Treeblog

Announcing Canopy 4.0, Our WordPress Framework

April 21st, 2014 by Dan

Since we started making WordPress sites almost 6 years ago, we’ve grown almost as much as the platform itself. Our WordPress framework, Canopy, represents the sum total of that growth.

Why Build a Framework?

Work smarter, not harder. Right from the outset, we could see the need for a framework. Many of our projects required similar features, and no programmer worth their salt will miss an opportunity to reuse code. We looked at established frameworks, but found them too feature-bloated to serve our clients’ best interests. Instead, we started with the absolute minimum in WordPress templating and worked our way up from there. This was the rather informal birth of Canopy as the “TCX Template”. It was little more than a collection of useful bits and bobs, aimed at helping get our clients off the ground in WordPress.

We quickly found that having a consistent foundation offered a place to target all of our improvements, as the web and WordPress itself matured. Though many clients presented us with unique challenges, with our framework in place, we could focus on building them intuitive solutions and less on the rudiments. Moreover, all of our clients using Canopy find themselves on a level playing field. When Canopy advances, they all stand to benefit. A project from 2009 may need only a few hours’ work to “upgrade” to a modern 2014 implementation, gaining hundreds of hours of improvements in the process.

So Where is Canopy Now?

Let’s get the big stuff out of the way. It’s 2014, as of this writing, and the world-wide web is dominated by mobile users. In order to support all web-capable devices, from the desktop down to the phone, and everything in-between, we’ve built Canopy to work responsively. This means that our sites adapt to the physical dimensions of the browser and do their best to behave like first-class citizens in any given environment. This means that graphics will be crisp on high resolution screens, and interaction will follow conventions which users are comfortable with.

In some regards, our most important visitors are search engines. Canopy is written to speak their language, taking advantage of new technologies like OpenGraph and Schema.org to fill in any gaps that may hinder their understanding of a website. On the same token, HTML5 and ARIA landmarks help make our sites more accessible for screen readers.

Clients crave richer and more interactive sites, and that comes with a cost. Serving up all the assets to power visual marvels can be quite taxing on a web server, which is why we’ve cut out the fat, so to speak. Canopy’s assets are streamlined to deliver in parallel so that end users don’t have to wait long before viewing the site. Fonts and CSS are used intelligently to create what used to require virtual boatloads of data to achieve.

Getting down to details. Even though the WordPress platform has grown to handle many aspects of content management, there are some areas we found it could use our help. Canopy aims to improve the WordPress experience in any way we see being useful to the client, content editor, or the designer. Building an intuitive slideshow management system was one of our first big projects.

Eventually, our backend improvements came to include solutions to lots of common client needs. Columns, buttons, accordions, lightboxes, and a variety of basic templates fill out the editor’s missing functionality. An overarching configuration panel covers everything else. We’ve seen first hand how theme authors implement these features in a way that clutters at best and mystifies at worst, and that’s one of our biggest pet peeves. Whenever we develop an advanced feature, we pour a lot of effort into distilling it down to its most basic, usable state.

There are a million little details that make Canopy what it is, and like in many things, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You’ll have to check out one of our flagship sites to see what I’m talking about.

5 Tips for Updating Your SEO Practices

April 7th, 2014 by Rita

word bubble relating to search engines and social media
With information about SEO trends and tips running rampant on the internet – some of it years out of date – it is easy to become overwhelmed and misdirected. Floods of information, seemingly giving new advice on updated trends, easily leads us to believe SEO practices are constantly in flux. And, while there is some truth to this, Google’s frequent updates to its algorithm aren’t always major game changers.

Google Hummingbird, however, launched in September 2013, actually is a new algorithm as opposed to a simple update to the existing. Prior to, and especially after the announcement of the new algorithm rollout, the internet became inundated with “helpful” articles full of suggestions for 2014 best practices.

Last year, we wrote a four part series SEO Explained. Most of what we wrote still holds true, but we too want to stay up-to-date and also help you stay informed as well. In this post, we’re outlining five steps for you to update your SEO practices for 2014 and the future.

If you handle your business’ marketing, it’s likely you’ve heard or read the term “content marketing.” It may sound like a term Internet marketers and advertisers disseminate in order to persuade you to invest money in their services, but it is not. Content marketing is in fact, a very real, very necessary element of search engine optimization.

