AJ Pope

About AJ Pope

As Beacon's lead graphic designer for Higher Education clients, William “AJ” Pope leverages his extensive experience with design and marketing to create compelling, user-friendly concepts for websites, re-branding projects, and print and video collateral. AJ brings a nice mix of the latest technology and design constructs to create brand-attentive graphics that bridge common gaps between print and digital. He has worked with Lees McRae College, Del Mar College, Husson University, Birmingham Southern College, Hawaii Pacific University and many other Beacon clients. AJ earned a B.A. in Media from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
3 05, 2018

Visual/Marketing Design

By | 2018-05-03T14:37:15+00:00 May 3rd, 2018|Categories: Higher Education, Web Development|Tags: , |

Essential Elements of Website Redesign

More than four billion people use the internet regularly, according to the latest statistical estimates. That translates to more than half of the world’s population. A lot of eyes on screens, for sure. Which is why it’s smart to invest in your digital storefront – your website.

But, it is 2018… everyone has a website. Maybe even several.

Not only is the competition fierce, but internet users have a notoriously short attention span. If you can’t communicate to a visitor what you’re all about in five to seven seconds, you can pretty much forget about winning their business.

That’s a pretty tough and complicated proposition. After all, odds are that you don’t have a homogeneous prospect base that seeks just one specific product/service and lives in a well-defined geographical area. Your students probably come from many walks of life, are interested in different educational services for different reasons, and exhibit diverse user behaviors.

Yes, you can target these audiences with well-sculpted digital campaigns. But, you still have to attract them to your site, and be able to keep them there long enough to communicate your value proposition. If your website isn’t prepared to handle that job, it’s time to consider a redesign.

Over-Arching Component of Your Marketing Strategy

Your website is the flagship in your marketing armada. This means that your site defines your brand, and all other marketing efforts support that foundation.

You’re likely to engage in many marketing activities to attract prospects. You may be fond of email campaigns. Perhaps you’ve found a PPC wizard and online ad campaigns are a key performer for you. Maybe traditional direct mail is your bread and butter.

Unless you’re trying to increase foot traffic on campus, all of those marketing efforts should be steering prospective students, and their parents, to your website. As such, your website has to be instantly recognizable as yours and ensure a seamless transition from the other marketing channels.

Brand, Personality & Messaging

When visitors land on your home page, there should be no question or ambiguity about whose site it is. Having a unique and engaging brand helps in this regard. When revamping your website, make sure that your brand personality is worked into the design and jumps off the page from the get go.

Users should also be able to use your site with ease. No visitor is going to stick around for long if they can’t quickly and intuitively navigate your menus or find the information they’re looking for.

Lastly, remember to keep your messaging short and punchy. Internet users skim – they don’t typically like to read a lot of text. Keep paragraphs short, use bullet points or lists whenever appropriate, and include visual content – videos, pics, infographics, etc. – as much as possible.

Does My Website Need a Redesign?

Beacon can help you answer that question. Give us a call at (866) 708-1467, and we’ll be happy to perform a detailed audit of your website.

29 11, 2017

Sean Connery’s 5 Design Elements That Make Sites Look Outdated

By | 2017-11-08T13:28:06+00:00 November 29th, 2017|Categories: Creative Design|Tags: |

How do you know when your website looks outdated and needs a refresh? When your engagement metrics slide, that’s a pretty good indicator. Sometimes, it’s even more obvious than that.

Such is the case with the website of a well-known celebrity. It’s the perfect example of a digital public face in dire need of cosmetic surgery.  Or a car wreck you can’t turn away from. This, in a nutshell, is SeanConnery.com.

As a public service, I offer my observations to you and the beloved actor. In the interest of pure fun, each anecdote references a famous James Bond quote. Guess the movie and win a prize. (Mr. Connery, you don’t qualify).

Without further ado, I bring you the 5 design elements that make any site look outdated:

#1 Design Layout

“Well, one of us smells like a tart’s handkerchief.”Sean, I hate to be the one to break it to you but it’s you. The layout you’ve chosen is right out of the 1970’s. The design is anchored in the upper left corner. Its three column layout with two side gutters is positively nostalgic. That’s not a good thing, Sean. The type becomes very small and hard to read. The URL is in the header. I haven’t seen anything like it since the McCarthy hearings.

