Ideas, insights and inspirations.

Websites are the digital soul of manufacturers and industrial companies. Constructed well, they are effective conversion machines for new business development and become their #1 sales tool. In the past 30 years, Elliance has designed and developed more than 150 manufacturing websites. Following are four success stories of our website design and development clients: 1. Underdog Wins: Sophisticated Alloys Located in Southwestern Pennsylvania, an hour from steel-and-aluminum-famed Pittsburgh, Sophisticated Alloys takes pride in solving the toughest customer challenges, fusing the most unlikely elements to create new custom alloys. We rebuilt their website and started a blog which has given them a decade long Google page one positions for “custom alloy manufacturer”, “specialty alloy manufacturer”, “Simonds alloy manufacturer” and “alloy manufacturer”. This has transformed them into a preferred alloy supplier for many enterprise clients. The website development project went through the usual process of starting with discovery and strategy development, leading to information architecture and user experience design, followed by website … Continue reading

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Fourth of a four part series on web development best practices we have used as one of Pittsburgh’s longest standing web development agencies. These practices have consistently delivered prosperity to regional, national and global clients for the past 30 years. Today, more than any other marketing touch point, a website is the digital soul of an organization. All roads lead to it. As a mission-critical asset, it must be kept current and fresh with an easy-to-use content management system (CMS). There are four types of CMS systems: proprietary, cloud-based small-business, open-source or commercial grade. Which one should you pick? The answer depends on four factors: The Right Features A good CMS system must be: User Friendly – The CMS should be easy to use for both non-technical content administrators and web/technology teams. It should have spell-checkers, content preview, and content rollback features. Customizable – It should be flexible and customizable for standard tasks, but it should also have the ability to extend … Continue reading

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This is the second of a four part series on web development best practices we have used as one of Pittsburgh’s longest standing web development agencies. These practices have consistently delivered prosperity to regional, national and global clients for the past 30 years. Our first crucial web development best practice is to begin with a good plan. The key components of this include succinct articulation and thoughtful mapping of the following: 1. Purpose, Goals and Objectives – Always begin with the why. The list could include: realizing the goals outlined in the strategic plans generating leads growing revenue expanding market reach – to new geographies and new markets building reputation  securing top Google rankings growing donors and donations (for non-profits and colleges) 2. Project Plan –  To establish expectations with project stakeholders, include: timeline budget stakeholders progress meetings 3. Features and Requirements – To ensure clarity and alignment, and to provide a roadmap for development, these lists will help. Features can … Continue reading

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As one of Pittsburgh’s longest standing web development agencies, Elliance has been delivering prosperity to regional and national clients for the past 30 years. Our arsenal of web development best practices includes: 1. Begin with a Good Plan Map out and outline all of these facets up-front: Goals and objectives Requirements – users, business, content administrators Specifications – for interactive components Functional requirements – including a system of calls-to-action Merchandising approach Integration requirements – with third-party applications Navigation and sub-navigation system Domain architecture – including subdomains The right scale (program, department or enterprise) Content-migration and URL redirects – retaining your SEO rankings and building upon them Despite all the planning, be prepared for some surprises along the way such as with third-party integrations and new requirements surfacing midstream. 2. Make it Easy to Use for Content People Content people naturally don’t have sufficient programming know-how. They are looking for easy to use, point-click-and-type interfaces on their web platform. They want … Continue reading

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Over the last 25 years, Elliance has developed .edu websites using proprietary, open-source and commercial grade content management systems (CMS). As one of the few technology agnostic agencies, we try and support the prior investments of our clients. However, for medium to large colleges and universities, we recommend Hannon Hill’s Cascade CMS (content management system). Here are five reasons why: 1. Cascade CMS Allows Us to Implement our “Smart Page Builder”. The traditional way to build a website is using page templates. However, when constructing large websites with many schools and departments, Elliance has developed a lego-style assembly of building blocks to create customized pages. We’ve extended the Cascade CMS to construct a “Smart Page Builder” tool which combines building blocks to create all website pages easily and cost-effectively via a single interface. In sharp contrast to template-based websites, this gives our clients the flexibility to create custom layouts as needed for various parts of the website. This dramatically reduces … Continue reading

