A Pain-Free Website Redesign

Pain Free Performance
When my long-time client, Pain Free Performance, contacted me and asked if I could redesign their website to be one of those scrolling-style sites, I said “sure”. That style of site has become popular, as everything online shifts to accommodate the mobile experience. I had created a website for Pain Free 6 years prior, but as I say, website years and human years are a 10:1 ration, so their 2012 site was about 60 years old! I do think it is important for businesses to keep their web presence up to date visually, particularly if they are marketing to consumers. Website design styles change rapidly, and you can tell when a website starts to look dated. On the other hand, it is not necessary to redesign your site every year or two just because you are tired of looking at it.

Quality Photography Matters

As we began the development of the project, the owner wanted to have new photos, especially since their studio had had a make-over since our last time building their website. I always counsel my clients to get good professional photos for their website and other marketing materials. As ubiquitous as cell phone photography is, and as tempting as it is to just shoot some photographs on your own phone, I don’t recommend it. Having a professional photographer who can control the lighting and understands photo composition makes a huge difference in the look and feel of a website. The other thing I counsel is to coordinate the colors of the clothing of the people being photographed, so it is compatible with the colors of the space, and the colors of the website. So Pain Free Performance did use a professional photographer, and they got some really nice new shots showing their therapists working with clients, as well as individual portraits of their staff. We used some of the best shots to create a nice image slider in first panel of the site.

Tell Your Story

The nice thing about this style of site, is that each panel gets to tell part of the story. The hard thing is figuring out exactly how to break that down into panels and move the viewer visually through the sections. Although this home page changed completely from their previous site, most of the rich informative content on the interior pages of the site remained—it just is now placed in a refreshed container.

Website projects are always collaborative efforts. Working with my clients’ creativity and their ideas always improves the end result. I am very pleased with how this site turned out. It has given Pain Free Performance a fresh new look to their site and they have received many compliments.

You can view the Pain Free Performance new site here.

New Website Launch—FPW Architects

FPW ArchitectsEJ Communications just completed a new web redesign for FPW Architects, Charlottesville, Virginia. The new live site, features a robust portfolio section with 14 image slideshows to showcase the work and capabilities of the firm. In addition, the site includes a dynamic “latest news” feature that FPW will be able to upload information about awards, projects, job openings, etc.  The site is mobile-responsive.




Sailing Websites

Coastal Marine Deltaville, VA

The beauty of being a website designer and a sailor, is that sometimes you get to create websites related to sailing.  Two websites I have done recently are for Coastal Marine and Fishing Bay Marina, allowing me to combine my two passions. Coastal Marine is a small boatyard in Deltaville, Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay. The owner, Reid Conley had not previously had a website, and I worked with him to create an online presence, including a Website and Facebook page. Coastal Marine is a small boatyard, but differentiates itself from other bigger competitors, by offering outstanding service and personal attention. Since most boat owners are really picky about who takes care of their boat, we tried to communicate the personal relationship and attention to detail that Reid gives his customers. I wrote the copy and even took photographs to help build this site. It incorporates a blog feature to allow Reid and his crew to post photos and stories about different boat repair and restoration projects they might be working on.

Fishing Bay MarinaFishing Bay Marina was under new ownership and the new owners approached EJ Communications to create a new web site. They wanted to position Fishing Bay Marina to be a Chesapeake Bay cruising boater’s destination of choice. Fishing Bay really caters to the transient boater, and so showing lots of photos of the nice amenities offered was important. One of the fun special features of this site is a map of the facilities with a magnifying glass to allow users to see all the details easily. Both sites are, of course, Mobile Responsive.


stingraypointmarina.comStingray Point Marina is one of the “Best of the Bay” Marinas, it has many features and an active community of sailors. We wanted to show the beauty of the Marina as well as give a sense of the activity and vibrance.








New Website Launch—Dos Amigos Landscaping

Dos Amigos Landscaping WebsiteDos Amigos Landscaping needed a new website design to replace an existing site. The older site was difficult to navigate for potential customers trying to see the types of services that Dos Amigos offers. Additionally, they were very excited at the possibility of having a content management system that would allow them to add photos and edit content on their own. The previous provider had made it difficult to get changes and updates to the site.

Dos Amigos Landscaping has a broad menu of services. EJ Communications streamlined the site structure by reducing the number of services pages from 10 to 8 by combining services into meaningful groupings—annual contracts, lawn care, landscaping, hardscapes, landscape lighting, landscape clean up, pressure washing, and snow removal. And to make it easy to find, each service category appears in a drop down menu when the visitor’s mouse rolls over over the services tab on the main navigation bar. Additionally we created “quick links” in the footer of the page that leads people into those services pages, and further refines some of the services.

Part of the selling point of a landscaping and lawn care company is the results of how beautiful they can make your property look. So a slideshow was created for the home page that visually shows some of the services and results for each of the four seasons. Additionally, a projects section was created for showing before and after photo graphs of some of their projects including a Charlottesville City backyard, landscaped steps and a pool & patio landscape project in Albemarle County.

