Welcome to the Modern Earth Blog!

Insights into the Online World

Sep022015

Web designer or developer working in office on a computer

One of the aspects of my job as Creative Director at Modern Earth is to hire talented individuals to become part of our team. Throughout the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet with high school students, recent college graduates, people with no experience, and some whose career in design or development spans longer than mine – and while the talent of these individuals is important, there are a number of other skills which factor into the decision to bring a new employee aboard.

Ability to communicate

This may be the single most important skill of any person and particularly important for a designer or developer – this career is about communicating with an audience to present a message or solve a pain point – but the kind of communication I’m referring to goes beyond this. Communication is entwined with all facets of working in the industry – communication with a client; communication with other team members, peers, mentors, and managers; communication over the phone or as an email; communication during an in-person meeting. How you are able to communicate during any of these examples will greatly impact your success in this industry.

Problem solving

Working in the industry as a web designer or developer and problem solving go hand-in-hand – a client or company will come to you with a particular set of problems or “pain points” they are encountering with their business, and as a designer or developer, you will be tasked to solve these problems. There are a number of ways to approach any problem – jumping in head first, working through it backwards, identifying and breaking it into parts, iteratively, creating a strategy, using research methods, etc. Problem solving is something you’ll encounter on a daily basis – with the nature of the problem being the variable. We are constantly looking for candidates who bring their own unique format to problem solving – whether they have applied it within this industry or others.

Confidence in your craftsmanship

For both designers and developers there needs to be a level of confidence in the work you produce; the way you present information to the client and the rest of the world. You will be judged, you will need reasons why you made the choices you did, you will need to be convincing when demonstrating your thought process that led to the decisions you’ve made – having confidence in yourself and abilities you possess will give you a leg up and help you be successful in relaying your ideas.

Self-directed initiative

Self-directed initiative can be the ability to work on projects and tasks with periods of time where no one is directly responsible for your productivity. Another aspect to this is to push your own self to keep up with the constant change that occurs within this industry. Having the drive to learn new technologies, to work independently on the problem your facing, and to research your given work is something all employers value from potential candidates.
 
These are a few of the things we value most and look for when a candidate applies to join our team – if you are a web designer or developer that excels on these fronts, we’d love to meet you. Visit our Careers page and apply by emailing your cover letter, resume and relevant portfolio samples to careers@modernearth.net.

SEO: A Summary

POSTED BY Emma Sadonick-Carriere

Aug312015

SEO Source Code - Modern Earth Web Design - Search Engine Optimization Winnipeg ManitobaWhen asked “so, what do you do?” I find myself responding with something along the lines of “I help clients make it easier for Google to find their website”.  I've tried saying "I do Search Engine Optimization" which is often met with a puzzled look or a blank stare.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is a complex process that involves several small pieces of one larger machine.  Starting from the code up, almost every part of a website can be search engine optimized.  Good SEO tells a search engine what your website as a whole is about, and what each individual page of your website is about.    

While there are a large number of elements to optimizing your website, here are some very quick, easy wins for your SEO strategy.

 

Page Titles

Specifying a unique title for each page of your website lets Google, and other search engines, know what the page is about.  This helps them achieve their end goal of providing users with the most accurate search results possible.  Make sure titles are concise and informative.

Meta Descriptions

This is the area where you can expand further on the information contained in the web page itself.  While there is no set character limit for page meta descriptions at this time, making sure users can see the description in its entirety from the search results page helps them make the decision to click on your website.  Write descriptions that are compelling and attention grabbing.

Image Alternative Text

Alternative text on images is important for all users; tags that accurately describe their corresponding image are regarded highly by search engines.  If an image does not load on a page, or a user is using a screen reader, they will still have an idea of what the image is and how it relates to the rest of the content on the page.  

Link Title Text

Title tags on links, both in website navigation and in page content, can help users navigate your site.  These tags can also potentially help improve click through rates within your website - keeping users on your site longer and encouraging them to view more pages.

This is a very high-level summary of just a few of the elements of website SEO, much like my “what do you do?” answer.  For more information, or if you would like to discuss how Modern Earth Web Design can help implement search engine optimization on your website, we are just a click or a call away.

 

What’s in a Name?

POSTED BY Michel Stryker

Aug272015

Ever wonder what the difference between a Web Designer and a Web Developer is at Modern Earth? I know when I first started at Modern Earth many moons ago I thought they were one in the same. Turns out, they have completely distinct roles in making amazing websites! 

Here are a few samples of what each role does:

A Web Designer:

  • takes a large collection of ideas and combines them in such a way that is visually appealing and suited for businesses' needs
  • makes sure websites are easy to navigate and have clear calls to action
  • takes the completed design and generates the code for it to run on the web server

A Web Developer:

  • creates the functional elements of the website, including contact forms and user login systems
  • can add custom interactivity, such as how a menu animates or how a map displays their information based on an address you clicked
  • creates complex applications that help reduce the amount of overhead you may be experiencing doing things via pen and paper
  • ensures that everything in the website is functioning and working together smoothly
  • inspects systems to be free of bugs
  • creates reports of data collected

To put it into an analogy, web designers are the artists and draftspeople, whereas web developers are the engineers and the mathematicians. Each part makes up an incredibly important piece of a well greased machine. We depend on one another to create amazing pieces of work.