So if content marketing is a real thing, then what is it? Well, it’s everything. It is everything your company says. Every Facebook post, every tweet, every blog, every word on your website is a part of your content marketing. This means, if you have a website, a Facebook page, and/or a Twitter account for your business, you already have the platforms to begin content marketing.

This does not mean, however, to load up your website, your blogs, or your social postings with keywords. Google gets a little bit smarter every day, and their new algorithm is pretty good at detecting this trick. Plus, keyword driven content is B-O-R-I-N-G.

What do we suggest?

If you have unique and original content relevant to your business on your site, the searchable keywords will take care of themselves. One recommended approach to writing this more appealing content, is to identify your existing and potential customer/client problems and how your business offers solutions to these. Looking at your business in such a way – as a solution rather than a product/service — and writing about it, will create very customer-centric content; and in this day and age, customers want a business to demonstrate an interest in their needs, not the almighty dollar.

Create evergreen content, or content without a shelf life. While some information you may need to share will be time sensitive (this blog post, for example, will only be relevant until the next major SEO change, and therefore is not exactly evergreen), find ways to incorporate content that doesn’t come with an expiration date. Examples of evergreen content include:

  • Educational content – How to’s, tips, guides, etc.
  • Case studies, true stories, testimonials.
  • Top ten or list articles.
  • Interviews with experts in your business or field.

Google is placing more and more emphasis on longer in-depth articles over the short blurb type posts. The more quality content you provide in your blog or news posts, the more content Google has to crawl for displaying your site for a wider range of search queries.

If you’re interested in having these in-depth articles rank even higher with Google, apply for Google Authorship. Bloggers with verified authorship show up higher in the results and look like this:

screen shot of Google search results showing Google Authorship

Google search results showing a Google Authorship listing.

Excellent content marketing requires strategy. The vision, mission, and message of the company needs to be clear so that the content you or your marketing team rolls out on to the web is consistent across the board. If your company does not already have a set message, then some strategic planning needs to be done including laying out a marketing plan outlining where, when, and how often you will post/advertise/socialize with your customer or client base.

Content marketing handled well will assist with your on-site and off-site SEO as long as the message remains undeviating and at least 45% un-selfish.

In the most basic of terms, these two tagging systems help to define the content on your website. Open graph assists with how the social networks see your content, and is actually required by Pinterest before applying to add Rich Pins to your site. Schema.org tags, assist the search engines to identify specific details found on your pages and posts.

Essentially, the two will ensure that any crawled or shared content is explicit and intelligible. Typically, Google and the other engines have to figure out the meaning of everything on your site. With the Schema.org tags, you are able to supply that meaning yourself, and this not only benefits Google, but it benefits your site’s page rank.

There are some plugins that provide basic open graph or schema tags, but to get the optimal benefit of these tags it is best to hire a developer who can program your site to automatically generate the tags as you create and modify your content.

As the search engines and social networks begin to place more emphasis on clearly defined information, this practice will soon become very important. Social activity, which will be covered in the next section, is beginning to take prominence in SEO practices as well, so you might as well get ahead of the game now and have the tags implemented into your site.

So far, there seems to be no conclusive proof Google is using social media as a factor in their algorithm for page ranking. Yet.

Some SEO experts say, “Social signals are having a direct impact on how sites are ranking in the SERP’s (search engine results page),” while some say, “Google is not using social signals now… They certainly intend to use them in the future.”

With such indefinite information circling around in the realm of internet marketing, the only thing to do is to get ahead of the game. Begin focusing more on your social media now. We will delve deeper into methods for updating your social media marketing in a future blog post, but for now keep the need for more social emphasis in the forefront of your mind.

You can also visit our SEO Explained series, and begin with the simple tips we outlined last year that are still relevant in today’s social media marketing.

Social may be taking more prominence and may possibly take over in the future, but for now, inbound links still play an important role. Again, our SEO Explained series outlines the importance of and tips for gaining back links to your site.

Perhaps, rather than outlining the optimal methods for gaining these back links, it is better to outline the bad practices.

  • Never buy or sell links.
  • Never use link farms.
  • Never write or buy fake reviews. Reviews are for enhancing customer service, not for SEO. Have an area on your site linking to the various networks for reviewing your business, respond well to positive and negative reviews, and provide the kind of service people want to write about. Do this and your business will generate plenty of reviews organically.
  • Do not use guest blogging as a means to spam other sites with links back to your site. Guest blogging in and of itself is not a bad practice, but use it as a legitimate way to spread quality content, not to simply generate more links.
  • To the same effect, never use the comment areas on blogs for spam comments.
  • Overall, the best practice for gaining inbound links, is not to try to gain in bound links, which leads us to our final and possibly most important step.

