When did you decide that web design was the career for you?

In my junior year of high school @ Bloomington High School North, I took an Advanced Social Studies course taught by Joann Frye and Pat Wilson. I participated in a group project in which we had to present important historical events from the 1960’s. As part of the class presentation, I decided to teach myself how to create a website, rather than using a PowerPoint presentation.

Hotmail Snapshot of their homepage on Dec 10th, 1997
On one of my lunch breaks I even remember signing up for one of the first free webmail services (Hotmail) in 1997! Here’s a snapshot of their homepage on Dec 10th, 1997

Thankfully, the Bloomington North library had a bank of computers that students could use on their breaks. I invested countless hours surfing the infant web, reading articles, learning HTML, and playing online role-playing games.

It was awesome being able to send messages online, play games with others, buy things, and even having my own email account! Little did most of us know, the World Wide Web was about to explode into our daily lives in ways we would never imagine!

HTML Code from my First Website
HTML Code from my First Website

After studying the HTML source code of other websites, I learned that I could copy and paste the HTML source code from what others created and then modify it for my purposes. I’d make changes, save the file, and then upload it to the school server. After refreshing my browser, it was like magic!

The open nature of the internet and being able to view any website’s source code allowed me to learn how to create custom HTML designs and integrate elements from other websites. Our school IT department allowed our teacher some web hosting space and Mrs. Frye gave me the credentials so that I could upload my website files. Kudos to everyone involved for making this happen!

My very first website had all sorts of “rookie mistakes”. I chose really trippy backgrounds that changed on each page, linked to other people’s images on their server instead of downloading them to local server (graphics of Elvis, Vietnam, JFK, “The Love Generation”, etc…) and all sorts of other web design no nos. I even learned about copyright on this project because one of the photographers of an image that I used about the Vietnam war emailed to ask us to take the image down!

It’s amazing what you can teach yourself after thinking back on all of the things I have learned since this first web design project! Teaching myself a new skill was so awesome and it lead to me realize that one of my true passions was to be a web designer and create things for the internet.

Why Google Apps for Business is a Great Choice For Productivity

Google Apps Logo

Google Apps comes with so many great apps for your business productivity needs. Using your web browser on any device, you will have access to your Google Mail email accounts, Google Calendar, Google Drive (documents and spreadsheets), and many more apps everywhere you go. It is a great alternative to expensive business applications and is a fantastic choice for small and medium sized businesses.

When a new client asks me about e-mail accounts and e-mail addresses, the first thought that crosses my mind is getting Google Apps setup. Actually, I usually start with a comparison of different e-mail options such as using a personal email account for your business (and why it’s the wrong thing to choose), or going the more expensive route of using Microsoft Exchange and being able to access Exchange online, but I try not to go into the specifics about hosted exchange, imap servers, and all the technical mumbo-jumbo that us geeks like to talk about in our free time. My goal is not to confuse the client, but to help educate them about the possibilities and help them to make the best choice. This is why I have chosen Google Apps for my clients e-mail accounts.

With the Google Apps for Business e-mail accounts, you get to use the familiar Gmail interface and all of the great features that come with Google mail. To get started, I usually setup an e-mail address as a super administrator that I can grant specific access, control privileges for others in the organization, and setup new accounts. The Google Apps free version allows you to create up to 10 e-mail accounts for your organization. Usually, that is sufficient for most small to medium sized businesses. After setting up all of the e-mail accounts for the users in the organization, I then make sure that I go through all of the Google Apps email settings and configure them so that the users get the latest updates automatically pushed to their accounts. Some awesome features that I would recommend enabling in the email accounts would be found in the Google Mail Labs settings: Send and Archive, Insert Images, Undo Send (Use this one all the time!). Not only do I recommend going through each and every setting screen and analyzing it, I usually do this for the client and explain the choices as I make them.

In addition to using Google Apps for your business email addresses, Google also offers Google Calendar, Google Docs (now known as Google Drive), and many other Google Apps for your business productivity. Google Calendar allows you to import other Google Calendars, create multiple calendars and share them with others in and outside of your organization, and you can even embed them into web pages. Many clients find it very helpful to stay organized with multiple employees by assigning them each a Google Calendar so that they can keep track of their work schedule. In addition to sharing calendars, using Google Drive to share documents, spreadsheets, and other files in the cloud means that the important file that “Suzy” has been working isn’t stuck on her desktop computer, it’s actually stored in the cloud hosting, and is accessible by those who need it.

When you are getting started, or even if you have been in business for a while, you realize that your IT infrastructure plays a crucial part in the success of your business. Over the last 10 years, David Martin Design has specialized in using Google Apps, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google Mail, Google Reader, the Google Chrome Browser, and many other useful products offered by one of the most successful businesses in the online marketing industry. Although Google does not provide much support for their business apps, they really don’t need to because they just work. The Google Apps sync wonderfully with your iPhone, your Windows Phone 8, or even with Microsoft Outlook! Google Apps is a great choice for your business email hosting, your business calendar, and they constantly get better over time. So what are you waiting for? Let me know if you are interested in getting Google Apps setup for your business right away! 

