Jill B Gilbert

So, you want a new website… 30 questions to answer before you build it

Creating a new or updated website to reflect your organization’s identity takes a bit of thought and planning.

Your website is an important part of your organization’s identity. A well-designed website reflects well on your organization, and a poorly-designed website can damage your reputation. I know this is hard, but spend time planning your website before you build it. Understand your audience and design your site accordingly. Make the site attractive and easy to navigate.

Whether you plan to redesign your website or are in the enviable position of designing a new website from scratch, take the time to find answers to the following questions to set your website project up for success. You will be glad you did!

Purpose

  1. WHO is your target audience?
  2. HOW will your website serve that audience? 
  3. WHAT is the compelling marketing message that is tailored to your audience?
  4. WHAT problem does your website solve for each type of person in your audience?
  5. WHAT is the site’s purpose, such as informational, e-commerce, blog, portfolio, news, or a combination of several purposes?

Content

  1. What is the clearly defined goal for each page on your website?
  2. Is your Home/Welcome page compelling?
  3. Does your About page describe the problems that you solve in simple and easy-to-understand terms?
  4. Is your web copy geared to your target audience, clear, easy to understand, and free of jargon?
  5. Do you have a landing page that you can use to collect email addresses and create email subscriptions?
  6. Do you have effective Calls to Action that lead your visitors to a desired action?
  7. What legal content do you need, such as Terms of Use, Privacy, Copyright, and/or other statements?

Design

  1. Is your website “look and feel” cohesive, and consistent with your company’s branding and color standards?
  2. Is your website’s navigation clear and easy to use?
  3. Is the site typography easy to read (fonts, type size, type hierarchy, headings, color and contrast)?
  4. Do you use high quality graphics and images on your website?
  5. Do your fonts and images load quickly?
  6. What is your preferred technical platform, e.g., as HTML + CSS, or a Content Management System like WordPress, Wix, or other?
  7. Is your website responsive—readable on mobile, tablet, laptop, and large screen devices?
  8. Can you maintain and update your website in-house, or do you need an outside specialist?

Marketing Goals and Objectives

  1. What business results you expect from your website?
  2. How do you plan to drive traffic and visitors to your website?
  3. What system do you have in place to track visitor behavior and interactions on your site?
  4. How will your organization generate and capture website leads?
  5. Are your site and any blog posts optimized for search engines?

Security and Backups

  1. What systems will be in place to protect your site from hackers?
  2. What tools or systems are needed to address website crashes and spam?
  3. What user and password security measures will your site have?
  4. What is your backup and recovery plan, including on-site and offsite storage?
  5. What is your periodic site audit plan?

Granted, 30 questions is a lot to answer—but take the time to find answers to every question if you want a website that addresses the needs of your audience and yields business results. If you are not sure how to proceed with your website design and build, please consult a professional that understands the technical, marketing, and business aspects of website creation. You will be glad you did!

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Best Practices, Branding, Color, Corporate Identity, Design, Marketing, Standards, Typography, Web Design

Mississippi Park Connection selects Jill B Gilbert for graphic design work

iMac with screenshot of Mississippi Park Connection presentation slides
Custom, branded presentation template for Mississippi Park Connection

Mississippi Park Connection needed a custom, branded presentation template to convey its mission and message. They selected Jill B Gilbert to design the template. “The challenge was to understand Mississippi Park Connection’s needs, and find a style to complement the organization’s three pillars—habitat restoration and tree planting; paddling the Mississippi River; and youth education,” says Gilbert. MPC is thrilled with the presentation template, which includes over twenty customized illustrations that will appeal to diverse audiences, from prospective board members to volunteers and Park visitors of all ages. 
Read more about the project here.

“Jill was wonderful to work with. She responded positively to our initial feedback on a design and came back with an update that accurately met our needs and vision while incorporating her professional expertise in PowerPoint and graphic design. She is prompt, communicates efficiently, and pushed the project along at times when I felt overwhelmed. We now have a well designed, branded, and functional PowerPoint presentation that will bring cohesiveness to all our presentations. Thank you Jill!”

