We had an interesting request from a client at Briar Patch consulting. Our client was distraught over the construction plans proposed by his neighbor. The neighbor intended to build a large, two-story extension over his backyard garage. As you can see from the image below, the current garage has a minimal footprint and does little to obstruct his view.
Needless to say, when our client viewed his neighbors architectural drawings, he was compelled to take action. We were hired to create an accurate representation of what the new view would look like using the image above. The goal was to help the neighbor and the homeowner’s association understand the degree of obstruction and the potential loss of property value. There were several things we needed to accomplish in order to meet these goals.
Measurements and Reference Points
Using a copy of the architectural drawings, we were able gather the precise dimensions of the new structure. We also needed to get a reference point on the photo so the proper scale could be calculated. Luckily, we had access to a mathematician who helped us pinpoint the length and height of the structure, the roof-lines and the slope.
After establishing the reference points on the photo, we had to erase the area where the new structure would stand. The challenge was in keeping the large tree in the foreground. Photoshop and Gimp are great tools for graphic design. Personally, we use Gimp, simply because it’s free. Anyone who has worked on a project like this knows how time consuming it can be to etch out an alpha channel at the pixel level. Overall, the process took a little over an hour.
Building a New Garage
The garage had to be pieced together from three different photos. We needed a roof that sloped at the same approximate angle, white trim with gutters, and a brick wall of a similar color. Each image had to be sized, shaded and colored to match the proposed building. It’s important to note that our client wanted the image to look as realistic as possible.
Layers and Shading
The three images that formed the house were added as three separate layers inside the alpha channel. I had to darken the edges and add a slight blur effect to make the new building appear less stark inside the photo. Finally, I copied the tree inside the alpha channel and moved it to a new layer. Then I created a shadow for the tree. Here’s the final image:
San Antonio Graphic Design
Here are the two images side-by-side:
When our client saw the photo, he said, “That’s exactly what I was looking for. At Briar Patch Consulting, we pride ourselves in helping people on projects like these. If you need help from a San Antonio graphic design artist, give us a call @ (210) 390-4500. We also love designing new websites and running digital marketing campaigns. Finally, this project was just fun.Click To Add Comment
The Web Design Process, Part 2
1. Written Content
Many of my clients loathe writing content for their webpages. Insert exclamation point here! Many web developers plead with business owners to provide them with written text describing their company. This includes the most basic stuff, like, the history of the organization and employee descriptions. Regardless, my personal experience is that most people hate to write. What to do?
Having published two books recently (with a contract for six more), I enjoy using my creative writing skills during the web design process. Blending the right words to create that perfect headline, or a compelling call to action is satisfying. Every writer dreams of producing something that people actually enjoy reading. With out a doubt, this drives their ambitions.
A friend of mine, who recently won the prestigious Christie Award in the category of fiction, had some brilliant insight on writing for clients. He said, “I started out as a journalist in a small town writing about everything from politics and religion, to crime and local sports.” He continued, “I didn’t know much about these areas until I learned how to interview people. I imagined myself as something like a WWII paratrooper. My job was to land on foreign soil, and if I wanted to survive, quickly discover the facts on the ground.”
2. My Approach
Surprisingly, anyone can write about someone’s business or product if they know how to gather the right information. Since I find what people do in life very interesting, this is not a challenge for me personally. Everyone has an interesting story and a core message. During the web design process, you need to draw these things out by encouraging them to talk about what they love. In fact, this is the kind of human interest material that keeps people engaged on a website. In the web design process, its a huge mistake to litter key words throughout a web page and hope that search engines will reward that site with top placement. If people do not stay engaged, they bounce away. And unfortunately, your webpage will suffer in ranking.
For example, in the roofing industry I discovered that “roof repair” was a frequent search phrase among homeowners with leaking roofs. Rather than write about how my clients were the best roof repair business, I described the experience of coming across a leak in your home. The page generated a huge amount of interest. And according to the analytics report, people stayed on the page long enough to read the story. As a result, the webpage ranked highly for that search phrase. My client earned a lot of money—success by most standards of measurement. To visit the page, click here.
3. Graphic Design
Our clients want their websites to look elegant and appealing. On the other hand, an ugly website will put a bad face on any company. It says to the potential customer, “This is the kind of service you can expect when doing business with us.” Many websites display clashing color palettes, over-sized images, poor load times, and cheesy logos. The old adage is, “A picture speaks a thousand words.” I would rephrase that by saying, “Poor graphic design will loose a thousand customers.”
