Michael G's Blog

Week 3 – Client Survey/Industry Analysis

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelg1980 on October 28, 2009

Client Survey >> Vixen Productions

link to Vixen Prodcutions myspace site


General Information:

  1. Who has the final approval of the project?
    1. Deanna and Kim (Vixen Partners and owners)
  2. When would you like to launch the site?
    1. We aren’t in a rush since we have alternate web profiles available in the meantime
  3. Do you have a specific budget for a website?  How about $200?
    1. Is this for domain and hosting services? Our budget is as shoestring as possible.

Current Site:

  1. Do you think visitors to your current myspace site like it? don’t like it?  don’t care?  find it useful?
    1. Yes, we have received positive feedback regarding our artwork and we get regular traffic. However, we are currently struggling with the profile’s layout – when I pull it up its a bit wonky on my screen and needs to be fixed
    2. We send out friend requests weekly
  2. What things about the myspace site do you like or find useful?
    1. calendar, updatable music player, easy contact, photo album, blog
    2. Kim’s favorite tool is Event invitations. We can personally invite everyone easily and they can share it and post it on their own sites
  3. What things don’t you like about it?  What two or three things would you change about it?
    1. We might change the way it reaches outside our current friends
    2. Updating: install applications easier, like photo viewers, or updating not just our events, but events that aren’t official Vixen productions that we are indirectly linked to and want to promote, for example, Deanna’s band Velvet Brick
  4. Has anyone told you how they feel about your myspace site?  If so, how long ago, and what did they say?
    1. People like our artwork and the photo albums
    2. The photos are one of our most important promotional tools, serving as event examples that make people want to come to future events
  5. How important is it to maintain your current look and feel (logo, style, etc.)?
    1. We are open to design as long as it keeps with nightlife vibe. It must be edgy and provocative without being cheesy or trashy.
    2. Note that our chrome logo has become our standard log and is on our current business card so we will continue to use it whether we have  variations or not on the website

Reasons for New Site:

  1. What are your one or two main objectives with the new site?  What are your secondary objectives? (ex: increased bookings, company awareness, etc.)
    1. To promote current events and build a reputation
    2. To draw clients and increase booking

Audience Desired Action:

  1. How would you describe a typical visitor of your current site?  How often do they visit?  What age, what type of music are they into, what might they do for a living?
    1. Hip people ages 21-40 looking for something to do on the weekend. They enjoy live music – all genres, drink alcohol and go to clubs and bars
    2. We have a very wide audience we are trying to reach so they are everything from students to laborers to professionals
  2. What is the number one thing you want site visitors to do when coming to your site? (book an event, come to an event, look at photos, post a comment…)
    1. It has 2 equal parts – come to an event and hire us for future ones
  3. For your main audience, what makes Vixen Productions unique compared to other event planning companies?
    1. VP is geared towards booking themed parties/events in clubs and bars.
    2. What makes our events special is Troupe Vixen. Our troupe of ladies that carry out the party theme through costumed entertainment. We create the atmosphere so that keeps the party going at all times.
    3. Our live shows create an energy and atmosphere that showcase the music – band or DJ – in a different fashion, making what might be a regular night in Austin that more exciting
  4. How many people, do you think, access your site on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?  Do you think traffic would increase after a new site launch?
    1. We have weekly traffic, numbers unsure, but could double with the right webpage through promotions and launch


  1. What are a few adjectives you’d want visitors to use when describing your new site? (ex: friendly, hardcore, spontaneous, etc.)
    1. fun, hot, exciting, inviting, hip
  2. How do you think Vixen Productions is currently perceived offline?
    1. We are building a reputation for being the women you want to party with– bands want to play our parties and people want to be at our parties
      Our Vixens are seen as fun, smoking hot, and generally good-girls (believe it or not), who are popular and have tons of friends
      We also known for being well organized on multiple levels, from promotions to decor to execution, while maintaining a good positive energy at the party.
      Kim and Deanna are also known for their connections
  3. List some websites you find interesting or compelling.
    1. This is the closest company I could find that would serve as an example, however, I don’t care for their layout with the streaming text boxes and we want to be a bit edgier – http://www.freshwata.com


  1. Who will be responsible for creating/uploading new content (event info, photos,..) to the new site?  You, Ken, your photographer?
    1. Kim and Deanna maintain everything equally but eventually a we’d like to have a webmaster
    2. Deanna usually covers all artwork and photos
    3. Kim usually covers updating events and the calendar
  2. What are some things from your myspace site would you want to carry over to the new site?  (Logo, music, pictures, graphics, the way things are organized…)
    1. As mentioned above, we are open to new design with approval so feel free to get creative and/or use what’s up there. Deanna is a graphic designer so you can ask her for copies and adjustments to what’s online
    2. Carry over music and photo albums
    3. If its possible, the capabilities to send event invitations – this may be similar to a newsletter-type of application
  3. I envision the new site taking the main things focused on in your myspace site (new event info, music, past event photos, blog) and making them more branded and streamlined into an easy navigable site.  Is this on target?  How do you envision your new site?
    1. Yes! It sounds like you have a good feel for our wants and needs. As long as its got flair and ease to load and navigate


  1. What type of computer (mac, pc) and browser (internet explorer, firefox) do you think the majority of visitors to your site would use?
    1. Maybe whatever the most popular standards are. If we had to guess, pc and internet explorer?


