Recent Posts



Prime Image – Repositioning a Product Line

By Vance Bell | April 17, 2008 | commentLeave a Comment »

For over 20 years Prime Image has engineered and manufactured professional electronics for the broadcast industry. Their gear is used by the majors, including ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX and NBC. Prime Image has a superior product line, but wanted our assistance to position it clearly in a unified voice.

We started with their most public marketing effort—their Web presence—reworking it strongly to reflect their proper market position. Marketing messages, product descriptions, were strategized and developed or rewritten on deadline.

The site launched on time and ready for a major tradeshow!

Services Provided:

  • Marketing Strategy
  • Information Architecture
  • Copywriting
  • Copyediting

Review: WriteMaps – Web-based Sitemap Creation Application

By Vance Bell | April 8, 2008 | comment3 Comments »

WriteMaps - Sitemap Creation SoftwareEarly in every website development project, there comes a time when you need to decide upon the information architecture. For a modestly sized marketing website, that means the creation of a sitemap. Generally, I like to accomplish this with a client over a nice cup of coffee or a couple productive stakeholder meetings. Sometimes however, because of schedules or distance, it is difficult to meet face-to-face. In these cases constantly emailing MS Visio or MS Word documents back and forth can be a bit inefficient. In searching for a better option, I ran across a free Web 2.0 style application known as WriteMaps.

In the words of WriteMaps creator Scott Jehl:

“WriteMaps is a free web-based tool that allows you to create, edit, and share sitemaps online. As a WriteMaps user, you and your team will be able to build and access your sitemaps from anywhere, without having to rely on proprietary desktop apps and static files.”

How it works

Building a sitemap

After you create a WriteMaps account, you are able to create one or more project sitemaps.

View the Workspace

Click the image below to view a full size version of the WriteMaps workspace containing a few samples pages.

WriteMaps - Sitemap Creation Software

Adding pages to your sitemap

WriteMaps provides a simple method for creating and deleting pages from your sitemap–click the green plus icons beneath any page to create another page linked to that page, click the grey “x” icon to delete a page. New branches are easily created or destroyed.

Page Info

Every page you create contains editable fields for the planned URL and notes.

View Options

While building your sitemap, you can work in either an indented outline or tree structure view. You can even toggle the view back and forth as you work allowing you to more easily work with sitemaps of varying structure. The zoom feature allows you to scale the workspace to get a better overall picture of your work, while in either view you can “rollup” and hide a branch of a sitemap to fit more on the screen.

File Options

WriteMaps allows you to save and reload working versions of your sitemap files. Additionally, you can export a compliant XML sitemap for post-launch search engine submission, or export or import a WriteMaps backup file to protect your data.

Collaboration and Sharing

Perhaps the best feature of WriteMaps is its ability to publicly share sitemaps with your team or client. Furthermore, you can allow other users to edit and resave the sitemap. This allows for a limited form of real-time online collaboration while, for example, conversing over the phone, Skype or chat. WriteMaps does not provide password protection of these public sitemaps files, instead relying on a long, random-string URL to cloak it from prying eyes.


While offering a number of admirable features, WriteMaps does have several drawbacks. For instance:

  • Display of longer page names are often cut-off prematurely (at around 30 characters in outline view mode and 16 characters in tree view mode)
  • Resizing the browser window or switching from tree to outline view or back can lead to broken visual relationships between pages in both Firefox and Internet Explorer
  • Sitemap page load time can be annoyingly high with larger sitemaps (30+ second for a sitemaps of 35 pages). A server upgrade conducted by WriteMaps on April 3, 2008 has improved responsiveness at least marginally.
  • Font size of the page names are not editable (however overall size of icons and page names can be increased or decreased using the zoom function)


Although the application has a few drawbacks, WriteMaps can be very useful, especially for smaller sites. The collaborative capabilities are easy to use even for an uninitiated client or colleague. In many cases sitemaps for small to medium sized sites (10-50 pages) can be completed more easily using WriteMaps than MS Visio or other illustration software.

