SLODA

Downtown SLO Association WebsiteOne of the things that has kept me busy off and on over the past few months has been the rebuilding of the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association website.

The SLODA first approached me back in June to redevelop their outdated and antiquated website. They wanted to give the Downtown Association site a more modern look and feel, along with the implementation of enhanced functionality and usability. My goal was to replace their old static html site with a new data-driven web 2.0 site, capable of meeting the needs of future growth, as well as allowing for easy in-house updating.

So how did a small potatoes, no-name upstart developer such as myself swing the job for one of the more prominent non-profit organizations in San Luis Obispo? For one, I know people. Those people like me and recommend my services. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, my prices are reasonable and realistic.

As I’ve mention in the past, being a one man show allows me the ability to underbid most other developers. Lower overhead = lower design fees. I later found out from the SLODA that not only was my bid the lowest of all the project estimates, but I also came in at one fourth of the highest estimate. Let me tell ya… there’s definitely no standardized rate for web design.

After meeting with the Administrative Assistant and discussing the vision for the new SLODA website, it was time to get to work. To carry out this task, I went with an open source Content Management System that I’ve enjoyed great success with time and again. The CMS I used for the foundation of the new SLODA site was Joomla 1.5.

Joomla is arguably the most powerful and customizable open-source CMS available. Best of all… because it’s open source, it’s absolutely free! Free is always a plus when it comes to developing sites for clients at a reasonable price. ;)

The people over at the SLO Downtown Association are a pleasure to work with. Their organization and attentive eye made developing the new website a very hassle-free and efficient endeavor.

In addition to a premium custom theme and myriad of 3rd party plugins, the other thing that really enhanced their new site was the directory component. A very special thanks to Sigrid of sigsiu.net for providing excellent support as I executed the task of migrating the SLODA’s 800 business database over to the Joomla CMS.

Well, so far the new site has been met with good reviews by both employees of the downtown association, as well as members of board and its various committees. I’m not only pleased with the finished product, but also privileged to be able to add the SLODA site to my portfolio.

So What the Heck Have I Been Up To?

Over four months have passed since I’ve updated this blog. That is unacceptable. Especially for someone who’s claiming to be knowledgeable about SEO.

Back in June, I boldly claimed that I would have a page one ranking in Google for web design in San Luis Obispo County. Did I succeed? Of course not. If you’re looking for web designers in my hometown of Arroyo Grande, then you’re sure to find me. However, I fell far short of my goal to stand out amongst developers in SLO County.

So what happened? Well, shortly after launching this site, my phone started ringing. Although my web design site has stood here stale and outdated, behind the scenes I’ve actually been quite busy. I have a tendency to get tunnel vision sometimes, which causes me to focus solely on one project until it reaches completion. Starting today, I’m going to strive to become better at multitasking and managing multiple projects – mainly my own personal websites, such as this one.

Apart from juggling other projects and obligations, the other reason I left the site alone was because I actually feared additional business at the time. When it rains, it pours. I was concerned that I’d start getting too much search engine traffic and not be able to meet the demands of new clients. Sounds like a good problem to have, but one I wasn’t prepared to deal with at the time.

That said, I’m glad to be back, looking forward to updating you on recent projects and other news, and welcoming any and all new clients.

You got some work for me? Bring it on!

iArtisan is very much alive and well.

Boo Boo Records and Boo Boo Media

Boo Boo RecordsBoo Boo Records is a local institution here in San Luis Obispo County. Originally opening way back in 1974, Boo Boo’s has managed to weather the record retail storm that has been brought on by digital downloads and big box megastores. Boo Boo’s secret to success…? Give the customer something that they can’t find at these soulless giant music marts or compressed and crappy music download sites. This is of course good old fashioned, hands-on, personal service.

Boo Boo’s main goal is to provide the utmost in customer service, something you can’t put a price on. Couple that with an incredibly knowledgeable and musically passionate staff, along with a few thousand square feet of decades worth of nostalgia, and you have record store bliss. Sadly, the era of the record store is becoming a thing of the past. This huge part of our American culture is becoming dominated, diluted and standardized by corporate juggernauts bent on music retail domination.

Boo Boo’s has managed to keep up the good fight thanks to legions of local customers who’ve remained loyal over the years. These are the types of people who value the sound of uncompressed digital media (CD and DVD) and the warmth, realism and presence that an analog vinyl record can provide. These customers also know that they will be assisted by a caring staff, eager to turn them on to something new once they enter the store.

