Brooklyn Design Studio Brooklyn Web Design Wed, 10 Apr 2019 02:51:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Look at Why I Use WordPress… Fri, 14 Jul 2017 18:15:04 +0000 The post A Look at Why I Use WordPress… appeared first on Brooklyn Design Studio.


…and you should too!

– This is the third of a series of posts about launching your online presence and branding.

The single life

single life before wordpressMuch of my early professional background was in the field of technology. I fixed hardware/software/networking problems on Windows PCs and laptops. But even before then I had been dabbling in computer programming. So when the opportunity arose at work, I became an application developer. This was a bit before smartphones were a thing. Some applications I developed were network-based and had hundreds of internal users but none of these apps could be accessed through a browser.

Things changed and I left my job just before I was to develop my first web-based app, and with this I took a sabbatical from any professional involvement with technology. When I needed an internet presence (I opened a web store), I got other people to build it for me. WordPress was around, of course, but he and I didn’t even have a passing acquaintanceship back then.

The Weebly interlude

The Weebly InterludeWhen other people approached me to build websites for them, I turned to a premium account with Weebly (You may take me at my word when I say that this platform will make it very hard for you to “do what you love” and build what you like. However, I am happy to be proved wrong. So if you disagree, you can link me to your exceptional Weebly creation in the comments section). These websites were all hosted within my account. For me, breaking up with Weebly was easy emotionally (I never loved him) but hard physically (I found out that there was no way I could transfer clients’ sites to their own individual accounts and I had to let them all “die” when I decided to move on).

The WordPress Flirtation

WordPress and I met for the very first time on a blind date. A friend and I thought we would like to do business together and we needed a website. I knew I would never go back to Weebly. I had already been hearing good things about WordPress… so I thought I might as well check him out. I installed the CMS (WordPress like Drupal, Joomla and some others, is a “content management system”) within my plain vanilla hosting account and got as far as adding a theme I thought would be suitable for our, in hindsight, ill-advised little venture… and then I felt a little lost. Instead of turning to Youtube videos, I found someone on Craigslist who was able to help me out from Tennessee who explained how posts and pages differed, how the theme fit in, etc. Wow, that was easy! Working a few hours at night, I was able to launch our website within a week. This should have clued me in that this relationship was worth pursuing. But in dramatic When-Harry-Met-Sally fashion, the venture did not pan out and I walked away from the website I had built handing its “keys” over to my erstwhile partner.

The Drupal alliance

Next came WILLiFEST. I met the founders of this nascent film festival, one of whom has since become my partner, and started helping out with running it. The original festival website was built using HTML and I had very little to do with it. A couple of years in, when we decided to switch over to a CMS, we took the advice of someone who had been building Drupal websites for a few years. I knew Drupal’s administrator dashboard was nowhere near as user-friendly as WordPress’ but though my acquaintanceship with the latter had been recent and positive, my WP memories had begun to fade. Also, rather than a blind date, this was a formal introduction. So we built our first and, for me, only website using Drupal. It was complex, if a little tacky, and at the time we had to outsource the creation of certain Javascript-based functionality. Considering all the time, effort and money we put into building this website, we stuck with it for a few years.

We also launched a startup, the building of which was entirely handled by a third partner. Crowdzu was developed in Python and despite our technical backgrounds, neither Michael nor I were ready to tip our toes in those waters.

WordPress was always the one

In the meantime, I was also being slowly drawn back to WordPress. People I knew and some of their referrals still wanted websites. Wix didn’t seem to be a better option than Weebly. I came across nicer looking websites that were built on Squarespace but I expected it to have many of the same limitations. These were all closed platforms which made customization hard. Yes, I had co-built a website in Drupal but it was not an experience I was eager to repeat. My only familiarity with Joomla was editing some content. But I had fond memories of WordPress. The platform had continued to mature. Tons and tons of themes and plugins were available. WordPress websites were almost limitlessly customizable. So, about three years ago, we got back together for a second go at forming a lasting relationship. This time we stuck it out and I am definitely happier for it. I hope WordPress is too. For me, discovering Divi last year was the icing on the cake.

I have since built/co-built several bespoke WordPress websites including this one. I have also helped several people get started with WordPress. You could even say that I have become something of an evangelist for WP. There are particular cases where your website has to be coded in a web language like Python, Ruby (Mark Nyon is our Ruby guy) or PHP. For almost every other situation there is WordPress.

WordPress may have originally started out as a blogging platform but today it is so much more. Like much of the software the web is built upon, it is open source. So if you are so inclined, you can contribute to its core, you can build plugins that work with it or you can create themes for it. Today, millons of people make at least part of their living through their web presence powered by WordPress. In terms of sheer numbers, it also powers more web stores than any other technology. Yes, you can build robust e-commerce stores using the WooCommerce plugin which is now owned by Automattic, the folks behind WordPress. Before you sign up with Shopify, you should consider WordPress because with the latter you won’t be giving up part of your revenue to the platform or pay a monthly fee outside of hosting and standard credit card processing costs.

Get your own website

I will repeat what I have started saying often these days. If you have a business, full- or part-time (I just heard the term “side hustle” a couple of weeks ago and it has stuck in my mind), you should have a web presence. And it has never been easier to have your own website… with a free, mature but constantly evolving and improving, robust technology like WordPress at your fingertips. If you already have a website, make sure it is responsive and (Adobe) Flash-free. If you are stuck with a walled-in platform, consider a move to WordPress.

