Four Common Responsive Design Mistakes



  1. Starting with the full-size website.

It is so very tempting to begin website design on the full size desktop website that has not been scaled down.  The full size desktop version is where your website will look beautiful.   However, it is much more difficult to make a streamlined and easy to use small scale version that is consistent with your desired image.  Starting big will lead to you trying to cram a full size website into a small space. Instead, thoughtfully and creatively tap into the potential of the mobile experience, it will lead to a better experience on both small screens and big.


  1. Not Thinking About Touch

Consumers interact differently with mobile screens than they do on a desktop.  That may seem obvious, and yet many responsive designs are difficult to use on small screens.  The touch targets for buttons are far too small to use comfortably forcing users to zoom in the screen to actually hit it, or maybe the navigation is text heavy and difficult to follow instead of indicated with simple visual clues that don’t hog screen space.  Remember that mobile is now the norm, according to Search Engine Watch, Google’s mobile visitors surpassed desktop visitors in 2014, so the smallest version of your website needs to be perfect and easy to use.  Speaking of Google, the search engine now uses search rankings to penalize websites that have any mobile usability issues.


  1. Hiding Content on Mobile

Sites will often choose to hide content from mobile users in order to simplify the layout.  Don’t do this.  Mobile web users want full functionality and content, limiting content confuses users and often causes them leave if searching for information, or to switch devices if shopping.  Even if the user follows through and purchases, you have created a more difficult user experience and 64% of shoppers who are dissatisfied will shop somewhere else next time.  Moreover, if you are simply hiding content, mobile devices are forced to load with the slowness of a content heavy website with none of the reward, search engines can also catch the hidden content and reduce your mobile search ranking.


  1. Creating Heavy Websites

No website can afford to load slowly on any platform. A 2009 study shows that for every additional second of load time, user satisfaction declines 16% and conversions decline 7%; 40% of users will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Responsive websites must be light in order to render quickly whether the consumer is using fiber optics, broadband, or a 3G mobile connection. A slow loading website is yet another factor that will hurt your all-important search engine ranking.  One essential tactic used to lighten the load is to render image resolution depending on screen size, so a huge file does not slow image loading on a mobile screen, and a small resolution image does not look terrible on a 27 in. monitor.

Quiz Me!


Clever schoolmatesThe first goal of your company’s marketing and online presence is to create customer interaction.  You may want to make sales, get subscribers, and create email lists along the way, but that can only happen once you first convince someone to interact with you and your brand.

Interactions can be achieved through calls to action, asking your customer to go to your store, enter their email address, download your brochure, or pick up that phone.

But there are levels of calls to action, certainly entering an email address or downloading a product guide from your website are smaller demands than physical actions such as going to a store or dialing the phone.  It is often better to start with a smaller request, to ease someone in.

One online request that consumers find difficult to resist is the online quiz.  There is a reason Buzzfeed is incredibly popular, and no, it’s not because of their cutting-edge news coverage.  It’s because their many fun lists and quizzes draw you in until you are addicted.  Which Disney villain are you?  I’m Jafar.

People love being the star of their own story, so make it about them!  Quizzes don’t have to be about Disney characters – for a consultant agency try “What kind of leadership style do you have?  For a bookstore “Which Steven King protagonist are you?”  Or even “How does your manufacturing style compare?” Quizzes can be fun or informative but either way,  people are actively engaging in your site, enjoying a brand-related positive experience, receiving subtle marketing, and possibly feeding you personal information.

Don’t forget to end the quiz by asking for their email address or another stronger call to action.

Back to Basics – Tech Support



Common knowledge and universal knowledge are not the same thing.  There are many “extremely basic” quick computer shortcuts that it seems everyone knows, so basic and second nature at this point that no one talks about them.  Except that it seems almost everyone missed out on one or two.  Check out our list below of basic “computer hacks” to see if you know them all or if you are missing out on convenience!


  • You can double-click a word to highlight it in any document, e-mail or Web page.
  • You can hide all windows, revealing only what’s on the computer desktop, with one keystroke: hit the Windows key and “D” simultaneously in Windows, or press F11 on Macs (on recent Mac laptops, Command+F3; Command is the key with the cloverleaf logo). That’s great when you want examine or delete something you’ve just downloaded to the desktop, for example. Press the keystroke again to return to what you were doing.
  • You can enlarge the text on any Web page. In Windows, press Ctrl and the plus or minus keys (for bigger or smaller fonts); on the Mac, it’s the Command key and plus or minus.
  • You can also enlarge the entire Web page or document by pressing the Control key as you turn the wheel on top of your mouse. On the Mac, this enlarges the entire screen image.
  • You can tap the Space bar to scroll down on a Web page one screen. Add the Shift key to scroll back up.
  • When you’re filling in the boxes on a Web page (like City, State, Zip), you can press the Tab key to jump from box to box, rather than clicking. Add the Shift key to jump through the boxes backwards.
  • You can adjust the size and position of any window on your computer. Drag the top strip to move it; drag the lower-right corner (Mac) or any edge (Windows) to resize it.
  • Forcing the camera’s flash to go off prevents silhouetted, too-dark faces when you’re outdoors.
  • When you’re searching for something in a search engine, use quotes around phrases that must be searched together. For example, if you put quotes around “electric kettle,” Google won’t waste your time finding one set of Web pages containing the word “electric” and another set containing the word “kettle.”
  • Google will do math for you. Just type the equation, like 4*19+8/3=, and hit Enter.
  • If you can’t find some obvious command, like Delete in a photo program, try clicking using the right-side mouse button. (On the Mac, you can Control-click instead.)
  • Open the Start menu by tapping the key with the Windows logo on it.
  • To switch from one open program to the next, press Alt+Tab (Windows) or Command+Tab (Mac).
  • Putting something into the Trash or the Recycle Bin doesn’t actually delete it. You then have to *empty* the Trash or Recycle Bin.
  • You don’t have to type “http://www” into your Web browser. Just type the remainder: “”
  • On a smart phone, hit the Space bar twice at the end of a sentence. You get a period, a space, and a capitalized letter at the beginning of the next word.


Getting Started with Social Media Advertising

young french artist with mobile phone


If you are considering dipping your toe into online advertising, social media ads are the perfect place to start – they are relatively inexpensive, easy to set up, and effective.

Most social media ad platforms rely on a PPC model.  PPC means Pay Per Click, essentially, you don’t pay for to display your ad, instead you pay a certain cost every time someone clicks on your ad.  You can set up a budget for your ad, decide, for example, that you want to spend no more than ten dollars a day over the course of ten days.

But how much does every click cost?  It varies – a lot.  A click can cost anywhere from $ 0.02 up to over $2.  Different platforms have different targeting options.

For some social media networks like Facebook the cost is dependent on your targeted demographic audience.  These platforms allow you to pick characteristics of the audience you would like to be viewing the ad–it is extremely customizable.  If you want your ad to appear in front of 50 – 60 year-old women in the Chattanooga, TN region who are interested in knitting, that cost per click will be different than having your ad appear before 18-30 year-old men in the Atlanta area who are interested in sports.  Usually, the more companies competing to advertise to the same target audience, the more expensive it is. (Bonus tip: if this process seems overwhelming try using Facebook’s lookalike audience feature which allows you to target Facebook users that have profiles similar to the profiles of people who already like you Facebook page).

For platforms like Twitter that don’t have as much user information, you can target based off of search terms or hashtag uses.  You may want to advertise your new club to someone who uses the hashtag #singlelife which may or may not be more expensive than advertising your comic book store to someone who uses the hashtag #nerdsforlife.

Once you have played around with different audiences and budgets, you will be ready to create an ad!  Feel free to get creative with your own photos and slogans, but if you need professional help to design your ad or even set it up, Collective Design Works can help with that!


What’s in a word?


People hate the color brown – studies show they think it is boring, ugly, and reminiscent of dirt.  One color that people do like is mocha. They appreciate its warmth and earthiness. Even when shown the exact same color, people prefer the color labeled as mocha over the one labeled as brown.

While we all like to think of ourselves as modern, logical thinkers who are immune to the charms of marketing, the reality is that we are all heavily influenced by subconscious emotional connections. Mocha is not a word, it is an experience – the warmth and contentment of a hot and chocolaty drink on a cold morning.

Your company has a limited amount of space on its website and brochures, and only a limited amount of engagement from your reader. Instead of wasting precious seconds of interaction on overly long and detailed descriptions of products and services, use short and evocative copy that taps into their subconscious. Let your future clients make their decision to work with you based on their emotions and they will proceed with confidence rather than waffling over lists of features that may or may not matter to them.

