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Announcing a Business in 5 Easy Steps

  1. New logo
  2. New business cards
  3. New website
  4. New office
  5. Announce business to friends, colleagues, and business contacts (this email)

Some of you may know that Sharp Guys Web Design has been going strong for 3 years as a part time business. Today, I’m incredibly excited to officially announce its creation as a full time operation.

My family is excited as well – and we went all out on our advertising budget to really promote this thing the right way.

Just take a look at the pic below.







So as a friend, former colleague, or acquaintance that I like (probably better than you like me), I need your help –  I need you to remember Sharp Guys Web Design.

My 5 second pitch – digital marketing is our bread and butter; websites, landing pages, lead generation, copywriting, graphic design, etc.

So, how can you help?  As an example – you’re at a party and someone really interesting is chatting to you incessantly about their marketing needs – BOOM.  Sharp Guys Web Design.

In all seriousness, this is a journey I wanted to share with each of you and the website has a ton more details.  Check it out, share it on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn if you’re so inclined and stay in touch.  I promise not to email you again about this announcement.  I just wanted to share the exciting news.


Cody Sharp

Original newsletter sent out 9/15/14


Creative Web Design and Content Mean Nothing – Conform or Die

There is an old Harry Chapin song called ‘Flowers are Red’.  It details a story of forced conformity – in it, a teacher tells a creative lad, “Flowers are red, green leaves are green, there is no need to see flowers any other way than the way they always have been seen.”  In a world where creativity is just as often spurned as it is cherished, the song’s message about being careful not to kill creativity in our youth still rings just as true today as it did decades earlier.  Creativity should be celebrated but when it comes to web design and content creation for businesses, not only is it not embraced, it isn’t even worth considering.

The most popular websites in the land conform – they conform to what Google deems good design, to what users are used to, to what technologies are able to effectively showcase their content, and how shareable something is.  And while there are thousands of very creatively done websites, that creativity means little without equally relevant content that gets people to your website to share that content.  The system just isn’t made for amazing web design or complex content – it is made for amazingly shareable content that is easily presented and simple for both people and search engine spiders to understand.  It is made for standardization, easy crawlability, etc.  Conform or die – or worse, work hard and never have your work seen.

Chapin at the end of his song says, “But still there must be a way to have our children say – There are so many colors in the rainbow, so many colors in the setting sun, so many colors in the flower and I see every one.”  I hope my kids hear that message loud and clear and never fall under the tryanny of a strict boss or doltish teacher, but I also hope they don’t grow up to work with websites – there is no room out here for anything other than red flowers, green leaves and standardized web design.

All WordPress Themes Are Not Created Equal – Pick the Right One

Well, I tried. I loved the Envision theme and used it on this very website for a number of   years.   Now though, the old framework with the newest version of WordPress (3.81)  is completely unworkable with the theme. If it was only lacking the responsive design of the updated version of the theme, it would be ok.  But as it is, the theme won’t even allow for me to click into the widgets that are currently active to make edits or add new blogs using the Visual editor. It is completely and utterly broken.  I had to write this very blog in a separate test website and copy and paste the code into the text editor.

Last week I decided I would convert this website to the new framework offered by the theme creator, both out of necessity and due to the responsive nature of the updated theme. To be absolutely honest, it turned out to be one of the most aggravating projects I have ever worked on in web design. Every single theme shortcode has changed, seemingly for no reason, which broke the current website in nearly every area. The new framework is not well documented and is still very buggy – things like graphic tabs simply would not insert using the shortcode tool in the WYSIWYG editor. Every slide option has to be reentered since the slider options were seemingly all changed (yet again, functionally kept the same). The way things looked (the testimonials section for example) has also changed – again, seemingly for no reason.

What’s more, even the brand new code based around a responsive website design isn’t working correctly out of the box. I have had problems and though the theme creator’s support has tried to help, the delay due to time zone differences is frustrating. At this point, I may be giving up – and I have already wasted 6+ hours.

