Saturday, December 18, 2010

December Holidays & Updates

Hi Internets and all of our friends herein! We're still here, just buried a bit, helping many of you with your holiday ad campaigns, including email ads and promotional banners.

Wanted to take a moment to say what a fun and exciting year it has been! We've met so many new people with amazing businesses, from car dealers to chemists to crafters. And we feel so, so blessed to be a small part of your creativity, business-savvy, and hopefully your growth toward amazing abundance and freedom that come with a successful online business.

Each of us, myself and Gregory, has grown considerably over the past year, thanks to working with you. Whenever one of our clients comes to us with a, "can you do __?" we love the challenge, and relish learning new things and finding newer and better ways to help YOU be more successful. New for this year, we've added lots of social networking services, including Twitter backgrounds, Facebook badges and FanBook pages, .mobi websites designed to be used with cell phones and other mobile devices, and more. We're making sites bigger and more graphically bold than ever, taking our "standard" site from 800pixels width to 960pixels width, to adjust for the large number of online shoppers who now have larger, high-res or wide screen monitors. We're keeping up with the latest in web standards and practices, adjusting to the newest versions of web browsers and W3C industry standards, and keeping abreast of the ever-changing search engine optimization game to make sure that YOU stand out in the crowd when it comes to web stores online. The options have never been better!!

Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? It is! We've been quite busy - all working toward making our services MORE comprehensive and more valuable.

But we didn't raise our prices. ;)

There are 2 things about JennarationX Designs that make me really proud, and that I think make us different from other web designers out there: (1) we really care. We do... we care about the quality of work that we put out there. While many of our competitors are outsourcing design work to cheap labor in India, or putting up outmoded code that couldn't pass a validation test, we still design every single site from scratch, paying attention to each and every pixel, and we still hand-code every page, making sure the back-end is as tidy and lovely as the front-end - even if no one's going to see it (except the web crawlers, which DO care). And (2), we are online sellers, too! We've had our own eCommerce website for about 8 years now, selling on multiple channels such as eBay and Amazon, in addition to our own web store. I think this gives us the supreme advantage of being out there on the front lines, right alongside YOU. We know first-hand what it takes to succeed, what kinds of problems you're facing, what kinds of questions you have, and most importantly, what kind of help and support you need. I just think about what kind of help and support I need! And while I can't (yet) clone myself or afford a personal assistant, I certainly do have a good idea of what I'd like someone to be able to do for me, to help my business move to the next level - and every day, I try to be that someone for our clients.

I'm sure we'll all be extremely busy from now through the New Year, not only with taking care of our customers but also with our own families and holiday plans. I hope your holidays will be warm and full of good health, great fun, and intensive celebration for a job well-done all year - you deserve it! And, once again, THANK YOU - from the bottom of our hearts - for letting me and Gregory be some very small part of it. We are truly honored to know each and every one of you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cyber Monday

Welcome to Cyber Monday! Since we're all (I hope) swamped with order processing for the holidays, I'll keep this short.

If you've been selling via multiple venues, you'll see that the crowds come in waves; one virtual location is hot this year, and another has taken its place by next year. For our online store (yes, we sell online too - I believe it helps us understand our website clients' needs better!), we saw great traffic through eBay about 2-3 years ago, and while that's cooled off, sales on Amazon are now sizzling. Online sales in general are up over last year, for the 3rd year in a row, as buyers are becoming more and more savvy and looking for the best possible bargains.

This is the best time of year to remember the one thing that buyers want most of all from the stores they shop - platinum level customer service! Yes, even above a great product and a great price, they want to know that the company they're buying from is trustworthy and respectful. How do you convey this to them?

(a) Invest in a good website design, so you LOOK the part (yes, shameless plug - but it's true!);
(b) Answer your phone and answer all email inquiries promptly and politely;
(c) Ship FAST! As fast as you can;
(d) Sell a good quality product, not the cheapest or a fad item, and you'll be glad you did; and
(e) Stand behind your product. Guarantee it. Have a generous returns policy and let people know about it upfront.

