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Category Archives: Web Design

Is the internet still free?

cost of internet

It seems like ever since the internet was invented, there’s been a belief that using it comes at a high cost. Sure, you may have to pay a monthly fee of around $70 a month, but considering the high frequency that we use the internet and our extreme dependency on it, $70 a month is a price that most don’t mind spending. It sure beats being charged for every search query and website visit, right? For these reasons many individuals still see the internet as being relatively “free.”

But is it really free? It seems like users are paying more and more to use the internet, especially marketers. Gone are the days where $70 a month for hosting was all a marketer would have to pay to be present on the web.  Now it’s becoming more costly to stand out online.

Paying to be social

No digital marketer would refute the importance of having a presence on social media in 2016. But that is no longer enough. Now marketers must invest in a variety of Facebook Ads if they want to be seen on the network. Just when we started to accept that we’ll have to pay if we want to see any website clicks or conversions or gain any new followers, Facebook dropped yet another bomb on us. They began to show organic content less and less in news feeds. The way around this? Boosting posts. Simply put, if you want to be seen, you better pay up.

Facebook isn’t stupid. It knows that it has become a powerhouse for marketers looking to advertise their businesses, and that they will jump through all kinds of hoops to get results for their business even if it means coughing up some dough. Now, after seeing Facebook make billions of dollars (last quarter alone Facebook reportedly made over $5 billion thanks in a large part to ads) off of its paid advertising platform, other social networks are jumping on the bandwagon.

Twitter and LinkedIn have been offering sponsored posts and other ads for years. While their organic reach isn’t nearly as terrible as Facebook’s, many marketers and users are catching on to the fact that paid advertising will allow them to reach a larger audience at a quicker pace. For many, it has been a worthwhile investment. And it doesn’t stop there.

Pinterest launched its Promoted Pins platform a few years ago. While still in limited release (you have to apply and be approved for them first), they have quickly grown on users looking to receive maximum engagements. I have personally observed that my organic Pinterest pins typically go unnoticed and receive little to no engagements, but when I invest even just $20 in a promoted pin, I’m guaranteed to get hit with a number of repins, comments, and likes. With over 50 million pins cluttering Pinterest, Promoted Pins seem one of the most effective ways for growing your Pinterest presence and increasing engagement.”

Instagram also jumped on the advertising bandwagon this past summer by allowing users to invest in paid ads in the form of website clicks, video ads, engagement ads, app install ads, and more recently, promoted posts. This is not at all surprising being that Instagram is owned by the champ of social media paid advertising: Facebook. In fact, many of the Instagram ads are only available if used in correlation with a Facebook ad. This just further drills in the point that effective social media marketing is no longer free.

Going beyond social media

If you think the answer to avoid paying to use the internet is to simply cut all ties with social media, think again. Social media may be the front-runner in internet marketing expenses, but they aren’t alone. SEO marketing comes with a slew of hard costs now, too.

Simple tasks that used to be free like guest blogging or creating business listings for SEO purposes are beginning to come at a high cost. Many blogs refuse to publish guest contributions (especially if it contains an affiliate link) unless you’re willing to pay. The average cost is usually around $100-$150, with some of the more popular and well-known bloggers charging as much as $500 or more for a single guest post. As for local directories, while some are still free, the most effective ones seem to be a part of Yext, and a subscription will cost you a minimum of $500 a year.

Some marketers are choosing to abandon SEO marketing altogether now since it takes a lot of time and effort and doesn’t always guarantee results. Why bother wasting time and effort on something that is essentially a gamble when marketers can simply pay Google for pay-per-click advertising and have their ads displayed at the top of search results? This seems like a much more efficient means of marketing, and naturally, Google agrees.

In fact, Google is now making pay per click advertising even more expensive. More recently, Google decided to remove pay per click listings from the right side of search results, meaning that they now only display at the top of the results. This means that pay per click advertising is more competitive than ever before. If you want your PPC campaign to be successful, you may need to reconsider your keywords and ad bids, which could mean paying more.

Where do we go from here?

Why are we paying such a high cost to use the internet these days? The answer is simple: because we want to be found. We invest a lot of time and effort into our businesses, blog posts, and social media pages. If nobody sees it, it all goes to waste. The only way to guarantee that our content is easily visible to our target audience is to pay to have it promoted and made visible. And because we keep paying for it, people keep charging for it.

If we want to make the internet free and eliminate all of the hard costs that are now associated with using it, then we need to stop paying into the ideology that the only way to advertise a  business is to pay for social media advertising, pay-per-click, and other paid promotions.