Center City District Gallery Night Banner Ads

By Vance Bell | March 24, 2008 | commentLeave a Comment »

Center City District LogoCenter City District organizes great events in Center City, Philadelphia. This time it’s the April Gallery Night. Spend the evening of Friday, April 18th exploring Center City District’s galleries with special exhibitions and complimentary cocktail receptions from 5-8:30 pm. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see Philadelphia culture in action.

I was happy to support Center City District’s online marketing of this event by designing a set of banner ads for use on regional event and media websites. Each banner ad or header graphic was designed in the visual style of the event’s print advertisements and other collateral yielding a unified campaign across all media.

Hope to see you there!

Download the full campaign sample sheet (PDF, 460 KB) and take a look up close.

Dambuster Deicers – Innovative Roof Deicer Products

By Vance Bell | February 22, 2008 | commentLeave a Comment »

Dambuster Deicer LogoDambuster Deicers are the brainchild of regional businessman and roofing professional, Ray Nocella. These patented deicer products were created with one purpose in mind: to stop winter ice from forming on roofs and causing expensive water damage to homes and commercial buildings. Their innate simplicity, easy of installation and effectiveness was a great foundation upon which to build a wide variety of online and offline marketing vehicles geared to drive direct sales and generate high levels of supplier/distributor interest.

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Center City District Restaurant Week 2008 Banner Ads

By Vance Bell | January 27, 2008 | commentLeave a Comment »

Center City District LogoFor many years Center City District has organized the Center City District Restaurant Week event where participating Center City restaurants offer a “price fixed” multiple course meals to their patrons. It is a great chance to try out those new restaurants you’ve been thinking about. I usually get to a couple every Restaurant Week.

Center City District Restaurant Week 2008 Banner Ads

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Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings

By Vance Bell | December 24, 2007 | commentLeave a Comment »

Over the Holiday break I had some free time and decided to create a Holiday e-card to send to friends, clients and colleagues.

Sending out the email allowed me an opportunity to test Campaign Monitor’s HTML email validation tools. Later on I’ll be bloging my in depth review comparing the email testing and validation tools offered by Campaign Monitor and MailChimp.

Vance Bell Holiday Card - Front

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Fertility and Gynecology Associates – Reproductive Success in a Nurturing Environment

By Vance Bell | December 12, 2007 | commentLeave a Comment »

Fertility and Gynecology Associates WebsiteRecently Fertility and Gynecology Associates approached me to redesign and relaunch their Web site. Located at the Pennsylvania Hospital (with a satellite office in Willow Grove, PA), physicians Leonore Huppert, M.D. and Maria Pia Platia, M.D. provide advanced reproductive and fertility care.In completing this project, I provided project management, Web design, front-end Web development, copy writing and editing, and finally, hosting services.

Online marketing support was provided through a third-party service and resulted in dramatically increased Web site traffic and new patient phone inquires and appointments.

Fertility and Gynecology Website Traffic Analytics

Fertility and Gynecology Associates Website Design

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Donnelly Creative Services – A Business Built from the Client Up

By Vance Bell | November 15, 2007 | commentLeave a Comment »

Donnelly Creative Services WebsiteThis Fall Michael and Tom Donnelly, co-founders of Donnelly Creative Services, asked me to help them redevelop and expand their online presence. They could have managed it themselves, but since we’ve been collaborating on Web design and development projects for the better part of a year now, it seemed the natural thing to do. Michael Donnelly took creative lead, while I was happy to execute the front-end development, hosting set-up, and share copywriting and information architecture responsibilities with Tom.

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Innovation Philadelphia – Cultivating Philadelphia’s Creative Economy

By Vance Bell | October 2, 2007 | commentLeave a Comment »

Innovation Philadelphia LogoThis past Summer SoftOrigins was selected to complete a redevelopment of the Innovation Philadelphia Web site. Founded in 2001, Innovation Philadelphia collaborates with Philadelphia region economic organizations to generate new ideas and programs to highlight and grow the knowledge and technology sectors of Philadelphia’s economy.

Innovation Philadelphia selected the regional design firm Untuck to execute a new logo and general site design theme. SoftOrigins provided project management, technical strategy, information architecture, front- and back-end Web development, hosting provider vetting and finally training services. A fully custom, integrated Web application allows Innovation Philadelphia staff to maintain their site in a flexible and efficient manner.

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