The goal is to build lifetime customers who'll tell their friends about you, who'll give your product as gifts, who'll come back and buy from you again and again. So treat each small sale like you're serving a long-time family friend, and you'll see your customer list grow year after year.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS and happy selling!!

This week's question: What do YOU do to offer platinum-level service?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Sales & Reinvesting

So many people right now are contacting us to have their websites designed (or redesigned) - and it's so exciting! It's also a PERFECT TIME to do so. Most online retailers are seeing their holiday sales take off right about now. In fact, it's an early season for many of us, as the online economy is taking off - despite, or perhaps because of - a weaker U.S. economy overall. Let's face it, when pennies are tight and people are on careful budgets, they are much more likely to shop online, where they can comparison shop for prices, browse at their leisure for unique and/or handmade gifts that can't be found at the local superstore, and save themselves both time and money they would otherwise spend driving, parking, hauling packages home, gift wrapping, and then shipping all those gifts out, one-by-one. How much easier to point, click, and know it's done!?

And, how much easier for you, the online retailer, to take a small portion of those funds now starting to rush in, and reinvest them back into your business, by upgrading to a professional eCommerce website with a beautiful, completely customized JennarationX design? At this time of year (and because we have such affordable prices and easy payment plans), you'll barely notice the cost investment in your budget, and after the holiday is over, you'll still be seeing website traffic and SALES! Yes, sales, after the New Year! Because that website design is an investment that pays off, and continues to pay off, over time.

We've done some statistical studies: JennarationX designed websites garner 40% improvements in sell-through rates (the number of people who visit your site and then BUY something) - and ANOTHER 40% to 60% in final sale price (the amount people are willing to pay for your product)! That's amazing, isn't it? That means your investment in the design process generally pays for itself within 30-60 days, and then it's all pure profit.

Why is this? Because online retail is a visual medium. You don't have a beautiful physical storefront in the mall to show off... or a big sign over a physical door... or a beautiful showroom, with expensive mahogany and glass counters and shelves to display your products... or a retail designer to arrange your products optimally... or specialized retail lighting designed specifically to make your product sparkle perfectly under the lights. What you've got is your visual appearance online.

A beautiful, well designed website tells buyers that (a) you have been around for awhile (even if this not true, it gives the appearance of stability), (b) you are financially successful (otherwise, you'd probably only be able to afford one of those cheap looking free template stores), (c) that you care about being seen as professional and successful (which probably means you alo care about your customers being happy, and about the quality of your product, and many other (real or apparent) inferences).

So, the bottom line is: if you want buyers to perceive you as successful, professional, high-quality, reliable, and caring very much about their happiness and buying satisfaction, you need to SHOW it with a beautiful website that showcases your products and makes them look fantastic.

And, based on the number of contacts and sales we're receiving this season, I'm so excited to see that so many of you are doing just that! Way to go, guys! You're investing in your own success, and we are so delighted to invest in your success, too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Product Photography, Part 4: Selecting the Perfect Photo & Removing Backgrounds

Okay, so over the past few weeks, you've gathered together the materials for an affordable-yet-professional photography station in your lightbox and snapped oodles of pictures using great lighting, proper white-out backdrops, white balance and ideal resolution, right?

Now we're going to work with the output, which should already be a great quality photo with all the essentials (clarity, brightness, and a non-distracting background), to give it the maximum professional edge for display in your eCommerce store.

Since there are dozens of great photo editing programs out there and each one is slightly different, I'll give you the industry standard terms for these techniques, and you can look into your specific program to find out where it's located within the menu. If it doesn't have one or more of the capabilities listed below, look for something that does. My favorite cost-conscious image editing program is Photoshop Elements, list priced at $99.

Below are the 5 image editing steps to get a fabulous end photo that buyers will be drooling over.

This step may seem obvious, but I want to talk for just a moment about how to select your final image from the several that you took. (You did take several, right?)

The optimal things to look for are:
a) Do I like the PLACEMENT of the product? (Is it positioned straight, facing the camera? Is this the best angle to view the product from?)

b) Is it the proper RESOLUTION - crisp and clear, with all the details showing well?

c) Is it well LIT, without any harsh shadows or fuzzy bits?