Sooo, What Exactly is a Landing Page?


You’ve heard the term, you’ve nodded knowingly about them in conversations, but what exactly are landing pages?

A landing page is a website page meant to target a specific audience and obtain their information.  A landing page might be used as a target for people who find your website through an email campaign, an ad, or through specific targeted keywords.

Sending all traffic from many different sources to your generic home page means you are missing a powerful opportunity for your website and your business.

A landing page calls for action catered to your specified audience – it asks for contact information, provides a newsletter sign up, or whatever you want this specific type of visitor to do.  Often an interested person who lands on a website homepage instead of a landing page will get lost, explore the website a little and then leave because no direct action is requested of them once they arrive.

An effective landing page takes immediate advantage of your visitors’ interest.  It has limited navigation, making it less likely that they will move on other internal pages. It is short and to the point as not to bore them, and it offers immediate action.  It also delivers value.  With understanding of what is compelling for you audience, your landing page should provide a valuable offer in exchange for their contact information, whether that is a discount, information, or access.

Plan ahead, what call to action and offer would be effective for your audience?  Is there a strong visual element you can include that will complement the specific call to action? What title should you use that will include the most effective keywords?  Once you can answer these questions, you are ready to create your own revenue-driving landing page for your own business.


goldfish-537832_1920Attention spans are declining, supposedly the average American attention span now sits at a whopping 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. Goldfish ring in at 9 seconds.  Thus the rise of TL;DR.  Too Long; Didn’t Read.  Not even willing to write out “Too Long; Didn’t Read.”

You can either weep for the inevitable decline of society, or you can move on with the times.  Because, really, it’s not all bad news – research shows that the decline in human attention spans is simply responsive adaptation to new environments.

Furthermore, while we have definitely decreased in sustained concentration (focusing on a single task for a long time), we have improved in task switching (switching between tasks while still maintaining concentration) and selective attention (avoiding distractions).

Take a moment to evaluate your marketing content. Look at your brochures, social media posts, your flyers, your website content, blog posts, ad copy, and product descriptions.  Nothing should approach essay length.  If you do have longer copy, a person should be able to get the gist of what is going on in 15 seconds or less (at a maximum).  Break up whatever you can into small attention grabbing sections.  Be brief.  You may find yourself getting more results with less content.

Is Your Marketing Too Me-Centric?


Even if your company brochure is a masterfully crafted combination  of beautiful photographs, subtle graphics, and polished copy, it may still be ineffective at connecting to your prospective clients.  Your customers are not looking for a simple product or service, they are looking for something to fulfill their own needs.

When your copy only lists features and benefits that highlight how awesome YOU and YOUR COMPANY and YOUR PRODUCT are, you are not connecting with the consumer.  Any message that doesn’t directly target your customer’s need and offer solutions , is a waste of space.

When looking at your existing marketing copy, try to analyze it within the context of the eighty/twenty rule.  At least eighty percent of your copy should be written aimed at your consumer and be written in the second person (i.e. “you”) and no more than twenty percent should be written in the first person (i.e. “we”, “I”, “our”).  The harsh reality is that no one cares about your company except in the context of how is it helpful to them.  So, avoid the trap of selling yourself. Instead, sell consumers on their own possible lifestyle, success, and fulfillment.

6 Ways to Establish Trust as a New eCommerce Retailer


  1. Flaunt your Compliments

When customers rave about your business, flaunt it!  Posting gushing reviews on your website helps future customers feel more secure.

  1. Activate Your Social Game

Yes you have a Facebook and maybe even an Instagram account, but a post every six months is not enough.  Regular posting of new products, insider content, chatting up confused customers, are all part of the necessary social media game.

  1. FAQ

Answer questions before they are asked! Show customers that you are always one step ahead of tem and think of every possible scenario a buyer could go through.  Create a FAQ page and utilize thorough product descriptions.  Offer clear policies on shipping and returning items.  Customers who have a positive and easy return experience are actually more likely to shop with you again.

  1. Introduce Yourself

It is easier for customers to trust a business with a face, so introduce yourself and your brand.  Spotlight the people working behind the computers and you will create a sense of human connection.

  1. Connect

Make yourself available so your customers can connect with you.  Be available and responsive with email, phone, social media, and online forms.

  1. Compete

If you are willing to put your brand out there in direct competition, consider offering a comparison chart.  You can set up a comparison table breaking down what your products offer and what your competitors offer.  This shows strong confidence in your product.

Photo Retouching and Restoration


Before after 2

Our experienced graphic designers are happy to clean up, smooth blemishes, color correct, and alter backgrounds for digital photographs so your ads and print pieces look beautiful.  However, we can also do creative work to restore and retouch antique photos.

Collective Design Works will carefully scan your old or damaged photo and digitally repair wrinkles, rips, and time damage so you can have a fully restored memory.  If you prefer, you can purchase the new digital file, or we create custom sized prints for you to take home and frame immediately.

We recently completed this photo restoration of a treasured family photograph.  Now the original can be kept safely and family members can all have their own copy of the photograph as it was originally meant to be seen.

Pantone Café: Taste the Color


When nutritionist recommend eating colorful foods, this may not be what they are thinking.  From July 14th to September 9th you will be able to eat Pantone-hue colored foods at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.

Founded in 1963, Pantone became the most innovative system of coding exact color hues in the graphic design and printing world. Since then, Pantone has collaborated with makeup brands, fashion houses, technology companies, and many other industries.    Now they have moved on to their latest adventure – food.

The Pantone Café serves eclairs, ice cream, coffee, ice cream, all tinted with precise shades of pantone colors.  Don’t worry, only high-quality all natural ingredients are used to obtain these colors, the food is does not contain artificial dyes.

Check out the Pantone Café website or follow them on Instagram to get regular pictures of their colorful treats!



Best Practices of Promotional Items


Promotional items are surprisingly effective marketing tools. But, you still want the best bang for your buck.

  • The first rule of promotional items is cheaper is not always better. You have already committed to spending money, spend it well. Your goal is to have your product in use long-term to serve as a continual advertisement for your brand. A cheap product (often the cheapest pen, water bottle, or Kozie money can buy) often goes straight into the trash, sometimes it doesn’t even make it to the recipient’s home.
  • If possible, give promotional items your targeted audience will use in the environment where they will be when making decisions about your services. If you are selling lawn care, a water bottle or Frisbee could be an excellent choice.  If your business is targeting executives, you might prefer to hand out office items or golf gear.
  • Differentiate yourself! Ever been to a conference where three separate booths were handing out the exact same pens in different colors?  So have we.   Make a choice to stand out. Go with a high quality item, a clever marketing slogan, or an unusual item that will draw attention.
  • You can never go wrong with a quality re-usable bag.

The Power of Promotion

Promo Items Pic CroppedPromotional products are powerful.  They are some of the most cost-effective advertisement available, they are tangible, useful, and you can perfectly target who receives them.  But they are more than that too.

Psychologically, promotional products play directly into ages old cultural norms.  Essentially, humans rely on the idea of reciprocity, if someone gives you something, you feel a certain sense of personal responsibility to them, you owe them something.

Non-profits play off of this all of the time.  One charity reports that when it sends donation request letters, they get about an 18% response rate, when they add 8 cent personalized address labels, their response rate shoots up to 35%.  People feel guilty over using the address labels without sending something in return.

Data continuously backs up the psychology, people who use promotional products are likely to be return customers, all while their use advertises your services.

Check out these pretty impressive facts:

  • Eight in 10 consumers own between one and 10 promotional products.
  • 53% of these people use a promotional product at least once a week.
  • 81% keep products because they’re useful
  • Before receiving a promotional product, 55% of people had done business with the advertiser. After receiving a promotional product, 85% of people did business with the advertiser.
  • 59% have a more favorable impression of the advertiser after receiving a product.
  • Bags generate more impressions than any other promotional product in the U.S.
  • 48% of consumers would like to receive promotional products more often.
  • 89% of consumers can recall the advertiser of a promotional product they’d received in the last two years.
  • 91% of consumers have at least one promotional product in their kitchen and 74% have at least one in their workspace.
  • Women are more likely to have bags, writing instruments and calendars, whereas men are more likely to own shirts and caps.
  • 57% of people were able to recall the advertiser on a mug, versus 32% of radio and 28% of television.

Contact Collective Design Works at (423) 591-8656 or at to inquire about promotional products for your business.