We need to get back to the way things once were – back to engaging with users organically on social media by responding to their content and making a genuine effort to connect with them. We need to stop advertising and marketing to people, and instead build relationships with them. There is no price that can be put on the foundation of relationships. It is the most time-consuming form of marketing, but also the most effective and rewarding.

The internet is no longer the “free” service we always thought it was. It’s getting more expensive by the day and we have no one to blame but ourselves. However, we do have more power to stop it than we think. It is up to us to determine the fate (or the expense) of using the internet in the future.

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I had an interview for an Inbound Marketing Position at an SEO firm called Webimax today. It took me a long time to figure out what to wear for it. I’ve recently lost a lot of weight so a lot of my old professional/business clothes didn’t fit anymore. I had to go to the mall and find something new.

While at the mall I found a couple different outfits that I liked. The first thing that caught my eye was a hot pink blazer. I tried it with some grey slacks initially, but despite the positive opinions from others, I didn’t really like the combo.

Image

I needed something different. Perhaps white pants? I tried them but no luck — they were all either see-through or just plain ugly! As I was continuing to search for matching pants another blazer caught my eye. It was a bit fancier and more traditional looking in navy blue. What’s more is that there were a pair of navy blue slacks hanging right next to it. Perfect! I had to try it on!

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I really liked the navy blue combination. It was very traditional and professional looking. Many of my friends encouraged me to wear this to my interview as it was a solid, safe choice. But I just couldn’t forget about that pink blazer.

I decided to try the pink blazer on with the navy blue slacks just to see how it looked. I was pleasantly surprised!

Image

This was possibly my favorite combination! But I couldn’t decide whether to wear this or play it safer with the blue ensemble. I decided to buy both blazers and the pants and decide later.

So what did I decide? I decided on the pink blazer in the end. Less traditional and more bold/daring. Sure the navy blue ensemble was “safer”, but sometimes it’s good to take chances. I thought that the pink blazer showed more of my personality. I was confident, creative, bold, and maybe a little bit loud. I wanted to be seen — to stand out. I didn’t think I could achieve these things as well with the plain old navy blue suit. For the position I was applying for I think it was important to stand out and show more of my personality and creative side for this interview.

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Would I suggest a hot pink blazer for everyone’s next interview? No, it wouldn’t work for just anyone. If you’re going for a teaching job for example it might be best to stick to the basics like the navy blue suit. But if you’re applying somewhere that really values creativity, and risk taking you may want something that helps you to stand out more. The key is to do research! Find out what the atmosphere is like where you work and  possibly the dress code. From viewing some photographs/videos on Webimax’s website I was able to see that the dress code was a bit less formal which helped to aid me in my decision to ditch the fancier/more traditional blue blazer. Webimax is also very innovative, bold, and daring, like my outfit.

My interview seemed to go over very well. Only time will tell if I got the job,  but I can say my outfit helped me to feel a lot more confident during my interview which I think is very important. I think it helped me to stand out too, I mean, who can really forget a girl that shows up in a hot pink blazer? 😉


As I look back from my first finished website project to this one I notice only about two things stayed the same: the colors. I was persistent to keep the colors the same because they match my blog’s theme and I liked the way they worked together. Blue is a very common color to use on websites because it goes with everything, is easy to see, and emits positive feelings. It is also common to see it on social media websites (think Facebook and Twitter) and with my work with social media I thought that worked well.

This is the final design of the front page from my first website project:

original-website-design-front-page

 

This is what my final project’s homepage looks like:

final-website-design-homepage

 

They are both noticeably different. For the first one I have my writer’s statement with a link to my resume on the first page. The thing you notice the most is a picture of myself. On my final design I have re-written my about page to focus more on my work and less on me and I have also  created a whole page for my resume without having to link it from the front page. I removed the picture of myself and installed a slideshow with screenshots of my work. The thing you notice the most is my the slideshow showing my articles — this is exactly what people should be focused on.

Another thing that is absent with the first design is the navigation bar. There was no navigation bar and the only separate page was my resume. The front page was everything. There were links for other things such as my blog and resume but it was a bit messy and hard to access. The final design features a navigation bar with custom CSS and pages for About, Writing Samples, Resume, My Blog, and A Contact page. I have also installed a Twitter widget on every page rather than linking it so that it will be easier for people to find my website and my tweets will be displayed and hopefully further encourage people to follow me on Twitter. People like to see what others tweet about and get a feel for them before they choose to follow them on most occasions.

