Our Design Process

Whether we want to admit it or not, I’m sure we all have had our moments in business of ‘throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks’. Some problems require to try all options and throw spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks, and yes, as a child it was fun to literally throw spaghetti against the wall… or so I’ve heard… I’ve never actually done that myself… But when it comes to designing a brand or a website, that is really the last thing we want to do. That’s why at Full Scope Creative, we start all of our design projects with an in-depth questionnaire for clients to complete. 

When we initially talk with a client and agree to a design project, we will usually send the questionnaire at the same time we send the invoice for the project. The questionnaire covers some things that we have likely already talked with the client about, such as describing their business, their industry, or their Unique Selling Point. But it will also go into design specifics such as colors they like and colors they don’t like, as well as competitors’ names and websites and what features on those sites they do or don’t like. By providing all of that information to our design team, they can put together designs that will achieve the look that the client likes and by having the industry and demographic information, we can be sure to have the site match what our clients need it to be. 

Some clients have specific design features they want to see on the site. Of course, there’s a section for them to include those things, but with the questionnaire, we can often discover what those specific design features are, even if the client doesn’t mention it outright. When we review their competitors’ sites, we may find certain design features that jump out to us as things that need to be on the site. 

Once we have that first draft of the site or branding material designed, we will email it to the client and go through up to three rounds of revisions to hash out the final product. Going through this process saves a lot of time and money for both Full Scope Creative and our clients. 

Following this process has been working great, not only for Full Scope Creative but also for our clients, and has resulted in some great sites and projects. ‘Throwing spaghetti against the wall’ has its place, but planning a company branding or site designing is not one of them. After all this spaghetti talk, I think it’s time for lunch.

Having trouble getting a blog article going?

Have you ever had a great idea for a blog come to mind that you just can’t wait to write? I’ve had quite a few that have come to mind myself. One problem I will run into at times is that even though I have a great idea, I just can’t quite find the words to use. When I first started writing, my most common approach was to just about bang my head against the wall until I found the words. These days, when the exact words don’t come to mind, there are a couple of approaches I’ve found that have helped considerably. 

Too often in the past I’ve found myself struggling to get a blog article written, merely because I couldn’t get the opening figured out. Because of that, oftentimes what I do now is skip the opening. Same as when I’m preparing a speech or presentation, I’ll oftentimes jump to the body of the content and skip the opening. I can at least then get the core of the topic out of my mind and on to paper (yeah, on to paper, I’m old school), and then come back to the opening and closing. By getting that core portion of the article started and on paper, it often seems like the opening almost starts to write itself – and then that leads into the closing.

Other times when I’m writing an article, even though I know the general gist of what I want to talk about, the exact words just don’t come to me. When I’m in those situations, I often just sit and brainstorm. What’s brainstorming? Just simply start writing something – anything – about the article and see what words come out. Any and all words that have some connection to my subject are good at this point. I might scrap all of them; I might keep a few. I might do this a few times over and over in a sort of “lather, rinse, repeat” fashion. For me, the trick is to just start writing. The article will find its way out. 

Coming up with blog ideas isn’t very difficult. All of the questions, problems, and other things we see each day are great topics to write about. Truth be told, getting the words to come out can be a problem sometimes. Starting with the main content portion or the article and simple starting to write can sometimes help the words magically appear.

300 Words Per Page

When we’re working with clients on either a new site or on SEO review/audit, one of the most common issues we come across is the words on the page. The problem we run into isn’t necessarily which words are on the page, but rather, the number of words. One thing I often stress to clients is to give Google what Google wants. One thing that is pretty clear is that Google wants to see at least 300 words per page. 

If a page has less than 300 words, it will likely be considered to have little value to a human user. The Google search algorithms are so advanced that they will read a page and “think” much like a human user. Therefore, if there isn’t enough content on that page, Google will assume it is of little value to the site and users which equates to a poor ranking for that page.