  1. How do most people find out about your site?  (word of mouth, searching myspace,…)
    1. Word of mouth
  2. Do you have any marketing plans following the launch of the new site?
    1. Yes. We plan on having a Vixen Productions company launch party once we get our basic business needs met – not just the website. This will most likely be in late March or April after SXSW.
  3. How often do you think you would update the site (with pictures, event info,…) (once a day, week)?
    1. Weekly and immediately following an event


  1. Is there anything else you think I should know before designing your new site?
    1. We need to make sure bands and performers are highlighted
    2. We need to make sure anyone interested, no matter where they are located, can reach us for bookings, info, participating – may want to set up emails addresses @vixenproductions.com events@vp.com etc..  we also want to make sure that if there is any info on getting involved

Industry Analysis >> Austin Event Planners

link to The Simplifiers websiteThe Simplifiers

The clarity of the navigation, when you first get to the site, is pretty poor. The main navigation is discreetly located on the home page, in among the main content area.  And, just about all of the graphics there are clickable.  No clear labels about what will take you where.  You just end up clicking everything to see where it goes.  Once you get your bearings though, the information is pretty clear and thorough.

The design of the site, while not particularly harmonious, is positive and friendly, and I found myself almost enjoying the fifties/sixties schtick of the images.  It gives the impression that the people running “The Simplifiers” company genuinely enjoy what they do.  A definite plus.

“The Simplifiers” offer similar services to my client, Vixen Productions, so I would definitely call them a close competitor. Although, compared to my Vixen’s myspace page, “The Simplifiers” website implies a more wholesome event planning experience.  The Simplifiers event, wedding planning, concierge services to Vixen’s event planning that maximizes the “local scene for your partying pleasure.”    Another reason I consider them a close competitor is because of their size. Both “Simplifiers” and “Vixens” are small and would likely attract similarly minded customers.  Those looking to plan an event, but nothing out of control huge.

Event Production Services (EPS)link to EPS website

Clear, consistent site organization. Kinda grungy/worn in look of the border, conveys a feeling of experience.  This feeling is further enhanced when you look at their “Clients” section (ACL Fest, Keep Austin Weird Fest, Fun/Fun/Fun Fest).  Each section of the website conveys a sense that EPS can do (and has done) large scale event planning.

From an aesthetic standpoint the site design isn’t great, but it’s functional, rugged, and consistent. It’s the breadth and prestige of their content that makes this website strong (i.e the client list).

“Event Production Services” do offer similar services to Vixen in the way of handling/hiring vendors, musical talent, and event staff, it just does so on a much larger scale.  Because of this, I’d say “EPS” is a distant, direct competitor.

link to Austin Party Planners websiteAustin Party Planners

Really, basic, template looking website. Essentially, little more than a digital postcard, detailing a list of the party/event options they offer.  Not very confidence inducing.  The only page that gets into detail is the “Packages” page, and even here it only has details for a children’s birthday party.  Bare minimum here, in terms of navigation, design and information.  Unimpressive.

From the short list of party options they list on the home page, it appears “Austin Party Planners” is a direct competitor to my client, but judging from the website, it’s not nearly as hedonistic as “Vixen” appears on their myspace page.  A direct, but unimpressive competitor.


Week 2 – Article Review >>”The Site Development Process”

Posted in Intermediate Scripting by michaelg1980 on October 20, 2009

Article Review >>
“The Site Development Process”

Link to article "The Site Development Process"

Web Style Guide's article "The Site Development Process"

In a Perfect World.

Woman Web Style Guide’s extremely thorough article on how to develop, design, deploy, and maintain a “large website.”  In a perfect world, this is the way all websites would be made, and I believe to some extent each of the stages touched in the article should be discussed and worked through (from site definition and planning to information architecture, site design, site construction, site marketing, all the way to tracking/evaluation and maintenance).  But, realistically, I think the process of making and maintaining websites for 90% of the population is a much more organic and “back and forth” process; make something, see what works, see what doesn’t and make adjustments.  Sure, steps and procedures should be taken to avoid obvious problems and create obvious bonuses before launch, but beyond that, I think a large degree of flexibility and uncertainty should be embraced, if possible, in designing, deploying, and maintaining websites.  Not unlike starting a business, or making friends, or any other endeavor for that matter.

