Category Archives: Web Design

Meet Christopher Jennings!

Christopher Jennings

Every once in awhile, we like to shake it up at Alter Endeavors and spotlight one of our incredible people and their accomplishments. It’s past time for us to brag on Christopher Jennings.

Christopher Jennings aka “Topher,” the Director of Website Operations at Alter Endeavors, just got back from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) National Conference in Los Angeles. That’s right, besides running the most complicated department at Alter Endeavors, Christopher S. Jennings is a man of many talents.

Christopher has worked at AE for a little over 3 years now and was our very first hire after Nick and Jamie (the owners). So, it should go without saying that Christopher means a lot to us —he’s like family. Not only does he head up the department of Web Operations at AE, but he’s also an illustrator and author for children’s publications. Like we said earlier, superbly talented.

Topher has illustrated dozens of published works for children (and he has even written a few of them too). Though he’s obviously extremely talented, he’s also incredibly versatile. He’s worked in publishing, gaming, editorial, advertising, entertainment, animation, commercial, apparel, apps and even drawn greeting cards for American Greetings. (Phew. What a list!)

It’s Topher’s focus on children’s books, and why they are important to him, that makes him extra incredible in our humble opinion. As a kid, reading didn’t come easy. His mother read him picture books to ease him into it. Picture books allowed him to learn to read while making sure not to discourage or dissuade him in the arduous process of learning how letters formed words. Huge props to Christopher’s mother, who says she still has Green Eggs and Ham memorized from all of those repeated readings. Although picture books helped Christopher read, their visuals also fostered Christopher’s love for the fun (but important) things, the light-hearted things, and how to visually interpret those things.

Christopher is the author of Hello, Texas! as well as the author and illustrator of the picture book Animal Band, both published by Sterling Publishing. He has drawn for published works for such companies as Penguin Group Books, Scholastic and Stone Arch Books (to name a few.) Christopher was chosen as the featured illustrator for SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) in September 2015. That year he was selected from volunteers around the country and given a grant—SCBWI flew Christopher up to New York, all expenses paid, for the annual conference. In October of 2016 Christopher took the reins as illustrator coordinator for the Austin chapter.

When asked what his favorite part of the creative process is, Christopher replied that “he loves the revision process.” Not only does this make him an exceptionally talented artist, this is why Alter Endeavors has built so many impressive websites over the past few years for some really important folks. What’s more, people love working with Christopher. He is kind, patient, understanding, experienced, and forward-thinking.

Not many super creative folks are able to be even half as organized and focused as Christopher, which has a lot to do with why he was made animation lead for the film A Scanner Darkly and why so many folks choose to work with Alter Endeavors. We are proud and thankful to have Topher as part of the Alter Endeavors core family. If you want to check out his awesome work, click here.

 

Soon Your Site Might Be Flagged As “Not Secure”- What Do You Do?

not secure

Google has announced that their popular Chrome Browser, starting in October 2017, will flag all websites that are not encrypted and ask for any information through forms, as “not secure.” Website encryption is used to secure data that is given by the visitor while on that website. Google started doing this in January for websites that asked for personal or purchasing information, but starting in October, they will flag websites that ask for ANY information forms as “not secure”. So, to further explain what this means, our Director of Website Management at Alter Endeavors, Steve Joiner, is here to help tell us how this may affect your website.

Wait, What?

Today most websites are not encrypted, although the number that are is growing fast. If your website isn’t encrypted, it uses the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and doesn’t have Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates. This means that the information passed between website visitors and the website is more easily intercepted and successfully read. Websites that are encrypted, use Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) and have SSL certificates installed. The SSL certificate ensures that the information passed between the website visitors and the website is encrypted which makes it much more difficult to intercept. SSL Certificates typically have to be renewed periodically in one, two or three year increments.

Why Google Decided To Make HTTP “Not Secure”

Google has long been a proponent of a safer, more protected internet. When Google considers who to rank for any search term, they want to send searchers to safe and secure sites. Thus, Google has started to rank sites that have encryptions higher in search engine results. Google wants to alert searchers when they are visiting a site that isn’t encrypted, which is why they have decided to start flagging sites that aren’t encrypted as “not secure.”