–Callie Sacarelos, Communications and Marketing Manager, Mississippi Park Connection

Mississippi Park Connection is the nonprofit partner of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (U.S. National Park) and has headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the start of the river. 

 

Jill B Gilbert is a graphic and web designer with years of experience creating impactful marketing communications for both digital and print platforms, for large corporations, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. 

 

the nonprofit partner of Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Branding, Consulting, Corporate Identity, Design, Graphics, Illustration, Marketing, Standards, Typography

Komolova Log Works Selects Jill B Gilbert to Create a New Brand

Komolova Log Works logo in full color, all black and all white
Komolova Log Works | Logo & Visual Brand Guide

When Eric and Nancy Raup needed a brand for Eric’s craft furniture and decor business, they immediately thought of Jill B Gilbert.

After identifying Komolova Log Works’ needs, Jill created three design concepts. After further discussions and iterations, Komolova revealed that they wanted to include an owl. 

Here is the result—a playful owl standing on a tree branch. The logo, tag line, and color palette work together to communicate the brand, as well as the rustic setting for the business. 

Posted by Jill B Gilbert, 0 comments

Should you build your own website, or hire a professional?

If your organization’s website needs a major refresh, you can hire a professional or build it yourself. After all, thousands of free and paid website templates are available, and website building tools are better than ever before. TV and social media ads make it look so easy to build a website! Let’s look at some of the questions to answer before you make a “build or buy” decision.

Website “build vs. buy” questions

What are your objectives? Why do you want to change your site? You may want to refresh your site because it is outdated, because your company is growing or adding products or services, to start a blog, to add the ability to sell products or services online, or for other reasons. Think about the technical and financial objective you want to achieve.

What types of changes do you need? You might be thinking of a total new look and feel, a change to the website structure, or both. Maybe you need a media library to easily store and retrieve images, videos, etc. You might need entire new features, e.g., a blog or e-commerce capabilities. You simply might want a new website that is easier to maintain in-house, rather than hiring a web professional to make changes each time you need them.

How is your current website built? Is it written (coded) in HTML + CSS, or is it built on one of the new platforms like WordPress, SquareSpace, WIX, or other? If it is an HTML site, you will need to know how to write code. If it built on one of the newer platforms, you may be able to build your own site; it may look professional but, depending on your HTML know-how, the site can be a mess behind the scenes. Yes, you read that right! This is because you cannot refresh these sites just by applying a new theme. Many of the current “drag-and-drop” website themes have widgets, code blocks, and other complexities. These site elements may not work in the new theme without a lot of tweaking.

How tech-savvy are you? If you are a lover of things tech, and the first of your friends to get the latest electronics, and you are committed to doing site updates yourself in the future, then building a website may be for you. If you use computers, social media and smartphones every day, but rarely update your electronics or software, this is a warning sign that you should speak to a web designer. But read further…

What is your timeline? If you need it quickly and can effectively plan and build a website, then do-it-yourself might work for you. Just keep your project objectives in mind, spend adequate time planning, get advice as needed, and go for it! If you need it quickly, don’t even consider slapping something together quickly to get a new, improved website up and running. This will do more harm than good. If you have a reasonable timeline, then you have plenty of options, both do-it-yourself and professionally-built.

What will it cost? First, think about the value that the website updates will bring to your company in terms of new clients, more business, and better market penetration. Second, consider the total cost to your organization. This is a cost-benefit issue, not the price tag to get the site up and running. If web development or computer coding are not your core business, you may find yourself spending hours updating the website yourself, at a significant cost to you in terms of lost revenue, missed marketing opportunities, missed new clients, etc. Third, what are the ongoing maintenance and update costs for the next three to five years?