Plan Loose.

Hang LoosePlan loose I say.  Do your best to plan using what you know and have at your disposal, but try to accept that, more than likely, there’s a whole lot you can’t plan for and understand until after the fact; after deployment, after making changes.  Like how users are going to respond to (not care) whether the navigation is on the side or on top.  Especially, if you’re a small to medium sized company developing a website.  I mean, the extent of checklists and processes described in the Web Style Guide’s article, time-wise, not to mention, resource wise, are exhausting and, well, pretty boring.  Plan loose. Know what you want to do with your website, and a basic idea of how you want to do it, test out a few ideas, then go for it. If you planned loosely, there should be room to move around, make adjustments and respond to how users are using/not using your site.  Next time, you’ll do it better. (Most of the time)

Time is Short.  Do it now.

Long processes, like the one described in this article, take a lot of time, and in the present, and definitely in the future, time between change is shrinking.  So the impetus is to be flexible and changeable.  To make changes, make mistakes, but, to please, make them now.  While you’re planning, others are making, falling down, and learning.  Loads more than you can ever hope to plan for.  Have a good idea of what you want, but be willing to let it go for a better one that your users present you with.  Be flexible, plan loose, do it now.


Week 1 – Website Evaluation >>Dropular.net

Posted in Intermediate Scripting by michaelg1980 on October 14, 2009

Website Evaluation >>Dropular.net

My favorite website.  Lately.

My favorite website lately.

Message and Communication:

Characteristics of effective communication in general

  1. Speak clearly and to the point.
    • “There’s really no text, save for a brief description in the title that says “Dropular – Media Bookmarking,” and if you count link names as text.  I’d never heard of “media bookmarking,” but I kinda got the idea.  A place with lots of bookmarks to stuff.  So, while I had an initial idea what the site was about and got an even clearer picture once I started digging around, to start, the intent of the site is a little fuzzy.  After digging though, the value of the site becomes pretty apparent.  A huge, searchable, visual database to some of the latest in design, photography, and culture.”
  2. Be consistent in how you present information.
    • “The feel of the site is consistent and visually appealing.  There are two different layouts that the visitor encounters.  One for viewing the visual bookmarks as a list or gird, and one , after you click a “bookmark”, that displays what you clicked and has recommendations of similar things you might like.  Besides these two, there are about 12 different ways to view the site. The different views are temporal (i.e. recent bookmarks, today’s, this weeks, etc.) All feel the same.”
  3. Say something interesting.
    • “The site itself doesn’t post any blog text, but if it speaks through its “bookmarks”,  Holy fuck, what a statement.  Incredibly interesting and provocative.  I spend at least an hour each day combing through the various visual “bookmarks.”
  4. Speak in the same language as your audience.
    • “Again the site doesn’t verbally “say” anything, but as someone in its prime audience, I can say it definitely “speaks” my language. It’s a visual language of what’s cool.”

Guidelines for effective communication specific to web sites

  1. Web pages need to indicate their connection to a website and to the internet in the way they organize and present information.  Primarily through brevity and links.
    • “Well, the site definitely has brevity down, and the content is essentially all links so, the website clearly has connections between it’s own pages as well as connection to the sites elsewhere.”
  2. Each web page needs to present self-contained ideas that don’t rely on other pages for a point to be made.
    • “The intent of the the site seems to be to show inspiring images that link to either other pages within the site or to other websites, so in this regard, each page of the site is easily self contained…as well as inherently linked to the ‘whole.’ “
  3. Web sites need to rely on a “rugged” organizational structure that can withstand the minor or major tweaks that occur due to different browsers, settings, monitors and the like.
    • “Here too this site particularly well made in its ability to adapt to different size screens, browsers, and settings.  As long as you have flash that is.”
  4. Web pages need to communicate things as simply as they can.  No simpler.
    • “Can’t get much simpler than titles, pictures and links.”

Navigation and site organization

  1. Use conventions.  Headers, navigation, links, grids, etc.
    • “This is where the site loses a few points.  The navigation is small and all the way up in the upper left and in the upper right hand corner of the browser window.  As well there are three separate links on each visual ‘bookmark’ to navigate to different pages. The upper left navigation’s function isn’t clear until you click all that’s clickable.  And, although the functions of the other navigation is clearer, I initially missed it entirely. I would have grouped all the elements together.  As for the three different links on each bookmark, you have to click ’em first to understand how the site works.  Not very clear here.”
  2. Make it obvious where visitors are in a site and make it easy to move around.
    • “Sadly, here again, the site loses points.  The only part of the website that could be considered a homepage is the “Recent” category which you arrive at when you enter in the url which lists/girds the most recent items to be bookmarked. And, while there is a title for each page in the upper left, it’s easy to miss considering the noise of the picture links.  However, after perusing the site a bit, it seems that orientation is not the intent. Inspiration is.”
  3. If a website is more than a few pages, incorporate a search function, that is available on every page.
    • “Yup it’s got it, and lord knows it needs it.”