Want to read even more about Google Apps? Check out these awesome resources:

http://mashable.com/2010/03/19/small-business-google-apps/

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/222583

 

SEO in Bloomington, Indiana

If you are looking for a local company in Bloomington, Indiana that specializes in search engine optimization (SEO), then you have found the right place.

Why choose David Martin Design for search engine optimization?

You could pick and choose from several of the very talented web designers in Bloomington, Indiana, however very few have the experience, time, and talent it takes to consistently stay on top of the evolving world of search engine optimization. David Martin offers clients the resources that they need to craft a well thought out, structured, and organized website that is easily crawled and indexed by search engines and other web properties.

Top 3 ways to optimize and focus on SEO

The top 3 things that I would suggest to do to help your SEO and rank highly in the major search engines would be:

  1. Separate your content from the presentation. First and foremost, if your website designer is not using best practices and designing your website with web standards, then I would highly recommend that they familiarize themselves with a book that changed my life, “Designing With Web Standards”, by Jeffrey Zeldman.
    The basic premise is that you should think of your website as a well structured set of documents that rely on the structure of the HTML tags H1,H2,H3, etc… to create content that is very well organized and then you should apply stylesheets to the content to affect the way that is displayed on your screen. When you design with web standards, your website pages should work very well in the vast array of digital devices that we access the internet with today.
  2. Spread your seed – Imagine your business as an organic life form. In order for it to grow and spread it must have an easy way to expand. By trading links with others and submitting your website to different social networks, blogs, and specific niche networks you will be able to get some very valuable inbound links that will increase your reputation (depending upon the source of course)
  3. Participate in social media. Social media is not going away and will likely become an ever more important part of a digital marketing strategy for today’s modern business. It is possible to increase your revenue by consistenly being involved in conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and many of the other websites built for community engagement. Get started today and spend at least 15 minutes every day devoted to just writing others back about what they are talking about and stay engaged. This helps your business stay top of mind with that contact and may even lead to a source of a referral for your next project. Well, I feel like I could go on with many other ways to optimize your website and increase your search engine rankings, however the basic 3 steps above will get you a great start on SEO for your website project.

Any other suggestions for important things you can do for SEO? What is working well for you?

I just setup my Google+ Company page, have you?

Google+ Logo

I just setup my Google+ Company page, have you? It was actually quite easy after I noticed the Create a Google+ page link on my Google+ page. After clicking through to create a page, it was really simple to choose the appropriate category (Local Business), then they ask you to upload a profile pic.

A lot of the work of setting up a profile on a new social network is done after the initial time that you create a profile on any network. I like to reuse the same logo for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc… however I think it is important to stress that I don’t post EXACTLY the same thing to every network because they all have their unique strengths and weaknesses.

Google+ is not going away anytime soon. Although they haven’t seriously given Facebook a “run for their money” quite yet, it is pretty amazing to see the adoption rate and growth rate of Google+. If you haven’t gotten started setting up your personal Google+ profile or your Google+ Company page, I would recommend taking 5 – 10 minutes to update it. Like anything, the time that you put in is directly related to what you will get out of it.

How much does it cost for a simple 4-6 page website?

Most website designers will charge between $400 and $750 for a simple, “brochure” website consisting of between 4-6 pages.

The website design process should include competitive market research, keyword and meta information planning, content development and organization, website navigation and design layout, coding the first page, developing the rest of the pages, and implementing tracking and statistics.

For my freelance web design business, a “brochure” website usually takes about 5-10 hours to develop. After the various steps in the web design process, the client will have a well organized, easy to navigate, professional website that supports the goals and purpose of having an internet presence. At a rate of $75/hr, a simple 4-6 page website would range between $375-$750.

In addition to the cost of development, you will also need to consider recurring charges for domain name registration (usually about $12 per year) and website hosting (usually between $10 and $25 per month).

What if the web designer doesn’t have a degree?

If a designer does not have a degree, then it is important that they demonstrate a solid understanding of design principles, organization, and an understanding of the industry. If the designer has certifications in industry standard programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Illustrator, that would lead me to believe that they are technically able to design and code a professional website design.

Another very important consideration is to look at examples of their work and see if it matches the style that you are looking for. In addition to reviewing examples of their work, consider hiring a web designer that lives in your area. That way, you can sit down and meet with them, find out if they are personable, and if they are able to provide good customer service. There are a lot of very good web designers that are great at design, but fail completely at providing outstanding customer service.

