Island will be giving a talk titled Function vs. Form: Building a Website with Purpose. With so many tools out there such as Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly, it’s actually quite easy these days to build a nice looking website, without needing know how to code. This is great, cost-effective solution for startups and small businesses when done right. In this talk we’ll cover some common pitfalls people make, which turn their website from a useful sales and lead generation tool, into just a piece of eye-candy.
We don’t always get asked to do Spec Work, but when we do it reminds of us this video from a few years ago.
In nearly every case we’ve experienced, it is never the client’s intent to receive free work, they are simply not aware of what they are requesting. There is just something about design that makes people think we can just whip it together, and they can pick their favourite. Maybe it’s because good design is typically made to look simple and effortless. However good design requires strategy, and consultation with the client and target audience, and also relies on years of education and experience.
“There must be collaboration between the client and the designer, for design to be an effective business asset.”
We don’t do spec work because it leads to subpar results. It also has a negative impact on the design industry as a whole, leading to work being undervalued, and promoting unethical practices. If you want to learn more, check out nospec.com or watch the video below.
This past December Island ran a contest to give a deserving company or individual in Saskatoon a new website. It was our way to give back to the community, the best way we knew how. We are super excited with the winner we chose: Naomi Zurevinski.
Naomi has been working on a project called “This is My Self”, which is dedicated to sharing stories of self-love and to inspire people to embrace who they truly are. The project was born out of her own desire to create a space where she would be able to share her story, and the stories of others, while promoting better self-confidence, self-respect, and self-love for everyone.
For me, choosing Naomi as the winner was a no-brainer. As a father of a nine year-old girl, I already see the importance of self-love and confidence. I know her best defense against bullies, friends, boyfriends or girlfriends, or anyone else who tries to put her down is to be proud of herself for who she is. If there is anything I can do to help promote the message of self-love and recognizing every individual as special, then I feel I owe it to her to do that.
Naomi’s hope for the project is that it can be “…an outlet for people to share their struggles, and how they learned to accept themselves as they are”. Island is thrilled to have the opportunity to design a website that will have a profound impact on so many people. It seems like a dauntless endeavor, but working with Naomi, we’re hoping to deliver amazing results. We officially kicked off the project last week and can’t wait to share the progress as the This Is My Self website begins to take shape!
We all have them. When you’ve been building websites, or doing anything for a number of years, you’re bound to pick up some bad habits. The first step in dropping a bad habit is to identify it. That’s why we’re always doing code reviews, and reviewing each others work on a regular basis. We also have a formal review session every week, and after the launch of each website. These “retrospectives” focus around one question: what can we do better?
2. Shed some weight
Every website we build, we want to be as lightweight as possible. This keeps webpages loading fast so your users don’t get frustrated and move on to the next site. We accomplish this by minifying our code, and optimizing images based on your user’s screen size. In addition to this, we’ll continue to follow our “less is more” approach, keeping our designs light with white space, and organizing sitemaps in a simplified manner.
3. Learn something new
One of our core values is humility, which means we are never done learning. In 2017 we’re setting aside specific time for self-improvement. This means we’re taking online classes through websites like Skillshare and Treehouse. We’ll also be bringing back our knowledge sharing sessions called “Island Talks”. This is an opportunity for any of our staff to present to the team about anything related to websites, design, marketing, or anything else relevant to our work. Keep an eye out as we’ll post them to our website as they happen.
4. Sleep more
For the past couple of months we’ve been working with Sleepwell Consulting, providing them with a redesigned website and new branding. We’re fortunate enough to learn from every client we work with, and the value of quality sleep was a lesson I for one needed to learn. The tradeoff in productivity, quality, and efficiency during daytime hours far outweighs any work done after the fifth cup of coffee late at night.
Island is looking for a website developer to join our team. The ideal candidate is a self-starter who cares more about blowing clients away than the bottom line. If you’re looking for a position with room for learning, growth, and the ability to contribute in all aspects of a business, then drop us a line.
Our week just got a whole lot better because our partners and clients at SREDA won EDAC’s (the Economic Developers Association of Canada) Marketing Canada Award! SREDA was recognized for their newly developed website and was judged across 12 categories related to marketing. We also want to shoutout Townfolio for developing the regional profiles included within the site.
Not only are we thrilled for our partners, we are also excited that we had the chance to contribute our expertise to the web redesign. When we first met with SREDA, they expressed concern that their site was outdated and didn’t appeal to their target audience. As we collaborated with them we were able to develop a unique homepage which highlighted SREDA’s six pillars and gave a small preview of each. The unique design of the website allows it to stand out against similar organizations while creating greater engagement throughout the entire website.
