Sandstorm Blog

During Part 1 of this two-part interview series, Patrick McNeil talked with Sandstorm Design about design trends, industry standards and the future. This time around McNeil shares his thoughts on typography, social media integration and responsive web design. McNeil is a web developer with an eye for design, and the author of the Web Designer’s Idea Book series. His next book, The Designer’s Web Handbook, will be coming in the summer of 2012. Be sure to also look for his recently released Web Designer’s Idea App, which compiles his first two books into an iPad app.

SD: What are your thoughts on the advancement of typography on the web?

PM: I definitely think it’s exciting because it brings a lot of basic options and beauty to the web. Typography can really enhance or kill a design and so its nice that we have a growing range of options to implement cool type and even better control over how it looks in general...The more control designers have, the better off the end result is.

SD: On the same topic of control, what do you think of the social media APIs and widgets that designers might not have as much design control over?

PM: Yeah, like the standard Facebook box that just looks like total poo...You can add a Facebook “Like” button in any way you want. It can look any way you want. But if you want to put that flow of what people are saying, then you’re a little stuck because it’s just ugly. I think sometimes it’s about tradeoffs. And sometimes it’s about how far you go to program something to make it just look awesome.

SD: What is an issue the web design industry has yet to solve, that you would like to see web designers tackle?

PM: The biggest shift, even as a result of the whole responsive design movement, is just fully accepting that the web is not print. For how many years have we worked our butts off to make a web site render the exact same across all browsers? And responsive design blows this up because all of the sudden you’ve got tablets, you’re thinking about netbooks different, and you’ve got smartphones, and you’re even thinking about people seeing it on their TV. All of the sudden, by the basic definition of it, you’re required to not think that it’s going to look the same everywhere.

In that sense, it’s not print. You print a brochure or a business card—you can print 10,000 copies—it doesn’t matter what you do, where you go, its going to look the same. I think that’s probably the biggest thing I see people moving past in this time in the web, really forcing that issue.

So I’ll be glad if everybody else gets on board and just accepts that things look different in different interfaces or devices. We just have to embrace each of them for the opportunity that they create.

SD: Would you say that’s the web design industry’s biggest success recently?

PM: I think that combined with some of the advancements in typography. They have really been potent. Because when you think about displaying the same site in multiple ways and then you combine that with better techniques for controlling typography and less need for images, or even for sIFR where you’re replacing it with Flash. The more that happens in the browser it just means that you can cater those things to individual devices better…I think we’re seeing pretty powerful results.

-----------

We really enjoyed talking with Patrick McNeil, and are looking forward to the release of the Designer’s Web Handbook. At Sandstorm Design, we work as a team to create powerful brand experiences supported by user research and a strategic marketing approach. We'll help you stay ahead of the curve with custom web solutions that are one step ahead of your competition.

This blog was posted by on August 8, 2011.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

Chicago Power Outage No Match for Sandstorm Design

We may have lost our electricity, but we certainly did not lose power as our web design company's office is still moving full steam ahead! The power outage that hit Chicago with Monday's storm left our office on Chicago's north side dark, muggy and ever so quiet without the hum and buzz of the computers. So we packed up and got to work at Sandy's house, where sandwiches, pop, chips and a very popular pasta salad awaited us. The whole situation reminded me of a recent post on brand strategy that discussed how your company's brand should carry over into every aspect of your business. What a great example this makes! We often talk about the "Sandstorm Way" around the office—which refers to ensuring any aspect of a project is up to our professional standards. Because this is at the core of who we are, it's a key part of our brand. And isn't this a perfect manifestation of the Sandstorm brand in the culture of the company? Electricity or not, we are still committed to delivering the strategic and creative results we're known for.

