Wow Modular

Renowned architect William E. Poole and Venue Communications launched a site focusing on his modular home designs today.  The site features several image sliders, a database of home plans, pricing forms and ecommerce.  The design is modeled from his main website, William Poole Designs.

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Native Landscapes

Native Landscapes NC

Impulse Web Solutions has just completed the design for Native Landscapes, a Wilmington, NC-based landscaping company.  The website features a sliding filmstrip of images on the homepage and a JQuery shadowbox photo gallery to showcase the company’s work.

The design was a collaboration between the client and our lead designer and went through many design mockups to come up with this simple yet elegant design.  An emphasis was put on making sure the site looks good and functions perfectly on iPhones and other mobile devices.

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8th Wonder Redesigned

8th Wonder Spice

I’ve been terribly remiss in not announcing Venuecom’s completion of the redesign of 8thWonderSpice.com, which is, in my opinion, one of the nicest sites we’ve built recently.  (And, also in my opinion, that’s saying something.)  I’ll chalk it up to Christmastime busy-ness, and I don’t mean shopping.  We’ve been crazy busy lately.

At any rate, 8th Wonder started off as a very simple website several years ago.  The owner just wanted an online presence, not much more than a holding page, so he got a website with his logo at the top, a patterned background and a few pages.  I meant to save a copy of it so I could do another before-and-after video, but I didn’t manage to grab it in time.

Anyway, 8th Wonder was ready to start making a big push and needed a more professional design and the ability to sell their product online.  We wanted to build on the branding established in the company’s name and the beautiful (seriously, very nice) tins the spice comes packaged in to create an old world feel for the website.

Aside from the upgraded design, the 8th Wonder Spice website features a growing list of recipes with which to use the spice and an also-growing list of retailers where you can purchase the product.  If you’re unable to buy find a local retailer, you also have the option of buying the spice or refills (because seriously, the tins are nice and you won’t want to throw them away) online.

Check out the site and feel free to leave some feedback in our comments section.

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Redesigned Fuzzy Peach Frozen Yogurt Website

The new design for The Fuzzy Peach, Wilmington, North Carolina’s premiere frozen yogurt bar, went live last night.  The new resembles the eatery itself with clean, open spaces.  The first thing you’ll notice on the homepage is a auto-scrolling 3D slideshow that lets you pause on one image or go back or forward to the next image, all shot by noted photographer Millie Holloman.

Social networking is prominent on the new design with prominent Facebook and Twitter icons at the top of each page as well as a Facebook plugin beneath the fold on the homepage.

You’ll notice as you go from one page to the next that the pages slide in transition instead of loading separately (with the exception of the store link, which goes off-site).  The location page sports an embedded interactive Google map.

We’re proud to have created the new Fuzzy Peach website.  The local yogurt bar that has been the talk of Wilmington now has a website to match its hype.

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2010-2011

It’s hard to believe the end of the year is almost here.

Okay, so I just spent a good bit of time (much more than I should have) hand-crafting a flipping calendar graphic for a newsletter and I just wanted an excuse to show it off.

2010-2011 flipping calendar

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AttyDC.com’s SEO and Social Networking

A few months ago we finished a redesign for attydc.com and started a renewed SEO push as well as a social networking campaign.  I was talking to a different attorney (located in a different state from the existing client) today who mentioned that she was needing to redesign her website and do some search engine optimization.  I sent her the following stats information about attydc.com’s Google ranking.  These are the search terms followed by the site’s ranking for that term.

  • Wilmington NC Lawyer (#1)
  • Brunswick County NC Lawyer (#5)
  • Pender County NC Lawyer (#9)
  • Bolivia NC Lawyer (#1)
  • Burgaw NC Lawyer (#1)
  • Carolina Beach NC Lawyer (#4)
  • Caswell Beach NC Lawyer (#3)
  • Hampstead NC Lawyer (#3)
  • Holden Beach NC Lawyer (#1 and 2)
  • Kure Beach NC Lawyer (#4)
  • Leland NC Lawyer (#3 and 4)
  • Oak Island NC Lawyer (#6)
  • Ocean Isle NC Lawyer (#4)
  • Supply NC Lawyer (#3)
  • Surf City NC Lawyer (#1)
  • Sunset Beach NC Lawyer (#5 and 6)
  • Topsail Island NC Lawyer (#1 and 2)
  • Wilmington Beach NC Lawyer (#1 and 2)
  • Wrightsville Beach NC Lawyer (#1)

In a lot of the cases where attydc.com is not the #1, there are usually directory websites (as opposed to a direct competitors) ranked above them.  This doesn’t even factor in that there are 12 or 13 practice area pages for each of the above locations that are also optimized; I just don’t have the time to look up and report over 225 search engine results.