You can build your own website (Building a basic website is not really rocket science any more though a developer/designer will bring special technical and graphic skills to the table) or you can hire someone like me to build the site of your dreams or to consult with. If you decide to go the DIY (do it yourself) route, there are tons and tons of free Youtube videos that will help you. Some, like the Tesseract video will seem like a great resource at first (I have come across a few people who have tried to follow this tutorial. Please spare yourself three potentially wasted hours of video viewing and many hours of frustration afterwards) but in the end it will lead you down the proverbial garden path. So be careful out there. I think it’s best to Google the specific functionality you are trying to understand and watch a video or read up on it. has an extensive knowledge base and many answered questions. StackOverflow should be your buddy. Every actively maintained WordPress theme and plugin has it’s own support forum. You are more than likely going to have to get your hands a bit dirty and learn at least a little bit of CSS (If you can pick up some PHP and JavaScript along the way, so much the better)… so be prepared for that. In my opinion, you should always use a child theme (I usually start with a blank one).

Depending on your needs, you can host with The potential downside is that you have access to a relatively limited number of themes and plugins… but everything made available is fully vetted and may very well be sufficient for what you are trying to accomplish. You will also have the power of Automattic behind you. For many people this may be the way to go. Our social media freelancer, Lauren DiTomasso‘s website – OutThereSocial – is hosted at

Like us, you can also choose to set up your account with a hosting services provider like GoDaddy, Siteground (often highly recommended), or WPEngine (a bit pricey but as the name implies, this is optimized, managed hosting for WordPress alone). If you are savvy enough, you can even set up your website on Amazon Web Services (AWS). There is lots of chatter on the web about which hosting solution you should or shouldn’t use. All I can say is that we use GoDaddy. We have been with them a long time and haven’t yet come across a compelling reason to move away. [November 11, 2017 Update: From now on I will be actively discouraging clients and friends from setting up their hosting account with GoDaddy. That’s saying a lot considering this website is currently hosted with them – in a shared hosting account that is paid up through 2020. Despite having two prepaid accounts with GoDaddy we are currently considering moving away. I may write a separate post about why GoDaddy has transformed into “no daddy” for us.] We are not a reseller of services and all our clients come to us with their hosting solution already in place. At any time, if you want to switch hosting providers, you can easily back up your WordPress website and restore it to a new account. All your content is yours and always portable.

If you decide not to use, you will find that most hosting providers will allow you to install the WordPress CMS within your account with the simple click of a button. If you want to, you can even set up a server environment on your personal computer or laptop and develop your WordPress website locally first. Really, the sky is the limit. Go crazy (in a good way)!

If you choose to hire someone, make sure you check out their current portfolio (Anyone who wants to develop websites can start building up a portfolio by doing a couple of freebies) so you have an idea of what you are getting into. Working with someone local to you can definitely be helpful. We craft every website we build with care and they are not created off a cookie-cutter template. If you would not be willing to work for $5/hour, you should not expect your experienced web developer to do so. Freelancers are also, generally, not continually employed. So you should keep these things in mind when discussing pricing.


I would like to happily point out that we finally created a brand spanking new WordPress website for WILLiFEST this year. If you click through to the archives you can still see our HTML and Drupal versions (It’s like our own private Wayback Machine).



This post was long overdue. I hope to follow up with the next one singing the praises (despite some recent bumps in the relationship) of the Divi theme (We are not resellers/affiliates) more quickly.

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Tips & Tools to Help Build Your Online Presence Wed, 05 Apr 2017 12:30:48 +0000 The post Tips & Tools to Help Build Your Online Presence appeared first on Brooklyn Design Studio.


This is the second of a series of posts about launching your online presence and branding.

You can use the following links to quickly scroll to the parts of this post that interest you the most:

Creating an online presence has never been easier, and my goal here is to go over what you need to get started. This is not really intended to be a guide for startups as those types of businesses can incur substantial software development costs, usually require more than one founder, fundraising, and the establishment of a legal entity. Rather, this post is aimed at the more typical and often solo entrepreneur who may also have a day job.

If you have not already done so, it’s time for you to put your analysis paralysis aside and launch your website. Keep in mind that, no matter what your business is, if you do not have a strong web presence your potential customers may not be able to find you… but they will be able to find your online competition.

The list I have assembled below will help you find low cost services to help you get online faster and at a lower cost than you may expect. Please note that we are not affiliated with these service providers in any way and we do not make any money  from any of the businesses listed in this post.

As this is a blog post and not a detailed how-to guide, I cannot go into too many details but I will be happy to answer any specific questions asked in the comments section to the best of my ability.

Figuring out your basic web needs

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, the first step to getting online is finding an available domain name that you like that also fits your business. You can register with any number of domain registrars but it will be convenient if you are able to register it with the company which will be hosting your website. The minimum length you can register a domain for is one year but you may be able to take advantage of special pricing if you lock it up for additional years. You can generally buy hosting on a month-to-month (the most expensive option), an annual, or a multi-year basis (the cheapest option). If you are going to pay for multiple years of hosting, you may as well register your domain for the same length of time.

Which service provider you host your website with can, in some cases, depend on what technology you want to use to build your website. For instance, if you plan to use a site builder like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace, you would generally have to either purchase hosting with the particular company or sign up for their free offering if one is available.

However, if you plan to use a free, open source CMS (content management system) like WordPress or Drupal, you can purchase hosting through any number of service providers including, but not limited to, GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator. You can also choose to use a programming language like Ruby, Python or PHP which are all also supported by multiple hosting platforms these days.

I will delve into why I don’t recommend website builders like Wix or Weebly, and why I recommend WordPress for even less technically-oriented people in my next post. If you must use a website builder platform, please, at the very least, get a premium account so you can remove the platform’s branding and use your own domain. I would also recommend uploading your own favicon (This is the little icon that is displayed on the browser tab when someone visits your website). When you take ongoing monthly costs into consideration, whether or not you prepay these fees, WordPress will often be a cheaper option than the premium versions of most website builders.