I think I’m still a bit anxious when it comes to coding, but I’ve definitely come a long way. I was constantly afraid of breaking things or messing things up before and my anxiety towards math blocked me from grasping the concept of grid-based coding. I have since overcome a bit of my fears. Grid-based design is frustrating and complicated, but once you learn it it is not all that bad. I have also learned how to use comments in coding. This took me awhile to understand, but once I figured it out it proved to be useful in helping me to remember what different pieces of codes were. For example, I had many </div> tags in my codes and sometimes it got confusing to remember what exactly it was coding. With comments I could write exactly what they were doing. In addition, If I wanted to test something to see how it looked before deciding to drastically and permanently change it, I could just comment out the original code. This would keep the codes, but block them from showing up. I did this when I was figuring out how to use the slideshow. I blocked out the codes for the feature articles in containers I originally was using. Once I had my slideshow set and decided on using that I deleted the comments to clean up the codes a bit, but prior to that moment commenting them out proved to be immensely helpful.

If I had more time or skills I think I would’ve liked to explore the idea of using a carousel. I think the slideshow served me well, but I’d like to examine how a carousel would’ve been different and seen first hand which option was better. I liked how our class was focused extensively on hand-coding. Everyone I talk to outside of class about it finds it interesting because so few people can do it. However, I do wish we could’ve done just a little bit with dreamweaver or another program. I think it would have been neat to hand-code everything for several weeks and towards the end be exposed to dreamweaver so we could fully understand the differences and what makes hand-coding more unique or personal. I know about dreamweaver from tech friends that use it and I know a lot of companies use it but having no experience with it myself I don’t really know what it does or just why hand-coding is better except for what our textbooks say about it. It would be cool to experience the best of both worlds, but I agree that learning to do it by hand first is more important and beneficial for us.


When I first began designing my website I don’t think I really knew what I wanted to do with it. I was trying to reflect on the work I do, especially social media/internet writing, but I had no idea how to go about it. I felt like I had to tell people what I did…I didn’t know how to “show” it.

As I read more and more about emotional and responsive design throughout the semester it began to make more sense to me. Ea conference with Dr. Wolff proved to be immensely helpful. I am very thankful for all of the help and guidance he has given me as I designed my website. I remember one of the most important things that he taught me through our initial conference was to focus on my work and not myself. In the early stages of my website my home page was just a huge instagramed picture of myself and an “about” page that read more like a biography than a writer’s statement. It was not very emotional. It also didn’t use the grid-based approach because I didn’t understand how to use it and therefore neglected it altogether.

During that conference Dr. Wolff explained the grid-based approach to me once again in a way that made more sense than the book did. I learned how to break my website into little pieces using boxes/containers and began to brainstorm different ideas for how to display my work. The idea of showing feature articles on my homepage came up and I decided to take down my photograph. It’s not important for users to see me on this website, it is my work that they should be focused on.

The first attempt at showing off my feature articles was using three of them in separate containers. This sounded like a good idea, but turned out to be a disaster. The website always looked very cluttered. I fixed it when I added padding…but the website was very “fragile”. It seemed like every time I changed the slightest thing with it the padding would get lost or messed up and everything would display wrong with text outside of containers or containers overlapping, etc. I was never very happy with this style, but I didn’t really know anything else to do.

When Dr. Wolff showed our class how to use slideshows it turned out to be the solution to my problem. With the slideshow I was able to  completely eliminate all of the cluttered boxes and to just use the slideshow to feature screenshots of my article. This was a very beneficial way for me to show people my work directly without having to tell them about it. I was able to use the remaining grid space for my Twitter widget. Twitter is a big part of the work that I do and I am an avid tweeter. When people search me on Google Twitter is one of the first things to show up. By adding Twitter on nearly all of my pages people will be able to find my website more easily.

The only real thing to focus on/problem I was having after the slideshow was the font. My original fonts were just default/basic fonts that were boring and unemotional. I needed to find lesser known or custom fonts. I loved using Google Fonts because they were so easy to install which was helpful for someone new and inexperienced in coding like myself. I sometimes had trouble choosing fonts that gave my website a personality, yet were easy to read. My initial choice was called Englebert. It looked good on Google, but on my website when I used it with big bodies of text it was difficult to read and on smaller devices like iPads and cellphones it clumped together. I needed to try something new.

englebert-font-difficult-to-read

Photograph shows Englebert font at different sizes. The smaller the font, the harder it becomes to read.

My next choice was Josefin + Slab. This font was more simple, yet elegant. I tested it at different sizes and it seemed to be fairly easy to read from a number of font sizes. I liked this one because while it was personal and gave off a “handwritten” feel, it was still easy to read.

josefin+slab-is-easy-to-read

I wanted the headers to stand out from the other text so I kept them orange and used another font – Bubblegum Sans. I liked this font because I thought it was fun and playful and helped to give the website even more personality and keep it from being too serious or boring.