When Google is reading through your page, there’s no exact way to say, “Hey Google, THIS is the keyword for this page!” Back in the day, we had the KEYWORD metadata that worked, but between the abuse that happened with that metadata and, more so, the advancements to the algorithms, we now need to focus on how we use the keywords we set for a page in the page content. Google will be looking at a page and if they see a word or phrase used 2.5% – 3% of the time, they’ll know that those words are the keyword(s). If there are 300 words per page minimum and the keywords are used within the frequency range mentioned above, the content will read like a regular conversation between two people. 

One thing to avoid doing however is adding in fluff content. If you have a page you’re looking to add to your site and can’t come up with 300 words, it begs the question: is that content even worthy of its own page? Adding fluff or filler content to your site just to make Google happy will backfire most of the time. Write the content to address the needs, concerns, and questions that your end users might have. 300 words can be tough to come up with, but keep in mind that is the count for the entire page: headings, paragraphs, lists, everything.

300 words on a page can sound like a daunting task. Changing your mindset from, “How can I get this to 300 words?” to, “What do my clients and potential clients want or need to hear?” can oftentimes change things up enough for many writers to have an easier task at hand . At the end of the day, Google wants to show nothing but quality content and websites to its users. Our job is to provide that quality content on our websites, so that Google can help get our site to our users.

Popups on a Website

Do you remember those good ol’ days of the internet when a website would have countless popups? Popups that had everything from spam to annoying advertisements to non-relevant news articles and every great now and then it would be something helpful. I don’t think anyone misses those days. Popups can be a helpful tool to use on site, but they were so overused years ago that there needs to be a lot of thought that goes in to when and how to use a popup in 2019.

First things first, when you decide to put something in a popup box on your site – don’t do it. Odds are there’s a better way to get that information across than on a popup box. Popups can be more than just annoying on mobile devices, they can be impossible to work with if it is not set up properly. So step one – don’t use a popup, there is like a better option. Let me help you with this a little, things like special holiday hours, a great sale, construction going on in your area, and your new office dog you got do not belong in a popup.

When you do have something that does in fact warrant going in a popup, I can’t stress how important it is to have a big HUGE close button on the popup. Be sure to test your popup on as many different devices as possible to make sure that the great big HUGE close button is easily accessible and can be clicked on any device. Not sure if your close button is big enough? Make it bigger.

And for the popup design, make sure it matches and meshes with your site design. A popup that has a completely different design might grab attention, but to most users it’s going to do nothing but scream “DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!” (yes, I heard that line often growing up. And yes, I have had Mrs. Robinson sang to me many times). When a lot of users see a popup they are going to have natural instincts kick in and close the popup as soon as possible. If the design matches the site you can increase the odds of users viewing the information you’re presenting in the popup.

Popups could have been a great tool for websites to use, but with the abuse and overuse that went on with them in the 90s and early 2000s (and still to this day) they are tough to use. When in doubt, don’t use one and find a better way to convey the information. If you do put a popup on your site, don’t leave it up all the time and be sure to give users as easy of a time as possible in closing it. 

Don’t tell me that you’re going to tell me your tagline

May I please have your permission to stand up on my soapbox and rant for a moment? Thank you. I promise to make this quick(-ish). Please stop with the meme of the lady yelling at the cat. It was fun for a week but now it’s over. And while I’m up here and ranting – DON’T ANNOUNCE THAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO TELL ME YOUR TAGLINE!

Okay, I’m calmed down now. Phew. Had to get that off my mind. So what do I mean by, ‘Don’t announce that you are about to tell me your tagline’? At a networking event a few weeks ago, there was one business owner who, in his 60 second elevator pitch, was just about to close up his intro when he said my least favorite line: “…and my tagline is …..” I’m not harping on taglines; in fact, I’m a really big fan of them – if they’re well written and get the job done. If you need to announce that something is your tagline, it’s not very good and you need to spend some more time going over it. 

A tagline is a quick statement of few words that can clarify or simplify what a business does. “Building success through creative solutions.” – at Full Scope Creative, that’s exactly what we do: we help our clients (build) success by providing (through) services such as website design, graphic design, and website hosting (creative solutions). It says what we do and makes a promise of what the experience might be.

