Website Launch: Seaside Cottages

When Jay and Kathy asked us to redesign their site, we took a look at the site they had going. The Seaside Cottages homepage has great, relevant information, but the images were not a prominent feature. We came in to give the page a bit of a virtual facelift, and design it to work harder for Jay and Kathy.



One of our goals was to give users powerful visuals to correspond with the information on the website. Visitors usually want to get a lay of the land before spending a vacation anywhere, and the new Seaside Cottages website delivers. The majority of content is now images, which are large and high quality. Users can also now “pin” images they like, since we integrated Pinterest on the site. Due to the emphasis on imagery, Pinterest made the most sense as a social media choice. (Just because Jay and Kathy don’t use social media themselves, doesn’t mean their target demographic isn’t using social media to plan their next Maine vacation!)

Images that are easy to pin.

Images that are easy to pin.

We put a lot of time into generating the footer, which is a hard working tool. For instance, the Seaside Spring icon leads visitors to a page that features spring-related content. Maine is blessed with four distinct seasons, and we thought it would be nice to share images of this with potential customers. We also wrote all original content for these seasonal pages.         


The hard working footer.

The hard working footer.


Like any business, Seaside Cottages relies on customer satisfaction, so the footer also features a “visual guestbook.” This particular page is a source of pride for Kathy and Jay, as it uses notes people have left them on scraps of paper after a stay in one of the cottages. This is a creative way to incorporate testimonials into the website, and allows Seaside Cottages to showcase their reviews. It also acts as a ‘trust’ symbol- potential customers can view these notes and know that they are in good hands at Seaside Cottages.


In terms of the more nitty-gritty technical changes, the new Seaside Cottages site has a responsive design, which is great in terms of accessibility and functionality. Responsive design means no matter what type of device people are using (phone, tablet, PC, etc.), the site automatically adjusts so that they can view and access all the features.

The new site also has custom forms for each rental. This form does the heavy lifting in terms of booking, and makes it easier for Kathy to follow up with people. A form makes the booking process easier for customers as well- rather than sending an open-ended e-mail, they can now simply fill in the information requested on the form and feel that they’ve taken action towards booking that vacation.

Best of luck to Jay and Kathy with their new site, and we hope that they get a record number of bookings in the upcoming season!




Reason #674 Why Companies Need To Think About Moble: No One Has A Printer

Sometimes, I unexpectedly see something and it becomes a short term fact finding mission. It’s usually something I stumble on in the morning while perusing the internet.

The other day, while checking Facebook and drinking my mug of warm water in my pajamas, I saw this go by on my newsfeed:


Now instead of thinking ‘Oh how nice of them to offer a sale on something that hardly ever goes on sale like produce’ I thought ‘Ugh, they’re gonna make me PRINT it?’ which I learned upon clicking through.

(Yeah I’m a jerk.)

I watched the comments and most people were properly grateful. A couple people asked about mobile friendly coupons and several people complained about having difficulty printing out the coupons (it required a compatible printer and browser).

I did this. I had to download some coupon driver to be able to print this out and it was kind of annoying. I did this at work because I don’t have a home printer, and I think few people do anymore with the advent of a lot of modern technology.

Even though I thought no one had printers at home, I thought I’d make this an experiment and have some data to back myself up or prove myself wrong. I asked my Facebook friends if they had a printer at home or at work or both. Here were the results of those who responded:

8 people have home based printers that were wonky/not reliable.
28 people had printers at work they didn’t seem to be adverse to using in a general way.
3 people went out of their way to say their work computer was not used for any personal purposes in their comments.
23 people who have home based printers have home offices they work remotely from or are self employed.
15 people have home based printers for seemingly personal use only.
Most everyone had multiple printers at work. (One of my Facebook friends has more printers than he does employees- ha!)

Now I got 60 people who responded… and if we took out the self employed people only 15 people had printers at home. 25% of my non self employed friends friends have printers (I believe a majority of the population isn’t).

So what am I trying to say?