Although Boo Boo’s has an existing web presence, provided by yours truly, it is in need of an update. The platform it was built on is no longer in development, plus it’s time to evolve.

Matt Costa Performs Live at Boo Boo RecordsMy aim is to provide Boo Boo Records with a website that showcases the culture and character of the store, while also keeping visitors up to date with the abundance of activities and happenings that go on there. Boo Boo’s plays host to many monthly functions and in-store performances by artists both local and worldwide.

In addition to their historic record shop in San Luis Obispo, CA, they also actively engage in the online marketplace as a means fortify their business via a broader audience. While Boo Boo’s primary focus is on that of their downtown SLO record store, let’s face it, if they hadn’t embraced the internet as a vehicle for business they’d probably have been crushed by the unstoppable force of the corporate machine.

Boo Boo’s continues to buy and sell on the internets as a way to cater to a larger audience and to provide their local customers with a deeper catalog. In order to ensure Boo Boo’s continued success and to keep up the good fight, it is time to launch Boo Boo Media.

This site will promote the online portion of Boo Boo Records, with the emphasis being on buying large collections of music. Boo Boo’s is always looking to fortify their existing stock by purchasing collections of all types and sizes. Whether you have loads of CDs, Records, DVDs, old 45s or any type of music related memorabilia you are looking to unload, chances are Boo Boo’s will want to offer you good money for it.

Check back later this month to see what I have in store for them.

San Luis Obispo Downtown Association

SLO Downtown Association Current WebsiteLast week I met with members of the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association in order to get a feel and vision for their new website. The SLO Downtown Association is designed to help meet the needs of, and to promote merchants and other businesses in the downtown area. They are also responsible for many functions and events among other things, but I won’t get into all of that right now. You’ll have to check back in a bit to see their re-launched website to get the big picture.

Their website needs:

  • Attractive and easy to navigate
  • An updated, current and “happening” feel
  • Ability to be updated and managed primarily in-house
  • Multiple web forms to handle a variety of applications
  • Searchable business directory to accommodate roughly 800 local and regional businesses

Those are the primary needs of the SLODA, but I’m sure more functionality and flavor will be added to the site as it prepares for re-launch. It contains approximately 30 pages of content at the moment.

Estimated turnaround time: 5 business days.

Project estimate: Way too cheap, but my two year old needs new shoes and he’s eating us out of house and home, so daddy needs work. ;)

Once I import the existing business database and achieve proper functionality, this site should fall into place rather quickly. Implementing the database aspect of the site first gets most of my cussing out of the way early on, then leaves me with a relatively headache free workflow where I can then focus on the design and overall layout. ;)

My approach to building a website is similar to enjoying a good meal. I prefer to start with the vegetables and save the steak and garlic mashed potatoes for last, then ultimately savor the dessert. I like to get the important staples out of the way then enjoy and concentrate on the good stuff. You feel me?

AmpLounge.com

AmpLounge.com Current WebsiteBeing the crazy Rock ‘n’ Roll man that I am (well, maybe mildly crazy now that I’m a family man), I jumped at the chance to work with Frank Lamara of AmpLounge.com. Frank, along with partner Bruce Egnater (of Egnater Amps fame) own and operate a full service music gear emporium located in Berkley, MI. In addition to their music store, he and partner Bruce need a vehicle to promote some of their own products such as, ToneBra and LA Guitars.

My job is to give them an updated website that will not only showcase many of the products and services available at their Berkley, Michigan shop, but also feature and promote their home-grown products to a worldwide audience. Their current flash-based web page is pretty slick looking, but it’s far from telling their whole story. My plan is to have them taking calls and fulfilling international orders in no time.

Check back in a little bit to see how I do.

Website For Under 300 Bucks

Wheelin' and Dealin'Have I Got A Deal For You…

No, really. I Do.

In an attempt to stimulate business and introduce my services to a broader clientele, I placed an ad on CraigsList.org a few months ago. I was anticipating a decent influx of business due to the attractiveness of this offer, but due to the competitiveness of the industry as a result of so many out-of-work designers, I quickly got lost in the shuffle.

After seeing the insane amounts of ads on there offering freelance design work I just decided to forget about CraigsList as an advertising forum, for the time being anyway. Plus, I find that those who respond to offers of this sort often times want much more than they’re entitled to for such a low price.