Are QR codes still a thing?

hands-1167612_1920In 2010 you may have downloaded a QR code reader to your smart phone and determinedly read codes on mailers, coffee shop flyers, and any place you could find one. But was 2010 also the last time you bothered to scan one?

Still, QR codes are more prevalent than ever, even appearing on fast food wrappers, offering direct links to nutritional guides.   The question remains, is anyone actually using them?

Developed in 1994, QR codes began as specialty barcodes for Japanese car manufacturers.  By the early 2010’s they filtered into marketing and everyday life as an easy way to link from the real world to online – long urls, videos, even interactive games.

Today, marketers love to use QR codes, and the vast majority rank QR codes as “very effective” or “effective.” Yet a 2013 study found that only 21% of American smartphone users have EVER scanned a QR code.  So, what does this mean?  Not many people use QR codes, but there is a reason marketers love them – it is really effective for those who do use them, and the majority of marketers feel that the level of engagement is worth the effort.

The majority of those who regularly use QR codes are either tech-obsessed or young adults in the 22-35 age range. Our advice – if neither of these groups are in your primary target audience, don’t ever bother.  If they are, consider trying some simple A/B testing with your next direct mail piece – one piece with a url to a landing page, and one piece with a QR code linking to a separate landing page, and then watch your analytics to see what happens!

If you do choose to experiment with QR codes, do keep some best practices in mind:

  1. Strategically place the code so the customer can easily see it, recognize it, and have no issues scanning it. (This may seem obvious, but do NOT place it on a TV ad, or even a t-shirt where it is impossible to scan)
  2. Ensure the linked content is mobile optimized as it will only be accessed via mobile devices.
  3. Link to content specifically created for and related to the in-progress marketing campaign, not a generic landing page.
  4. Provide motivation for scanning! Do not place a QR code in a vacuum.  Instead offer a reward – a coupon code, a special recipe, an exclusive video, some form of immediate gratification.

Social Media Strategy: Does Memorial Day Really Work for your Brand?

_DSC8778 patchPublic holidays are always great fodder for your social media feed.  Brands embrace not just Christmas and Thanksgiving, but less consuming holidays like Presidents Day, Earth Day, the Superbowl, and even Talk Like a Pirate Day.  But the question you should ask yourself before hitting post is this – “Is this holiday right for my brand?”

For an example, look at the next major holiday, Memorial Day.  Should your social media feature a tribute to those who have fallen for our country?  Maybe.  While capitalizing on current events is a powerful way to participate in the greater conversation, it can also damage your brand if the message doesn’t resonate.

Embracing a more frivolous holiday is rarely going to go seriously wrong, although there may be some cognitive dissonance if your brand generally embraces conservative values and marketing strategies.  However, involving your brand in a more serious holiday like Memorial Day, or even a national tragedy, is a calculated risk.  You are pushing your brand to the frontlines of consumer angst.  This precarious position can reap you vast rewards, or create the unflattering perception that you are taking advantage of a solemn moment to promote and market your brand.

Ask yourself this “Can I create a post in relevant respectful way that stands out and may even inspire my audience to do the same?”  If the answer is a confident yes, then proceed with caution.  If the words “no” or “maybe” crossed your mind, then go ahead and sit this one out.  No one is anxiously waiting at home for your next social media post.  Wait a day and resume your normal posting to reengage your audience, you won’t be missed.

Don’t Let Your New Website Go to Waste

So, you have a new website. Or, maybe you have branched out to a new form of social media, you finally got that Instagram account.  Congratulations! A new digital footprint is an accomplishment worth celebrating. quote

Now, you need to promote it.  Creating something wonderful is not enough, you have to let people know it exists.

Start with an official email blast. Add pictures, graphics, and compelling text and send the email to every contact you have. Do not be afraid of self-promotion, you have the perfect excuse to utilize your contact list!

You can recycle that content to your existing social media channels as well, hit Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn with the same content.  For a website launch, you can actually stretch this process out over a week or more.  Drop teasers along with a countdown over the course of days until you reach “launch day” when you utilize your prepared content.

If you are willing to spend money for promotion, consider Facebook ads.  Facebook ads are less expensive than you think, some campaigns can be created on as little as $5 or $6 a day.  Because Facebook contains demographic information on all of its users, you can really target your ads to the appropriate audience.  Internet users spend approximately 4x more time on Facebook than Google, so if you are interested in dipping your toes into internet advertising, start there.

4 Characteristics of a Good Logo

logo progressionWhat your business needs in a logo may be very different than another business in a separate industry.  However, there are certain characteristics any good logo should have.

  1. Unique
    If there is a current logo trend, you do NOT want to jump on it! Your logo is the identifying mark of your business, its needs to be distinct and easily recognizable.  Another reason to buck the trends – they quickly become dated.
  2. Emotional Connection
    If you are going to invest in logo to represent your business, makes sure that it conveys a clear message about your brand.  A bland, indistinct logo is not adding to the value of your business.
  3. Useable in Black and White
    Don’t forget about practicality in logo design.  There will be a time when your logo is represented in black and white.  It is necessary to ensure that your logo still looks good and is still easily identifiable as your brand even when represented without color.
  4. Scalable in Size
    Your new logo may go anywhere, so it needs to look good at any size.  Will it still look great if it is shrunk down in size, tiny, in the corner of a website displayed on a small smart phone? That is particularly important, because mobile website viewing is how most people will see your logo and branding for the first time. How will it look on a billboard?

At the end of the day a logo can be as simple, complex, funky, or professional as you make it.  It’s good to keep these guidelines in mind but the most important requirement is that your logo needs to represent your business’ personality and values.

The New Facebook Reactions, One Week In

ReactionsToday is the one week anniversary of the widespread release of the new Facebook “Reactions. ” For years, Facebook has been struggling with its “Like” function.   No one wants to “Like” a fashion disaster or news of a breakup.  And yet the “Like” feature has been so essential to Facebook that the icon is perhaps more recognizable than the logo itself.

Announced last year and released last Wednesday, Facebook’s solution is “Reactions.” If you hover your cursor over the “like” icon, six choices now appear.  You can now respond to a post with “Like,” “Love,” “Haha,” “Wow,” “Sad,” and “Angry.” Users seem to be slowly but steadily adopting the new “Reactions” format and in general the response is positive.

However, if you manage a business Facebook page,  this could be a game changer in how you curate your page content.  You are quickly gathering new information on how people interact with each of your posts.  Over the next few months you will be learning what kind of posts inspire which reactions, an incredibly useful tool from a marketing perspective. You can even use it for competitor research.

One thing you may not have realized is that this will affect how Facebook algorithms curate newsfeeds.   Facebook has traditionally been more likely to show you a post that has more “Likes.”  For now, “Reactions” are being clumped together and treated as “likes” in order to determine what is an engaging post for newsfeed reach, but this will not always be the case.  Facebook is monitoring the current “Reactions” data and will be using it to create entirely new newsfeed algorithms.  In the future it may be harder to understand why or why not a Facebook spreads a post.  Will we mainly be served positive content because Facebook wants us to be happy and think of Facebook as a positive experience? Or will Facebook be more likely to serve us “angry” content because fear-based advertising works and they want us to stay actively engaged for longer? We don’t yet know, but it will be interesting to find out.

IT Quick Fix: Never Leave an Important Document at Home Again

cloud computingAn unexpected pitch is a great opportunity for your small business! Until, you realize that you don’t have that important document with you. It’s neither printed nor saved on your laptop.

In an ideal world you would have saved all important documents on a cloud based backup like Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud so everything can be accessed anywhere at any time.  But in a realistic world, the document you need is probably in the one folder you never got around to backing up.

It’s okay, you are prepared.  Because you have followed our IT experts’ advice and have previously installed and set-up TeamViewer on your computer.  TeamViewer is remote access software that is free for personal use.  Meaning you can log into and control your home or business computer from another device.  As your business’ needs get bigger you may choose to work with Collective Design Works to set-up your own network and set-up company-wide software.  But for your own personal use or your small business with just a couple of employees, the TeamViewer personal use remote access software is an effective tool available at no cost to you.

Locally Printing Your Online Wedding Invitation

IMG_5172While our graphic design team here at Collective Design Works is happy to create a completely custom wedding invitation set, we know many of you have already fallen in love with one of the thousands of stunning online invitation design available in online stores like Etsy.  We are delighted you have found the perfect invitation for your wedding!

Often the most cost effective option is to purchase the design from the online store and have the invitation printed locally, completely circumventing shipping costs.  Not only is this option cost efficient, but it also allows you the opportunity carefully select the perfect paper and to review and approve a printed proof in person.