If you are going to do something nice as a business, don’t require your customer to have a printer. Many of them don’t have a home printer; are restricted to personal printer use at work; or have a printer at home that is not reliable or probably out of ink.

A QR code or bar code can be stored into a smartphone and scanned on site as easy as anything. Of course this will require training of staff with how to accept these coupons but as the population using mobile phones continues to increase, it’s something we have to take into consideration as business owners and people who strive to be paperless.

This post is in no way picking on Hannaford; I am just using this as an example of how a good idea can be made better and more accessible. Because if you have a great idea, it might as well be both those things.

New Site Launch: Abbe Museum

abbehomepageThe Abbe Museum contacted us about a year after their new website had been designed. They realized their website also needed a mobile counterpart in an increasingly online and on the go culture.

They were thrilled of the work of their web designer but the firm didn’t do mobile work, so we stepped in to help.

Since the Abbe Museum had a style guide we could work from, the work went more smoothly then it would have otherwise.

A style guide is document showing how logos, fonts, colors, and other design elements should be treated in all communications. If you don’t have one, you should consider making one for your business or organization because it means anyone producing communications for your organization will create something that is consistent and branded well- anything from a company event flyer to your website redesign two years from now. (I have seen these guides be anywhere from 4 to 25 pages- get as detailed about what you want but it is worth having a conversation about with your team!)

A style guide saved a lot of back and forth and meant we only had to do two design drafts to get the look and feel of the mobile site right.

Because the Abbe Museum’s website is coded in HTML, that meant we had to chose which pages would be mobile friendly since they would have to be individually coded. Based on the amount of web traffic they got and the importance of the information, the following pages were coded for mobile friendliness:

  • Home page (obviously)
  • Visitor information
  • Calendar
  • Current and Future Exhibits
  • About
  • Donate (just linking to their Paypal donate page)

In case users wanted to see one of the other 80ish pages on the site, we also have a clear link on the bottom of each of these pages to the full (not mobile friendly) website.

Besides creating and linking to the most important pages on the mobile site, we also made sure the most important marketing messages were front and center. The Abbe Museum’s marketing is driven by a strong email list as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Making anything we wanted users to click look like buttons was one way to achieve a simple streamlined page while creating some visual interest with colors.

If you want to check out this site, go to on your mobile phone or you can go to on any device. (When you access the Abbe Museum’s site from a device, it’ll automatically redirect you to the mobile link.)

Since the mobile site files are on the server (in a different folder), the Abbe Museum can update the information in them like they are updating their regular website.

We thank Cinnamon and Julia for being super easy to work with and hope the mobile site brings even more visitors to downtown Bar Harbor to the museum.


Three Google Analytics Metrics I Care About (And Three I Don’t)

On Facebook awhile back, Breanna asked about reading Google Analytics:


I’m sure she’d want me to say she sent that from her phone and it typed it for her. She’s normally a very clear sentence writer. But I totally get what she’s saying. And since I’ve never written about it before I thought this would be a good time to do it.

If you have ever looked at Google Analytics, you know it’s enough to be overwhelming. And while I am writing this from my business point of view (year round, service-oriented business not doing ecommerce) it might give you a few good places to think about (or not think about)

Three Metrics I Care About

These are items I look at when I figure out how I should be spending my time.

Social Overview

socialmediagoogleanalytics + Read More

Beyond The Printer: Why You Probably Need An Online Form

I think a lot of us (myself included) think of ways to do things that are easier for ourselves versus easier for our customers.

Here’s a great (not me) example. Derrick blows glass and he was invited to enter one of his pieces in a contest. He was sent to a website link for this contest so he clicked from his email. On the webpage was information about the contest and then a link to click on to sign up. So Derrick clicked again.

Two clicks in, Derrick thinks he is going to get to an online form… but it’s a pdf. He’s on his phone, which is how 50% of Americans now access the internet. All he can do is look at the tiny writing and think ‘I guess I need to get on a computer to do this.’

