Sparks November 2013 -

Sparks November 2013

In the News

Sparks on vacation next month
We are taking our annual vacation in December, so Sparks won’t be published. We wish you all the joy of the holiday season and a prosperous New Year.

Lessons from the rollout
No matter how you feel about the Affordable Care Act, it’s clear that the launch of was severly botched. There are a few takeaways for us:

  • Bureaucrats don’t make great project leads. A website coordinating data from multiple giant federal agencies is a huge technical undertaking. When you are working on a complex site with a team of developers, one company should be project lead. They should advise you and you should listen to them. As the client, you make the ultimate call, but you should not try to micromanage a project which is beyond your area of expertise. According to news reports, officials from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made a lot of bad calls. They have now appointed a single contractor as project lead, which should make a big difference in coordinating the 53 vendors working on the site. Know your limits and hold your project lead accountable—you’ll have a far more successful project.
  • Ensure you have enough capacity. Few of us will be launching sites the size of, but the decision-makers woefully underestimated the amount of server capacity needed to handle the influx of traffic after launch. On the user side, this leads to long delays. Most of your sites are on standard shared web hosting servers and have adequate capacity, but keep it in mind when you’re in the planning stages of your site.
  • Test, test, test. Almost every problem with the site could have been caught if it had been adequately tested. One news report noted the site test period was only two weeks long. This is insane. A site this complex should have gone through extensive usability and functionality testing by batteries of users for at least six months before launch. Contractors raised red flags early in the process, but the decision-makers forged ahead anyway. (See point number one above.) When we develop your site, we test it extensively internally before handing it over to you to test. That’s two rounds of in-depth testing before we go live. When working on especially large or complex sites, we add one or two more rounds of testing in with progressively larger user pools. That’s because you can’t predict how users will break the site. The more testing, the better.

Following these simple steps will make a significant difference in the launch of your site. Launch a high-functioning website or you lose brand credibility, not to mention business.

What you’ve missed on Facebook
Here are some of our recent Facebook posts. “Like” us to get in on the goodness.

  • Mind-blowing time-lapse photography
  • Brilliant minimalist print ads
  • Why our future depends on libraries
  • Gorgeous steel ribbon sculptures
  • How we violate trademarks every day
  • Raymond Loewy, the man who made the 20th century beautiful
  • Underwater hotel rooms!
  • Beautiful outdoor office/library space
  • Thanksgiving “masking” customs


Corporate social media policies
Want some guidelines for social media policies at your company but unsure where to start? Here are 57 sample social media policies from the likes of the BBC, Coke, and FedEx that you can use as inspiration.



This month’s winner: Bridget O’Keefe!
Our VisoVerbo champ wins a digital print featuring this one-of-a-kind design. Have a favorite quote or saying? Send it in! If your quote is chosen, you’ll receive a digital print of your custom design suitable for framing! Check out your competition here.

Client Spotlight

Wittwer Parkin
We were approached by Wittwer Parkin, a Santa Cruz CA environmental law firm, to overhaul their corporate identity. Their existing logo was generic and their website was outdated, unattractive, and hard to update.

We started with the logo. We went with a classic typeface set in lower case italic with some letterspacing to give it a contemporary feel. This was placed in a simple box with a line underneath it. The overall effect is one of elegance, professionalism, and competence.

We carried the look over into letterhead and business cards. Because Wittwer Parkin cares deeply about the environment, we found paper that is certified sustainable. It has a nice cream color which sets off the earth tones of the logo nicely. The business cards are thick to give a sense of weight in the hand.

We built their website in WordPress for easy updates. This allowed us to focus on their gorgeous photography (much of it done themselves) and a simple, elegant design. We used a serif typeface that relates to the logo. Because the site is not content-heavy, we were free to make the type larger than usual and make extensive use of white space. Our clients are thrilled with the results and have received many compliments. They wanted to feel more confident in presenting themselves to their clients and prospects, and now have the ability to do so.

See the logo and site designed by