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Will
Happy Halloween from Sandstorm

Sandstorm is full of creative minds. We’re dreamers most of the time, and we can’t wait for Halloween to stretch our legs as tricksters. Halloween is always festive at Sandstorm (check out 2011 and 2012).

Annually, you tend to see the scary, the fun and the odd. This year, our costumes ranged from the fun (a larger than life penguin) to the terrifying (fitness guru Richard Simmons). It’s always fun for everyone to have fun while expressing themselves in a different way. Plus, Sandy sweetens the deal by closing the office early.

For the past 3 Halloweens we have had a costume contest. In 2011, a clown won. In 2012, the prize went to a chilling Cenobite (It’s from the Hellraiser films), and this year went to…well, modesty prevents me.

You can see more of our costumed adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

This blog was posted by Will on November 7, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
Scarestorm at Sandstorm

While developing new web sites, repositioning businesses and creating great collateral for our global clients; we’ve taken a little time to get into the Halloween spirit. No, we haven’t been wearing our costumes, but we will. (Sadly, Jason has not been wearing a ski mask every day.) Don’t be scared, we’re still working every day to bring innovative campaigns and technology to you.

Peek inside the agency to see what horrors can be found. (More photos are on theSandstorm Facebook page).

See what past Halloweens have brought to Sandstorm in 2012 and 2011.

This blog was posted by Will on October 11, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
Brand strategy - voice and tone

What sets authors apart? Subject matter? Historical context? It really boils down to their words. Read these three literary excerpts.

  1. The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper.
  2. When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits.
  3. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.

These are clearly from different authors. One is a British master (Charles Dickens), an American man’s man (Ernest Hemingway), and an Edinburgh single mother with a love of magic (J.K. Rowling). Without knowing who was who, you could tell simply from the test that every passage was at least from a different person (yet alone a different time period).

How does your business communication relate to this? Is your company’s voice recognizable?

Could you look at 4 different company whitepapers or pages of your website and feel like they are written by different people?

It’s often overlooked, but the voice and tone of a company is as important as color palette, iconography, and photographic style. Below are four reasons why you need to put more emphasis on your company’s voice and tone.

 1. Consistency

It adds to the consistency of your brand. What kinds of words you use, sentence length/complexity, use of descriptors are all things to consider. It’s just like visual brand consistency. Consistent voice and tone makes it easy for new team members to integrate and start communicating for the company. It creates a regular expected voice for your company that is almost as recognizable as your logo and tagline.

2. Identity and Culture

Who you are as a business and as a brand is important. You know how MailChimp, Chase, McDonald’s, UPS, and many well known brands sound. Hospitals speak differently than banks. Mountain Dew speaks differently than Diet Coke. Your brand has a personality and you should be reflecting that in your words on the web, in print and in all communications.

 3. Customer Relationship

Are you talking in their vernacular? Are you talking up to them? Down at them? Are you trying to educate them? Do you just want to sell to them? Your content and how you deliver it engages your customer is different ways.

  • Come to the zoo.
  • You really should go to the zoo.
  • Go to the zoo!
  • The zoo is great. It would be a shame if you missed out.
  • You’re fun (so is the zoo).

These all say the same thing, but all sound very different. Do you want to be more imperative? Do you want to have a sense of humor about your brand? Do you want to be seen as a trusted friend?

This post is full of questions that are meant to help you and your organization create a voice and tone that conveys your brand across every communication vehicle. Voice and tone are part of who you are as a company and who you are as a group of people working toward a goal.

The old aphorism remains true: “It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.”

How do YOU want to say it?

This blog was posted by Will on August 30, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

Will
7th annual Sandstorm guac-off

This Sunday was the 7th annual Sandstorm Guac-Off. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon of fun and food (and some canned champagne). This was an exceptional Guac-Off. We had a whopping 10 entries with special ingredients ranging from sweet to savory, mango and pineapple to hummus and edamame.

I know you’ve all been waiting, and the results are in. Being crowned in her first Guac-Off, this year’s “El Champion” is Emily Kodner (with a substantial assist from her husband Kenny).

Sandstormers must like it hot, since the winning guacamole was the spiciest with roasted jalapeños. You can see pictures of the winners, winning guacamole and more on our Facebook page.

This blog was posted by Will on July 30, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
Responsive Web Development earns Drew and Alma a sweet treat

This morning the Sandstormers were greeted by a very welcome surprise from Sweet Sensations Bakery. This assortment of scones, cupcakes, and, my personal favorite, coffee was a thank you gift from our partner .orgSource. We recently developed their brand new responsive site (all made in Drupal). Take a look at their site on your desktop, tablet and smartphone. We’re really proud of it, and we’re glad that .orgSource is, too!

Thank you to Sherry, Tara and the rest of the .orgSource team for this thoughtful gift and the opportunity to develop your new responsive site. Congratulations!