A simple brochure website may not be the best fit for your business, however it’s a great way to get a presence on the web at a low cost.

If you are interested in hiring a web designer, please contact David Martin Design today!

Google Adwords is highly recommended

I have been working with ROI Revolution for the last 4 years in my full time work. They have been an outstanding partner in growing our complex PPC account and taking advantage of all of the little extra things that you can optimize in your account to stay ahead of the competition. I’d highly recommend them and I’d also highly recommend using Google Adwords. It works. It gets you in front of people if you use the right keywords, actively test and monitor your ads, and really pay attention to your bids.

How do I find someone to help me with my Adwords account?

Having a professional with at least 3-4 years experience would be minimum if I were going to hire someone. I’d recommend finding someone local that you can meet with in person and make sure to ask them the questions, how long have you been doing this, how many clients have you done this for, what were the results that you had with them?

That should get you a decent start. 😉

My experience with Operator, a new app from the the Cofounder of Uber

operator-appI recently received a request by Operator to choose a number from 1 to 10 to evaluate my thoughts on the new Operator app and whether or not I would recommend it to my friends or family. I chose a 10 because it was a great experience and I have already recommended it to about 10 people!

My first experience was a very simple request. I logged into the app and thought, what is something fairly easy that I could ask someone to find that would be about $20. Being a huge fan of Google, and missing my favorite t-shirt because it had a hole in it, I thought that I would test out the app by asking the operator to find me a new Google t-shirt.

The request was sent to the Operator network where it was then forwarded to the “fashion expert” that had to do with my request for clothing. Operator specialist Alfred Sanders picked out a Google XL t-shirt for me and explained how the Operator app worked. He was very helpful in answering my curious questions about how the business model worked. My Google t-shirt arrived VERY quickly and I was very impressed.

Then, I showed the app to my daughter Sophia and my 13 year old son, Andrew. I handed my phone to Sophia and she proceeded to make restaurant reservations for her favorite Chinese hibachi place in Bloomington. I didn’t even know they took reservations but sure enough, we had reservations setup the very next day!

The last transaction was a request from Sophia, my 8 year old for a helicopter. After asking for further clarification on whether she wanted a toy helicopter or a real one, the guide quickly narrowed it down to a 1 million dollar helicopter, but since it was Sunday, they couldn’t get us a deal at that time. The guide offered to contact the dealership the next day and even sent us a brochure of a helicopter that matched the features we were looking for!

I have told several of my co-workers, family, and friends about the app and I think it’s going to be a smashing success. I have 3 invites available which will give anyone who downloads the app and tries it out $20 off of anything they would like to purchase on the interwebs! Let me know if you’d like one!

An Outstanding Music Player and A Virtual Assistant That Continues to Improve

Amazon-EchoI purchased the Amazon Echo as soon as it was available. I purchased it for $99 as a prime member and am very happy with the purchase. I have the Echo placed on my kitchen table and I use it every day. The most useful feature is the music player which connects with my Amazon Prime account and features a ton of music. I have connected my Google Calendar, Pandora, and IFTTT to it as well. It’s nice being able to play my Pandora stations through the Echo. I have also started using the shopping list quite a bit when I run out of something.

One of the features of the Echo that I think is it’s strongest point is that it is SO easy to use. Before I had the Amazon Echo, the friction involved when I wanted to look something up wasn’t too difficult, but I still had to pull out my phone or a nearby device. With the Amazon Echo I am able to ask it a lot of questions such as, “Alexa, how many cups are in a quart?” or “Alexa, how old is Billy Joel” without having to get anything out. I just need to be within earshot and she is ready to answer my question. At $99, I would be happy with just the speaker, the integration with Amazon Prime, etc… but because it’s a virtual assistant that’s always there and it keeps getting better, this device is a no-brainer. At $199, I still think it’s worth it. It’s a very cool device and it definitely is very innovative. I look forward to seeing how it will improve over time.

Read More about the Amazon Echo on the Amazon website

Why do I love the internet?

Why do I love the internet? That’s a question I answer almost every day! I love the internet because it connects us with ideas to understand what others have to say.

Teh Internets LOLCats - ICANHAZCHEEZBURGER.COM

It’s a wonderful medium that is filled with lolcats, interesting tweets, and my friend’s tasty treats. It’s an escape from reality that allows us to dream and admire other people’s feats.

David Martin in front of an Apple II-E when he was 7 years old

 

 

I’ve roamed the internet starting with CompuServe in my early days.
We connected with a 2400 baud modem, man… we’ve come a long ways.

The internet is constantly evolving and new apps, websites, and thoughts are shared in so many ways. It’s exciting to think about the future and how the internet will continue to amaze.

I love the internet because it shrinks the gap and allows us to communicate with others in the blink of an eye. It’s also an amazing place to do some shopping and find so many cool things to buy.

