A. Favorite Design: An Inside Look at Working with Aeolidia

Jumping into a custom designed website project for your business is a big step, and I’m sure you’re curious about how other business owners make the decision to jump! That’s why we asked one of our recent clients if we could share her personal blog post about her project with us. It’s a fun and honest inside look into what it’s like to work with Aeolidia. Thanks so much to Amber of A. Favorite Design for letting us share her story!

Amber’s Story

Welcome to the new & improved a. favorite design website!

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After many years of hiring friends, (and friends of friends), to create our website, we finally took the plunge & hired a real company…and what a difference! Way back in February, we started interviewing companies with hopes to launch our new site in May, just in time for the National Stationery Show. Needless to say, we had some hiccups along the way. After trying to work with two different, very non-responsive companies, we had to put the project, albeit briefly, on hold. We simply needed to dedicate more time and find a company that would commit fully to the project and have a sense of urgency.

I researched many websites & kept noticing, the sites I really loved & admired, were all created by the same company. In my mind, I decided we didn’t have the budget to work with such a high profile company. However, after much frustration and coaxing from tom, (my mr. and marketing guru), we reached out to Aeolidia and I am so glad we did! From the start they were responsive to our questions, and were ready with an impressive timeline, which really helped ease our concerns. What a relief, and a huge improvement over the other companies we previously stalled with. The expertise and professionalism Aeolidia conveyed really helped make our decision much easier.

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Budget was a huge concern but to my surprise they were comparable to the other estimates we received. While it was a bit of a stretch financially, at this point in our existence, a new website, with wholesale capability was just plain necessary. I was still having reservations about the expense when coincidentally, almost the moment I decided to partner with Aeolidia, we received several emails from interested stores inquiring about a wholesale section to our website. This was a good sign we made the right decision.

To be honest, it was difficult to surrender design to someone I had never met and whose work I wasn’t familiar with. I was terribly nervous awaiting the first proof. When our designer Sarah sent us the link, I took a few deep breaths before clicking through and…it was absolutely perfect! I was smitten from the very first moment! Sarah carried our branding through flawlessly and impressed me every step of the way. This initially daunting, stressful & expensive project actually became fun. I looked forward to seeing every new update. Every solution she offered was perfect and at times I felt like we were sharing a brain, I loved it.

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I’m not going to sugar coat it, re-launching a website is a massive undertaking. I spent six and a half weeks reshooting all our products. Not to mention the time spent color correcting and editing. Fortunately, the content wasn’t from scratch, I’m very organized when it comes to work projects, and that helped a lot. I had my original outline from our first site, which I put a lot of effort into, so it really just needed tweaking. Zoe, our coder was able to import all our files from the previous site, which also saved us a ton of time. So here we are, ready to launch and I couldn’t be more ecstatic with the look and feel of our new site. I’m excited to see what our customers have to say! Please let us know your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you and more than anything we hope you enjoy the new site!

Are you ready to jump in?

If your business is ready to take the next big step, and you’re curious about working with Aeolidia, we’d love to hear from you!

This post originally appeared on the A. Favorite blog.

Your Brand Identity is Worth Budgeting For

You’ve got yourself a creative business and it’s small right now, but scrappy! There are so many things that are important to do. It feels like you need to have it all in place. How can you prioritize? When you get a bit of a business budget, where should you put it first?

I think about this all the time (pretty much every day, for the new and newish businesses that contact me), and the “order” I think you should go in may surprise you!

What to do before your business has a budget

What are the best steps to take before you have profit in the bank to spend on design, strategy, and software?

  1. Understand and develop your brand. This doesn’t mean paying for graphic design, but instead it means all of the thinking that goes into creating the story of your brand. Without the story, you’ll struggle with every other part. You can learn more about understanding your brand story here.
  2. Name your business and purchase a domain name. Your business name will (hopefully!) stick with you for a long time, will anchor your brand identity, and will be hard to change down the road, so be serious about this. If you feel stuck on this, and have the budget for help, we do offer a business naming service that I’d be glad to tell you more about. The domain name can be pointed to your website, social media profile, Etsy shop, About.me page, any web presence you have now. With the domain name, it will be easy to move customers over to your new site as you grow. Learn more about business names.
  3. Be a hero at customer service. Sticking around for the long haul is going to rely heavily on listening to your customers and delighting them with every interaction. Learn the basics of good customer service here.
  4. Get some kind of website going. There are many free or cheap options here, or if you have a bit of a budget, you can get a proper ecommerce site going now, using free or inexpensive design templates. Your first website doesn’t need to be custom-designed or 100% perfect, but it does need to work well and look professional. For an inexpensive hand with this, learn more about our guided Shopify setup service here.
  5. Understand how to pitch your work. Much of your time should be spent contacting bloggers, magazine editors, and wholesale customers to introduce them to your work and get them to share it or invest in it. Learn how to stand out among all the pitches these people receive by reading Jena’s very affordable Pitch Kit.

You may be surprised to see how simply you can start out. You can survive without a professional logo for years as long as your customer service is stellar, your story is unique and compelling, and your products are well made and unique. Your first website doesn’t need to be custom, but it does need to be smart, and you’ll need a strategy for using it.

