How to design the best OCR-scannable business cards

A highly scannable business card

A highly scannable business card

Not a bad business card

NOT BAD (scanned perfectly in spite of a patterned background BUT it would have been nice to see her business name in type, say between her name and her title, as scanners won’t “read” graphics (The Mary Kay logo to the right)

A bad business card

Real bad

I recently bought an OCR business card/receipt/document scanner called NeatDesk Desktop Scanner and Digital Filing System. And I’m loving it.

But I immediately noticed that NeatDesk “likes” some business cards and not others.

Some cards won’t translate to text at all.

Don’t you want YOUR business card to be OCR-friendly? I mean, who wants to create more work for a business contact or prospective employer or client?

You want an OCR-scannable business card.

Here are some dos and don’ts about creating a highly scannable document, at least on NeatDesk. (more…)

"Do I need a web writer?"

What ever happened to white space used well??

What ever happened to white space used well??

We get this question a lot: “Do I need a web writer?”

My answer is always, “Yes.”

  1. It takes a good web writer to write economically (i.e., not too much but not too little).
  2. A good web writer knows how to jumpstart your web site’s search engine optimization (by using words and phrases that your potential customers and qualified leads use to search for services like yours).
  3. It takes a good web writer to treat your business objectively, giving it the content that will bring your target audience(s) to your website.

Traditionally, graphic design has been orderly: a copywriter writes the copy and a graphic designer makes it visually sing.

Somehow, this orderly universe was disrupted in 1996 or so by the incredible speed with which the Internet crashed over all of us.

The geeks — the ones who knew how to program a web page — found themselves in control of this new world. Because they didn’t know anything about graphic design, their pages looked pretty bad — and they simply required their customers to provide copy, which usually wasn’t any better.

Most small- and medium-sized businesses didn’t know enough to hire their own writers, or a producer to oversee the process and a designer to ensure that what was programmed was actually any good.

And, in some pockets of this world, this is still how business is done.

We want you to be happy with your final web site, and for nothing to be left out or forgotten in the process. And even though you may not know design principles, you know what you like. Basecamp Productions gives that to you.

In short, we let designers design and writers write. Your budget won’t know the difference, but you will. We also provide a producer to oversee the process — all at no additional cost to you. Call us today. 410.404.5559.

Viva public domain!

Viva public domain!

This lovely image comes from the Farm Security Administration and is of a Polish Farming couple. Photo by Jack Delano and assumed to be in the public domain.

Updated July 31st, 2018

“Viva public domain.” The words tantalize us with their promise of free images for our videos, web sites, and publications. Public domain images and audio can come from the government, the public, and commercial works whose copyright has expired.

But there’s a price to pay for all that free public domain candy. You need to know some basic rules, or you could wind up in court or owing someone money.

For instance, public domain does not mean “released.” “Released” indicates that the human subjects in the photo have been properly released, usually by signing a subject release form and being paid a sum of money. (more…)

The wave of the web future

Columbia Journalism School building; photo by ...

Columbia Journalism School

I shared a Facebook link this morning to a PBS story about a new degree program at Columbia University, Medill School of Journalism that will create journalist/programmers. To me it made perfect sense, and I said so. I immediately heard back from an old friend.

“Geeks instead of journalists?” he wrote.

“Not instead,” I said. I told him that in my opinion individuals are demanding more control over content than ever before — no longer (if ever) the realm of a programmer.

I also said that, IMHO, writers and designers have historically been separated at birth as far as the web goes. Not for all companies, of course — there are many fine examples of well-designed web sites. I’d say they’re few and far between.

But for the masses? A company generally calls a web design company, who offers a design but no copy — the web design company considers web copy the responsibility of the company. So, as in so many media tragedies, the company calls up its PR person and asks that she or he produce copy for the web site.

Why is this happening when there’s a long history of tight relationships between writers and designers as far as advertising and print collateral? Hard to say exactly, but I think part of it has to do with money and speed. The web has grown so quickly that an infrastructure to support its proper execution has never solidified. Geeks went out and got the jobs that writers and content people didn’t know how to execute themselves. And content went begging.

Not only that, but web designers aren’t always the best people to judge usability. Every time you go to a web site and can’t find the thing you came to find — someone was asleep (or missing) at the wheel.

This scenario is changing, thank goodness. WYSIWYG design programs are getting easier to use even if their users don’t fully understand HTML. Blogging software, incredibly easy for anyone to set up and use, is now fair game for designing full web sites. There are many, many templates available for non-designers and programmers to use. In other words, it’s possible for a content person to “come over to the other side.” Cost, among other factors, has made it so.

Also, web consumers are becoming savvier about what works and what doesn’t. We don’t have that much patience for web sites that don’t work as we need them to. So it makes sense that those who are better at organization, usability, and writing are taking back their birthright.

And, as time goes by, we’ll see the gap narrow even more, as software and e-learning each accelerate. Certainly there will always be a market for technicians, but there will be a larger market for content people who can create anything from an electronic newsletter to an interactive web site at a much lower cost than is now possible.

My friend wrote back, “I hope you’re right. I’m just an old newspaper guy suspicious of technocrats and J-schools on principle.”

I say he and I will both be satisfied with the outcome. The medium will always be the message, and the message needs to be controlled by the many.

Your web site is alive

Your web site is aliveYour web site responds to attention and nurturing just like any living being. The more attention you give it, the better your search engine rankings.

You see, Google (and this is the 400-pound gorilla to pay attention to) figures that the more attention you give your web site, the fresher your information and the more useful your web site will be to people.

So, if you do nothing else to your web site other than spruce it up once a week, you’ll rank higher in search engine results than your (similar) competitor who hasn’t tweaked a page all year.

Here are some easy things you can do to freshen up your existing web site:

  1. Revise wording. Trim wording and make sure the important content is within the first couple of sentences. Use subheads with your keywords. Pick a blog and make sure it’s up to date. Things change, and maybe your understanding of a subject changes. Maybe keyword popularity changes. I have a client who’s a landscaper and hardscaper. There’s always something new we can tweak re: technology or plants. Or something else.
  2. Add SEO-friendly wording. A look at your competitors’ web sites may give you an idea of words and phrases that work. Or go to Google AdWords and run your own test. If you have questions, call me. I can make this process easy for you. 410.404.5559.
  3. Upload pictures. Pictures will also help to keep people on your web site (we also call this “stickiness”).
  4. Include additional downloadable information. Google looks very favorably upon .pdfs, for instance. When it sees you offering .pdfs, Google figures you want to help educate people, and education is tops on Google’s list.
  5. Start a blog. If you have a wordsmith on your staff, this is a no-brainer toward higher search engine results. Just address industry topics in simple, understandable terms. If you don’t have a wordsmith, you can still blog. Quote industry publications (giving credit, of course). Upload photographs of your products. Take questions from your public, and answer them.

There is plenty more that you can do to continually freshen your site. For now, aim to do a little something every week. And watch your stats go up. Oh, you do have a free Google Analytics account, don’t you? And a Google Business page?

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