    This may seem like strange advice to read in a blog dedicated to updating SEO practices, but at the end of the day the best way to make your business relevant to a user’s search query is to give them a reason to search for you. Even in today’s digitally connected world, the word-of-mouth promotion of a business is still very powerful. Provide excellent service and respond to negative reviews diplomatically. Give your customers a reason to recommend you to their friends via Facebook, Angie’s List, Twitter, Google+, etc., and people will go searching specifically for you.

    At the end of the day, keeping up to date with SEO practices doesn’t need to be as complicated as it may seem to be. Just remember to provide quality content on your site, implement Schema.org and Open Graph tags, socialize and connect on social networks, don’t participate in questionable link acquisitions, and provide a service, product, or solution to your customers that make them want to search for your business.

    For more information regarding a strategic marketing plan consultation or assistance implementing Schema.org and Open Graph tags on your website, contact us.

2014 American Advertising Awards

February 25th, 2014 by Rita

The month of February means only one thing for the team at Treefrog Cinegraphix: it’s ADDY® time! The ADDY’s – now known as The American Advertising Awards – are the awards program created by the American Advertising Federation to honor those who excel within the advertising profession. It is a three tiered program beginning locally, to be followed by district awards, and culminating at the national level.

For the past six years, the Treefrog Cinegraphix team has contributed a great deal of time and resources to facilitate the coordination and promotion of the Orlando awards program and ceremonies. Each year, the project comes with considerable responsibility and stress. Deadlines are air tight and must be met; all work must be original and in keeping with a pre-determined theme; and to top it off, our work is displayed every year for the whole of Orlando’s advertising community to see.

Needless to say, the month of February historically becomes a crazy time of frenzied and hectic madness for us! However, if we didn’t love the federation and the work we do for them, we wouldn’t take it on year after year. The truth is, we dread the pressure but delight in the result.

Promotional Materials

1. The Event Promotion Sitewww.theorlandoaddys.com – designed by Christian Knightly and developed by Susan Bookman.

2. Invitations to the Masquerade Gala – designed by Christian Knightly with special thanks to Susan Bookman and Tracy Todd for their assistance with the die-cut process.

3. Template Design for Promotional Email Campaign – designed by Christian Knightly.

4. Promotional Billboard – designed by Christian Knightly.

5. Social Media Skins – designed by Christian Knightly.

Presentation Materials

1. Gala Keynote Presentation – designed by Christian Knightly with help by Dan Bookman.

2. Winner’s Envelopes – designed by Christian Knightly with special thanks to Susan Bookman and Tracy Todd for their assistance with the die-cut process.

Winner’s Collateral

1. Winners Book – designed by Christian Knightly with special thanks to Dan & Susan Bookman for all their donated time and assistance in the layout process and to Spectrum Print Communications for the donated printing.

2. Winners Billboards – designed by Christian Knightly.

3. Winners Site – developed by Dan & Susan Bookman.

Masquerade Gala

And finally, the big event! What a wonderful night of food, fun, and friends. The TCX team was privileged with presenting the gold awards for the Advertising Industry Self-Promotion category, but the ultimate honor was bestowed upon our very own Christian Knightly with the prestigious Honorary ADDY® Chair Award. After all his hard work and dedication he genuinely deserves it.

Top Ten Sexy Typefaces

February 11th, 2014 by Rita

What is sexy?

A man observes a woman from across the room and finds himself captivated. Is it her eyes? Her mouth? Her…?

A woman sneaks a glance at a man as he passes her on the street and becomes titillated. Is he sleek? Sophisticated? Or perhaps the right amount of rough around the edges?

Whatever it is that turns us on, we know it when we see it.

That same inherent attraction to our fellow human beings is also what drives our pull to a certain aesthetic. Truth be told, we make a considerable number of insignificant daily choices based on visual enticement. Advertisers know this, and they strategically use design to beguile the masses.

We all know sex sells, but what makes a sexy design? It doesn’t always come down to scantily clad, tanned, and oiled models with sculpted bodies handling the featured product. No, rather a skilled designer arouses the same excitement as the half-naked-practically-going-at-it-gorgeous-supermodel-type ads without resorting to such a cliché tactic.

