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Developing a website? Things to consider before you get started.

November 17, 2015 by Kristy Foushee

shutterstock_310112951_medium.jpg (500x332)pxHaving a well-designed website allows you to effectively market your business, represent your brand and gain new business. But, choosing an agency to design your new site can be overwhelming.  This leaves you with the daunting task of finding the right agency to most effectively represent your brand and deliver your company’s message to best engage your audience – all within your budget. 

Whether you are creating your first website or redesigning your existing site, below are some things to consider before you get started.

What is your Objective?

It’s important to know what you want to accomplish with your site. Set goals and determine how you are going to measure the results. 

For instance, if you are a new business, your goal may be to raise brand awareness and educate your audience about your business. In this instance, your site focus would be on telling your story and on educating your audience. If your goal is e-commerce, then a site with an online store in which you can easily complete online transactions and track your return would be a better approach. 

Knowing your goals upfront helps make sure that the design and navigation of your site aligns to achieve your objectives. 

Know your Budget.

Your budget is key when designing a new website. Most websites can be tailored to fit your budget, but it is important to share your bottom line with your agency up front to make sure your estimates are inline with what you can afford.  

For instance, your website can be designed with every detail customized to deliver a one-of-a-kind site or a template can be used with custom elements to represent your brand without breaking the bank.  

Be open with your designer about your budget from the beginning to make sure your expectations are met. And remember your website is about value and ROI – not cost.    

Choose an agency.

When choosing an agency to develop your website, ask for references. Today, there are so many options when deciding to build a website. You can do it yourself through online providers, you can have a designer customize a template or you can hire an agency to design a custom site – and there is every option in between. The real difference is how your design team works with you to accomplish your goals. Does the agency have a clearly defined approach and methodology to developing your website? Ask to see other sites they have developed, ask for customer testimonials and ask about the experience their team brings.

Ultimately, you hope to enter into an ongoing working relationship with an agency where they understand your market and goals. Spend the time upfront researching the agency to make sure they are structured to deliver the best results for your organization.

Understand your investment.

Technology is constantly changing and it’s important to understand your investment. With terms like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and responsive design being key elements of website development today, make sure you ask questions and fully understand the value your site can deliver. 

Your agency wants to help educate you about the benefits they can provide so take advantage of this opportunity to learn. 

Content. Content. Content.

A beautifully designed site can still be perceived as sub-par if the content is not rich. The number one factor in achieving website success is CONTENT. If you want to improve your SEO – make your content engaging and relevant. If you want to attract more readers and raise brand awareness – develop content that identifies you as an expert in your market. The difference between a good website and a great website really all boils down to content. 

Many business owners make the mistake of getting overwhelmed with the site design and not spending the time writing content that will really appeal to their audience. Choose an agency that will help ensure you don’t make the same mistake. 

Update your site regularly.

You’ve launched a beautiful new site that is easy to navigate and you’ve spent time developing content to attract your desired audience. So, you think you’re all done, right? Wrong. A website is never really finished. If you want your audience to keep visiting your site it requires effort and time. Keeping content current, sharing on social media and making sure your company information is accurate are all important towards meeting your goals.

Measure performance.

When developing any marketing strategy (online, print or paid advertising) you should identify upfront how you plan to measure your success. There are many tools available today that allow you to track the traffic to your site. Paying attention to what pages your visitors are spending the most time on, how they are accessing your site, and what other marketing efforts (social media/advertising, etc.) are helping them find your site is all valuable information. By monitoring your sites analytics, you can tweak your site to maximize its success based on how your visitors are engaging with your site. Other measurable goals to consider are: increased traffic, increased online sales and increased brand awareness. 

At Sugar Maple Interactive, our goal is to partner with businesses and non-profits to deliver custom websites and marketing services at an affordable cost. If you are interested in learning more about our services, please contact us at sayhello@sugarmapleinteractive.com.