Characteristics of good content and content presentation

  1. Good content says something interesting or valuable in a clear and unique way.
    • “If pictures speak a thousand words, Dropular.net says a bazillion.  Loads upon loads of illustrations, designs, photography.  Lots of stuff.  And, it “says” it quite minimally which works incredibly well, allowing the bookmark content to be the real star.”
  2. Speaks with a human voice.
    • “This website is like the voice of your coolest friend’s older brother.”
  3. Scannable pages that appreciate the varied interest levels of visitors by making use of titles, headers, topic sentences, and minor point callouts.
    • “Not really.  The title is pretty small and easy to miss, but in terms of spreading out content to allow what interests you to pop out, this site is a star.”

Visual Design:

Design principles that promote visual clarity and simplicity

  1. White space gives emphasis as well as allows breathing room in a design.
    • “Depending on what view your looking at the site with, there are various amounts of white space to break up or highlight the content, which works pretty well to highlight the content and give a clean feel.”
  2. A clear visual hierarchy helps viewers decode a page or design.
    • “The visual hierarchy is pretty simple.  The content alone is king on this site.  Save for tiny titles, spilt navigation, and small text url links.”
  3. Unity groups things that are similar in content, appearance, or function.
    • “The navigation, like I said earlier is split, so that’s not good.  But aside from that, the unity derives from the list or gridded display of delicious visual bookmarks.”

Page layout principles that help users visually negotiate page and site organization.

  1. Alignment helps create order, groups items together and makes the page easier to read.
    • “This site uses pretty clean alignment in the top navigation sections as well as how the content aligns with left and right borders of the browser window.  Alignment in between items in “grid” view looks kinda choppy though.”
  2. Contrast whether in color, shape, size, or orientation help viewers distinguish different sections of a site.
    • “The main contrast of the site is between the white background and visual bookmark content, which I’m sure is the point.”
  3. Use of the principle of Action, such as an shape, or color, directs the viewers to certain elements on a page.
    • “I didn’t see any elements on the page that suggest specific action.  Deciding what to do once you get to the site is a matter of simply clicking around.”

Design fundamentals most critical to good web design.

  1. Use conventions (ex: placement of navigation, look of links, headers).
    • “The placement of the horizontal navigation and miniscule title at the top of the page seems to be the only noticeable convention.  Oh, and it uses a sloppy grid in grid mode.”
  2. Alignment helps create order and groupings to make a page easier to read (ex: columns)
    • “This site uses pretty clean alignment in the top navigation sections as well as how the content aligns with left and right borders of the browser window.  Alignment in between items in “grid” view looks kinda choppy though.”
  3. A clear visual hierarchy lets viewers know what’s most important and least important.
    • “The visual hierarchy is pretty simple.  Visual bookmark content #1.  Everything else is like #10.  But, of course as I’ve said and will probably continue to say in this “Evaluation Framework,” that’s the point.  It’s all about the inspiration.”

Color Design:

Guidelines for how/why to select a color palette

  1. Colors can trigger different emotions, especially depending on what country you’re from.  Primary colors, red, yellow, and blue, evoke an innocence and childlike feeling, while more subtle hues and shades, like lavender, gray, and rose, impart a more sophisticated attitude.
    • “The color palette for Dropular is pretty muted, using grays and blacks and white, but it suits well what the site is shooting for I think. Sophisticated underground artist, fashion/graphic designer, architect.”
  2. Harmonious combinations can be found using complementary colors, two colors found opposite each other on the color wheel, as well as tertiary colors, colors that form a triangle on the color wheel.
    • “Like I just said, it’s pretty basic. No frills.  Like an art gallery really.”
  3. Use of color and color combinations should be informed by the intent of what you’re designing.
    • “Being that the purpose of the site is to act as a repository of various types of inspiration for creatives, yeah I think the minimal black, white, and gray, color combo works.”

Principles of color use specifically helpful for effective web page design

  1. Color should be used as a secondary element to bolster and emphasize the organization of a site.
    • “Color is definitely not a primary feature of the site.  It makes the navigation and title fall quietly in the background like a butler.  Which is kinda of annoying when you first get to the site, but if you’re the target audience, you get over it really quick.”
  2. Colors should be used in coordination with the intent of the site (i.e to sell appliances vs. to teach soothing meditation).
    • “Yup, muted colors suit the intent.”
  3. It’s important to take into account how different colors interact with each other and how this interaction works or doesn’t work with the intent of your site.
    • “Very little interaction and noise between colors.”

Test #2

Posted in Uncategorized by michaelg1980 on October 8, 2009

How’s this image look?