General Questions

Q. How much does a website cost?
A. We often have people ask for estimates without giving us any details about their business or what they need. Building your business didn't happen in a day and neither will building your website. Some of the work will need to be done by you (the client) first. Things like: researching your market and competition online; deciding what purpose your site will serve and who it should cater to (this includes functionality); writing some content or an overview of what you want shared on your site; and finally, figuring out what your budget is.

There are different levels of web design and customization available. If you have a fairly low budget, Melanie Graphics offers monthly web packages starting at $75+/month*. For companies that want to edit, control and host their sites themselves, WordPress is a good option and, with a custom design, can give you exactly the site you want (Starting $2700+*). If you would prefer us to edit and update your website for you, a basic html/css website without a content management system (cms) works however, we only suggest this option if you only update your site 1-2 times/year (Starting $1500+*). Larger companies require many pages, blogs, social media feeds, custom functionality as well as meeting government accessibility standards for people with disabilities adding to the costs ($5000-10,000*). Some small businesses will attempt to create their own websites using free or inexpensive web-builders online. We are happy to help provide you with graphics for your social media and websites to keep your branding consistent.  *each project is unique and prices will vary based on client's needs and expectations.

Q. How much does it cost to have a logo designed?
A. Once we've had a chance to hear about your business and logo ideas you have, plus have a sense of the kind of budget you have to work within, we'll send you a proposal with a plan and costs. We understand the need to work within a budget and stick within the agreed price (within agreed terms). Keep in-mind logo work takes a fair amount of time in: research, sketching/brainstorming, designing on computer, choosing the right fonts, choosing colours, preparing presentation, tweaking it to perfection for the client and saving in various file formats. It is wise to budget $600-1400* for branding projects which can include a variety of items like business card design, social media graphics and logo files for print and web. We're happy to give you a free estimate! *each project is unique and prices will vary.

Q. What happens if I don't like the design concepts?
A. Some of the hesitation people may have in hiring a Designer is not knowing whether they'll like the end result (I have this fear every time I try a new hair stylist!) This is a valid concern since beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is a variety of opinions when it comes to art. Graphic Designers are more than artists or creatives, we also need to be good communicators, good listeners, and sometimes, mind-readers. That's why the more information you, the client, can give us, the more likely we are to come up with the perfect design the first time. We have learned that part of our job is to guide the client and teach them about good design—it’s also our responsibility to take the time to understand what is needed and wanted by our clients. Our end goal is always to have 1) a happy client and 2) a quality design that clearly shares the message in a beautiful and organized fashion.

Typically we will show you 2 or more concepts to see which one you like more, gain your feedback on what you like or don't like and then tweak one chosen concept until it works (it's always a balancing act between function and design and we can usually make them both happen). If by chance, you are not happy with the concepts, we try to find out why and see how we can come up with an additional concept that will do the trick. If that doesn't work, we let you know what additional costs may incur in trying to get the desired look. Again, this is why we stress that communicating at the start of the project will save you time and money. We do not throw in surprise costs—we inform you that there will be additional time and costs before we do the work. 

Web Design

offering MOBILE-FRIENDLY custom designed or template-driven sites with the option of a content management system

Q. I feel it’s time to update the look of my website—what are my options?
A. If your website was coded more than 3 years ago, it is likely starting to look dated... or maybe you like the way it looks but it’s not mobile-friendly. It may be time to consider a re-design of your site. We’re not saying that you are doomed if you don’t update your site every few years (we haven’t even kept up to that standard ourselves) but the web technology changes so quickly that when you are ready for an upgrade, it makes more sense to rebuild. This is a good time to start fresh with a new design based around your brand, using up-to-date code, and thinking about your end users to create a great user experience. If it’s time to rebrand, we would love to help you with this from logo creation to web development. We help you decide how to best organize your content, suggest call to action messaging and buttons and give you design options for your new site.

Q. What is responsive design?
A. Responsive means the design responds to whatever device (& screen size) the viewer is using to view the site. This usually means that the photos and text adjust so they are readable on a large or small screen. This is one way to ensure that users have a good experience visiting your site and are able to navigate easily.