Contact Collective Design Works for personal assistance with your wedding or special event invitation. Call (423) 591-8656.

What exactly is Responsive Web Design?  And do you need it?

Responsive design is the new standard for modern website design.  And yes, you need it.

Okay, so there is a little bit more to it than that.  Any modern website will be accessible from cell phones, tablets, laptops, and huge desktops screens.  It is impossible to create a static, unchanging website that will look great and be easy to use on every single type of screen.  For a while, designers were often developing two separate websites, a full desktop version, and a stripped down mobile version. However, this was not a perfect solution. There are wide variety of screen sizes and dimensions, what looks good on the smallest smart phone, will not look good on a tablet, and with the vast array of devices on the market, it is impossible to create a set design for every device.

Then came the advent of responsive design.

responsive design

Responsive design is the concept of a website which responds to screen size, rendering a display to be optimized for and easily usable on any size device.  By using flexible grids to layout a website, developers create a fluid website that adapts to its environment.

Responsive design is no longer an optional upgrade for a business, it has become the standard.  Ignoring all trends, at the end of the day there are two reasons you need a responsive design website.  1) Google prioritizes mobile optimized websites on all Google searches conducted on a mobile device.  Considering that mobile Google searches outpaced desktop searches back in 2014, your search engine ranking is being negatively impacted in the majority of searches.  And 2) Users may not notice if your website is optimized, but they will notice if it isn’t.  It is frustrating to touch small buttons, zoom in and out, and scroll side to side.  It is not a positive experience.  User research indicates that 64% of Internet users will not return to a website that they found frustrating to use.

Call Collective Design Works at (423) 591-8656 or email us at for a consultation on upgrading your website to a responsive design.

Visual Social Media Strategy

Social Media NetworkYou post on Facebook, but do you do it well?  While having an active Facebook for your small business is a definite step in the right direction, it is important to ensure you are engaging with quality content.

You should not only be curating a collection of interesting and relevant content, but specifically visual content.  Pictures, infographics and illustrations can all be more powerful than a relevant and engaging article.

Research shows that “90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000x faster than plain text.” And social media and marketing statistics reflect this research – Facebook posts that have photos receive 53% more likes and 104% more comments. Going beyond pictures v. text, ads that are in color get read 42% more frequently than the same ads in black and white.

Your audience voraciously processes visual information, so take the time to ensure that the majority of your social media posts are filled with colorful images. You will reap the reward long-term.

How to Stand Out in a World of Pocket Folders – A Case Study

Hickory Valley Senior Living Community approached Collective Design Works about updating their pocket folders.  Like most of the senior living communities and apartment communities in the region, Hickory Valley has always depended on a pocket folder with several inserts detailing different amenities and rates.  Linda Shriver-Buckner, the Hickory Valley Sales Director, was searching for a new look that would create a lasting impression.


Our design team had an idea – get rid of the pocket folder!  Instead, we will design and print a book to encompass all of your marketing material in a high end yet cost-efficient format.  The book format would also allow more personalization and  more photos.  It also addresses a common complaint from the community about the pocket folders that , “many times the inserts from the pocket folder would fall out or get lost.”  After discussion, one compromise was made to the book format.  The book itself would contain an interior pocket to hold rate cards.  This way the books could be ordered confidently in large quantities as a permanent piece, and yet still allow for rate changes.


The end result is a spiral bound book with a luxurious feel due to the linen textured cover.  The colorful pages full of pictures highlight the community.  Sales director Linda Buckner adds, “The books have been a creative alternative to the standard pocket folders used by other communities.  They balance our need to stand out and share important information about our community to our prospective residents. ”



Marketing SHOWDOWN: Print v. Digital Advertising

While an online presence is mandatory in modern marketing, it can be presumptive to assume ONLY an online presence is necessary.  Research from the Temple University Center for Neural Decision making shows that print still wins against Internet marketing in many categories.

In the study, participants were shown a mix of 40 email and postcard ads, and monitored using eye tracking, heart rate, respiration, sweating, and MRIs.  End results showed that postcards were superior to digital ads in 5 out of 9 categories, equivalent in 3, and only lost out in one. The MRI scans found that the postcards triggered the ventral striatum of the brain, the center of desirability and value. On that evidence, Temple researchers concluded that physical ads have a deeper and longer-lasting effect than digital ads on instilling desire for products and services.

  1. Attention – A customer’s focused attention for a sustained period of time on key components of the ad. Winner: Email.
  2. Review Time – the amount of time a customer spends with an ad. Winner: Postcard.
  3. Engagement – the amount of information the customer processes or absorbs from an ad. Winner: Tied.
  4. Stimulation – an emotional reaction to an ad. Winner:  Postcard.
  5. Memory Retrieval Accuracy – accurately remembering the advertising source and content. Winner: Tied.
  6. Memory Speed and Confidence – quickly and confidently remember advertising source and content. Winner: Postcard.
  7. Purchase and Willingness to pay – whether and how much the customer is willing to pay for a product. Winner: Tied.
  8. Desirability – a subconscious desire for the product or service. Winner: Postcard.
  9. Valuation – the subconscious value a participant places on the product or service. Winner: Postcard.

Create a Facebook Cover Photo for the Holidays

The holidays offer plenty of opportunities to take advantage of social media marketing.  Holiday decorations, events, and sales are all wonderful social media content.

But before you start posting like mad, ensure your Facebook page is decked out for the holidays by using a holiday appropriate cover photo.  If you don’t have design software, then one of the easiest ways to create a custom Facebook cover design is by using the free online Facebook cover builder by Canva.  While some of the premium options do cost a dollar or two, most of the designs are free.  You can upload photos, change text, and move elements around for a completely custom holiday message.

People Don’t Read Your Emails during the Holidays

We really wish they did.  However, data shows that people open emails differently during the holidays than they do over the rest of the year.   And these aren’t just promotional emails, if you are trying to establish a client relationship, schedule a meeting, nurture a professional referral, this change in behavior will still affect you.  Accross the board, from November to January, email open rates vary wildly as do response rates.

The evening before Thanksgiving, email open rates drop 6% and that rate does not return to normal until December 1st. The data shows it is absolutely worth it to wait the one week to send your email.  The week before Christmas surprisingly corresponds with a 6% increase in the average email open rate. People are trying to get everything done before Christmas and are more attentive to their emails, you can use this as an opportunity.  But if you wait too long, there is no going back.  Email open rates decline 91% on Christmas Eve, and 260% on Christmas Day.  The trend continues, last year email rates were still down by over 33% on the Monday and Tuesday after Christmas. Almost 60% fewer emails were opened on New Year’s Eve and 160% fewer were opened on New Year’s day than the average.

If you are trying to engage new contacts, then the New Year, as always, brings new opportunity. Email open and response rates are actually notably higher than average the 4 days after New Year’s Day.  People are returning to work and anxious to catch up on everything and take care of responsibilities.  Take advantage of this renewed vigor!

Moving Day

revized moving

It’s moving day here at Collective Design Works!

Chaos reigns as we set up computers, phones, and haul in our digital printer, cutter, binding equipment and more.  The move is fueled by fresh coffee from our new neighbor Niedlov’s and an endless supply of diet Mountain Dew.  Look at our moving day photos to get a sneak peek of our new office on Main Street directly next to breakfast favorite Bluegrass Grill.  Stop by any time meet out staff and take a tour!

Collective Designs Works is Moving to the Southside

CDW_front view_w_signage


Collective Design Works is packing up desks and files and even our printer as we prepare to move to a new location more convenient to you!  We will soon be located at 55 E. Main Street in the heart of Chattanooga’s Southside.  Our doors will be open starting November 16th.

Feel free to drop by to take a tour of our facility, see our printer, meet our website designer, review paper types, or discuss your latest project.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Direct Mail 102: Bulk Mailing Rates and Indicias

Not everyone pays the same postage rate for postcards and newsletters, it is possible to get a bulk mailing rate if you are sending more than 200 items.  However, to do this you need a Permit Imprint, known as an Indicia by the US Postal Service.  An Indicia means you have an account with USPS, and whenever you send out a bulk mailing, the cost of postage is deducted from the account.

To get an Indicia, you have to pay an annual fee to USPS, fill out paperwork, create an account, and follow very specific postal regulations when delivering the mail to your local post office.  The Indicia must be printed on every piece of mail.

The most economical way to take advantage of the USPS bulk mailing service is through the use of a printing company.  Collective Design Works can print your mail pieces and send them out the door using our Indicia, no need to pay a deposit or fill out forms. If you want, Collective Design Works can handle everything – designing, printing, addressing, delivering to the post office, and have your pieces mailed to a list we helped you build and purchase.

