The Best Mirrorless Cameras for Your Small Business

Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

Explore Mirrorless Camera Options That Will Serve Your Business Well

If you've read our pros + cons list for each camera type and decided to dip your toes in the mirrorless camera waters, then this is the place for you! I'm outlining my top picks for a mirrorless camera body and lens below.  I make every attempt to avoid too much technical jargon, but if you have technical questions, ask away in the comments below!

Before we begin, note about mirrorless pricing: in general, mirrorless cameras cost more than DSLRs because the technology is newer. Engineers/designers fit in a lot of power to a much smaller space. Lower priced mirrorless cameras tend to have fewer physical features like a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) and fewer dials and knobs, such as an ISO dial. Budget cameras also have less high grade build materials and don't typically offer weather sealing. In addition to have a greater range of physical features, higher end mirrorless cameras often have deeper capabilities (such as maximum ISO and frames per second). Although still lighter than DSLRs, high end mirrorless cameras tend to be bigger and heavier than less pricey options (because they had to pack all those features in somewhere). Keep your portability preferences in mind as you buy.

Finally, the big names in mirrorless cameras roll out new models or new versions of a model every 6 to 18 months. Often, the additions in the new model will be imperceptible to most shooters. I recommend consider older models if you're looking to save money.

Without further ado, our mirrorless camera recommendations for your small business ...

MY TOP PICK

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My go-to camera and top recommendation is the Sony a6000. This camera has an APS-C sensor and a shoots up to 11 fps (it's fast!). It's also super lightweight. The body is just over half a pound. Plus, it has a built-in EVF, a pop-up flash, and a hot shoe. It only has 1080p video, though. If you're looking to do more with video for your business I recommend the newer models: the Sony a6300 or the Sony a6500, both of which offer 4k video. 

I've used the Sony a6000 extensively for almost three years. It takes fantastic product images and portraits. I've also used it for personal vacations. It's incredibly versatile.  My go-to lens for this camera is the Sony 35mm f/1.8. With the a6000 crop sensor, it offers a field of view around 52mm. It's a fantastic all-around focal length and not too heavy on the front of the camera. It also has a hardy metallic build quality to it. 

THE SMALLER CHOICE

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If minimizing size is a top priority, check out the Nikon 1 J5. This mirrorless lineup gets a bad rap because it has a 1" sensor (which means it is smaller than many other mirrorless cameras), but I loved my Nikon and I still consider it the most enjoyable camera I've ever owned. I'd call it zippy. It's lighter than any other mirrorless cameras, it's crazy fast, and it has Nikon's solid technology and image quality. I took thousands of images with my Nikon 1, and I was thrilled with the camera's output. Plus, the camera has a touch screen and menu setup that makes life easy. 

The camera with the kit lens is just under $500 and is a solid set-up. I recommend adding the Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8 lens. This lens is sharp and offers you a field of view around 46mm which is versatile for most small business photography. 

THE PRO OPTION

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If you need (or just really want) the go-to full frame professionals are trading in their DSLRs for, then check out the Sony Alpha a7II (or the Sony a7S II if you need 4k video). I owned the predecessor to these babies (the Sony a7) and I can confirm that it's as good as the hype. It has everything you get from high flying DSLRs, but in a far smaller package. The sensors used in Sony mirrorless cameras are the industry standard (and used hush hush by many other companies) because they're spectacular. Purchasing a full frame Sony mirrorless puts you at the the forefront of camera technology. 

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My absolute favorite full frame lens for the Sony Sony Alpha a7II camera is the Sony 55mm f/1.8.  The colors are rich, the focus is sharp, and the bokeh will blow you away. I also truly enjoy the Sony 28mm f/2.0. It has a more moderate price tag and is a great walk around lens. 

The Best DSLRs Cameras for Your Small Business

Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

Find the right DSLR body and lens to jumpstart your visual story

If you've read our pros + cons list for each camera type and decided a DSLR is right for you, then let's jump in and check out your best options. We'll outline below a recommended camera body and lens for each price point. As a reminder, DSLRs offer you many brand options, many price points, and room to upgrade or add to your gear.

Before I lay out options, let's talk about budget versus high end gear. Budget gear does not automatically equal lower image quality. Most often, gear is priced lower because it has fewer physical features (exposed dials and knobs), slightly lower capabilities (maximum ISO or shutter speed), and a less hardy build quality (plastic parts vs. metal parts). A fully booked wedding photographer needs extra dials, extra capabilities, and extremely durable parts throughout the camera in order to accommodate every shooting scenario he/she will face. If you're shooting product photography for your Etsy shop, though, you don't need the spend the extra cash. 

One final note: I make every attempt to avoid too much technical jargon, but if you have technical questions, ask away in the comments below!

THE BUDGET OPTION

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Budget DSLRs are a fantastic option for most photographers—particularly if you're just beginning to explore photography for your business. Entry-level or budget DSLRs will have APS-C sensors or crop sensors. You can google "sensor size" to get visuals, but the basic point is that these cameras have a bit lower light capabilities than full frame DSLRs. This makes a difference if you're doing outdoor night photography or are photographing inside dimly lit homes or venues. Otherwise, you won't notice a huge impact. 

Nikon and Canon are the powerhouse companies in the DSLR space. We recommend selecting a camera within one of those two lines. Once you commit to a brand, lenses and bodies are mostly interchangeable within that brand. You can upgrade to a higher end body, for example, and still use your existing lenses. Here's how you choose between Canon and Nikon: which one feels right in your hands? I highly recommend testing out both. 

Our personal budget DSLR preference is the Nikon D3400. This camera has a max ISO of 25,600 (which is really high), it weighs under a pound a less than its predecessor, and you get the benefits of Nikon's speed. We've always loved the way Nikon images look. Another great budget option is the Canon Rebel T6i, with capabilities very similar to the Nikon. 

Both the Nikon D3400 and the Canon Rebel T6i include the kit lens. This is a basic lens that will cover a midrange of focal lengths. They're okay lenses, but they're not great. If you buy a camera second hand, I recommend buying the body only (without any kit lens) and then looking for one the "Nifty 50" in your brand. The Nifty 50 is so name because it is an excellent focal length for a variety of photograph from landscape to portraits. You can also purchase them at a reasonable price and they are much faster and let in more light the the kit lens. 

Check out the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and the Canon 50mm f/1.8 reviews and sample images to get a better sense for them. 

THE MID-RANGE OPTION

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After your budget cameras, the prices of DSLRs jump fast. There are plenty of cameras with slightly more features than your budget camera in the $700-1000 price range. We recommend skipping these. If your entry-level DSLR isn't doing the job, it's time to think about a full frame camera to get the extra light capabilities. 

We owned and loved the Nikon D610 and recommend it whole-heartedly. This camera isn't too big (for a DSLR) and it just feels right in your hands. It has easy-to-access and customize dials and buttons, but it's not an overwhelming amount. And the images are buttery. If you don't know what that means, you will. Google "Nikon D610 images" and see for yourself. 

As far as mid-range lenses go, we recommend the Nikon 28mm f/1.8. This will give you a much wider field of view than your Nifty 50 and it will allow you to shoot in tighter spaces. 

THE LUXURY OPTION

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If you're ready to go all-in and purchase a high end DSLR, look no further than the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. The 5D Mark line is the line pros lust after and live with day in and day out. It's a beautiful beast. (Note: the Mark IV predecessors like the Mark IIand Mark III are also very very good.) An entire generation of high end professional photographers carry this camera in their work bags and wouldn't trust anything else. It's truly something spectacular. 

An out of this world body needs an out of this world lens and we recommend the Canon 85mm f/1.2 to knock the world's socks off. This will give you bokehlicious portraits all day long. Seriously, you'll want to swim in these portraits. 

How to Find the Right Camera for Your Blog or Business

Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

Explore the pros + cons for each camera type

As you get your marketing legs underneath you, you're inevitably thinking about how you can best take photos for your blog or business. Blogs and businesses take photos for a variety of reasons: product photography, styled shoots, lifestyle images, etc. Before you dive into which camera to buy, you need to figure out which type of camera to buy. Here, we dive into the pros + cons of each category.