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Over the last 25 years, Elliance has developed .edu websites using proprietary, open-source and commercial grade content management systems (CMS). As one of the few technology agnostic agencies, we try and support the prior investments of our clients. Occasionally, we are asked to make a recommendation on whether to build the higher education website in Drupal or WordPress, especially if the client can’t afford to invest in a commercial grade CMS. Here is our take on this important question. The Origin Story Matters To answer this question, it is important to look back at the origin stories of WordPress and Drupal. At the dawn of the age of user-generated content and the death of authoritative voices, WordPress was started as a DIY blogging platform for everyone. It was designed to be an easy, point-click-and-start-publishing web platform that enabled anyone, irrespective of their technical knowhow, to share their opinions and passions. In contrast, Drupal was created as an open-source content management … Continue reading

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In a recent post titled “ADA Accessibility Compliance for College and University Websites,” the question of how to ensure WCAG 2.0 compliance was covered briefly. In this post, I will expand on a couple of the challenges of making an existing website compliant. A trip to the theme park Bringing an existing website into compliance can be extremely tedious depending on the technology it was initially created with, any subsequent patches to this technology, and any themes, plug-ins, or modules which extend the site’s functionality. For example, let’s consider an existing website using WordPress, which by some accounts powers 26% of the Web, and commands almost 60% of the Content Management System (CMS) market share. While WordPress is a great open-source CMS, and affords you lots of control over the content being generated, their ecosystem does not come without caveats. On top of WordPress’s back-end core of functional code and database, sits the visual design in the form of theme … Continue reading

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In order for a web page to be successful, a user must visit the page. Getting a user to visit the URL is a great struggle, but after they make that decision there are dozens upon dozens of reasons why they will leave, and sometimes leave before you can get a chance to make an impression. Page loading speed, an intriguing design, and engaging content will help keep your viewers on the page, but for user with accessibility needs (be it visual, auditory, or physical), reasons for leaving your site may be overlooked. Part of ensuring accessibility to all users means following web standards which value proper use of HTML elements, using CSS responsibly, and designing for all types of users on all types of devices. Most development teams have milestones in the software life cycle where they check for accessibility issues—this usually falls near the end of the project. We use several software tools at our disposal that can … Continue reading

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The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990/2008 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require colleges and universities to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to programs, services and activities. This extends well beyond making sidewalks, entryways and classrooms accessible. It includes websites too. Why has this topic become important lately? Growth of non-traditional student population, people spending as much time in virtual environments as built ones, legislation catching up, and ready availability of assistive technologies are all fueling interest and greater scrutiny in this area. A recent New York Times article covered the story of individuals and law firms from around the country who have begun to make a lucrative business out of demanding compliance from public institutions, and taking legal action against those who don’t. Education Week featured a story about a disability advocate in Michigan who filed 500 complaints with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which is mandated to demand compliance when … Continue reading

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In working with over 100 colleges in the last 25 years, we have learned that website projects are a catalyst for transforming a college — stakeholders are aligned, power structures are reconsidered, the organization is energized, a new inflection point is created, and destiny becomes attainable. To realize the true promise of redesigning your website, five essentials are necessary: Wise Strategy Revenue Strategy, Communication Strategy and Search Engine Ranking Strategy are the three building blocks of a Website Strategy. In redesigning your website, these three components must be orchestrated, prioritized and baked into every aspect of development and design. Ultimately, you become the story you choose to tell, and that story begins with wise strategy. Beautiful Design Strategy is invisible. Good design makes it visible. Milton Glaser once said “There are only three reactions to a piece of design: no, yes or WOW! Wow is one to aim for.” We agree. Responsive, mobile first, and beautiful design deepens meaning, delights … Continue reading

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