If you want to open an online store you may also want to take a look at Shopify. You can also build a really nice online store with WordPress using the WooCommerce plugin. There are other e-commerce solutions like Magento but these are typically not solutions that you can update and manage yourself without specialized knowledge.

Now that I have listed some of the available choices, I would like to mention that I develop websites using WordPress and, where e-commerce is needed, I use WooCommerce.

Accepting online payments

It will only take you a few minutes to sign up for a free Stripe account if you need to take online payments right on your website via credit or debit cards. Their fee structure is similar to that of PayPal (2.9% + 30 cents per transaction).

Braintree Payments (now owned by PayPal) is also a major player in this space but while you can set up a Stripe account within minutes, expect it to take some frustration and two to three days to be fully set up with Braintree.

Whether or not you are creating an online store, it is a good idea to get an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate for your website so your browser’s connection to your web host’s server is encrypted. You can tell that a website uses encryption if you see a green padlock in the address bar when you visit it. It has been suggested that Google ranks encrypted websites higher in search results. Some premium hosting providers will give you a free SSL certificate. You can also get a free one from Cloudflare or LetsEncrypt.

Establishing your presence via social media

As soon as you register your domain, you should claim matching social media accounts. You should sign up for accounts with all the major platforms, even those you may not use right away. If the social media accounts that are an exact match for your domain name have already been claimed by other businesses or people, you will have to get creative. For instance, you can drop all or some of the vowels in your business name, add some descriptive word after it, or add an article before it to create your own unique social media accounts. You should include links to our active accounts on your website so people can find them. On the flip side, your social media accounts should direct people to your website.

Wherever you have shareable content on your website, you should also include social share icons for all the major platforms.

It will take time to build up your social media following and without viral content it may never be very large, so don’t be discouraged. Even if you are wearing all the hats at your business, you should tweet and post updates to your Facebook page when you can. You can create a free account with HootSuite if you would like to manage all your social accounts through a single dashboard.

From a business perspective, social media helps you promote your services and/or products and helps you create brand awareness for free. Most, if not all, social media platforms also allows you to reach an even wider audience through targeted paid advertising.

Look more professional with a free business email account

If you want to appear truly professional, you also need at least one email address for your domain/website. I recommend having more than one address or, if your email provider permits it, using aliases so it appears that you have more than one email address. In my opinion, at a minimum, you need one business email address with your name and at least one that’s strictly business (inquiries/info/support).

Google no longer gives away free business email accounts. Now you have to pay approximately $5/month/user for a G Suite (formerly Google Apps) account. This is a rather good deal because you get all the features of a standard Gmail account plus some additional perks. You can also create aliases from within a G Suite account.

If you would rather have a free account, I recommend signing up with Zoho through whom you can get up to 50 free business email accounts. Zoho is very feature-rich but you should be aware that the free accounts only give you 5gb of storage each. Also, I have noticed that emails sent to certain types of addresses, for instance Craigslist’s anonymized addresses, will not be delivered.

To overcome delivery issues, and simplifying the management of your email accounts, with a little technical know-how, you can add your Zoho email account to a Gmail or G Suite account.

Get a business phone number

You can still get a Google Voice number with a multitude of features for free if you need a business phone number that you can publish on your website and print on your business cards. The only thing to keep in mind is that outgoing calls made from your phone would still use your personal phone number. Other low cost solutions include getting a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) number from NetTalk or magicJack. This type of service requires you to have a wired internet connection.

Promote your brand by sending out free newsletters

If you want to set up a newsletter subscription form on your website, forget Constant Contact and create a free account with MailChimp instead. If you have no more than 2,000 subscribers and don’t send out more than a total of 12,000 emails per month, your account will remain free.

To be in compliance with the Can Spam Act, you have to make sure that you have either the explicit or implicit permission of anyone you add to your mailing list and that you provide your newsletter recipients with a way to unsubscribe.

You can grow your mailing list by adding a MailChimp widget to your website and you can incentivize signups by offering discounts or freebies.

Old School Tip: Get business cards

Even though there are smart phone technologies for sharing your contact information, there is still value in having business cards. Remember that your business card is offline and its content provides no SEO value. So, keep text describing your products or services to a minimum. Make sure you include your essential contact information and the address of your website (without the http:// part). Add your logo or other design elements that add visual appeal to your card. You can order quality, inexpensive business cards from GotPrint or Vistaprint. If you want to get a bit fancier (and pay more), there is always Moo.

A summary of costs

Based on the above, the basic cost of launching your business online (including offline branding in the form of business cards) would be:

Domain name for one year:
– approx. $15.00
Hosting for first year:
– approx. $70.00
Zoho business email account:
– $0
Google Voice number:
– $0
500 business cards:
– approx. $20.00
Newsletter to 2,000 subscribers:
– $0
The following free services listed above have paid options that you can upgrade to as your business grows and your needs evolve: Zoho Mail, Cloudflare, Mailchimp, Hootsuite.

This post assumes that you will build your own website. We will soon be offering some great options for those who would rather not take on this responsibility. Feel free to contact us if you would like to learn more.

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Facebook Page or Group? That is the Question Tue, 28 Mar 2017 05:17:43 +0000 The post Facebook Page or Group? That is the Question appeared first on Brooklyn Design Studio.


If you already have a profile on Facebook and are thinking about creating a presence for your business, you may be wondering: Which is best for your business – a Facebook Page or Group, or both?

