Category Archives: Web design

How Secure is Your Website?

It used to be that only e-commerce websites were concerned about security. Not anymore. Now there is a push—especially from Google—for everyone to get SSL certificates.

No More Excuses

  1. “It’s too expensive.”
    The cost of an SSL has come down in the last few years. We’ve been installing certificates in under 4 hours for most websites.
  2. “It will slow down the browsing experience for users.”
    Due to recent improvements, speed is no longer an issue. This is good news for web publishers who care about security.

Security for Everyone

All companies should install SSL certificates on their websites. Here’s why:

  1. Improves Google search engine ranking
    Google now considers security a factor in your search engine ranking. If you rank the same as other websites, then security level is going to be the deciding factor.
  2. Let’s people know your website is secure
    Here’s how they can tell:

    • HTTP becomes HTTPS
    • Green padlock icon indicates secure connection between the browser and host website
      Secure website connection
  3. Shows that you care about your users
    If prospective or current clients visit your website, they’ll see that you want to protect them and have their best interests in mind.
  4. Demonstrates you have a modern approach to technology
    Eventually, adding security to websites will be the new default. By adding security to your website now, you’ll stay up-to-date on technology developments.

We’re Your Help Center

How do you know which level of security to choose? Which SSL certificate is best for your website and situation? If the world of encryption and website security seems complicated and confusing, we’re here to advise. Contact us, and we’ll take care of the technical installation process for you. Then you—and your website—can rest secure.

Planting Home Roots: Real Estate Website

There’s a new real estate brokerage in town. Professional Realtors Chris Streett and Tim Hopkins joined forces to start a company called Streett Hopkins Real Estate. But before they opened their doors for business in Bel Air, Maryland, they came to us for a custom website. These local guys wanted to emphasize their deep Maryland heritage, their wealth of experience, and their intent to be a full-service company. Our job was to create “curb appeal” online for all they have to offer.

Old Roots, New Branches

When it comes to real estate, you have to know the lay of the land. Both Tim and Chris can trace their Maryland ancestors several generations back. They wanted their clients to know that they have strong roots in Harford County and the surrounding area, and they can help others develop their own roots here too. The Streett Hopkins tree logo illustrates this idea. So we decided to plant their logo on top of a homepage slider that showcases beautiful Maryland scenes. And to ground the homepage we created an “Our Heritage” section linking directly to their history. This shows clients at first glance where Streett Hopkins calls home.

Streett Hopkins homepage

Been Around the Block

Although the company itself is new, Chris and Tim are certainly not greenhorns in their field. We wanted clients to see how professional, experienced, and well-connected these Realtors are.

Here are some ways we highlighted their expertise:

  1. List of distinctives
    We listed their qualifications in sections throughout the website called “Why Choose Us?” Leaves demarcate each bulleted list item, further developing their tree theme.
    Why Choose Us
  2. Proof of success
    A gallery of photos with addresses and sold prices shows how Chris and Tim have been successful with a variety of property transactions.
    Residential Past Sales Commercial Past Sales
  3. Testimonials
    Nothing is more genuine than the complimentary words straight from a client’s mouth.
  4. Helpful resources
    Clients can easily access blog posts on various topics of interest in the sidebar. Buyers can also search directly within the website for available properties with the multiple list service (MLS) plug-in we installed.

Take Your Pick

Streett Hopkins wants to be a one-stop shop for all your real estate needs, whether you’re in residential or commercial, a buyer or a seller, a landlord or a tenant. To organize the content for all those areas, we decided to categorize first by residential or commercial. Then we created sub-categories for buyers or sellers. On the homepage we also listed out various services that link to more details. With this information architecture, website users can easily navigate within the wide range of offerings to their particular interest.

Home Page

We also provided photography services for the website.

About Us

A New Leaf

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been around for decades, discover how a fresh website can sprout business for you. Let’s leave it to the Realtors to sell your house. Leave it to us to market your company.

Kindling More Business: Website for a Fire Protection Company

Advanced Fire Protection Systems (AFPS) wanted a website they could get fired up about. They didn’t want to settle for the lackluster, made-from-template kind of websites their competitors used. So they came to us for a distinct website that captured their unique services and experiences as life safety system experts. Our challenge was to demonstrate their complete range of services and attract the customers that would benefit from a one-stop shop.