What to do when you have a bit of money to work with

You’re not rolling in dough yet, but your business has had some modest success, and you find yourself with a bit of profit to invest back in your business. Where should it go? If you can afford just one thing, and the rest will have to wait:

Now is the time to invest in your brand identity design.

You’ve done the thinking about what’s unique about your brand, what it stands for, and what its story is. Now tell that story to an Aeolidia designer, and let her create a graphic design that will communicate this and show that your business is legitimate, interesting, and worth learning more about.

As soon as you can budget for it, pinning down the look of your brand is vital. That slapdash logo has got to go, you can’t keep guessing at which fonts to use where, you need to be consistent with your graphics, colors, and style. When a potential customer sees your ad or your product somewhere, you want them to remember it the next time they see it, and relate it to your logo and business name. You need your look to be memorable and unique to you, something that people will see and love, and then recognize the next time and the next, and finally feel trusting enough to buy from you.

Lovely & Co. web style guide

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A professional logo, created by experienced graphic designers with a solid understanding of how to build a full brand identity is definitely an investment. It doesn’t come cheaply, and it shouldn’t. Can you imagine Target without that big red target? Starbucks without their green mermaid? Big brands pay tens and hundreds of thousands (and even millions) of dollars on their brand identity.

When clients come to me with a budget in between $5k and $10k, I will often steer them toward building their brand instead of springing for a custom-designed website. Our brand identity packages leave you fully prepared to present your brand in the best light, including design work to keep your packaging and business identity cohesive and polished.

With a solid brand identity, you can:

  • Stick out in the mind of your customers
  • Sell more products in their new pro packaging
  • Attract wholesale clients by looking established and not risky
  • Get press based on your smashing new look
  • Be chosen for juried shows
  • Interest customers in sharing your products on social media
  • Modify a website design template to match your brand
  • Correspond professionally with branded stationery
  • Feel proud of a business card that will help people remember you
  • Create your own marketing materials easily, following brand guidelines
  • Advertise more successfully with a memorable look
  • Help others believe in your business and in you!

I would much rather design a lasting brand for a client and slap it onto a pre-made website template as a temporary measure than try to build a big beautiful custom website around an ill-thought-out logo. If you skimp on the logo and want to revisit it later, that becomes really expensive, as your website will need to be re-done, as well as your business cards, packaging, stationery, advertising and marketing materials. Putting a lot of work into the design of your business without a logo that’s “the one” is going to result in a lot of re-done work.

Your customers aren’t scrutinizing your business the way you are, and if your website is using a template, they’re likely not to realize that. If your packaging looks homemade, your logo doesn’t represent your business, or your look isn’t the same from one place to the next, they’re not going to be interested in what you do. Better to catch their attention with a well crafted brand now, and fuss around with the rest of the list later.

Prepare yourself for success

I’ve put together a PDF checklist for you to make sure that you’ve covered the bases you can and are planning for the next step. Just join my mailing list below to get our creative business newsletter, and we’ll mail the checklist right to you, so you can make sure you’re on the right track.

Get The Checklist

Creating a Unique Brand: Finspo

This post is part of our Best Next Step series, where you will hear from creative business owners like you, who are wondering what to focus on next. The background stories and questions are from all kinds of businesses in various stages of growth, and I share my ideas for how to proceed forward most efficiently and ambitiously. I hope you’ll enjoy these! Today we’re hearing from Finspo.

Finspo

Business: Finspo
Owner: Amanda Avery
Website:
none
Etsy shop: FINSPOmermaidtails
Facebook: Finspo

Below are screenshots of Amanda’s Etsy shop and Facebook page:

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Finspo Etsy shop

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Finspo Facebook page

About:

best next step: finspoHello! I run a little business that sells wearable mermaid tails to the film industry and hobbyists. I know it sounds a little kooky but it’s actually a booming cottage industry. Lots of people buy tails to become performers at parties, ren faires and aquariums or just because they identify with the mermaid mythos. I’ve actually been in the mermaid game (what a weird thing to ever get to say!) for two and a half years. In the beginning I made a cheaper product that ended up not being up to my own standards. I was doing okay, making enough to quit my day job and working with some high profile clients in Hollywood, but I just wasn’t happy with the lack of structure I started my business with and my less than stellar product so I took a year off, wrote myself a business plan, R&D’d a much pricier but superior quality line of tails, completely rebranded and began again this past month. I have a few solid competitors who make essentially the same product as I do– my hope is to set myself apart with superior customer service and a sense of style, inspire brand loyalty in my customers. Whereas the other mermaid tail sellers are practically clones of each other, I want to create a fun, unique experience around the actual buying experience. My style is casual and trendy with a strong magic/mystical edge. I like the idea of ouji boards, astrological signs and other ~dark magic~ motifs because of their strong contrast to the sparkly and bubbly look my competitors seem to have all adopted and the mysterious/dangerous aspects of old mermaid myths. As for selling, right now you can buy my products on Facebook– in the next couple days I’ll be expanding onto Etsy where I had a lot of luck before.