But before we get into the nuances of Facebook groups…

What is the main difference between a Facebook Page and a Facebook Group?

Facebook Pages are typically set up to represent a business, organization, brand or public person. Pages are always public, meaning that anyone on or off of Facebook can search for, and view the Page’s posts. In order to see a page’s posts in a Facebook newsfeed, the page must be liked.

A Facebook Group could also be set up to represent a business, organization, brand or public person, but the Group could simply be an online community of people. Facebook Groups may or may not be public depending on which of the 3 privacy settings is used: public, closed or secret.

Facebook Group Settings Explained

A Public Group and its posts can be viewed by people who are not on Facebook. Anyone on Facebook can see the Group’s posts and members, and anyone on Facebook can be added to a Public Group by a member of the Group.

A Closed Group cannot be seen by people who are not on Facebook. Anyone on Facebook can find a Closed Group and see its members, but only members of the Closed Group can see the Group’s posts. Anyone on Facebook can ask to join a Closed Group or be added by a member of the Group.

A Secret Group is basically invisible. This type of Group cannot be seen by people whether or not they are logged onto Facebook, except for members of the Secret Group of course. Anyone on Facebook can join but they must be invited or added by a Group member. Only members of the Secret Group can find the Group on Facebook and see the Group’s posts.

Facebook Page Visitor Posts Explained

With Facebook Pages, the Page’s posts are usually done by its admins or other team members. These posts will appear as posts by the Facebook Page on the Page’s timeline. Other Facebook users may also be able to post on a Page, depending on the its settings:

  • Visitors are allowed to post on the Page without any restrictions
  • Visitors can post, but the posts will be subject to review and approval by a Page admin
  • Posting is disabled, i.e. no posts by others is allowed on the Page

Facebook Group Posts

On the other hand, posts in a Facebook Group, even those by the Group’s administrator, will show up as a post by that individual person’s Profile. This is unlike Pages which can post content as if it is coming from the Page and not a personal Profile. Therefore the content posted in a Facebook Group comes directly from the members of the group. Essentially the content is crowdsourced from the Group, but how much of the content comes from the Group vs. the Group administrator depends on how much control the its administrator exercises over what is posted in the Group. Similar to a Facebook Page, posts in a Group might require review or approval by the its administrator or moderators before being posted in the Group. Members of a Facebook Group can comment freely on what is posted in the Group. And members of a Facebook Group will automatically receive notifications of all activities that happen within the Facebook Group. Because of this, Group posts are much more visible in Facebook feeds than Page posts.

Features Unique to Pages and Groups

Facebook Pages have built-in analytics, so you can get feedback on your posts – e.g. which are the most popular, most liked, shared, or viewed and what type of engagement posts have received. You’ll also be able to garner some statistics and demographics about your audience, and see when they are online. Pages can also be advertised, in other words, you can advertise your Facebook Page to new audiences and potential customers on Facebook. Pages also allow the installation of apps that do things like help collect email addresses and leads, or run contests.

Facebook does not provide any analytics for Facebook Groups and technically Groups can’t be advertized. But Facebook Groups do have some functionality that Pages do not. Group members can upload a document to be shared with the Group, or create a shared note that other Group members can view and/or edit. Groups can also store files and allow members to search through posts.

So Why Create a Facebook Group?

While having a Facebook Page seems like a requirement for anyone who wants to do business on Facebook, whether or not to create and run a Facebook Group is another matter. First you will need to decide if it is necessary for your business and what, if any benefit there will be. In order to decide, it may require a bit more understanding of how Facebook Groups work.

The simplest way to describe a Facebook Group is as an online community, a discussion forum, or a support group organized around a common interest or goal. Groups are great for organizing people and facilitating interaction between people. That is the lifeblood of a Group – the interaction and engagement. Active participation with and amongst Group members is what keeps a Group alive and growing. A Group could be a great a place to share or get resources, advice, and support. So the main thing to consider is if you can be committed enough to manage your Group and to be responsive to your Group.

If you have some expertise that you’d like to share, a Facebook Group could be a great place to do so. However, you’ll need to strike a balance between promoting yourself and serving the Group. After all, a Group is a sort of community which should be focused on what interests its members. Things should not be one-sided.

I am in a number of Facebook Groups and I’ve noticed that the best Facebook groups have a few things in common:

  1. a clear purpose/topic of interest – so that Group members know what to expect and what they can post in the Group,
  2. clear rules/standards/code of conduct e.g. no spamming or self-promotion is allowed, and
  3. a lot of interaction and engagement with its members – members are invited to comment, ask questions, and to share information and resources with others.

So don’t make your Group all about you, encourage everyone to participate and contribute, let the Group run itself, but do police things if members break the rules or disputes arise within the Group, and always make sure that the Group delivers value to its members. And one last thing, bigger is not necessarily better. While many of the most successful Groups on Facebook have 5,000 – 15,000 members, I’ve also been in very small, secret FB groups with less than 10 people that were very effective. Everyone in the Group was super committed to the Group, supportive and collaborative. The right size for your Facebook Group will really depend on what the purpose of your Group is – whether it’s to serve a team, a neighborhood, networking group, social group, community group, or a common interest group.

This post was first published on my personal website at

Felicia Lin

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What’s the Difference Between a Facebook Like and Follow? Wed, 15 Mar 2017 21:51:07 +0000 The post What’s the Difference Between a Facebook Like and Follow? appeared first on Brooklyn Design Studio.


I’ve been thinking about writing more regularly about social media, so I thought I’d start with a series of blog posts that answer common questions that people have about Facebook.

