What Should You Put On Your Website | How to decide which pages your website needs and what content to write on each | Jenn Wells Design

Your website is being built, everything is going smoothly, the design is beautiful but… What on earth should you put on it?

It can be overwhelming to stare at a blank page (or screen) and try to dredge content from the recesses of your brain. For yeeeears, my website had just 5 pages and most of them were practically blank. But in the past year, I’ve been really working on building and refining my business and now I’m up to 9, not including the blog. What’s more important, those pages have information on them that is useful for my readers and helps to guide them through my service list and consultation process. Plus my SEO is much better!

Yup, content = search engine optimization. But it has to be meaningful, which is why we’re going to talk about what makes sense for your site content.

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Going to Bat for the Oxford Comma | The real reason we need the Oxford Comma | Jenn Wells Design

MLA, APA, Chicago, Turabian. There are a lot of best practices and formatting guides out there. They don’t necessarily agree with each other and it’s not always clear which is best in which situations. Often it comes down to personal preference, as it does for the hotly debated punctuation mark I’ll be discussing today.

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The Value of Yes AND No | Why saying yes and saying no are both equally valuable in your life and business | Jenn Wells Design

Yes is typically seen as a positive and no as a negative. That seems obvious. “Do you want some cookies?” Yes = cookies! No = sadness.

But what if I told you no could be just as much a positive as yes? That both have equal import in your life and business? I’ll start with yes.

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Why You Need a Website | Websites are fast becoming a requirement. You need a website to build community, credibility, advertise, and provide information to your clients | Jenn Wells Design

This is a difficult post to write because it seems so intuitive to me. But I realize not everyone thinks or uses technology or even runs a business the same way. So let’s talk about the value of websites.

1. Websites Give You Credibility

I hate that this is my number one reason but it really is. It’s not compelling, it’s not a promise of guaranteed clients, or even guaranteed interaction from potential customers. But you still need to look like a legitimate business. And, these days, that involves a website and at least one social media page – preferably Facebook.

Speaking as a customer and not a designer, the first thing I do when I hear a business recommendation from a friend is to look it up online. If they don’t have a website, oftentimes I won’t go there. This is both because I’m looking for one central place to find the answers to my questions (location, hours, services, etc) and because not having a website makes it feel like that business doesn’t know what its doing.

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Lifestyle Business: a Different Take on Work/Life Balance | Do you live to work or work to live? | Jenn Wells Design

Work to live or live to work?

How would you answer that question?

Most work to live proponents ignore career pursuits in favor of a fulfilling personal life. They may dislike or even hate their job, but it pays the bills and allows them to pursue their personal goals, so it doesn’t matter.

Those who live to work love their jobs. They may have fallen into their dream job, found their passion, or have a case of workaholism. Whatever the case, works takes total precedent and personal life happens when there’s extra time for it.

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Font Psychology: Reading Between the Lines | How fonts can influence us subconsciously | Jenn Wells Design

Confession: I’m not a huge typography nerd. A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with some friends about the fonts used in an ultra hipster café we brunched in. I was happily going on about the quirkiness of fat-face fonts when they started naming their favorite sans serif fonts and I realized I was in over my head.

I can’t tell the difference between Helvetica and Ariel. If you put them side by side on the page, sure, I’ll see that there’s a difference.

Font comparison showing the difference between Helvetica and Arial

Oh wait. I was wrong! To me they both just look like general, nondescript font that isn’t going to piss anyone off too badly or draw an excessive amount of attention. Perfect for body copy where you want the focus on the meaning rather than the appearance.

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Doula Logo Design Process | Full logo design process for Aurora Estella Doula Services from concepts to final logo | Jenn Wells Design

The Client

Rachel came to me wanting to brand her new doula business entirely from scratch. We discussed her mission statement and target market – to make doula services available to everyone, including younger moms-to-be and those with a lower income. And then we talked visuals – what fonts and colors she likes, hates, or thinks would best represent her business, and what kind of feel she wanted the business to have. We decided to aim for something a little warmer and more comfortable to reinforce her goal of accessibility.