Direct Mail 101: Mailing Lists v. EDDM

The classic rule of direct-mail-marketing states that 40 percent of the success of your direct mail campaign hinges on the quality of your mailing list.  To have a successful campaign, you need a great mailing list-comprised of individuals and businesses that are likely to buy from you.

If you are looking to bring back in customers who have bought from you in the past, it’s a great idea to maintain an in-house list to mail to.  However, if you are looking to bring in new customers, then there are two options – renting or purchasing a mailing list or using Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM).

When you rent or purchase a mailing list you determine your own demographics.  You can ask for a mailing list based on geographic location, gender, income bracket, education, marital status, age, and more.   This allows you to carefully target the audience best suited to your product and message , making every piece of mail sent more likely to be effective.

EDDM is a service offered through the postal service.  You don’t create a mailing list based on demographics, instead, USPS delivers a mail piece to every single resident or business within a defined geographic region.  You get a little bit of a price break as well, since it is not necessary to sort the mail pieces.  Businesses that do well with EDDM tend to be those who provide a product or service that is near universal, which almost everyone needs. Gas stations, mechanics, clothing stores, and pharmacies are perfect candidates for this service.

IT Quick Fix: My Computer is Too Slow

If you are having any computer problems of any type, before you start seriously troubleshooting, restart your computer.  This is a cliché for a reason – it is shocking how often it works.

After you have restarted and your computer is still running slower than it should be, the first thing to determine is if your computer is really the source of the problem.  If websites and YouTube videos are loading slowly, it may very well be a slow internet connection, completely independent of your computer.  Go to to check your current connection speed.  Hopefully your download and upload speeds of your Internet Service Providers advertised speed with a ping less than 100 milliseconds.

If the speed seems decent, then the next thing to check is your hard drive.  Your operating system (Windows or Apple) needs free space on your hard drive to create files while your computer is running and performing tasks. If your hard drive is almost full, then you need to clear out some space.  Delete old and unnecessary files and programs, to make space.  Or, move rarely used large files to an external drive.

If you have a windows computer, next try Microsoft’s System Configuration tool.  Many applications default to automatically launch when your machine turns on.  That means your machine is always running many unnecessary programs, which can really slow down your machine.  Press Windows-R, type “msconfig” and press the “Enter” key.  Check the startup item and manufacturer columns to see what you can safely disable.  Do not mess with any service or program that lists Microsoft Corporation as the manufacturer. But items such as AdobeAAMUpdater, Google Update, Spotify, etc. can all be disable from starting at launch.  If you have no idea what a program does, don’t disable it.  At the very least, Google the program name before you disable it so you can ensure it is not important.  Once you have made changes, click OK and restart your computer.

systerm config

If none of these tips work, it may be time to seek out professional assistance.  Give us a call here at Collective Design Works  at (423) 591-8656 for stress-free IT Support.

How to Steal Business from Your Competitor


Winning clients is not just about proving your company can do a good job, but also about convincing them you can do better than your competitors.

Identify Your Competitor

If you operate an independent bookstore is your direct competitor actually the big franchise bookstore? Maybe it is magazine stand at the mall? The comic book shop in the same shopping plaza?

Identify Their Client Base

If you are interested in attracting the comic book buyers because of the regularity of their purchases you first have to figure out who their client base.  Comic book lovers, yes.  But are they people who are looking to also be able buy collectibles? Are they drawn in because of the sociable nature of the store? Or is it reliance on the knowledgeable staff that brings them in?

Find Their Flaws

Is their special ordering process slow?  Chairs not comfortable?  No business can cater to everything and everyone, find out where they are lacking.

Create Your Niche

You know your business.  Make yourself at least competitive in all major areas comparative to you competitor, and come out swinging in one area where your competitor is not strong.  Your clients need a reason to choose you, create one.

Optimize Your Website to Go After Those Clients

Now it’s time to draw in your desired clients.  A very focused use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the weapon of choice.  Create a section of your website specifically addressing your new niche, incorporate keywords throughout your website, and follow our SEO 101.  Using extremely focused keywords for a focused client draw means you are not attracting as much of the general population, but there will be less local competition for those keywords, allowing you to quickly rise in search engine rankings

Virtual Reality – Not Just for Video Games

Virtual Reality is a technology that has been discussed in depth since the early days of Star Trek, with many feeling that it was the next technology around the corner.  Nintendo even made a weak attempt back in the ‘80s with Virtual Boy, although it was never really successful.  Well, it is now 2015 and virtual reality is officially here.

Virtual Reality (VR) is now dominating tech conventions and there are multiple VR devices on the market, going from extremely high tech devices like Occolus Rift and the SteamVR, to the more affordable like the Razer OSVR and  Project Morpheus by Sony and Playstation, all the way down to Google Cardboard, a device put together by putting your smartphone in a cardboard holder.  Virtual Reality is here, it is working, it is revolutionary, and now it is accessible to average citizens – but how will it be used?

Of course, many VR applications will be recreational; it will be used for video games, virtually attending your favorite sporting event, as well as interactive tours of the Louvre and other famous museums. It will also infiltrate businesses, starting with cutting-edge tech companies and spreading eventually throughout industries.  Surgeons may use it to practice surgery on an exact replica of their patient, early design prototypes of cars will be virtual, oil-rig workers and firefighters may be trained virtually in a non-dangerous setting.

For the average business, what about virtual shopping?  Soon a customer in Wisconsin can feel like they are standing in your specialized store in Tennessee.  The more complete virtual experience making them feel more comfortable with a high dollar purchase. When house shopping, many preliminary choices can be eliminated quickly with immersive tours.  Virtual interviewing and teleconferencing are also on their way.   Google Maps directions and street view may seem great now, but add in VR and it will transform the way we look at the world.  While virtual reality may seem like an obscure technology separate from everyday life and everyday business, it won’t feel that way for long.

How to Provide Constructive Feedback for Design

Design is rarely perfect the first time, despite their expertise, graphic designers are not mind readers. Whether you “just don’t like it,” or the design is “almost perfect,” most likely there will be some changes to be made.  Designers have thicker skin than you may think and are happy to approach any and all changes. Hearing what you want changed is not at all frustrating, it’s not understanding the issue that causes difficulty.  So step up and be honest and be clear, we want to hear your feedback.

Sometimes the changes you need are simple, e.g. “swap the picture, “make the text bigger,” “take that out.”  Other times, it can be difficult to explain what is not right.  Unfortunately, “It just doesn’t feel right” is not easy for the graphic designer to interpret.

If you are not sure what to say, try looking at these statements and see if any of them strike a chord:

  • It does not match my brand
  • It feels too geometric, or, there are too many straight lines
  • It looks too soft, fluid, or organic
  • I don’t think my target audience will connect with it
  • I wish it was simpler
  • It is too minimalist, I want to fill more of the space
  • I worry about how it will translate to print or other mediums
  • The colors are not my favorite
  • There is not enough color
  • There is too much color
  • The font looks too formal and fancy
  • The font does not look as professional as I would like
  • The design is too business-like
  • The design is too relaxed and casual

The more specific you can be, the more easily the designer can create your vision!

Rescuing Abandoned Shopping Carts

While estimates vary, according to Econsultancy more than two thirds of all online shopping carts are abandoned.  Meaning, two out of three times someone adds an item to an online shopping cart, they do not follow through and purchase.

Don’t abandon these sales – these customers are already considering a purchase and are hot leads! Instead, try to “rescue” the sale after they have abandoned the cart.  The most effective tactic to try to recover these customers is to send an abandoned cart recovery email.

If you are considering setting up an online storefront or revitalizing your current one, then it is essential to deploy this tactic.  The online retailer Shopify introduced this email tactic in September 2013. In the first 12 months of use, they were able to recover 3.6% of all abandoned carts.  Over the course of the year this added up to $12.9 million in additional revenue.   They tested with emails being sent out between 6 and 24 hours after cart abandonment, with 6 hours being the most effective time period.

When analyzing your company’s online shopping experience it is also essential to review your checkout process for best practices.  Are you showing pictures of your product on the checkout page?  Are you showing security logos and ensuring clients about the privacy of their information?  Do you offer multiple payment options?  Do you offer support?  Do you offer checkout without requiring registration?  Do you offer a clear and visible refund policy?  Is it easy to edit the cart?  If you aren’t following these basic tenants, it is time to start now in order reduce cart abandonment and stop customer loss before it happens.