However, I am still going to put this offer out there for those interested. I am just not going to aggressively promote it. ;)

It’s subject to cancellation at any time and turnaround will be based upon my current availability. If anyone is interested in a low-cost solution for a one page identity site, then here’s my sales pitch…

*clears throat*

299.00 Website Promotion

Don’t rely upon the Yellow Pages and print ads to bring you more business. These days people are looking to the internet as their first choice when seeking goods or services. If your business is not online, then you are simply losing money.

If you thought that a website was not in your budget, think again! For only $299.00 I will provide you with an effective one page website complete with your very own domain name. This offer is for a unique, non-template-based design. This price also includes basic search engine optimization. You will have a website that is sure to reach your target audience.

For many businesses, a $299.00 investment could pay for itself with one new client or lead. In these troubling economic times, you can’t afford not to make yourself more visible and accessible to consumers.

The $299.00 price is for a basic, but effective html design. I can provide website hosting if needed for as low as $6.95 per month. The domain name is included in the package price, but $11.95 per year thereafter, or free with a hosting plan.

So there ya have it. A website for under three hundred bucks. Not too shabby if you ask me.

Unfortunately, I went to look for some examples of sites that would exemplify this offer, but I don’t currently have any. Bad move on my part.

Merry Go Round Children's Store San Luis ObispoBut… these two sites here are pretty close examples of what you’d expect. They both have a little extra in the way of some dynamic features for images, plus a lot of original layout and design work.

Both of these sites were created from simply a couple of photographs. None of the artwork, graphics or thematic concept were supplied. “This is pure home-grown iArtisan original design baby”. <- Shameless self promotion.

If you were interested in a site with similar functionality to either one of these, then we’d be looking at an extra hundred bucks. Still, not a bad deal at all for $399.00. For the client with the band, one paying show as a result of this site would more than pay for it. As for the children’s store… if she gained half a dozen customers in a year via search engine results, then that would easily pay for this site. See where I’m going here..?

Star CelebrationsJust having your business online is going to pay huge dividends. You don’t necessarily need a big expensive site requiring loads of maintenance. All you need is a way for potential customers to find you when they look for your products or services in the search engines.

Sorry I don’t have any $299.00 examples to present here, but why don’t you let me do your site and then I can start to build my one page identity site portfolio..? :D

Oh yeah, almost forgot… here are links to the two featured sites if you’d like to have a closer look. Just remember, if you want something like either of these two clients have, I’d have to pad the $299 bid with another hundred or so. Still a bargain I tell ya.

Merry Go Round Children’s Store and Star Celebrations.

The Name iArtisan

Artisan toolsWhat exactly does it mean..?

The idea behind the name comes from the concept of applying a skilled trade, or trades, to create something magnificent. As opposed to simply an artistic approach, I like to view website creation as not only developing something aesthetically pleasing, but also functional.

Rather than go with something artsy fartsy, I decided to adopt a name that was more descriptive of a craftsman approach. Hence the name, Artisan. While Artisan can mean many things, including highly artistic trades such as painting and sculpting, it can also refer to more functional crafts such as masonry or woodworking.

My approach to developing websites is more of a solution, than it is a design. The design of the website wraps around the functionality, as opposed to adapting the functionality to the design. Does that make any sense?

Basically, I try to develop sites that are effective and practical first and foremost, while also paying close attention to detail and aesthetics. I am more of the fine cabinet maker as opposed to the abstract painter. Needless to say, that is how I identify with the iArtisan moniker.

So what’s with the “i”..? Well, that’s a funny story, that wasn’t so funny at the time.

Initially, my intent was to be known as, “eArtisan”. However, there was some funny business that went on with my registrar, and the name ended up getting sniped by a domain reseller. I had secured the name with a live operator on a Friday, but by Monday morning when it hadn’t yet shown up in my account, I was pretty concerned.

I distinctly remember the account representative going, “Oh wow, that’s a great name”. Six years ago, having an “e” at the beginning of your URL was all the rage. I had thought it was a terriffic grab at the time, and apparently so did someone else at my registrar.