Should you consider switching your website to HTTPS and encryption? 

While it may seem hard or stressful to switch your website to HTTPS and encryption, it is definitely something you should consider doing. First, encryption will make your site safer and more secure for your visitors. Second, Google will give your site more “ranking points” for search engine results allowing your site to potentially do better than sites without encryption. Lastly, your site won’t be flagged as “not secure” when you are asking your visitors to provide information in a form. While a SSL certification may not be necessary, it can improve your overall success and traffic to your site.

What is involved in switching from HTTP to HTTPS?

For starters, an SSL certificate must be purchased. Before purchasing the certificate, you must get your server set up and make sure it has the correct company name and address. Next, you need to submit a Certificate Signing Request (CSR). Then, you will have to submit the CSR to the Certificate Authority and get your domain and company validated. Once it is purchased and you receive the certificate, you must get it installed on your site. In some cases, websites may include assets that are provided by unencrypted websites. Those must be reviewed and resolved. Lastly, this change should be reflected in Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools to help protect your existing search rankings.

Help! This is way too technical!  Can Alter Endeavors help?

Yes, Alter Endeavors can definitely help you with this. To start, we can purchase the SSL certificate on your behalf. Then, we can install it on your website for you. Next, we would review your site and identify potential problems with the switch over to encryption. Lastly, we can notify Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools that your site is now HTTPS/encrypted to help improve your search rankings and make sure your website is no longer marked as “not secure.”

How much will this cost you?

The two costs to consider would be the cost of the SSL certificate and the cost of our Alter Endeavors developer’s time. The cost of the SSL certificate is approximately $75-$150. If you wanted to hire AE’s developer, it would probably take anywhere between 2-5 hours. Once you Contact Us, we will review your site and let you know ahead of time what our estimate is.

We know that this topic can be too technical at times, but we hope this article has helped explain what this update will mean for your website!

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Website Redesign

website redesign

Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, especially when embarking on a website redesign. At Alter Endeavors, we try to break the process down into steps to get a clearer picture of what exactly we need to do to create a new and improved website for our clients. As an example of the steps we take, our Projects Assistant at AE, Rachel Clark, has narrowed it down to the three questions to ask before beginning a website redesign.

1) What is my timeframe/budget?

A lot of the time companies want to launch their site around a specific event such as a holiday, a book launch, a date that is relevant to their industry, etc. So when discussing your timeframe, you need to be sure to plan accordingly if you are trying to launch by a specific date or event. For example, our client Steve H Lawton planned to have the website redesign launch at the same time as his new book release for optimal traffic. After discussing your timeframe, it is time to figure out your budget. At AE, we discuss a baseline budget without clients at the beginning. That being said, we know that ideas and plans can change throughout the creative process of re-designing a website so we also discuss the importance of a “flexible budget” so that we can adjust along the way if necessary.

2) What do I want to change?

Next in line, is deciding how much of your website you want to change. Is it a single page, a quiz, or your whole website you want to revamp? Are you trying to keep your current content or completely redo what you have? What are you trying to change about the design of the website? Do you like your current colors and logo or do you want to create a completely new brand guide? All of these questions are important to consider before starting a website redesign.

3) Who do I want to work on it?

Your final decision to make before re-designing your website is who you want to work on this project. Do you want to do all of the work yourself? Do you have an employee who has website experience that you want to head up the project? Are you both going to collaborate together or are you going to give them the reins? Or, do you need to hire someone to do the re-design for you? When making this decision you need to consider who has the time necessary to take on this project. A website redesign can be a large task and you don’t want it to be forgotten about or swept under the rug because you are too busy to give it your energy and focus.

A lot of the time, our employees at AE are given different projects and tasks based off of their expertise or interest in the area. For example, our employee Nic Weiss was put on the team handling our client Aero Designed Systems because of his interest in how things work. By matching up our employees to clients in industries they are interested in, we are able to ensure the best overall performance we have to offer.

Now that you know the 3 questions to ask yourself before re-designing your website, it’s time to get the ball rolling. If you answered “who do I want to work on it” with hiring outside help, take a look at our Portfolio Page at Alter Endeavors and Contact Us if you like what you see!