Here's what's surprisingly NOT as important, because I'm going to show you how to fix these below:

a) Is the color exactly right? (This is any easy fix.)

b) Is the picture slightly off-angle, or is the product not centered? (Again, easy fix).

c) Are there distractions in the background, or minor imperfections such as dust or scratches? (Again, as long as they're small these can be readily removed.)

No matter how good your backdrop is at removing visual clutter, there are always unwanted shadows, light/color reflections, bits of lint on your drop cloth, etc. The closer you can get to a white or "transparent" background, the better.

I like to do this step early on, so that what you're left with is just the product itself. This will allow you to see it more clearly - just like removing the background allows your buyer to see the product more clearly.

There are lots of ways of improving or even erasing the background of your image - experiment to see which of these gives you the best result:

a. Lighten - this technique is the easiest, but only works if your foreground product is bright or dark and does not contain white or light grey. Use the color selector tool to choose the predominant shade of your background. Then use the lighten tool and/or desaturate tool to take out any color and unwanted shadows.

b. Correct - if you only see a few odd spots of dust, remove them or airbrush over them.

c. Erase - this technique works if you have a product that's very easy to trace around, such as a book or painting with lots of straight edges. Use your eraser tool to literally remove the background from around your product.

d. Extract - this tool is available in Photoshop and essentially does step c, above, for you. Choose Extract > Smart Extract, use the mouse to highlight the outline of your product (it doesn't have to be perfect, you can preview and edit it before saving), then let the software extract the foreground object out of the background for you, leaving a clean white canvas behind your item.

All of the above techniques will be infinitely more easy if you've taken the proper steps to add high volume lighting, white-out backgrounds (lightbox or drop cloth), and set the white balance on your camera. Once you get the hang of it, each image's extraction should take you just 2 to 3 minutes.

Product Photography Step 2 Example, Image Background Removal

In the above images, I've used technique A for the center image, and technique C for the far right image. Two notes about this technique: (1) give yourself some time, because this is a skill you'll get better with as you practice, and (2) did you notice how much brighter and more appealing the right ring is than the left? And yet I've done nothing yet to tweak the ring itself! THAT is the magic of background removal, and why I've spent so much time describing it.

...Part 4 to be continued next week.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Product Photography, Part 3: 5 Steps to Staging & Taking Photos

Taking photos of products available for wholesale or retail sale is a specialized field, referred to as "industrial photography" (even if your product is not "industrial" in nature) - as opposed to landscapes still lifes, or portraits. That's because it takes a specific skill to photograph an inanimate object and make it look appealing, even exciting. And that's exactly what you want to do - bring out all the best qualities in what you have to sell. You don't want to portray anything false or misleading to your customers, but you do want to lure and seduce them to pull out their credit cards because they simply MUST have this fabulous looking item.

So, what's the best way to stage and photograph your items for sale? Well, there's obviously some variation based on (a) the product line you carry, and (b) your selling venues. But the basic rules apply across the board.

Stage for a white background, free of distractions, props, or textures. If you have small items, I recommend a lightbox - particularly for watches, jewelry, or other metal/glass items that reflect their surroundings easily. If you have medium- to large-sized products, a table or floor space with a white matte drop cloth behind it is ideal. If you have the capability of removing the photo's background in PhotoShop (known as "extraction"), that's great - but you'll still want to make the process as quick and easy as possible by staging properly.

Obviously, there are a few exceptions to the "white space" background. For example, some pieces of crystal or glass itesm show up more clearly when photographed over a black background. (In that case, make sure you have a lint-free surface that doesn't pick up lots of dust particles!) I've also seen some very nice photography that uses textured backgrounds (i.e., a slab of marble) or natural elements (i.e., flowers or leaves) to add color and interest to the images. In some rare cases, this can be very effective. However, generally speaking, studies overwhelmingly show that buyers prefer to see JUST the product in an image, with a white or transparent background. This is why nearly every professional eCommerce website displays their product photos this way, with almost no exceptions.

Take a quick study of the above photos. All 3 of these images were pulled from the first few pages of an eBay search of live auction listings for "women's black dress". All 3 feature nearly identical styling and are listing within the same price range.