Full-Service Company

Most of AFPS’ competitors are not full-service. For example, they might only focus on the electrical part of fire alarm installation. Or they subcontract a lot of the project. In contrast, AFPS performs most of the work themselves as general contractors. This distinctive enables them to offer customers higher quality work for less time, money, and administrative overhead than their competitors.

Services at a Glance

AFPS offers at least 8 different services as a single source company. To highlight the variety, we created a homepage slider with an illustration for each of the high profile services. This gives customers a quick glance at how AFPS can help.

AFPS slider

Hometown Pros

Unlike many of their competitors, AFPS has deep roots in the area. The founder is a well-established technician with over 30 years of experience. Their certified staff can handle large-scope projects without needing to outsource. We emphasized their expertise with local landmark projects featured on the homepage.

AFPS projects

Interesting and Informative

Installing life safety systems is serious work, but we also wanted to add in a little fun. A “Did You Know?” section adds some human interest to the website. And customers can even learn about different kinds of fire extinguishers. AFPS doesn’t just train their team—they also educate the public.

AFPS Fun facts 2

Let the Words Flow

When it comes to content development strategy, every client is unique. Some want to create a first draft themselves, and ask us to edit for publication. Others know what they want to say, but feel more comfortable talking than writing. For AFPS, we started with conversations about their work. Our probing questions prompted enough ideas for us to write a first draft—and it fueled the content that emerged on the website.

Fan the Business Flame

While AFPS works hard to prevent fires, their new website is stoking up their business. If you want innovative marketing solutions for your company, then discover what our creativity can spark.

Photography Website with Laser Focus: a single product line

Lenox Laser is all about small holes. They specialize in microdrilling holes with lasers for any kind of material. Their pioneering work has applications in various industries, such as aerospace, medical, pharmaceutical…and photography.

Just for Them

Lenox Laser apertures are perfect for the re-emerging art of pinhole photography. But with all the other products and services in their catalog, Lenox Laser wanted a way to make their camera caps distinct. So they created a product line for pinhole photography called Daystar Laser.

Our job was to create a website just for Daystar Laser products. Creating a website that clearly focused on just one aspect of the Lenox Laser business proved advantageous in several ways.

If your business has multiple aspects to it, how could you benefit from creating a website focused on just one part?
  1. Targeting a distinct audience with specific, relevant content
    Why direct a NASA scientist and an aspiring pinhole photographer to the same place? Instead of trying to create a website that would cater to all of Lenox Laser’s prospective clients, we focused on photographers with the Daystar Laser website. And to be even more precise—on pinhole photographers. These parameters gave us a clear direction for the website content. For example, we included the history of pinhole photography and showcased a gallery of artistic photos for inspiration. We wanted to focus on not just the products themselves, but on showing a niche audience how they were used.

    Pinhole Photography Primer

  2. Cohesive design
    Focusing on photographers enabled us to design the website to attract them in particular. Camera equipment is highlighted on the home page slide. Hints of a photography studio fade into the background. Examples of pinhole images pique creative interest.

    Daystar Laser homepage

  3. Optimizing the check-out process
    The original Daystar Laser website didn’t have an option to purchase products online.  Catering to the modern photographer, we made the new website mobile responsive and created a secure online shopping cart. This conveniently gives customers an “express” online check-out. They don’t need to wade through other Lenox Laser products to get to what they want.

Streamlined Results

If creating a website for your entire, multi-faceted business seems overwhelming, then limiting the website’s scope can make it more manageable and effective. We’ll help you develop a marketing strategy so the website content and design appeal to your target market. That’s creativity that means business.

Polish, Don’t Demolish: A fresh coat of paint for a PR website

Hiring a web designer doesn’t mean you have to trash your current website and start from scratch. Sometimes you can preserve some of your original investment and build on what’s already there.

Such was the case with Maroon PR, a public relations agency in Columbia, Maryland. We kept the best from their website’s original design while simplifying it and improving the user experience.

