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Going to Bat for the Oxford Comma

Going to Bat for the Oxford Comma

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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Why You Need a Website

You Need a Website, Here's Why | 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.

2. Information for Customers

After credibility, I’d say the primary purpose a website serves is to answer your clients questions. They might be able to find those answers on Google or Facebook, but the best way to make sure customers get the correct information easily is to have your own website. Even without great SEO, most websites will come up in the search when the company name is Googled and that’s where your customer will click.

It’s not enough just to have a website – it needs to function and it needs to provide the basic information that your customers are looking for. Things I recommend you place in the header or footer so they’re always visible:

  • Phone Numbers
  • Email Address
  • Address
  • Social Media Links

Outside of that basic contact information, almost every website will NEED a services or products page, an about page, and a contact form. The about page will not receive nearly as many visits as the services page, or contact information (whether in the header or on its own page) BUT it needs to be there to reassure your customers that you are a real, legitimate business (see point #1).

3. Building Community

Obviously the best place to build community is on social media. But if you blog, your website can be a great resource as well. Blogging is good for SEO and it’s also a great tool to get customers returning to your website regularly to read your new content.

Why is community so important?

Mere-exposure effect. What this means is that the more often you come into contact with something (a person, business, concept) the more you like it. In this case familiarity breeds comfort rather than contempt.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed when researching a product to buy and ended up choosing a familiar-sounding brand? I have.

We live in a world of choices. Sometimes way too many choices, and sometimes we just want something that feels familiar and safe. If you use your website (and blog) to build a community, that’s a network that will look to you for answers and, eventually, help solving their problems with your product or service.

4. Advertising

I’m listing advertising last because SEO (search engine optimization) is such a tricky topic. You might be able to get to first page of search results for your keywords. But it will probably cost you some money, for an SEO expert and possibly PPC ads or various other Google SEO services.

While your website isn’t the absolute best tool for customer outreach, it is a pretty fantastic place to showcase your deals and offers. So advertising works very well in conjunction with community. You build your network and then, when someone shows interest, you send them to the relevant page on your site for all the information they may need.

This also works with social media offers and PPC (pay-per-click) ads. Alone, the ads can pique a potential customer’s interest, but they’ll want a legitimate, informative webpage to get more information before they sign up. And that’s what your landing page should do. Reiterate the offer, explain its value, and then provide an action for your user to take.

And that’s really what it’s all about. You need a website because you need customers. Customers need reassurance that you’re who you say you are (credibility), to know how to reach you (information), to feel comfortable with you (community), and a call to action to get started (advertising).

Font Psychology – Reading Between the Lines

Font Psychology - Reading Between the Lines | 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.

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Client Spotlight – Aurora Estella Doula Services Logo

Aurora Estella Design Process | 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 and Why It Matters

Branding: What It Is and Why It Matters | 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 | Jenn Wells Design

I like to include links for my clients to download the fonts, since they’re not always standard system fonts.

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

For my own branding, I use the same linen background and stylized swirls as a header for my website and all my social media profiles

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.