High ranking doesn’t mean much if you’re not gaining extra traffic, but looking at the stat reports I noticed that visits and unique visits are both up about 49% from when we retooled the SEO and started the social networking.  I’ve been told by the client that they’ve definitely noticed an increase in phone calls as well.

This stuff works, folks.  Contact us today to discuss how we can help your website rank high in search engines and increase your traffic.

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What Our Sitemap Does that Yours Doesn’t

A sitemap, put simply, helps your website communicate better with search engines by telling them what pages are on your site.  They’re very useful if you have a large site or you update it often.  There’s really nothing too complex about them and they’re basically essential if you’re concerned with search engine ranking.

Our sitemap does a lot more than just list pages, though, and it’s even more beneficial if you’re doing SEO (search engine optimization) work.  In addition to communicating with search engines and building a list of pages in your site, ours generates two important reports: a broken link report and an SEO report.

The broken link report simply informs you of any bad links on your site, whether they’re linking to internal pages or other websites.  Some SEO experts believe this is a factor that can hurt your website’s standing with search engines, not to mention that it can lead to a poor user experience.  Let’s face it- if someone clicks a link on your website and the page can’t be found, it reflects poorly on the professionalism of your website.

The SEO report, really, is pretty amazing.  It gives a breakdown of 16 different SEO factors for every page of your site.  Click the details link next to any of the summaries and you’ll get a list of every page on your site that needs attention.  I thought about including a screenshot of the SEO report, but I don’t want to give any secrets away.

At any rate, there are lots of sitemaps out there that simply list pages for search engines, but I haven’t heard of any others that do what ours does.  If you’re really into making sure your site is fully optimized, give ours a try.

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Worthy of the Buzz

Babies at The Fuzzy Peach by Zach Dotsey

If you were in Wilmington, NC for the summer of 2010, you probably heard about The Fuzzy Peach, the most talked-about new eatery in town.

The Fuzzy Peach was the brainchild of three recent UNCW grads.  It’s a simple concept- you get a bowl, fill it up with whatever kind of frozen yogurt you want, load it up with all the crazy toppings your heart desires and pay for it based on how much it weighs.  We’ve been a couple times and really enjoyed it.  My one-year-old girl (seen here sharing some froyo with a friend) particularly loves it.

The first time we went the wife and I were planning on taking some friends of ours from out of town, and before they arrived I wanted to see what the store hours were so I took a minute to look up their website.  I was surprised by what I saw.  Here was the most talked about new place to go in town, and the site appeared to be thrown together with a .Mac account (seen above).  That’s all well and good, but a place with buzz like that needed a buzz-worthy website, so I decided to suggest that to them in an email.  I’m not usually one to make cold calls, but I figured there was nothing to lose.

A couple weeks went by and I didn’t really think anything of it, but one day I finally got a response.  They were interested in talking to us about a redesign, so I had Travis give them a call and, long story short, they had a few meetings and today they gave us a deposit.  I’m pleased to announce that Impulse and Venuecom are going to be updating The Fuzzy Peach’s website to give them a site worthy of their buzz!

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POP3 vs. IMAP

POP3 vs. IMAPLots of people wonder whether they should use POP3 versus IMAP for their email clients (such as Outlook, Apple Mail and Thunderbird).  It really depends on your own situation, but to really answer the question, you need to understand the basics of how email works and the difference between POP3 and IMAP.

IMAP

When an email is sent, it sits on the email server until you do something with it.  IMAP simply mirrors and manipulates whatever is sitting on the server.  If you read a message, it’s marked as read on the server.  If you delete a message, it’s deleted on the server.

IMAP is mainly advantageous for someone who checks their email on multiple devices.  I, for example, have two laptops, a desktop all running Thunderbird as my mail application, along with an iPhone.  Using IMAP settings, when I delete an email on my iPhone it’s deleted on my computers too.  If I create a new folder on a laptop to store funny emails and put 10 emails in that folder, that folder is created and populated on all my other devices too.  To be more technically correct, when I make these changes on one device, it makes the change on the mail server and syncs it to my other devices.

The downside to IMAP is space.  If you’re someone who likes to keep a lot of email, it’s going to eventually fill up, and once your account is full people will not be able to send you messages.  If you use IMAP, make sure you clean out old messages regularly.  That includes your sent, trash and spam folders.

