Blogs By Author

Sandy
Chicago Web Design Firm, Company, Agency

Inside the mind of our creative web design team

We work hard. We design hard. We push our own creativity and the creative expectations of our clients with our "yes, and" philosophy. We have this undeniable desire to make our clients feel "wow'd" when they see our design concepts. And we often work late getting each concept just right so it's aligned creatively, strategically, and research-based reducing the subjectivity of our work. 

Our software interfaces, data visualizations, and web design transformations are driven by our usability expertise. The big difference in our creative execution is our practical thinking along with a desire for beautiful web design. We ask, "Can our users find the information that they need with this particular web design concept?" and "Does this work represent our best work?"

This blog was posted by Sandy on November 14.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy
Information Architecture Design and Wireframe Development with Web Usability Standards: Chicago

Intuitive navigation is one of the secrets to an easy-to-use website. Our approach is to establish data and information architecture based on personas, usability test results, user research insights, and web usability standards to intuitively organize and connect your audience to the content they need. In order to quickly convey the organization of information, we develop clickable wireframe prototypes to visually demonstrate information priorities, basic layout, and navigational structure.

wireframe development with web usability standards

Wireframes are similar to a blueprint for building a house. A wireframe is generally black and white, contains very little graphic design, and identifies the general placement of web site elements and information including your main nav, user interaction points, news section, image area, content area, shopping cart, etc. This forces you to consider the site's functionality, instead of focusing on a graphical treatment.

Information architecture design and wireframe development is part of the responsive web design and web development process reducing your costs and saving time. Making changes to the wireframe is much faster than making creative and development changes.

This blog was posted by Sandy on February 5.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy
Chicago Marketing Firm, Outsource Marketing Execution, Marketing Outsourcing

Extend your team and scale your efforts by outsourcing your marketing efforts. Imagine having on-call crazy-talented creatives, writers full of curiosity and wit, incredible UX architects, thoughtful marketing strategists, visionary video producers, and senior-level web developers to allow your team to do what they do best. From creating high-level concepts to executing on your entire marketing plan, our team would love to collaborate with yours!

Benefits of outsourcing your marketing:

  1. Free your team up to lead, manage, and focus on your company's growth
  2. Immediately have your marketing team up and running on day 1 (rather than hiring over 60-120 days)
  3. Access to all skill sets (like having your own in-house marketing firm, writing, design, UX, and web development department)
  4. Gain insight and perspective on how other companies and industries are solving their marketing challenges
  5. Work with top talent (agencies attract some of the best creative minds in the industry)
  6. Minimize HR costs and overhead
  7. Mitigate employee management
  8. Accomplish more within your marketing budget with our flexible retainer structures

Examples of marketing that is often outsourced include email campaigns, banner campaigns, videos, marketing collateral, whitepapers, direct mail, trade advertising campaigns, market research reports, e-books, marketing brochures, web analytics reporting, sales enablement tools, videos, annual reports, infographics, trade show booths, SEO & SEM campaign management, and internal marketing communications. 

This blog was posted by Sandy on July 5.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy
Brand Strategy Agency, Brand Experience Chicago

To gain the insights necessary for the development and reinvention of your brand experience, our user experience experts center the conversation around your user needs, desires, and behaviors. We conduct user experience research to understand user motivations, brand perceptions and engagement opportunities, and gather competitive intelligence to reveal trends and hidden whitespace opportunities.

Our proprietary agency tools and UX approach allow us to learn as much as we can about your brand, its values, and your users. With our Brand Strategy Workshop, we immerse ourselves in your brand and your business objectives, and speak with stakeholders to gain leadership alignment. And we're extremely collaborative, because knowing that great idea when you hear it, see it, and feel it is much more important than where it came from.

Unlike traditional branding agencies where the focus is business-centric, we extend our reach and perspective by integrating user insights into our analysis so the new brand experience is a reflection on the users and their rapidly changing environments, technologies, motivations, and behaviors. 

We develop, enhance, and reinvent brand experiences through: 

  • Brand Strategy
  • Brand Identity
  • Brand Positioning and Key Messaging
  • Brand Management
  • Internal Brand Development

Want to explore ways to improve your brand strategy? Contact us.

This blog was posted by Sandy on January 16.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy
Social Media Marketing Chicago

Our social media strategists develop overarching strategy recommendations, content strategy suggestions, content calendars, follower strategies for re-sharing content, response strategies, and sharing opportunities to capitalize on current news and events. We are always at-the-ready to investigate your audiences, uncover what they like, and the way they behave in order to multiply the impact of your social media marketing efforts. We've achieved significant results with B2B social media marketing.

Here's an example for a B2B technology SAAS client: 
One of our B2B tech clients reached over 50,000 people in 24 hours because of a pair of strategically placed socks! A consumer packaged goods B2C client went viral and went from <100 - 23,000 Facebook fans and 32,000 contacts in their database in 4 weeks. All from identifying and building relationships with those influential content producers who make other word-of-mouth marketers drool. View more of our work.

Using proprietary tools that allow us to learn as much as we can about what is being said about your brand, we can swiftly and efficiently determine the strongest social media marketing strategy and messaging campaign to inject your ideas or angles into the conversation in order to generate more social media engagement, improve search engine optimization, integrate with your web design strategy, and amplify your brand experience

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 26.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy
b2b Content Marketing Agency Chicago

B2B content marketing is the cornerstone of a successful digital marketing strategy, and it involves the continuous creation of relevant content (be it blogs, white papers, video, etc.) intended to convert visitors into leads, build thought leadership, improve brand engagement, and drive awareness. It makes a huge impact on search engine optimization, and with the "right" (we mean strategic, researched, and thoughtful) content marketing plan, you can multiply your marketing effectiveness, improve the overall impact of your web design strategy, and build a platform to market your company that lasts for years. 