DSLR CAMERAS

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If you're thinking about stepping up your photography game, you'll likely consider a DSLR first. DSLRs are those bigger, professional-looking cameras you likely saw your wedding or family photographer carrying around his/her neck. DSLRs became standard in the photography community in the early 2000s as digital photography grew and film photography declined. Following are reasons for and against a DSLR camera for your blogging needs.

Pros:

  • Lots of brands to choose from
  • Affordable camera options within each brand
  • Tons of well-priced lenses to choose from
  • Second-hand cameras are easily available
  • Huge knowledge base of tutorials to help you learn your camera
  • Fantastic image quality (IQ) (even in entry-level cameras!)

Cons:

  • Heavy and bulky compared to other options
  • More conspicuous; less opportunity for discreet photography
  • Often (but, not always) louder shutter sound
  • Too many features/options for some individuals
  • Other than high end options bodies and lenses, DSLRs depreciate in value quickly

The bottom line: DSLRs offer you many options, many price points, and room to grow. But if you're going to be taking this camera around town or on trips with you, consider lighter options. 

EXPLORE DSLR OPTIONS ON AMAZON →

MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

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Mirrorless cameras are sort of the new kid on the block. First popping up around 2008, they didn't seem to gain steam until 2011. These days, mirrorless cameras are all the rage as more and more professional photographers trade in their bulky DSLRs for something a little sexier. Here are some reasons a mirrorless camera may or may not be right for your business photography:

Pros:

  • Lighter than DSLRs with similar features and capabilities
  • You can find very small body/lens combinations that pack a big punch
  • Cutting edge technology
  • Camera companies are investing more heavily in mirrorless lineups
  • Mirrorless camera currently retain their value longer than other types of cameras

Cons:

  • Mirrorless bodies/lenses are more expensive than comparable DSLR options
  • Fewer mirrorless bodies to choose from
  • Fewer lenses to choose from within each brand
  • Local camera repair shops cannot repair most mirrorless issues (you must mail your camera in to a brand-approved location for repairs)

The bottom line: mirrorless camera lineups have fewer options and cost more than DSLRs, but they're rapidly growing in popularity and they have excellent resale value. If having a small form factor or the latest technology is up your alley, this is the category to consider.

EXPLORE MIRRORLESS CAMERAS ON AMAZON →

 

POINT & SHOOT CAMERAS

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When most people think of point & shoot cameras they think of the camera their parents use (and often with not very good results). And that's fair—the vast majority point & shoot consumers are individuals looking to document personal or family events. It's a mistake, though, to think that's all there is to the point & shoot market. In the era of smartphone cameras, camera companies want to give consumers a reason to buy their products. Many companies invested heavily in packing serious photography capabilities into a small camera body. 

Pros: 

  • The best combination of small form and photography capability
  • Easy to travel with; great for discreet photography 
  • You can store point & shoots in your purse or briefcase so you always have it with you 
  • The image quality (IQ) of many point & shoot cameras is far superior to that of your smartphone camera

Cons:

  • Fixed lenses; you can't change the lens to accommodate different creative or environmental needs
  • Feature-packed point & shoot cameras are pricey
  • Very few point & shoots have a view finder
  • The IQ of many point & shoot cameras (except for the most high end cameras) is less than the IQ of mirrorless cameras or DSLRs

The bottom line: If you don't need a camera with interchangeable lenses, and the ability to travel with your camera is a top priority, there are some great options to consider in the point & shoot category. 

EXPLORE POINT & SHOOT OPTIONS ON AMAZON →

SMARTPHONE CAMERAS

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When I start talking with small businesses about improving their photography, my first question is: do you have a relatively new smartphone? For many individuals, this is all you need to get started. A tiny percentage of photo quality has to do with the camera and a large percentage has to do with the photographer. If you follow a few basic rules, learn how to find and shoot in good light, and do some light editing, you'll find you can build a base of fantastic brand-worth photos with your smartphone camera.

Pros:

  • Low cost solution; you may want to invest in smartphone lenses or small studio lighting, but you don't have to shell out tons of cash 
  • You can shoot, edit, and upload everything from your smartphone and/or tablet which saves you time and the cost of computer software
  • Smartphone cameras have fantastic IQ these days; many allow shooting options like as creating panoramas or bokeh 

Cons:

  • If you need to to print large copies of your photos (larger than an 8x10) you'll want a camera with higher resolution
  • Smartphone cameras do not shoot RAW photo files so you have a smaller editing range
  • Not great in low light situations (such as concerts, dimly lit restaurants, etc.)

The bottom line: I always recommend learning some photography basics with your smartphone and then upgrading once you've clearly identified your technical and creative needs. Many small businesses find they never need more than their smartphone to create stellar visuals for their brand. 

Logo Design Basics to Get You Started

Image via Unspal

Image via Unspal

Key Principles for a Successful Project

If you've decided to create your own logo, or even if you've desired to hire a logo designer, you should know a few basic logo design principles before you embark on this project. 

I don't have formal training in logo design, but rather I've spent the better part of a decade working for and marketing both small and large organizations. Through this work, I now know the way a strong logo shapes your message and, ultimately, your business outcomes. Let's talk first about what a logo is and is not.

A LOGO SHOULD BE:

  • A visual brand identifier
  • Simple in form
  • Flexible to a variety of spaces and uses
  • Unique to your brand
  • Cognizant of your marketplace

A LOGO SHOULD NOT BE:

  • Fully representative of your brand
  • Inclusive to all potential audiences
  • Hard to read/decipher
  • Extra long or extra tall
  • Entirely abstract

BASIC RULES TO FOLLOW IN LOGO DESIGN

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In professional contexts I have heard people say, "know the rules so you know when and how to break them." What follows are simple guidelines for your first (or one of your first) logo projects, whether you are the designer or whether you're commissioning the work. Your logo does not have to meet every rule, but if you choose to deviate you should do so for a strong brand-based reason.

Your logo should use only one or two fonts. And those fonts should not be widely recognized fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Comic Sans. For font ideas we recommend Googling, on Pinteresting, "logo font inspiration." Be sure to look at all of the letters you will be using in a particular font. Your logo font will likely not be used elsewhere in your brand so you can be more bold than you would normally. Canva has an excellent rundown of modern fonts to consider for your logo. 

Limit your logo to one or two colors. Do not use a gradient in your colors. Also be sure that your design can appear on both light and dark backgrounds, or have an alt logo available for each circumstance. If you use colors (other than white, gray, or black) in your logo these should be primary colors in your brand and appear elsewhere. 

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Graphic elements should be simple with basic shapes as the anchor. Think circles, triangles, rectangles, etc. The Shorewood Studio logo uses three simple wavy lines. Nike has a single check-like shape. Target has the simple red bullet. 

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If you want to do something less elemental, still focus on simplicity. For example, pet companies might have a dog paw or a dog outline. Illustrated logos are popular right now. I heard a rule of thumb once that said you should be able to sketch an illustrated logo in 10 seconds or less. Otherwise, it's too complex. 

And, note, you don't need a graphic element in your logo. Think of Disney, FedEx, ebay, and Google. These are all companies with instantly recognizable text-only logos. 

Balance abstract or complex pieces with easy-to-read pieces. For example, Starbucks offsets the more complex siren with simple, easy-to-read block text. Squarespace pairs its squiggly lines with a simple san serif font. 

Design for your market. Within each market genre there are certain standards or expectations for vendor brands. If you're doing wedding photography, for instance, your mark should likely be more feminine and whimsical. If you're catering, you might want to infuse your logo with bold color. I recommend spending time reviewing competitor and peer logos to get a sense for trends in your market. However, don't fall into the trap of designing a logo similar to everyone else's logo. Once you know the logo trends of your market, you can find creative, brand-based ways to break from the mold.

As we said up front, these are just a few very basic rules to get you started on your logo project. But if you want to go down the rabbit hole of brand identity and logo design, we are happy to oblige. 

FURTHER READING:

I'd love to see your logo in the comments! Tell me about the rules you followed—and more importantly—which ones you broke!