Most importantly, hire someone who has an eye for design. While you may not be familiar with them, technical terms like: Layers, overlays, and opacity are the tools used by those of us who love digital artwork. Bottom line, possessing creative skills is an important quality in the web design process. And while creativity takes time, it’s critically important in developing the concept for the overall look of a website, especially if it’s being designed from scratch.
If you have a web design project you would like to talk to us about, please call, (210) 390-4500.Click To Add Comment
The Web Design Process, Part 1
Whenever a client hires me to design a webpage for their business, I always begin with research. There are several things that I need to know about them before I write one line of code. While some of these steps may seem obvious, they have always inspired my clients to have confidence in my abilities.
1. I visit their business.
Not only do I want to know what they do, but I need to know what makes their company unique. Everyone has a special niche, whether that’s a product, a service or a core message. I remember working with a frozen yogurt company in San Antonio called Arctic Ape Yogurt. What I discovered is that their product and selection dwarfed any other frozen yogurt store in the area. The pictures I used in the graphic design phase, and in the content I wrote, called attention to this reality frequently.
2. I look for the key words people type into search engines.
AdWords is a useful tool to use during the web design process. It will tell you how many people are looking for your business category or services online. This removes all the guess work and actually corrects misguided assumptions. For instance, I designed a webpage for a church in San Antonio. While investigating, I discovered that people often search with the phrases, “Churches in San Antonio,” and “Churches near me.” Here is where written content matters most. Including these phrases throughout the website enabled us to take a small church that was virtually invisible online, and allow them to rank on the first page of Google. This is no small accomplishment given the fact that there are over 2,000 churches in the city.
3. I research the competition.
It’s a good practice to visit every webpage on the first page of the major search engines in order to discover how they got there. More importantly, I use “inspect elements” in Chrome to look at the tags and metadata. Not only that, but I also look for SEO tools they might be using. Perhaps one of the most revealing steps is to research their Domain Name and DNS settings. Often a company will rank well because they have been around for long time. Google’s algorithms seem to reward these companies. Even so, a new business can license their domain name for multiple years. This tells the search engines that you don’t plan to be a fly-by-night company. This is an often-overlooked and inexpensive way to help your SEO ranking during startup phase.
4. I design at their place of business.
It is not unusual for me to spend about 10% of my allotted time during the web design process with the clients. This practice has generated more positive comments than anything else I do. In fact, I’ve done this in some pretty hectic environments, i.e., music schools, restaurants, and even construction companies. The advantage I gain is receiving instant feedback from the owners and employees. Every web designer knows the pain of spending long hours on a brilliant concept only to have it rejected by the client. Miscommunication of ideas or expectations can be avoided sooner rather than later if you are getting input real-time.
Add your comments. I’d love to hear your feedback
To read part 2, click here.Click To Add Comment
Frustrated With Your Webpage?
Here’s a question we get asked a lot these days: “Why doesn’t our webpage look like yours?” That’s a good question considering that your homepage is the number one means of determining whether someone visits your church or not. Gone are the days of upgrading your Yellow Pages ad to 2X2″ and placing a grayscale photo in it.
You are now in competition with tech savvy Millennials who know more about web design and Social Media than you know about the minor prophet Joel. Perhaps you had a freelance computer geek in your fellowship who did the best job he or she could do under the circumstances. You may have even paid high-dollar for someone to design your site a few years back. But guess what? The world is moving faster now than ever.
Graphic design and the clothing you purchase have a lot in common. The styles change every two years. Templates that are used for webpages are getting more powerful, stylish and appealing every year. Whatever template your developer used a few years ago is already outdated.
Church Web Design Secrets
Allow us to share a few secrets about about designing a webpage for a church. The first thing you need to consider is that most church websites look alike. Nearly everyone copies the same logical progression for presenting their church to the public. Don’t make this mistake and you already have an advantage. When you surf the average church webpage, it looks something like this: “We have a music ministry, a children’s program, a youth ministry, a staff and some media. Click on our links, and we’ll show you all the times we meet, and how awesome it would be for you to try us out.” Blah, blah, blah. It all looks like a souped-up church newsletter, and we’re being kind.