Big First Impression

If a good photo says it all, a bigger photo says it louder. We retained the “big screen” style of the original design’s home page. A slideshow of large photos flashes recent success and makes a good first impression.

Maroon PR

Livelier Case Studies

You want case studies to demonstrate the value your company delivers. And showing is more effective than telling.

We improved Maroon PR’s case studies with these value-added features:

  1. Logos
    In an instant, recognizing a popular brand on your client list can impress. Logos can impress potential clients by showing who has hired you in an instant of recognition.
  2. Mixed media
    Photos, screenshots, and videos bring life and interest to case studies.
  3. Testimonials
    Quoting clients in their own words is a good way to capture praise.

Maroon PR case study

Renovated Information Design

Maroon PR wanted to distinguish between current and previous clients, as well as indicate which ones were linked to case studies. We decided to present current clients in a grid of logos. We then designed a custom icon for the clients that had case studies. With their previous clients, we just listed their names in the sidebar, followed by a simple text link.

Maroon PR clients

Partially New and Totally Improved

If you’d like to update your website, it may not need a complete overhaul—sometimes it just needs to be spruced up. Contact us to explore the options.

Working with Ken and Accent Interactive was a great experience. They are knowledgeable, responsive, and developed a highly functioning website for us in a timely manner that we are very proud to showcase. We look forward to working with Accent Interactive on more projects, and continuing to enhance, which serves as one of our most important marketing tools.

—Chris Daley, Director of Brand & Business Development

Resolving Marketing Communication Conflict

Robert Fielder specializes in conflict resolution, but his company, Resolution Resources, was experiencing its own kind of conflict—in marketing communications. His story reveals essential lessons for marketers and business owners.

Receiving Feedback

One thing a website doesn’t tell you is how well it resonates with the target audience. For this, you need feedback from people. When Robert talked to trusted people in his network, he realized he had a communication problem.

They thought of him as a resource for specific situations such as contract negotiation and mediation. But what they didn’t perceive was how helpful he could be with the big picture, the strategic planning and facilitation that address systemic issues in organizations.

The irony is that this strategic level is where Robert offers the best value, but even people close to him didn’t understand that he offered this. Though he described all the services included in this category, the words “strategic planning and facilitation” were not prominently listed on his website!

A Branding Problem

This kind of communication breakdown really bothers us. He was losing business not because he wasn’t the man for the job, but because the marketing message wasn’t a true reflection of his services. We partnered with him to fix this.

How often have you checked with your market to see how well your message is landing? Is it time to look at your service menu and refine the message?

Simple Solutions

We decided to restructure the services he provides, simplifying the menu into just three categories. Then we created a new page for this higher-level service (strategic facilitation) and he started writing some content for it.


Motion and Light: A New Video

After Robert drafted the strategic facilitation content, he had the same idea that we did. It sounded like a video script! “Your writing sounds like your speaking,” observed Ken. Agreeing that this message would be more compelling when spoken, Robert wanted to make a video for his redesigned website.

Speaking in front of the camera can sometimes be stressful. Before the video shoot, Robert felt pressure to perform and get it just right. But once he got in front of the camera, he realized it felt just like public speaking, which he already knew how to do.

In the end, Robert was pleased with how the video turned out. “It was a good way to take advantage of my presentation skills,” he observed. “It brought motion and light to my message.” We think it’s smart to engage customers in a way that text alone can’t.

Co-Creative Communication

Robert also experienced the benefits of collaborating with a creative team. Take the video script, for example. “If we had taped what I originally wrote, the video would have lasted 20 minutes,” Robert observed. “But you helped me get it down to 3 minutes, without losing the passion.”

Robert knew that as the subject matter expert, he played a key role in the process. Even though it seemed overwhelming at first, his job was to start generating content.

“What made it easier was realizing I already had parts of the content in various places. I just needed to find it,” mentioned Robert. He started looking for the messages he had already written—buried in emails, brochures, and letters. Simply copying and pasting from those sources got the ball rolling.

