Category Archive: Events, Functions & Parties
One of our star clients, Jonathan Rands, has been nominated for the Best Legal Website 2012 by the Stevie Awards. On June 21, 2012, the website was named as a finalist and will ultimately be a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Stevie Award winner in the program.
If you’ve ever been to Jonathan’s website, you’ll notice a few things that set him apart.
- He writes content. Jonathan is a regular contributor to his blog and to his informative pages about DUI laws in this area. Due to his dedication to keeping content current and refreshed, the site is full of information that his clients and even non-clients can use as a reference. Content generation is imperative if you are going to have a successful web presence.
- Jonathan listens to his web team. The professionals on our team have years of experience working with small business websites and their users. We bring to the table years of research, examples of what not to do, and what may seem like endless tidbits of advice. Fortunately, our star clients are moving forward because they allow us to make changes without a lot of fuss. Whether it be art direction, headline modifications or image choice, we can certainly feel the difference in websites like Jonathan’s, that comes together in a cohesive, professional way.
- Active networking. At the outset, Jonathan recognized that outside reviews of his lawfirm were of the utmost importance. Since then, Jonathan has been working to build his presence on AVVO. Paired with regular blogging, podcasts from the KGMI 790 radio show The Legal Docket, and accurate content, the Law Offices of Jonathan Rands website is a plethora of information for anyone interested in learning more about DUI laws and court processes here in Washington State.
Congratulations to you, Jonathan. We look forward to hearing the results when finalists are announced September 17 in San Francisco!
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of being the presenter at the Bellingham .NET User’s Group, where I discussed the topic of HTML5 in between bites of delicious pizza
The audience was very back-end developer heavy, with varying levels of markup experience that was on average much lighter than that of the average attendee of Refresh Bellingham and other designer-oriented meetups. One common perception I encountered while preparing was “Why would you do a presentation on HTML5 if it isn’t ready to be used yet?” carry on »
Looking for a content strategy fix? You came to the right place! After missing February’s meetup, I was happy to attend the April gathering of Content Strategy: Seattle with nearly 50 other attendees. What prompted so many content strategists and content strategy enthusiasts to squeeze into Mama’s Mexican Kitchen in Belltown?
Why, the presence of special guest Kristina Halvorson, the undisputed queen of Content Strategy, of course.
With Kristina was in town for An Event Apart, she agreed to join us for a “roundtable-ish Q&A session” with absolutely “NO POWERPOINT.” She also brought Jared Spool of User Interface Engineering to give his two cents on how content strategy ties into website usability. And to remind us that “you can’t stop people from sticking beans up their nose.” I’ll let you visualize that for a moment. Annnnnnnd…moving on.
Even with such a diverse group of attendees (web developers, writers, and even a carpenter) from organizations of all types and sizes (non-profits, single-person web shops, and at least one major Seattle-based coffee company), Kristina managed to provide great insight and guidance for all stages of content strategy.
Halfway through the Q&A, something quite surprising dawned on me. At this month’s meeting, I thought, “Boy, a content strategy meetup is a lot like an AA meeting.”
Or, at least, the depiction of AA meetings from TV and movies. I don’t speak from personal experience.
First point of comparison? Each introduction began with a guilty iteration of something like “I’m Theresa and…I’m a Content Strategist,” followed by a subdued chorus of “Hi, Theresa.” Subsequently, the crowd would burst into uproarious laughter as we consumed our margaritas.
But the real similarity was Kristina’s most repeated message of the night: Get a Sponsor.
If you’re struggling to convince a client to invest in the content strategy process or arguing for the content audit of a current website before a redesign, go to someone above you in your company and get them on board. Get as many voices of support as you can. And if you’re having trouble finding someone internally to take your side, use Kristina (and her book and tweets and blog posts) as your weapon.
Here are a few more content strategy gems that I took home from the night:
- If you can’t sell content strategy to a client, call it something else. Figure out what they’re willing to pay for and incorporate that into the early stages of the website design and development process. As Nick Finck of Blue Flavor pointed out, “We don’t ask clients if they want web standards; we just give it to them.”
- Consider the long-term price tag. If someone is frustrated, it’s a problem. It doesn’t matter if it’s the customer who can’t find the website’s shopping cart, or the copy writer toiling away to fill the site with text; both parties can be valid indicators of a website’s success. All the while, this frustration costs money for your client. Bring that point to the table, and clients will clamor for change with checkbooks in hand.
- Use fear and shame. Show your client what their competition is doing as motivation to start a website audit and to implement content strategy (see above).
- Technology won’t fix content. Using a content management system does not mean you have a content strategy; it’s simply a tool that can help support the user experience. Don’t let the constraints of your CMS dictate content.
