Distributed Teams Acquire The Best Talent

The distributed workforce isn’t new to the technology scene, and the concept’s success has been well-proven. There are over 50 well-known companies that are completely distributed; names you’d recognize like:

We use many of these company’s products here at UpTrending, and you may, too. It could even be argued that some of the best products and services come from companies with a partially or completed distributed workforce (but that’s a different article).

So why hasn’t the distributed model truly taken a hold in the mainstream economy?

Is it the fear of individual accountability? Fear of losing face-to-face interaction to build relationships? Fear of communication breakdowns, or reliance on technology?

It mostly seems to be related to fear of the unknown.

Our Experience

For us, being remote was a no-brainer. Since our founding in 2008, UpTrending has been a distributed, U.S.-based workforce. We are in the digital realm; it is what we live and breathe as a company and as individuals. This is where we are comfortable.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why we as a company benefit from a distributed workforce:

1. No limits to finding talent

We are not geographically challenged to find the talent we need to service our company and client needs. All you need to work here is a solid skillset, a desire to produce great work, and a speedy internet connection. We do seek to hire U.S.-based talent, as a 3-hour time difference from east to west coast has been little to no barrier for us to overcome with clients or team members.

2. Unique work environments for individuals to thrive

Each person on our team has different needs when it comes to environments that promote their maximum productivity. Whether it is a co-working space, a coffee shop, a cold, dark room, a comfy couch or recliner…the ability to offer up what works best for them has been crucial to our productivity. Also, identifying how our team works best, whether it is heads-down time in the morning, a little bit of playtime in the afternoon…it is all on the table and attainable. We are not focused on our team sitting at their desk from 9am-5pm every day. We focus on the work they turn out, not where they get it done.

3. Better work/life balance

One of the most common factors that non-remote employees complain about is the office commute. I know it was my least favorite part about my last job. Not having to wear business casual clothing, drive an hour to work, sit in a cold office from 8:30am-5:30pm, and sit in an hour of traffic again is, in and of itself, a huge bonus of this job and a huge win for me. Outside of that, our distributed team environment also comes with the advantage of flex time and scheduling.

Flex time is huge for our employees, especially those with families or interests outside of work. Being able to take a few hours in the morning to spend time with kids, or to cut out early to attend a school play, or to work at night to be able to surprise your husband for lunch in the afternoon gives our team the ability to have control over their lives, instead of feeling like they are just living to work.

In addition to flex time, our team also creates their own schedules when it comes to meetings with clients. We suggest our team work in the hours that work for them. Of course, we are a service-based company, so there needs to be a level of understanding there, but we do not expect or require our team to work over 40 hours a week, or on weekends.

4. Low overhead

We don’t have to support a staff of 25+ in an office with the typical expenditures accrued in that setting. Lucky us! However, we still make sure our team is equipped with the essentials for the job.

5. Early adoption of latest technologies

Because we are always digital, our team is on top of new tools to improve our communication and workflow. We don’t just stick with IE8 because that is what the whole company is on and has been on for years. We participate in beta releases and early testing of the latest and greatest platforms to streamline communication, workflow, and a growing remote company culture.

6. Increased collaboration and communication

Whether it’s email, Slack, Basecamp or another method to get stuff done, we are forced to communicate, and communicate often with our teams. We have all worked in the typical office setting where you barely interact with your coworkers – but not here! We are constantly on Slack, screen-sharing in Hangouts, sending pictures of our lunch, making custom emojis that fit our daily conversations, and sending hysterical gifs for a daily laugh and break from the work.

For real though, we communicate, which is why our projects end up on time and on budget. And our team and clients are happy.

These are just a few of the many benefits we have as a company with a distributed team. Don’t even get me started on the amazing culture we have built and the exceptional team of talent we have. I could go all day.

Sounds Great…Now What?

If you are interested in knowing more about our team, how we work, why we continue to love what we do…feel free to email me any time. I will sing all day about the benefits of working for a distributed company and how awesome it is to have a life AND a full-time job as a working mom.

Or, if you’re ready to make the jump to full-time remote yourself, check out our job opportunities. Working remotely is just one of the many reasons our team members love being a part of UpTrending.


The Web Designer’s Guide to Plaid

If you look in my closet, you’ll see a common “thread” – plaid. My collection has been growing for years now, and it’s not surprising why I’m drawn to this style.

When you break it down, many of the features that make up plaid, I use in web design every day: color, pattern, and cultural reference. Let’s take a look at plaid from the eyes of a designer.



One of the key elements in a good plaid shirt is color. There are infinite color combinations in plaid shirts, which may be why I’m so drawn to them. Shopping for them creates an endless search for “what’s new.” Depending on the type of store you frequent, your palettes will change (ex. Pacific Sunwear vs. Ralph Lauren).