How to Get a Logo for Your Blog or Business

Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

Whether you're just starting up or going through a rebranding for your blog/business, you're at the point where you're ready for a logo (or a new logo)—awesome! If you're a small blog/business, though, you probably don't have a big branding identity budget. So, how can you get a great logo for your blog or business? 

CREATE YOUR OWN LOGO 

There are entire books on creating a brand identity and logo (and we recommend a few!), but here are a few quick guidelines for creating your own logo:

  • Keep it simple. Select one font (no more than two), one or two colors, and one primary element or shape.
  • Do not use an extremely common font such as Times New Roman, Comic Sans, or Arial. 
  • Make sure your font will be flexible enough to be used in a variety of places: on your website, business cards, social media accounts, etc.
  • Ensure your logo can be on a dark or light background, or create an alt version for these scenarios.

If you're comfortable in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, by all means jump in there and design away! Assuming design isn't your area of expertise, though, I recommend a few online resources for creating your logo:

If you want to read up on branding before you dive into creating your own logo, check out these reads:

FIND A LOGO DESIGN ON ETSY

There are some truly outstanding graphic designers on Etsy. The site will allow you to compare multiple designers, read reviews from real customers, and peruse portfolios all in one spot. Or, you can find premade logos and purchase one instantly. You could spend anything from $5 for a premade logo to thousands for a full brand identity project. My recommendation is to plan on spending a couple hundred dollars so you can work with a more established designer and have rounds of revisions available to you. 

If you're considering purchasing a logo or logo design from Etsy, here a few options worth considering:

HOST A DESIGN CONTEST

There are sites now that allow you to bid out your design project to multiple designers. Several designers will then send you a preview or draft and you can select which designer to move forward with for revisions and a final product.

For a design contest we recommend 99 Designs. You can start with the smaller package for about $300 or you can spend over $1,000 for the highest quality and quantity options. 

Have you tried any of these methods? If so, share the result in the comments! We'd LOVE to see your logo. 

How to Connect Your Squarespace Site to Your Social Media Accounts

Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

Pull all of your marketing efforts together

Squarespace allows you to quickly and easily connect your website to your social media accounts. At the time of this writing, there are more than three dozen social media sites/apps built in to Squarespace. Displaying icon-based links to your social media pages is standard practice these days and it helps your customers learn more about you in the way they prefer. Some customers prefer the visual introduction of Instagram, while others like to explore the news layout of Twitter. If you're running social media pages/accounts, be sure to add them to your Squarespace website. 

A few notes up front:

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  • You should only promote social media accounts where you are actively posting content and engaging with the community. 
  • Don't add social media pages just because other websites have them. It's better to have one social media account that you leverage really well than five that are all on autopilot and lag in content quality. 
  • Be aware that the more you draw attention to your social media pages the more likely you are to divert your audience away from your website and onto your social sites (this could be good or bad depending on your goals). 

To connect your Squarespace site to your social media accounts go to Settings > Website > Connected Accounts. Here, you can select Connect Account and you'll have many built-in social properties available to choose from. 

As you're connecting to these accounts, be aware of a few things:

As you connect each account you can select whether to "show" that social icon. This means the icon will automatically be visible on some templates. It also means that if you select the social links block somewhere on your site that this link will be included. You may want to have some social media accounts connected, so you can push new content to them, but not prominent on your site. In these case you need to deselect the Show Social Icon option when you connect the account. 

Many accounts will ask you to format the content you push. Squarespace uses a shorthand:

  • %t = post title
  • %u = post URL
  • %a = post author
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You can format your push to be something like "Read %t at %u by %a!" and then it will show up on your social media page as "Read 10 Ways to Grow and Urban Garden byatyourblog.com/urbangarden by Susie Smith!" 

To hasten the process, log in on your computer to the social media account you're connecting to Squarespace before going to the Settings in Squarespace. 

When you connect Facebook to Squarespace be sure to 1) replace the Profile URL with your business page URL (your personal page is the default), and 2) select your business page as the push target

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Finally, you should know that you can customize the look and feel of your social media icons in the Squarespace Style Editor. You can also decide if you have share buttons available on your blog posts (and which share buttons are available) by going to Settings > Website > Marketing > Share Buttons. Similarly, you can allow your audience to easily hover over images and share via Pinterest by going to Settings > Website > Marketing > Pin It Buttons. 

Happy Sharing!

How to Build Your Information Architecture

Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

Organize your thoughts and name your website pages

If you're in the beginning stages of building or rebuilding your website, you know you need to identify which pages you'll have on your site. The pages you have on your site, and how they relate to each other, is your information architecture (IA). It's the skeletal structure of your site. 

LET'S RUN THROUGH A FEW IA DEFINITIONS:

  • Primary navigation: these are the set of links most visible on your site, typically located near the top of your webpage. These links will be the most heavily trafficked pages in your site, and should help tell your story. 
  • Secondary + tertiary navigation: these are a set of links that are less visible than your primary links. They are often sought-after pages, but pages that may distract from your central story or may route audiences away from the actions you hope they'll take. 
  • Family pages: in web design and development, we talk about pages in terms of family relationships. A parent page has one or more pages beneath it. For example, if you click on Women's Clothing you may have options such as Women's Shirts, Women's Pants, Women's Shoes underneath it. In this example, Women's Clothing is the parent page. The pages below it (Women's Shirts, Women's Pants, Women's Shoes) are the child pages. Women's Shirts and Women's Pants are sibling pages because they are on the same level. 
  • Call-to-action (CTA): a CTA lives within a page or set of pages and it clearly asks your audience to do something (Learn More, Sign Up, Join Us, Contact Us, etc.). CTAs are most often present in the form of a button, image banner, or distinct link. 

WHEN YOU'RE READY TO DECIDE ON YOUR IA I RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING STEPS:

Start with a free writing exercise. Either on a piece of notebook paper or in a Google Doc, write pieces of information you need to have on your site. Don't feel as if you have to organize this information just yet. If you think of something that needs to be on your website somewhere, write it down. Most websites will have dozens, if not more than 100, pieces of information.

Once you have all of the major pieces of information listed, begin to group that information. If you did this exercise in a Google Doc you can quickly cut and paste statements around on the page. There's no limit to the number of groups you can have. 

Once you're happy with your groups, review the information within each group and label it

 

When you finishing labeling groups take a look your labels and decide which items are the first pieces of information you want your audience to knowabout you and/or the primary actions you want your audience to take. Be critical here. Audiences have a short attention span. This is your beset chance to get a website visitor to know what the need to know so they'll take the action you want them to take. When you decide on the few items that you want your audience to know first, put these aside. This set will become your primary navigation. 

Identify a few of the items you thought might be in your primary navigation, but that didn't make the cut after serious consideration. These are groups of information that are important, but don't lead customers to the desired action. One such group of information is often the About or Mission & History set. This information is great information and it is typically a highly-trafficked page for small businesses (people like to know more about who they're working with), but it very rarely needs to be in your primary navigation. You may also identify a few pages that need to be prominent for legal reasons, such as your privacy policies. Once you have this set, this group will become your secondary navigation. Some companies have many less-than-primary groups of information. In some of those cases, both a secondary and a tertiary set of navigation is necessary.

Once you decide on your primary and secondary navigation, nest remaining labels underneath these items. You may nest only one level deep (creating child links for your primary and secondary navigation) or you may have several layers of navigation (creating grandchild or great-grandchild links). Nest and organize these labels in the way the makes the most sense.

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Now you have primary navigation, secondary navigation, and groups of information underneath your primary and secondary navigation. Congrats! We're not done yet, though ...

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Do you have labels remaining? This often happens when your primary or secondary labels aren't broad or general enough. Look through these labels again and see if you can re-label anything to accommodate the outstanding information groups. If not, does it make sense to add remaining labels to secondary or tertiary navigation? Finally, do you need a FAQ page? Some clients have multiple small bits of information that they need to convey to audiences, but don't make sense as a single page or group of pages. In this instance, they often find FAQ pages help them collect information for clients. 