Challenges:

I really want a nailed down, unique brand identity and I just can’t seem to pull it together. There’s a lot of trouble making the brand as a whole seem cohesive. Because this new branding is so new I realize it may just come with time and engagement but I have a strong desire to seem professional from the very start. After all, how will I stand out from my competitors otherwise? My last page, before the rebranding, had around 5k likes or so. The new page got around 300 likes in the first couple of days and has been sitting there ever since. I’m not sure how to replicate the viral nature of my old page. While I’ve already made two or three sales, it just isn’t as booming as it was a few years ago.

Objectives:

I would really like to just have a clean, thought out brand identity that people would recognize and enjoy. I want to create something fun and make a bit of money bringing a little bit of life and silly adventure to peoples’ day-to-day. Other than that I have very few hard goals which I recognize may be a problem. I feel a bit directionless.

Promotion:

My past business ventures seemed to go viral on their own. I honestly have NO idea how to go about advertising or bringing more traffic to my page. I’ve opened an Instagram account and have made a few pins on Pinterest but I have no real plan in place for them.

best next step: finspo

best next step: finspo

best next step: finspo

Finspo’s Best Next Step

Hello Amanda,

Finspo, I love it! Thank you for entering our Best Next Step giveaway – hooray, you’re a winner! I have read through your Facebook page and your FAQs, and I have some thoughts for you (read them with a grain of salt, since I only have a brief outline of your business and challenges right now).

Differentiating from your competition and creating a unique brand:

I agree wholeheartedly with you that you want to stand out from your competitors and do something different. Avoid bubbly and adorable, and go with sexy/dangerous, for sure. You don’t want to scare your customers, so I wouldn’t recommend overdoing this.

If you are interested in having us create a custom logo for you, with the same care, thought, and expertise that goes into designing your tails, we would be overjoyed to have a crack at it. It would be nice to have something that feels just right to identify you on the web and make part of your product packaging and promotions.

Facebook should not be your entire online presence

Now, my second recommendation to you is to quit relying entirely on Facebook. You say that your first run went viral without you even knowing why. I suspect this was a combination of two factors:

  1. Less competition, so you seemed more unique and people got excited.
  2. It just used to be easier to promote a small business on Facebook. In the last year, Facebook made some drastic changes that mean small businesses need to pay to reach even a small portion of the people who like the page, and that doesn’t always work. It will be hard to get noticed on Facebook, and the people that do like you aren’t likely to see many (or any) of your updates. You can read more about my experiences on Facebook here.

It’s okay to use Facebook in addition to your own website, but you don’t really want it to be your whole website. Even if you do manage to get it working pretty well, and have a lot of likes and sales, what will happen the next time Facebook decides to change their algorithm? You could lose all your business!

I have some tips here about setting up a website or shop online: Ecommerce resources list

There are ways to do this pretty inexpensively, and once you have your own website, you can promote your business, send traffic there, and know that people will see what you’re saying. It looks like you’re just taking orders via email now, and I’m sure you’ll see orders increase if people can purchase directly from your site.

Setting up a site on Shopify is pretty simple, and here is some information about Shopify.

Best wishes creating a professional and unique brand!

Thanks for the chance to learn more about Finspo. I hope this all makes sense, and I encourage you to build your business up to a professional level, put yourself head and shoulders above your competitors, and stand out as a striking, smart, and trustworthy business that people will enjoy interacting with.

Are you ready for the next step?

If you’d like the power and experience of the Aeolidia team behind you, please get in touch! We would love to untangle your business priorities and take a few tasks off your hands so you can do your work. Contact Aeolidia – we never bite!

Make Marketing Easy With a Unique Selling Proposition

Those businesses that seem to have had an overnight success and barely needed to work at promotion? There is something special about them. They know it and their customers know it. Their work can be spotted from a mile off, it’s something that people want, and it’s easy to promote – like a snowball rolling down hill, gathering speed, and getting huge.

Why is it so easy for them? If you have what they have, it will be easy for you, too. If you’re lacking this, it will be like trying to win a race with a bicycle that has square wheels. A crazy amount of work, with few results.

I have a number one piece of advice for new businesses, or businesses that feel like they’ve lost their way. Do this one thing, and everything else will be able to roll into place:

Discover your Unique Selling Proposition

Your Unique Selling Proposition (or USP), is what makes you different from every other company out there. You should be able to immediately tell someone what makes you different from even your closest competitors.

Aeolidia, for example, designs logos and makes websites. There are gazillions of people who design logos and who make websites. Why is Aeolidia special?

We stand out in two very important ways:

Aeolidia is your friendly design team. Customer experience is our top priority, and we pride ourselves on being easy to work with, skipping the jargon, lending a helping hand, and really caring about our clients’ success.

Aeolidia knows creative, handcrafted, designer/maker businesses. Our niche is very narrow, so our clients know that we understand what they need and how it should work before we’ve even started talking with them. 

What is unique about your business?

What about you? Of course the most broad description of what you do includes all of your competitors, and is not what’s important about you. You need to narrow down and focus inward and think of your story.