Depending on the person, color combinations can range from conservative “neutral/muted” to an extreme “vibrant/energetic.” This color choice in a person’s clothing tells a story about them:

  • Do warm or cool hues reflect your personality?
  • Do you gravitate towards neutrals, or go all out?
  • How many shades of blue are there in your closet?

Being able to mix 2-6 colors can produce really interesting results and create a unique look and feel. Within a plaid pattern, you’ll see these mixed colors when the bands of horizontal and vertical color overlap.

Most of my plaids are on the cooler side with bright “pops” of color. I’m typically drawn to tertiary color mixes of blues, greens, and blacks, which go well in most places I go – but I do have a few warmer shirts that dive into the yellow and red families for the right occasion. Living in a mountain community, I’ve noticed a trend in darker base color bands, accented by subtle uses of bright color bands.



Patterns say a lot about the individual…how experimental in your plaid patterns are you?

The patterns can vary, but are all built on the concept of layering a horizontal and vertical band to produce a halftone mixture. Depending on the material and overall style choice, the twill can also affect the texture of the overlap, creating a halftone pattern. A thicker twill will create a more visible diagonal pattern. I’ve noticed this halftone/crosshatch technique in fine art as well as digital art. I like the connection between the physical woven thread of a shirt and the digital translation to pixels. As a designer, being able to control this can give depth to overall flat/square shapes.

Working with the elements of plaid, designers can produce really unique looks. Some of the key design elements include: squares, rectangles, lines, thickness, thinness, alternating or symmetric patterns. The designer has the freedom to experiment with these to create a cool, dynamic visual rhythm.



Over the years, an evolution in style can be seen in those who wear plaid. It has been an influential style since the 1500s, when it was worn to distinguish one Scottish clan or region from another. Plaid has often been associated with being a rebel, and staking your claim as an individual.

Some more modern adoptions of plaid have been:

Grunge Rockers
  • Muted colors, blocky symmetrical patterns, simple design.
Skaters, Snowboarders, Surfers
  • Dark colors with bright accents, combinations of thick and thin shapes, asymmetrical patterns, complex design.
  • Ranges from conservative (pale or pastel colors, smaller bands of color) to extreme (bold or vibrant colors, larger bands of color).
  • Limited color palette, simple checkerboard pattern, thick twill (diagonal pattern).
  • Lighter colors, small symmetrical patterns, traditional approach to overlapping shapes.

Each of these distinct groups carry a unique “look” in their plaid. Variations in the color palette, width of the bands, and tightness of the pattern are ultimately associated with a particular type of audience.

After all, whether choosing a shirt or picking colors for a website, being able to represent yourself through color, pattern, and texture is all about appealing to a certain type of crowd.


Want to design your own?

If you’re ready to ditch boring single-color displays and explore the wide, wonderful world of plaid, here are some great places to start your education and exploration:


4 Marketing Automation Tips for Startups

Implementing a marketing automation program can seem like a daunting challenge, especially if you are a startup that is already struggling to navigate other marketing tools and campaign efforts.  But when marketing automation is properly implemented, it can save time, improve efficiency, and amplify your marketing efforts exponentially.

So how can you ensure you are using marketing automation the right way? Here are a few tips we have learned through our own processes, and in working with some of our clients.

1. Set proper goals for your business

The most important step to using automation to amplify your marketing strategy is first determining why your business needs it.

  • Do you need to increase brand awareness?
  • Are you looking to drive lead generation?
  • Do you want to improve lead nurturing?

Defining goals up front will establish proper measurement tools and benchmarks to define the success of the campaigns in the future. Having goals defined also means more effective testing, too.

Tip: Remember to keep goals reasonable, and do not be afraid of failure. Automation is more than just flipping a switch on and generating immediate success. It takes time and patience to build the foundation, test it, and adjust as you see results.

2. Develop your marketing personas early

When launching your automation strategy, it’s important to have a unified voice across the board. This can be hard when you have multiple people from the company creating content and speaking on the brand’s behalf.

That’s where marketing personas come into play.

Personas are fictional characters who represent different user types that might visit your site, check out your brand or purchase your product. These characters provide guidance for the company voice and tone to all team members creating content.

Tip: Create a marketing persona for each vertical/role you plan to market to. It is important to know your audience and speak to solutions that matter to each persona. Whatever your business model, make sure you are speaking to that audience, and use personas to create that voice.

3. Start creating content…like, now!

Your goals are set. Your personas are developed. You know what you want to achieve, and the people you are talking to. Now it’s time to create content. And by content, I don’t mean pushy, passive-aggressive emails trying to get your prospect to email back.