Image 1 shows the dress spread out on the floor, which makes it look large and flat, not at all appealing. The background texture is distracting, and if you look at the enlarged photo, there is visible debris on the floor, including a (dirty?) white sock in the top right corner. Not very appealing!!

Image 2 is better, showing the dress upright on a hanger with a nearly neutral background, free of distractions. However, the scrawny wire hanger subtly conveys "cheap" and the flatness of the dress does nothing for its visual appeal.

Image 3 is perfect, and looks straight out of a high-end catalog or eCommerce site. Think you can't get your images to look this good? Think again! With a bit of practice using the techniques discussed today and that I'll discuss next week, you can absolutely get your product images looking much more like example #3 than #1.

Now here's the big question: Ask yourself what you would be willing to pay for dress #1? How about dress #2, and finally dress #3? I don't know about you, but I would pay about 3 times more money for dress #3 than the other two, even without knowing the brand name or the materials! And so would most buyers.

You've heard that the secret to real estate purchasing is "location, location, location"? When it comes to product photography, remember this secret: lighting, lighting, lighting! As I said last week, you really can't have too much lighting. Invest in several small, affordable clip-on lamps that can be easily placed all around your object, and full-spectrum ("natural"/"daylight") light bulbs. You may also want to experiment with diffusers or light tents to remove glares, especially if your product has highly reflective surfaces. View the object from several angles to make sure you don't have any stark shadows.

Now that your background is blocked and your lighting is adjusted, set the white balance on your camera! This is an amazingly important step that most people don't know about - after all, in everyday photo snapshots of your friends, family, and that music concert you went to last weekend, "white balance" is not something you need to know about. But when it comes to product photography, it can make a significant difference in the quality of your image's clarity and color.

Most digital cameras have a white balance feature, and it's very easy to set, requiring just a few steps and 15 seconds to get right before you start snapping pics. Read your camera's manual for specifics on how to do this simple but critical step.

Check your distance requirements. All cameras have an ideal range of focus - too close or too far and you'll end up with fuzzy edges. There's a lot you can do in photo editing software to improve an image, but there's almost nothing you can do to really improve focus - it needs to be right from the get-go. If you're photographing small objects up close, get that camera manual out again and spend 5 minutes figuring out how to "macro zoom" so you can really show the product detail to your buyers. If you have larger objects (i.e., clothing on a mannequin, furniture, vehicles), experiment with wide lens options. Taking the time to find the optimal distance for best photo clarity is a one-time investment that will pay BIG dividends.

You're ready to start snapping pics! Now here's where that large memory card and the rechargeable batteries I recommended last week come into play, because you want to take LOTS of pics. Even if you'll ultimately only display a single image of your product on your website, take about 10-20 images of the item. Step in a little, step back a little, make slight changes to your angle or to the lighting. Once you get your pictures uploaded, you may be surprised to see odd angles, reflections, or shadows that you weren't aware of originally, so having a selection of images to choose from will come in very handy and save you considerable time over having to go back and reshoot.

Yes, all of these steps are a time investment. Keep reminding yourself that the quality of your product photos will dramatically affect both your sell-through rate and the sales price you can command, for either the better or the worse - and by as much as 40% to 80%! That's no small impact. eCommerce is a visual medium, so work with that, and learn how to visually stimulate and lure your buyers into loving and wanting your products, and you'll see your success online soar.

Next week I'll discuss how to edit, crop, and prepare your product images for optimal online viewing. As always, I look forward to your comments and questions, or feel free to share your own product photography secrets and tricks!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Inspiration

"All that you can achieve and all that you fail to achieve is the direct result of your own thoughts." --James Allen

Friday, November 5, 2010

Welcome to Friday - time for a new customer spotlight!

Spotlight On: Sinelleo Combo Deals of the Day
Service: New logo, eBay store design, and matching eCommerce store design

The Need: Pepe has a great product line - high end designer clothing at amazing prices - and great energy. He wanted to capture a hip, urban, youthful spirit that would appeal to his younger, brand-conscious customers, but that would also be clean, upscale, and have the professional quality of the "big guys". When we asked him for sample sites he likes, he went straight to Ralph Lauren!

