four blossoms with the word jebrawebbed below

Jebrawebbed is the blog written by Debi Lewis, founder and owner of sustainable web site development company Jebraweb.com. Based in Evanston, IL, Debi and her firm are focused on building web sites for organizations with a purpose beyond (but not exclusive of) profit. Debi blogs about open source content management, non-profit and small business web sites, the importance of local community building, and women-owned business. She is the mother of two young daughters, married to a non-geek, prefers her bike to her car, and is the proud owner of a few too many stringed instruments.

You can find Jebraweb on Facebook and Twitter. You can email Debi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Jebraweb Redesign Case Study: Advanced Dental

Jebraweb: Advanced Dental RedesignWe love working with new clients. There are always new processes and user preferences to learn, new palettes and logo styles and design styles to incorporate into brand new designs. They're a lot of fun -- but there's a special feeling of excitement at Jebraweb HQ when we get to step back into the comfortable, long-term relationships we've developed with returning clients.

That is especially true for the great people at one of our longest-standing clients, Advanced Dental of Dyer, Indiana. The team there has been with Jebraweb for many years, and the opportunity to work with them again is always one we enjoy. When they decided it was time to make a big change to their web site -- everything from back-end to design to hosting environment -- we knew it would be an invigorating experience for all of us.

Practical Reasons to Prioritize Mobile Friendliness for Your Brick-and-Mortar Business

phonetravelRecently, I traveled internationally. Both because I care about my clients' ability to reach me AND because I rely on my phone heavily for everything, I ponied up some extra cash to pay for an international data plan. I could use my phone for everything abroad that I could use it for at home, and I intended to navigate, make reservations, choose the places I wanted to visit, and adjust my travel plans using only my smart phone.

I didn't bring a computer. I didn't use the hotel business center. I did absolutely everything from my smart phone.

In my situation, the ability to effectively access their sites made the difference between my visiting a given restaurant or business, or not. It was that simple. If I couldn't manage it from my phone, it wasn't happening. 

There were several deal-breakers for me in using a given business' site. If I couldn't read it easily, if I couldn't contact the business easily, and if I couldn't navigate to their location easily, I was highly unlikely to visit. 

Sites for Service Providers: How to Sell Brains, Brawn, and Imagination on the Web

intangiblejobsI'll admit it: you can't touch or hold the product I'm selling. You'll never be able to package it, ship it, weigh it, or put it on your coffee table. I'm not selling a thing; I'm selling a service. It's hard to sell a service, yet millions and millions of web sites are doing just that. When you're just beginning to market your business, the question of what to put on your web site is a lot more difficult to answer if you can't include photos of our products on the list.

So what's an intangible-business provider to do?

The answer depends on what kind of service you provide and, more importantly, what your service means to the people who hire you to do it. Beyond your business card and a description of what it is you can do for them, you need to show them the effect your work will have on their lives. Thankfully, the web is a great place to do that.

Get the Stains out of Your Web Site

splatterYou know you have them: pesky, poorly-functioning or long-outdated spots around the edges of your web site. You've seen them accidentally, perhaps when you've ego-surfed your company and found forgotten pages in the search results. You've been called by a prospective client or donor on a phone number you were sure you had deleted from the site months ago. Maybe you even see these awful stains on your otherwise-perfect site every single day, and you've been intending to deal with them soon. Tomorrow afternoon, maybe. Just as soon as you find the login...

Face it: you're leaving these blemishes visible to the world and everyone. A client of mine once referred to his content strategy (before we began working together) as "triage and benign neglect," and I can tell you with certainty that he wasn't the only one with this half-attentive strategy for managing his organization's web presence. 

So what is a busy, slightly neglectful web site owner to do?

Three Things You Should Have Done for Your Web Site Last Year

coffee2015 brought us some subtle, seemingly-invisible changes in the way web sites worked to support and enhance the businesses and organizations they represent. For many web site owners, this was less the year of the redesign than it was the year of the behind-the-scenes tweak. Between adding functionality that benefits your search engine rankings to adding usability that benefits your users every step of the way, 2015 was the year that infrastructure and strategy was at the top of every site owner's to-do- list. If you haven't made these changes to the back office of your web site yet, get your pot of coffee going now! You've got a lot to do.

