Take Flight

Within each of us there are wings, and we only have to imagine in order to soar. Here at Wildwood Forest Studios our motto is, “Where your vision becomes reality.”

Where do these visions come from and how do we imagine? Is this just pie-in-the-sky and a waste of valuable time? Shouldn’t we get right down to the marketing analysis and the spread sheets, churn out some code, upload the files? Of course, all in good time, but first we need to “take a walk in the forest”.

John Muir said, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” His deep love of the natural world around him gave Muir a clearer understanding of himself. So it is with us. When faced with a problem to solve, a solution to find, a web site to build, I like to start with the basics, clear my mind of the obvious, and (if only metaphorically) first take a walk in the forest wilderness.

Some would call this “thinking outside the box” ….. going beyond technology and computer code to find solutions. We sometimes tend to want to begin building the structure of a web site before spending enough time to consider the vision. But it is the vision that will lead us toward a successful outcome.

When clients come to me in search of someone to build them a web site, there will inevitably be a glimmer in their eyes, a spark born of a corporate necessity, yet hinting of a dream. Decisions must be made based on marketing needs and sound business principles, while the soul is yearning to break free of the boardroom and fly!

Some of the obvious considerations are:

  • What is my purpose? (i.e.: to sell, to teach, to showcase, to entertain)?
  • What look and feel will appeal to my particular audience?
  • Is the expected audience technologically savvy or do they tend to be a bit technically-challenged?
  • What kind of mood do I want to set for the viewers? (i.e.: thought-provoking, excited anticipation of a purchase, led to take action or join in, laughter, compassion, curiosity)?
  • What “image” will create a strong visual brand for my company or organization?

But then there are also the less obvious :

  • Can my visitors relate the web site to a real existence, both in terms of personality (i.e.: friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, casual, formal) and a physical presence (i.e.: a corresponding brick-and-mortar store, an office, a showroom, a clinic, a courtroom, a stage, a workshop, a person or group of people) ?
  • How can I get an edge on my competitors?
  • What will make my site memorable and invite repeated visits?
  • Am I having fun yet? Because if I am having fun, then my visitors will too!

Are You On a Wild Goose Chase?

Building your own site for your business can indeed become a Wild Goose Chase. I know what you are thinking, because I’ve heard it all so many times …..

  • “I’ll just download one of those free handy-dandy page-builder editors, point and click, drag and drop, and have my site up and running in no time.”
  • “My nephew says he can make me a website, no problem.”
  • “I can get the kid next door to make it, High School students these days know all about HTML coding, and they work cheap!”

Many weeks later, after much teeth grinding and three bottles of Excedrin Extra Strength, you realize that your web site just does not measure up to your expectations and you are wondering where you could have gone wrong. Why do the photos all look a bit fuzzy, or why is the text running off the end of the page in Internet Explorer, and how the heck do you make one of those forms that send data to your email box, you plugged in the form code, why won’t it send? Your nephew loves the little animated dancing chicken he put by your email link and the rippling lake applet effect on your home page, but somehow you wonder why it just does not have that polished professional look you had envisioned.

Don’t despair, you are not alone. It might have been a noble and worthwhile effort to cut the hefty price tag that came with hiring a developer. But was the wasted time really worth it?

CONSIDER THE PLIGHT OF my friend Jason (named changed to protect the innocent). Jason is an amazingly talented certified Computer Technician and Network Engineer who owns his own business. He can usually expect to net over $200 a day. When it comes to the Internet and technology, it is safe to say that Jason is no dummy, so he was fairly confident that he could build his own business site and he set about doing just that. Six weeks later he wondered what had possessed him.

In the hours he lost while struggling with the project he had lost over $3500.00 in revenue and still did not have a workable site up and running. I have to admit that he had done a credible job with the photos and content, although the color scheme (gray and blue) left a bit to be desired and reminded me of the ill fated war-between-the-states, or “the war of Yankee Aggression” as we here in the south are more apt to call it. And more importantly, he was having trouble making all the interactive features of his on-line shopping cart work properly and he had yet to figure out how to connect the cart to his merchant account.

The bottom line is Jason could have just concentrated on doing what he does so magnificently, repairing and selling computers and hired a web developer to take care of his site project. Even though there was a sizable fee involved with outsourcing the job, the fee was not nearly as much as he lost in productivity while attempting to do the project himself.

As I say on my web site…..
“You need to ask yourself this: Is Web development your forte? Or is it more important for you to focus on running your business? Time spent on projects that does not produce results. is time wasted. “

Don’t chase that Wild Goose. Having a professional Web designer do the work for you is money well spent.

Wanna Fly?

