Blogging and Web Design Inspiration: Start with Who You Are and What You Care About

Posted By on March 24, 2015

It’s the little things that count. We hear this everywhere pertaining to everything. I’ve got news: It’s true in web design and blog design especially. Spot-on, “hell-yeah!” web design inspiration hinges on small choices: colors, patterns, fonts, graphics, templates. These seemingly small elements work together to make your design pop, wow, zing. However, they can also cause your web design to miss its mark. You can spend hours futzing, tweaking and fiddling , then realize something’s is off. Here’s a tip that will help you figure out what isn’t working.

Invariably, Your Design – Although Technically Correct – Isn’t Conveying “You”


In Search of Whoosh: How to Boost Your Blog Design

Posted By on March 10, 2015

author Rebecca Hoch demonstrates rowing whoosh on Lake Stevens in the early morning

Rebecca Hoch demonstrates rowing Whoosh on Lake Stevens and design Whoosh in her blog.

Whoosh… It’s a fun word to say. It conjures speed, power, movement. It implies going beyond the ordinary. As an avid rower, whoosh equates to effective, purposeful rowing mechanics. It springs the boat forward, increases speed, pushes you over the finish line. Blogging has its own version of Whoosh: effective, purposeful design.

Blog design with Whoosh pops the moment you open the page. It evokes smiles, oohs and ahhs, maybe a small delighted laugh. The reader’s curiosity is piqued. How can they not stay on the page and explore? (more…)

How to Target an Audience, Texas-Style

Posted By on February 26, 2015

how to target an audience with heather tessmer, billboard that reads "Ever Argue with a Woman"

One of the most common mistakes in marketing is to assume that your product appeals to everybody. It doesn’t. Especially in the early “unknown” phase when very few people recognize your brand. You are far better off learning how to target an audience by figuring out the most likely people you think will buy what you’re selling than appealing to the masses.

Let’s explain this idea with a sassy out-of-the-box billboard for a divorce lawyer in San Antonio. (I’m in Texas taking care of my 91-year-old aunt which could be the subject of a new novel.) (more…)

Content Writing Needs “Presentation Pizzazz” to Keep A Reader’s Attention

Posted By on February 3, 2015

I am on a plane. The flight crew is going through the standard pre-flight emergency routine: the exits are over the wings, seats are floatation devices, if the oxygen masks deploy, put it on and breathe normally. Yadda, yadda, yadda… Oh yeah, and buckle your seat belt. Not one passenger is paying attention. This is vital information! It could be the difference between life and death – literally! And we’re all tuning it out. Why? Boring presentation.

Your message may not be as vital as pre-flight emergency instructions. However, it is vital to the life of your blog and your business. You need your readers to pay attention, focus, absorb and hopefully respond. Is your content writing formatted in a clear, engaging fashion that’ll keep your readers with you? Does it keep them coming back for more? (more…)

Content Writing Tips from the Beast of Boom

Like everyone else in Seattle, Seahawk and Super Bowl fever has infected me. This is pretty funny because I hadn’t watched an NFL football game for 35 years before I saw the NFC Championship game between the Seahawks and the Packers.

Back in my twenties, I lived with a betting-obsessed football nut who used to watch ball games like a roulette wheel, spinning the TV remote between four or five or even six games in an afternoon. By the time we broke up in 1980, I thought I was cured of football forever.

It’s not my intent in this business and content-writing blog to parse the amazing NFC finals game that the Seahawks won in the last five minutes. It is my intention to apply some great sports writing examples to the business of content writing in order to convince you that great writing—even if it’s about Marshawn Lynch—can help you put a Legion of Boom in your pen. (more…)

Why The Best Creative Marketing Ideas Are High Concept

Posted By on January 21, 2015

Creative marketing ideas up-end expectation by showing not a scantily dressed women but a flabby and hairy researcher who doesn't spend much time at the gym.

Dice, the recruiting agency, goes high concept with this creative marketing idea. Their outdoor board featuring Matt, the tech hottie, was placed at the entrance to South Lake Union, or Amazon Gulch in Seattle.