POP3

Where IMAP mirrors what’s on a server, POP3 reaches up and pulls it off the server.  Most of our clients use email for business purposes and only check it on their at-work computer, and POP3 is perfect for that.

The main advantage of using POP3 instead of IMAP is that you don’t have to worry about how much space your email is taking up on the mailserver.  Because POP3 downloads the messages from the server, it is cleared out every time you check for email.

The downside to using POP3 is that you can’t fully sync your email account between different devices.  When you check your mail with your iPhone then check it again a few minutes later with your laptop, you won’t find the email you were just reading on your iPhone because it was downloaded to your iPhone and removed from the server.

If you do want to check your email from more than one device and mailserver space is an issue, you can set your email program to leave messages on the server for a set number of days (I usually suggest two or three).  Your messages and folders won’t be synced, but you will at least have all of your messages on all your devices.

So to answer the question of which is better to use, POP3 or IMAP, the answer really depends on your situation.  If you check your email on multiple devices and have plenty of space on your mailserver, I’d suggest using IMAP.  If you only check your mail on one computer, I’d suggest using POP3.

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Causes and Solutions for Slow Websites

Does it take forever to load pages on your site?  Does it feel so much like you’re on dial-up that you can almost hear the modem noise?  In case you forgot (or you’re too young to remember), here it is:

There are a number of reasons your website could be running slow, even if you’re on a high-speed internet connection.

Slow Server

This is something you’ll have to discuss with your hosting company.  There are a lot of different reasons that a server can be slow, but there’s not much you can do about it if you’re not a server admin.  In the interest of brevity, I’ll just say that if the server is the issue and your hosting company can’t do anything about it, it might be time to search for a new website hosting company.

Large Files

In particular, I’m talking about images.  I’ve probably seen hundreds of websites where someone uploads a full-size digital image and then uses the image properties to shrink it down.  Sure, the image only takes up 300 x 200 pixels on the screen, but it’s actually a 3000 x 2000 pixel image scrunched down to that size.  Unless you change the size of the before you upload it, it’s still, in reality, a really big picture, and a big, full-quality picture is always going to take a lot longer to load than one that has been optimized for the web.  And when you try to create your own photo gallery of images that haven’t been optimized for the web, you’ll definitely feel like you’re back in the dial-up age.  Besides, a scrunched-up image looks terrible compared to one that has been properly optimized.

There are a few of options you can use for resizing a picture prior to uploading it.  There are lots of programs out there, such as Photoshop, GIMP and even MS Paint that easily take care of resizing picture.  There are lots of websites out there too.  Just do a search for image resizing and you’ll find plenty of them.

Another option is to see if your web designer can install a program that will resize the images for you automatically when you upload them.  For example, if you use our ecommerce solutions and upload a category or product image, we can set the parameters of the uploader to set the image to a specified height and/or width.

While I’ve mainly focused on images here, you could have the same issue with any sort of media such as Flash, music or videos.  Remember that the web, as nice as some things look on it, is geared (at least for now) towards low resolution.  For example, a client of ours recently sent me an audio file of a radio commercial she wanted to play on her homepage.  I noticed the large file size, re-sampled it to a lower quality and cut down the file size by about 75%.  And you know what?  It still sounded fine on her website.

Just remember that in order for your page to load fast, you’re going to want to make all your files as small as possible while still maintaining an acceptable quality.

Coding

This ties into my last point, to a degree:  The smaller the size of the files on your page, the faster it will load.  By that same token, the smaller your page’s file size, the faster it will load.  You’ll most likely have to talk to your web designer about this, but optimizing your code includes such things as converting the site to CSS, linking to external files (such as one consolidated CSS file and one consolidated javascript file) instead of coding them directly in the page and reducing unnecessary white space in your code.

Of the three suggestions I gave, the one that will usually make the biggest difference is converting a site to CSS.  Now, I don’t want to get into a CSS vs. tables debate, but the fact of the matter is that a site using pure CSS is going to have a lot less code than a site using tables, so it’s going to be faster.

The problem that a webmaster will sometimes run into in telling a client that they need to optimize their code is that a client won’t see a difference in the site, so some website owners are hesitant to shell out the dough necessary for a website coder to spend hours on updating their site’s guts.  Cleaning code isn’t sexy, but it can be extremely effective in speeding up a website.

Making sure your site loads quickly will not only make your website visitors happy, but it will make Google happy as well.  Search engines put a premium on sites that are quick to load, so it can also push your website up in search engine rankings.

If you have any questions about how to go about doing some of the things I mentioned above, feel free to leave a comment below, contact us or send us a Tweet.

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