Robert’s early drafts were rough, but his objective was just to get all the stuff out. “I realized my writing didn’t have to be perfect,” reflected Robert. “Writing a first draft is mud on the wall. It’s a mind dump. It’s more important to be comprehensive than refined.”

“I wasn’t surrendering control by collaborating,” shared Robert. “I was really being freed up to just focus on what I wanted to say, not getting distracted about how I was saying it.”

Collaborating with a Coach

Robert also pointed out the advantages of working on a website with a professional coach. “Creating content for a website is an introspective exercise,” said Robert. “It’s not easy. But working with a coach, who is trained in listening skills and asking good questions, helped me uncover what I really needed to communicate.”

Ready for Opportunity

“What’s the return on investment with a website redesign? It can be challenging to determine,” said Robert. “There’s no guarantee it will attract new customers.” But making the investment, he realized how well it prepared him for new opportunities. In fact, just a few weeks after the website launch, one such opportunity emerged.

“I had the chance to become a preferred provider for a statewide healthcare organization,” Robert recounted. “As I was being evaluated, having the website and video ready added real substance and strengthened the case for my selection.”


Sharing what he learned about marketing communication, Robert explained, “You have to continue to look at your website with a critical eye—what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.” The key was listening to his network and adjusting his marketing message based on their feedback.

And with a wise word to other business owners, Robert advises, “Prepare for success before the opportunity comes!”

Improve Your Marketing Message

If you’re thinking about how to market your business more effectively, our team is ready to help. Whether it means creating a video, editing your early drafts, redesigning a website, or even re-thinking the entire marketing strategy, we enjoy the challenge of resolving communication problems and growing your business.

Artfully Presenting the Message

As a painter, author, and speaker, Elizabeth Cockey has a message as beautiful as her artistic work: make a positive difference in other people’s lives, right where you are.

Over the years as an art therapist, Elizabeth has seen residents in long-term care facilities improve remarkably. And the lessons she’s learned through her experiences, she wants to pass on to all of us through books, painting, and public speaking.

Designing a New Website

Elizabeth’s inspiring story was getting obscured in an outdated website. And her speaking events were just statically posted, adding to the cost of maintenance. There was no good way to evaluate her content or style as a public speaker. Her books were available online, but the checkout process was cumbersome for users. It was time for an upgrade. Here’s what we did.


1. Video Trailers

Elizabeth’s compelling presentations could speak for themselves. So we promoted them with video excerpts. The audience gets to directly experience her content, voice, and style.

The Painted Word Video Excerpt

2. Event Promotion

Users may want to see Elizabeth in person. We used a WordPress event plug-in to publicize events in an automated, user-friendly way. Users can click on dates to view the full details with a colorful photo and interact with the map to locate the event. When the event is past, the plug-in will automatically delete it from the website (no maintenance required).

The Painted Word Event

3. Selling Products

We also wanted the new website to feature Elizabeth’s books. We set up the website so customers can buy her products directly via PayPal. With low setup costs, this is an ideal way for small, low budget stores to sell online.

4. Book Previews

Elizabeth is currently writing a memoir. We’re using the blog to offer serial previews as she finishes a chapter. This engages readers and builds expectation for the upcoming release.

5. Painting the Message

Elizabeth conveys her message beautifully through artwork, writing, and talks. Now her website is a gallery that prominently features her message, her products, and her art.

The Painted Word Gallery

How is Your Website?

Does this spark any improvements you’d like to make on your website? We enjoy the challenge of engaging your customers online to grow your business. Let us know how we can help you.

Realtor Web Design: Riley in Timonium, MD

Riley & Associates had one of those realtor websites that wasn’t working for anyone. The web design didn’t work for marketing because it was out of date, and the colors weren’t right. The technology didn’t work for the owners because it was too cumbersome to make changes. The experience didn’t work for users because they couldn’t quickly and easily get the information they needed.

Information Architecture to the Rescue

We worked on making a place for everything and co-creating a new layout that worked for everyone.

  • Property Search

    Home page puts property search front and center.
  • Local Schools
    Most clients ask about local schools. Info is just a click away in the right sidebar.
  • Careers
    Now it’s easy for outside realtors to determine if switching to Riley makes sense.