It really sucks when a brand new website lasts less than 2 years without a complete code overhaul.  Make sure that when you pick a WordPress theme, you know about the company that makes the theme and are sure that they will continue offering support.  In a WordPress landscape where things change on a regular basis, this is even more important.  I say this not to be negative but just as a cautionary tale to people picking a theme willy nilly.  That initial step deserves time, research and thought.



All of Our New Indianapolis Website Designs Are Responsive

Look, I understand the irony of making the claim that all of our new website designs are responsive designs while our own site isn’t.  I know, I know!  But I just don’t want to waste the bandwidth of doing an entirely new website for Sharp Guys Web Design when there are so many local Indianapolis web designs to do!  That being said, lately we have been working on some beautiful new websites and the responsive design is really the key.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, a responsive design conforms to the size of the device the user is using.  So for example, an iPhone will only show the content that fits on its smaller screen while a desktop will show the entire site.  This happens automatically and on the fly.  If you want to see how it looks, just watch this short video that shows how resizing a responsively designed website works.

Notice how when he started the video the menu was spread out across the top and there was a slider with images sliding by but by the end, the menu has shrunk and the slider went away.

Why take the time to do it?  Because more and more people are using mobile devices/tablets to do everything, including making purchases and researching a company’s services.  The easier your content is to see, the more likely that people will want to use it.  It makes sense doesn’t it?  Again, my apologies for the lack of responsive design on our own home page. Someday we will have the time to re-do the website but for now, we are simply too busy.  If you are an Indianapolis company looking to have a responsive web site design for you business, please reach out today.

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4 Reasons We Use WordPress for Indianapolis Website Design

Sometimes I see people throw WordPress out there in a derogatory way and act like only small time, hobbyists use it for their website.  In actuality, 17.4 percent of websites in the English speaking world use WordPress including blogs from small time hobbyists like UPS, the NFL, CNN, and Time magazine along with full websites from Outbrain and Techcrunch. Besides those stats and big names, there are a specific list of reasons we use WordPress for our clients including:

1)      A WordPress based website will allow for regular updates because you don’t need to know  HTML or other coding (java or PHP) to make updates.  As the designer, I would need to, but once it was set up, a WYSIWYG  (what you see is what you get) editor would be available to make those changes.  What I usually do for my clients is make a step by step video showing exactly how you will be able to make those changes.  This makes it so I have no need to charge ongoing fees to your organization for basic maintenance.  It also allows for more immediate changes to be made by the client.  In other words, it saves our clients money.

2)      WordPress offers a ‘development team’ unparalleled in the web design world since in actually it is composed of thousands of independent, voluntary developers – many of which have a huge passion for open source stuff – like WordPress.  Most things companies and individuals are looking for is likely already available within the WordPress plugin “marketplace”.  It is simply a matter of plugging in it and most importantly, make sure it works flawlessly (that can be the sticky part sometimes).  The key is that no coding is required for these items other than customization as necessary.  It is much easier than recreating the wheel.

3)      WordPress comes pre-search engine optimized and there are also a couple of fantastic modules on the WordPress ‘marketplace’ that fills in the spaces.  Meanwhile, pure HTML sites require a lot of manual work to set up to be search engine optomized and further more, requires a ton of additional development work to ensure you stay that way.  In other words, we save ourselves time and we save our clients money.

4)      Finally, WordPress is a nonprofit that not only releases frequent, free feature updates and more importantly, SECURITY updates.  This ensures that your page won’t fall victim to hackers nearly as easy as a pure HTML website might.

I hope that better explains the reasoning behind us using WordPress to make professional websites for our clients.  If you are interested in learning more about our process, please fill out the form.  Not in the mood?  Find out how a website audit can help your business thrive in 2015 and beyond.  Finally, you can find a full video presentation titled WordPress Success: The Good, The Bad and the Required I did in March of 2015.

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Hilarity of Using Craigslist to Find Indianapolis Web Design Work

As an up and coming (read: very small) Indianapolis web design company, we are constantly looking for work.  Sometimes we look to find it in the most unusual of places, like Craigslist.  I say unusual because a normal request for web design work is so incredibly rare on Craigslist.  Most times those Craigslist web design requests come in several flavors:

“I need a super easy/basic design with this, this, this and THIS and I need it done by tomorrow.  My budget is $50.”