Marketing automation is about leading your prospects through the purchase funnel by providing relevant content at the right time, in the right way.

Your content can take many forms:

  • Informational emails (not hard-sell!)
  • Whitepapers
  • Infographics
  • Case studies and use cases
  • Blog articles
  • Surveys
  • Videos
  • Podcasts

Tip: As a startup, not all forms of content will be viable for you. Choose the formats and channels that best suit your company strategy and focus on those.  As your company grows and your marketing strategy evolves, you can experiment with other forms of content.

4. Choose the best automation tool for YOUR business

One of the challenges a growing business will face is choosing the right tools to use in their business. Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot, Pardot, Act-On, and LeadSquared are just a handful of the options a business has for automation software.

This is where defining your automation goals first comes in handy.

If you have all of your marketing automation goals laid out, then it is just a matter of finding the tool that gives you the functions you need to accomplish those goals. Of course, make sure it also fits within your budget.

Don’t be swayed by brand names or industry standards! Focus on your own needs.

Tip: Remember, the first software you choose may not be the final tool you use. Marketing automation is evolving rapidly, and as your company’s marketing gets more sophisticated, you may find new solutions that better complement your needs.

That’s (not) all, folks!

That is not all there is to marketing automation – not by a long shot.

But by using some of these simple techniques, your business can dive into what marketing automation has to offer in a way that reduces stress, rather than increasing it. After all, you’re building a company; you have enough to worry about already.


Featured UpTrender – Janel Sheehan

This post is part of a series highlighting the talented team of UpTrending. We believe in hiring the best and brightest in all areas of expertise, and it shows in the wide range of personalities and skills we have on our team. But our team members are more than just talented professionals – and you deserve to know them a bit better.

This month, we are pleased to spend a few minutes with Janel Sheehan, who was the lead designer on the redesign of our own brand this year – including this new website! Janel has been an UpTrender for about a year and a half, and prior to coming on board spent the previous 6 years working both in agencies and as a freelance contractor.

Janel, when people ask, “So, what do you do?” what is your typical response?

I tell them I’m a web designer and front-end developer for a premier agency headquartered in California. Basically, I make the Internet!

With so many people trying to “break the Internet,” it’s good that we have someone being a bit more constructive. So what led you to design and front-end development?

I actually majored in Biology, and then later Journalism. In college I was always illustrating detailed biological diagrams in my notes. I ended up taking a couple of intro web dev and graphic design courses as electives, and had kind of a knack for it. I’m a lifelong learner, I never want to get stuck in a single skillset.

Quite a switch, from Biology to being a web designer and developer.

Both my parents were biologists, so I was raised with a deep appreciation and respect for wildlife and the natural world. I love that all animals have their own personalities and weird little behaviors. I volunteer at different shelters and rescue centers. I could easily watch David Attenborough frolic with the beasties all day long.

Volunteering at shelters sounds very rewarding.

I also used to care for rescued exotic animals. I once hugged a 300 pound tiger.

That sounds…terrifying. Any other cool hobbies?

I’m a blackbelt and into (hardcore) yoga. I also love interval training, and going hiking. I’m always trying new ways to challenge my body. I think it’s really important when you’re working at a desk all day to stay active, it keeps me inspired and happy.

Speaking of “working at a desk,” remote working is a new experience for you. What “myths” about that can you bust for our readers?

There’s a preconception about people who work from home, that we get paid to mess around on the Internet all day. In reality the days can be longer and even more grueling than an on-site office environment. I don’t spend all day on Facebook. In fact, I’m actually trying out a social media “cleanse” right now!

So as grueling and long as the days can be, why keep doing it?

I love being able to apply both hemispheres of my brain to my work. I get to be creative and analytical at the same time. Having the flexibility that comes from working with an exceptional team is a bonus too.

I once worked on a website for a popular craft brewing company. The designs were very new and modern, and the client loved them, but for various reasons the project never came to fruition. Then one day a coworker emailed me that someone had found the design on my folio– and it ended up making it’s way around to a couple of design galleries and inspiration boards. It was really incredible to be recognized alongside all these other amazing designers.

How do you develop those type of inspirational designs?

I like to start with research, and of course content strategy. The client knows the company better than I ever will, so getting their initial input is critical to design success.

From there I dedicate a lot of time to brainstorming thoughts around look and feel, usability, competition and niche, and messaging. After I’ve put some organization to my thoughts I like to start concepting as soon as I get struck with that bolt of inspiration, and then work as quickly as I can before design fatigue sets in. Once you’ve hit that point I find it’s best to come back to it later rather than spinning your wheels for too long.

Give some advice to a young designer getting started.