Now that every single label or group of information lives somewhere, let's look back at those labels again. More than likely your page with information about you, your company, or your blog is named About. This works for a lot of websites because it's standard and audiences know what to expect when they click on it. For some brands, though, it makes sense to infuse more personality into the label. For example, you could call it Our Story. Instead of calling your contact for Contact Us you could label the navigation item as Get Started or Let's Chat. Your blog could become Thoughts, Recommendations, How-tos, etc. You don't need to assign every item in your navigation with something custom. As I said, audiences come to expect certain standard links. However, choosing different words or phrases for a few key areas is an excellent way to stand out and give more information about who you are. 

My final thoughts on building your IA:

  • Not every piece of the IA equals a separate page on your website. You might have Services in your primary navigation and Content Migration, Content Strategy, and Content Creation underneath that. You could create three separate child pages for each type of service. Or, you could have a single page with three headers (one for each service). Be purposeful with pages you create. You should create a separate page when you have a lot of content around one item or when you want to separate the audience from other information so they focus solely on that one thing. 
  • Fewer links is better in your primary navigation. Most sites should have between 2-5 links in the primary navigation. Each primary navigation link should serve your primary message and should include a call-to-action, directing audiences to a next step. 
  • Secondary and tertiary navigation typically lives in your site footer. Audiences know to scroll down for additional links or information. For some websites (a traditional blog layout for example), a secondary set of links in a sidebar may makes sense. 

9 Statistics Every Kick Ass Mompreneur Needs to Know

Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

Female entrepreneurs, particularly mothers, are one of the most significant influences in our market today

I sometimes think about my pre-mom professional self. And I think she would be shocked by how much more productive she becomes once she becomes a mom. After my son was born I became more focused, more purposeful, and more intentional in all of my professional endeavors. I don't have time to mess around, I've got a little guy that needs me.

As I grow in my career as mama entrepreneur, I am continually fascinated by others traveling this same, but rare, path. In fact, so fascinated that I'm working on a book about it! Stories of Mompreneurs will explore how someone jumps on the entrepreneurial ship after having a child and how they steer the ship afterwards. 

As I worked through some portions for the book this weekend, I found myself in need of a bit more inspiration, so I found some statistics and words of wisdom to keep me going. 

SOME FEMALE ENTREPRENEURSHIP STATISTICS:

  1. Women own 36% of all businesses, according to the 2012 U.S. Census ‒ a jump of 30% over 2007. (Forbes)
  2. “The only bright spot in recent years with respect to privately-held company job growth has been among women-owned firms,” according to the [2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report].  (Fortune)
  3. Women entrepreneurs in the United States rank their happiness at nearly three times that of women who are not entrepreneurs or established business owners. (Inc.)
  4. 500 women-owned businesses are started every day in the US. (Tech.Co)
  5. Women were nearly five times more likely to mention family reasons for becoming self-employed than men. A fifth of females chose to work as self-employed to help combine ‘family commitments/wanted to work at home’ and employment in a flexible manner.  (Office for National Statistics, UK)
  6. “At every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts — and the higher the level, the wider that gap grows.” (Harvard Business Review)
  7. Recent data has shown that women-led technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieving 35 percent higher return on investment.  (Tech Crunch)
  8. Women entrepreneurs start their businesses as a second or third profession. Many of them have experienced a considerable amount of dissatisfaction with their previous careers and in working for others. Often times, these innate desires to be their own boss are the driving forces that motivated them to pursue entrepreneurship. (Go 4 Funding)
  9. When defining innovation as “offering products that are new to some or all customers” in some regions — including the U.S. and developed Europe — women entrepreneurs have higher levels of innovation than their male counterparts. (Harvard Business Review)
     

SOME WORDS TO MULL OVER:

  • Option A is not available. So let’s kick the sh** out of option B." - Sheryl Sandberg
  • We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes -- understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” - Arrianna Huffington
  • My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” - Oprah Winfrey
  • “I am endlessly fascinated that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn’t.” - Dee Dee Myers
  • I just love bossy women. I could be around them all day. To me, bossy is not a pejorative term at all. It means somebody’s passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn’t mind leading.” - Amy Poehler

WANT MORE INSPIRATION? 

Check out these reads:

Change Your Squarespace Template Fonts

 Image via Unsplash.com

 Image via Unsplash.com

Why the shape of your letters shapes your message

When I started in web design I started as a a project manager—focused on getting stuff done—and I didn't focus much mental energy on the design details. Naively, I thought design included colors and images, and that words were words (a separate category). Over time I came to see the ways in which the shape, style, and quality of the letters on the screen had a magnificent impact on how I felt about the design. Sometimes, the letters were the primary design element. 

I now know that letters—your typography—add flavor to your message. They subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) influence how audiences perceive the words you form. They tell your audience about your brand's personality: how open you are, how formal you are, how masculine/feminine you are, how fun you are, etc. It's important to choose fonts for your brand that match your storyline. 

Check out the way these font pairings (header, subheader, and body copy) from Canva have a huge influence on how you feel about the message: 

SELECT YOUR BRAND FONTS

If you still need to select brand fonts, I recommend the following resources:

Once you have your brand fonts selected (or if you've had them for awhile), it's time to edit your Squarespace site to match your brand. Squarespace has a large list of built-in fonts available to you. If your fonts are not built-in to Squarespace you can search for a Google font OR connect a Typekit account to Squarespace and the sky's the limit!

CHANGE YOUR FONTS IN SQUARESPACE

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In Squarespace you should first start by changing the body copy and header font. Squarespace has three levels of headers. To change your basic fonts in Squarespace, do the following:

  1. Go to a page in your site that has body copy and all three types of headers. (If you don't have a page like this yet, create a sample or test page.)
  2. Once that page is open, go to your Squarespace menu and select Design > Style Editor. 
  3. Change your fonts one by one. Not only should you change the font, but also pay attention to the additional font customizations (font size, font weight, letter spacing, line heigh, text transform, etc.). These small adjustments make a big difference. Play around with them on a heavy text page or your test page to see what looks best for your brand.

Once you have you body copy and headers changed, you should flow font changes to small design items throughout the site, including:

  • Navigation
  • Footer
  • Buttons
  • Banner
  • Metadata
  • Captions

Consult the Squarespace help guide specific to your template for a full list of text elements available for editing.

Remember, if you don't have an element on your site yet, such as a small button, the Squarespace Style Editor won't offer you the option to customize it. If you add a small button down the line, it'll appear in the default font and colors for your template. You'll need to go back into the Style Editor to change its design.  

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Once you've selected and implemented your brand fonts on Squarespace you should not make big changes often. Your audience comes to know you, in part, via your typography and you don't want to give them whiplash by changing it up too often. But if you notice small tweaks that will improve legibility or user experience (such as line height or font weight), by all means make them!

OTHER FONT RESOURCES AND GUIDES I RECOMMEND:

Change Your Squarespace Template Colors

Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

A few tweaks give you a custom look

With Squarespace, the sky's the limit in terms of design customizations. I've seen a few highly creative Squarespace sites that look almost nothing like the Squarespace template they started as. To get something far out of the box, you'll like need to work with a Squarespace designer to help you push the envelope. But, the beauty of Squarespace is that you can get a custom look without hiring a designer. You just need to make a few tweaks so that your template matches your style or brand. 

Start by adding a logo, adjusting site colors, and changing site fonts. In this post, we'll talk about adjusting your Squarespace site colors.

YOUR BRAND COLORS

Image via Design Seeds

Image via Design Seeds

First things first, do you have brand colors? Your colors tell a story about you before you ever say a word. There are a lot of color theories out there. Here are a few great reads on brand color and storytelling:

If you don't have brand colors yet, I recommend going through the color theories first. Then exploring some inspiration.  Here are few great inspirational sources:

Once you find colors you like, you need their hex code. A hex code us a six-digit number used in HTML and CSS to signify color. It's how you will tell Squarespace which color to assign to each element. If you find a color you like, but you can't find its hex code do this: 

  1. Use the digital color meter on your Mac or download a color picker app
  2. Use an online converter to convert RBG (red, blue, green levels) to hex. You can use this converter anytime you see RGB information for a color, but no hex. 

Once you have your colors, store this information in your brand kit/guide/storyboard. You will use these colors in hundreds of ways online and you need to be consistent. 