When I started my career in advertising in the late ‘70s, a “concept”—the creative marketing idea behind the headline and image—was the Holy Grail. Every copywriter and art director (we always brainstormed in teams) spent hours on assignments from lowly direct mail post cards to :30 TV spots, trying to come with that magic combo that hooked, surprised and stuck with our readers or viewers.

Today, in a world where so much content blasts audiences from so many more places, the idea of High Concept has pretty much gone the way of the Dodo. (more…)

When to Upgrade Your Blog Design? Three Questions to Help You Decide.

Posted By on January 15, 2015

side-by-side comparison of two blogs: before and after

Notice how much cleaner and crisper the After version is compared to the Before. So much easier to read and navigate. The photo is more personal and therefore more engaging. We want to read to find out who these people are and what they’re doing. The format changes contribute to the blog’s content.

In Design Land, the goal is to create logos, brands, and marketing collateral that are meaningful, memorable and lasting. Designers are trained to do this. They love the challenge. But you are not a designer. You’re a writer, blogger and if you’re like most Two Pens readers, a business owner. As such, maintaining your blog’s “look” while keeping up with current design trends can be befuddling.

Every 12- to 18-months, new web tools and designs become available making your blog look out-of-date. You must upgrade your blog’s design regularly. But when? And which components? Do you revise the whole blog or small pieces of it? The new year is a great time to evaluate for change. Not necessarily big changes, but changes that reflect where you and your message are now. (more…)

Our Top Five Most Popular Posts in 2014

Posted By on January 5, 2015

New Year's Wish Lantern

While Cynthia was sailing on the Andaman Sea off Myanmar this December, she lit up Happy New Year wishes for all our loyal blog readers. Photo 2014 copyright Sonia Betschart.

Most of our blog’s traffic comes from people in distress searching on Google for an answer–at least that’s our take on the numbers. Their distress is typical of the times: few people remember grammar or style rules, or know how to use Twitter or Facebook without being overwhelmed by information. The majority of our most popular posts in 2014 offered solutions to these practical problems. But this year Cynthia also addressed a different kind of distress–grief at losing a loved one to suicide. We were surprised at how many people came to read her story. To date, over 5000 readers read about a man they didn’t know because Ken Booster’s death struck a chord through Cynthia’s poignant words. They found her words of solace at this inexplicable death, not by Googling but by seeing it on social media, then passing it along on their own social media networks.

1. What’s the Difference Between Retweet and @Reply?
Obviously, people still don’t get how to use Twitter, either because a new ship of beginners docks or because tweeting is just difficult to grasp. Knowing the difference between retweeting and replying is where people seem to get stuck. Hence this quick primer’s popularity. (more…)

Starting a Blog Isn’t an Extreme Sport: Three Tips to Get You Going

Posted By on December 11, 2014

Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Hoch, a writer and designer we admire.

free photo of David Bowie with orange building

Don’t let all the options for blogging software and hosting solutions make you bug-eyed when starting a blog. Copyright Cynthia Hartwig

“I’m taking the plunge. As a writer and designer, it is high time I have my own blog. I’m excited. My own place to write!”

My upbeat mood lasted about as long as snow in Seattle. It melted away when I realized I had to tackle the complexities of hosting sites, template providers, and the WordPress dashboard before I could start to write. I jumped in anyway and made some decisions that quickly cleared the way for me to write my first posts. (more…)

Common Blogging Mistakes That We Were Uncommonly Successful At

Posted By on December 1, 2014

common blogging mistakes fail meter
I’m a big fan of blogging. There is no better way to establish thought leadership and credibility for any individual–nay, any company. Two Pens has been blogging for four years and I can say without any doubt that our blog has helped us build our reputation as gifted (and sometimes funny!) bloggers and trainers for companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks. That said, Two Pens has made all the common blogging mistakes –and probably some of the uncommon ones. If you’d like to learn from our mistakes, here are ones you can avoid. (more…)