This blog was posted by on July 12, 2011.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

Google has been rolling out changes one after another, with a new (but not that different) homepage design, the +1 button, and a social network in the trial phase. Here’s a quick, easy-to-digest breakdown of what these search engine and social media updates are all about: +1 Button This little button is yet another factor in search engine optimization, bringing more recommended sites higher in the search results. If someone you are connected to in your Google account recommends a site with the +1 button, you’ll see that they did. This is simply a tool to tally recommendations, and that’s it. The social aspect is just that you can see which of your friends have recommended a site. You should definitely be leveraging the +1 button in your search engine optimization and online marketing strategy. Google+ In plain English, Google+ is Google’s new social network (although they're not saying that). It’s in a trial phase right now, and isn’t open to everyone just yet. Here are its key features:

  • Circles: Similar to Facebook Groups, Circles let you put different people in different circles, allowing you to interact and share with each circle separately.
  • Sparks: This is a feed of content based on specific interests you have selected. From Sparks, it's easy to share with Circles, and create a thread of conversation around a piece of content.
  • Hangouts: Video chat with multiple friends at a time.
  • Mobile: There are a couple features that will be available for what Google calls a “pocket computer,” or mobile. Instant uploads let you instantly upload photos from your phone, and Huddles creates a chat-room style text conversation with friends.

What people are saying They’re saying a lot...Facebook already meets these needs...If Buzz didn’t have great success, why would Google+?...And while it’s nice to have our world tailored to our interests, don’t we need something to balance us? Something to remind us that there are alternative viewpoints we should consider, and our world isn’t the only world that matters? Eli Pariser raised some of these concerns this past February in a talk about The Filter Bubble. The gates through which we enter the Internet are changing. It will be exciting to see what happens in the not so far off future. And of course, we'll keep you up-to-date on how it will effect your search engine optimization and social media strategy.

This blog was posted by on July 1.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

Alma

Last Saturday, June 11, 2011, our User Experience Architect Alma Meshes joined more than 6,000 volunteers in the Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon. They came together to spruce up schools for over 18,000 Chicago students by painting classrooms, creating murals, planting flowers, organizing libraries, painting playgrounds and more!

During last year's Serve-a-thon, Alma and her husband Nick Meshes painted a mural at Mark Sheridan Math & Science Academy (That's Nick with the mural in the photo above). This year they painted a classroom at the same school. Now painting isn't exactly user experience design, but Alma is multi-talented!

We’re so proud of Alma for her volunteer efforts to give back to the Chicago community!

This blog was posted by on June 14, 2011.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

THIS FILE WAS POSTED UNDER: 
this file was posted under: 

Back in September, Kevin Thau, Twitter’s VP for business and corporate development, announced that Twitter is not a social network. This got a lot of buzz in the blog (and micro-blog) community, but clearing up the labeling of Twitter is most relevant for people not familiar with it. They're the ones who don't know what it is. And if you come into it with a social network/Facebook mindset, you’ll only get frustrated and feel disappointed. Only Facebook can do Facebook. You have to approach this part of your social media strategy with a Twitter mindset.

So, what is the Twitter mindset? What do you DO on Twitter? It's very simple:

  1. Share – Facebook is about sharing who you are, Twitter is about sharing what you’ve found. Use bitly, tinyurl or any of the other little link web sites to share the articles, blogs and web sites you like, and add a little comment about why.
  2. Reply – While it might not be a social network, Twitter is a social place. Engage in conversation. It’s fun and easy!
  3. Retweet – If you simply want to pass along a tweet you found interesting without adding a comment, click the retweet option. You can also retweet the traditional way, by copying and pasting it, and adding “RT @(insert author’s username)” in front. In the few characters that are left, add your own commentary.

The best advice is to just dive in. Once you see how others are tweeting, you’ll get it. And don’t forget to follow our Chicago marketing firm @SandstormDesign!

This blog was posted by on January 26, 2011.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

Twitter has reached almost 200 million accounts, and has just added its seventh language – Korean. As Twitter expands worldwide, so does the opportunity for you to grow your business just as far.

Twitter will become increasing vital for networking and maintaining relationships with your overseas contacts, just as well those in the States. On top of that, it offers another valuable (and free) avenue for marketing your brand online (in seven languages, perhaps?). As you know, we kind of have a thing for marketing and branding.