MATCH SQUARESPACE COLORS TO YOUR BRAND

Screenshot via Squarespace Support

Screenshot via Squarespace Support

You may edit colors in Squarespace by going to Design and then Style Editor. You can change the vast majority of elements in each template within Style Editor. For information on specific elements you can edit you need to consult your template guide (for example, the Skye Style Editor tweaks). 

Some tips for getting started with Squarespace color customizations:

  • Start by opening the page on your site with the most content. Then go to Design and Style Editor. As you make changes within Style Editor you'll see those changes reflected on the open page. The more content you have on a page, the more you can understand the impact of each change.
  • Start small. Set your background color and body text colors first. These will have the largest impact on your site.
  • You should have one color and one color only that indicates a link. This color should then not be used for other elements in the site. You can, however, use it on buttons if you choose since those are styled versions of a link.
  • Use bold colors sparing. You want your site to have personality, but you don't want to look like a Jackson Pollock print (usually). Think of your bold colors more as sprinkles throughout your site. 

And some tactical tips for changing your Squarespace colors:

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  • Squarespace accepts the following color formats (although, I recommend hex codes for brand consistency): hex, RBG, HSL, and HTML.
  • You may open up an existing color and find it in RGB or HSL. That's okay! Just delete the color so the field is completely empty and enter your hex code. 
  • When you enter hex codes, always preface the six digits with the pound sign #. 
  • You want to use a slightly transparent version of one of your colors, Squarespace offers you a slider within each Style Editor element to set the opacity. 
  • You and undo and redo any changes you make up at the top of Style Editor.
  • Save, save, save. For the love of god, save your changes!

As usual, Squarespace has excellent support for your color changing tasks:

BONUS TIP! Many of the Squarespace templates (such as Bedford) do not offer the option to change the line element color. You can do this by going to Design and then Custom CSS and adding simple code. You can find suggestions for simple CSS code in the Squarespace Answers forum. 

Customize Your Squarespace Favicon and Logo

Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

Be sure your brand stands out

With Squarespace, the sky's the limit in terms of design customizations. I've seen a few highly creative Squarespace sites that look almost nothing like the Squarespace template they started as. To get something far out of the box, you'll like need to work with a Squarespace designer to help you push the envelope. But, the beauty of Squarespace is that you can get a custom look without hiring a designer. You just need to make a few tweaks so that your template matches your style or brand. 

Start by adding a logo, adjusting site colors, and changing site fonts. In this post, we'll talk about adding a logo.

ADD A LOGO  

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By default, Squarespace uses the name of your site and puts a text-based logo up in the logo spot (which varies by template, but is usually in the upper left-hand corner of the upper middle of the site). You can edit this text and font to get it looking exactly like you want. Or, you can replace the text-based site name with a graphic logo. 

If you don't have a graphic logo, and you're not ready to embark on that process, it's fine to use a text-based logo. Be sure, though, to give it pizazz. A few tips for a text-based site title:

  • Ensure the title font, size, and letter spacing makes the title easy to read.
  • You site title should be unique from all other text on the site. It should be clear that it's important, distinct text.
  • Give your title plenty of breathing room. You can adjust the spacing around your site title in the Design's Style Editor section. 

If you don't have a graphic logo, but you're ready to get one, awesome! Here are a few great ways to go about creating or commissioning a website/business logo:

  • Find a logo design via Etsy. You can see hundreds (if not more) design portfolios here and a wide range of styles and prices. Look for designers with a large portfolio of other logos that appeal to you and someone within budget. 
  • Create a logo using Squarespace's logo creator. This tool keeps things really simple, but gives you the option to add striking iconography and a tagline. 
  • Check on Canva. One of my personal favorite resources, Canva allows you to create a ton of design elements without needing Photoshop. The resource is mostly free, but I recommend upgrading to Canva for Work if you enjoy the tool so you can leverage their Brand Kit.

 If you have a graphic logo and you're happy with it, fantastic! Upload it to Squarespace! A few reminders:

  • Upload a high resolution version of your logo. Otherwise your image becomes pixelated on zoom or larger screens.
  • Upload a .png file of your logo with a transparent background. This ensures that your logo looks sleek on any design template or website background color.
  • Consider adding or creating a social sharing logo. Imagery has a huge impact on the success of social media posts.

DON'T FORGET A FAVICON!

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A favicon is the teeny tiny image that appears on the left-hand side of your browser tab. They also appear by the sites listed in your bookmarks. By default, Squarespace gives you a gray square in that spot. But, you can (and should) upload a custom favicon. A favicon allows your site visitors to quickly and easily find your site among many open tabs. Additionally, it's another opportunity to brand your site. A favicon should not be the same thing as your logo (although it may be similar).

Some favicon tips:

  • Keep it simple! This is a very small spot so fine details and color variations aren't visible. 
  • Use a shape, icon, or strong font to represent your brand.
  • Size it appropriately. It cannot be more than 100KB on Squarespace. 
  • Upload it as a .png or .ico file. (Note: some versions of the Internet Explorer browser disregard .png favicons). 

Don't have a favicon? This is a great opportunity to try out Canva! Or, again, there are fantastic designs on Etsy that would love to help you out. 

SQUARESPACE HELP

One of the best things about Squarespace (I swear they're not paying me to say this—it's just true!) is their knowledge base resources. They have thousands of articles, videos, and chat boards devoted to a myriad of topics. 

Here are a few Squarespace help guides to assist you with your website titles, logo, and favicon:

Getting Started with Squarespace

Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

Seriously, it's this easy. 

Ready to have a professional looking website? Today? Good. Let's get started.

01. GET A DOMAIN/URL

Already have a domain? Fantastic. Skip this step.

Need to find and buy your URL? Squarespace has you covered with domain search and purchase

Search for the URL or domain you're considering. Squarespace will let you know if it's available (the cost per year) and will suggest alternatives as well. 

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I have suggestions for choosing your URL elsewhere on the blog. They include keep the URL short, go with the .com ending, and research similar URLs (and purchase them if possible). 

The domains/URLs available via Squarespace will be the same as those available with other companies. If for some reason you want to purchase a URL outside of Squarespace (maybe you haven't decided on the platform yet), I recommend Google Domains

Squarespace has fantastic resources on domains:

02. CHOOSE A TEMPLATE

This is your design base. It's sort of like choosing what type of cake you want—vanilla, chocolate, or funfetti—before choosing your frosting and other toppings. 

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Some things to know and look at,

  • You're not committed to this template forever. You can change at any time (for free).
  • Choose the template that looks most similar to the look and feel you want for your site. 
  • Take advantage of Squarespace's filtering categories to narrow your choices (it can be overwhelming otherwise!).
  • Look at the template on a mobile device. (Squarespace offers a mobile preview, but I recommend interacting with the template on your personal device as well.)
  • Review the "customers using this template" section (scroll down on the template's detail page to find it). This gives you ideas on how you can customize the template to your needs/brand.
  • How much and what you can customize varies by template. If you have specific questions or details you need to know, check out the in-depth template guides by Squarespace before you select one. 
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If you're really not sure which template to start with, I recommend starting with Bedford. Just look at all the example sites—this is a versatile template! It can be used by a photographer and insurance agency. It's an incredibly flexible base. 

03. GET YOUR BASIC CONTENT IN PLACE

We'll dig into more substantial customizations in another post, but here let's just get the basics done. 

Your Squarespace editing menu is in the left-hand column of your website. This is not visible to the public, but only to you when you're signed in to Squarespace. If you toggle over the upper left-hand corner of your website you'll see the arrow option indicating you can open or close your menu. 

Get your website name and description in the right places.

Go to Design > Logo & Title

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Make sure the website or business title is correct in this space. Add a tagline, if applicable. If you have a logo already you can upload it here. Squarespace can help you create a logo if you don't have one yet. But, you don't need a logo in Squarespace. If you don't have one, the title of your website will display in text (which you can customize).

Go to Settings > Website > Basic Information

Give your website or business a short one to two sentence description. Select the appropriate website type from the drop down. Hit Save in the upper left-hand corner of the menu and then go backwards using the menu's back arrow. 