Speaking to Your Audience

A common mistake in marketing pieces and website design is trying to target everyone – creating copy and even an aesthetic that is meant to impress your customers, your investors, the man on the street, retail employees in Anchorage, Alaska, everyone.  But nothing is appealing to everyone.  Writing and design that manage to be acceptable to everyone can be pretty much summarized as bland.

Instead, when creating a marketing piece it is important to stop and really ask yourself, who is this meant for?  Is it meant to increase your business’ exposure?  Are you selling things and speaking to potential customers?  Attracting potential investors?

If you are not sure, then you need to stop before you spend a significant of time and money on dud marketing.   If you ARE sure who you want to target and you quite clearly want to target all of these people at the same time then you also need to stop and reconsider.  There is no way that the result will be useful and effective.  If you absolutely must appeal to several distinct groups of people then it is time to consider how you can split your efforts, using separate marketing for each group.


Color Systems in Design

When using color in digital design the first decision that must be made is what color system to use.  Are you going to use RGB (Red, Green, Blue), CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black), or PMS (Pantone Matching System)?  The easy answer is that when designing for digital such as websites or television ads then RGB is the preferred choice, you should ideally design in CMYK  for digital printing, and Pantone is often the first choice to achieve true-color in offset printing. The reasoning behind this is, of course, complex.

The RGB color system is based on the emission of red, blue, and green colors through a screen.  Like in traditional color theory the absence of color would be black and the full emission of all colors is white.  While it might seem as if RGB should always be used when designing on a computer so you can accurately judge while designing on a screen, it’s important to choose the color method that will work best with your final product, which is why CMYK is often the color system of choice for anything printed.

CMYK is based off of pigments instead of colors.  Pigments work by “subtracting” or absorbing light instead of emitting it.  A complete lack of pigment is the white paper, and full layering of pigments is black.  Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow are the building block primary colors of pigments and the digital printing process.  While 100% CMY will produce black, it is difficult to achieve and so black toner is added, standing for the K (key) in the CMYK name.    While CMYK does produce an incredible number of color options, it is more limited than the full RGB spectrum. Digital printers, whether they are your home desk printer or an industrial sized machine, use CMYK in their printing process, so digitally printed material should be designed in CMYK.  It is always a good idea to look at a final printed proof of a project designed in CMYK before printing as the color may appear different than on the screen. Not only can computer monitors be calibrated differently, but the screen is simply showing an RGB interpretation of CMYK, it can get close, but not perfect.

PMS stands for the Pantone Matching System, which is an industry wide color standard produced and monitored by Pantone.  Pantone has created thousands of colors, named them, and produced swatch books showing how those colors should appear on different types of paper.  When using an offset printer the Pantone ink is mixed per Pantone’s instructions to match the desired color and the final product can be compared to a swatch for perfection. Pantone even requires printers to submit color samples to ensure they are producing colors correctly. This enables printers around the world to achieve the exact same end color results from the same files.  Whereas printing using CMYK on an off-set printer will produce good results through multiple different printers, you will never get you the EXACT same results across machines.  Because of its reliability, it is often used in logos and across industries as a definitive color guide.

Comprehending Paper Weights

Before reading this post, check out our previous blog post “A Guide to Paper Terms,” it will provide some helpful vocabulary and explanations.

When ordering a marketing piece it can be surprisingly difficult to understand how “heavy” a piece of paper you will be getting, made even more difficult because comparing different papers is not always helpful.  Sometimes a paper with a higher indicated weight feels lighter in your hand, this is because the basis of the way we measure paper is quite literally medieval.

The weight of paper is based off how much 500 sheets of paper weigh.   Different sized sheets are used for basis weights across paper types, meaning an 80# text, bond, and cover are all completely different weights.  For example, the paper industry uses 25”x38” for text weights and 20”x26” for cover weights.

Because paper is made with different formulations and densities, how much paper weighs is completely independent of how thick paper is.  However thickness is very important in practical every day applications which is why we have another measurement for thickness. Caliper, or thickness, is indicated in points or mils (1/1000”).  So, 8 point paper is paper that is 8 thousandths of an inch thick.  Unfortunately using thickness and weight together can be extremely confusing, the caliper of 50# text paper is actually equivalent to 20# bond paper.

If you are as lost as I was when first learning all of these terms and definitions then you are probably thinking “There has got to be a better way!” (use infomercial emphasis when reading).  The worst part is, there already is a better way.  Our European counterparts have ditched this archaic system and now categorize all paper in grams per square meter (GSM).  This categorization is much easier to understand, unfortunately North America has rejected the metric system thoroughly and will not change anytime in the near future.  For now, when trying to get a feel for how papers convert across weight, caliper, and type, you can reference this handy dandy chart.

Paper Weights

A Guide to Paper Terms

An essential component to any printed piece is the paper choice.  Unfortunately it can be overwhelming when offered a list of paper choices, confused even more by industry-specific terminology.  Learning the meaning behind the most commonly used terms can help you make a better-informed decision.


When talking about paper, brightness is a quantifiable attribute.  What is measured is the reflection of light across a wavelength of blue light. The standard used in North America is based on a scale of 0-100. The higher the brightness value, the more light is reflected by the sheet of paper.


It is a growing trend to replace the measure of brightness with measure of whiteness, although very related, the two terms are not measured the same way. Whiteness is considered by many to be slightly more relevant as it measures the paper as your eye perceives it.  Measurements are made under D65 illumination, which is a standard representation of outdoor daylight. For a perfect reflecting, nonfluorescent white material, the Whiteness value would be 100.


Shade is also related to brightness and whiteness as refers to the actual color of the paper.  Shade influences how accurately colors are reproduced, the “whiter” paper is, the more accurate the representation of the original image will be.


Opacity refers to how see-through a piece of paper is.  It affects how likely you are to be able to see printed text and images on the other side of the paper.


A coated paper stock has a surface sealant and often contains clay. Coating papers reduce dot gain by restricting ink from absorbing into the surface of the paper. This sealant allows for crisper printing, particularly photos, gradients and fine detailed images. Different coatings can achieve different textures and finishes.


An uncoated paper stock has not been coated with surface sealants. Inks dry by absorbing into the paper.


Final paper products come in a variety of finishes or surfaces.  The most common are matte and gloss although there are a lot of in-between terms like silk, satin, dull gloss, etc.


Gloss refers to a specific type of finish achieved in coated paper.  Gloss creates a highly shiny and reflective finish, think pages of a magazine.  Gloss creates the ultimate in reproduction detail.


A matte finish reflects an absolute minimum of light, making it much easier on the eyes, and therefore easier to read.


Bond, or writing is the categorization for your basic multi-purpose general paper.  It ranges from copier paper, all the way up to watermarked linen resume paper.


Text is a thicker grade of paper that is often used for books, newsletters, flyers, etc.


Cover is a catchall term that refers to most cardstock papers such as used in a business card, postcard, or report cover.  Cardstock can actually be subdivided into Bristol, Index, Cover, and Board but Cover is the most often used category.  Cover is made to match companion text weights.


Weight refers to the “basis weight” which is how much 500 sheets of paper weigh.  If 500 sheets of paper weighed 80 lbs, it would be 80 lbs. text, but in printing that would be written as 80# text instead of writing out lbs.  To introduce some extra confusion, the sheet dimensions used to determine that weight are different depending on whether you are using text or cover.  This is actually just the beginning, stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on understanding paper weights and thicknesses. (Edit:  Go here for blog post on  paper weights.)


Caliper refers to the thickness of a single sheet of paper.  Weight and thickness are completely different measurements.  Caliper is the actual measured thickness measured in mils (1/1000”), also referred to as points.


Windows 10, What You Need to Know

Launching July 29th, Windows 10 has the tech community abuzz with excitement.  Traditionally, Microsoft releases alternate between great and not-so-great and after the disappointment of Windows 8, many are looking forward to Windows 10 with excitement. Here is what you need to know:

Free upgrade. If your computer has Windows 7 or 8, you have one year to accept a free full-upgrade to Windows 10, the promotion will end in July 2016.  If you do not like Windows 10, it will be possible to revert to your old operating system.

The Start Menu Returns.  Delighting users across the globe, the start menu will make its triumphant return.  Along with a search bar, the live tiles of Windows 8 will now appear as an embedded column in the start menu

Cortana. Microsoft’s answer to personal digital assistants Siri and Google Now, Cortana, will be embedded in your desktop.  One useful feature is that Cortana can conduct a singles search across your hard drive, the cloud and the web, returning a single set of results.

