The best free way to market your website

Think about it… who’s the best potential client for you, realistically? It’s the folks you already know, who trust you and like you!

So, how do we keep what we do (and our new fancy website!) on the tops of their minds? An email signature is a great start, and best of all, it’s super easy!

How to setup an email signature in gmail

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what is https and why should you care?

Ok, so here’s the deal about http versus https, in layman’s terms:

https sites have their identity confirmed. It’s like Anne Hathaway being carded to confirm she’s really her and not just an absurdly good look-alike trying to get free drinks at the exclusive club.

what an https warning looks like

Why does this matter? You’ve heard of phishing, right? When a site poses as another site to steal your password or credit card information? Right? Good. So, this poser phishing site, it can look the same, even down to the url in the address bar, thanks to super sneaky technology. This is like being an Anne Hathaway lookalike who actually changes her name to “Anne Hathaway” to fool more unsuspecting bouncers. https is our defense mechanism against this, a technical way to confirm the identity of the site you’re visiting to ensure it’s the real deal.

But my site doesn’t even take credit cards! Why should I pay for a security certificate when I don’t ask for sensitive information?!

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Is your website responsive?

1. Your site may not be affected.

The best way to check is this website. It’s Google’s test for your responsiveness (aka how friendly your website is to cell phone and tablet users). Just plug in your URL and if it says “Awesome!” in green, you can sit back and drink your coffee with smug satisfaction, knowing your site is safe from the looming SEO disaster.

Of course, it’s also a good idea to just pull up your website on your smartphone and see how it looks: is the text tiny? Do you need to scroll in to read parts of it? Are things overlapping? These are serious issues. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go straight to your friendly local Oakland web developer for a free consultation and we’ll get it fixed. Continue reading

Crowd-Funding, not crowd-flopping

Or, how to use good design to make a kick-ass Kickstarter

Using the GENDER book as an example – 320% funded.

A lot of the work was done in the 4 years in advance, building our newsletter, audience, and hype about our project, but some specific things I’d suggest for the months before you launch include:

  1. Date a blogger who has a big readership in a related field (haha, just kidding. Seriously, though, it helps).
  2. I used a lot of the tips from here: hacking kickstarter. You can see our sample landing pages here and here (I changed the branding to match). It’s totally worth it to get a web guy to do this for you if you don’t feel comfortable. On a related note, I am a designer who is accepting new clients.ks-1
  3. Use Mailchimp. It’s easy to use and free for small projects. Take your core list of already-interested persons and hit them up throughout the campaign. Write these emails before it even starts. In addition to your already-interested list, make a separate a list of all your gmail contacts (instructions here) and use it, but only once in a very long while. Remember they didn’t sign up on your list. They’ll tolerate an unsolicited email once in a blue moon because you’re friends, but don’t be a jerk.mailchimp html emails are pretty!
  1. Abuse your social networks. If you facebook, facebook it. If you tweet, tweet it. If you call people, call them. Don’t worry about the networks you don’t already use; it’s too late now for that. Instead, if you’re not hip on Tumblr, ask your friends who have 2,000 followers on it to tumble it for you. It’ll have more reach that way. Use the networks you already know and are good at, and use them lots. If by the end of your campaign, your friends are sick to death of hearing about it, you’re doing it right.
  2. Make an event page on facebook for the kickstarter, and then hack facebook to automagically invite all your friends, and then invite your close supporters to do the same. This gives an exponential increase to your social reach. Here’s the example page of how we told folks to help.
  3. Use Hootsuite to program tweets and facebook updates to run a couple times a day throughout the campaign. Program this before the campaign starts. That way, when you’re flooded and overloaded and reeling from the press/monies/updates, you’ll have at least something posted every day.
  4. Think of your stretch goals in advance and make these very visible. We made a graphic for them. I updated every time we passed one to keep people motivated. Likewise, make sure you set your initial goal high enough- that’s the one most people care about. Don’t be afraid to ask big if you have the following to back it up.stretch goals
  5. Make a street team of your core supporters to help you out as much as if it were their own project. See: the gender scouts.Give them fun assignments that build hype, and practical assignments that will really help you, like the facebook hack above to invite their friends to the launch event, or to write articles supporting your project.kic-10
  6. If you’re posting an update or announcement, try to do it with a custom graphic image or video, like this and this. It’s much easier for folks to reblog or share if it catches their eye visually. If you have illustration talents, use them. ( Or hey, hire me to do it for you).
  7. kic-13Be transparent with your pricing; people want to know where their $$ is going, and why. You need them to trust you. Again, I made a visual for this because I’m a visual kinda person. I also put up links to our google spreadsheet budget. Maybe this is a little overboard, but I think it build trust.
  8. Try to ally yourself with other good causes by giving a % of the proceeds away. We did a book scholarship program for this, and had other “feel good” reasons to donate, like planting trees for the project, using recycled paper to print on, etc. The more people associate you with good causes, the more they’ll donate.
  9. Press releases- cherry-pick the authors you know already and the ones you think will be interested based on their past stories. Ask on facebook: “Do I know anyone who writes articles online?” You might be surprised who can give you an introduction. Send them a ready-to-copy-and-paste article along with juicy images. Make their jobs easy, and build one-on-one relationships with them. You might get a story in the Huffington Post this way, or be featured on the front page of Buzzfeed. You never know.
  10. Referral contests– it’s cheap for you to give away copies of the thing you’re making (and free to give away the digital goods), and referrals are priceless. Make it a game.the referral game
  11. Show, don’t just tell what the perks are. Again, use your Photoshop skillz or hire me to do it.
    kic-12 kic-05 kic-04
  12. Build some buzz around the big launch day-countdown on all your sites and social media until it opens.
  13. Make your video awesome as possible.
  14. kic-14Set yourself fun mini-games: if we make $X today, I will ____. If we get to 100 funders tonight, I will do 100 pushups. Insert your silly stunt here. If nothing else, it keeps it exciting for you.
  15. Good luck!