Sugar Maple Interactive designs templates for your annual reports

October 08, 2015 by Katie McWilliams

AnnualReport_Covers_small.jpg (225x181)pxSugar Maple Interactive has designed four unique annual report templates, helping you take the time and stress out of preparing and sending out your annual report each year. 

Annual reports, if designed and presented well, are a great way to present your company's previous year's milestones and highlight your organization’s culture. They can also be overwhelming and time-consuming to design and develop. We want to make this process easier for you.

We have designed four unique annual report templates. You simply choose the template that you think will work best for your organization and compile your content. We will work with you, at an hourly charge of $75, to edit and load your content into the template of your choice and can have them professionally printed - providing you with a customized annual report that’s ready to send out.

We designed our templates to have easily digestible data, sharp and engaging images, readable graphs and timelines of events that communicate your company's information in a way that inspires your supporters and moves them to action.

Template 1: Our Classic Template

This template includes areas for a Statement from Founder, About the Organization, Our Milestones, Our Vision, Financial Statements, Auditor's Report and then several sections for content of your choice. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Template 2: Our Solutions-Based Template

This template includes areas for an Introduction, Our Services, About the Organization, Our Solutions and Our Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

Template 3: Our Theme-Based Template

This template includes an area to introduce your team and several areas to elaborate on and reinforce your company's message.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Template 4: Our Growth-Based Template

This template includes several areas to showcase your company's growth with several charts, percentage graphics and numbers. 

 

 

 

 

 

Things to Know:

- Some of the pages in the templates may not apply to you, that's ok. You do not have to use all of the pages you see in the samples. 
- We can take layouts from different templates and incorporate them into another template for you. No problem.
- Pricing is based on the time it takes us to edit and load your content into our templates and for all printing services.

Remember, annual reports are a great way to reinforce your company's message. They can elicit an emotional response that will move your supporters to action. Be selective and choose data and content that makes an impact. 

Let us help you present your company well. Contact us today to get started.

Sugar Maple Interactive named finalist for Garner Chamber of Commerce's Summit Award

September 15, 2014 by Kristy Foushee

Garner Web DesignSugar Maple Interactive is honored to be named a finalist for the Annual Garner Chamber of Commerce's Summit Award - The F&D Huebner dba McDonald's Entrepreneurial Award.  This award recognizes businesses that have taken initiatives while using innovation in problem-solving and sustainment. It showcases the efforts that companies have made to successfully distinguish themselves from their competitors. 

"It's an honor to be recognized for our achievements in providing innovative technology solutions to small businesses and non-profits," said David McWilliams, president, Sugar Maple Interactive. "This award represents the continued strides our company has made in delivering an array of technology solutions paired with unparalleled customer service to our customers.”

As one of the three finalists in our division of this year's award, Sugar Maple Interactive will be recognized at a special awards dinner held at the Grand Marquise Ballroom on September 25th in Garner, N.C. where the winner will be announced.  Visit the Garner Chamber of Commerce website to learn more.

Sugar Maple Interactive announces implementation of REACH’s new child sponsorship module

June 30, 2014 by Kristy Foushee

HON_Screen_Sponsor_small.png (219x225)pxSugar Maple Interactive announces that Help One Now has implemented its new child sponsorship module. The module, a component of the company’s communication and support portal REACH, provides a complete set of tools for an organization to simply and effectively manage and run a child sponsorship program using their existing website. 

“We have been extremely pleased with our new child sponsorship module,” said Chris Marlow, CEO, Help One Now. “Our previous solution was not providing us with all of the tools we needed to efficiently run our child sponsorship program. We were quickly learning that we needed a solution built solely for child sponsorships. REACH’s child sponsorship module has provided us with the tools we were looking for and has made the child sponsorship process much easier for us and for our sponsors.” 