Choose the name and type of pages you will have in your website. 

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Each Squarespace template loads with demo pages in place. You can delete these by clicking on the trash can to the left of each page name. Or you can use that demo page as a starting point for your site by clicking on the gear icon to the right and selecting Create. Change the Navigation Title to the name of the page you are creating. 

You can add new pages by clicking the + button in the upper right-hand corner of your Pages menu. Give your page a name within the Page Title field. Squarespace offers you a number of starter layouts to make page building a little easier. Select a layout that works best for your page.

You can drag and drop a page to reorder it within the menu.

Change the text and photos within each page. 

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Once you have the correct pages for your site in the correct order. Click on each page one-by-one. Your Pages menu will still be on the left-hand side. The right-hand side will be sample content from the demo page or sample content from the starter layout you selected. Or, this page will be entirely blank if you chose a new page and blank layout. 

Hover on the page and a black menu bar will appear that says Page Content. Select Edit. Now you can click within the text and change it. The text options (bold, italic, left-aligned, etc.) look similar to most word editing programs. Change all visible text on the page to what you want it to say for your website. Click Save in the black menu bar near the top.

Change all photos to your photos by hovering over the photo and selecting Edit. Click Save.

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If you have at the very top of your demo page it may be a Banner image. Hover on the page and select Banner to remove or change this image.

Here are some fantastic help guides from Squarespace on editing within pages:

04. GO LIVE WITH YOUR WEBSITE

Obviously, we can get really into the weeds before we go live. We could do a lot more customizing your site, but this is just a bare bones starting guide. So, if you've got your URL, your template, and your content in place, then it's time to go live!

Go to Settings > Website > Domains

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Make sure that the Primary domain is the URL you purchased for this website or business. Squarespace also has a built-in URL that is often something like "your-site.squarespace.com." This is your behind-the-scenes URL, but you want to make sure the "yoursite.com" is marked as Primary. 

Go to Settings > General > Billing & Account > Billing > Upgrade 

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Up until now you've been working on your new Squarespace site for free. You have up to 30 days before you have to give them any credit card information. When you're ready to go live, though, you need to select a subscription plan for your website. Almost all of my clients start on the Personal Websites plan (even businesses). That basic plan limits you to 20 total pages and has a higher transaction fee for shops, but it's nearly identical to the Business Website plan. There are two additional plans for eCommerce sites—if you're selling a lot of products read the details carefully, but I usually advise going with the less expensive plan first.

Select the plan you need right now and you can upgrade at any time (if you need more pages or start selling enough products). 

Once you complete your transaction, your site is live!

Here are some Squarespace resources on billing and primary domains:

The Pros and Cons of Squarespace

Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

And why I run my business off of Squarespace

Perhaps the top question I receive from new business owners is: what should I use to build my website? Most individuals have heard of Wordpress. There are also options like Squaresapce, Wix, and Weebly. But what's the best solution for your website?

In my opinion, 95% of my clients should choose Squarespace. And the rest should go with a Wordpress site. Wordpress is a fantastic tool, but it's a platform that requires a high-level of technical knowledge to maintain and a decent set of design skills to customize. In my experience, it's expensive to hire designers and developers for Wordpress (especially for recurring maintenance). Most individuals and business owners want to focus all of their attention on their business and not on learning Wordpress, so although Wordpress may initially appear more affordable, the cost climbs quickly. That being said, some individuals and businesses need the particulars of this tool; I recommend individuals that needs a portal or password-protected community, those that utilize a complex and changing set of categories and tags, and those that want to run a multi-site network consider Wordpress. Everyone else, I steer toward Squarespace.

Squarespace is an all-in-one solution. Instead of just being the content management tool or platform, like Wordpress, it also provides the design/template, the technical maintenance and updates, the plug-ins, etc. Moreover, Squarespace now offers logo creation and domain purchasing/hosting. Everything you need to start and run a website. 

I switched to Squarespace (from Wordpress) several years ago when I was looking for the best way to display my photography portfolio. My Wordpress site was responsive (it flexed up and down based on screen size so it looked great on any device), but the gallery plug-in I had at the time was not. I found myself frustrated searching for the right combination of tools at the right price. It was then I realized that many photographers I admired were Squarespace clients. I switched shortly thereafter and I haven't looked back. 

After several years on the platform, here's my pros and cons list for Squarespace:

SQUARESPACE PROS: 

    • Provided responsive designs/templates
    • Technical support and maintenance included
    • Security monitoring and upgrades included
    • Highly customizable
    • Down time is rare
    • Fantastic help/support community
    • Continually rolling out new features
    • Unlimited space (fantastic for image-heavy sites!)
    • eCommerce options
    • Built-in SEO and analytics tools
    • Discount codes frequently available

    SQUARESPACE CONS:

    • No third party tools/apps allowed (except for HTML code blocks)
    • Annual subscription prices increased in recent years
    • Blogging tags/categories organization less robust than Wordpress
    • No media library 
    • Each site is a separate subscription (no discounts for multisites)

    Want More Blog Traffic? Solve a Problem.

    Image via Unsplash.com

    Image via Unsplash.com

    How to Give your audience what they're asking for and keep them coming back for more. 

    My son required a bit of physical therapy in his early months and, through that process, I stumbled on the CanDo Kiddo site, a blog run by a pediatric occupational therapist (OT) named Rachel. I originally came to the site in search of therapy ideas for my little dude, but I keep returning to the site because it’s an outstanding example of how to generate a lot of blog traffic around a simple idea: solve problems for your audience. 

    Let me walk you through how you can solve problems for your audiences, and generate traffic by doing so, using CanDo Kiddo as the example.

    WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 ISSUES YOUR CLIENT-BASE OR AUDIENCE FACES? 

    For most businesses and bloggers, the way you can figure this out is by identifying the three questions (or types of questions) you’re asked most often. Based on CanDo Kiddo’s site, I assume patients or audience members repeatedly asked her: 

    1. What are some ideas for playing with my baby? What are the best toys to encourage development and movement?
    2. Which baby milestones should I be looking for? How can I encourage my baby to hit physical milestones? What do I do if my baby doesn’t roll/crawl/walk “on time”?
    3. What baby gear do you recommend? Which stroller should I use? Is a rock n’ play bad for my baby’s development?

    These are questions Rachel probably heard over and over in various forms. What are you hearing? What are the top themes/categories of questions you receive?

    TAKE THESE TOP QUESTIONS AND CREATE A SERIES. 

    You have your issues or questions. Now you need to answer these questions for your audience. Although there are some topics that may just require one, long-form post, more often than not you’re going to need to create a series of posts for each issue. In order for each post to be helpful, you want to target it as tightly as possible. 

    Looking at the first issue from CanDo Kiddo—play—we see that she didn’t create one general post on “how to play with your baby.” Rather, she broke these posts down first by age range (0-4 months, 5-8 months, 9-12 months, and 12 months+) and she looks at some very specific issues within play, such as tummy time play. CanDo Kiddo includes over 60 blog posts in the Baby Play Activities category alone. 

    You don’t need to write 60 blog posts (although that’s awesome!) to have an effective series. Take that top issue or questions and think of 3-5 unique ways to approach the topic. You may want to do a different post for every tool or resource your audience could apply as a solution. Or, like Rachel, you might want to create a series based on age. Or, you can dissect various research on the topic—a different research perspective or theory for each post.

    Before you begin your series on this issue/topic, try a bit of free writing. Write down categories, top words, resources, news, etc. that pops in your mind. Don’t overthink or plan as you write, just keep journaling. Once you’ve gone on for 10 minutes or so take a break, and when you come back look for different lenses you can use to view the issue through. 

    WRITE EACH POST.

    Craft a headline that makes the topic both clear and has a “hook.” You first want your audience to understand what they’re getting when they click a link so use the primary words or phrases in your headline. You also want your audience to want to read more. Lists are one good way to achieve clicks: “Top 5 ways to ….” and the “10 Things You Didn’t Know About ....” In my personal opinion, there is a time and place for lists, but they’re also played out a bit and often don’t fit with your brand. Figure out how you can clearly identify a topic, make your audience want to read more, and do both within brand. This is not an easy task at all, but when you do find your groove you’re in a golden place. 