The question: What’s the difference between a Facebook Like and Follow? has come up in one of my social media workshops, so I thought I’d start with it. Thinking about this question leads to other questions such as: Can you like a page but not follow it? Or vice versa? Can you follow a page but not like it? And What does it mean to follow a personal profile?

First, here’s a refresher on a couple of terms: Facebook Profile aka Profile, and Facebook page aka Page. When someone first signs up to join Facebook, a Facebook Profile is the default account created. Once a Profile has been created, that account can be used to create a acebook Page. A Page cannot be created without a Profile.

Pages are created for a variety of reasons – for example, to represent a business, organization, brand or public person. Pages are different from Profiles; they have additional features, like Ads and Insights.

One thing to note is that Facebook has an algorithm called EdgeRank which determines how often a Profile sees other Profiles’ or Pages’ posts. In other words this algorithm determines what you see in your Newsfeed, supposedly showing you what you are more likely to be interested in seeing. Some of the factors considered by EdgeRank include: how old a post is, how engaged a Profile is with another Profile or Page.

Liking and Following a Page vs. Liking but not Following

When someone likes a Page they are by default also following it. In other words, a person has to have first liked a page in order to follow it. If you take a look at a Page that you’ve liked, you’ll see a Following button. If you click on the this button you’ll see a dropdown menu with the options See First and Unfollow.

Did you know about See First Following? This is when a Profile has visited a Page, clicks on the Following button and selects and changes their Follow status to See First. In doing so, this will prioritize the Page’s posts above the posts of other Pages and Profiles, superseding EdgeRank. This is the most valuable type of like for a Page to have.

Someone who likes a Page can choose to unfollow the Page. In that case the person is still shown as liking the Page, but they will not see all of the Page’s posts.

Following a Profile

A Profile can friend another Profile or follow it, but not like it. Profiles that are friends can see each other’s posts. A Profile can follow another Profile without friending it. If your Profile follows another Profile you will see all of their posts, but they will not see yours. This is different from the “friend” relationship, which is a two-way relationship. Reasons for following a Profile could include the following: the Profile has reached its maximum number of friends, the Profile has disabled the ability to accept friends, or the Profile has not accepted your friend request.

So now when you like a Page, know that you also have the option of selecting 1) See First if you want to make sure you see all of the Pages posts in your Facebook feed or 2) Unfollow if you don’t want to see all of the Page’s posts in your feed.

This post was first published on my personal website at

Felicia Lin

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Picking a Domain Name Sun, 12 Mar 2017 15:00:24 +0000 The post Picking a Domain Name appeared first on Brooklyn Design Studio.


This is the first of a series of posts about building your online presence and branding.

I think every business, regardless of whether it is full or part-time and whether it is small or large, should have a web presence. To stake your claim to your unique spot on the web, you will need a domain name.

If you have an existing business, it may already have a name. The problem these days is that, more often than not, you will find that the domain name that matches your business name has either already been taken by another business or someone has squatted it and has it up for sale for a few hundred or even thousands of dollars. Unless you are willing to pay this premium price, you may have to make a compromise like changing the name of your business or adding a descriptive word to your domain name. To avoid such potential pitfalls, if you are launching a new business, you may not want to name it until you have found the right available domain name.

Pro Tip

If you are setting up a new company, you should always register the domain name before you announce the formation of the company. Otherwise, the likelihood is high that a professional squatter will snap up the domain name and offer to sell it to you.

I believe that .com domains are still usually the most desirable for businesses (and .org for non-profits) because most people are familiar with them. Of course, because of their popularity, .com domains are the hardest to come by. Even though there are very successful business with the .net extension – comes to mind immediately – I would not register a .net domain if someone else already has the .com or .org. redirects to .net, so they don’t face the problem of losing traffic or business to a different website.

While a domain name like may let your potential customers know exactly what you are selling, is imminently more memorable and brandable, and given the choice, you should pick the latter.

In general, shorter, memorable domain names are best. You can make up words or word combinations but you should make sure that your domain name is easy to spell. Don’t insert a silent “p” in your domain name because it is cool.

If you are out of ideas, you can brainstorm with trusted friends and collaborators to come up with the best domain name for your business. Keep in mind that it may take days to find one that you like that is available.

Fortunately, those of us whose ideal domains names have already been snatched up now have many gTLDs (generic top level domains) to choose from. For instance, we went with .studio for this website. You could say that we didn’t heed our own advice when picking this domain name. After all is on the longer side and it isn’t exactly a catchy name. On the other hand, it is memorable and Brooklyn is cool. Clearly, we will have to work hard at branding in order to not be mistaken for I secretly worry that an email meant for may instead be sent to This fear is not unfounded. My business partner owns and he sometimes finds emails meant for a known Hollywood director and producer who owns in his catchall email account.

If you cannot get .com, you could go with .co. The danger here is that .co domains can more easily be mistaken for .com but if you are up to the challenge, you can build a memorable brand around this TLD.

Another option is to do what we did and take a look at all the new gTLDs that are now available.

Also, all countries and many cities have their own TLDs and quite often there is no requirement that you or your business should be domiciled within the particular geographical region. Many of us have used but did you know that .ly is Libya’s TLD. Do you have a profile at Well, .me is Montenegro’s TLD. The United States has .us which worked well for a while for the now defunct

If you are based in New York City – like us – and know that your business will have a local focus, you may want to register a .nyc domain. Please keep in mind that these alternate TLDs may be more expensive to register and renew than a .com.

Not all domain registrars can register all TLDs. So if you want .me or .ai, you may have to google to see which registrar you should use.

Pro Tip

The hosting company you pick may give you a year’s worth of free domain registration. So it may make sense to sign up for hosting while you purchase your domain name. Also note that your domain registrar and hosting companies can be two different entities.