Typography holds great weight within a design. That being the case, when striving for a result that spells S-E-X, the designer must employ the sexiest tools in his/her arsenal. What are these tools? The ten sexiest fonts, of course. Lucky for you, dear reader, we know which ten are the sexiest, and we’re in a sharing mood.


1. Carolyna Pro
We’re beginning our list with the Audrey Hepburn of the typeface world. Designed by Emily Conners, the talent behind the one-woman foundry Emily Lime, Carolyna Pro is a handwritten calligraphy script with playful, yet classy, to-die-for swashes. The choices of alternate glyphs make this a worldly and well rounded font ready for any occasion.

Carolyna is classic with an everlasting style; the sleek kind of sexy. This is no one-night-stand kind of font, this one you’ll want to spend some time with, get to know, and build a long lasting relationship.


2. Archer
If Archer were a man, he’d be Joseph Godon Levitt. Typography.com describes Archer as, “Sweet but not saccharine, earnest but not grave … designed to hit just the right notes of forthrightness, credibility, and charm.” Archer may have been designed with Martha Stewart Living in mind, but it’s blending of geometric and antique serif styles with that bold use of ball terminals can – much like a simple smile from Levitt – bring a designer to their knees.


3. FF-Pitu
FF-Pitu has a certain je ne sais quoi about its extraordinary cusps, distinctive ligatures, and razor-edged serifs that really whets our appetites. It expresses an enigmatic personality, and those oh-so-sharp serifs remind us somewhat of vampire fangs descending, so we find FF-Pitu to possess the same aura of sexiness as the death dealer leading lady Selene from the Underworld series.

She and FF-Pitu are the same in their bold and mysterious versatility. At first glance we’re unsure of what to make of them, but the more we look, the more we like what we see.


4. Bello
For those of you with a palette for a more robust flavor, Bello is for you. The voluptuous Venus of the typeface world, Bello calls to mind Titianesque images of the goddess of love reclined on the couch, hand placed wittingly over that sweet spot. Big, beautiful, with plenty of ligatures, and those start and ending swashes, this font comes with her fair share of cushion for the pushin’.


5. Caslon
Spotting Caslon in a design inflames the soul much in the same manner as that first taste of a finely aged wine. Designed in the eighteenth century to resemble a Dutch Baroque style and yet still stylish today, Caslon is Dorian Gray in font form. An ageless kind of sexy, a hundred years from now it will still turn heads.

*Note: The fonts listed up to this point are all paid fonts. In order to provide a more rounded selection for designers working with little to no budget, the next five are all free fonts.
 

6. Sofia
Ah Sofia, how you make our hearts beat faster, make our palms start to sweat. Your curvaceous ligatures and taut swashes call to mind the shapely form of another Sophia – Loren that is. No matter how you spell it, they both possess the same full-figured irresistibility and exotic flair capable of making pulses race everywhere.


7. Sabado
Sabado is young, but bold. Bold, strong, and sturdy, much like a typographic James Dean. This geometric sans-serif font with its strong lines is also likely to raise to icon status for creating dazzlingly eye-catching headlines, though these headlines will be much different from those made by Dean.


8. Qumpellka No. 12
Another typeface with some curves, this one has a fairly retro feel to it. Tapering at times from thick to thin and ending in those super sassy narrow terminals, Qumpellka No. 12 is reminiscent of that legendary image of Marilyn Monroe’s dress being blown up by the steam grate as she coyly pushes it back down over her unmentionables. Both are undoubtedly sexy while always leaving you wanting just a little bit more.


9. Abraham Lincoln
Literally inspired by the tall and skinny proportions of our 16th president, it may seem obvious who this font brings to mind for us. Wrong! Abraham Lincoln, really? Sure he may have been sexy to the ladies of the 19th century, but not so much by todays standards.

No, the sexiness of the Abraham Lincoln font is much more akin to that of the devastatingly handsome Adrien Brody. Noble with its slender hairlines, solid strokes, and those regal bracketed serifs, this is a typeface fit to class up any design in a very striking way.


10. Dancing Script
Possibly the best example of a “handwritten” font for our list, Dancing Script demonstrates a casual sort of sexy. In this aspect it appears friendly and approachable similar to the ever smiling Neil Patrick Harris.

It doesn’t need to try too hard; it possesses an easy going and relaxed demeanor that appeals to all. With large caps and letter sizes that change slightly, Dancing Script appears to bounce along the page with spontaneity and grace all at the same time.

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