Yeah this is a form I can't fill out, let alone read, on my phone. *sigh

Yeah this is a form I can’t fill out, let alone read, on my phone. *sigh

In addition to being on his non-pdf friendly phone, Derrick, like many of my non-business owning friends, however, doesn’t even own a printer anymore… and feels guilty printing personal stuff at work.

‘Why didn’t they just make it an online form?’ he asked me.

No doubt he will turn this in and someone will have to type his application into some kind of spreadsheet or database that will track all the artists entering the contest.

This what I think happened. The person in charge of the contest made the pdf of the application and sent it to the web department, saying “Can you put this online?” Because most website people feel like they should do exactly what someone asks or seem like they are being difficult (and because they are usually busy people), they took this statement to mean link the pdf on the website, not take 20 extra minutes and build a custom form that gets emailed to the right person or people.

Derrick's simple glass order form. You can fill it in on your phone and he'll make you glass. Bam.

Derrick’s simple glass order form. You can fill it in on your phone and he’ll make you glass. Bam.

Why I love forms:

  • They work on mobile devices and regular computers.
  • The answer goes to the right person in electronic format- less typing for you if you get a form submitted.
  • The person filling out the form feels the immediate sense of accomplishment of having ‘done’ it.
  • Forms can apply to all kinds of businesses and non-profits, service-based and product-based sectors.

Will Derrick eventually have an online cart? Of course. But for now he can take requests… and was able to process a $100 order from a woman two weeks ago he had never met via this form.

Can you create an interactive pdf form? Of course. But in terms of mobile friendliness/readability (not to mention impressive technology), consider converting that pdf on your website you want people to fill out into an online form!


New Website Launch: Quigley’s Building Supply

What happens when you run three different kinds of businesses but want to run them on the same website platform? This is the issue Quigley’s Building Supply had… until their new website we launched yesterday.

Three Templates, One Website

Quigley’s Building Supply has always evolved to respond to community needs during its over 60 years of existence. These past couple years, this has meant moving beyond building supplies and into two other areas: equipment rental and an outdoor department. These businesses within the business have related but separate logos and operate in different parts of the same building. How do we represent this idea of separate but cohesive online? Three templates running one piece of software.


Designwise, Alice made the images in the menu, headers, and sidebars all different. There is one template for the building supply side (We love the red hammer and were glad when Quigley’s did too!), one for the rental business, and one of the outdoor supply store. It’s really important that website visitors be able to move around on the website so tabs to the other sections are on each page. We also have breadcrumbs and site search allowing people to navigate the website beyond using only the menu.

What’s great is while these three parts of the website all look different, they all run on one install of Wordpress. This allows the site search to work best since when a user submits a term or phrase, it searches all three parts of the site to find the information. From the angle of Quigley’s staff, this also gives them one administrative panel to log in and update the site.

To keep the look similar as website visitors move from one part of the site to another, the logos were placed in the same location and the same background color was used throughout the site. Each part of the site shows a different ‘business’ but it gives a unified sense so the web visitor understands that it is the same business.

Pro Staff

Part of the initiative of Quigleys Outdoors was to partner with area outdoor guides and give them a place to showcase their work. Many guides don’t have their own websites so this should be a valuable marketing opportunity. Each guide page has photos, information, and a contact form which gets emailed directly to the guide, allowing both Quigley’s Outdoors staff and the guides themselves to monitor referrals.

Mobile Template

We created a simple mobile template (with simplified menu going to each of the three main sections) using Obox Mobile. This way, if users are visiting from their smartphone, they can still get the information they need.

Third Party Integration

Quigley’s uses external services like social media, their eBay store, and a credit company called BlueTarp they use to give contractors and others store credit. We made all these resources easy to access and prioritized them on different parts of the website.

While the Quigley’s website seems simple, the three templates mean it only looks that way. Congratulations to Justin and the Quigley’s team on your new website!

Breaking Even Communications would like to thank Matthew Baya and Tom Beal for their contributions to this site. 

Full disclosure: This business is owned by my mom and managed by my brother-in-law. Not sure what this means since they paid us to do it and we aren’t receiving any other kickbacks from it but thought I’d disclose that anyway!

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