So, “stationery designer” is not what you’re going for. You want to realize that you’re a “simple, beautiful, sustainable family paper goods company, focusing on minimal bohemian designs” (That’s Eva from Sycamore Street Press’ insight into her branding and finding her style – you can read more about that here).

Here are some questions to help you get to the heart of what’s unique about your business:

  • Why did you start your business?
  • What makes you passionate about it?
  • What is your style?
  • How do you design your products?
  • How do you make your products?
  • Why are your products special?
  • What is your mission?
  • What problem do you solve for your customers?
  • What can your customers get from you that they can’t find elsewhere?

You should be able to take these questions and pinpoint your USP fairly easily. If you can’t, sit back and reassess. Is this what you want to be doing? Why are you doing it? Is it special to you? If so, how can you make it special to your customers as well?

The huge advantage that small businesses have is their story. What is your story, and how can you communicate it to your customers?

If you aren’t able to determine your USP with this exercise, you’ve got a problem! You don’t want to be a copy of an existing business, or have nothing new to offer. If you can’t distinguish yourself, you’re going to be fighting hard for your marketing to give you any traction. If you are able to stand out as unique, marketing will just consist of giving your little snowball a shove, and letting word of mouth, social media, networking connections, and your own hard work in your business take care of the rest.

Some example USPs from Aeolidia clients:

Unique Selling Proposition

These are my descriptions of the USPs of these great businesses: Project Life, Emily Ley, Robert Mahar, Fernworks, Bamboletta.

What to do with  your Unique Selling Proposition?

Once you know what your USP is, don’t keep it to yourself! You need to make sure that everything you do glows with this, the heart of your brand identity. Examine what you’re showing the world and see if it matches up with what you know about your business.

Does your logo make sense for what your business stands for? Does your website make it clear to your visitors what is different about you? Do your social media interactions, blog posts, and press mentions speak loud and clear to your target audience, instantly letting them know why you’re special and why you’re just what they need?

This, of course, is the part we can help with, and we would be proud to craft a strong brand identity that communicates your unique vision to the world. Browse our brand identity portfolio, read branding case studies on our blog, and get in touch!

Product Photo Tips 101

It can be tricky to figure out the best practices for e-commerce imagery, but not to worry! We’ve got 7 product photo tips and tricks for getting the most out of your product photos. These tips are targeted at shop owners using Shopify, since that’s our e-commerce platform of choice, but even if you’re working on another system you’re sure to find something that will help you optimize your imagery.

Tip 1: Consistency is Best

Sometimes clients will ask us even before we start design on a new e-commerce site how they should edit their photos (sizes and layouts). While it’s great to get a jump on photo editing, this is a tricky question since some design decisions will depend on the images themselves.

consistant image aspect ratios

While the display size varies, the thumbnails on Sycamore Street Press‘ category pages are consistent in aspect ratio and cropping

The following questions will help you determine your “photo personality” (no judgment!) and will help guide a designer in making the best design choices for you:

  • Do you have strong feelings about whether your images are all perfect squares or would you prefer they maintain their original aspect ratio even if that means some are portrait and others are landscape?
  • Do you like the control of hand-editing and cropping every image yourself?
  • Is your overall aesthetic more modern/ clean/ grid-focused or is it more organic?

In general, we find that uniform photos make for easy-to-use e-commerce layouts (grids are common for category pages, and uniform images are best for clean grids), but knowing that they’ll be working with a variety of image layouts up front will help your designer optimize your layout accordingly.

Tip 2: Manually Crop Featured Images

I know I just said your designer can work with your images even if you aren’t the “manually crop everything” type – and that’s true. That said, it is often a good idea to take the time to manually and thoughtfully crop your primary product image for each product.

These featured images are shown in the category view and any other place the product may be featured, so it’s especially important for them to be compelling and well-thought-out.

consistent grid images with detail on product page

Koromiko uses well-focused, consistently cropped category images and additional detail images on the product pages

Since Shopify doesn’t crop your images down for thumbnails (it scales them down without cropping), you’ll get the best results by handling the cropping yourself before uploading your images. This is also a good opportunity to make sure the aspect ratios are consistent, for example all square or all portrait-oriented.

Tip 3: Upload Large Images

It’s a good idea to upload your images as large as possible, within reason. The thumbnail sizes are auto-created for you by Shopify, but zoom features and retina displays depend on having large originals to work with.

The largest image size Shopify will let you use at the time of this writing is 2048 pixels square, so you’ll want to save your images with 2048 as the largest dimension.

Shopify image dimensions guide

If your images are square, this means they should be 2048 pixels square.

If your images are landscape-oriented, the width should be 2048 pixels (and the height will be less), and vice versa for portrait-oriented images.

For zoom features in particular, we can only zoom in as much as your large image allows, so don’t go smaller than that 2048 maximum unless you absolutely have to.

Tip 4: Compress Your Images

While we want to use nice large images, we’ve got to balance that with having a site that loads as quickly as possible. One way to help images load nice and fast is to compress them prior to upload.

If you’re a Photoshop maven, you can use the “Save for web” dialog to finesse your image output, balancing compression and file quality with file size.