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Why Textures are a Good Idea Sun, 26 Feb 2017 15:27:49 +0000 The post Why Textures are a Good Idea appeared first on Brooklyn Design Studio.


Those of us gifted with five (or six) senses know both the natural and man-made world around us by seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, and listening to it. When it comes to websites, we can only see and sometimes listen to them. I feel that the visual experience of a website can be enhanced by the use of textures even if you cannot actually feel them.

My other undertaking is a web startup and I wish I had screenshots to share with you to show you how unappealing Crowdzu‘s original footer was. Fortunately, I was introduced to Subtle Patterns and our footer underwent a transformation. This is what it looks like now with a background texture and lots of pops of color:

Chunks of black text (#000000 – for those who are following along from my previous blog posts) on a white (#ffffff) background or the opposite, while classy, can be a bit hard on the eyes because of the extreme contrast. If you happen to be using WordPress, use a color picker tool (Read more about it here) and check out the color of your dashboard. You will find that what looks like black is actually #23282D and not true black (#000).

For me, another way to reduce the impact of high contrast colors is to apply a subtle texture to the background/background color.

Using varied textures along with color blocks can also help break a webpage into sections in a more attractive way. I have done this on our homepage. What to you think? The ruled background of our bios page is also a texture!

Even though I thought I was in texture heaven with the discovery of Subtle Patterns, things really got kicked up a notch when I stumbled upon Transparent Textures. This website allows you to overlay different colors over Subtle Patterns’ textures. If you have read this far, you really should go check them out. One thing you will notice immediately is that a color can look very different depending on the texture used.

Here is an example:

This is a bright green: #83C81A

Same green as above

Texture = 3Px Tile

Same green as above

Texture = Brick Wall Dark

Same green as above

Texture = Crisp Paper Ruffles

Same green as above

Texture = Carbon Fibre

For your information, a background texture is created by repeating/tiling a small image with transparency along both the X and Y-axis so it covers the area that it is applied to. All WordPress themes have a customizer option that will allow you to add a universal background image/texture. If you, like me, would like to use different texture and color backgrounds within different sections of a webpage or website, you can use this little snippet of CSS code that is cross browser compatible.

background:url(link to texture) repeat #color hex code !important;

All of the green texture blocks in this post were created with this code. Please share links If you have used textures on your website.

PS: I wanted to explain myself in case you are wondering why I picked this image to represent this post. For me, everything about this photo makes me think of textures:

  • the wood chips behind the retaining wall
  • the polished granite surface
  • the suede shoes
  • the fabric of the socks, sweater, jacket, jeans and shirts
  • the interlocking paving stones on the ground

And also the colors are lovely! 🙂

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Demystifying Color Mon, 13 Feb 2017 19:08:20 +0000 The post Demystifying Color appeared first on Brooklyn Design Studio.


People who know me in person know that I am a fan of color. When everyone else in New York City is wearing their drab greys, blacks, and browns, I will more than likely be sporting bright oranges and greens. It’s not that I have anything against greys, blacks or browns. Those are colors and I wear them also. I just wish that those were not the predominant colors you find around the city.

One of the mysteries of life in this city that I have not figured out yet is what happens to all the brightly colored clothes the stores carry. Obviously, I am not the only person who buys them. Perhaps most of the other people who buy these clothes are embarrassed by them by the time they get home and they bury it somewhere in the back of their closets, never to be taken out and worn again. If you have a better explanation, I would like to hear it.

But this blog post is about how to use, or not use, color on the web. If I have free rein while building a website, you will see my personality pop through in the use of colors and textures (I will talk about textures in a separate post next week). But if a client wants a monochromatic website, I am up to that task also. In fact, a website that I am currently working on is all black, white, grey and gorgeous. Unfortunately, I cannot share a link here because the website is under development even as I type this. Sometimes a client gives you a logo and you then base the website’s entire color scheme off it.

When building websites, I would be lost without a browser-based color picker. This tool works much like a color picker in your favorite graphics program but you use it to pick colors on web pages and pictures you open up within your email rather than pictures you have terrestrially on your computer.

I do 95% of my web work using Firefox and I use the ColorZilla add-on as my color-picker of choice. I am sure almost every browser out there has one or more color-picker add-ons or extensions available. ColorZilla sits, always ready to be activated with one click, in the upper-right hand corner of my browser alongside some other handy tools like Firebug and FireFTP. It lets me know a color’s hex code, hsl and rgb values (More about this later). The only time it’s not useful is when an element on the web has a hover effect which changes its color (When this happens, I can use Firebug and look up the element’s “normal state” hex color code).

I picked up the exact shade of violet of one of the alligators in the example below:

ColorZilla also conveniently copies the hex, hsl (Hue, Saturation, Lightness) and rgb codes of the last color you picked into memory, allowing you to painlessly reuse it on the web or within a local graphics program.

While you can specify colors on the web in several different ways including by name in certain cases, the most common way color is addressed across the web is by referring to its hex code which is a hash sign followed by a combination of six letters or numbers – the first two refer to the red (RR) component, the next two to green (GG) and the last two to blue (BB). Hex codes can represent around 16.8 million colors, more than twice what the human eye can individually perceive.

While there is no need to memorize hex color codes, you may like to know that black, which is in a sense the absence of color, is #000000 (when a letter or number is repeated, you can shorten the hex code like so: #000). White – made up of all the colors of the rainbow – is #ffffff (or #fff). So, as you may be able to guess, red is #ff0000. #00ff00 will give you a shade of green, and #0000ff will give you a shade of blue.