 

homepage-shows-orange-bubblegum-text

Overall I think I’ve come along way with my website and I am pleased with the progress I have made. If I had more time or skills I would like to try to have my own handwriting serve for the basis of the font to make it even more personal. I also would’ve liked to do more with social media pages. I tried in the very early stages but had trouble getting the buttons to all work and look good together, so I ended up scraping the idea and focusing on other ideas instead.


My second website conference with Dr. Wolff was immensely helpful. I realized one of my biggest problems was in font size/design. My font size was way too big for pretty much everything on my website and it was making things look really cluttered. I may also want to consider changing my font. Right now it’s Trebuchet, but I may want something a little bit more simple so it keeps it from looking too cluttered as well.

I felt the need to have my font size really big and to use colors throughout to make things stand out more, but it wasn’t really working. It just made everything look like a cluttered mess full of text and boxes. I am learning now to use the boxes to my advantage. By adding padding to the inside text and margins outside the box I can separate the different boxes and the text to make the content stand out more and not run together without seeming too “loud”. The orange titles look nice, but with the smaller font it can be difficult to read. I have been using the orange because it matches my blog, but maybe I should reconsider using black or another color or even a darker shade of orange.

My widgets were another problem. I felt like they were overbearing and taking away from my articles which I wanted to be the main attraction on my website. The GoodReads widget wasn’t really necessary. Twitter is important to have, but I may keep it off of the first page and just include it on all of the other pages instead. I think I should tweak with the code a bit to make it look more natural on my website though. Some other things I need to do with my sub-pages is delete the content on the About page and replace it with the content on the writer’s statement page, change the name of the writing samples page, and working on how the content is displayed. Professor Wolff suggested for my writing samples page to feature the articles with the title and date in order from most recent to least and to have that contained in one large box with the twitter widget off to the side. I think this may be a better way to display it so that it  looks less overwhelming and the text is easier to read.

I feel like I have a much better understanding of what to do for my website and what changes need to be made and why now. I feel a lot more confident about how to approach my website and I’m  eager for the final designs.


Lately I’ve felt a bit stuck on the whole coding/web design thing. I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to get the boxes/content to work well together. I have everything with that “working” now, but I can’t truly say I’m happy with how it looks. I feel like everything is really cluttered and squished together. Responsive? perhaps. Emotional web design? No, not really. I don’t think it’s doing much justice for my work at all or showing much of who I am as a writer.

My problem seems to be that I don’t really know what to do or how to do it at this point. I just kind of feel stuck in the stage. In time I suppose for project 3 I’d like to add a carousel of my articles. Something similar to how the Rowan website alternates between different articles relating to the University, but I feel like I don’t know where to go prior to that stage.

I’m starting to consider removing the Twitter and GoodReads article so I have more room on the grid for a third article or to increase the width of the articles. That might work better. I think it’s more important to have the articles stand out and look better than the widgets anyway. Instead of using the widgets I could always link my social media pages to a different page on the website.

I have been trying to look at different websites for blogs that I have worked with in the past or that I feel resemble what I might like to do with my website such as BitRebels.com, AroundPhilly.com, and CloudItGuru.com for inspiration. I’ve always been a big fan of the design featured throughout BitRebels.com, but I know that it is really complicated. When I view the css/html involved it makes my head spin with all of the various codes. I am afraid that it is well beyond my skill level at the moment.

I am looking forward to my next conference with Dr. Wolff on Thursday afternoon to hopefully gain some new ideas and insights so that I know what to do and where to go with my website. I know that although I feel stuck now, this feeling will soon past as I gain inspiration and skills needed to take my website to the next step of web design and make it more professional and reflective of my skills and who I am as a writer.


My website, despite going through drastic changes and having the feeling that it’s beginning to “come together” more is still a bit of a mess. There is still much left to do to make it look like a professional, responsive, emotional website that I can be proud of. With that being said, here are some questions/issues I would like to work out:

 

1. The text in the  boxes. Some of it is overflowing a bit and some of it is running over the pictures. I’m wondering if I should increase the width of the boxes, increase the height of the boxes, or so something to the text to fix it. I found a website that mentions for text overflow you may need to add some tags to css to prevent overflow such as :

 

<div id="myDiv">
    stuff 
</div>

#myDiv {
    overflow:hidden;
}

 

but I’m not really sure which one to tweak with.

 

2. Navigation bar. It’s beginning to be broken into a double-bar, which is a mess. I think I should adjust the size of the buttons or possible see about removing some of them to fix this.

 

3. Over-all layout on the index page. I want the feature articles to stand out more and the Twitter and GoodReads widgets to be more even and balanced with the rest of the page.

 

4. Writing Samples page: I need to do something about the Suicide and Avant articles to make the page more even. I need to either resize them or link to them on separate pages or something.

 

5. Contact page: Still debating on whether or not to keep this.



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