How to Create Content That Draws Traffic

create content

Drawing people to even the most well-designed websites can be challenging. Creating content that draws traffic to your site is important, but even more crucial is making sure your SEO-approved content makes sense and keeps their attention. In this blog, I’ll go over the importance of UX-friendly content meant to prompt reaction, and give you an outline to create content that works in your favor.

Well-cultivated UX

The content on your site should be created with user experience in mind. You’re probably already on the SEO bandwagon with the rest of the internet, but if not, be sure to optimize your site for search engines for the best chance at drawing people from Google or Bing. Find your site’s most and least visited pages through Google Analytics, to identify weak areas and improve your content accordingly.  Most importantly, make sure the placement of content on every page of your site is visually navigable, with an easy-to-understand format and clear visuals where necessary. Every bit of your content is there for a reason—nothing is there without reason.

Create Content That Elicits a Response

Good content should elicit a response from the people who interact with your site. First, it’s important to identify the response you’re looking fordo you want people to contact your business for services, or take an online assessment that will give you information on site visitor demographics? Knowing your end goal will help you focus your content—the more focused, the better your responses. Finally, be sure to give explicit calls-to-action to get people moving, directing them to the right page or giving them access to a simple contact form. Bottom line: if you ask people who go to your site to do something, make sure they know what they’re being asked to do, why they should do it, and how.

The Anatomy of Good Content

Now that you know the importance of well-structured content, we’ll take a closer look at the most important components:

1. A strong headline.

Having a strong headline to bring the reader in is the first thing that will grab their attention. Remember, not too general—stay focused. Make it a simple, direct statement that your next section expands upon.
“Bring Austin’s #1 Churros to Your Celebrity Event”

2. Create content that is engaging & thought-provoking.

Answer the question created by your headline. Be prepared to back up any claims you’ve made. Use visuals and graphics where applicable.
“In 2016, Churro Monthly named us the #1 Churro Spot in the Austin area. This March, we launched our catering business at the SXSW premiere of the Lord of the Rings Ultimate Director’s Cut.”
[Pictured: Elijah Wood eating a churro like his life depends on it.]

3. A clear call-to-action.

As I mentioned earlier, CTAs tell site visitor exactly what to do, and where, with the information you’ve just given to them.

“Contact us to cater your next birthday, party, or movie premiere.”

[contact form]

(P.S. This content was created for example purposes only. There is no Churro Monthly, nor is there a LotR Ultimate Director’s Cut. Elijah Wood does, however, love churros.)

It’s an art form to create content for your site that meets all of the above criteria, but it’s not impossible. Be sure to make navigable content through research, practice, and reworking for the best user experience. Give visitors to your site direction with focused content that keeps their interest. Once you’ve nailed your perfect method, you’ll be able to fill your site with searchable, interesting content that gets the right benefits for your brand or business.

Site Case Study: Steve H. Lawton

Steve H. Lawton

While all of our clients are different, it’s not every day that you encounter a person like Steve H. Lawton. An executive at Dell, Steve had a snow skiing accident that nearly ended his life. He came out of that experience with a powerful perspective on living. His was a site we knew we had to build.

A SPECIFIC PERSONALITY

Alter Endeavors builds our sites to engage the visitor. Conversions and usability are at the top of our list. After that, however, the site is about the person or business; who they are and how they want to be perceived.

Steve was starting his branding from scratch. Aside from the cover for his book, the Steve H. Lawton brand had no look. Part of our process is having the designer interview our clients. We do this so the designer understands the vision and personality behind the site. As Steve and his designer—also Steve, funnily enough—talked, it was clear this site was going to be special. It was going to be capital-b Big on personality.

THE MAN. THE MESSAGE. THE SITE.

When we began our engagement, Steve’s book Head First: A Crash Course in Positivity was being finalized and on its way to the printer. With that in mind, it was important to identify the purpose of the site. Does it begin and end with the book? Or is the site about Steve H. Lawton beyond the book?