    At CanDo Kiddo, Rachel uses a bit of a tongue in cheek approach: “How not to break your baby: tummy time tips for newborns” and “Bad stroller habits even great parents have.” I know exactly what she’s going to talk about in each article, and I want to read more, and I am starting to get a sense for her personality. 

    Write short, concise posts. Avoid flowery language and complex words or phrases. When you must use a professional term, define it for a layperson. CanDo Kiddo keeps all of the language accessible. I recommend using the Hemingway App to check your post. It does a fantastic job of helping writers cut the extra.

    Include imagery with every post and keep your visual style consistent. All CanDo Kiddo recent posts have a visual headline—hers are squares with on-brand frames. Although you will see other images on the site, these visual headlines are the primary image for post categories within the website and for social media shares. Some blogs always use images with the exact same visual style, others use an icon to represent each post, and still others will take a more typographic approach. Whatever you choose, stick with it!


    STRUCTURE YOUR WEB CONTENT SO IT’S CLEAR THAT YOU'RE AN AUTHORITY ON THIS ISSUE.

    Once you identify your audience's’ top questions and write your posts, it’s time to structure your website and social media to reflect your authority on these topics. You can’t—and shouldn’t—be everything to everyone. That’s how businesses fail. Instead you want to let a first time visitor know your core competencies. 

    On CanDo Kiddo, Rachel has her core areas in large, colored icons on the Start Here page. Play, milestones, and baby gear are the first three of five. She concisely calls out her main topics and how you can navigate her resources. 

    Another way to demonstrate your authority on this topic is to repeatedly share the posts from this series on social media. You want to share and link to this posts often, every couple of weeks, and not just the day you post. And when you do share these posts, be sure to engage with your audience. Answer all comments/questions as quickly as possible. 

    MAKE IT CLEAR TO YOUR AUDIENCE THAT YOU HAVE MULTIPLE, HIGH-QUALITY POSTS ON THEIR TOP ISSUES.

    This is how you establish yourself as an authority figure. Once your audience knows and respects your voice on these topics, they’ll come back for more. 

    Like this type of post? Read other Success Stories

    4 Questions to Ask Before You Choose a Domain Name

    Image via Unsplash.com

    Image via Unsplash.com

    Top questions to consider when selecting your URL

    • Is your URL easy to read quickly?
    • And when someone does scan it, do they take away the correct message?
    • Can you tell someone your URL without having to write it out or spell it for them?
    • Is the URL free of acronyms or initials?

    Let me show you some reasons you should consider the above questions.

    A former client of mine originally suggested a URL similar to this one: inrealestatemgmtco.com. The intention was for the URL to read as, "Indiana Real Estate Management Company." But it took me way too long to figure out what they were going for when I first scanned the suggestion. And it seemed like it would be a bear trying to tell someone the URL. "Check me out at my website! It's I-N-Real-Estate-M-G-M-T-C-O .com!" Trust me, broadcasting a URL like that one will get old fast. I found a live website with a similar issue

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    You should also avoid a double entendre at all costs. WhoRepresents.com connects searchers to talent agents and representatives; potentially great if you're a model looking for a new agent. And they make it very clear in their logo that it is WHO Represents (with clear color and type differentiation). But... they lose control of the message when it's simply a URL: www.whorepresents.com. That could be read as an inappropriate type of website. There are many many examples online of websites that meant well, but read wrong

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    You should also seek to make telling your story as easy as possible. If audiences have trouble finding you, sharing you, or understanding you at a very basic level (your URL), they're not going to have the energy to plow through the core of your message.

    Other Considerations

    .COM, .NET, .CO 

    I recommend most of my clients select a .com address. It's the predominant ending to a URL and if someone is trying to recall your URL, it's the first they're likely to try. There are storytelling reasons why you might go with an alternative ending, but if you do, be sure you're clear on what that decision adds to your story. 

    SIMILAR NAMES

    When I chose Shorewood Studio as my company's name (and ShorewoodStudio.com as its URL), I knew that ShorewoodStuidos.com was in use elsewhere on the web. That was something I considered before moving forward. It's entirely likely that a few potential clients or readers will land on a furniture maker's website in their first attempt to get to me. I ultimately decided that the Shorewood story was important enough to keep it as is (and that people would very quickly figure out I wasn't a furniture maker). 

    LENGTH 

    Keep it short. Keep it simple. Not only because it's easier to say and write to your audiences, but also because it's quicker to people to scan in a an internet search. Plus, shorter URLs do give you a slight boost in search engine rankings and help you optimize your site. 

    What Research Tells Us About Instagram Engagement

    Image via Unsplash.com

    Image via Unsplash.com

    Editors note: This Instagram research is current as of January 2017. We will continue to update the research and resulting action points as necessary. 

    Demographics

    We know from Pew Research that,

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    • 32% of all Americans in the US use Instagram,
    • Instagram use is highest among young adults (ages 18-29), particularly in comparison to other social media platform usage rates; 60% of Americans aged 18-29 use Instagram, and
    • Women use Instagram more than men (38% versus 26%). 

    Engagements

    Pew Research found that more than half of Instagram brands and audiences log in daily to the platform and more than a third log in multiple times throughout the day. 

    AUDIENCES & ACCOUNTS

    Recent research from LocowiseQuintly, and Chartbeat indicate that Instagram users participate — or engage — with what they're seeing far more than audiences on Facebook or Twitter. 

    • Locowise measured the average engagement per post on Instagram was 2.81%; on Facebook, engagement was 0.25%; and Twitter engagement was 0.21% per post.
    • Quintly measured engagement as interactions per post divided by number of followers; they found Instagram's interaction rate was 4.8 versus Facebook's interaction rate of 0.72. 
      • 96% of audience engagement on Instagram is in the form of "liking" a photo or video and the rest of engagement is via comments or direct messages. 
    • Brands on Instagram post an average of 2.3 times per day.
    • The average Instagram account grows followers by nearly 2% each month. 
    “The Instagram algorithm favors posts that have more engagement within the first few hours of being posted. This means that you need to share highly relevant and eye-catching content.

    — Sprout Social

    CONTENT

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    • Your content needs to generate immediate engagement otherwise the Instagram algorithm will present the post later in audiences' feeds. 
    • Audiences engage more with photos on Instagram than with video. 
    • Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags receive the most engagement. 
    • Telling your audience what to do — using words such as "like" and "comment" — results in 89% more likes and 2,194% more comments. 
    • Including hashtags and questions increases engagement over posts without them, but including exclamation marks decreases engagement. 

    When to Post

    Learn More

    Image Optimization and Management

    Image via Unsplash.com

    Image via Unsplash.com

    You understand that impactful visuals on your website are a must.

    You’ve combed through old image files and carefully curated powerful, timeless images.

    You’ve lobbied to increase your photography budget.

    You’ve hired a staff photographer or conducted several recent campus photoshoots with a freelancer.

    You now have a library of campus and community images for use throughout your website.

    You, my friend, are way ahead of the pack.

    Now what?

    It’s time to get those images optimized and ready to make a splash online.

    Consider your image ratios and crop your images. Your website templates likely call for various image ratios. For example, you may have 1:1 images on faculty profiles, 16:9 images in your feature areas, and 4:3 images in body copy inset locations. One image may not work in all three areas, based on its composition. If you can, consider the type of composition you’ll need before a photoshoot. Once you have the images, immediately start cropping them for their target areas. This will prevent any last-minute problems.

    Ensure your images are the appropriate size for the web. Weighty, high-resolution files will slow down your website and cause negative experiences for your users. You want images to pop onto the page without any “waiting wheels.” Ask your photographer to provide both high-resolution and web-size photos. Photographers can export images to optimize the pixel length/height and resolution for your website.

    If you have a set of high-resolution photos already, there are many online tools that can resize your images: Kraken.io, Optimizilla.com, and Compressor.io to name just a few. Compressing an image also can mean a reduction in image quality — there’s an art to finding the balance between size and quality — try a few different options and review them on various computer screens and mobile devices.