“I have a really great idea and just need a web programmer to make it happen.  I don’t have a budget at all but the web designer can have a portion of the profits when they inevitably begin rolling in.”

But then there is a 3rd group – the crazy, insane, hilarious requests.  This is an actual post I saw yesterday:

“I need a web designer that has a PHD is mathematics and is amazing with algorithms (this is really what the poster said).  I have an idea to compete with but no budget (I love how he says as if we may not have heard of them).  I am even thinking of buying one dedicated server for this project.

Now everyone will likely laugh about the ‘competing with Google’ part and wanting a PHD mathematician with no budget – obviously fantasy, but only the tech savvy know how truly ridiculous his post is.  As of 2011, Google used no less than 900,000 dedicated servers to do what they do making that 1 dedicated server he may buy bring us .000001 percent of the way there.  I hope that Mathematician is really good at server load balancing as well.

Finally, there are a few requests that actually make sense.  The poster has a budget, realistic expectations and has an idea of what they want in a new website design.  I would say these account for 1-5% of Craigslist posts and are competed for fiercely.  Usually that competition brings the cost of services down so low that it is impossible to make enough money to make it worth the time to do the work.

In summary, I have generally found Craigslist to be a waste of time.  Anyone else have success?

How Unbounce Helps Indianapolis Website Design

Having done website design for years, I am always excited to find a new tool to make my life easier.  That is why I enjoy using WordPress for website creation so much.  There are so many creative developers creating modules and widgets for WordPress, a trip to the WordPress Directory is always worth the time.  Every month or so I go around the Directory looking for modules I might need and finding ones I didn’t know I needed, but now can’t live without.

Not every exciting website discovery is specific to my favorite CMS.  My most recent discovery was Unbounce.  If you sell something on your website, are in the business of getting leads or even want to get a bigger email mailing list, Unbounce provides the product to do it better.

You see, Unbounce is a landing page creator.  And that’s it.  But you know the expression, if you only do one thing, do it well?  They do it well…and then some.  Landing pages, for the uninitiated are the pages successful companies use as links for those Google Adwords and Bing Ads you see all over the web  Basically, it is succinct ad copy that gets the visitor to do something.  Maybe it is to watch a video, fill out a form, buy a product, or something else.  Unbounce makes creating these pages incredibly simple.

At this point, you may be saying (if you talk out loud to yourself), “Unbounce has to be paying this guy.   He is using so much hyperbole; he is probably an Unbounce affiliate”.   But, I’m not being paid, reimbursed or thanked in any way.  Unbounce doesn’t need me and my article anyway.  There are already a ton of other, more important people that love what they do.  Unbounce has made a tedious task of every web developer fun by making an incredibly simple drag and drop interface for any type of landing page.  Seriously, it’s slick.  Even better, they have integrated all of those forms, sign-ups, etc with whatever email marketing software or CRM (think SalesForce) you might be using.

Besides the ease of design and integration, they also offer the ability to easily test different iterations of your pages.  This allows for you to easily figure out ways to get the most bang for your buck.  Traditionally, this testing process is done through a combination of additional code being added to your website along with setup and goal creation in Google Analytics.   But in Unbounce, it takes just a few clicks and everything is tracked and tested within your Unbounce account.  It is a huge time saver and makes even lazy website designers look good (I hope I’m not unconsciously talking about myself).

The one ‘catch’ for some companies/design studios is that it carries a $99/month charge.  And while that may seem like a lot (admittedly, it is for me as well), if you are spending money on pay per click ads on Adwords or Bing and spending hours of design time or your own time creating each new landing page you make, you are easily saving money by using Unbounce.  In short, Unbounce is an evolutionary product and one that I am excited to see develop further and look forward to using going forward.  To see Sharp Guys’ landing page, click here.