Microsoft Edge.  Goodbye to Internet Explorer and welcome to Microsoft’s new web browser Microsoft Edge.  The built-in Bing powered search bar will use its predictive search to start returning search results as you are still typing.  Weather forecasts should even pop-up automatically below the address bar as you search.

Continuum.  Windows 10 is meant to work across all Windows devices, creating a seamless experience.  Continuum is the feature that detects screen size of the display device to display properly.  If you connect a power-point demonstration from a smart phone to a large screen display, continuum will detect the change and display in desktop mode.

Universal Apps.  Windows 10 features a unified back-end so the same apps will work across desktops, tablets, and smart phones.  It will also be much easier for Android or iPhone developers to transfer their code and translate their app simply to the Windows Store.  This could mean that the Windows App Store will finally begin to have reasonable offerings in comparison to the vast selection of Android and iPhone.

The Last Release of Windows. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will be the last release of Windows.  No, Microsoft is not killing off Windows as an operating system, instead they plan to move to “Windows as a service.”  In lieu of big releases with dramatic changes, there will be regular minor improvements and updates.  On the back end, each major component such as the built-in apps or the start menu is being coded and developed separately so each part can be updated independently of the core operating system.

Surprise Release: Smart Home Integration. Windows 10 will include a brand new technology by the name of AllJoyn.  AllJoyn was not developed solely by Microsoft but rather by an alliance of more than 150 companies including LG, Honeywell, and Electrolux.  It is an open-sourced open standard for the Internet of Things (IoT).  Remember when you bought a new phone, fax, or dial-up router and you plugged it in the wall and it simply worked?  Well, companies want it to be just as simple to install a smart thermostat, a smart light control, etc.  Many devices already on the shelf such as LG Smart TVs have pre-installed AllJoyn technology, although this has not been advertised. Windows 10 is the first big push-out of AllJoyn and smart home electronics are about to get exciting.  Google and Apple are also developing smart home technology, but at least the apple product (which requires an iPhone as the central device) requires each smart device to carry a special microchip, which AllJoyn does not.  Because it is open-sourced (available for Android, Apple, Microsoft, and more) and soon to be in widespread use thanks to the launch of Windows 10, AllJoyn hopes to become the new standard.  The idea is, your smart light bulb and smart TV should not need separate apps. Instead, when you turn on your Microsoft powered smart TV using your Apple powered iPad, the Google powered living room lights should automatically dim.

Goldilocks’ Web Design

Once upon a time, there lived a golden-haired consumer who decided to search the Internet to research buying new camping gear to use on her summer adventure in Chattanooga, TN.

The first website she went to had a minimalist design that looked beautiful at first.  But it had very little actual information and was pretty much useless, so she left uninformed and returned to her search.

The second website she went to was full with information.  It was full of “best of” lists and in-depth discussions of different levels of water resistant fabric treatments, a novel could have been written simply from the hiking boots section.  It was way too much for the overwhelmed millennial and she decided to educate herself and learn more as she obviously did not know enough to buy any of this gear.

After returning to her search once more, she discovered a third website.  It was not only pretty and easy to use, but pages also included helpful specs, reviews, and a short-breakdown of what kind of gear was best for what length of trips.  This website was just right! Feeling informed and much more confident, she bought everything she need to go camping.  Two weeks later she had a wonderful weekend trip and even saw a bear!

The End

One quick way to get visitors to bounce off your shiny new website is to provide them with a beautiful design that is less than helpful, or, worse, a torrent of information they neither requested nor needed. Most visitors will leave if they don’t immediately find what they are looking for and look for an alternative rather than spend the time on your site trying to figure out what you have to offer.

It is important to find a balance and only provide information that will bring users to the next step they ask for and make seeking this information fun and easy to obtain.

Graphic Design: Coherence v. Consistency

While consistency may be a good quality in life, in graphic design it can definitely cross over into the category of too much of a good thing.

While a certain amount of repetition to create visual consistency is important in establishing an identifiable brand identity, it is not necessary for every single element of your stationary and marketing materials to follow the exact same design.  This overly templated approach grows visually boring if a person is looking at multiple pieces, and is less likely to draw attention to the content.

Instead, look for a core set of brand elements that you can draw upon and apply creatively across your branding.  Your business identity should establish cohesiveness, or a feeling of unity throughout all of your pieces instead of sameness.

Tips and Tricks: Making the Most of Google

Most of us have begun to treat Google as the source of all knowledge, Googling anything and everything that runs through our mind.  The magic search algorithm always seems to know what you mean despite your vague inquiries. In the rare case you have an extremely specific search, you may not realize all of the possible methods to hone your search results.  There are actually many different Google operators, but here are a few of the most useful.

Exact match

The most basic of all modifiers is the use of quotation marks.  When you search Best Hiking Trails in Chattanooga, Google is looking for results that have all of those terms, when you search “Best Hiking Trails in Chattanooga,” Google is searching for that exact phrase.   When you search “Best Hiking Trails” Chattanooga, then Google will return any result that has the exact phrase and a mention of Chattanooga at some point.


If you want to exclude something from your results just use a dash, or subtraction sign.  You can use this with any phrase, or even websites. So if I wanted to know about the local effort to develop a new children’s hospital but only wanted third party news, nothing from the hospital itself I could search New Children’s Hospital Erlanger Chattanooga –

Inside Site

If I only wanted results from the official source in my quest to learn more about the children’s hospital I could search inside the site by using a colon.  I would search New Children’s Hospital.


When you have multiple phrases and you are not sure which one you need you can use the OR operator.   I may be interested in the best sunscreen on the market to protect me from the summer sun, but I also know that some people call it sunblock.  So I will search Best Type of Sunscreen OR Sunblock.  The search results will include results for Best Type of Sunscreen and Best Type of Sunblock.


Sometimes you only want very specific results, not just articles that mention your topic but articles that are about your topic.  So instead of searching for Best Sunscreen, search for intitle: Best Sunscreen. The search will only return results with the words Best Sunscreen in the actual title.

File type

If you only want pdf search results, add a filteype operator.  Simple type in your query followed by filetype: pdf.


Combining Advanced Search Operators Creatively

Using a combination of operators can get you absurdly specific results. Want to see if you can find a paper from that obscure researcher that was presented at that conference you attended last summer. You could try these searches.

“firstname last” filetype:pdf “conference name” –

“firstname last” “conference name” presentation OR files OR video OR powerpoint –

Or maybe you want to keep track of any media coverage your business competitor received recently, but don’t care about their website or social media, you could try one of these. – – “YourCompetitor” OR “” OR “” OR ““

– – – “NameOfCEOOfCompetitor ” OR” OR “CEO of YourCompetitor” OR “Founder of YourCompetitor”.

These tips are particularly useful for figuring out exactly why your computer is displaying that obscure error message.  Have fun experimenting!

Analyzing Your Own Business Card

Is your business card effective?  It can be difficult to assess, as long as your business card looks professional and your name and important information are easily identifiable then it performs its basic function.  But does that mean its effective?

Try this test.  Ask a friend (or even better – a stranger) to look at your business card.  Give them three seconds to take in the card, and then have them turn it over.  Then quiz them.  What stood out, what do they remember best, was anything at all memorable, what is their overall impression?  This feedback can really help you tell what is and what is not working with you cards.

Your goal is to have a business card that not only has all of your information in an easy to read format, but also stands out from the wad of business cards in everyone’s drawer, and is also consistent with your personal and business brand.  That’s a lot to expect in a 2 by 3.5 inch piece of card stock.

When designing a new business card, or re-assessing an old one, the most important mantra is less is more.  Business cards that are crowded or confusing can reflect negatively on you and your professionalism.  Do not overload your card with information, just stick to the basics – name, title, and contact info.  For most people, phone and email are enough contact information, but others may need to include physical address of retail location or website.

While you don’t want to overload the person reading, your company logo should be prominent.  It should not be so big it overwhelms the card, but it needs to be well placed and large enough that it is easily read and remembered.

Font, color, and materials can be outlets for the tone of your brand – they speak for you when you are not there.  Be aware of your industry while picking a really cool fun font – accountants have less leeway than playground designers.  Think about color choice and how color suits your brand and style.  Too many colors can be noisy, but a clean (not boring!) two or three color card can be eye-catching and elegant.  Choose high-quality materials, you do not want your business card to say “cheap”.  Avoid the fringe trend of using crazy materials, like stretchy business cards. The concept seems awesome, however it is not only expensive, but also makes it impossible to write on the back of your card, a common practice that could hurt you in a networking situation.