In CSS, color refers to the color of text. If you want to change the color of your background, you have to specify background-color. Therefore this bit of CSS would give you white text against a black background:

{color: #fff; background-color: black;}

Well, sometimes you may want to use a semi-transparent background. For this you use rgba (Red, Green, Blue, Alpha) codes. The Alpha part is a percentage (100% = 1, 50% = 0.5, etc). So the CSS for semi-transparent black background is:

{background-color: rgba(0,0,0,0.5);}

While there are millions of colors you can use on the web, only a very small fraction of these are web safe colors which will look exactly the same no matter what type of (properly working) monitor you view it on. I think a palette of 200+ colors can be boring. So live a little and use unsafe colors 🙂

Now, the point of this post is not to list all the color codes out there… as I mentioned, there are millions. I would rather like to take a few square inches of web space to give you an idea of how to come up with a color scheme for your website once you have a base color picked out. Fortunately, there are websites to help you with this task. My personal favorite is Once you enter a hex color code in this website, it will give you all the variations you could possibly want including complementary and analogous colors, tints, shades, tones and so much more. It will also give you the closest web safe color (Boring!).

This is a small sampling of the type of information you can get from ColorHexa for the orange-y shade of #ff6600… in less time than it takes you to blink:

When building a website, you may also want to consider the psychology of colors. For instance, certain shades of blue impart a sense of trustworthiness. This is why it is a common color used on corporate and banking websites. There are colors that are more likely to induce you to spend money (Good for e-commerce platforms) and colors that impart a sense of sophistication. Keep this in mind before you decide that your favorite color combination is red and black and those are the colors you are going to use on your website. Think of what action(s) you want your visitors to take and do some research into what color(s) are more likely to induce them to take these actions. You can see a color wheel break-down and read more about the psychology of colors at You can use your favorite search engine to find many more websites that address this topic.

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Using Photos on Your Website Wed, 08 Feb 2017 15:38:45 +0000 The post Using Photos on Your Website appeared first on Brooklyn Design Studio.

This is a rather simple topic but I thought it was worth addressing because many people make mistakes when they add photos to their websites. There are a few basic concepts to keep in mind and, since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will include some examples.
The Importance of Aspect Ratio

You should always maintain your photo’s aspect ratio, whether you use the original image or crop or resize it to suit your needs. You should never, ever resize an image in such a way that you stretch one side or the other and change its original proportions.

This is the original image
This is a cropped image
This image is distorted

You can resize and crop images using premium photo-editing software like Photoshop or you can just as easily use a free but relatively powerful graphics program like IrfanView (for the PC. I am sure there are similar applications available for the Mac).

When Smaller is Better

Embedded images add weight to the page they are on and makes it load up more slowly. So you should make sure the file size of images you use are as small as possible.

This is not something I can demonstrate visually within this post because I do not want to bog it down but we can look at the issue in a little more detail. Take a look at a photo’s height and width. If you are going to upload the image to the web, it does not have to be more than 1,920 pixels wide. If your image is, say, 3,000 pixels wide, you should scale it down maintaining its original aspect ratio.

You also do not have to upload a high resolution image to your website. Why use a 300 dpi image when 72 dpi, will suffice? The large sizes and high resolutions are for other uses like printing an image on a large banner. My trusty laptop has a 4K screen and yet a properly sized lower resolution web image does not look grainy on it.

You can save money when licensing pictures for web use by opting for one of the lower resolution, smaller sized versions.

Both Photoshop and the previously mentioned IrfanView have options to save images for use on the web. You should this feature if your photo editing software offers it but remember that this does not automatically change the height/width dimensions of your photo.

Much as I like PNGs because they support transparent backgrounds, when working with “solid” images, I will usually use the JPG format because the resulting files are smaller. Note that, you can also use animated GIFs on your website but you should be mindful of file sizes.

I would recommend that you make sure that any image you use on your website should be under 300KB. It would be even better if you can get them under 100KB. And still better if you can get them under 50KB… and so forth.

Wrapping Text Around Images

If an image is not as wide as the paragraphs of text above and below it, wrap the text around the image so there are no empty white spaces on your pages.

This photo of a bashful gorilla holding a handful of flowers looks adorable on desktop screens when the text – relevant to the photo at hand, of course – is wrapped around the image. Whether you choose to left or right justify the image will depend on the layout of your page. If your website is responsive, the photo and text will naturally stack one on top of the other when you view it on a mobile device.

This is not something you would normally have to take into consideration if your image is wide enough (Remember, no more than 1,920 pixels wide) to cover the entire width of your page.

The puppy above is probably feeling embarrassed because hers is an orphan image with a lot of “ugly” white space to the right of it.

If you must use a photo by itself, first try to find a version of it that will scale across your page. If this is not possible, at least center it like this:

Though not formatted properly for desktops, the pictures of both these dogs may look fine on mobile devices because this is a responsive blog page.

When wrapping text around an image, remember to add some padding to the image so the text does not abut it. Here there’s a comfortable gap between the right edge of the image and the text. This is the right way to do it when the image is left-justified. If the image were right-justified, as in the case of the gorilla above, you will want to make sure there is some padding between the left edge of the picture and the text around it.

I am not going to include an example where the text touches the photo because it offends my sensibilities too much. You have quite likely seen example of this across the web.

Printing vs Web Use
Finally, since I mentioned printed banners earlier in this post, I wanted to quickly point out that images that are printed use a different color mode (CMYK – short for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, blacK). Online images are RGB (short for Red, Green, Blue). When you are getting ready to send images for printing to a professional shop, whether it be for business cards, a banner or a t-shirt, you will notice that they will ask you to give them CMYK artwork. You can easily switch color modes with Photoshop.