Great taglines are short and to the point; more importantly, they are clear and easy to understand. If your tagline needs the introduction of, “…and my tagline is…” or “…one of our taglines around here is…” then you don’t have a good tagline. You might have a good start at one, but you need to spend some more time on it. 

And the lady with the cat… that’s another blog for another day. 

What I Learned from the World’s Toughest Mudder, 2019

This past weekend, from 12:00 on Saturday through 12:00 on Sunday, my cousin Matthew Hanson competed in the World’s Toughest Mudder, 2019. While this wasn’t his first time competing in the race, there was something about this race that caught my attention and made me realize a few things about life and business. See, throughout the course of the race, Matt ran 95 miles – impressive. But he didn’t just run 95 miles, he ran 95 miles with various obstacles along the course – unheard of. But it wasn’t just 95 miles plus obstacles, it was all done in 24 consecutive hours all night long and in the cold – inhuman. So how does one get through such a race?

 As is always the case, Matt had an amazing pit crew with him. Countless family members were there to cheer him on and remind him of some of the essential things he needs to do. In fact, “remind him” might be too gentle of a phrase – “fight with him” might be more fitting. See with Matt, his mind is always set to, “go go go go go / run run run run run.”

But in a race like this, the need to stop and eat or add more clothes is critical. Without his crew, particularly his brother Michael, he’d go non-stop to the point of breaking. This year, he also took a moment to go on Facebook and post the name of the individual he was thinking of on each lap – someone who helps to motivate or encourage him throughout his life. The names he posted were not just people who were encouraging him in physical activities and training, but all of those who had helped shape him into the man he is today. While I was following the various updates on Facebook, I couldn’t help but see how Matt’s approach to the race could be applied to so many other facets of life – like running a business.

Now I’ve never competed in the World’s Toughest Mudder, and sorry, Matt, but I don’t plan on doing so any time soon. However, there have been countless times in my journey of being the owner of Full Scope Creative that I have been in that, “go go go go go / run run run run run” mindset – right up to that point of breaking. I needed to rely on other people in my life to remind (fight with) me about the need to stop. I can still remember the sheer exhaustion I felt in early 2017, when working 7 days a week for 7 years was finally catching up with me. I was having lunch with the pastor at my church when he told  me about taking a Sabbath. While it took some time to force myself to take that regularly scheduled break and relax with the Lord, now that I’m doing that on a regular basis, I’d never give it up. As a business owner, it’s our instinct to, “go go go go go / run run run run run” – and without the right pit crew reminding us, and at times fighting with us, to take a much-needed break, we’d drive ourselves to our breaking point.

As I was following Matt’s journey on Facebook, I loved how he would stop each lap to mention the person or group of people he was thinking of that lap and how they’d helped him get to where he was. Running a business can be quite the marathon of long nights, worrying about income, fretting over the sales pipeline going dry, missing family events, not getting to go to the concert you really wanted to, and countless other headaches. All along the race, Matt not only kept thinking of those people who brought him to where he is today, but he took the time to write it down, both for himself and the world to see. When we’re thinking of those that helped bring us to where we are, we can feed off the energy from those people. But we can really turn that energy into fuel if we take the time to write down who they are and how they’ve helped bring us to where we are today. Whether it’s sharing that information with the world or simply pinning up on the wall in front of you, knowing who helped us get to where we are today and how they motivated or shaped us can propel us up and over our next obstacle both in business and in life.

At the end of the 24 hour race, Matt finished 4th overall and 3rd in his division. To say that I was amazed at the success he had in the race is an understatement. The way he was able to overcome obstacles, both within the course and in his life, is nothing short of inspiring. Matt, you make me want to continue fighting for my business and taking on the obstacles in my life. You sir, are one hell of an inspiration! I’m proud to call you my cousin, but I’m honored to call you a friend.

