Monday, March 28, 2011

Introducing.... Green Concepts Land Care

Yesterday evening I finished up a new project for Forsyth - based landscape company Green Concepts Land Care, owned by David McIlvane

McIlvane and his services are the ideal company to promote.  The man has education and experience in landscaping and water conservation that no other landscape company has. 

Check out this CV:
•Degree in Horticulture from Texas Tech University

•Professional Arborist Certification

•State of Texas License in Irrigation

•Category 24 Pesticide License from the Department of Agriculture, State of Georgia

Most importantly is David's experience in water conservation.  Georgia may be out of the deep drought trouble we had a couple of years ago, but there is still a lawsuit in play brought by Alabama and Florida challenging Georgia's (read:  Atlanta's) right to use the water in Lake Lanier.  Anything can happen with that suit.  So conserving water as we care for property has to be Priority One regardless of the budget and other services involved.
After discussing the demographics of David's audience and the services he wishes to promote, I created a custom original design for his site, based on his print logo.  It features a full photo portfolio and original blog - so check in to read the latest updates, advice and tips.  If you're in the Forsyth County/Cumming area and looking for an updated, functional, ecologically sound landscape for your home or professional building, drop David a line via the Contact form.
I'm proud to have created this website for this local company.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dealing Effectively with Online Critics

I was inspired to blog on this topic when I received an email update from the Yelp directory.  The blog is for owners of businesses listed on Yelp (yes, including yours truly) and their most current post focuses on when a business receives negative feedback. 

Review the Yelp post here

The Yelp blog was inspired by a post on the New York Times Boss Blog regarding a negative review of a restaurant.

We're all human.  Humans have human reactions, including negative ones.  The Internet and websites that allow reviews are not the cause of these reactions; they are merely tools to convey them.  The difference is a keyboard is faster than a speeding word of mouth comment and hosting servers have longer memories than people.

If Yelp hadn't said it first, I would have advised the following on negative reviews.  I'll just quote it and give credit where it's due:

Give yourself a cooling down period. When someone is using a public forum like Yelp to attack something you’re pouring your heart and soul into, a very natural response is to get emotional. Don’t. The last thing you want to do is overreact to someone online (See: Streisand effect).
One of SDOC's more prominent website clients is the Atlanta Alumnae Panhellenic Association.  This is the Atlanta chapter of the National Panhellenic Conference, a group of 26 Greek-letter sororities.  Atlanta's chapter was founded in 1927 to promote sorority life among collegians and alumnae alike.  The website and its information and features are a nationwide destination for women looking to learn about sororities and get updates on activities in North Georgia.  Dunwoody has been its meeting home for years.
In spite of a documented track record of community service and emphasis of supporting women in advanced education, Greek-letter sororities are, at various times, the butt of jokes, the subjects of outlandish urban legends, and a tasty target for legal action.  In the 1950s, Life Magazine called NPC sororities "a growing societal problem"!  Many in the public have negative impressions of sororities either from a personal experience in college, or from movies and TV.
The leaders of AAPA are more than aware of this negative mojo.  It would be easy to turn up one's nose and become indignant at those who express their impressions.  But they don't take the easy route.  Atlanta Panhellenic has taken a bold and proactive approach to rumors and negative information:  they invite it and address it head-on.
AAPA holds an information called College Sorority 101 every spring.  High school girls and their parents who wish to attend RSVP online in a form I publish annually.  In that form there is an opportunity for questions.  Any questions.  About anything.  Some I've seen included "Is being in a sorority only about drinking and partying" and "Is it true that when you're in a sorority you can't wear the same dress twice".  (In case you're wondering, the answer to both of these is "no".  )
No matter how crazy some people may find these questions, they are all considered valid and are taken at face value.  No taking offense.  No getting frustrated.  No judgement of those doing the asking.  No speculation on their motivation for asking.  Just straight, honest answers - in person, looking the public right in the eye.
The discussions continue on the AAPA Facebook group.  Like the informational session, it is wide open.  News is discussed and questions get answered directly and professionally.  No one is going to get huffy and have other members "stand in agreement", squaring off for a flame war.  AAPA is looking to improve opinions, one person at a time.  That's why a well-run web presence is the best tool for the job:  it can foster positive communication where otherwise there would be none.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Smart People - Smart Business"

Some animals hibernate in winter.  I seem to hibernate in spring.  Not really sleeping, but holing up in a cave working on a big project that is just bursting to get out.  Such was the case with the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce

With the debut of Dunwoody's branding initiative, all of the marketing materials - including the website - needed an overhaul.  I had originally planned to reevaluate the site's structure and content after about 2 years.  Instead, we had to start looking at an overhaul about 8 months in to the previous design.

The original site was one that I organized, but didn't have much to do with in terms of design.  I was handed a Drupal platform, a pre-selected template, and an assortment of modules and told that I WILL make this work.

Within a few months, the staff were reporting difficulties in making their required content fit the format.  We already needed a different type of layout.  Further, the City Branding Committee had assigned a completely different color scheme to the Chamber's identity.  Because the scenario wasn't complicated enough, the site's very hosting was about to fall through.  So the job was now, host, update architecture, and redesign.

First things first:  SDOC established a new server host.  This happened right before New Year's Eve 2010.
Next, build a layout.  The only guidelines were a standardized style guide issued by the Branding Committee and a new logo.  I was finally free to design the perfect showcase from the ground up!  All of the graphics were custom-made to find the balance between a modern, up-to-date aesthetic while staying true to the intent of the standardized guide.

Finally, additional modules were added for functionality - including custom "block" appearance, custom block placement, ability to host numerous sites at once (compare the Dunwoody Business Expo 2011 site within the site) plus others that are still in the testing phase.

The new site launched officially on February 26 at about 6 PM ET.  From the time I was greenlighted to assume hosting the site to the final launch, I logged about 70 hours on everything, including graphic design, module installation and troubleshooting.

The physical construction of the site was a one-woman show.  The office staff signed off on the project in stages before the big reveal but it was my 10 little fingers doing the work.  Again, the content is mostly turned over to office staff and approved volunteers for updating, while I remain available to the IT Committee for functional updates and inservicing for volunteers.

Come on by!  While you're there, check out the Dunwoody Business Expo.  It's shaping up to be a major event with a lot of people showing their wares, breakout discussion sessions, and award presentations.