Speaking of the back of your business card – don’t leave it blank!  Yes, leave some space so there is room to write if necessary, but it’s completely wasted space if you do nothing with it.  You could use this space to include a slogan, a short description of your business, include a promotion or discount, even include a QR code.

The Call to Action: A Design Perspective

Note: Remember to read the previous blog The Call to Action: A Copywriting Perspective

The design of a call to action statement or button ensures a visual focus on this essential piece.   In a well-known test, Hubspot conducted a simple A/B test of two online call to action buttons.  One was green, one was orange.  The orange button outperformed the green button almost 2 to 1. Many people walked away from this well-known case study saying orange is better than green for conversion rates. When making a choice- make your call to action button orange.  This is wrong.

Taking an actual look at the websites used leads to slightly different conclusion.  The primary color in use in the test website was green.  Orange provided a high contrast and made the call to action button stand out from the rest of the page, making it much more effective.  So while this study does not tell us that orange is better than green in every case, it does tell us that the color choice of a single button can have an incredible impact on your website conversion rate.

Obviously, the specific graphic format of a call to action statement or button is an incredibly important factor.  It is absolutely worth it to spend time finessing and testing different styles. Taking advantage and grabbing more of the consumers who are already viewing your web page or reading your direct mail is a wise investment that is considerable lower in cost than paying for new marketing.

Factors to Consider:

  1. Color

Make it pop, don’t be afraid to contrast the rest of your page.  If you must have two competing calls to action, use color to indicate the more important one.

  1. Position on page

Guess what? People don’t read all of your copy.  They really don’t.  You are doing really well if your readers are reading through an average of about 60%.  Putting your call to action at the bottom of all of the copy that people often don’t scroll through isn’t a great idea.  Try testing it out in different locations and see how your response rate varies.

  1. White space

In a busy design scheme a perfect call to action can simply fade into the background. Above anything else on the page, your call to action must stand out.  Use white space effectively to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the crowd.

  1. Make it big

Seriously, make it big.

  1. Have the same call to action available in multiple places

While a single call to action is fine on a postcard, on bigger spaces don’t be afraid to repeat.  Don’t just have the call to action on your website home page, it’s okay to use it throughout your site.  Printing a newsletter?  Have a call to action in the interior as well as the front page.

  1. Make it easy to read

Avoid ornate or small fonts and visual clutter.

  1. TEST

Test everything!  It can be very hard to predict what visual representation people are most likely to respond to.  So stop trying to use sorcery and instead find out by testing.   Test button size, box color, use of white space, number of colors, content, page position, everything you can think of in simple A/B tests with a single controlled variable.


The Call to Action: A Copywriting Perspective

So, you need a call to action.  That’s a basic marketing requirement – to convert readers of your website and direct mail materials into actual customers, you must first give them a push and ask them to take specific action that will get them started. Whether you want them to make a call, fill out an a form, sign up for a newsletter, or download something free, you MUST ask people to do that specific action or they never will.

A call to action provides specific direction to your users, brings focus to your marketing, and also measures your marketing’s effectiveness.  There are many ways to approach constructing an effective call to action – here are some great tips to consider as you get started.

  1. Active Language

Use active verbs that clearly tell users what you want them to do – Call, Buy, Register, Subscribe, Watch, Donate, Start, Win, Listen, Learn, and Download are all good ones to start with.

  1. Identify a Problem

Identify a problem that your audience can relate to and position your brand as the solution. Even if you don’t include this in your direct call to action you can use it in close proximity. Remember that a call to action is only as strong as its surrounding copy.

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency

You want your users to act now and not simply decide to consider and then move on – losing connection with a potential customer is not good.  Give them an incentive to act right now. Create a deadline (e.g. Offer expires on March 10th, For a short time only) or offer an incentive (e.g. Donate now and receive a free t-shirt, First ten reservations get 20% off, Like our Facebook page and receive a free e-book).

  1. Address Obstacles

Everyone know the line from the Geico commercials – “15 minutes could save you 15% or more!”  What obviously makes this line work is that it sounds good, it’s easy to remember, and they have repeated it enough that any person who has owned a TV in the last ten years could repeat it to you.  What makes the line great though, is that it not only offers an incentive (save 15%) but it also addresses unspoken obstacles that potential consumers may have.  Plenty of people may want to save 15% but really not want to talk to an insurance agency, expecting incredibly extensive questions, upsells, and an hour of wasted time. In promising a 15 minute phone call they are promising callers a relatively stress free and quick process.

  1. Prioritize Clarity

Use clear and concise language – this is not a time aim for complex language or length or perceived cleverness.  “Visit our website” is a thousand times better than “Point your web browser toward our home page.”  Don’t have three different calls to action that confuse people, if you MUST have more than one, turn to graphics to make the most important visually obvious.

  1. Make it easy for users

Don’t require long steps, make forms as short and straight forward, provide any necessary information.  Make sure to include, phone numbers, website addresses, and maps if you expect customers to go your location.

  1. Simplify

While beautifully crafted Calls to Action have their place, the most effective are often the most simple.  On an e-card website, a simple button that says “Start Creating” is straight forward and let’s your customer know that it is just that easy, no unnecessary signups or paywalls required.

Web Design For Seniors

By 2030, 19% of the US population will be over 65 – about the same percentage as people who own an iPhone.  There are specific products and programs designed for older adults, but the truth is everything should be designed with the realization that older adults might use it – they are 1/5 of the potential consumer base.  This applies to websites as well as everything else.

Here are a few facts to keep in mind when designing for a senior-friendly web presence:

Keep an eye on color.  The ability to distinguish color declines with age even for seniors who have not previously experienced color blindness.  Shades of blue are often the most affected, different shades can often become difficult to distinguish and can also appear faded and desaturated.  Using multiple similar shades of blue in design or text can make your website difficult for seniors to use – instead make color choices with high contrast in mind.

Be aware of the interaction between responsive design and font size.  Responsive designs are becoming the new industry standard, it is important that every website appear beautiful on every size screen – from smartphone, to tablet, to large desktop monitor.   What we may not consider is that when the website adjusts to smaller screen sizes, the text can get considerably too small for seniors to be able to read.  Also, users may not know how to manually change the screen font size.   So make sure your font sizes are always at least 16 pixels, and aim for high contrast.  Additionally, consider adding a method to increase font size that is easy for users to locate.

Understand that motor control changes over time.  Motor skills decline with age, which is why many older users prefer tablets to smart phones –  older adults are the largest user group for tablets.  With desktops, some older users will even use two hand on a mouse to increase control.  Try to make clickable or touchable buttons at least 11 millimeters diagonally in every case.

Be sensitive with your password reminder questions. Recently I updated my bank online security questions.  I was required to pick three.   It was difficult to pick three questions that I was sure I would always know the answer to and in what format I answered it.  Now imagine that you are 80.  Do you think you could remember what streets you lived on 60 years ago? What model year exactly your first car was?  Many “standard” security questions become downright impractical when accounting for age.

Deconstructing the Decoy Effect

Consumers can often become indecisive when faced with two uneven choices, but it is actually possible to push them into making a decision quickly and more decisively by introducing another choice.

Suppose you offer a set of consumers two choices – Option A which is 50 cookies for $25 (they are super delicious cookies) and Option B which is 100 of the same cookies for $40 dollars.  Option B is an obviously better value per cookie, but Option A is cheaper overall and can fulfill the consumers’ basic need for cookies, although not as well as an additional 50 delicious cookies would.  Faced with an uneven choice like this, consumers will struggle and become indecisive for a period of time, before eventually splitting between two groups.

Now, we add a third choice, Option C.  Option C is $50 for 65 cookies with no difference in the cookies (except for a fancy “premium” label).  Option C affects the consumer decision because now consumers are judging better value of Options A and B on the basis of C.  Now, the same set of consumers will not only decide quicker but divide differently, with far more of them choosing Option B than before.

Conversely, we can add a different third choice, Option D.  Option D is $30 for 40 cookies (same flimsy “premium” label).   Consumers will not prefer this option because it is obviously not as good as Options A and B, however the addition of D switches consumer preference to Option A instead of Option B, making it seem like a better value than before.

While you may not be a cookie salesman, the takeaway from the Decoy Effect can be used in many situations, whether sales or negotiating where you plan to eat tonight.  You can use options to your advantage to entice people to make the decision you want them to make.  If someone is indecisive over multiple versions of a sale or contract, you can introduce a decoy to make your preferred option seem to be the perfect “middle of the road compromise” and will help guide the decision making process.

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