The Solution: So, how do you combine the elegance of top brand names with a fun, energetic quality? We hope we've done it! By keeping this website clean and very well organized, with a simple color scheme of cool blues and greens, it has the feel of an easy to navigate professional design. By giving Pepe's logo tons of eye appeal and using youthful models and lots of subtle textures, the site gets an added punch of funky and hip. Cool + upscale = problem solved!

Q & A:

Q: What kinds of model pictures can I use?

A: Anything you have the copyright license to may be used on your website. Images you may use include:
  • Photographic images you take yourself
  • Full-rights stock photography you purchase
  • Limited-rights stock photography you purchase (as long as it's not resold in any form
  • Images from your vendor(s) that you have express rights to use
Images you may not include:
  • Photos of celebrities
  • Photos you found on another website
  • Stock photography images purchased by someone else
  • Ad images from your vendors/suppliers/brands (unless you have their written consent)
  • Model and/or product images from your vendors/suppliers/brands (unless you have their written consent)

Q: Does this include my product photos? Can't I use the photos from the manufacturer's website or print catalog?

A: Technically, no - unless you have their express written consent, this is copyrighted intellectual property and cannot be "borrowed" for use with your sales. Do people do it? Sure, all the time. But they set themselves up for a copyright infringement suit and can cause themselves a lot of headache and hassle if they are pursued. (And yes, people ARE pursued for this every day. Amazon and eBay both have very strict VERO policies, too.)

Q: So where do I get my images then?

A: Product Images: You can start with asking your suppliers if you can use their images - many will say yes. Some have limitations on where or how they can be used (for example, "not on eBay" is a common restriction), while others will give you full access. In lieu of that, you should take your own product photographs - they add significant value to your web business, becoming your own intellectual property asset! (You can also hire an "industrial photographer" to take your product photos, but this can get quite expensive - expect to pay $10 to $30 per photo for raw, unedited images - and up to $50 to $250 per edited image!)

Model Images: There are some great stock photography sites out there that sell limited-rights access to professional images. Depending on the image quality and usage rights, you can expect to pay between $2 and $25 for standard images at sites like and, two of my favorites. Or, ask your designer! We make it our business to find the best quality stock photo images, and maintain lightboxes for all kinds of different photography subjects, from plants to foods to men and women in various kinds of activity and attire.

Let us know your feedback and questions about this site design (or any of our others). And thank you, Pepe, for working with us on both of your new websites! We know you're ready to take the urban market by storm.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Holiday eCards

Now is the perfect time to get your holiday ecards ready to go - before the big rush of last-minute orders!

What? You don't do a holiday ecard? ...Can you hear my gasp from here? My dears, get yourselves out there! Sending periodic emails to your customers builds loyalty and brand recognition, and is still the #1 most cost-effective marketing technique out there. If you're selling on eBay or Amazon, this is especially important for reminding buyers that you are your own selling entity online. Plus, it's a nice thing to do.

Fine-quality print cards can be very expensive, especially if you look into custom printing, and then of course there's the hand-addressing and postage expense. Not to mention killing trees.

When you go digital, you get the same beautiful effect, plus an immediate opportunity for buyers who are already at their computers to click on your site link or your bookmark - and they'll already be feeling warm and fuzzy, due to your heartfelt expression of gratitude and goodwill.

We have a selection of over 50 beautiful holiday ecards to choose from (including Christmas, Hannukah, and general winter holiday greetings) for only $50 - you pick your favorite image, your favorite saying, and then send them out to everyone on your list! Or, for $150, you can have a completely customized ecard with your store logo and branding plus full website navigation and your own completely unique message. Again, send it out to 20 people or 20,000 people - let your buyers know you care.

For examples of what we can do for you: - and see the Greeting Cards and Examples & Pricing tabs.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Product Photography, Part 2: Camera & Setup

As I mentioned last week, you'll see nearly immediate benefits by improving your product photography for your eCommerce website. And yes, that means Etsy and eBay sellers, too, without a doubt!

I'd like to start with the basic equipment first. No, don't start covering your eyes and going into a panic attack - you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that your professional equipment setup is surprisingly affordable! Do try to invest in the best quality you can afford; these items should last you for several years.