Steve wanted a platform to continue to share his message. His blog is front and center. Prominent newsletter signup forms and calls to action ensure those who want to hear from him can easily sign up to do so. An RSS feed signup is also offered.

Steve needed a stage for his speaking efforts. Steve’s speaking page is a study in how to do it right. Testimonies and client logos build credibility. Potential clients can see the topics he speaks on, and watch Steve in action in his videos. Steve’s bio and print-ready photos are there to be downloaded and included in programs and on event sites.

While the site is a solid platform for the book, it has a life after; accommodating all of Steve’s efforts and his mission moving forward.

A QUIZ THAT PROMPTS

The message of positivity carries an introspective aspect. To foster that interaction, we worked with Steve to put together a quiz that engages his visitors. The results of the quiz get them thinking about positivity in their lives, furthering the impetus to buy his book. (They can also sign up for his mailing list when they take the quiz; or not, it’s up to them.)

A SITE THAT BELONGS TO STEVE

Building Steve’s site was not only a pleasure—he’s great to work with, we were sad to see him go—but also fed into Alter Endeavor’s mission of making this world a better place. Another one of our values is constructing sites that are unique in the marketplace. There’s no one like Steve. There’s no site quite like his either. (Just try and get that from one of those cookie-cutter templates we all see the ads for.*)

*Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Web Design Mistakes – 3 That Seem Like Great Ideas

Is your Website “Naughty or Nice”? Are there web design mistakes that seemed like a good idea at one time?

web design mistakes

We’re in November, which means it’s officially the holiday season and digital marketers can pound holiday metaphors into oblivion. At Alter Endeavors, we’re always happy to audit a website and give feedback. We fundamentally believe that every website should be unique in its branding, calls to action, and user experience. Over the years, we’ve seen a wide array of web functionalities and marketing ideas that are designed to increase engagement or conversions. Most of them work, but here are a few ideas that seem “nice” but are actually web design mistakes that could end your website up on the “naughty” list.

1. Slide Show Carousels

If I’m a business owner and my business offers different service lines or promotions, a slide show carousel may seem like a great idea. It allows pictures to scroll through so that users can see my business’s versatility. But, that’s the problem. Your website should be designed to optimize interaction. When someone visits your website, they should be clearly directed towards the engagement that maximizes conversions for your business (or your call to action). By presenting multiple options, such as a carousel, you’re actually encouraging users not to click further into the site. Need more proof of how a carousel can frustrate users? Click Here.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-10-37-55-am

Carousels can also be web design mistakes because they create an issue in regards to load time. When the page is pulled up, all of those images must load as well, which increases your load time. How does this translate to dollars? According to a recent study, for every second your website takes to load you are losing 16% of your traffic. If a carousel adds an extra second or two to your load time, you’re potentially losing up to 1/3 of your traffic before visitors even see the site. And while load time isn’t a major factor in Google’s search algorithm, it does play a part—so there’s that to consider.

2. Keyword Stuffed Copy

There’s a reason that black hat tactics exist in SEO. Because originally they worked. Keyword stuffing was a very popular technique 5 years ago because the content was designed to be recognized by crawling google bots rather than the users. In that respect, keyword stuffing seems like a “nice” idea to boost your SEO rankings. However, keyword stuffing is a web design mistake and a fast way to end up on Google’s “naughty list” and actually hurt your SEO rankings.

First, Google’s algorithm changes frequently. It’s designed to find optimal content for the user based on their search. Over time, Google’s algorithm advanced to the point where it is able to recognize what is valuable content and what is not.

Second, keyword stuffing is not designed to create easily digestible content for the user. Often times, the content overwhelms the user. Optimized content should encourage the user to engage further—either taking them deeper into the site or directing them towards a call to action. As Amy Renken of Amy Renken Writing Services put it, “when writing content for the internet, focusing on appealing to the human audience is just as important as writing for the search engines bots.”