Experiment with everything, but keep it simple in the end. Unique design is only good if it works. Work closely with your team and ask for help if you need it, you can always return the favor. Take time for yourself to refuel, don’t overwork yourself. Follow the great designers and pay attention to the details, that’s what makes them great.

Last question. As an UpTrender, you can live anywhere in the United States – but if you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Anyone who knows me could tell you that I’ve been working on moving to North Carolina for a minute. But long-term I would love to venture to France, Sweden, and pretty much any remote island in the tropics.


4 Ways to Cut Development Costs (Plus 3 Ways Not to)

Price matters.

Sure, we’d like to think that every development project is focused on building the absolute best, most creative, seamless final product…but that’s not entirely true. Ultimately, budgets are finite, which means projects have limitations.

So how do you make sure that your development project still ends up being amazing, when you don’t have bottomless pockets?

After launching hundreds of successful websites and applications, we’ve identified some key ways to maximize your project’s budget and make sure hours are spent on features and content that produces results.

The Right Way

Identify stakeholders and the project lead

Assemble the team, get the band back together, rally the troops…however you do it, knowing who on your team should make final decisions assures that the right questions are asked. Your project team should cover these key areas:

  • Marketing – defines key performance indicators
  • Content – decides and approves messaging and copy
  • Analytics – establishes measurement requirements
  • Technical – makes decisions about hosting and security

Making the right decisions with the right people prevents recreating work, or worse, missing key information about your objectives.

Define your goals

The fastest route to a successful project involves having a clear vision of desired traffic, conversion goals, and publishing requirements. Now that we know who’s in charge of these decisions, stating them clearly will keep the process on track from the beginning:

  • What constitutes a successful visit? Ex: a sale, download or form contact.
  • Who should be able to update what parts of the site? Ex: Resource uploads, job listings.
  • Who is your target audience? Ex: CTO looking for info, developer looking for documentation

By starting out with the end in mind, you can avoid costly mid-project pivots.

Prioritize features

You’re now equipped with the team of deciders and a vision of success. The ideas are flowing and the list of wants is growing constantly. The important task of prioritization is at hand:

  • What features are most important for your audience?
  • What content will drive conversions?

With all of the great ideas developed during the discovery process, it’s important to map out development phases to focus on the most effective choices to launch with. A lean launch will help focus all your efforts on great execution.

Utilize open source tools

With all of this groundwork, your story is bursting at the seams, ready to be told. A good development partner will suggest unique ways to present your story and deliver conversion-focused results. However, there are several facets of a website or application that don’t need to be custom built.

Open source frameworks like WordPress provide a secure, stable base to build on. By relying on code that has been tested and reviewed by thousands of developers, you can avoid spending your development budget on common features like content publishing and user management.

The Wrong Way (aka How to Wreck Projects and Waste Money)

So, now that we know some ways that save time, focus effort and reduce the complexity of development, lets look at some common pitfalls during projects.

Purchasing pre-built templates

With the popularity and ease of use of open source content platforms like WordPress, many commercial template providers have sprung up. These pre-built resources serve to quickly allow novice and inexperienced developers to build a site and they seem to fit alongside the “Utilize open source tools” recommendation. Low-cost, open source…what could go wrong?

Unfortunately, that ease of use ends up costing more in the long run for lower quality results.

For a template to be commercially successful, they attempt to fit the needs of many potential scenarios at once. The features provided by these themes rely on an extremely large assortment of plugins and libraries that can grind site performance to a halt.

Not only that, but when you’re ready to upgrade, expand, or build out custom features, your development partner will spend even more time wrangling the framework or rewriting code to fit your needs.

Cramming content into fewer pages

While planning out your messaging, it’s tempting to drive for fewer pages with more content. Long home pages can be a great way to tell an engaging story, but there’s a limit to how much information should be on a single page.

Single-page content should take into consideration:

  • The attention span of your visitors – How much information is relevant to a visitor before they’ll take the next action?
  • Actual and perceived load time – A large number of photos, illustrations and videos can reduce the page load speed, driving a higher bounce rate and lowering search engine ranking.
  • Reference and linkability – Is important information buried halfway down a page? It may be hard for someone to remember its location or save a link to it.

Failing to launch

Once the design and development process is in motion, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement. You start seeing new possibilities for engagement, new features and content areas, and pretty soon, we’ve blown the deadline and budget.

Be patient.

Remember that web design never stops. By staying focused on your priority features, you can focus on a successful, well-executed launch. Once you see the impact of your new design and start to measure the results, then you can expand your vision.

Some Final Thoughts

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Whether you’re building a full website, a microsite or a custom application, a little preparation goes a very long way towards maximizing your budget and ensuring the initial launch is on its way toward achieving its goals.