You definitely want to go digital here - you'll need to take a LOT of shots, and don't want to be stingy with film. The good news is, there are tons of fabulous choices for a good quality digital camera in the $100 to $250 range that will easily meet your needs.

Look for a camera that has:
  • 5 mp resolution or better
  • White balance setting
  • Macro zoom feature (if you'll be photographing objects smaller than a coffee cup)
  • Easy plug-in to your computer (i.e., cable or port)

You don't need much here - but you'll find the following investments will pay off nearly immediately:
  • A few good sized memory cards (so you don't have to be dumping photos every few minutes)
  • Rechargeable batteries - you'll want these right away! Digital cameras eat up batteries quickly. Get 2 sets - one for the camera, and one to be charging while you work. Radio Shack has great rechargeable batteries (and the recharger station) specifically for home electronics.
  • A case or protective cover for your camera - especially important if you will be traveling or going outdoors for your photo work, but also good for protecting your camera from dust, scratches, or falls while it's being stored at home.
  • A tripod - this can be a small table-top device, if your products are smaller, or a full-size, to-the-floor device. Look for one with multiple height and angle adjustments. Pick up a used one for a great price on eBay or Etsy.

I will talk more about product staging next week, because it's absolutely critical to taking a good product photo for online sales. For now, take a few minutes to look into the following:
  • For ALL items: Proper lighting. This means natural, full-spectrum light bulbs (you can get them at any Home Depot), and lots of them. Inexpensive clip-on desk lamps work great - you can pick them up for $10 apiece and affix them easily to surround your product photo area. Get several.
  • For small items: A desktop light box. We absolutely love GemEBox, made by MK Digital Direct. EZCube is another good brand to look at.
  • For clothing: A good-quality mannequin. Yes, you need one - please don't keep photographing your items laid out on the dirty floor! Yes, you can buy one from a store that's going out of business, but PLEASE make sure it's in good repair. That means no major scratches, and it should have hair. Yes, even if you sell used clothing.
  • For large items: Most large professional lightboxes are pretty expensive purchases, so if you're photographing large items we generally recommend that you start with some drop cloths to "white out" your backgrounds. You can get white canvas painters drop cloths at Home Depot, or some clean white cotton yarding at the fabric store. Make sure it's nice and thick, so you won't see things through the material. Also try to pick a fabric that doesn't collect dust or pet hair easily. While you're there, grab a few plastic zip-up bags to store your drop cloths in when not in use.

I know these items require both time and money investments. As you gather them, remind yourself that they will very likely pay for themselves in just a few weeks' time. After all, one of the beauties of selling online is that you literally have an even playing field with the "big guys" - give yourself the professional advantage of the right equipment, and I guarantee you'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Product Photography - Make It Your New Hobby!

I'd like to do a series of articles on product photography, because it's so very essential to eCommerce, and so very often done wrong! We get to see it all, from the excellent to the "what are they thinking?" - and, trust me, this one skill can absolutely make or break you when it comes to selling online.

If you're not convinced of the importance of product photographic quality when it comes to selling online, keep in mind that over 70% of people are more visually oriented than any of their other senses. And that web commerce relies nearly 100% on VISUAL appeal to attract and retain customers. Whether you're selling cell phones, dresses, or toothpaste, making the product look appealing is nearly the #1 skill you should develop, if you haven't already.

There are a few rather technical things to know in order to take a dramatically better photo - fortunately, they are quite easy and affordable! They just require a little know-how and some practice.

Since there is much to cover on this subject, I'm planning to do an entire series on product photography, so look forward to that every Wednesday through November, and please feel free to send in your questions! We'll be covering things like: getting the best lighting, what types of backdrops to use, when (and how) to remove backgrounds, showing clarity and detail, differences in image techniques based on your product line, image editing and cleanup, cropping and web optimizing. By the time we're done, I hope everyone knows how to set the white balance on their cameras and the ideal image resolution for your website product display pages.

Trust me, when your sales start climbing, you'll be so glad you knew these simple tricks!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Customer Spotlight: Skin Obsession

Welcome to Friday - time for a new customer spotlight!