3. Autoplaying Videos

If you’re considering a video on your homepage, first, I would like to highly recommend this idea. Video creates a palatable means of engagement with visitors and even helps your SEO rankings if executed properly. However, multimedia such as video that “autoplays” can actually decrease engagement on your site and are widely considered a mistake for website best practices. Here’s Sarah Murphy’s take, from our video partner Golden Arm Media:

“Autoplay videos on your homepage take viewers by surprise, particularly because of the audio. Instead, when a viewer clicks play to view the content, they are already more invested because they had to opt in to view it. It gives them the chance to be curious first, and dig deeper. Forcing it upon them with autoplay is an almost guaranteed way to turn them off before they have the chance to learn about your company. Just think about when you’re reading an article online, and a video ad starts playing—it’s not a very pleasant experience.”

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-10-42-39-am

Web Design Mistakes to Avoid

In whole, these are three ideas that seem like a great concept on your site but could actually put your website on the “naughty list” with your users and customers. Rather than a carousel, focus on one clear call to action. Instead of keyword stuffing, create content that is relevant to your business focused on creating engagement. Finally, video can be an excellent way to reinforce branding or give further insight to your business—just don’t force it upon your users!

Where Are We Going?—Mobile Friendly Websites

mobile friendly websites

In January, Apple’s iPhone will celebrate its 10th birthday. At the time, the idea that one could surf the web and be on the cell phone at the same time was not only revolutionary, but seen as unnecessary. Previous “mobile web” experiences were incomplete, information based, and lacked the design and branding elements now crucial to a mobile website. The idea that mobile friendly websites would now just be a series of listed out links seems prehistoric—yet this was the reality less than 15 years ago.

Back to the present, as consumers, we use the internet daily. The average adult spends over 20 hours a week on the internet. With the prevalence of smart phones, this number will only grow. According to a Morgan Stanley study, the number of global users who accessed the internet via a mobile device was larger than the number of desktop users. Where does this tie back in to business applicable? 65% of new visitors to your website this month will be accessing your site through a mobile device, including tablets. The mobile revolution has begun online. Is your business ready for those potential customers? If you were to access your website through your phone as a customer, would you feel comfortable spending money with your company?

Oh yes, and there is also a major SEO component to being mobile responsive. Mobile responsive encompasses a webpage being CSS responsive, having quick load times and low data overhead. These are all major factors in Google’s search algorithm. As of April 2015, Google prioritized mobile friendly sites in their rankings and boosted those sites in their rankings. Also known as “Mobilegeddon”, the most drastic difference in the algorithm was felt in mobile search. If your website is not mobile friendly, it is very likely you don’t rank in mobile search at all.

What does CSS responsive mean? Based upon the browser window size, the structure of a webpage changes. In practice, the structure will change for iPhones, Tablets and Desktop. A site can be CSS responsive but not mobile friendly at all. However, a mobile friendly site must be CSS responsive. How is this possible? Again, mobile friendly includes CSS responsiveness, quick load times and low data overhead. If a site is CSS but takes forever to load, the site is not mobile friendly at all. Quicker load times are essential because on average you have 3 seconds before a mobile user will leave your site. If a site takes a minute to load, you obviously just lost 33% of the time a customer will spend on your site (ultimately meaning less conversions). Low data overhead simply means that a user will not use a significant amount of data to load the page.

If you’re not sure if your site is mobile friendly, click here.

At Alter Endeavors, we build well branded and mobile friendly websites. Our team of designers and developers have mobile specific experience that can help your business be ready for the future of the internet—which is in the palm of our hands.

Writing Website Content: Accommodating Different Types of Site Visitors

writing website content

“How?” she said to me, “When writing website content, how do I accommodate people who come to my website who know what they want, and also those who still need to be convinced they need my services?”

She’s a new client who’s had a website for a while. She’s engaged us to build a new site that will increase her interaction with both of those audiences.

Her’s is a good question. A valid one. Let’s take a look at it.

The Two Types of Site Visitors

Visitor One has encountered you on social media. Your statements there, consistent posts, and engagement with others have convinced her she needs your services. When she arrives at your site, she wants to contact you.

Visitor Two needs what you do. Through a search engine query, she’s arrived at your site. She’s never heard of you. She’s encountering your message for the first time.

Visitor One : Give Her What She Needs—NOW

Accommodating Visitor One is simple, but it’s a step so often overlooked. Give her the ability to do what she wants, in this case, contact you. Put the information where she is looking for it. Make it simple.