Mobile-Friendliness

Is your site easy to use on a phone? If your answer to that question was anything but an immediate "absolutely, yes!," then you were not paying attention last year. You can get a quick answer for your site using Google's Mobile-Friendly Test. If your site is mobile-friendly -- meaning that your users can get to your information in a visible, usable way from a variety of smart phones and tablets -- then you'll see this beautiful vision on the Mobile-Friendly test results page:

mobilefriendly

If you don't see that, you can put this issue at the top of your "problems to solve" list right now. Here's why:

  1. The Almighty Google wants you to do it. They explain why in their blog post, but frankly, if the leading search engine on earth is giving preference to sites that are mobile-friendly, you want to be mobile-friendly. End of story. 

  2. More people are finding your site via their phones than ever before. Industry watchgroup SearchEngineLand reports on the growth of mobile searching AND mobile purchasing nearly every single day, but here's a great overview.

  3. You have lots of competition. If your customer or potential donor can't get done what they want on your site via their phone, they'll leave. It's easy. Don't lose them over this -- spend the time and energy to get your site visible and usable on all the devices your customers use.

Integrated Social Media

Ideally, you conquered this before 2015. After all, in January of 2015, we had reasonable proof that nearly a third of site visits overall were coming from social media. If your business "doesn't do social media," your business is still ON social media -- you're just not engaged with the message, communication, and public commentary there. As the brilliant Scott Stratten writes about brand engagement:

"Social media is just a fancy term for talking to other people.  When you listen and value your customers you can create content and products that give value back to them.  Be a part of the conversation; find out what they like to chat about. Care about what they are looking for.  And then be there, to have a conversation that matters to them."

That means having your web site connected to your social media as much as it means having a social media presence. Some quick ways to do this:

  1. Include social media icons on your site for the channels where you are already engaged. You can put them in the top of the page, the footer, your sidebar, and on your contact page -- but make it clear where you want your users to find you for real conversation. 

  2. Don't include social media icons on your site for the channels where you set up an account but never check it. By "never," I mean "less than once a week." Remember the last time you left a voicemail for someone and they called you back a week later, saying, "Oh sorry, I never listen to my voicemail."? That's what "never" means in social media. If a customer leaves a comment or a tweet or some other tidbit out there for you, and you either never respond or respond long after they needed your answer, that's bad. Delete the accounts you never use, and unlink them from your web site.

  3. Match up your visuals. If your web site design changed this year -- and especially if your logo changed this year -- make sure the look-and-feel of your social media sites also reflects that change. Use this guide to help you with sizing.

Good Content. No, Really: GOOD Content.

The days of keyword-stuffing your web site are over. If that phrase doesn't mean anything to you, good -- it was a method of gaming search engine rankings by hiding keywords in tiny white type at the bottom of your page, hoping that a keyword appearing 100+ times would result in a higher search ranking for that keyword. Most search engines have now caught on, and the algorithms they use to determine which site to bring up for a given search term are now far, far more sophisticated. 

Now, your content actually has to be good.

This means several things: it has to be understandable, well-organized, regularly-updated, and structured in an understandable way. It can't be written at too difficult or too easy of a reading level. It should be easily sharable, and ideally, it will get shared enough to generate its own self-perpetuating traffic increases over time. It should be readable visually -- accessible and usable according to the standards of the day. 

There is a fantastic, deep and well-written study by Searchmetrics that digs into this topic as it pertains to search engine rankings, but this all applies to the web in general -- users are more sophisticated and pickier, and your content has to rise to their requirements. 


The internet never closes its doors. The beginning of 2016 is an arbitrary moment to begin improving your online presence, but you have to start somewhere. These are the areas of attention you should be considering at all times, and starting now is better than ignoring these issues for another year. Add value for your customers, donors and web site users. Remember that the site you're building is for them.

 Overwhelmed? If you want to learn more about how we work with clients to optimize their sites, check in with us via emailFacebook or Twitter.

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