No More Leaky Web Sites: Part I

original jebraweb.com web site screen shot

This is a screen shot of the original Jebraweb.com web site, launched in 2005 or so. I would like to say that I thought it out in great detail -- what technology I would use, what the colors meant, the goal of the logo, and what my plan would be to market the site. It would have been very, very smart to do all of that, back when I started. Unfortunately, instead I had to become the punch line to the offhanded comment people make about the homes of plumbers, which are supposedly full of leaky faucets and dripping pipes. I was a web developer who hadn't given nearly enough thought to my own web site and what it meant.

 

I knew, in those days, that I wanted very much to appear to be available whenever anyone needed me. I got this brilliant idea when I was hired by a very cool client over Craigslist. She had been working with a web programmer who not only didn't finish the project she'd hired him to do, but  disappeared off the face of the earth. I believe the Craigslist ad said something like "EMERGENCY: NEED COLD FUSION PROGRAMMER YESTERDAY, CURRENT PROGRAMMER COKED OUT!" Yes, in all uppercase letters, and including her actual phone number. (In the early '00s, people on Craigslist were even less careful than they are now.)

I called the number, and she hired me immediately. I felt very proud to be able to say "Yes, I can work on that right away," despite the fact that I was able to work on it right away only because I had absolutely no active clients at the moment. The "network" I described was real -- all colleagues I could call if I needed to hire them to take on any workload I was too busy to handle -- but so far at that point, "we" was more like the Queen's royal we, which meant "me." After that client who hired me on Craigslist, somehow I decided that my strength was my ability to quickly say "how high?" when she asked me to jump. That, I decided, was what I had going for me: I was available. Of course, that's possibly the most desperate-sounding tag line I can imagine, in retrospect. Couple that with such eagerness to get anything at all up on my own site that I made the logo nearly impossible to translate to a business card (the arrows! the blue lines! the utterly horizontal, layered text!), and the whole thing seems very amateur to me now.

blossoms verticalBetween that first site and the one you see now, I've had two new iterations, both improvements on their predecessors. When I designed the logo you see now, with the blue and yellow flowers, I had already established Jebraweb as a firm that dealt with non-profits and small businesses, but I hadn't made that official. Those flowers are actually two copies of the same flower -- a blue forget-me-not from my older daughter's garden, with the color for one blossom swapped out for yellow. In my mind, they represent my two basic types of clients -- purpose-driven businesses and non-profit organizations. They're two ways of achieving the same goal: make the world a better place. Once I had established that visually, I needed to represent my design vision as it translated online -- but already, I was in better shape because those blossoms are very versatile. I can use those blossoms individually (Jebraweb's Facebook profile photo is the yellow blossom to stand out from the default Facebook blue; Jebraweb's Twitter profile photo is the blue blossom to stand out on the white twitter feed); I can stack them vertically on my invoices; I can split them up like in the header at the top of this site. They print beautifully on my business card and even on my phone case. I am quite inspired by the idea of the flexible brand.

The current web site is the one with which I've taken the most time. I had used only white backgrounds until now because I know that dark text on a white background is the easiest for the human eye to read, but as my own personal aesthetic had changed, I really wanted something softer somewhere on the page. I had decided to change my tag line -- no more "ready to go, right now," mostly because my client base had grown to the point where I was no longer ready to go right now very often -- to "sustainable web sites for organizations with purpose." Sustainable had a natural, earthy ring to it, and while I define it more broadly than the environmental impact with which most people use it, I thought a wood grain might reinforce that idea anyway. It took me quite a while to find the wood grain that I liked best -- not too dark, not too blond, not too shiny. I also still wanted my readable, white background. I'm really happy with the way it turned out.

Next time, I'll talk about the content of the site and how I chose the photographs in use within the pages. It's been great to refine and define my site thoughtfully -- and now I have even more ideas to share with my clients, having been through this thought process for myself so recently and intently. Stay tuned!

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