If Photoshop is not your favorite, there are tools that can help. A favorite of mine is JPEG Mini, which has a free “Lite” version.

Tip 5: Use the Right File Type

Compression helps with the file sizes but so does using the correct file type for your image.

image file types jpg vs png

Most photographs are best served as JPG/ JPEG files, but if you’re using line art in your imagery (as in digital illustrations), you might find that PNG gives you a better quality with a lower file size.

PNG-8 will give you the lower file size of the two PNG options, but PNG-24 is necessary if you’ve got transparent background areas to your image that need to be maintained.

The only time to use a GIF is if the image is animated – for any other image, JPG or PNG will be a better bet.

Tip 6: Be Thoughtful About File Names

Your image file names can help you keep your images organized on your computer but they also impact how images function online and can even effect whether and how images appear in Google search results.

All file names should be lowercase, and contain only letters and numbers. File names should never contain spaces – instead use hyphens (underscores can also be okay, but I prefer hyphens as they’re more visible). Filenames with special characters and spaces can break on some computers and browsers, so keep it simple!

The file name itself should also be nice and simple. Keep it descriptive but short – think key words that describe the image. If you must use a prefix for your own organization, keep it short.

Don’t Do This:

2014-super final *special version of red socks slippers.jpg

Instead, Do This:

slippers-red-wool-lined.jpg

The file name is one aspect of the image that Google uses to determine whether it should come up in image searches, so keep that in mind as you name the file but also resist the urge to stuff your filenames with keywords as overcomplicated names end up hurting more than they help.

Tip 7: Save Your Originals

Last but not least, don’t forget to save original high resolution versions of all of your image files. This is the ultimate safeguard against changes in image size needs in the future and allows you to start over if you should happen to over-compress or over-crop your image and decide you want to begin the editing process again.

To be extra-safe, we recommend backing up your images on an external hard drive and/or a cloud storage system such as Dropbox. You’d be hard-pressed to have too many backups!

Can We Help?

I hope you find these product photo tips helpful for your business! If you need help with your product photos, or need a new website to show your off, get in touch! We love nothing more than helping you to show off your great work.

Why & How to Make a Mobile-Friendly Website

Well, my dears, the time has definitely come: your website must be mobile-friendly. You can no longer get away without a mobile-friendly website! The internet has been headed this direction and it just got very real now.

Google has added a “mobile-friendly” designation to their search results, so that people searching on phones can opt to skip your site if they don’t see that note that it will work for them. According to Google’s blog post about this, a page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

In August, Shopify reported that mobile overtook desktop ecommerce traffic, which means that if your site isn’t optimized for a smartphone screen, you have the potential to double your sales without increasing your traffic, just by fixing up your website.

All of our website projects include a mobile solution, and have for some time. We’ve been thinking hard about the clients who worked with us before everyone started shopping online from their phones. Today let’s talk about what you can do to make sure you aren’t losing half of your customers to poor mobile compatibility.

Does your website look good and work well on a smartphone?

Take a look at your site on a phone. Are you able to find things, shop, get through checkout? Is all the content readable, or do you need to do the “tap tap” or “un-pinch” gesture to expand it?

If you don’t have a smartphone or a tablet, there are some online tools that you can use to check your site out.

  • Am I Responsive? This clever site will show you how your website looks across different devices, and it allows you to scroll and click within each one!
  • Google’s Mobile Friendly Test will not only show you a screen shot of your home page on a phone, but it analyzes the four different friendliness criteria listed above.
am I responsive: june december

Screenshot of an Aeolidia-designed site from Am I Responsive tool

Am I Responsive - Lily & Val

Screenshot of an Aeolidia-designed site from Am I Responsive tool

google's mobile friendly test

Results from Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

Responsive vs. mobile theme

Things change with the internet all the time, and you can’t just build a shop website and feel “done.” The big change right now is that your site needs to be mobile-friendly. Your two choices are to have a responsive site or a mobile theme for your site, and I’ll explain the difference.

responsive site scales down in size as the browser gets smaller. Images will shrink, text will rearrange itself, and maybe blocks of content will move to different locations. This is the current ideal solution, as it’s not dependent on browser size. Your site will look good at every size, not just at the iPhone size and the iPad size. For an example of a responsive site, look right here at aeolidia.com – when you’re using a computer, you’ll see that the site adjusts as you make your browser window thinner. It looks good and works well on tablets and smartphones.

mobile theme is a version of your website meant for mobile browsers. It isn’t your exact same website (though it uses the same data), and doesn’t necessarily even look like your website. When someone visits your site using a smartphone, the mobile theme will be displayed instead of the desktop theme. For an example of a site with a mobile theme, visit Little Hip Squeaks on a smartphone and also go see what it looks like on desktop.

How do I get mobile-ready?

If you’ve worked with someone to create your website, you can check in with them about your next step. If you’ve built the site yourself and have the know-how to make it mobile friendly, now is the time! If you’re using a template or existing design theme, it’s time to switch to a responsive theme.

