13Jan

Response to Happy Cog- Story!

Jeffrey Zeldman over at Happy Cog wrote a post recently about how it’s our responsibility to design websites that are better than good. As he wraps up, he asks an interesting question:

“Engaging sites and apps have that extra something that commands our loyalty without demanding our constant attention. It isn’t a showy opulence, and it isn’t a technology—bragging that your site is built with HTML5 and expecting users to care is like Certs hawking Retsyn. So how do we set our sites and apps apart? What ways of thinking and working lead to the details and touches that aren’t just special, but are special in a way people care about, and to which the right customers will respond?”

To me, it’s all about story. All the whizzy CSS3 and HTML5 stuff, all the killer layouts and so forth don’t mean a thing without it. If you’re designing a website and have a solid understanding of your client’s story, you’ll be inclined to make design decisions that enhance and support that story. Sort of like how Zeldman’s ceiling moldings and sweet hardwood floor enhance, support, and define the space that is his NYC apartment.

The best stories are true. Certs hawking Retsyn feels weak, and possibly untrue. I mean, I’ve never seen that drop of Retsyn, and it really feels like an artificial device created by a copywriter. However, Altoids do indeed feel curiously strong to me. That story resonates, because it feels true. Curiously enough, Altoids’ marketing (online and broadcast) is decently well designed to support and enhance their core story. Certs doesn’t even have a website, anymore.

Now, yes, we do a lot of video over here, and I do live in Hollywood so I’m a little inclined to want to yell “story!” like a psycho wants to yell “fire!” in a theater. But most of the website redesign projects we’ve undertaken need a lot more than a new design. They need a real rethinking of the project from the ground up. Done right, that starts with a clear and solid understanding of your client’s story.

Without it, all the whizzy stuff just doesn’t matter.

12Jan

Another Book Features PatrickOrtman, Inc.

We just got our copy of The FabJob Guide to Becoming a Web Designer from the publisher, and we’re in it!

Author Barbara Lightner quotes me in a few places, as I talk about my experiences starting out as a website designer back in 1993, and how cutting edge website design has changed in the past 17 years. The book is a good, fast read, and probably a great introduction to the business of web design.

This is the second book that’s come out recently which talks about our expertise in designing and building successful websites.

11Jan

Happy 2011

5310377925_dd9fea503d_z

Wow, 2011 came up fast. We spent a record-busy 2010 cranking out video and web-based projects for clients from around the USA,  and although we’re a week late, Happy New Year!

This year will probably be filled with all sorts of adventures, and I expect some trends will continue:

  • Video will continue to grow. Clients know they need great video content, as online and broadcast converge. There’s a place for lower quality video, but if you want to look great and tell your story best, smart companies hire a professional video production team. Last year, almost all our clients, even our website design ones, hired us to create video for them.
  • The distinction between online and broadcast video quality will continue to blur.
  • Most clients will begin to insist that their websites work on mobile devices. You can do this with web standards, which every design company should embrace.
  • Internet Explorer will continue to suck, causing problems for web designers worldwide and holding back the development of the web in general.
  • On cameras: RED will release Epic-X, and we’ll get one. Because we rock.
  • iPhone app development will keep getting easier, and more clients will need said services.
  • iPad/Tablet magazines and specialized content design and production will become a part of more digital studios’ offerings.
  • Every website we launch will have a CMS backend, probably based on MODx. There’s just no excuse not to, anymore.

Awesome 2011 fireworks photo by AleGranholm

30Dec

We Are Quotable, Says McGraw-Hill Publishers

findajob

As I was going through my end-of-2010 lists, I noticed I had a lot of LinkedIn requests waiting. Apparently, a book came out recently and I was quoted in it. I guess it makes me look smart or something, and now people want to connect. That’s cool. The publisher hasn’t sent me a copy of the book, but it’s getting good reviews on Amazon.com.

It’s called “How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Other Social Networks”, and it was written by Brad and Debra Schepp. Here’s where you can learn more about the book.

[like]
27Dec

2011 Update: On Digital Agencies

bluearrowmac

About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article on how to choose a digital agency. Back then, a lot of people really didn’t have much of an idea about what a digital agency actually was, and our transition towards defining ourselves as a digital agency was a somewhat risky thing to do. Now, it’s 2011 and digital agencies have gone mainstream.

Back in 2009, I defined a digital agency as being composed not only of great technologists, but also of excellent creative storytellers and problem solvers. I said that a great digital agency “rises above the noise by insisting on a creative partnership with its clients, and is constantly thinking up ways that its clients can take advantage of online technology to better reach their customers”. Since then, as the role of digital agencies in client successes has expanded, we believe in that statement more than ever.

These past years, we’ve aggressively grown our digital agency, making serious inroads into high-end video production, social media, and of course keeping up with the latest trends and techniques in website design. All of this effort was Read More »

27Dec

A Great Website Design…

We’re often asked, ‘What makes a great website design?’ It’s a great question. A great website…

Is Well-Planned
Successful companies understand that, to the world, their website is their business. That’s one reason why we don’t work with clients who demand design mockups during the proposal phase—a great website design is created through a great partnership, between agency and client, and requires a deep understanding of your business. If you skimp on the planning phase, you decimate your chances for success.

Is Easy To Use
The best website designs appear simple and clean, and are deceptively difficult to create, but are a joy to use. They combine right-brained artistic sensibilities & left-brained technology in a way that makes the most of both, and elevates your business.