Congratulations! If you have read this far, you now have more questions than answers! At the least, you understand some of the “build vs. buy” issues, and the many choices available to you. If you still have questions about what is best for you, please consult a professional. A short discussion could save you hours of time and a stack of money.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Best Practices, Consulting, Design, Guidelines, Web Design

Pantone Colors of the Year | 2021

Each year, Pantone selects a Color of the Year that establishes design and fashion trends. And the Pantone Colors of the Year for 2021 are… Illuminating and Ultimate Gray. This is the first time that Pantone selected two colors.

The bright yellow and the medium gray colors signify a fresh start, and together are bright and cheery. Last year, the color was Classic Blue–which, as it turns out, describes 2020 well.

Pantone Colors of the Year for 2021, Illuminating and Ultimate Gray

I used the Pantone Connect app to discover different color harmonies for the 2021 Colors of the Year–analogous, complementary, triadic, and tetradic color palettes. I selected fourteen colors plus yellow and gray to create art in the style of Damian Hirst. Here is the colorful result.

Color of the Year 2021 Harmonies in the style of Damian Hirst

Note: you can use Pantone Connect online in a browser, as an extension to Adobe Creative Cloud applications, and as a smartphone app.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Art, Color, Design

Watercolor “Food for Thought” Series

I completed a few watercolor tutorials by Every-Tuesday and got hooked. After the tutorials, I found a handful of inkers and watercolor brushes I liked and started drawing colorful fruits and vegetables. I found it engaging.

Now, the Watercolor Food for Thought series has 30+ images! You can enjoy some of these below.

Selected watercolor drawings from the Food for Thought series by Jill B Gilbert. Ruby Red Grapefruit, Hatch Chilis, Cantaloupe, Watermelon, and Red Onion.
Food for Thought Series | Selected Watercolor Drawings
Selected watercolor drawings from the Food for Thought series by Jill B Gilbert. Dragon Fruit, Lime, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Asparagus
Food for Thought Series | Selected Watercolor Drawings, Part 2
Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Art, Color, Illustration

A Plethora of Possibilities with Procreate Brushes

“What is Procreate,” you ask? Procreate is a powerful, inexpensive, illustration-lettering-drawing app that works with your finger or an Apple Pencil. It was originally designed for the iPad Pro (hence the name, “Procreate”) and now works with iPad Air (Generation 4) and all iPad Pros.

The digital “brush” is how you draw in Procreate. The app comes with 100+ brushes. If that’s not enough, you can create your own brushes or import free or paid brushes that others create. You can find thousands of brushes with a little Internet sleuthing.

I follow several Procreate artists and graphic design blogs and often learn about new brushes. I believe in supporting fellow graphic designers and artists, so I purchase some Procreate brushes and download others free. Here are ten of my favorite sites for Procreate brushes, in no particular order:

Watercolor Cactus drawing uses Procreate inking and watercolor brushes

Procreate brush management tips

If you download everything that catches your eye, you will reach “Brush Overload.” So, consider these brush management tips to make it easier to use and find your Procreate brushes:

  1. Keep only the brushes you need active in your Brush Library. Experiment with new brushes you download; you will find lots you like and lots you don’t need.
  2. Keep your Brush Library organized; Export unused brush sets to your iCloud, Dropbox, or other folders.
  3. Create a Favorites folder. Copy the brushes you use the most to that folder.
  4. Set a Brush Restore Point. Explore brush settings, but remember to back up settings before you change settings.
  5. Make your own brushes and brush sets if you don’t find what you need in the marketplace. Export (Share) them for safekeeping.

Happy drawing!

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Art, Design, Illustration

Watercolor Cactus Series

Since I live in the Southwest and like desert plants, I followed a series of tutorials to draw watercolor cacti. The resulting drawings were abstract and I wanted more realistic watercolor images. Working with photos–including some of my own–I created a series of cactus and succulent drawings.

Like any series, these cactus drawings have evolved–I learned a few tricks along the way to improve my drawings.

A high school friend who now lives in the Phoenix area paid me the highest compliment; she said that my rendering and color choices look like the scenes she sees every day.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Art, Design