Q. Is it true that Google gives favour to sites that are mobile friendly and what does that mean for me?
A. In April of 2015 Google announced that one of the factors in how they rate your site will be if it is mobile friendly. If you believe your target customer would be likely to view your site on their smart phones (see stats), it is probably wise to have a mobile version of your site created. You can have a specific site or app designed specifically for mobile or you can redesign your site to be responsive. More info from Google: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ca/2015/04/rolling-out-mobile-friendly-update.html

Q. How do I know if I need a CMS (Content Management System)?
A. This depends on the purpose of your site. If you will be adding content frequently, adding a content management system allows you (and other staff) to edit your own site with ease. If you plan to use your website for info that seldom changes, you could pay to update it yearly or 2-3 times a year. More frequent than this, you should invest in a content management system to save money in the long-term. We typically use WordPress as the CMS to build on but can work with other systems if you have a preference. We also design websites built on Squarespace which is an online cloud-based content management system that gives the Client powerful yet easy-to-use tools for controlling content, basic SEO (search engine optimization) and tracking user activity. 

Q. Can you match the colour of the logo on my business card and the colour of my logo on my website?
A. Printed colours and screen colours are quite different. When printing, colour is broken down into tiny dots made from 4 colours: We call this process colour or CMYK. Cyan - Magenta - Yellow - Black (I have no idea why Black is K but there you have it). Most press printing and desktop printing is based on CMYK. This colour is calibrated based on a white paper backdrop. With your screen, you are seeing the colours back-lit and the colour systems are very different—usually based on RGB (Red - Green - Blue). We can try to match your logo colours closely but it will never be a perfect match due to having no control over how others view your online presence. The users all have different monitors with varying monitor colour settings so even if it looks great on your desktop screen, there are no guarantees the colour will look the same on your mobile or someone else’s mobile.

Q. Will my site be a custom design and unique or will it be based on a template?
A. Melanie Graphics offers more than one option. For businesses that want a unique, custom designed site where each page is carefully put together, we come up with a creative custom design for you, code it up in HTML & CSS and can have a content management system added (like WordPress) — This gives you full control of your website and we can choose any hosting company you want provided they support WordPress.

For businesses that may want a more economical solution, we offer websites that are built on cloud-based platforms with content management built-in. What does this mean for you? You can still get custom design but pay a little less and spread costs out over 2 years — it also includes your hosting costs. This also allows us to offer you an all-inclusive monthly plan to make it affordable and easy for start-ups and small businesses to budget their web costs. If you have more questions, we'd be happy to chat with you.

As for templates, they are becoming a thing of the past... however themes are still very alive. What are themes? They are used with WordPress or other CMSs and dictate the style, layout and functions of the site. You are often restricted to however the theme was designed and some themes are easy to use, while others are not. This is why we prefer to custom design your site so we can make the site easy to use for you, the Client.

Q. I don’t understand what Hosting is? And why do I need a Domain Name?
A. The web world can be very confusing so we are here to make it simple. “Hosting” put simply, is where your website files reside—the web is essentially a huge community connecting many servers (hard drives) all over the world—on these servers/hard drives are websites. When a company provides hosting for your website, they are storing your website on their servers (protecting it, often backing it up, making sure to have as little disruptions to your site as possible). This leads to the next question about domain names. Your “domain name” is the web address you buy (ex. www.melaniegraphics.com is ours) and your domain name provider directs users online who type in your address to your website stored on the host servers. Often the Host and Domain are from the same company but not always. 

Q. Do I need to purchase my own domain or find a hosting company?
A. We can do this for you. If you want to take care of finding your web host company and purchase your domain(s) yourself, that is fine, we will just need usernames and password info in order to get your website online. When choosing your own web host, read some reviews and see what others are saying. I found some reviews here: http://www.webhostingsecretrevealed.net/choose-the-right-web-hosting/ Also keep in mind if you are going for a cloud-based (hosting included) website option, you won't require hosting and can sometimes purchase your domain name (dns) from the cloud-based platform.

