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Virtue of the Small

About Virtue of the Small

Virtue of the Small is owned and operated by Ann Marie Thomas.

Not currently taking new clients, but working on serving the ones I have as well as possible, and empowering them to communicate what's important to them.

It is a small (hence virtuous) web development company based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with a focus on creating high-quality, informative, maintainable, and useful web sites for small companies and non-profit groups.

I love getting comments like this one: "Wow, this is a great site! Lots of material, and a design that is very attractive but doesn't get in the way of the information." If you want this to be true of your site, maybe I can help.

My Approach

My goal as a designer is simply to communicate the ideas that are a web site's reason for being. I work to please the site visitors, your customers - I don't make fancy animated logo sequences to glorify a company; your glory comes from what you do and what people know about you. I try to help you make something genuinely useful and informative, not flashy. Then you can focus on doing what you do best, and your customers can spend more time on what's important to them.

Much of my work centers around focusing a site, so that it avoids being too cluttered. If your design is clear and clean, it will be easier and faster for your visitors to find exactly what you want them to find. A strong sense of focus will often help yield strong, beautiful, fitting graphics.

My education in information and computer science, language ideas and linguistics, psychology, and user interface design helps me make sites in which visitors can find exactly what they want easily. At least I hope so.

About graphics

A well-chosen picture can add immeasurably to a site. I try to use graphics that are both lovely and relevant to thesite

Quick display isn't something people talk about so much lately, since high-speed connections seem so common. Some people still have slow connections, though, believe it or not.

More than that, subtle differences in the speed with which your site is served can have a significant effect on the perceived "liveness" of your site.

Your site doesn't have to be bogged down with huge graphics. Sometimes a small, but perfect, graphical touch is even more effective. Every site I do moves me closer to finding the best ways to achieve this.

Most web visitors are looking for information, not an interactive art experience (unless that's what your business is about).

I do not do Flash development, nor do I work on sites that use Flash. I know that the Flash player is free, and that most people have it installed already, and I expect it wouldn't be more difficult than the umpteen other programming languages and technologies I've learned. However, it gets away from my central focus: organizing and presenting information and ideas. Most Flash development seems to be about impressing clients or fun for designers, and while I'm not against either activity, I have other priorities and so do my clients.

I'm working toward a world where people can trust each other to help accomplish what needs to be done, so that they can all spend more time doing whatever they individually want to do.

Content Analysis and Editing

People usually visit web sites for content: the information they want, whether they know exactly what that is yet or not. Most often it's in the form of text and pictures.

Although reproducing paper brochures is one way to start a web site, the web allows more and different information than in a traditional brochure; remember, you're not paying by the column inch here! Also, hypertext allows many different ways of structuring your abundant information. While you don't want to overwhelm a visitor with huge blocks of impenetrable text, if the information is structured carefully, you can be very thorough.

Questionable grammar, poor spelling, or tangled logical structures can distract web site visitors.

While I have solid writing skills and can proofread and edit, I prefer to hire someone else review my sites for errors and awkward sentences. Someone who hasn't already spent hours working on or revising a site's content is more likely to find factual inconsistencies and insider jargon - two things that should usually be avoided.

Interactive Web Programs

Features like mailing lists, interactive discussion forums, and searchable databases not only add interest to a web site, they also can provide very valuable information about your site visitors. This is one way the web really shines: as a multi-directional communication channel, something traditional advertising just isn't.

These interactive features are made using specially written computer programs. This is where my technical background really comes in handy. Custom software development can be expensive, but if that's what you want, I can do it.

Hosting Setup and Installation

Once a site is completed, it needs somewhere to live. I can find a web host, get a domain name (www.anybusinessname.com, for example), set the site up, and make sure everything works the way it's supposed to.

Once the site is installed and approved by my customer, I can carefully register it with search engines. This is a helpful step for drawing visitors from the world of the web, although other, less-technical strategies for sharing your site (i.e., telling people about it, asking other people to link to it) are usually a better investment of time.

more information:

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(919) 929 - 8687 or (919) 929 - VOTS
am@virtueofthesmall.com