Organizations manage the module using its simple, web-based administrative tool with built-in, detailed reporting. Administrators can add background information, upload multiple images, add custom attributes such as age and gender, and offer multiple sponsorship levels per child. In addition, administrators can manage online and offline sponsorship payments and track past-due donations. The module can also automatically notify sponsors of any past-due donations. 

Using the module, supporters view, read about and select a child to sponsor. After sponsoring, the supporter will receive regular updates about their sponsored child. 

“Launching our child sponsorship module further illustrates our commitment to the non-profit community,” said David McWilliams, CEO, Sugar Maple Interactive. “Our goal is to equip non-profits with the latest technology available to efficiently manage and run their organization at an affordable rate.” 

Simple import tools allow an organization to be up and running with the new child sponsorship module within a matter of days. 

To learn more or to get started, please contact Sales and Marketing at 919.622.2594, or visit us online at www.reachapp.co. To view Help One Now’s child sponsorship program, please visit www.helponenow.org

Sugar Maple Interactive releases updates to North Carolina ferry app

March 18, 2014 by Kristy Foushee

Sugar Maple Interactive, a Wake Forest-based software solutions and services provider, today announced updates to their North Carolina Ferries app that will include real-time alerts from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

3-5_Pic2_medium.png (333x500)pxBuilt from data provided from NCDOT Ferry Division, the app makes it easy to find out when the next ferry is due, if a ferry is running on schedule, and of any closures.  The app also provides fare information, the ability to reserve tickets, and additional information about the terminals, including directions and phone numbers.

“The NC Ferries app is designed to be the mobile go-to resource for all passengers who ride one of North Carolina’s coastal ferries,” said David McWilliams, CEO, Sugar Maple Interactive. “We recognize how important real-time information is, and that’s why we have been making efforts to improve upon the information we provide. By updating our user interface to use the iOS7 standards and expanding the alerts feature to display an icon in the ferry list if there is an alert from the NCDOT, our customers can expect to find key travel information delivered directly to their smart phones.”

iPhone users can download the free NC Ferries app from iTunes. Android users can visit www.ncferries.com to view the latest ferry information.

For more information about Sugar Maple Interactive, please contact Sales and Marketing at 919.622.2594, or visit us online at www.sugarmapleinteractive.com.

Sugar Maple Interactive, LLC, is a customer-focused interactive marketing firm with services concentrated on web software solutions. The company specializes in custom website design, content management system, web application development, eCommerce solutions and other interactive media services to organizations ranging from non-profits and small businesses to publicly traded corporations. Headquartered in Wake Forest, NC, the company’s mission is to provide cost-effective marketing technology solutions to maximize our clients' online visibility.

Local non-profit launches new responsive website

November 14, 2013 by Kristy Foushee

Picture_3_medium.png (500x381)pxWhen Kidznotes, a Durham-based non-profit, was considering a redesign of their website they were looking for an affordable solution with improved functionality, navigation and design.  

Sugar Maple Interactive delivered a new website that featured an improved homepage design, cleaner layout, and an intuitive and consistent site-wide navigation system. The responsive design site is also accessible through a wider range of devices, including mobiles, tablets and desktop computers, and has been designed to provide an optimal user experience for all visitors.

“At Sugar Maple Interactive we aim to be our client’s partner as they design and implement a new website,” said David McWilliams, CEO, Sugar Maple Interactive. “Working in collaboration with Kidznotes, we wanted to create a website experience that would resonate with their audience and ultimately drive engagement over the long-term.”

To learn more about Kidznotes, visit www.kidznotes.org.

For more information about Sugar Maple Interactive, please contact Sales and Marketing at 919.622.2594, or visit us online at www.sugarmapleinteractive.com.

Sugar Maple Interactive delivers secure e-commerce websites

October 24, 2013 by Kristy Foushee

Sugar Maple Interactive, a Raleigh-based software solutions and services provider, integrates its custom designed websites with Shopify to create secure e-commerce solutions.