For Shopify sites, we’ve found a solution that seems to work well. It’s also very quick to set up. It’s an app that’s free for the most basic version, or has a monthly cost if you want to snazz it up. ShopPad will create a separate mobile version of your site without messing with the look or functionality of your desktop site. You can see ShopPad in action by visiting one of our clients’ sites on a phone: Stargrass Paper.

Let Aeolidia take care of it

If your website has no mobile solution, a mobile-friendly website upgrade should pay for itself. If it’s time to start fresh, with a custom site design that scales responsively, we would be thrilled to be your team as you get your site up to date. Let’s talk!

Get in touch with Aeolidia

Parrott Design Studio Website Redesign

This is an interview with one of our clients, Sarah Parrott, who runs Parrott Design Studio, a boutique letterpress studio in Providence, Rhode Island. Sarah shares how her new website has helped solve her business challenges by moving her business forward, showing that a professional website has helped her in getting wholesale accounts.

parrott-design-about

Sarah’s Challenges

Before we began work on the new site design for Parrott Design Studio, we asked Sarah to explain her current challenges:

My website has always been more of a portfolio website for my wedding invitation work and my Etsy shop had my greeting cards (no wedding invitations). It felt like I was running two different and separate businesses and many wedding clients did not know I designed greeting cards and vice versa. And now I have over 100 retailers and growing!

My main goal for a new website is to have a complete Parrott Design Studio experience for both retail and wholesale buyers on one site complete with a shop for my paper goods and portfolio of my custom work while having control over the content with the ability to update text and photos as needed.

The New Parrot Design Studio Website

Parrott web design by Aeolidiasee the full Parrott Design Studio project in our portfolio

We asked Sarah to explain how her new, professional website has solved her business challenges and helped her in getting wholesale accounts:

I definitely feel that my business is more streamlined and I have one place to point my three main clients – interested retailers, potential custom clients. and customers who want to buy cards direct from me, which was one of my main goals. People can now see everything I do in one place, which I love.

The website has definitely solved the issue of feeling like I run two separate businesses (as I had said, many wedding clients did not know I designed greeting cards and vice versa). Now I find a lot of my brides are purchasing cards from me while we are working together and even after we work together.

We have been letting all our current retailers and any new inquiries know that they can order via our website now and we just processed our first two wholesale orders via our website and it was amazing!! We still get a surprising amount of faxes and emails for orders, so we are slowly encouraging those customers to make the leap.

A side note, I have been reaching out to sales reps groups, introducing my line and I had one tell me they were so impressed with my website and thought it was one of the best they had ever seen for a small business. And that is exactly what I wanted people to think! I wanted people to know I am serious about what I do, have a great product, and can deliver.

Thank you so much, Sarah, for a peek into Parrott Design Studio!

Do you need help getting wholesale accounts?

We would love to talk with you about a website redesign, get you started with a marketing plan, or get your logo and packaging ready for the big time. Contact us at Aeolidia!

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Creative Community at the Maker’s Retreat

This was originally posted on the Academy of Handmade.

We are such fans of the community that Jessika Hepburn at Oh My! Handmade Goodness has created and were excited to hear about the Maker’s Retreat that she was putting on. Everything about it seemed dreamy and when we heard that Arianne of design firm Aeolidia had attended, we begged her for a download of all the thoughtful details!

From the Maker’s Retreat description:

OMHG is built on the belief that if we put our heads, hearts and hands to work we can make anything but if we put them to work together we can make a movement. Since 2010 we’ve been a place for the creative community to connect online, there are so many of us dedicated to making meaning it is time for us to gather up and pool our collective resources while throwing one heck of an amazing party!

We know that we do our best work when no one is the expert but everyone’s expertise is valued and openly shared. Have you ever gone to a workshop and just wanted to spend time really talking with the instructor? Or noticed the juiciest part of most events happens in hotel rooms or over dinner when ideas are thrown on the table and collaborations sparked? We all have unique talents and experiences to share and the power to do just about anything when we cooperate.

Arianne Foulks of AeolidiaQ: Introduce yourself and what you do and how long you’ve been doing it (especially your relationship to makers).

Hello, I’m Arianne! I run Aeolidia, a web and graphic design studio that has been working with creative handmakers and designers since 2004, helping them put their best foot forward online. I started out doing client work on my own, and now manage a team of 20, and spend my days improving processes, coming up with ideas, spreading the word about Aeolidia, teaching, and writing.

Q: How did you hear about Maker’s Retreat?

I’ve been contributing to the Oh My! Handmade blog for many years, and of course when Jessika suggested the retreat to me, I was all over it.

Q: Why did you decide to attend?

Getting out of the house and meeting makers always revitalizes me and sparks so many new ideas and connections that I can use to help our clients be all that they can be.

Q: Who is it good for (and who is it not)?

The Maker’s Retreat is good for anyone who is crafty and is interested in being a part of a maker community. If you’re only about the profit or the “hustle” and not about feeling the love of your work and making real connections, it’s not for you, but if you have a passion for making and supporting other makers, it will be revolutionary!

Q: What surprising information did you learn?