Realtor Web Design: Agent Rotation System

Any real estate agency needs to determine an equitable way to distribute incoming leads among their agents. It was important to the Riley owners that the website reflect this value also. So we created an agent rotation feature—each time the Agents & Staff page loads, it randomly distributes the order of the agents, so everyone has an equal opportunity to appear at the top of the page.

BEFORE: Riley & Associates website had glaring color issues, broken content containers, and very little useful information. AFTER: The new home page with contemporary design, property search, and office locations. AFTER: The agents rotate so everyone has an equal opportunity to be on top.

The Realtors in Timonium and Monkton Love It

“We like the new website so much better! Just as our customers get a feel for a house in the first impression, they were forming a first impression of our business from our website, and it wasn’t good. Now our website is today. And we love the agent rotation feature. That was really important to us.” —Cindy Riley, Riley & Associates

Everything in Its Place – Dentist Web Design in Towson, MD

Drs. Shelton and Yeoumans are busy, well-liked, trusted dentists in Towson. They have relied on repeat business from their faithful patients since 1973, and saw no need for a website. Until recently.

Name Your Niche

Dentistry, like many professions, is changing. Consumers want “boutique” services. They want a professional who understands their unique needs and requirements. For example, many young parents take their children to pediatric dental specialists instead of to general practitioners. And where are they finding these specialists? On the web.

Drs. Shelton and Yeoumans realized that if they want to attract new clients—and they do—they need online visibility. And they need a clear message about the niches they serve.

The Architectural Solution

With the dentists’ help, we identified five client groups in their practice: children, busy professionals, people with disabilities, students, and seniors. Next, we identified what a site visitor would want to know about his or her niche. That provided the message for the web design of their site.

To determine the structure, we asked:

  • What would help a site visitor easily recognize his or her niche?
  • What’s the clearest way to organize the content for each niche?
  • Where should all this go on the site?

Questions like these determine a site’s architecture, and it’s where we always start, with every website we produce. It’s about doing the right thing in the right order. Information architecture (the structure) defines the path a site visitor will take to get to the message he or she needs. Design makes that path inviting and easy to navigate.

Preferred Placement

The “who we serve” message plays a starring role on the home page. Appealing visuals and concise descriptions of each niche help visitors self-identify and show that these dentists “get” them.

When parents visit the site, for instance, they immediately see a smiling child and discover how Integrity Dental’s care philosophy and environment create the best possible experience for a young patient. A student can click on his niche and discover the dentists are referral partners with nearby colleges and universities. Professionals learn about convenient evening hours. And so on. The result: a place for everything, and everything in its place. That’s always a good way to begin—and end—a project.

In this view of the home page web design, the attention is on children.

In this view of the home page, the attention is on children.

This close-up of the "who we serve" web design section highlights senior patients.

This close-up of the “who we serve” section highlights senior patients.

A Quest for Clarity

iRF Solutions stood at a crossroads. A restructuring required a new name, logo, and website. Under an old name, they had a rich legacy and strong reputation. Under their new name, no one knew who they were.

At a Loss for Words

As we met with their leadership team, their conversation was heavy on who they had been, and light on who they were becoming. They could tell us who they weren’t—“We aren’t just a vendor”—but they struggled to articulate their new identity.

For weeks we asked questions and listened hard. One piece at a time, often in passing comments, the identity of today’s iRF Solutions emerged: They were skilled engineers; they loved collaboration and customization; problem-solving was their adrenaline; their reach was global; and they had an new modular design process to unveil. Once we got that, the website’s architecture, words, and design came together.

Clarity = Customers

iRF’s new message described a company of seasoned professionals (legacy!) with a deep understanding of the signal intelligence sector and the agility to respond to ever-changing customer needs. That clarity was a byproduct of working through a website revamp. Because it’s now clear who they are and what they offer, they’re attracting the right customers to their site.

iRF's new home page highlights their customizable, modular design capabilities. A timeline pays homage to iRF's rich legacy.

Let Us Help

If you feel your identity is getting muddled—or if you’re not attracting the right kinds of clients—call on us. We’ll help you bring clarity to your marketing strategy.