As a web developer, I thrive on all the different technological challenges that occur during my day. There is always something new that could improve my problem-solving abilities. I have to think multiple steps ahead to make sure a change in the system will be integrated correctly. Sometimes, the slightest, most insignificant tweak can cause an entire website to go down!  It's my job to make sure that doesn't happen.

I have to say, some days I wish I had the ability to create designs out of thin air like our designers. With every project I work on I am given a chance to see the new and exciting web design ideas they generate. Without client websites to build, our designers’ creativity and our developers’ logical minds go to waste. Don’t let that happen! Contact Modern Earth today to see what we can do for you.

Aug262015

Imagine that you have your own minion that works for you 24/7, day and night, even on weekends, holidays, and never takes a vacation. Well, that’s basically what a website is. Whether or not it actually does a good job at what it does, is entirely up to you.

Often people come to me asking what they can do to make their website actually “work” for them and the answers I give them are easier than you’d think!

Beneath the fancy “skin” and alluring pixels of any website, are the mechanics and interaction that are key elements to a successful website. Whether or not you’re selling products, services, or providing information, you’ll probably want to make sure that your website is actually effective at doing what it’s supposed to do.

So let’s take a look at few common mistakes to avoid that will improve the  effectiveness of your website :

Get to the point!

Time is precious. Visitors should have some kind of intuitive response after being on your website for a few seconds. Why are visitors coming to your website and what action do you want them to take? It is best to make the action efficient and engaging for your visitors.

Effects and animations – Are you building a website for children?

It’s cool the first time you see an effect or animation in a user-interface, but too many bells and whistles can distract or annoy your visitors. I love seeing people take technology and user-experience to the next level by exploring animations and effects (where it has a purpose or function). It’s always nice to see new and interesting concepts at play when visiting a website. However, are they really needed? And do they serve a purpose? Do they provide focus points to features or actions?

Personally I find it hard to take the content too seriously if it’s on or near moving video, animation, or fancy “parallax” effects. There are some rare cases these effects may work, but for the most part it usually doesn’t and often slows the average computer down or distracts from what you want your visitor to do. In the end, it depends on the type of website you have, the function/purpose, and the target people you’re engaging.

Loading screens

One of the last things people like to do when visiting a website is stare at a loading screen. Most visitors are impatient, by making them wait you’re  betting that everyone will find your content worth waiting for. On average users will close a website if the page they are expecting hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds - don’t waste that time on a loading screen. This backs up my earlier recommendation: get to the point!

Bad links

No matter how cool your brand, product, or service(s) are, a broken link can tip the scale on whether a visitor stays on your site or closes the browser. Broken links often result with the visitor closing the window out of frustration and/or immediately losing trust in your brand. Scanning your website for broken links and fixing them (via redirect or similar) is very important and can also improve your google search ratings as a bonus.

Conclusion

We often get distracted by what we personally prefer, then what will add value and enrich the user-experience for visitors. It really helps to know who your visitors are and what they are expecting before leaving things up to chance. It’s great to go on and on about the benefits of your products, services, information, and have all the bells and whistles... but what does that really do for you if it’s not working for your visitors?

Researching and Choosing Keywords

POSTED BY Emma Sadonick-Carriere

Aug242015

Keyword research is one of my favourite parts of doing organic search engine optimization for a website.  There are always surprises; sometimes it’s a keyword I would never have thought of, other times it's a term I didn't expect anybody is searching for.  I particularly enjoy seeing how people search online, and how search trends change over time. 

When picking keywords for a client website I like to look in several different places.  Our particular SEO process focuses on ranking in Google Search results, so I often stick to their tools. 

I use the Google Keyword Planner Tool to research estimated search volume for potential keywords.  The tool provides average search volume over the past 12 months, and a low-medium-high ranking of how competitive the term is. Related terms that are often searched for after the initial search are also provided as alternative options.  That part is especially interesting to me because it gives you an idea of how people refine their search if they don’t get what they’re looking for the first time around.     

To get an idea of whether a keyword could be efficient for a particular website I'll run a search to see what results search engines think are most relevant to me at that time.  Then I have insight into how that term is perceived both by users, and search engines.  I also check related searches on the results page once I’ve found some terms that have the potential to be a good fit.  

In an ideal world I’ll be able to view the Google Analytics data for the website I’m focusing on at the time.  From there I can see what terms the website has already been returned as a result for, and how the different keywords performed.  Google Webmaster Tools has the queries report which is similar but provides a less detailed breakdown.    

Ultimately, choosing keywords that align well with the content of your website is the single best thing you can do to help your rankings.  Giving users exactly what they’re expecting when they choose your result out of the list helps keep your bounce rates low and your user engagement high.