Best Practices for Passwords and Account Access

Over the past few weeks I have helped a couple of clients with one of the biggest struggles a business can face – a lost password or lost account info. While they are two separate problems, they do have commonalities and helping to prevent them can be done very similarly.

So to start, what makes a good password? You will never hear me say to just use a simple password like “password” or “1234.” A password should have at least 12 characters, using both upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Your cat’s name, kid’s name, or street name should never show up in your password. Anniversaries and dates of birth shouldn’t show up either. And for the love of everything that is pure and holy in this world – do NOT use your social security number. 

One problem we hear about quite often is a lost password. In this instance, you will usually have access to a link in case you forgot the password or need to reset it. For some situations, you might not access an account on a regular basis and might not want to save the password in the browser. At Full Scope Creative, we have well over 100 passwords we need to keep track of for our clients and various accounts. All our passwords are 12 characters long and look something like this – uYfc%4?3>5}( – good luck remembering that. To help us out with that, we use a program called DataVault. It’s a fully secured and encrypted program on a computer in the office that we can log into and use to access those passwords. If you have multiple passwords that you need to store, utilizing a secure program like DataVault could be a great solution. Do not – I repeat – DO NOT just open a Microsoft Word document and type them in there. Yes, you’ll be storing them but this method is far from being secure. 

One of our clients recently ran into an issue where a former employee had set up the business’ YouTube account. The problem was that the employee didn’t use his work email to create the account, but a personal one. That employee has long since left the company and isn’t replying to emails asking for help to grant the business owner access to the business’ YouTube channel. While it’s true that there are ways to work with YouTube and Google in this situation, all of those take considerable amounts of time. One simple recommendation is this: set a firm company policy that when setting up accounts for the business, employees or contractors must use a company email address that ownership/management has (or can get) access to. For example, when we set up social media accounts for Full Scope Creative, they are set up using socialmedia@fullscopecreative.com. When we help clients set up their social media accounts, we’ll often use an email address like that so we can always get access to it. That email address is then stored in DataVault along with the passwords.

Losing passwords or account information is never fun. Yes, there are usually work-arounds that can be used to gain access to the account – but those can take a long time and end up being very costly. Instead, utilize the steps listed here by using set email and secure password policy and store them in a program like DataVault. Doing so will help save you from countless headaches in the future. 

Website Headers

Every now and then I’ll stop in to a new store that I haven’t been in before, feel somewhat overwhelmed at the experience, and really not know where I want to go. A trip to a new grocery store was like that for me once. My options were to go left, right, forward – and I could see a set of stairs going up to who knows where. I could see the produce section, the meat counter, and I could hear someone saying, “Would you like to sample…?” Truth be told, it was a little confusing for me. (I just wanted to find the two items I was looking for – bananas and green olives. You know, the usual.) A website can give that same feeling of being overwhelmed to users, especially when it comes to the header of the website.

When we talk about the header of the website, I’m not referring to things like the individual page headings (H1 tag for you HTML junkies); we’re talking about the area at the very top with the logo and navigation. This header is usually above the main content of the site and has a few elements that can help a user navigate through your site as well as increase the chances of a conversion (however that may be measured on your site). The elements we usually find in a header are the logo, navigation, a Call To Action (CTA), oftentimes a tagline and/or links to social media, and the business phone number and email address.

I’ve been on some sites where it almost feels like they are wanting to cram every last little detail about the organization into that header space: the year the company was started, if it’s family owned, calls to action such as “sign up for this newsletter” or “request this catalog,” a million different social media links, and all kinds of other stuff. The kind of stuff that should be on the site, but not in the header. While we’re at it, let me just say: for the love of all things good and righteous, do NOT put a slideshow in the header. 

What should you put in the header? Keep it simple: your logo, navigation, a tagline or Call to Action, and links to social media. That’s all. There are a number of ways to do this. One of the most effective ways that we’ve found is to do a sort of ‘header sandwich’: we’ll have one line of smaller text going across the top that has the social media links, phone number, email address, and depending on the business. possibly their street address. Below that, we’ll have the logo on the left side of the page (or sometimes centered), and a tagline or call to action on the right. Below all of that is usually where the navigation will go, though sometimes the navigation is off to the right of the logo. Why do we usually follow such a layout? Yes, this formula may get repetitive, but with well-planned creative and design elements, we can follow this extremely effective layout that has proven successful time and time again, site after site.