This blog was posted by Will on July 10, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

Will
Sandstorm celebrates Independence Day

Tomorrow is Independence Day. What does that mean? Is it just the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence? Is it an excuse to get tipsy in the glow of pyrotechnics? Is it a reminder of who we are and what we do? Does the day mean anything to you at all?

I asked the Sandstormers what America meant to them and got some interesting responses.

  • Cultural diversity, acceptance, and hamburgers, BBQ and tacos
  • Star spangled awesome
  • Fireworks, Beer, BBQ
  • Bring on the Fireworks!
  • AMERICA! Canada's britches
  • Possibility, hope and family
  • Always moving forward
  • Home of the free
  • Limitless potential, scrappy grit, breathtaking topography
  • Cheap beer, grilling and bottle rockets

Some of us are already celebrating.

As you can see, the answers are all over the map. Which is great! We’re individuals who are all over the map. Ranging from where we come from, where we live, what we do outside of the office, and what we eat and drink. (You can see on the left that some of us have already started celebrating.) We’re silly and range from normal to weird (I’m closer to the weird end). Despite all of this, we come together everyday to create great things for our clients, whether it’s full marketing campaigns, company mascots, Drupal websites... you name it.

This is what America means to me. It’s the culmination of people, experiences, and backgrounds to do something great.

To answer all of the questions I asked at the beginning: Yes. Tomorrow, and America for that matter, means what you want it to mean. Independence Day is not a celebration of a country or an anniversary. This is the celebration of who we are and what we do and, more importantly, the potential of what we can (and will) do.

We, here at Sandstorm hope to accomplish something great with you very soon, but for now we hope you have a great and safe celebration tomorrow, whether you’re at home for a quiet day, at the park watching fireworks, or traveling cross-country to light sparklers with family.

Happy Independence Day!

This blog was posted by Will on July 3, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
Top 7 Responsive Sites from 1996 (Yes, 1996)

1996 was a crazy time. Everyone was shouting “Show Me the Money!” or using a Fargo, ND accent. We were just meeting Kato Kaelin and teaching our friends the “Macarena”.

It was a huge year, the U.S. hosted the centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, and Star Wars was back in theaters for the first time since its original release. And oh yeah, people started using the internet more and more. Sure it was on Mosaic and Netscape browsers, but the World Wide Web was in more households than ever. The sites were amazing by 1996 standards, and well... “interesting” by 2013 standards.

Exhibit A:

Accidentally responsive?

There is one thing that was happening that no one anticipated, many websites from ‘96 are tablet responsive. What? I thought this was a new thing that only recently started happening.

Well, it just recently started happening on purpose. Many of the sites in ye olde ‘96, were built using HTML tables — which meant that they were adjustable based on the size of the browser window. So, with a small window you would have compact content and on a larger window everything was more spread out. In effect, the site was “responsive” to your large (or small), hot, CRT monitor. (Note to our hipster friends, do not make giant, heavy monitors hip again. Thanks.)

Are we saying to build using tables? No. Not at all. It’s just fun to see how things from the past relate to modern technology.

Trends tend to repeat themselves, and a lot from 1996 has come back again. Game of Thrones was first published then and now it’s a phenomenon. Tupac (1971-1996? R.I.P.) was “revived” at Coachella last year as a “hologram.” So, building sites that are adjustable based on screen size is back, too (just for different, more portable screens).

We’re reviving a few website gems that are excellent examples of “antique responsive”. (There’s also a wealth of great examples on the Wayback Machine, too.) Enjoy.

7. VH1.com (circa 1996)

6. Beavis and Butthead Do America

5. CNN: OJ Simpson Trial

4. Dole/Kemp ‘96 Campaign

3. CNN: 1996 Year in Review

2. Space Jam

1. Lego.com  (circa 1996)

 

[Bonus: This site is not “responsive,” but it’s a great period piece of the era. 1996 Internet World Exhibition]

What will we think about sites from today in 17 years? Which will still be around?

This blog was posted by Will on May 30, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

Will
Sandstorm takes home silver in the prestigious 13th annual Web Health Awards℠

Sandstorm takes home silver in the prestigious 13th annual Web Health Awards℠. (WOO HOO!) This competition recognizes the nation’s best digital health resources and top interactive agencies. A panel of 32 experts in digital health media served as judges and selected gold, silver, bronze, and merit winners.

Our work creating an interactive Medicare conversation received a coveted Silver Award for the Web Based Resource Category. This interactive web application helps users understand Medicare health care coverage options from a large insurance company.  With closed captioning as well as the ability to increase the type size, this application was designed to educate people around 65 years old on the benefits available through Medicare.

We launched this highly interactive and accessible application in August 2010.  To offer this helpful tool to an even broader audience, the application was also launched in Spanish in April 2011.

We’re really excited about this accomplishment and look forward to developing more award-winning web applications, Drupal websites, and interactive user experiences in 2012.

This blog was posted by Will on December 22, 2011.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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