If your company doesn’t already have an account, get one. And if you have one but you’re not using it, start now. If there were ever a time to jump on a bandwagon, this is it.

This blog was posted by on January 20.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

Mystery Offsite Mandatory Marketing Meeting Revealed

Our Sandstorm Design staff couldn’t stop talking about the mystery “Offsite Mandatory Meeting” scheduled for Friday. Concerns included what type of meeting this would be, exactly how far off site we would be going, and what type of clothing we would need (hiking gear, perhaps?).

With the meeting scheduled for 3:00 PM, Sandy called our anxious staff into a conference room at 2:45 PM to reveal that we would not be having a meeting after all. We would, however, be going off site – to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 on opening day! After a few excited updates to Facebook and text messages to jealous family members, we threw on our coats, jumped in the cars, passed out the tickets, claimed a row in the theater, and sat back to enjoy the Friday afternoon show. Sandy sure knows how to keep a smile on our faces! Thanks from all of us!

This blog was posted by on November 22, 2010.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

THIS FILE WAS POSTED UNDER: 
this file was posted under: 

Sandstorm Design is thrilled to announce the e-PRO® logo and website launch! e-PRO® is a certification from the National Association of REALTORS® that helps REALTORS® build their businesses online. We loved working on this web site to encourage interaction and conversation (our specialty). A social media API integration on the homepage, including their blog, Facebook and Twitter pages, continues the conversation beyond the website. And certificate holders can create and update a profile to stay connected with clients and peers.

At Sandstorm, we’re all about staying connected with those you really enjoy working with, and that makes this launch even more exciting!

This blog was posted by on November 1.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

At Sandstorm Design, we live and work by the “Yes, and” marketing strategy. It is one of our core values and reflective in absolutely everything we do. So what is the “Yes, and” marketing strategy? For us, “Yes, and” is a way of thinking. It is being open to new ideas, thinking outside of the box, and drawing outside the lines. It is doing what is asked for, or expected, and then coming up with something new and interesting to also think about. It is always striving to be better, and innovative, and three steps ahead of what’s next.

If you’ve worked with us before, the “Yes, and” marketing strategy is very evident in our creative work. Usually, we will give you one concept that’s exactly what you want (we hope), and another that gives you a new idea to consider. The goal is that, regardless of which concept you go with, we challenge you and show you something unexpected.

And, until now, we sort of thought that we coined the “Yes, and” marketing strategy phrase. Recently, I came across this article that proved otherwise. It also outlined how special “Yes, and” truly is (we invent airplanes ☺), and how the counterpart “Yes, but” also plays into the mix.

This blog was posted by on October 28, 2010.
Holly Brinkman

About the Author

Holly Brinkman

Holly's title at Sandstorm Design is Strategy, Research, and Writing, as she does a little bit of everything. She loves clever advertisements, strong brands, social media, and intuitive web sites.

The idea of Google advertising on TV is a little weird to me. They’re a search engine, and the leader in their industry...what do they need to advertise for? But when I saw the first commercial in their “Search Stories” campaign, I was very impressed. They took something as quick and trivial as a 20-second search, and demonstrated the monumental impact that it has on a person’s life.

Before learning search engine optimization and working at an interactive marketing agency, I never really understood the importance of search engines. But in today’s world, Google is the first place that most people turn for literally every decision they make. If you have a question, odds are that Google can answer it.

And that is a really important thing. Because in doing so, Google, a search engine that is mathematically pulling data based on relevance, obtains a persona and a voice. It’s your trusted advice-giver, resource, and industry-expert for everything life throws your way. And it knows me so well! Today, I found this fun little tool that lets you create your own Google Search Story. I built a quick one about a user’s first experience with Sandstorm Design. Check it out, and please share your stories with us too!

This blog was posted by on October 21.
Holly Brinkman

About the Author

Holly Brinkman

Holly's title at Sandstorm Design is Strategy, Research, and Writing, as she does a little bit of everything. She loves clever advertisements, strong brands, social media, and intuitive web sites.

Pages