Want some graphics for your kick-ass Kickstarter?

Let’s get together for a free 30-minute cofee date consult to talk about your specific needs- goal graphics, perk illustrations, or more! This can be especially useful with products that aren’t made yet- I can mockup what your printed book will look like or draw an image to represent the future product being used. I can travel to you anywhere in the San Francisco bay area for a small additional fee, or we can meet over Skype, Google Hangout, or on the phone- it’s totally up to you. Click here to get started!

Mobile and responsive web design

(Yes, you need it!)

You’ve probably heard that little factoid about how mobile internet use is now bigger than desktops. But what does that mean for your business & for your website?

Well, it’s hard to know without looking at your statistics (and this is definitely something we can do in our free 30 minute consultation!) exactly how much *your* market share is made of mobile. If this number is super high, it means you are either doing a great job at reaching these users, or that a lot of users are seeing a potentially weird and wonky version of your site. Make sure you’re in the first camp and not the second, with a mobile overhaul.

Responsive web design for on the Drupal platform.

A responsive site I designed for


Do I have to re-do my entire site?

Not necessarily. There are two kinds of sites out there which are mobile-friendly: Responsive sites and mobile-optimized sites. What’s the difference?


responsive sites

Change automatically as you drag the corner of the screen and make it bigger or smaller. They do this by using @media queries in stylesheets (basically an if-then statement: if the user’s screen is smaller than # pixels, show this version of the site). Responsive themes are great for supporting all types of screens, from smart phones to tablets to big desktops.


Are a different version of the same content- they are laid out differently and often only trigger on a very-very small phone screen. They are the ones that often have the “Want to view the desktop version?” link at the bottom.

Finally, there are the not-mobile friendly sites. You know the ones- when you look at it on a smaller screen, stuff gets cut off, and on an iPhone you better be ready to pinch and drag all over the place to make the text readable.

So, which kind of site do you have?

Play around with your website on different devices, and on your computer, drag the bottom-right corner around to see what happens- does it scale gracefully or just get cropped?

There’s nothing to be ashamed of if your site isn’t mobile-optimized yet. It probably means you have been around for a long time, which is fabulous! But, even the best site needs regular maintenance and care to keep it up to date. It’s even more important now with Google penalizing sites which are not mobile-friendly by ranking them lower in mobile search results.

Okay, I want to reach my mobile users better! How do we do it?

Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Sometimes you can hire a professional to modify your existing theme to make it responsive (using those media queries we talked about before), and sometimes it’s best to just change themes altogether and use one which was made to be mobile-friendly from the start. If you are on a budget and neither of those is an option, you can download a plugin to help make a mobile-version of your site fairly quickly, though this will only help your phone users and might leave tablets out in the cold.

mobile and desktop designI hope this has been a helpful bit of background into your new and improved mobile site. I’d love the chance to help your transformation. When you’re ready to get serious about reaching your mobile users drop me a line- we can together make a plan of attack that reaches all of your users without breaking the bank. Your first 30 minutes of consultation are free!