Lucky for you, we’re crazy about B2B content and are armed with a team of gurus at our agency who love creating quality content in just about any form you can think of. Best of all, it’s the kind of content that people love coming back to and sharing with their peers. 

How did you find us? Through our own B2B content marketingsocial media marketing, and/or SEO efforts? We'd love to know.

This blog was posted by Sandy on April 22.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy
Drupal Development Company Chicago

Drupal web developmentAcquia Certification - Drupal 8
Drupal is the enterprise-level, open source content management system (CMS) behind websites like The White House, Forrester Research,  Harvard University and many associations including American Library Association, National Association of Realtors, and more. The built-in functionality, combined with thousands of freely available add-on modules, enables features such as SalesForce, calendars, file uploads, blogs, user accounts, and HubSpot to be easily integrated. 

Our senior level, in-house Drupal development team is located in Chicago
We do not outsource our Drupal development to any company nor developers overseas. Just because a site was built in Drupal, doesn’t mean it actually leveraged the tools that Drupal offers or was built efficiently. At Sandstorm, our rock star team perfected our Drupal install. They attend DrupalCon annually, participate in the Drupal community, speak at events, maintain multiple Drupal sites (that were previously developed by other agencies, as well as sites we have designed and developed), and use the CMS daily. Check out our very own Senior Director, Technology, Sean Fuller, sharing his 5 Tips to Manage Security. 

We've developed a Drupal SEO Admin Interface
Sandstorm’s Drupal development team identified the need for non-technical administrators to control targeted aspects of HTML code to better optimize for keyword phrases and developed a custom Drupal SEO Admin Interface as part of our standard Drupal install. This allows Sandstormers and our clients to better optimize their sites and improve rankings.

Make your site responsive for mobile and tablet
We provide flexibility for future enhancements and mobile/tablet responsive web design by developing our sites using responsive base themes in Drupal. Our base install includes theme and module standards allowing us to optimize for mobile and/or tablet. 

Combine our Drupal web development and our UX expertise for a powerful user experience
Many Drupal development companies outsource their design or have a lone designer on staff. We have an elite creative team complete with UX designers, UX architects, and content authors and have conducted 3400+ hours of user research and usability studies. Our Drupal developers and UX designers work side by side throughout our agile development process to ensure the most intuitive user experience design and technically savvy, data-driven Drupal website.   

Sandstormers spend 500+ hours staying up to date on the latest Drupal updates, web development, and user experience trends. Being Curious is what we are all about. Let us put together a proposal for your Drupal web development project!

This blog was posted by Sandy on February 19.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy
Chicago Web Development Firm, Mobile and Tablet Development

At Sandstorm, our in-house, senior-level team of web developers have successfully built websites and data-driven web applications that other web development firms said weren't possible. We push technology in new ways, build custom code when necessary, and leverage existing code when it makes the most sense. And in their spare time, our web development team improves on already existing technologies; they contribute to Drupal, develop new interface layers for our clients so administrators have a better experience updating their own sites, and spend hundreds of hours on learning and training to stay in front of the constant changes in web development.

Our web development, usability, and UX design teams work together... every day
Having a close-knit web development team, usability team, and UX design team in-house allows us to develop a synergy that solves problems, encourages creative thinking, and explores new ideas to improve the user experience.

Our agile methodology and SCRUM framework
Sandstorm’s web development process is built on Agile principles and the SCRUM framework. In Agile, a cross-functional team of business stakeholders, designers, and developers work together on a daily basis to define, prioritize, develop, and test key system functionality, releasing complete product features frequently in stages. Utilizing the SCRUM framework, we prioritize and divide the requirements into 2 to 4 week sprints. Our team meets daily to discuss progress and identify risks. At the end of each sprint, the included functionality is considered done and ready for release. Release reviews are conducted with the client throughout the process to gain sign off and feedback.

We like this approach because we can better respond to changing priorities and requirements. It helps our clients more closely manage their budgets and make informed decisions about the value of features and functionality.

Content Management Systems we develop in: Drupal (.php), Kentico (.net), and Wordpress (.php)

This blog was posted by Sandy on January 5.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy
Digital Marketing Agency Chicago

We're curious creative problem solvers who love to plan! Thanks to strategy team who coined the phrase "thinker-doers" to best describe us. We not only think through your marketing strategy, but also how we would execute your marketing plan in alignment with your organization's business and marketing goals. As a result, our digital marketing plans often include creative ideas outside of marketing – we can't help ourselves.

So, how do we do it? It's through a combination of our coveted marketing workshop, in-depth user experience research, stakeholder interviews, competitive analysis, and secondary research. We help uncover your organization's untapped intrinsic value and reveal new digital marketing strategies, brand positioning, key messages, content marketing tactics to better demonstrate thought leadership, and untapped opportunities for your business to thrive. 

Let our agency help you transform your organization and leverage technology in new and innovative ways through an actionable digital marketing strategy. Request a proposal today.

 

This blog was posted by Sandy on March 5.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

We are so honored to be mentioned in B2B magazine today! I just wanted to share as it really demonstrates our company's passion for user centered design and usable web sites. Here's a little excerpt for those that don't have time to read the full article:

Another trend: Making the most of a user's time on the site, rather than focusing on increasing the amount of time spent on the site, said Sandy Marsico, principal of Sandstorm Design, a web design and usability firm. “You want to help them find what they want quickly and get on with their day. Businesspeople don't have any time to waste anymore.” “You want clear areas of content,” Marsico said. “There should be more conversation and less selling.”

This blog was posted by Sandy on September 13.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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