Q. What is SEO?
A. Search Engine Optimization. SEO is fairly important if you want your website to organically appear on the first page of Google. This can be costly depending on the industry and market you are targeting. There are some things you can do to start out without spending, like writing good content for your site, ensuring your site is well organized, clean and consistent. Adding regular content through blogging, social media and video can also help rank you higher in search engines. The fast way to be seen on that first page in search results is to pay for Google AdWords (PPC) Pay Per Click based on keyword searches. A lot of online marketing is trial and error so be prepared to try a few strategies or avenues. You can also install SEO plugins if you have a WordPress site and they help you do some basic SEO for your site. We are a graphic design business and don’t pretend to know ALL when it comes to marketing, so that is why we refer you to other small businesses that provide SEO and marketing strategy. 

Q. Does Melanie Graphics write content?
A. We are a small freelance business and while we'd like to do everything, that is not realistic. If you have written your own content, we can spruce it up for you, proof-read and make suggestions (we have tons of experience doing this for our clients). If you need someone to start from scratch, to come up with vision statements, marketing strategies and creative writing, it would be best to connect with a marketing company. We can work with your marketers, sales reps or writers to build a great site with the RIGHT message!

Print Design

Q. What are bleeds?
A. Often us Designers and Printers forget not everyone speaks our language.... “Bleeds” is a term used for the trim area around your page. If you have graphics or colour that go right to the edge of your design, you need them to bleed off the page (go further than the edge of your design). The reason for this is that there is slight shifting that happens during the printing and cutting processes and if you don't include bleeds you may see an abrupt end to your graphic, typically a white edge where it should have been colour... not a very nice look!

Q. What is CMYK, Process Colour, 4-colour and Full Colour... are they all the same?
A. Yes, these are all names for the same thing. When printing, colour is broken down into tiny dots made from 4 colours: We call this “process colour” or “CMYK”: Cyan - Magenta - Yellow - Black (I have no idea why Black is K but there you have it). Most press printing and desktop printing is based on CMYK. How do you know if your project is 4-colour or CMYK? If you've designed it yourself and it's got colour on it, I'd say, yes, it's a 4-colour job. When you have your print item professionally designed, you have options of using spot colours called the Pantone Mixing System (PMS). Here is more info and comparisons (Printing Explained PDF). Or feel free to contact us with any questions.

Q. What is Press Printing, Digital Printing, Specialty Printing and what can I expect?
In the last 20 years (yes I know, I'm showing my age), the print industry has changed a lot. Press printing is a complicated process of producing negatives and plates making it time consuming and costly. Press printing is still here, we're still using the same concept and still using inks but now we have digital printing that sort of skips some of those steps to get printing faster. The introduction of: colour laser printing for small to medium jobs for instant results (Staples / local print shops) and, large print runs (many client cards at the same time) reduces the cost to printing 4-colour. Printing is more affordable than ever. The downside of some of these changes has been—small local printers find it harder to compete; and quality is reduced as everything is done online, with no control over your colour, no proofs, and barely any human contact. So if you can, support your local small businesses; not only will you be supporting local printers but you'll also establish a relationship with your printer who has a wealth of knowledge. Another change is in the paper industry—it no longer offers a large variety of paper options as paper companies have gone out of business and we’ve replaced paper with the Web. The art of printing has been lost a little in the attempt to provide affordable options. It's rare to find a client who is willing to pay for the quality that you get when doing specialty printing—there is still much you can do like: custom pantone colours, custom dye cuts (fancy shapes), spot varnishes (ex. varnish only your logo), coloured duotones, foil stamping, embossing and custom folds to name a few. If you are interested in specialty printing for a high-end look, just make sure you hire a graphic designer who is trained in printing techniques as some designers are more digital and Web-based and know very little about professional printing.

Q. What are Pantone Colours?
Pantone Matching System is used to get accurate colour when printing and is often referred to as PMS Spot Colours. It seems to be used less and less as 4-colour has become more affordable. Most often it is used for company branding to keep consistent colours on all printed collateral. You can do a lot with pantone colours. We have extensive experience working on 1 , 2 and 3 colour projects (see example). With custom painted duotones, you can create really interesting duotones with only 2 colours. PMS colours are used with sign shops as well when they match Vinyl for a sign or car. Some screen printing companies also use Pantone colours for 1, 2 or 3 colour fabric printing. See one of our 3-colour tshirt designs.

PAINTED DUOTONE USING 2 INK COLOURS (DESIGNED WHEN WORKING AT THE AVIATION MUSEUM IN OTTAWA)

Have more questions? Fire away. We’re here to help!