- Start with a mobile design. Instead of trying to make a whole website fit onto a phone’s tiny screen, evaluate “What’s the main message we want to communicate on our mobile website?” and go from there. That information about content priorities will come in handy later when you expand to the full website design.
As Kristina charged, we are pioneers in the evolving practice of the content strategy movement. With more meetups in the future, we can keep Seattle (and the entire Pacific Northwest) on the forefront of content strategy. And we need to stop acting so guilty about it!
All the way back in 1842 an individual created an appended set of notes that included a detailed method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with Charles Babbage’s Analytical Machine when translating a memoir of that device by Italian mathmatician Luigi Menabrea. For this reason, the individual became later known as the first computer programmer. Granted, this isn’t exactly an accurate title for the person, but as they are recognized for creating the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine, it is applicable enough and sounds much better than “Babbage Machiner”.
This person was Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace. Nowadays, she’s almost always referred to as Ada Lovelace. Today, March 24th, is celebrated as Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science. I joined in with blogging about the topic last year when I posted about the topic over at CSSquirrel, sharing the existence of the women who work at Mindfly Web Design Studio.
Conversations about gender representation issues in tech companies often float past without my awareness. This is because at Mindfly, women represent 60% of our talent. I suppose I’m fortunate that I can take their presence in the workplace for granted, but I know I shouldn’t. Despite how much we congratulate ourselves on the progress of the 21st century, I’m informed that situations like Mindfly are the rarity. I’m not entirely sure if efforts such as the new Barbie doll being a computer engineer is “progress” in that regards, frankly. While we’re at it, I’m pretty sure most computer engineers aren’t as color blind as she apparently is with that outfit.
The moral of the story is that if you are a woman in the tech industry, or know one, perhaps you should pause and take a moment to blog just a little bit about that. Doing so will help provide examples for girls to look towards when considering their own future. Then perhaps, some day, there can be more places like Mindfly.
In addition to all the awesome ladies that I shared with you in my previous posts, this Ada Lovelace Day there’s an additional woman on the Mindfly team. Here’s Erica, one of our designers. (Who rocks.)
After six months of Refresh Bellingham, I was very excited to attend a “meetup” event with Maya Belka that was a bit more applicable to the work I do here at Mindfly. This week, we trekked down to Seattle to find out more about the content strategy movement that’s gaining recognition in the web industry.
One of the leading voices of content strategy, Kristina Halvorson of Brain Traffic, defines the practice as “plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content” (“The Discipline of Content Strategy”). In her book Content Strategy for the Web, she specifically outlines changing the process of how websites are planned and executed.
A primary concern for content strategists is that after a website has been designed and coded and polished, the content—the meat of most websites—is finally inserted into the site. Whether it is text, images, or multi-media, if the designers don’t know what to expect in terms of content, the overall aesthetic of the website can get thrown off.
So before the design is even considered, a content strategist wants to know “What’s your overall goal?” Once a goal is established (usually to increase profits or gain customers), the next question is “Why?” Why do you want an image rotator of your four dogs on your website? (Are you selling dogs? Are you selling dog products? Is it “meaningful” to your audience?) If the “why” isn’t directly related to the goal, a content strategist will help you figure out what content will help you reach your goal.
Content Strategy: Seattle was founded in October of 2009 by web writer James Callan. On Wednesday, January 27, 2010, a group of about 16 individuals in the web industry (writers, editors, information architects, and, yes, even an actual content strategist) gathered at Vermillion Art Gallery Wine Bar to try to figure out “What is Content Strategy?”
While we didn’t figure out everything that it is, we at least established what it’s not. It’s not simply a collection of tactics, as Halvorson reminded us in a recent blog post (“Content Strategy: More Than a Bunch of Tactics”). According to Halvorson, tactics, combined, do not equal a strategy. Rather, a strategy makes the tactics make sense, giving them a specific purpose in the process.
We also discussed that the growing importance on usability (or, at least, the acceptance among clients that investing in usability and usability testing can help make a website better) is a helpful “selling point” for content strategy. Like usability testing, content strategy is something that has to begin before a tangible product (as tangible as a two-dimensional website on your computer screen can be) is created. It’s an investment with long-term benefits, not a quick-fix to improve site rankings after the fact.
Both Maya and I are excited to continue to learn more with the Content Strategy: Seattle community at upcoming events, including Operation Halvorson on April 6, 2010, in which Halvorson graces us with her presence and wisdom during her Seattle visit for An Event Apart. Stay tuned!
Another year, another Mindfly party. Things were a little more laidback this year, compared to the great Mindfly Murder Mystery of 2008, but a good time was had by all as we took some time to toast another year gone by at the Mindfly Christmas Party.
The activities started at the studio by ceremoniously un-decorating our holiday tree and mixing the contents with hot beverages from Starbucks. Fellow Bellingham web design/development virtuoso Nathan Carnes even stopped by to help us celebrate the end of the year with a drink, as did Heather’s family (baby Linnea and the dogs did not, however, partake in the holiday cheer).