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Fonts are Awesome but… Sun, 29 Jan 2017 19:36:32 +0000 The post Fonts are Awesome but… appeared first on Brooklyn Design Studio.


Fonts are awesome. Fonts can be evocative. There’s a font you associate with Hollywood and another you associate with Broadway. I love fonts!

There are an endless number of fonts you can use on the web these days. There are over 800 font families on Google Fonts alone. You can use Transfonter to convert a font on your computer to a web font. (I used Transfonter to convert “Capture It,” a TrueType font to use in the title and menu at The 40 & Over League).

You can overlay text over images and backgrounds. Using a bit of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) code, you can add drop shadows and other effects to make this overlaid text more legible over complex background images. This means that except for your logo, you can, for the most part, use actual text throughout your web site instead of pictures of text.

Then there are those marvelous things called font icons, the most well-known of which is probably Font Awesome (FA). We have used a red-colored FA heart icon in our footer and others on our Bios page. You will even find a couple on this page. The most awesome aspect of these icon sets is that they are fully scalable just like a regular font. Unlike images, no matter how large or small you make them, you won’t get any jagged edges or pixelation. You can use Font Awesome through a CDN (Content Delivery Network) and just as with Google Fonts, you do not have to download and install them on your website.

So what’s not to like about fonts? Well, one of your primary goals when you produce text-based content for your website should be making sure that it is readable, and not just by Google’s spiders. Search engine spiders may not care how small a font size you have chosen for your website but your readers will. I think that 16 to 18px (I tend to use 18px) should be the smallest size you use for normal text that will be viewed on a desktop or laptop screen. If your website is responsive – and it should be! – you can use 14px for mobile devices.

There is a good reason why Helvetica and Open Sans are such popular fonts across the web. In the opinion of many, text blocks that are rendered in sans serif fonts are easier to read on your computer screen. However, not all sans serif fonts are made equal. One of the most disliked and reviled fonts on the web is Comic Sans. I know taste is subjective but…

… let’s just say that I am not the only person who dislikes this font. Sadly, it’s not just in s’ birthday invitations that you get to see Comic Sans being used. You will find the font employed in smaller websites and even used as the default font for emails.

Yes, fonts are plentiful but remember that just because they are available doesn’t mean you have to use them all or even a half dozen different fonts on your website. I feel that generally, you can get away with using two or a maximum of three fonts on a page. Remember that you can apply different weights, colors or even use italics to add variety and emphasis to your text. You can Google to see what font combinations work well together. It’s better to use a serif font for your headers and a sans serif font for the body text than the other way around. I often just stick with sans serif fonts.

You do not ever want your website’s content to look like this:

Your kittens have been catnapped!

…but if you got a kick out of this “ransom” note, you can generate your own at Ransomizer.

I will wrap up with a pet peeve. I am not sure who decided that it was ever okay to justify paragraphs of text on the web. The added white space reduces readability and makes for ugly presentation. Also, I have read that your visitor is less likely to trust what you have to say if your text is justified.

So to recap:

  • Use actual text wherever possible on your website
  • Pick a large enough font size to make sure your content is easily readable
  • Pick fonts for their legibility. The Gutenberg Bible is gorgeous but today you would not want to use that font for large tracts of text
  • Font icons are cool. Use them. Of course, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing
  • Do not use Comic Sans on your website
  • Do not mix and match too many fonts
  • Don’t ever justify text on the web

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To Autoplay or Not to Autoplay Sun, 22 Jan 2017 13:51:54 +0000 The post To Autoplay or Not to Autoplay appeared first on Brooklyn Design Studio.


When it comes to web design, the question of whether or not you should autoplay videos on your website is one that can engender debate. We are mostly in the “against” camp. Of course, if you are a web developer and you have a client you cannot convince otherwise, your stance – whatever it is – will have to be set aside.

Think about it for a moment. Do you really want to spring an unexpected audio surprise on your website’s visitors who may be in a public venue like a library or Starbucks? What if they are at work? Even if they are in the privacy of their own homes, they could already be watching TV, or listening to music or an audiobook.

In general, we suggest that any embedded videos you have on your website should not autoplay. If your content is compelling, your visitors will click on the play button.

What about using a looping background video? Well, if the video doesn’t have a noticeable impact on page load times and you think it adds value, you can use it but with one caveat. If the clip has audio, you should make sure the video is muted when it launches and give your visitors the option of turning the sound on. You also have to make sure that you have an alternate design strategy in place for mobile devices as background videos will generally not play on smartphones and many tablets. We are currently working on a couple of websites that use background video in the homepage banner and definitely, the first order of business is to make the file size as small as possible so your page loads as quickly as possible.

Acceptable exceptions to this rule include websites like Youtube where everyone knows (or should know!) the deal because the primary reason you visit such sites is to watch videos.

Some of the most notable offenders seem to be news websites like CNN. They often compound this offense by having the same content in the video and the text below/surrounding the video. If the plan is to offer the visitor a choice between either watching the video or reading the text, why auto-play the video? Also, often while you are still scrolling down and reading a news story, the video playlist moves from one story to the next with no pause option. Even worse, this video can follow you as you scroll down. The companies that own and operate the offending news sites may think that this is smart technology that generates advertising revenue for them but it comes at the cost of alienating and losing visitors.

There are options like browser add-ons for your visitors to circumvent your best laid autoplay plans. A personal favorite is the mute button that Firefox offers (no add-on needed) that show up on every tab that’s currently playing video or audio content. I have been known to work with over 700 tabs open at once and without this handy feature, I would be Fry.

And finally, if you are going to use embedded Youtube videos on your website, please, please make sure that you turn off the “related videos” option.

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