I don’t know that I ever felt truly surprised (it was more like being at home with “my people” and feeling in sync and understood), but I can say that I made a big change for myself when I got back home. We did a lot of creative “play” at the conference, dabbling between yarn dying, papier mache, needle felting, and more. There was no particular goal or purpose behind anything we did, and materials were readily available. I realized that I’ve been making my own quilting hobby difficult to do, hiding the sewing machine and supplies in a cabinet.

When I got home, I set up a table in an unused corner of our house (it’s a corner in a hallway that we walk by all the time, but seemed too small to be usable space) with my sewing machine, a basket of fabric scraps, and my most commonly-used tools. Now a hobby that had gone dormant is at my fingertips whenever I have a spare few minutes, and I’ve been having fun piecing things together without first making a complicated (daunting) plan for myself.

Oh My! Maker's Retreat

Our sweet little cabin in the woods

Oh My! Maker's Retreat

Christina and Karen dye yarn

Oh My! Maker's Retreat

Jessika and Christina make business plans

Q: What was the conference like (lessons? hands on? different speakers?)?

This year was the first Maker’s Retreat, and it was super small and intimate (just seven of us!), so it truly felt like a retreat. No performance anxiety when teaching, no struggling to remember peoples’ names, plenty of time for one-on-one and heart-to-heart conversations. We are making plans together for next years’ retreat, which will have more people but still retain the personal, comfortable feel.

The retreat was in the woods on the remote and beautiful rainforest island of Cortes on the Western coast of Canada. It was wet, wild, and windy. No importance was placed on fashion, gear, looks, or status, which I feel like some conferences geared to women devolve into. Instead we all got together as friends and allies and taught each other our skills, discussed improvements to our businesses, and sparked collaborations with each other.

Nothing was theoretical or presented as a talk – instead, we all dove in with our hands, created, shared, learned, and grew.

Q: What was the most valuable piece of information or experience?

The experience of being able to connect in person with people I knew on the internet, and cast aside being busy for a while, take the time to fool around, get to know each other, be silly, and forge real connections.

Q: Did you think it was worth the price (let us know the price ;))?

Worth the price and worth the travel! It took us a long car ride and three ferry trips to get to Cortes. The event was five days, cost $525 CDN, we paid the Hollyhock Centre for lodging and food, and once we were there we were completely taken care of, with three delicious gourmet vegetarian meals a day, a cozy cabin in the woods, hot tubs overlooking the beach, and a warm and friendly welcome by everyone at Hollyhock (the learning centre the retreat was held at).

Oh My! Maker's Retreat

Transportation to and from Cortes Island

Oh My! Maker's Retreat

Color matching with nature and mixing wool colors

Q: Where can people find your stuff?

I share advice, inspiration, and information for creative product-based businesses at our blog on aeolidia.com. We have a popular newsletter where we share tips and ideas for getting and keeping customers, and I’m @aeolidia on Instagram, which I’ve been enjoying quite a bit lately. I’d love to see some new folks coming over to say hi, so please check us out!

I’ll be teaching at Dream Rock in Sedona in February.

Q: Anything else?

At Aeolidia, we mostly work with clients who’ve already had some degree of success, and are ready to move up to the next level. We spend a lot of time teaching and offering advice to newer makers through our blog, newsletter, and in-person events, but until recently, didn’t have a service option that was budget-friendly for new businesses. I’m happy to announce that just this month we’ve begun offering a budget service where we will set you up to sell online using Shopify, holding your hand through all the tricky and confusing bits, and sharing some of our knowledge from working on literally hundreds of ecommerce websites for makers for over a decade. This is great for people who have been considering moving up from Etsy or who are new to selling online.

Please learn more about the Guided Shopify Setup service here, and get in touch with me to have your own shop up and running in this new year!

Read the original post on the Academy of Handmade blog.

Will You Participate in a Winter Slowdown?

I’m taking a cue from the Oh My! Handmade community this December, and pausing the Aeolidia blog over the holidays. We have some great articles planned for January, we’re working on our Christmas gifting, and we are cramming our new year’s schedule full of projects. Let’s meet again then!

This December on OMHG we are taking a collective deep breath and putting the brakes on for the great Winter Slow Down of 2014. Think of it as a season of slow, or a holiday without hustle, permission to ease into a winter of contentment and calm-even if life is swirling around us. Whether you are a maker,  small business owner, shopper or someone who hides from the rush, it can be hard not to get caught up in the frenzy of the holiday season and end up overwhelmed. Commitments like packing orders, promoting sales, events, shows and magic making for our families are all important but we often prioritize them over rest and then need to squeeze in simple goodness. What if this year we all made our own policies that protect our right to slow down for one month a year? It starts here!

Instead of regular posts and social media-ing from December 1-24th OMHG is celebrating a new kind of advent with our #24DaysOfPresence challenge. For the weeks leading up to Christmas take time to document the gifts each day brings whether it is a lovely sunset, a sweet note, or a quiet moment then share them (or don’t!) with the hashtag #24DaysOfPresence. Connect with others who know that the real treasure is never presents but the gift of presence. Once we slow down we can start to pay attention to where our presence is most needed in our lives and communities. Why is being present not only for ourselves but especially for others so very hard?

