t need a shopping cart right now, but later…we can just plug one in to your existing site…no muss, no fuss.

3. It’s mobile responsive. It’s so easy to choose a WordPress theme that adjusts to the platform or device that is being used to view it. It will detect the device and serve up the appropriate format. Just like that!

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Color Theory 101

Color Theory 101 – or – I See the Light!

This is just a brief overview of the science of color, a complex and technical subject, but I  thought you might like to know the basics.

Color originates in light. The light that comes from the sun is “full-spectrum” white light which contains all colors (evident when you see the refraction of light displayed in a rainbow or a prism).  In the natural world there are two types of color systems: additive and subtractive. Subtractive color is the process of using pigment to color a surface—like paint or ink, or the color that an object possesses naturally, like the skin of an apple. When white light hits a surface, the material’s surface absorbs all of the spectrum of light EXCEPT for the part that corresponds with the color of the object, which is reflected back to your eye. So, in the example of a red apple, the skin of the apple absorbs all of the light spectrum except red and the red is reflected to your eye. I won’t go into what your eye does with the light—that’s another story. The primary colors of the subtractive system of color are red, yellow and blue. All other colors are derived from combinations of these three colors. The color wheel is a device artists and designers use to visualize the relationships between colors.

Color Wheel

The other color system – additive color – is based on colors that are generated by light, as in computer monitors and televisions. The primary colors of this system are red, green and blue (RGB). When combined, red and green light rays produce yellow, blue and green produce cyan, red and blue produce magenta. Red, green and blue (light) mix to create white.

Computer Monitor Color – or – That’s Not the Color My Logo Is Supposed To Be!

The color (via the additive color system) you see on your computer screen is influenced by four factors:

  1. The computer hardware/motherboard – may or may not be able to produce accurate color
  2. Graphics card/board – You may have a graphic card or video card/board installed. If so, this helps your computer to see better colors and more colors. (Note: This is built into all Macintosh computers and most multimedia PCs)
  3. The monitor – Cheap monitors deliver terrible color. You get what you pay for. If you have an old monitor or a PC monitor that cost less than $200, you probably have very little color accuracy.
  4. The web browser – Years ago, the standard color palette for web browsers was limited to only 216 colors — viewable whether you were using a PC or a Mac. To ensure that the viewer would be able to see the colors of a web page as intended, designers were limited to using this “browser-safe” palette. Nowadays, as browsers and computers have evolved and improved, this is not such a critical issue, but is still worth taking into consideraton when designing for the Web.

Differences between PCs and Macintoshes– Generally speaking, PC (Windows) monitors are darker than Mac monitors because of differences in the operating system’s gamma. “Gamma is responsible for the lightness and darkness of images. Since different operating systems are based on different standards of gamma, many of which don’t have sufficient gamma correction, color mutations occur. The most common effect can be compared to viewing an image through dark sunglasses. In addition to this, each computer will be operating within its own color space. Earthy brick tones created in one color environment may shift into cosmetic pinks in another. A corporation’s teal green logo is guaranteed to be any number of variations of blues and greens on the web.”1

Achieving consistency between what you see on your monitor and what your desktop printer produces, involves monitor color calibration and is a topic for a future post!

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1 www.colormatters.com

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Owning Your Designs

I worked with a client whose website was originally designed by another designer, who also had designed some marketing pieces for her business. Since the time the website and print materials were created, the designer had moved away and was not responding to emails or phone calls; plus, the people who were in control of access to her website were doing likewise. My client wanted to make changes to her site and her brochure but she didn’t have possession of or access to the original files.

It’s an incredibly frustrating situation to be in—knowing that the files should be your property because you paid for them, but in reality, they are out of your reach and control. This is NOT how it should be.

Here’s a list of things you should request from your designer and keep for your records:

For your website:

  • Your domain name account information—registrar’s name, account number/username and password
  • Domain name expiration date (it’s very important not to let your domain name expire!!!)
  • Your hosting company’s name, your account username and password
  • FTP access username and password
  • You may not need a copy of the site files, but you should make sure that the designer has a backup copy of the complete site. If it is a WordPress site, make sure that automatic backups are being done on the server by the hosting company. Since websites are subject to change, it’s not really necessary for you to have a copy.
  • Any original artwork that was created for your site, in its native application. You might not be able to open/view the art, but if you need it modified in the future, having the original files is advantageous.

For printed materials:

  • You can request that the designer give you the original files on CD or send them to you via email (if they’re small enough). You should know what application they were created in. You won’t be able to open the files without having the same app, but you should be able to hand them off to a new designer, if necessary.
  • If the new designer doesn’t have the app they were created in, this may be a caution flag as to your choice of designers. Any designer worth her salt will have the major design applications (i.e., Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.
  • PDFs are NOT original files! They are like a nicely baked cake—it looks good and tastes good but you no longer have the separate ingredients that went into it.

My clients are always able to request the source files and access information for any project I create for them and I will be glad to accommodate them, even if they have chosen to go with a different designer. It’s all about being a professional.

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Why Hire a Pro

Illustration of designer at desk working - hire a professional

I had a client for whom I did a website re-design a number of years ago. Since then the client had been having the site maintained by an employee, in-house, in an effort to save money. That’s all well and good, but the quality of the site had been gradually eroding—margins around content had disappeared, the page banner (and the company’s branding!) had been eliminated on many pages, large, slow-loading graphics had been used in the place of text, and so on…
Let me tell you why it is a bad idea not to hire a professional.

More and more a website is becoming the first impression a potential customer receives of a business (second only to a business card). What does it say about a company if its appearance is in disarray? It’s like the paint peeling off your building or a shabby welcome mat—not a very good first impression.

Not only that, but it devalues the money you invested in having the site professionally built in the first place. It’s like buying a new car and then hiring the kid next door to maintain it. He might be able to change the oil but he’s most likely not going to be able to work on the fuel injection system. Over time it will suffer if left in the hands of the unskilled.

So, while the neighbor or friend or employee might know enough to edit the contents of a website, s/he may not have the expertise nor the eye of a designer, a must-have to keep a website looking its best and functioning as it should. S/he probably won’t know how to optimize photos and graphics so that they load quickly and save the site visitor the annoyance of slow loading images and pages. And chances are, s/he won’t have the knowledge necessary to optimize your web pages for the best possible search engine results.

Printed marketing collateral can have the same impact on customers as your website, for better or worse. I have a client for whom I designed some business cards a few years ago—a very nice, clean design, I thought. But when she needed to have cards printed again, she didn’t come back to me to help her with the revisions needed. She just let the printer (or whoever) do the layout. The result was less than satisfactory. The text was crowded over to the very edge of the card—not a professional job in my book. But her business card is the first impression she gives to potential clients!

It’s my firm belief that “you get what you pay for.” I think it’s well worth the money to hire a professional to do the things that are so important to the image of your business and that are critical to your customer’s first impression.

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