This award means more to us than just a well designed website- it also highlights the potential impact SREDA’s site can have on promoting Saskatoon as a great place to live and work. We are thrilled to have worked with a meaningful organization that has the ability to bring people, investments, and change to the Saskatoon area!
Congratulations SREDA and we look forward to working with you again!
It’s small business week- which is a great excuse for us, as a small business, to share some tools, resources, and other businesses that we find really helpful.
This week Square One Saskatoon is offering a variety of different business seminars to share some valuable information with entrepreneurs and small business owners. Although they are hosting some awesome information sessions this week, Square One provides valuable resources all year long. Be sure to check out their small business checklist.
As we mentioned in our Island Treasures: Saskatoon Edition, Ideas Inc. is a great affordable workspace– especially for budding entrepreneurs, as they offer so much more than just a place to set up your laptop. Ideas Inc. offers a lot of helpful information to its tenants to help drive their success.
Another fellow resident of Ideas Inc., and one of our partner/collaborators is Lift Accounting. They are a small business that helps other small businesses by handling all of their accounting needs. Getting started on a new business is hard enough, let the accounting professionals handle your expenses and taxes.
Another way to help get your small business organized, is to get set up with the right productivity and project management tools. Luckily- the interweb is a great place to find these. At Island, we use Trello, which is a task management system that is great for laying out tasks into different stages of completion. You can determine task priority, comment on specific tasks, and add team members to tasks. But the best part is- it’s free!
In case you’ve never heard of it, this little company called Google offers GSuite as a great option for business owners to manage email, shared documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. For a small fee per month you can have access to all of Google’s online apps and set up personalized emails for your business.
This day and age it’s rare to have a home, or even an office phone if your business is small enough. But sometimes you don’t want to be handing your cell phone number out like free candy on Halloween. We recommend a virtual phone system, which can assign either a 1-800 or a local number to your business and the calls will come through to your cell phone. You can add multiple users, and choose between a variety of plans to find the most cost effective option for you. We use Evoice, it is low cost and offers the features we need!
For any small business whose focus isn’t marketing, learning basic strategies and lingo can be a little overwhelming. Skillshare is a great website that helps with that basic knowledge and will give you the marketing foundations you need to properly promote your business.
From one small business to another- we hope this helps!
For this edition of Island Treasures, we thought we would share some of our favourite finds in Saskatoon. The good news is that we thought of a lot of ideas, so look forward to more editions featuring the amazing things Saskatoon has to offer, from food, to coffee, to business solutions!
Road Coffee: Mixtape Espresso
Alisha Esmail started Road Coffee and the company’s mission is to “become an influential innovator in coffee culture, known for our focus on relationships and inspiring people to pursue their dreams”.
A few of the Island crew have bumped into Alisha from time to time at Drift Cafe and really love what she’s doing, and of course the beans Road is making. Although we haven’t made our way through the whole product line yet, our personal favourite thus far has been the Mixtape espresso. Click here to pickup a bag for yourself!
UNA Pizzeria: The Broadway
A couple of nights ago Andrew decided that for his birthday he wanted to head to UNA for a pizza. In the past he’s seen “The Broadway” on the menu and been intrigued, yet ended up opting for a safer bet. This was not the case this time around and he decided that he would wonder no more what the mystical Broadway would taste like. Very stoically Andrew described his experience as “Maple Syrup on a Pizza…..It works.” Click here to checkout UNA’s menu, and next time you’re wondering where to eat, just take our word for it and go to UNA.
Ideas Inc: Launchpad
We’ve been tenants of Ideas inc for a little while now and have enjoyed our time here in Riversdale immensely. Recently with SREDA they put together a new program called the Launch Pad that provides super affordable workspace for startups. The spaces start at $99/month and give you everything from a mailbox, to coaching, to boardroom access. Also being here you have the luxury of being attached to the Farmers Market! Click here to learn more about the Launch Pad.
We have some pretty great clients here at Island. Not only are they great to work with, but they are involved in some amazing projects that we think you should know about. The Global Indigenous Runway takes place this Saturday and is being put together by some incredible people.
This fashion show features talented Indigenous designers, models, and production talent from around the world. Additionally, the event serves as a kick off for the Indigenous Runway Project Leadership Program, which seeks to build the confidence and self-esteem of First Nations and Native American youth.
Alexandra Jarrett, our partner at Lift Accounting, is working with Her 4 Directions as a collaborator on the Indigenous Runway Leadership Program. Her 4 Directions, a Saskatoon-based collective, promotes Indigenous designers and creates awareness about important issues.
So there you have it- an event where you are not only supporting beautiful collections of clothing by Indigenous people from around the world- you are also supporting local Saskatoon organizations and programs to build a better future for First Nations youth.