Read more on Oh My! Handmade Goodness »

Here’s hoping your shops are bustling over the holidays, you get some quiet time with your loved ones, and that you’re reinvigorated in the new year to give your business a good look-over, tidy those corners of it that need tidying, and make it the best it can be! We would love to help. Get in touch today so you can beat the January rush and secure a cozy spot on our 2015 calendar.

Merry merry!

7 Last-Minute Marketing Tips For the Holidays

Holiday season is upon us, to-dos are piling, stress ensuing, and often marketing is the last thing on our mind around this time. But it’s not too late to make an impression, and an impact with your customers that can help you see more sales both now and into next year. So, whether you’re already busily wading through holiday season orders or are hoping for more to come in, here are some marketing tips you can use in these couple weeks we have left to help get the word out about what you have to offer this holiday season!

Start the countdown

What is your last day to receive orders so that you can ensure delivery by Christmas? Figure out that date, know it, and start shouting about it! Update it on your site’s front page in a slide, button or text. Send a newsletter now, and another when there’s only 1 day left. Start doing little countdowns on social media, “only 5 days left to order for delivery by Dec 25th!” It’s information your customers will be looking for so don’t feel weird being upfront with it, or reminding people about it. It keeps your customers informed and gives them an incentive to act! Also make sure your shop policies are updated with your holiday shipping options and last dates to order for both standard and expedited delivery. And remember, what’s every last minute shopper’s best friend? E-gift cards! Spotlight ‘em if you got ‘em.

Pitch to blogs

As long as you’re still shipping, you can still be pitching! It’s not too late to get the word out to bloggers about your holiday season goodness. People are still on the hunt for gifts and seeking out blogs they like for recommendations and ideas, and gift guides are still being compiled and published by busy bloggers behind the scenes. Approach them about your work, point out specific gift or holiday perfect items they might be interested in, keep the emails short and friendly and hit send! For more details, check out this short podcast I recorded a couple years ago on how to pitch last minute for the holidays, or my e-book, The Pitch Kit!

Share your own holidaze

Right now’s a great time to be tweeting, pinning and generally talking about holiday stuff around your favorite spots to socialize online. Share what you’re personally up to for the holidays- cooking, decorating, celebrating, shopping, planning… Pepper in shop talk about your holiday items, things that’d make great gifts, a glimpse of the behind the scenes busyness, yes, but make sure your online communication isn’t all about business these days, even if that’s your main concern at the moment. Don’t forget to connect and continue to foster those relationships with content that’s personal, from the heart, sharing honestly even if it’s the most stressful time of the year for you and you feel overwhelmed, etc- share that! People connect to people.

Serve those customers well

Your customers may be stressed out, you may be stressed out, but that’s even more reason to handle your customer interactions right now with utmost attention and care. Communication and kindness are key to keeping customers happy this time of year (well, anytime!) and can help keep things running smoothly. Also be prepared now to give your holiday packages some extra attention: wrap your items up extra pretty, write out thank you notes with orders or include a cute little gift that can brighten your customer’s day. The better you serve them at this time of year especially, when awesome customer service can be hard to come by, the more likely they are to come back and shop with you again!

Incentivize, incentivize, incentivize

Counting down to your holiday ordering deadline is one way to get the customers who are thinking of buying to buy now, but what else can you do to incentivize people to shop? Have some extra or outdated inventory you could include as a gift with purchase, or mark down on sale? It’s a good time to send out a special discount or shipping offer to your newsletter subscribers or social media followers. Maybe you can include a discount off a future purchase with those thank yous you’re sending out with current orders? Or create some special gift packages that include multiple items together at a discount? Motivate those customers, they have lots of choices and there’s lots of last minute shoppers out there!

Send holiday cards

You may be used to sending out cards to friends and family every year, but do you also send them to past customers? It’s a great personal touch that goes a long way in helping you foster a personal relationship and stay on their minds. You can just send to particular stand out or memorable customers, repeat ones, or whoever you’ve worked with this whole year, it’s up to you, but consider it time well spent! And consider sending to anyone else you’ve worked with peripherally that made an impact on your biz in some way- social media or craft fair buddies, service providers (like a graphic designer or consultant), or any blog or magazine editors who’ve already featured you- they’re good fodder for a holiday hello, too! A hand-written note inside adds personality and can make them feel extra special. Totally running out of time? Send an e-card instead!

Breathe

Depending on what you sell and how much marketing you’ve done up until now, this might be the busiest time of the year for your business (yay!), or it might be one of the slowest (boo). Either way, it can feel daunting, whether you’re overwhelmed with busyness or worried about the slow down. But don’t fret- give thanks for what you’ve got right now, whether it’s more time to focus on home and family, or a deluge of orders that’s going to pay for your family trip to Hawaii, if only you can make it through all of them. Know, either way, it’s all just temporary. Do what you can in these last couple weeks. And breeeaaathe.

Hope this helps you get the most out of these last days to market your shop before it’s (thankfully!) time to slow down and celebrate. Have any other last minute ideas before the calendar turns its page to the new year? (Already?!) Let us know in the comments below!