I’ll say it again. Make it simple.

If you’re a service company. A restaurant. Any brick-and-mortar. Provide your phone number—right there, at the top of your page. On mobile, this phone number can be clicked and then will call you. See? Simple. 

Let’s review the steps:

1. She arrives at your page. 

2. She sees and clicks (or dials) the phone number. 

3. She calls you.

4. You are now talking to someone who wants your services (= money*).

*Yay!

Some businesses (I am looking at you Restaurant Industry) try to be fancy and tuck this information away. The phone number—and even more inexplicable—their address are in the footer (not a terrible place for it), but still not the first place the visitor will see. I’ve seen this information on about pages, menu pages in the middle of the appetizers, and there’s been more than a few where I can’t find this information at all. (Really? What’s a restaurant’s customers’ number one need? Find the restaurant.)

Ok. So back to visitor experience. Here’s the difference if the phone number is in the footer on the site. (This example is on mobile, a platform on which most visitors arrive.)

1. She arrives at your page. 

2. She looks for your phone number. (Time wasted.)

3. She doesn’t see it. (She’s a little frustrated.)

4. She scrolls down. (Time wasted.)

5. She scrolls down. (Time wasted.)

6. Wifi is slow, the site stutters. (MORE time wasted.)

7. She arrives at the bottom of the site.

8. She sees and clicks (or dials) the phone number. 

9. She calls you.

10. You are now talking to someone who wants your services (= money).

In the second interaction you’ve already cost your potential client. You’ve tested her patience, which few of us have on the internet. You have precious moments with those coming to your site. If they know what they want, you have to give it to them now.

Contacting you is a prime need of visitors. Phone number, address, buttons leading to your contact page to send an email—these are all common items included at the top of a site’s pages. However, depending on your business, this might be a newsletter sign-up, or link out to your social media platforms.

Visitor Two : Tell Her Your Story and Invite Her to Come Along

Visitor Two: she needs what you do, but doesn’t know anything about you. You have a little more time with her, because she’s open to gathering information to make her decision. However, you still need to make your case quickly and clearly.

The elements of a well-built home page—and interior pages—lead the visitor on a journey. She is presented with the prime theme of the site: a headline and imagery that boils down the purpose of your business into a few, quickly understood words.

Scrolling down the website, this statement is supported and defined by things like:

  • The elevator statement: a slightly longer definition of your company’s offerings and objectives.
  • Graphic presentations of your services.
  • Logos, testimonials, or review site ratings add credence to your claims.
  • A video of you or your company in action.
  • Blog feeds, kept up to date, show you are savvy and present in the industry.

On the home page, each of these items are brief, a few words or graphically presented concepts. Each is accompanied by an action—a link or button urging interaction—taking her deeper into the site. There she will be further educated, convinced, and spurred to act.

By the time she reaches the bottom of the home page, and is presented with the final encouragement to contact you, she should be sold. After all, she’s gone on a guided trip, guided by YOU. You’ve given her the best story you have, told your tale.

Visitor Three : The Invisible Presence

There is one visitor, too, for whom all of the above applies. Though this visitor is silent, there’s a strong case for saying it’s the most important visitor of all.

The search engines—those internet robots made up of code probe your site. They’re digging for clues that you are who you say you are; that you do what you say you do. Their goal is to present the best on the tops of their lists. 

There were once multiple strategies in the past for luring them, and even fooling them, but now the best strategy is strong, relevant content, in positions on the page where their human counterparts would look for them.

Accommodating All the Visitors

An effective website provides your visitors with what they need. Whether it’s a phone number, or more information to make a decision, the best sites do this in a quick and clear way. As you consider your website, consider your objectives, what you want your visitors to do, and then put things in easily accessible places. We’ll all thank you for it.

A Website is Dreams Coming True

blog-dreams

“You’re making my dreams come true.”

I’ve been told this a few times now. As operations director here at Alter Endeavors—i.e. the guy who guides the teams working with our clients to design, organize, and build their sites—there are few statements that make me smile more.