Do you want to set your church apart from the parade? Do you believe that you are any different from the church down the street? If so, here are some things to consider. First of all, the lead pastor needs to take a high degree of interest in developing the webpage. This is true regardless of how creative your web designer is. He can’t put your heart, your vision, or your voice into the overall look of your webpage if he doesn’t have access to it. The most important sermon you are preaching to the watching world right now is preceded by a www. So guard your webpage like you do your pulpit.
Church Web Design Consultants
Secondly, while your web designer probably knows a lot about hosting and html, in most cases, he doesn’t know much about church, theology or you personally. You need someone to guide you in how to present what you have to say. I can’t emphasize this next point enough. It’s critically important for you to get your message and branding out there in a visually compelling way. There will never be another soul born on the planet who is just like you. If what makes you special in God’s creation can’t be seen or read on your webpage, it’s a crying shame. You only have one life to live and one ministry race to run. As the Apostle Paul said, “Run to win.”
Thirdly, your church members need to be taught how important it is to use the social media tools that we will build into your webpage. Nearly every member of your congregation has a social media platform. Are you leveraging this for the glory of God? You should be, because it’s the new evangelism. Are you giving them the tools to drive people to your webpage? Do you know there are things that you can do to increase the likelihood that your webpage will come up more often in Google’s search engine results?
OK, they didn’t teach you this stuff in seminary. But that church meeting in the coffee shop down the street is the wave of the future. They get it, and if you’re not speaking their language, an extinction class meteorite is about to slam into the atmosphere of your church. Don’t be a dinosaur.
DNA & Church Web Design
Briar Patch Consulting has a team of creative people who rock at web design. They understand how to pull the DNA out of your church and place it into your webpage. If you hire us to help you in this, the first thing we will ask you to do is start writing. Get out a piece of paper, a pen and write down WHY you have given your whole life for the cause of Jesus Christ. Tell us what you want your church to be in the future. Write with the kind of passion that King David and the Apostle Paul wrote when they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Lay it all out there and put some guts into what you have to say. Shoot clean and straight and don’t mince words. Somewhere there is a fire burning within you. That’s what we want your city to see whenever they visit: www.how we’re kickin’ the devil’s butt.com.
Church web design is our specialty.Click To Add Comment
Coaching Pastors To Hang On
Do any of these words describe your condition: Confused, frustrated, burned out, lonely, afraid, attacked, bitter, escape. Or what about these: Angry, hurt, guarded, empty, performing, regret, why me? Welcome to an exclusive and private club. They didn’t tell you about these issues during your ordination, or did they? Bless that ninety-year-old woman who told you that you would be the next Billy Graham. Much like myself, you’re probably still waiting for that prophecy to materialize.
In all seriousness, the paragraph above is autobiographical. I get it, or should I say, “I got it.” Oh that someone had been able to walk me through these desolate valleys when I needed it most. The reality is that you will be shunned if you let this kind of thinking leak out in most settings. Few people understand what it’s like to be you. And the ones who do, are still trying to fake that they’ve got it all together. Such is the game that preachers play. It comes from standing too long on a pedestal or living in a fishbowl under the gaze of watchful eyes.
Ready For A Change?
This may be the most important thing that anyone other than God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit has ever said to you, “You don’t have to live this way an longer.” You have my permission to stop living as though others hold the mortgage on your life. This is not freedom. I have been coaching pastors for a long time. This is not the real, abundant life that Jesus was talking about, either. It’s not even His yoke that you must wear in the ministry. I’ll tell you what it is. It’s warfare. It’s the type of condition that weakens a minister’s heart and makes him vulnerable to fall during a wave of temptation.
For heaven’s sake and the sake of your ministry, get help. Find someone safe who will listen to your story without the threat of condemnation. Your wife and your children will thank you for it, especially since it takes real humility to admit that you’re really human. They’re hurting just as much as you are and need you to be a leader. Yes Sir, first and foremost over yourself.
I can help you in other ways too. I’m the type of listener who allows you to test drive a new vision or ministry initiative. I can help you clarify the communication process, assist you in discovering the steps to implement the strategy, and even challenge your thinking to make sure that it’s of God, and not of man.
So there you have it. I’ve been coaching pastors, staff and fellow ministers for years. Perhaps we share the right chemistry, and I will be able to empower you as well. After a thirty-minute conversation, we’ll both know whether it’s gonna happen. Just sayin’.
