Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Extreme Makeover, Web Site Edition: A New Look for Custom Interiors by Rebecca

Screen Shot of my New and Improved Web Site at www.CustomInteriorsByRebecca.com

My darling husband, who will be the first to tell you that he is not, NOT, a web designer, lovingly slaved away with something called Frontpage or FTP something-or-other about 12 years ago to help me create my first web site, back when just having a web site at all was enough to set me apart from other designers.  The site didn't do everything I wanted it to do, it wasn't as polished as what I would have liked, but it has served me well as a presence on the web, a place where prospective clients can find out more about what I can do for them and see photographs of my work.  Set decorator Casey Hallenbeck, who hired me to collaborate on window treatments for the sets of the NASCAR film Talladega Nights, found me via the web site, after all -- actually, that's a funny story, because when he called me and said he was working on a movie that was filming in Charlotte I didn't believe him, but I digress...

So, what was wrong with my old web site?  Well, for starters, Bernie had set the iPower account up for me using his own email and passwords, and I had no access to go in and make any updates on my own.  Changes could only be made from his computer, because he had the Frontpage software and I did not.  Every time I wanted to change photos or copy on my business web site, I had to wait until my husband was home and had time to help, then do some serious nagging for a few days (because he'd rather do just about anything else -- it was amazing how he'd hop up and declare that it was time to change air filters, aerate the lawn or patch holes in the wall when I mentioned working on my web site).  Then, once he finally sat down to work on the web site with me, neither of us could remember what the username or password were so we had to contact iPower and reset the password...  Big, giant pain in the butt!  Then I'd describe to Bernie how I wanted the site to look and feel, and he'd get frustrated because he didn't know how to do that using the tools at his disposal, and he'd grit his teeth and mutter "this is NOT what I do for a living!" Can you understand why my web site sat on the Internet, neglected and unchanged, for over a year and a half at a clip?

The biggest problem with my business web site that I'd noticed since getting my iPad a year ago is that the lovely Edwardian Script font we used for my business name in the site header was only visible on computers that also had that font loaded locally.  So my web site looked pretty good on my own PC and on my husband's PC, but on my iPhone, my iPad, and on anyone's computer who did not have Edwardian Script, the header showed up in ghastly Times New Roman and looked hideously unprofessional.  I should have taken a screen shot of the old site to show you the before and after. The web site that looked pretty good when it was created in 2000 looked amateurish and cheap to me by the end of 2011.  A makeover was long overdue.

Custom Wedding Monogram by Jennifer Alison Designs
So anyway, at the end of last year I hired Jennifer Alison Designs to create a new logo for my business.  I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the logo to look like, incorporating a script monogram, freshening up the branding I'd been using for my business, but similar enough that my previous and current clients would recognize that it was me when they got something in the mail with the new logo on it.  I chose Jennifer Alison Designs because the concept I had in mind for my business was very similar to the custom wedding monograms that Jennifer specializes in.  Her prices were extremely reasonable, she was great to work with, and the only difficulty was choosing between several gorgeous designs she submitted.  I highly recommend her.  This is the new Custom Interiors by Rebecca logo, created by Jennifer Alison Designs:

Now that I had the new logo design, it was time to tackle the web site.  I got the iPower account information from Bernie and then I shooed him out of my office -- this time, I was going to do the web site completely on my own so I'd have complete control and be able to make content changes or add pages to the site whenever I wanted to.  I discovered some deceptively easy looking Weebly drag and drop templates on the iPower site -- I say "deceptively" easy because it was not readily apparent to me how little I could modify the templates, and I wasted several hours working on a design based on a template that didn't have the features I needed in the right places, an error I discovered after struggling for awhile and finally calling for tech support.  Most of the templates have too much going on for my purposes.  I wanted my web site to be a background framing the photography, not something artsy or distracting.  I didn't want color, because a background color that looks great with one portfolio shot might look terrible with another photograph.  It was also irritating that I couldn't add a photo header to a template that didn't have one already built in, or that I couldn't change the color schemes of templates.  The tech support guy told me I could do some of that if I upgraded my account, and of course I could have invested a lot more time into learning to create a web site from scratch instead of using templates at all, but I was determined to use the tools I was already paying for and to keep the site as easy as possible for me to maintain.  It took me an entire day, from breakfast to dinner time, to get the web site looking the way I wanted it to, but it's finally finished and it was definitely worth the time investment to not only have a web site that accurately reflects my design business today, but one that I can tweak and adjust whenever I need to, from any computer with internet access.  I'm pretty sure I could even make changes to my web site from my iPad, although I haven't tried that yet.

 
My favorite things about the new web site are:
  • My logo, which looks snazzy on every computer -- thank you, Jennifer!
  • My slide show on the home page, instead of a separate portfolio page like I had before
  • My Contact page, which I was able to customize with additional fields to include the basic information I want from every prospective client
  • My new BLOG PAGE!  When I started writing Cheeky Cognoscenti, I intended it to be a personal blog where I'd write about my family and sewing projects, but design-related posts kept creeping in just as frequently.  Going forward, I'll be blogging on interior design topics over at http://www.custominteriorsbyrebecca.com/blog.html.  I still need to figure out how to add sidebar goodies like a design blogroll, links to preferred vendor sites, etc., but at least the "meat and potatoes" part is done.
Whew!  Revamping my web site was one of my New Year's Resolutions for my business.  It felt good to cross it off my list before the end of January!  If you have a moment, please take a look at my new web site here and then come back here and leave me a comment to tell me what you think.  Compliments are always nice, but I especially want to hear from you if you find a (gasp!) typo, or if something looks wonky on your computer that I might not be aware of.  Thank you! 

4 comments:

Beadboard UpCountry said...

LOVE IT!!!!!!! The logo is fantastic!!!!!!!!!!Miss Cheeky is going big time! Nascar??????????
xo Maryanne

Tammy@InStitches said...

I think it looks great, Rebecca ! Love the header and the slideshow. Doesn't it feel good to check off something so big on the to do list.....

Janice the Manice said...

Maybe it's just my computer... but the logo didn't span the entire width of my screen. There was a blue square to the right where the logo should have extended. Give me a call if you want greater detail.

Rebecca Grace said...

Ugh -- Janice, you're right. My video card blew up this morning and Bernie (grudgingly!) gave up the wide screen monitor he was using as an extra up in his office. Anyway, on the new-to-me wide screen monitor I'm seeing the same blue rectangle thing you're seeing. Yuck! Thanks for pointing it out. I put a support request in to iPower. I just hope it's an easy fix.

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