    Sharpen images for the web. Most image-editing software allows photographers to sharpen images for the web. This technique is usually not appropriate for photography that will appear in a magazine or brochure, but it will give images an added pop on a variety of electronic devices and it's easy to do. Talk with your photographers about this option.

    Name your photos clearly and concisely. You should be able to browse a library of 1,000 photos and narrow your options down to a few based on the photo names. Instead of “DSC005689.jpg,” you want to see “PresidentMcKinley_and_students.jpg.” This is going to save you time and frustration. It also will help you collaborate with team members when you select images for your website.

    Prepare your alt tags. These are critical lines of code for accessibility, and they also are used in SEO. Additionally, some browsers allow users to hover over an image and see an alt tag. Your tags need to state what the image depicts. Missing alt tags are a common accessibility error, but they are easy to add.

    Talk to your photographer in advance about how you plan to use the images from a shoot. A little planning can go a long way to ensure that you’re spending your time and budget well.

    If you make it a habit to complete these tasks as you go, it’s a simple process. However, if you wait until you’re in the midst of a large website redesign with new photography throughout, it's quite the lift. When you’re planning content migration, it’s easy to think just of the website text, but the image migration can be time consuming. Plan in advance.

    Resources for Web Accessibility

    Image via Unsplash.com

    Image via Unsplash.com

    I'll admit: when I started working in web communications I thought of web accessibility as the wet blanket of web design and technology. It seemed as if my teams would be having a great brainstorming session over a new element or feature, and then the idea(s) would be crushed by someone saying, "but that doesn't meet accessibility requirements." Womp womp.

    I only started to realize how important web accessibility was after I watched, via user testing, individuals with disabilities attempt to navigate sites that were poorly constructed for their needs. Further, when I started researching accessibility more deeply, I was struck by how many millions of individuals may need accommodations. Bottom line: if you want your content to be consumed, you need to make it consumable. To everyone. Easily.

    Once I recognized the importance of web accessibility I changed my frame of mind and I really saw making accessible web sites as a fun challenge! How can we surprise and delight all users? 

    As I work through these challenges, I find myself utilizing a number of resources over and over. Here are my recommendations for free, easy-to-use web accessibility resources: 

    • WebAIM.org: Without a doubt, my number one most-used resource. The articles and examples throughout are fantastic. Moreover, I find myself using the Color Contrast Checker on nearly every project. Additionally, their primer on Web Accessibility for Designer is an excellent, quick link. 
    • RGBtoHex: If you're confirming color contrast, the best thing you can do is get the Hex value from the designer. On the occasions where that's not possible (or I'm impatient), I'll use my Mac color dropper to get RGB and then I'll convert to hex using this resource. 
    • Google Accessibility: No one gives out as much free content or information as Google in my opinion. Their resources for designers, developers, and communicators are unparalleled and you could dig through these for long periods of time and still not hit the bottom of the barrel. 
    • Adobe Content Corner: I find that even when people make accessible websites, they often forget about attachments and uploads — namely, PDFs. Adobe provides plenty of information about creating accessible PDFs and fixing inaccessible PDFs on their blog. 

    A Brief Review of Google Domains

    Image via Unsplash.com

    Image via Unsplash.com

    I started my internet adventures with GoDaddy as my domain host. Not really by choice, though. I purchased my original domain via Blogger and about 4-5 years ago Blogger and GoDaddy were partners. Thus, I was unknowingly a GoDaddy client. (I give this long explanation because GoDaddy advertising disgusts me and I really want to be clear I didn't know what I was doing when I became their client.)

    Anywho, as my skill level grew, I learned to manage my domain(s) and started diving into the cPanel. Because I was very much a novice, I needed a lot of support and GoDaddy support sucked. On several occasions I waited in a queue for an hour or more at a time to chat with a live support person only to be told they couldn't help me for one reason or another.

    FireShot+Capture+48+-+Google+Domains+–+Google+-+https___domains.google_#_.png

    Based on my respect for Shay Bocks and her recommendations, I switched to Bluehost.  And I was oh-so-happy. Bluehost has truly fantastic customer service and it's incredibly easy to chat with a live support person. Moreover, they have a treasure trove of support articlesavailable to search. 

    All of that being said, I recently switched to Google Domains. Why-oh-why would I switch domain services when I was perfectly happy with Bluehost? Here are a few reasons why making the switch was the right call for me:

    1. Google makes life easy. As I highlighted in my Squarespace post, I'm all about making the technical/back-end side of web communication as easy as possible. I already use Google for most of my company and personal communication and planning. It made sense to leverage the service for my domains as well.
    2. I don't need hosting anymore. Bluehost really shines as a web host and back when I was a Wordpress gal, I needed and utilized their support and services. Now that I'm with Squarespace, I just need a simple, straight-forward domain service and Bluehost is more than I need. 
    3. Pricing and billing with Google was clear. One gripe I did have with Bluehost was that the service billed me for extras I didn't realize I was receiving and didn't necessarily feel as if I needed. With Google Domains, it was $12/yearIncluding privacy registration. There were no other hidden fees or costs. Nice.
    4. I'm excited to see where this goes. Google Domains is still in beta and I like the idea of being part of the club if/when they roll out new features. I really enjoy leverage their tools and products and it sounds fun to me to be using them for domains. 

    One amazing bonus of Google Domains, that I didn't know about until after I had made the switch, is that they integrate so easily with Squarespace. Pointing my Bluehost domains to Squarespace wasn't hard, but it did take a number of steps and it'd be easy for a novice to mess up or get overwhelmed. With my URL on Google Domains, I literally clicked two buttons and Squarespace + Google worked it out for me. No set-up required. Score!

    Anyone else made the switch to Google Domains? I'd love to hear about your experiences!

    PS: here's a review I read before making the switch. And another one

    Why I Made the Switch to Squarespace (And Why You Should Too)

    Image via Unsplash.com

    Image via Unsplash.com

    When I started blogging and maintaining websites I followed a fairly predictable path: Blogger > Wordpress.com > Wordpress.org. I loved learning Wordpress! It was complex and full of possibility. There are thousands upon thousands of great resources for Wordpress users out there and I particularly loved working with Genesis themes.

    That being said, Wordpress is complex. And perhaps too full of possibility for most users. Including me. I spent far too many hours researching themes, adjustments, plug-ins, security needs, etc. After awhile I felt as if I were spending far too much time managing the technical and design aspects of my sites and not enough time speaking to my audience.

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    I heard many great things about Squarespace from other professionals and finally I decided to dip my toes in the water. I quickly became a convert! These days my site is fully migrated to Squarespace and it is my first recommendation to most clients. 

    So why am I such a Squarespace fan? 

    It's easy! Sure, as with everything there's a bit of fumbling around in the dark in the beginning, but the product is easy to learn and Squarspace provides great resources for you to get started with. Once I started my website on the platform I was floored by how quickly I could make my pages look great.

    All Squarespace templates are responsive. They'll look amazing on phones, tablets, big screen TVs, etc. With a background in user testing, I know audiences will be viewing our websites from many different devices and it can be time intensive to ensure your site looks great on all of them. Luckily, Squarespace does the work for you. Their templates are smooth and scale down or up beautifully. No more broken images or buttons when your audience checks you out on their phone.

    Squarespace templates are highly customizable. When you get started on the platform you pick a template to start with, but then you can tweak and edit and refine from there. Two websites can start with the exact same template, but end up looking wildly different. When I log onto a well done Squarespace site, I usually can't tell which template they have as a base.

    The platform is incredibly affordable. With my Wordpress site, I paid for my domain, web hosting, design templates + child themes, an image gallery plugin, a contact form plugin, and technical help along the way (which could get very expensive depending on the request). Squarespace is $12/month for their basic website plan. These days, I pay my monthly Squarespace fee + my yearly domain fee. That's it. My costs are way down as is my stress level. 

    There are a great articles and resources that compare and contrast Squarespace with Wordpress, but I usually just say this: unless you need something above and beyond what you see on most websites (something very technically unique) then you'll love Squarespace!

    I could go into plenty more detail (and I will in future posts), but for now run over to check out the platform a bit more on your own.