Dos Amigos Landscaping is excited to have a blogging platform where they can add interesting articles about landscaping and lawn care that shows potential customers the breadth of their knowledge and expertise. And of course to give as much material to the Search Engines as possible for improving their search result ranking in a very competitive field. As in every project we do, EJ Communications included Search Engine Optimization in the site build out to help Dos Amigos improve their search results as well.

New Website Launch—Stingray Point Marina

stingray point website screen shotStingray Point Marina had an existing website that was created in the early 2000, and as I have noted before on these pages, that made their website an age in human years of about 100 years old. So we worked together to bring them a more modern look, with a slideshow of images for the marina, weather features, a blog, and some special bells and whistles. The marina didn’t own very many good quality photos, so I suggested they run a photo contest among their slip holders. They offered winning images a $50 gift certificate to West Marina. It worked great–there were many, many beautiful photo submissions, and we were able to select a few of the best images to feature in the website. Additionally EJ Communications provided photography services to fill out a few additional images for the home page slideshow.

This site was built using the WordPress platform as a Content Management System, with significant stylesheet changes to create a customized website design. One of the things I love about WordPress is the vast number of plug-ins available to solve client’s individual needs. The client wanted to have a page that included specific slip vacancies, so visitors could see what slips were available and look at the marina map. Allowing visitors to have this information would greatly reduce the amount of time staff would have to spend on the phone with potential slip holders to discuss what was available and where the slip was located. The vacancy listing would need to be updated frequently as they filled the available slips. The client wanted to provide me with an xcel spreadsheet of slip availabilities with slip dimensions and rates. I was able to find a plug in that would import an xcel file and convert it into a visually appealing table. The plug-in also has a very flexible editing capability to make updates and changes. You can view the page with the xcel plug-in in use here.

And of course Search Engine Optimization, and a blogging platform, and Google Analytics were incorporated into the site. A robust weather page with embedded live weather data was an important part of the site, as many of the slip holders use the website as their go-to page for a variety of weather links. Future plans include adding a marina web cam to the site, so people can monitor the marina from their home computers, which would be especially helpful, or terrifying during bad weather events. The client tells me they have gotten several new slip holders over the summer who found the marina specifically from the website.Additionally EJ Communications has created a Google Adwords Campaign, and traditional print advertising campaign for this client, all of which has greatly improved their occupancy rate.

Since I am an avid sailor, it was especially fun for me to create this website for Stingray Point Marina.You can view the entire website here.

8 Myths of Marketing in a Down Economy

In an ideal world, marketing activity would be self supporting, always pay back multi-fold what it costs to execute, and be effective in reaching every potential buyer in the appropriate sector all the time. But in the world where the sky is blue, marketing activities are driven by several factors, including perceptions of the company and the head marketer there, economic forces that drive consumer behavior of all types and factors beyond your control.

As a result of these factors, marketing budgets are at the mercy of the reactions of the company to these perceptions. Many of these perceptions are flawed, skewed, marred by history, personal experiences of senior management, and most have no historical precedent or foundation.

Myth #1—“Our brand is strong enough not to need support for the duration of the downturn.”
Fact: Few brands are strong enough to survive without advertising, product promotion and customer service support. Brands are like delicate houseplants – they need attention, support, bolstering, and polishing, (the marketing equivalent of nutrients, light and water) – or they will wither and shrivel to a shadow of their former self. This is not a position you want your corporate brand to be in when the growth engine for the economy revs back up. [Read more…]

Websites and Dog Years

They say that every year of a human life is equivalent to 7 years in a dog’s life. This is the way I think about websites, as well. Every human year is equivalent to 10 years in a website’s life. So, if your website is 5 years old, it’s the equivalent of being 50 years old or shall we say, middle aged. So is it time for your business to get a new website? The technology of web design and programming is moving fast, much faster than the technology for print communications. If your website was created more than 5 years ago, it may have been built using the nested tables technique, a very popular method that was a real breakthrough in web design 10 years ago. But now, nested tables are not as good as newer techniques, such as Cascading Style Sheets, (CSS).

It’s All About the Search Engines
CSS is a web programming method that separates the html code for design (color, font, styling, etc) from the actual text content of your communications. This allows the html for your text content to appear closer to the top of the page, which makes it easier for the search engines to find it. Since Google is more and more trying to place listings based on the content matching a user’s search request, it is very important that your site’s content be readable by the search engines.

CSS has other benefits as well, such as helping to maintain consistency in the styling throughout the site, and pages load faster with CSS.

Recently Google announced that they will start giving websites a “quality score”. Those websites with a higher quality score will place higher in the search results than sites with a lower score. The Google Adwords system has a quality score that rates website quality to a specific keyword request. I suspect the algorithm they use for that quality score will be the foundation for this new score to be used in the general search results algorithm. This should create even more incentive for businesses and organizations to get their websites updated and upgraded.

I’ve recently had several clients ask me about whether their website needs a redesign. I have a couple of diagnostic tools I use to measure a website’s marketing effectiveness, check for html validation, and whether it has important Search Engine friendly structure and coding. These evaluations are helpful in making a decision about whether it’s time for a fresh coat of paint or a complete rebuild. Or back to my dog analogy, whether your dog needs a bath, or it’s time to get a new dog.