The party traveled to Extremes Sports Grill for a yummy dinner of pizza, pasta, and salad. They even set up a Wii for a little bowling while we waited for our meal.
After dinner, we had a White Elephant gift exchange. The rules in this exchange stipulated that the giver could not spend any money on the gift, so the presents consisted of various items that each of us had lying around at home. Gifts ranged in type from half-finished craft projects to several dozen pocket knives. Unfortunately, no one at Mindfly exhibited the cutthroat stealing strategies that I’ve come to expect from my own family. Instead, people politely swapped presents after the game to get what they really wanted…if they wanted anything out of the mélange.
The evening finished off with a game of Celebrity, which turned out to be rather difficult if you hadn’t brushed up on current Russian political figures, and conversation about holiday plans.
From all of us at Mindfly, happy holidays! We look forward to sharing our musings on the world of web design with you in 2010!
October is one of my favorite months of the year in Bellingham. I always look forward to watching the leaves of deciduous trees on Sehome Hill change from green to gold, and the days of rain interrupted by unpredictable bouts of sunshine. A trip to a different Whatcom County pumpkin patch has become a tradition with a good friend, and I am constantly in search for the perfect cup of hot apple cider at downtown Bellingham’s many cafés.
And now that I work at Mindfly, the first full month of fall is also a time of firsts and fun celebrations.
Last October, I went on my first business trip to Las Vegas. While I was there, I got to see my first Cirque du Soleil performance for my job. Not a bad deal.
Also in October of 2008, Mindfly celebrated Christmas early with a trip to the AT&T store to stock up on iPhones to reinforce our company’s dedication to design for mobile and the use of social media in online marketing and image branding. And decorating for downtown Bellingham’s Halloween Trick-or-Treat is always big day at Mindfly. In fact, John Raasch even asked me if I had a Halloween costume ready at my interview two years ago.
Yep. October 29, 2009 marks my second anniversary as Mindfly’s resident journalist and go-to grammarian (it’s also the 40th anniversary of the first communication sent over a host-to host connection via the ARPANET, a precursor of the Internet, which is certainly something to celebrate at Mindfly Web Studio).
Two years might not seem like a long time, but it’s a big achievement for a twenty-something Millennial in her first real post-college position. I’ve learned much more about websites than I ever thought I would, and I’ve also learned a lot about online journalism through trial and error. It’s been a unique experience to help start a local website from scratch and watch it grow.
Although we’re missing out on some of the Halloween fun in 2009 (don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining that the studio won’t be open on Saturday), Mindfly still has a reason to celebrate as October comes to an end.
I’m not at liberty to divulge too much information just yet, so allow me to paraphrase Mr. McGuire and his famous advice from The Graduate; I just want to say one word to you – just one word. Boogaloo. Think about it.
Thanks to FLIR Creative, I won two passes to Art & Copy at the Pickford here in Bellingham, WA. Art & Copy is a documentary about advertising that covers the brilliant campaigns of advertising giants like George Lois, Mary Wells, Dan Wieden, Lee Clow and Hal Riney. Folks that are responsible for catch phrases like “I Love NY,” “Got Milk,” Nike’s “Just Do It,” and Apple’s “Think Different.” The film discusses the monumental occurance of combining copywriters and designers, using great words along with great photos to achieve ultimate campaign success. The film is packed with informational tidbits about the advertising industry (like: 80% of advertising is controlled by 4 global advertising agencies) that astounds the viewer and gets you thinking.
Working in the social media marketing end of Mindfly, I had no idea what to expect from Art & Copy. Therefore, I was surprised when Director Doug Pray focused on “good advertising.” It is admitted that most advertising is terrible and Pray is quoted as saying:
I didn’t want to make a doc that just trashes trashy advertising. Too easy, too obvious, and why bother? Instead, granted access to a handful of the greatest advertising minds of the last fifty years, I felt it could be a more powerful statement to focus the film only on those rare few who actually moved and inspired our culture with their work.
And I have to agree. Per Art & Copy, 65% of Americans believe they’re bombarded with advertising, yet I remember the good ones; Budweiser’s 1994 Super Bowl commercial and Michael Jordan’s “Failure” Nike commercial to name a few.
For me, the most memorable campaign discussed in Art & Copy related to milk. Goodby Silverstein & Partners talk about how difficult it can be to revitalize an ad campaign for an everyday “boring” commodity like milk. Packaging is stagnant, colors are traditional and when consumers are asked “what brand of milk do you drink?” they answer “2%” vs. “Darigold.” By tapping into their creative teams, Goodby Silverstein transitioned from the slightly less truthful campaign “Milk: It Does a Body Good” to the much catchier, more applicable, though admittedly less grammatically correct, “got milk?” And a breath of life was given to an ordinary, everyday product.