My teams assemble the nuts and bolts of the site, being sure not only the calls-to-action are in place, but also that our sites are the best they can be across all devices and platforms. Alter Endeavors is currently working on quite a few sites, all of them at various stages within our process. As you can imagine, it’s too easy to get lost in the day-to-day.

“You’re making my dreams come true.”

A comment like this is a gut check. It causes us to look up and remember the bigger picture, the “why” behind what we do. It’s what makes me love my job. Nick created this web development company with an eye on more. His goal is to “return the human element” to the site building process. Part of that element is the “dream.”

The small business who re-builds their website to be mobile responsive, and increase their positioning in the search engine’s results, does so to bring people into their store or restaurant.

The author who puts up a site for her new book, and creates a blog full of dynamic content, has an eye on furthering her message and audience—looking beyond the current book launch to a well-branded platform, able to accelerate the next book launch and the next on the Amazon Best Seller lists.

The restaurant group who engages their customer base through ongoing social media channels, intent on delivering the information their audience wants. This same group builds a hub where customers quickly and easily find daily specials, location information, and hours. They care about their customers’ experience before they even walk through the door.

All of these are people with dreams. These are people living their dreams.

I know not all of our clients would say it this way. “You’re making my dreams come true” can come across too flowery. However, whatever they choose to call it, the truth remains—they stepped out and gave it a shot.

These are our favorite people to work with. The dreamers. The chance takers. The doers.

That moment when we pull the lever, when we direct the servers to the new site, when our client has a new and better face on the web—that moment is as exciting for us as it is for our clients.

Because, you see, nothing makes the Alter Endeavors team more happy than seeing—and being part of–a dream come true.

Control Your Brand, Own a Website

Social Media and other borrowed spaces continue to prove to us that they are both extremely valuable and extremely fickle. A little over a year ago, the Facebook algorithm made a dramatic shift, immediately shutting down businesses’ ability to reach even their engaged audiences in a “free” kind of way. And since then, their algorithms continue to shift all the time to accommodate new advertising methods, new mobile initiatives, etc. Brands have learned to adapt and rebuild but any brand that thinks its royalty status on Facebook or any other social media platform is safe lives in a dangerous fantasy.

It’s not just Facebook. Twitter completely changed the way their API works over a year ago, actually killing entire businesses that once used to be built on that API. With everything going on over at Twitter right now, a company floundering to stay relevant while finding profitability, more dramatic changes are inevitable.

Instagram implemented a much stricter API system back in late 2015 in order to fight malicious apps, but in doing so they managed to kill a ton of other apps, companies and add-ons.

The list keeps going. Social media platforms, powerful though they might be, are not permanent, especially as they are now. Controlling your own branded space matters to the longevity and stability of your brand online. And social media should be a reflection of the spaces you control online. It’s not to say that social media or other borrowed spaces (like Reddit) are not necessary. They absolutely are. But spaces like your newsletter or your blog or your website only change when you want them to, and how you want them to change.

With 10,000 Facebook followers, you can only engage them with the Facebook wall (only a fraction will see) and Facebook ads (which is limited to the amount of money you spend). With 10,000 email subscribers, you can engage them with a newsletter built however you want, to suit whatever need you might have. If you are a clothing company, sending out an email about your latest and greatest pieces to people who care is worth its weight. Have a controlled space to direct subscribers to is worth its weight in gold.

If you are a plumbing company, start a plumbing blog with plumbing videos. Most of the content you create and post on your site will always be relevant, it will always matter. If indexed properly with the right keywords, that content will rank well with Google and drive folks back to your site, your blog. And don’t just have a shingle hanging when they get there. Give people direction on your site. Show them where to go next, what to do next. Because what matters to you as a plumbing company (or any other service company) at the end of the day? Leads.

Websites are not dead. They are not obsolete. It is necessary to rebuild them every 3-5 years, but that should be because of the changing,growing nature of your business as well as to accommodate the changing nature of how people view the internet (hello, mobile.)

And it’s not to say that we discredit social media. Quite the contrary. Social media can prove indispensable to the building of an email list or when driving new prospects to your site. But that’s just it. These spaces are there for the assist. They are the pathways that lead to those controlled, authoritative spaces.