I know it can be tempting to add a ton of information and features into your header, but keep it simple. Just like going into a store, we want to help give visitors clear direction regarding where they should go next and help them navigate through the experience. If your site isn’t getting the results you were hoping for, start at the top, and see what the header looks like. Oftentimes, a cluttered and overcrowded header will have a negative impact on a site’s overall performance.

What to do if your site gets hacked

So an article on what to do if your site gets hacked really has two versions: one if host with Full Scope Creative, and another if you host with a provider such as GoDaddy, HostMonster, or even SquareSpace. 

Let’s start with the second. If you host with GoDaddy, HostMonster or any of the big EIG providers and your site gets hacked…. I hope you’ve got some time to spare. You’ll need to call their (oftentimes overseas) tech support and work with them to get it fixed. Similarly, if you’re on a system like SquareSpace or Weebly, you’ll need to work with their tech support – and hope they are willing to look into the issue to get your site back up and running.

What about if you host your site with Full Scope Creative? It’s pretty simple – just reach out to us. You can call, text, email, Facebook message, or even message us via LinkedIn and let us know what happened. We will then get the site back up and running and you can go back to running your business. Pretty easy. What do we do when your site gets hacked? Through WordFence, we can perform a scan on your site to see which file(s) are corrupted. Then we work through our backups and resources to get the file(s) cleaned up and back in place. Finally, we’d look at the security configurations on the site to search for ways to increase the security offerings and stability on the site.

Truth be told, we rarely see hacks happen to the sites that are on our Security Essentials hosting plan. With all the security measures put in place, we’ve eliminated most hacks and minimized the damage that can be done if they do happen. Oftentimes, Full Scope Creative both be aware of and fix any issues well before the site owner finds out their site had issues at all.

Having your site get hacked is one of the most frustrating experiences a business can go through. It can take valuable time – time that most business leaders simply don’t have. Hosting with Full Scope Creative is a great way to avoid those headaches. 

Who should receive your newsletter?

You’ve likely heard the statistic that it is 10 times more expensive to find a new client than it is to keep an existing client. I couldn’t agree with that statistic more. Often times, clients will leave a provide simply because they feel forgotten or lost. One of the best ways to prevent that from happening is an email newsletter. Big question then, is who should receive your email newsletter?

Obviously, we’re going to add our clients to that list. Someone who has paid us in the last six months can certainly be added to that list. For most email newsletter systems, such as Constant Contact or Campaign Monitor, if you add an email address that has already opted out of your newsletter, you can’t manually add them back in again – helping us to avoid being marked as spam. When we get a new client at Full Scope Creative, I’ll add them to our newsletter list right away. Just to be safe, I’ll ask for permission or let them know that I’ll be adding them but they can opt out down the road if they choose to do so.

But who else should be added to the list? There are two other groups I usually look at. One is key referral sources. Whether this is other team members, partner companies, people who have sent referrals, or key networking partners, we also don’t want them to forget about us. Not only do I not want my key referral sources to forget about me, but we have new features or products we roll out overtime, and I want to make sure they know about these new offerings as well.

Another group I’ve added to my newsletter over the years were family and friends. Full Scope Creative has received referrals from various family members and friends over the years, and I want to make sure that all of them know what we’re up to. It’s happened before that a friend received our newsletter and later heard a conversation between a friend of theirs that fit what we were talking about and it turned into a referral for Full Scope. Again, to be safe, check to confirm it’s OK to add them or at least be sure (as is always the case) to have an easy way for them to opt out of the email list.

Having an active email newsletter is a great way to keep front and center with your clients and key referral sources. Adding clients, key referral sources, family, and friends, is a great way to build up your recipients list and help get your message out to a wider audience.