“Wanna fly, you got to give up the (stuff) that weights you down.” ~Toni Morrison

Naturally it is your goal that your web site soars to magnificent heights with glorious raves from all your visitors. How do you accomplish that? What is it that makes a web site hit a home run with its audience?

And the strangest question of all …. How can two web sites, so very different in appearance, one stark and photoless, the other silly, loud, and eye-catching… both be popular award winning designs?


The answer lies in their individual appeal to their target audiences’ needs and expectations. People don’t go to Google.com expecting eye-candy. Rather they want to be in and out quickly and easily with the info they came to get. Fast and simple, no frills, no distractions, just show me the money. On the other hand visitors who show up at Disney.com are there to slowly and joyously soak up the sunshine. They expect to be entertained, even wowed. And they know that they might even be required to download a few extra plugins to do that.

Now you are wondering just what all this has to do with “giving up the stuff that weights you down”. Well so many times I see clients who come to me with a preset notion of what the look and feel for their site should be. For example, you want your web site to be all pink and pastels because those are your favorite colors. But you are selling electronic equipment. I would tell you that you need to “give up stuff that is weighting you down”. For your web site to “fly”, you will need to appeal to your customers, many of who will not exactly feel comfortable with a lot of pink fluff. Now if you were selling baby clothes or “girly tee shirts” (as does one of my clients) , then you would be right on target with your pink.

Color choices are not the only “stuff” that might weight you down. An attorney, a doctor, or even a professor would need to forgo flashy gadgetry on a site and stick to something serious, and inspiring professionality. A site selling educational toys, however, would better appeal to the young toddler’s imagination with bright colors, funny images, games, even a silly sound or two.

It is great if we can manage to match your site to your personality, but more importantly it is essential to match that of your target audience.

Incoming! (Viewing Your Site Stat Report)

You can keep track of how many people visit your website, when they come, which search engines they utilize to reach your web pages, what keywords they type in the search engines and much, much more. Analyze this information for insights on how to increase your search engine ranking, to know which pages your visitors like best.

My client’s using WildwoodHosting.com have access to a powerful tool called Awstats. Instructions are as follows:

  • In your browser’s GoTo field, type your domain name followed by a forward slash and the word c-panel (www.yourdomain/cpanel)
  • Use your user name and password to log in.
  • In the C-panel, scroll down to the section titled “LOGS” and click on the icon for “Awstats”.
  • Click on “VIEW”
  • You will find a long page of colorful reports each useful in its own way.

If you are not a WildwoodHosting.com client, ask your web developer if there is a similar report generated by your hosting server.


I’m No Angel …. However

I’m no angel, but I’ve spread my wings a bit” ~ Mae West

When hiring a professional, people usually like to know about one’s qualifications and certifications. We want our medical doctors to have degrees and the proper state certifications, the same goes for attorneys, teachers, architects, and the list goes on and on.

What about hiring a web developer? Is a particular college degree necessary to qualify one for the job? Is there a “certification” that insures expertise?

Having a college degree certainly suggests a level of professionalism and tech related degrees may be helpful, the industry standards do not require any particular degree. Rather it is the ability to demonstrate knowledge and creativity that is essential. Most of this knowledge can be gotten from books, courses, and on-the-job experience.

In the “dark ages” when I was in college in the late 60’s, personal computers and the Internet were only a dream. Sure, there were classes in COBOL and FORTRAN, but …… (Well, the less said about those dinosaurs, the better … remember the come from loop?) And sad to admit, in those days women went to college to find a good husband and perhaps picked up a useful part-time career while there. So I majored in Elementary Education (teaching) and in my spare time hung out at the Engineering Building where all the good men were.

After teaching for 15 years I discovered a wonderful blend for my creative artistic talents and my new-found love of computer technology. In those early days, classes in web design were scarce, but the Internet was in its infant stage and HTML relatively easy to decipher on one’s own. My knowledge and understanding grew along with the newly developing technology and I delighted in keeping up with the latest trends and staying on the cutting edge.

I found that the organizational skills I gathered all those years working as a camp director, as a teacher, as a scout leader, as a Customer Service Rep, and even as a wife and mother of 3 kids, were all so valuable in my new career. It is not enough to just design the graphics and write the code, for it is just as important to a web site that the developer be able to help the client evaluate his target audience, set marketing goals, and then coordinate and assemble the materials for the project. These are skills that are not learned in 4 or even 6 years of college, but rather they are gathered and polished through years of experience and practice.

So while I do not hold a degree in technology, I do indeed have the skills to teach many of the classes for those degrees. And along with those years of experience has come the wisdom and maturity to understand the value of honesty and integrity in whatever job I contract to do.