When comparing social media marketing to traditional advertising, I can’t seem to recall one catchy or memorable ad despite being on the web all day, 5 days a week. I am left with the feeling that social media marketing has a lot to learn from traditional advertising. Perhaps, in the end, there really is no competition.
P.S. Ever wonder where slogans come from? Art & Copy admits that Nike’s “Just Do It” catch phrase was inspired by convicted killer Gary Gilmore’s last words before his execution: “Let’s do it.” Hmmmm.
I don’t say it nearly enough. I love my job. I think it’s a phrase that most Mindfly employees think on a regular basis. As far as I know, there is no one here who doesn’t want to be here doing what they do.
With only ten full-time employees, we’re each delegated tasks that allow us to spend time working on projects that we really enjoy, from coding to designing to meeting with clients. And while it may seem a tedious to someone else, I love researching and writing content for websites, whether I’m optimizing keywords for a new website or keeping Neighborhood-Kids.com updated every day.
An opportunity on Friday, August 14, reminded me again how lucky I am to do what I do. Kate Simmons of the Heritage Flight Museum invited me to join local media for a flight on a visiting B-17 Flying Fortress.
I was happy to spread the word about the visit of Sentimental Journey in Bellingham and the great learning opportunity for local kids and grown-ups at the museum. Plus, I was simply excited to take a flight over Whatcom County and Bellingham Bay in a fully-restored World War II era aircraft.
On a personal note, the ride made me think of my grandfather, who passed away nearly a year ago. A WWII veteran and 25-year member of the Air National Guard, I know that he would have been proud of me and impressed that I had opportunity to fly in a B-17 for my job. He might have been a little bit envious too.
Read my article about the flight (“Once in a Lifetime Flight”), watch a video on YouTube (“Heritage Flight Museum”), and see photos on Flickr (“Heritage Flight Museum – Sentimental Journey”). I was even able to update my Twitter mid-fight!
Thanks to Kate for inviting me on the flight, and to Mindfly for creating a unique position that affords such exceptional opportunities.
One of my jobs for Neighborhood-Kids.com is to stay up-to-date with all the kid-friendly activities for Bellingham and Whatcom County families, so I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for knowing what’s going on around town. Festivals, craft fairs, fundraisers…I can usually tell you about all the random things happening in our community. Every once in awhile I’ll discover a great community event that really has nothing to do with kids. Luckily, I have this handy-dandy Mindfly blog where I can gush about local fun stuff for the 21+ crowd.
April Brews Day just might be my favorite day of the year. It’s the intersection of three of my favorite things: the Bellingham community, spring, and beer. And I’m very excited that I get to share all of these things with my parents (who are making the long trek across the state this weekend) on Saturday, April 25th, 6 to 10 PM at Depot Market Square.
My mom had plenty of questions about the event (she’s not big on the unexpected), so I figured a blog post about this annual event might help inform her, and other beer aficionados, about the annual festival.
Twenty-one brewers from around the Northwest are attending the festival this year. My favorite local brewery, Boundary Bay Brewery, will have four different brews available, including a Ginger Peach Blond Ale (doesn’t that sound like it just tastes like spring?), but I’m also excited to try Pike Brewing Company’s Monk’s Uncle and Son of Frog from North Fork Brewery.
Upon admission, attendees will get a collectable tasting glass and scrip for tasting the various microbrews. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. You can also purchase additional samples, as well as food from local vendors like Hempler’s Hot Dogs, Ralf’s Bavarian Originals, and Fairhaven Pizza Company.
Now, honestly, I’d pay $15 for a souvenir glass, at least hour’s worth of beer, free music, and time to mingle with other Bellingham beer drinkers. But along with providing plenty of entertainment, April Brews Day also benefits the Max Higbee Center, a local non-profit that provides community-based recreational programs for teens and adults with developmental disabilities. So you can feel good about yourself for supporting a local organization while enjoying beer…what's not to like?
As a veteran attendee, let me give you some advice so you’re fully prepared to enjoy the entire beer tasting experience. First of all, get your tickets in advance; last year, I waited in line for a good twenty minutes just to get into the festival. I’d also recommend arriving earlier rather than later, because there is nothing more disappointing than waiting in line for a sample when the keg runs dry. Along the same lines, either plan to purchase food at the event or come directly after your evening meal. You can leave the festival to grab dinner elsewhere, but there’s no guarantee that there will be any beer left when you return. And, of course, remember to drink responsibly: choose a designated driver, hail a Bellingham Pedicab, or simply plan to
stumble walk home.
Advance tickets can be purchased at Community Food Co-op, Village Books, and Boundary Bay Brewing. Contact the Max Higbee Center at (360) 733-1828 for more information.