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Branding: What it is & Why it Matters | An overview of branding and a head start for building your own brand | Jenn Wells Design

I attended a networking event not too long ago that discussed, among other things, what branding actually means. The answers ranged from, “How you present yourself” to “What people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Throughout history, branding has also meant everything from cattle brands to the more contemporary logos and more widespread uses today.

So What IS Branding?

For our purposes, I agree with all of the more contemporary answers provided at the event. Branding IS the way your company/brand/etc “feels” to other people.

Naturally, as a graphic designer, my mind tends toward the visual elements. And yes, if you’re thinking logos, that is a part of it. But by itself, a logo doesn’t make up an entire brand.

Your brand is your logo, your color scheme, and your fonts. Your brand is also the combination of those elements, along with the images you use, and the voice you choose to communicate with your clients. It really is your reputation, but not all of those elements are easy to capture on paper.

Branding Guides

For the elements that are tangible enough to document, branding guides are immensely helpful. In its simplest form, this should include fonts and colors, with enough color information that web and print elements for a company can maintain consistency.

Branding guide for Maria's Italian Restaurant with colors, fonts, and logo

 

Branding guides can also include imagery, including graphics or patterns. Anything that is intended for reuse throughout company design.

Branding guide for Jenn Wells Design with colors, fonts, and logo

Sometimes the branding process stretches out from logo conception all the way to website creation and setting up social media. It can also start with with just a logo and business cards. Either way, the end result should be a set of materials with a consistent look that appeals to your target market.

The Intangible Elements

These are all the things that I, as a graphic designer, can’t necessarily do for you. Basically, you’ll want the way your brand sounds and communicates to be in harmony with the way it looks. If you’ve already defined your target market, this is the time to really think about what approach will appeal to them.

Is your audience tech-savvy or will you need to be careful with technical jargon? Does your target market prefer a formal or informal approach? Think about not only what your message to your clients will be but how you will say it. What kind of wording will you use? Will you focus on emotional aspects or a logical approach?

I personally found it a struggle to define my “voice.” Having run a personal blog for the last 3 years, it was difficult to find the balance between personal and professionalism. For me, it ended up being a place where I don’t hesitate to say “I” or share my personal experiences but I also tone down some of vulgarity I might use in an informal setting. For you, the balance could be anywhere on the spectrum! Maybe your clients don’t mind colorful language, or maybe they prefer strict professionalism.

The best balance is one that will be comfortable for both you and your clients. Customers can tell when you’re not being genuine so don’t think you need to be something you’re not! Your ideal customer is out there – you just need to figure out how to find them and speak to them.

 

What Does a VA Actually Do? | Guest post from Kelli of Even Keel Ops to explain what a virtual assistant is, how they can help you, and how to know when you're ready to hire one | Jenn Wells Design

Virtual assistant is a job title I’ve run into several times on the Internet, but I had no clue what they actually did. Until I became friends with one, that is. Kelli, from Even Keel Ops, runs her operations management and virtual assistant business entirely online and provides helpful tips for business management in her blog. I have learned so much from following along with Kelli’s posts, from using Wave for accounting, to Trello for project organization.

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Setting Business Goals 2017 | Do you set goals for your business? Sometimes it's hard to even know what to choose as goals. This post gets back to basics. | Jenn Wells Design

I adore goals, whether it’s personal, fitness, or business. And the new year has always seemed like an optimal time to set them, both because of the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions and because it feels like a fresh start.

You’d think that with a lifetime of goal setting under my belt, I’d be pretty good at it. And I know the basics:

  1. Choose a clear, specific goal (ex. Run a half marathon)
  2. Set a timeline (ex. I will run X half marathon 9 months from now)
  3. Break the goal down into actionable steps (ex. A week-by-week training plan to get from your current level of fitness to where you want to go)

But one thing I never realized was missing was the big picture. Personal goals you don’t have to consider too closely – you do it because you want to or you think it will contribute to your happiness in some way. But business goals? While they might also contribute to your happiness, ideally they’d contribute to your business success in some way.

At some point this year, I found my “business goals” were really just glorified to do lists. Run a Facebook ad, start an email list, got to networking events, etc. But the “why” was never anything more defined than “find clients.”

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