Spotlight On: Skin Obsession
Service: New website design to match a new store name & logo

The Need: Julie recently underwent some big changes in her online skin care company, including a new name, new logo, and relocation of her shopping cart platform from ChannelAdvisor to Volusion. She needed a new look that would accomplish several goals: be appealing to women looking for a cost-saving spa experience, while still feeling comfortable for men to shop - keeping lots of homepage text and keywords for optimal SEO - and offering multiple ways to shop her specialized product line.

The Solution: We took Julie's color scheme and logo elements and blended them throughout the entire design, giving the site a very custom, professional look without sacrificing functionality or search engine optimization. She now has easily editable text areas, rotating featured item boxes to highlight her best-sellers, and features such as a newsletter signup box and links to her social networking sites - all of which will help her expand her customer base, staying connected and building trust. And that means better sales! That's what I'd call putting your best face forward.

Q & A:

Q: Do the colors used on my website really matter? If so, how?

A: You bet they do! Any good graphic designer will have some training in color psychology (sometimes called "color therapy") and will help you select colors that will best appeal to your specific target market.

There's no "one perfect color" that induces all people to pull out their credit cards all the time - if there were, the marketing world would be awash in it! But obviously, there are colors that have universal meaning (or at least, within a given culture). For example, soft colors relax and soothe, while bold colors excite. Have you ever noticed that virtually ALL the fast food restaurant chains use a combination of bright red and yellow in their logos, signage, and interiors? That's no coincidence - it's because red, orange, and yellow are colors that stimulate us to be hungry!

Q: But in your survey, you asked me what MY favorite colors are - what does this have to do with optimal design?

A: Great question! And there are a few reasons we do this:

(1) You will be looking at your own website day in and day out, probably for years. (Yes, we know your mum is uber-supportive, but will she be logging in daily? Don't think so...) We want you to feel motivated every time you see it, to feel great about your virtual space and proud of your storefront. So yes, how YOU feel about the design matters greatly!

(2) We assume that you are selling a product, line, or service about which you feel great passion. And you are probably somewhat of an expert in your line. As such, it's likely that the kind of customers you'll attract are people of like mind, who have similar tastes and interests. Yes, you could go for a generic look and try to appeal to a maximum number of people, but studies show that web businesses are actually more successful when they target a niche market directly. Therefore, your own personal tastes ARE relevant and probably one of the best indicators as to what your similarly-oriented target market will be attracted to, also.

Let us know your feedback and questions about this site design (or any of our others). And thank you, Julie, for trusting us to help you with your Skin Obsession branding online - we hope the makeover brings you oodles of new buyers!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Customer Spotlight: BLD Science

Welcome to Friday - time for a new customer spotlight!

Spotlight On: BLD Science
Service: Website makeover & relocation to Volusion shopping carts
Before Site:
After Site:

The Need: BLD Science already had a professional logo and a website catering to doctors and laboratory equipment purchasers which was doing quite well. However, the site design was extremely "templatey" and generic looking, and needed a serious professional upgrade. They also needed expanded navigation options in an organized format.

The Solution: Their new site design makes use of their existing logo design and color scheme, with a very clean and streamlined look that still allows for custom graphics, a large rotating promotion banner, highlights of their stand-out services, and loads of navigation. A fly-out menu bar allows for 3 category levels to appear in a compact space, and drop-down "Shop by Brand", "Shop by Price" options make maximum use of the Volusion platform's search capabilities. An expanded footer bar organizes lots of additional site/page navigation for this now-formidable company. Web 3.0, meet BLD Science!

Q & A:

Q: Does it benefit my website to have multiple search-by features?

A: Generally, yes! The easier you make it for your buyers to find what they're looking for, the better. For some product lines, a simple 1-level or 2-level category structure plus a search box will suffice quite nicely - for example, books or movies sorted by genre and searchable by title or author via a standard keyword search box. For other sellers, "shop by brand" or "shop by size" features will greatly improve the buyer's shopping experience. Give some consideration to how YOU like to shop for a particular product, and let that be your guide - or post an open-ended question on your blog or Twitter page and let your customers tell you themselves!