The internet has enabled us to build valuable companies and create meaningful change.
It has inspired others to create, to learn, and allowed so many ideas to exchange.

As I spend time on the internet every day it’s amazing to think of just how far we have come.
It’s been only a short time since Tim Berners Lee helped link things together, and look what it’s become!

I love the internet, what it’s done for others, and how it has affected my life,
it’s helped us achieve more, it’s made me a better person, and brought me closer to my wife.

As we progress down the road of technological advancement towards the “Internet of Things
it’s fun to think about the possibilities and the change that is brings.

We will be riding in our cars as they communicate with other digital “brains”
We’ll be monitoring our heart rate with our smart watch and reading data about blood in our veins.

To some out there it may become a scary world with worries of big brother,
but if you can understand the internet and wield it’s power, it’s more like the help of a mother.

Thank you for asking this question of why do I love the internet, it’s a great one.
It’s one of the greatest inventions we have ever had and it’s exciting to think it’s just begun!

A Quick Look at Google Pay Per Click (PPC) ads

Google ads are as easy as 1-2-3

Google Adwords - How it Works Screenshot
Google Adwords – How it Works (screenshot from http://www.google.com/adwords/how-it-works/ads-on-google.html)

1) According to Facts about Google and Competition, “Every day Google answers more than one billion questions from people around the globe in 181 countries and 146 languages.

As of August 16, 2013 according to an article on Search Engine Watch (http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2289560/Googles-Search-Market-Share-Shoots-Back-to-67) Google’s market share for searches performed is 67%. So, if 2 out of every 3 people search using Google, that’s a great place to get in front of potential customers.

2) When you create an ad and target the specific keyword phrases that are relevant to your business, Google displays your ads. The user will see your ad next to or above the organic search results.

3) When users see your ad and click on it, you will drive more traffic to your website. More traffic to your website will result in more customers.

What’s the best advice for giving great customer service?

Service with a smileThe best advice I can give is to truly be helpful. Find ways that you can help the customer and make their experience more enjoyable.

In my full time position at Snorkel-Mart, our customers are ordering snorkeling gear to take along with them on a vacation, or trip to a beautiful island or beach. It’s hard to find the right size gear, differentiate between different pieces of snorkeling gear, and make sure to get the best price. It’s my advice to listen very well to what the customer is saying, ask lots of questions, and then recommend what you would do if you were in their shoes.
Lastly, I would say that you should completely focus on the job that you were hired to do. At one of my previous jobs I was so consumed by what the company had in store for me so I could get a promotion. I was trying so hard to get noticed and show people what I was capable of. When focusing on that, I ended up giving mediocre service. When I realized that I was doing this, I made it my goal to focus completely on the customer and making sure that I matched them up perfectly with what they were expecting and went above and beyond in recommending solutions for them. When focusing 100% on listening to the customer and being very helpful really made a big difference in how enjoyable it was to come to work.

The Blue Screen of Death – April Fools Prank

Blue Screen of Death

One of the best April Fool’s pranks is the Blue Screen of Death. Now, if you work in a corporation or a place with a lot of employees, make sure you get the permission of the IT department before jumping into this one. I installed this on my coworker’s computer and my department manager’s computer without checking with our IT department. It through them for all sorts of loops. It was sooo funny!

Download it here: http://the-other-bsod-screensaver.en.softonic.com/

Be Courageous With Your Creativity Today

“Creativity takes courage. ” Henri Matisse
This morning as we were sitting at the breakfast table, my 5 year old daughter, Sophia, jumped up and grabbed the artwork from her school that she recently had finished. She was very proud and excited to show Andrew and I what she had been doing in her art class.

One of the drawings was a portrait of her daddy (seen below). The first thing she pointed out was how she had used her name to make up my hair. How creative!

Then, she said that she added lots of color to the picture. I asked her why she decided to color it, and she said it was because everything looks better with color. While I wanted to correct her and I actually gave her a few examples of items that don’t necessarily look better in color, I did agree with her for the most part.

My face is hot pink, I have blue freckles, orange eyes, aqua / teal ears, red and orange hair, and I am wearing different colored clothes. So cool!

What drives a child to choose so many different colors and to put them in the different arrangements across the page?  In doing a portrait of my father, I must say that my creative approach would be much different and I would try and draw things more true to life. Which one would you prefer to look at?

So, what’s the point of this post? Don’t forget to experiment and try new things that others haven’t tried. If it doesn’t work out, then keep trying to make it better. Be courageous in making decisions about the design in your life. Observe your surroundings and the design choices that people have made and ask yourself, is that how I would have made it? What would I have done differently? When you make a buying decision, look how the product was designed. Was it machine made in a factory or made by hand? Be courageous and choose the more creative item. Add color in as many different places in your life, to brighten things up!

Sophias Drawing of her Daddy