#2 It’s Not Responsive

“Good morning, gentlemen. ACME pollution inspection, we’re cleaning up the world, we thought this was a suitable starting point.” – All the top Hollywood gossip sites are mobile friendly, which should tell you all you need to know about this audience’s behavior, Sean.  If I were assigned with ridding the internet of digital pollution, I’d start here.

#3 No Video

“Ejector seat? You’re joking!” – You’ve appeared in over 60 films, won an Academy Award and 3 Golden Globes. And yet Mr. Connery, you have no video on your site. You must be joking. Video drives engagement. You need the attention. You’re not exactly getting a lot of parts these days. Where’s the paparazzi when you need ‘em? Probably on YouTube.

#4 No Social Media

“Do you mind if my friend sits this one out? She’s just dead. – Celebrities thrive on attention. In this day and age, there are no better or more necessary channels than social media outlets such as Facebook, Twiiter, Snapchat and Pinterest. Hell, Pierce Bronsnan has a social media presence and he can’t act his way out of a paper bag.

#5 The Website Requires Flash

“Red wine with fish. Well, that should have told me something.” – Yes, it’s a website with Flash. That’s the software Adobe will discontinue in 2020. ‘Nuff said.

 Just Say Dr. No.

If SeanConnery.com reminds you, dear reader, of your website, just say “no”. It’s time for a redesign. NOW. If you have any questions on anything above, wish to add a comment or contribute another example of web atrocities, please leave a comment or email me here.

Answer key to quotes above:

#1 Diamonds Are Forever

#2 Diamonds Are Forever

#3 Goldfinger

#4 Thunderball

#5 From Russia With Love

25 01, 2016

Hand Over Your Browser. You’ve been Scroll-Jacked!

By | 2017-06-16T12:27:51+00:00 January 25th, 2016|Categories: Web Development|Tags: |

New websites are all about upgrading your look and having the smoothest, most intuitive experience possible for your users. Would you ever think to yourself, “What can I possibly do to massacre my User Experience and make my site frustrating to navigate?” No? Surprisingly, many sites are still doing that in a design trend that we will certainly not see the last of in 2016.

I’m talking about Scroll-Jacking.

Scroll-Jacking (most often confused for Parallax Scrolling) is not quite as ominous as it sounds, but it can feel very unnatural and ultimately steer people away from your website. Scroll-Jacking is taking a user’s scrollbar and navigation elements away and forcing them to progress through animations or images by scrolling the mouse’s wheel up or down.

Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Take a look here at a website by the Alzheimer’s Research UK.

AlzheimersResearch

All done? Sure, the Dementia Lab looks really cool, but I chose it as an example because it shares many common problem amongst sites of this kind.

A big problem you’ll see within seconds of visiting the site is a loading bar. There are so many images and functions running here these sites can reach 10mb and up. If your connection is slow, you may be waiting a while. And most users hate waiting.

Assuming everything loaded properly and you are now in the site – you can start scrolling your way through this information. What you have probably noticed is that information is whizzing past you even on a slower scrolling speed. Sites that use scroll-jacking functions feel so unusual because it is not what we as web users expect or are used to. You are expected to adapt to speeds and scrolling patterns defined by the designer or you can end up completely scrolling past information without ever knowing it.

Another problem you will often find is that you have to scroll a lot in order to see everything the site has to offer. I have found myself scrolling more than 75 times for one page – what a workout!

Flash Vs HTML5 takes everything a step further not just by leaving out a quick navigation from each information point to another, but by taking scrolling out altogether and forcing you to drag the page up in a very unnatural movement. By the time I was halfway down the page, it felt gimmicky and I just wanted it to end.

fvhtml

So, as the new year kicks off and you are considering ways to revamp you or your client’s website, let us consider the history of web design and what users have come to expect from their web experience and just let this become just another fad. We don’t want to make life harder than it already is.