Web Design Tips for Engaging Your Site’s Visitors

Yesterday I tweeted an article that said that only 1% of online purchases come from social media.  That doesn’t mean it’s worthless, it just means that if you are looking to get a bunch of direct sales due to your social media presence, you are barking up the wrong tree.  Instead, utilize social media for communicating your company’s culture, its expertise and things you like.  Utilize a personal voice for your company’s social media account because for the first time in marketing history, using a personal voice for a company doesn’t look unprofessional, it looks interesting.  Ubiquitous corporate advertising has made even the least cynical person become cynical of corporate speak when it comes to new products and services.

The other major reason to do social media is to drive traffic to your website where the actual transaction or conversion can take place.  When it does happen, make sure you give your visitors ample opportunity to interact with your company.  Make it easy for users to comment on your blog (you have a blog, right?) by using a comment system like Disqus.  Use forms that give you enough information to reach out to your visitor but not too many fields that the visitor gives up before completing it.  Use quotes from your clients to showcase your products.   Having been in sales for years, showcasing your existing clients’ experience with your company works much better than simply telling someone that your stuff is the best.  Besides, no one likes a bragger.

When we do web design for our Indianapolis clients, we try to integrate all of these ideas into our design.  Your company’s website is like a city’s visitor center that people actually go to.  Make sure that when people come that you are open for business.

Trust Me, (Text) Message Received

Yesterday I had an unusual occurrence in that I received 4 text messages from Smile Dentistry (name changed to protect the marketing department).  They came throughout the day at no particular time and for no particular reason.  The basics of this message chain: I did not know Smile Dentistry, they texted me the first time by accident, the second time to apologize, the 3rd time about Zumba being cancelled and the 4th time to let me know Zumba was back on.  While their messaging wasn’t clear, the message was clear – they had no idea what they were doing.

This isn’t unique to Smile Dentistry.  Using text messages to get a point across to clients is new business but it is also one of the most efficient open rates in the land at around 95% – seriously.  Email rates are lucky to hit 20% or so.  And like a chump, I continued to open the texts regardless of the fact the messages had nothing to do with me.  In fact, I found that only made things more interesting.

So with this in my mind, I have decided to launch an all out marketing broadcast via text and email to tell everyone about today’s pottery lesson being moved to tomorrow.  Then I’ll remind them that pottery was actually yesterday and that I meant next week’s pottery class would be moved.  Once I clearly have their attention and know they will be listening, I’ll strike and say, “Sharp Guys Web Designs makes the most inexpensive, yet fantastically professional websites in the Indianapolis area – buy now”.  How can I miss?

Custom WordPress Based Indiana Website Design

Sorry, I have no excuse for using so many keywords on this blog posting other than I wanted to cram as many  industry specific terms in the title as I can.  In fact, I should have called it Indianapolis, Indiana Website Design using WordPress.  See what I did there?  I added yet another important keyword for my business into this needless blog post.

OK, I truly do have an ulterior motive.  All too often I read blog posts just like the one I was making fun of above.  The idea of keyword stuffing is not new to anyone, but the idea that it still works is somehow still around despite all of the proof it no longer works.  In fact, creating posts stuffed with search engine optimized keywords, links, etc in a short article is likely to lessen your page’s overall worth to Google regardless of how helpful the rest of the content is to your reader.

More than ever, you need to be careful with what you write and how you write it.  When writing blogs, using key, keywords is fine.  Using them literally as the subject and every other sentence is just going plain overboard.  It’s like that song by Blues Traveler, Hook.  In that song, John Popper writes:

It doesn’t matter what I say

So long as I sing with inflection

That makes you feel that I’ll convey

Some inner truth of vast reflection

But I’ve said nothing so far

And I can keep it up as long as it takes

And it don’t matter who you are

If I’m doing my job, it’s your resolve that breaks

And all too often, blog posts read the same way this song does.  They are written for the sake of being written and for the sake of SEO.  If you actually write to inform and teach, those things will likely rank better with Google as well.  Then again, I’m just a simple web designer in the city of Indianapolis…