Uses Flash Wisely
We love Flash, and it can add to a user’s experience online. But too many companies build full-Flash websites for their clients, and those aren’t easy to update and don’t give a very good search engine ranking.

Embraces Web Standards
Websites that follow web standards serve more people on a wider variety of devices. A company website design that uses web standards also helps with search engine optimization (SEO), and is easier to update and maintain. Many of our nonprofit and government website design clients are legally required to embrace web standards, but it’s the right thing to do no matter what kind of business or organization you are. Luckily for you, we know how to make web standards based websites rock.

Provides Measurable Results
Too many businesses have no idea if their website is helping their bottom line. Our clients know that their website redesign efforts are paying off, because we work with our clients to determine measurable goals, and we implement the online tools needed to help measure the website’s success over time.

23Dec

You Gotta Believe!

I used to play a video game called Parappa The Rapper, and that was its catchphrase- an optimistic, shouted “You Gotta Believe!”. I loved that game, and I got pretty good at it. But I think I like the catchphrase even better than the gameplay, because it applies to everything. Especially on working for clients.

If my firm decides to work with a client, it means we believe in their product or service. We gotta believe! I mean that wholeheartedly, and I can tell you that the very few times I’ve allowed my firm to work with clients that suck I’ve profoundly regretted it.

This insistence on only working with clients one can believe in may sound like a luxury, but it’s not- at least, it’s not if your company is all about providing the best work possible, without losing your hair or stress-eating. If you have a client you can believe in, you’re motivated to really get inside their business, and you look forward to working with them to really make their tv commercial, website, or video rise above the industry norms. You’re invested in their success. And almost always, clients you can believe in are also the kind of clients who respect and appreciate the hard work you and your team put in for their benefit. They usually pay better, and come back for future projects, too.

Doesn’t working for clients you can believe in sound like a lot more fun than working for indifferent, stupid fools who are a waste of oxygen, who beat you up at every turn, while putting out shoddy products and inflicting pain on the world at large? It does to me!

Sure, some fellow digital agency owners have approached me privately and told me they take on every client who comes through the door, and that we’re foolish for not doing the same. Actually, one guy called us “arrogant twats who deserve to go down in flames”. That was twelve years ago, and we’re still in business while his agency is long dead.

I’m not saying that if you embrace our policy of needing to believe in your clients that your company will prosper. But I am saying that if you’re interested in coming to work each day with a smile on your face, while you do the best work you possibly can do for your clients, that you gotta believe in them.

[like]
22Dec

Year End Web Design Articles You Should Read

webdesign

Sorry, clients- this post is for all the other digital/interactive agencies who read our blog on a regular basis.

Well, 2010 is pretty much over. I hope it was a great one for your company, and I’d like to share a few articles that we really enjoyed over here at PatrickOrtman, Inc. Without any further ado:

The Designer’s Cross Training Toolkit . There’s a lot of articles every year that talk about how designers- for the web, video, whatever- should work to expose their brains to different creative venues. I’ve certainly written a few articles about that, over the years. This article from Smashing is a nice update to the idea that as designers do their best work when we’re not in a rut.

Persuasion Triggers in Web Design. If you’d like your clients to be more successful, I highly recommend reading this article about how to design websites with an eye towards driving user behavior. Like the author says, a lot of successful web designers use many of these techniques intuitively, but it’s nice to have these things written down.

Web Design Questionnaires. OK, the truth is we get a lot of prospects who come to us looking for a website redesign, a video production, whatever. But we don’t want to work with everyone, we’re somewhat picky in the clients we accept, and I bet you are, too. Without a good set of new client worksheets, questionnaires, etc., you may find your staff spending more time screening leads than doing the work that pays the bills. Last year I implemented a series of new client worksheets, and it’s saved us a ton of time. It’s the end of the year, so now’s a great time to revisit how your company screens and qualifies potential clients.

That’s it. Three little articles. They should only take you ten minutes to read, and hopefully you’ll learn a few new things from them!

Thanks again for reading our blog, and Happy Merry to all.

[like] (neato image by Marc Theile)

14Dec

New HD & 2K Video Editing Bay

We’re proud to announce our new HD and 2K/4K editing bay here at PatrickOrtman, Inc. The setup includes a brand new 8 core MacPro with 16GB of RAM, a 512 GB SATA SSD array for scratch and render disks, SSD startup drive, and over 20TB of online SATA RAID storage for client projects.

It also includes an AJA Kona 3 capture and playback system, a MOTU 828 for audio work, a Tangent Waves control panel, Mackie audio monitors, and dual displays.

Like any group of geeks, we love our toys. But this new edit station lets us do a lot more for our clients, including dealing with upcoming RED Epic footage, and helps us meet challenging tv commercial and web video production deadlines. And that’s pretty cool.

Check out our new edit bay.

12Nov

Video Is Now Essential

another red

After downing a real sugar (available for a limited time only!) Pepsi yesterday, we started our year-end marketing roundup. This year, I found a very intriguing fact- in the last 12 months, about 87% of all initial potential clients who contacted us wanted more than a website or a social media marketing program. Over 87% of these potential clients also wanted video.

That bears repeating: even companies that would formerly only want a website are now realizing they need video, and well-produced video at that, whether it’s for YouTube, their company website, or television.

Cool pic by Raster

© Copyright 2017. All Rights Reserved PatrickOrtman, Inc.