Keep in mind that some "shop by" features may be limited based on which shopping cart service you use. If a feature isn't automatically available, your trusty designer may be able to hard-code one in for you. :)

Let us know your feedback and questions about this site design (or any of our others). And welcome to the JennarationX family, BLD Science! We're so glad to have you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Volusion Shopping Cart Service Special

We've been receiving tons of great questions - thanks so much! I'll be posting them soon, along with my answers, and the first question will be about eCommerce/shopping cart services. (In fact, this is a very involved topic and I may break it down into multiple posts to answer each area of consideration.)

But in the meantime, we've just received word from our favorite online shopping cart platform, Volusion, that they're having a 24-hour end-of-month special and waiving ALL setup costs on new Volusion stores! If you sign up now, you can get the entire setup free of charge, which is a great deal, and their monthly service prices are flat-fee ONLY and very competitive. If you're interested in checking them out, you can see their plans and services at

If you've been thinking of opening a new eCommerce storefront, or moving yours, this is a great way to go.

We are also an authorized Volusion partner (NOT a reseller!) and have designed many completely customized storefronts for the Volusion platform. If you do sign up, let us know within 7 days and we'll ALSO give you a great discount on a new store design - $150 off! Our standard price starts at $750, but for the next 7 days we'll do a complete design and installation for $500, payable in 2 payments. If you've been dragging your feet and want to get in now, in time for the holiday sales rush, this is the perfect time to do it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Welcome! And, it's about time!

Well, here we are finally. Gregory and I together rack up a lot of hours working with our design clients on marketing and promoting their brands and websites, and that means lots of advice about social networking and blogs. We strongly encourage people to start them, promote them, and keep them updated. We design blog headers and backgrounds, and install them. We recommend ways to get the most out of them, suggestions for what to write about, and how to build more readers. And, yes, that's right, here we are FINALLY finding the time to start our own blog.

I call it the curse of the expert - it seems that whatever field you become expert in, ironically goes somewhat untended in your own world. Back in the day, there was some sort of quaint saying about the village cobbler's kids having no shoes. More recently, I've heard something about mechanics whose own cars never start. And you would be surprised at how many professional web designers hire someone ELSE to design their own websites - or (like us), have a rather pieced-together site that they take stabs at updating when they have a few free minutes (like that ever happens, right?).

It may be due, in part, to performance anxiety. The skilled surgeon who performs art in the operating room gets nervous and cannot (maybe should not) perform on his own friends or family members. The designer with a million ideas is at a loss for how to narrow them down into a single decision. I've always been like this - bit of a renaissance person, with a million interests and hobbies - how does anyone pick just one?

But, fortunately, between us we DO have lots and lots of ideas for what to write about - thanks to YOU! We get asked so many fantastic questions every single day, from "where do I get those nice Facebook and Twitter icons?" to "how do I boost the names on my mailing list?" to "what's the most cost-effective marketing method for someone on a really tight budget?" And we have answers! Lots of them. After running several successful eCommerce businesses over more than a decade, being named as a top eBay Best In Stores for 2 years running, and successfully navigating Amazon selling, we have a ton of personal knowledge and experience in what it's REALLY like to manage an Internet business day in and day out. As professional web designers and consultants, we've worked with everyone from the smallest stay-at-home-mom-turned-entrepreneur to the multi-million-dollar-a-year companies with multiple selling venues and staffs of hundreds.

So, welcome to our blog - we hope you find it both fun and entertaining, and also extremely useful and practical. You can bring us your questions and we'll do our best to answer them - and if we don't know, we'll be learning right along with you. Hopefully, we'll also get to know each other a little better and make some new friends.

To help us kick off, please send us your most burning questions about web design, website management, software, marketing - anything that you've been wanting to know or incorporate. We'll post the top 3 questions and answers over the next few weeks, and the 3 selected respondents will receive a FREE set of customized web icons for use anywhere online (or in your email signatures) to promote your own blogs, stores, social networking pages, and more! This set is custom done and available exclusively through JennarationX, and valued at $25, so grab it while you can! Just email us with your question, or leave it in the comments section of this post, along with your name and email address, and you will be automatically entered to win.

And thanks for following - we're so excited to be here!