Needless to say, due to this little snafu, some “random individual” purchased it out from under me. When running a whois search, I quickly identified the person as a power domain reseller. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about it. Apparently, it was “pure coincidence” that another individual happened to purchase this domain moments before I did. Mhmm… yeah…

My customer service representative did indicate that one option I had was to offer a buyout price for the domain, and they would contact the domain owner with my proposed bid. Now tell me if that doesn’t sound shady…

I had some minor grievances with this hosting company prior to this incident, but this was a huge red flag. Ultimately, I escalated my complaint to level “how did you get this extension..?!” support, and ended up being awarded a $60 credit. Yippee.  :-?  I was also given a free consolation domain, which ended up being none other than, “iArtisan”.

Things tend to happen for a reason in my opinion. I’m actually glad that I revisited the domain name choice, because Eartisan just doesn’t have the same panache. iArtisan is difficult enough for some to pronounce, let alone Ear-tisan. At least with the “i” in front it forces you to anunciate the syllable, where as with an e it just ends up becoming an ear.

Alright, so back to the relevance of the “i”. What do you suppose it pertains to..?

Yep, that’s right… “Internet”. iArtisan stands for Internet Artisan. I am an Artisan who practices his craft in cyberspace. Makes sense now doesn’t it..? ;-)

As you may have guessed, I moved my business to a new webhost shortly after that mishap. Since it was so long ago, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt by withholding their company name from this post, and hope that they are more professional now than they were back then.

I suppose if you’re dying to know I could respond to an e-mail inquiry.

I Love WordPress

Wordpress Logo…which is the primary reason why I’ve chosen to develop this site with it. It’s one of the sexiest content management systems available.

Many people automatically think “Blog” when they hear the term WordPress. Well, that’s just one practical usage for it. It is indeed a marvelous platform to use for blogging, but with some customization, WordPress is capable of so much more.

Sure, I had thought about developing my site from the ground up, but these days I prefer not to re-invent the wheel. Right out of the box, WordPress is capable of handling most anything I need to do. With a few customizations here and there, along with some fancy plugins, I have a robust website that I’m able to launch within record time.

Did I mention that all of my web hosting plans provide easy WordPress installation, and that you can have your own website or blog up and running within about a minute? Yes, that’s right. Within the time it takes to enter an e-mail address along with a few clicks of the ol’ mouse, you can be on your way to blogging fantasia or website administration.

However, WordPress is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the features offered with iArtisan Web Hosting.

Web Designers in SLO County

Dr Evil would be proud of my SEO capabilitiesThere are loads of them. No joke.

Upon making the decision to travel down this road as a main form of income, I did a little investigating as to the amount of competition in this area. It is steep indeed.

Not only is San Luis Obispo County home to dozens of established web design companies, but there are also flocks of freelance designers hovering around, ready to swoop in for your business.

The current economic situation and vacuous job market is undoubtedly responsible for causing many individuals, myself included, to turn towards the internet and home-based business in general as a primary means of income. I have provided website design and hosting services for my friends and associates in San Luis Obispo County for years, but it wasn’t until recently that it became a primary source of income.

So with all of the competition in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, how does a small independent web developer and hosting provider such as myself stand out amongst the crowd? I’ll tell you… but not all at once. I need some topics for future posts too. ;)

For starters, potential clients need to be able to find me. Aside from asking a friend, relative or colleague to recommend a web designer or host, where do people turn first and foremost..?

The interwebs.

For the handful of people that will actually read this post within the next few weeks, take heed. I may be small, but I am mighty when it comes to SEO.

Within 60 days I expect to be on page one of Google for regional web services.

My goal is to prove my abilities by showing my clients that even an upstart website designer and hosting provider can compete with the big boys. By the first week of August 2009, if I am not amongst the top results in Google for any or all of my web services, I will eat crow. However, I don’t see that happening.

Now if I can achieve those results with a fresh web presence, imagine what I can do for your website or online business..?

Oh, almost forgot… I plan on doing this without spending a dime on internet advertising.

Stay tuned…

Bear With Me Here

Bear with me while I finish up this websiteIf you’re visiting the site for the first time, please excuse the mess. I’m chipping away at it in-between clients’ projects, and hope to have it complete by late next week.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, just shoot me an e-mail at: info@iartisan.com. I’ll try to have a proper contact form up this weekend, along with a lot of other new features.

I don’t have an exact date for when this site will be ready for primetime, but she should be fully operational by next weekend, if not sooner.

Until I get the website complete, here’s a listing of some of the services I provide:

  • Website Development
  • Website Hosting
  • Domain Name Registration
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Graphic Design and Desktop Publishing
  • Consulting Services