four blossoms with the word jebrawebbed below

Jebrawebbed is the blog written by Debi Lewis, founder and owner of sustainable web site development company Jebraweb.com. Based in Evanston, IL, Debi and her firm are focused on building web sites for organizations with a purpose beyond (but not exclusive of) profit. Debi blogs about open source content management, non-profit and small business web sites, the importance of local community building, and women-owned business. She is the mother of two young daughters, married to a non-geek, prefers her bike to her car, and is the proud owner of a few too many stringed instruments.

You can find Jebraweb on Facebook and Twitter. You can email Debi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Jebraweb Redesign Case Study: Meals at Home

Jebraweb Meals at Home RedesignRedesigning a site is always both a great adventure and a great challenge. There's the fun of approaching the work from the new perspective of where the client wants to be while holding onto knowledge of what already doesn't work for them, and there's the challenge of helping that same client let go of the outdated components of their site, even if they believe those design elements define them and their business.

It's a rush!

Fortunately for me, my most recent redesign project was for one of my longest-standing clients, the fantastic group at non-profit organization Meals at Home. Founded in 1968, Meals at Home has been delivering meals to homebound individuals on the north shore of Chicago long before the web was part of any business plan. In recent years, however, their web site has always been an important way for them to communicate with both the people they serve and their families.

Betcha Didn't Know About These Web Site Tools

surpriseWordPress. Stock photo collections. Design magazines. These are the kinds of resources on which web site owners rely heavily to do the work of building and maintaining their online content, and heaven knows we'd all be lost without them. They get web site owners started, teach them the basics, answer questions and help  them make some nice finishing touches.

But everybody knows about those resources.

When I'm working on a site for a client, I use all of the expected media, but in my back pocket (or my Favorites menu), I keep a few unconventional means of getting information and inspiration. Without giving away all my best secrets, I want to share three off-the-beaten-path tools I use to get my projects off the ground and moving forward.

Warning Lights and Helpful Hints: How Wording and Typeface Mess With Your Users' Minds

car dashboard with parking brake light litLast week, the emergency brake light on my car's dashboard would not turn off.

I checked the brake itself. Whether it was up or down, the light remained on. It didn't feel like it was engaged when I was driving. My gas mileage stayed the same. The car is fifteen years old; I started to have fantasies about a new car, but they were overshadowed by a suspicion that this light was clearly not illuminated for the right reasons. I channeled my inner Inigo Montoya: "I don't think that light means what you think it means."

Sure enough, when it finally dawned on me to search online for "emergency brake light won't turn off," I learned that sometimes that light stays on as an indication that the car's brake fluid is low. I checked the brake fluid, and that was EXACTLY what the problem turned out to be. I filled the brake fluid and clapped gleefully when the emergency brake light on my dashboard dimmed.

Hooray! I troubleshooted my own car!

After  the glow of success wore off, I got to thinking: that is a really TERRIBLE way to warn a driver that the brake fluid is low. After years of driving, I was conditioned to interpret that BRAKE light to mean that I had engaged the parking brake. The car's operating system set an expectation for me that was hard to let go.

That's poor design, and I see it every day on web sites too. Users of web sites have expectations just like drivers of cars. Challenging those expectations isn't always a great idea. Today I want to write about some ways that language and even typeface can mess with a user's expectations around how web sites work, and why those challenges aren't a great idea if your goal is a truly usable site.

Jebraweb Redesign Case Study: Main Line Unitarian Church

Main Line Unitarian Church web site redesignIt must be web site redesign season. Everyone is calling us to ask for new web sites, additional sections and functionality, or spiffed-up graphics and layouts. Last week, I wrote about the great fun I had redesigning the web site for a local jewelry artist, Elizabeth Kline. This week, I'd like to share the process for an entirely different type of redesign project, this time for a fantastic group of people doing good for the world from their Unitarian Universalist congregation outside Philadelphia.

The Main Line Unitarian Church (MLUC) has been a Jebraweb client since 2010, when we took their existing web site and moved it from a proprietary system into Joomla, an open-source content management system, automating pieces of content layout and structure that had been part of manual processes for many years. In the time since 2010, MLUC has gone through a major Joomla core software upgrade -- one the Joomla developer community agreed would forever be remembered as universally painful -- and now a smaller, more manageable upgrade which they coupled with some smaller functionality and design upgrades. In other words, we are in it for the long haul with this client, and working with them through three solid projects has been a pleasure, each and every time.

How did it go this time? Same as always -- smooth and steady.

Jebraweb Redesign Case Study: Elizabeth Kline Designs

Elizabeth Kline Designs Jebraweb Redesign I love doing web site redesigns. These days, web sites have come to mean so much to the organizations they represent that a web site that doesn't fit anymore affects every aspect of the business. Clients who want a redesign may want it for any of several reasons: their site is too hard to maintain using the technology in which it was built; the style is outdated and stale; or they want to add so many new features and pages that it's best to start over completely.

It is heartbreaking for me to hear someone say, "Well, you can find that info on our web site, but I apologize for the site itself -- it's such a mess. We really need to redo it. I just haven't had the time." To be embarrassed by the very thing you should be using to advertise what's great about your organization -- what a shame!

In the next few posts I'll be highlighting the redesigns I've been working on recently -- I'll talk about the process, the timeline, the technology, and the tools we used to get it done.

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