Briar Patch Church Consulting exists to help pastors thrive in ministry. Our skill set includes a variety of technical capabilities as well, i.e., marketing, branding, webdesign, and SEO. We have over 30 years of experience in helping pastors meet challenges and set a new course in their ministries. Nothing matters more than the success of God’s Kingdom in the hearts and lives of men and women. Allow us to lead you beyond your present circumstances and toward a new day!Click To Add Comment
Fundraising By Raising Faith
If you need to raise capital for a piece of land, a new building project or just to pay off debt, Briar Patch Consulting can help. There are a lot of stewardship firms to choose from, and we’ve personally worked with many throughout the years.
When choosing an agency, these five things should cause an uneasy feeling somewhere inside your spirit. You may want to think long and pray hard before making the leap. Trust us, and we’ll show you our the scars later.
- If the fundraising contract requires you to pay the consulting fee before the pledges are made.
- When the fee is set based upon the size of your church or the amount of money you are attempting to raise.
- If the consultant arrives with a campaign workbook and the company logo is printed on the front. Why? You may be looking at a generic, one-size-fits-all approach to fundraising that lacks creativity and an understanding of your culture.
- When the consultant doesn’t tell you up front that the lead pastor is one of the most important factors to a successful campaign. If you happen to be a pastor and are reading this, don’t make the mistake of believing that you can delegate this area of leadership to your staff or a committee.
- If you hear this formula: You can expect your church to give 1.5 times your annual budget over a 3 year period. Why? God is greater man’s formulas.
How We Are Different
Briar Patch Consulting prefers to work off of a set of principles or convictions when designing a capital campaign. First, we believe that the way we conduct business will matter when arrive at God’s throne. Therefore, we work at an hourly rate, plus travel expenses. Secondly, we want to find a way to get everyone in your church involved in the stewardship campaign. When people are involved in what God is doing, they make sacrifices rather than “pledges.” They also celebrate when it’s all said and done, rather than complaining about their church only caring “about money.” Third, we don’t believe in raising money by guilt, games or gimmicks. Enough said. Fourth, we believe that the Spirit of God will guide us during the design phase of your campaign. And finally, you raise faith before you raise money. Weak faith always equals little success. Great faith, even when it’s only the size of a mustard seed, will move your mountains into the sea.
For Briar Patch Consulting, this is our ministry, not a career or a business. We’re not interested in travelling to your church to make a sales pitch in front of your board or committee. We don’t hustle business and choose to work with an exclusive client base. After a thirty-minute phone conversation, we will be able to let you know if we are the right fit for your congregation.Click To Add Comment
Money Flows Toward Vision
Not Empty Pockets
Do you have more vision than money? If so, your church budget has a serious problem. We’ve faced similar circumstances and understand how frustrating this experience can be. When church budget giving is down, pain goes up. Ouch!
The reality is that people don’t give to budget needs as enthusiastically as they give to vision. Every church across America has needs. Allow us to share one little secret with you. Baptize the need and allow it to be reborn as a vision. This is how the Old Testament Prophet Nehemiah operated. He transformed a need into a vision, and the vision became a wall.
Let’s be specific about how we can help you reverse the trend of limited or declining resources. Give us at least 10 hours of time with the senior pastor, his executive and lay leadership, and we will help you execute a plan to generate greater financial support within your congregation. The ideal time to invite Briar Patch Consulting to help your church would be prior to the budget planning process that leads to the next fiscal year.
These are the steps that we will walk you through in order to achieve this objective:
- Assessing your vision
- Analyzing the current level of adoption
- Clarifying the process to execute the vision
- Recommendations on reallocating resources
- Developing a timeline
- Assigning responsibilities
- Communication strategies
- Evaluation procedures
Please, allow us to shoot straight with you. People give to what they see God blessing. If the congregation is in the dark about how God is moving, they won’t see where they fit in His plan. This is a critical issue because people seldom give enthusiastically to a church budget unless they have skin in the game. We can teach you how to amp up the communication process and penetrate hearts with your vision.
It’s not an admission of failure to bring someone in from the outside to coach you through these steps. It may be one of the smartest things you ever do. All champions have coaches. It would be our privilege for Briar Patch Consulting to be yours.Click To Add Comment