Sugar Maple Interactive’s custom designed websites combined with Shopify’s state-of-the-art-technology enable businesses to take advantage of online retail sales through credit card and PayPal payments. Shopify is Level 1 PCI compliant and uses 128 bit SSL encryption to ensure credit card data is secure.

"The beauty of using Sugar Maple Interactive site designs with Shopify for online retail is that you don’t have to compromise your site design and functionality to achieve security," said David McWilliams, CEO, Sugar Maple Interactive. “Our clients who have deployed this solution have reaped the benefits of a high functioning website that aligns with their brand and provides a secure shopping cart experience for their clients.”

To visit websites who have implemented this solution, please visit Paintless Designs (www.paintlessdesign.com), BeetMagic (www.BeetMagic.com) and Squeak Me Shoes (www.squeakmeshoes.com).

For more information about Sugar Maple Interactive, please contact Sales and Marketing at 919.622.2594, or visit us online at www.sugarmapleinteractive.com.

Sugar Maple Interactive, LLC, is a customer-focused interactive marketing firm with services concentrated on web software solutions. The company specializes in custom website design, content management system, web application development, ecommerce solutions and other interactive media services to organizations ranging from non-profits and small businesses to publicly traded corporations. Headquartered in Raleigh, NC, the company’s mission is to provide cost-effective marketing technology solutions to maximize our clients' online visibility.

Sugar Maple Interactive now offers Responsive Website Design services

October 03, 2013 by Kristy Foushee

Sugar Maple Interactive, a Raleigh-based software solutions and services provider, designs and develops Responsive Design Websites that respond to the type of device the site is being viewed on to ensure an optimal viewer experience.

A Responsive Web Design adapts the layout of the site to the viewing environment with flexible images and different screen resolutions to respond to viewer needs regardless of what type of device they are using. With the growth of tablets and smart phones, organization websites, especially retail and professional businesses, can expect over 50% of their visitors to only view their site from a mobile device within a year.

Garner Web Design

"Sugar Maple Interactive recognizes that today’s websites have to be flexible and user friendly because visitors are using numerous devices to access web content," said David McWilliams, CEO, Sugar Maple Interactive. “Responsive Web Design provides the flexibility needed so visitors are able to locate the information they need regardless if they are using their desktop computer, tablet, or smart phone.”

Responsive Design sites also offer the added benefit of improving clients’ Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results and enabling improved brand identity across platforms without incurring additional site development costs.  

For more information about Sugar Maple Interactive or Responsive Design, please contact Sales and Marketing at 919.622.2594, or visit us online at www.sugarmapleinteractive.com.

To see a Responsive Website in action, please visit Beet Magic on a desktop browser and slowly make the browser thinner and wider. You will see the layout adjust itself to better fit the new width of the browser, even if you make the page as skinny as the resolution of a mobile phone.

Sugar Maple Interactive recognized for award winning website design

September 25, 2013 by Kristy Foushee

macu_small.png (225x220)pxSugar Maple Interactive, a Raleigh-based software solutions and services provider, was recognized as the developer of a Top 100 College website by My College Options® 14th Annual Enrollment Power Index® Program.

Mid-Atlantic Christian University (MACU), a Sugar Maple Interactive client, earned an A rating for their website putting them in the top 5% of all college websites. High School students rated every college website in the country on many key features such as: the ability for students to apply online, find information on the community or city in which the college is located and the ability to contact the admissions office to set-up a campus visit. They also graded the website on the ease of navigation and its design.

"Sugar Maple Interactive is honored to be recognized for the design of the MACU site," said David McWilliams, CEO, Sugar Maple Interactive. “We focus our business on delivering website solutions that are easy to use and are designed to meet the needs of our clients. This approach combined with the vision from MACU staff ultimately resulted in this award winning site design.”

For more information about Sugar Maple Interactive, please contact Sales and Marketing at 919.622.2594, or visit us online at www.sugarmapleinteractive.com.