cHaus Wrapped: Our Top Songs of 2019

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the time of year when music streaming services send us our year in review lists. It’s always fascinating to see what the data reveals – what songs we listen to, how much we listen, and how our tastes have changed over the years.

As an open-concept office, things can get noisy. It’s not uncommon to see three or four team members with headphones on at any given time. We collectively share a Bluetooth speaker system and are exposed to each other’s tastes. Let’s just say that it can get pretty contentious (in the most friendly way possible).

Sarah McGaughey – Digital Marketing Administrative Coordinator

Top Artist: Feist

What Sarah says: Years ago, when my daughter was about 3, she loved the video for Mushaboom so much that I made her flying toast from felt for her birthday (watch the video, you’ll understand). When I listen to Feist, I feel nostalgic for those early years of motherhood, and for the early 2000 Toronto music scene. I suppose there is at least one Feist song on every playlist. She’s on mine because her music serves many purposes for me – dancing, singing along, concentrating, comfort, feeling sad, feeling happy, and introducing myself to new people.

Top Song: The Bleeding Heart Show by the New Pornographers

What Sarah says: The New Pornographers has been one of my favourite bands for over 20 years, and this is one of my favourite songs of theirs. I love the harmonies, and the beat, and the driving melody.

Nicole French – Founder

Top Artist: Florence + The Machine

What Nicole says: Always a favourite and many of her songs top my most listened to lists, so this makes perfect sense to me. I can listen to Florence in any mood.

Top Song: Beyond by Leon Bridges

What Nicole says: 🤷‍♀️

Kevin Cascagnette – Graphic Designer

Top Artist: Thomas Rhett

What Kevin says: My 2019 was a year spent with fun, amazing people and Thomas Rhett is all about fun, amazing music. Contemporary Country Music always puts me in a good mood, and Thomas Rhett is one of the best out there.

Top Song: 3 Nights by Dominic Fike

What Kevin says: I literally listened to this song on repeat for 4hrs straight one day and then would continually listen to it over and over again. I can’t get enough of the catchy beat and the strong delivery of the lyrics. It’s honestly just a fun song, and even at the end of 2019, I still enjoy playing it on repeat.

Ryan Spooner – Content Writer

Top Artist: Jim Bryson

What Ryan says: There are a few reasons why Jim Bryson was my top artist this year. Not only does he live down the road from my hometown, but I saw him play in Uxbridge at the Springtide Music Festival. After the show, I was on a big kick of listening to him – a kick that has continued the entire year!

Top Song: Stuck in the Middle by Jim Bryson

What Ryan says: I guess if I was listening to him the most that I would have him as my top song too! I am just surprised that something from Frozen didn’t end up here as my daughter controls the music in the car!

Jason Wilson – Founder

Top Artist: Papa Roach

What Jason says: I enjoyed Papa Roach back in 2001 when they first hit the scene and for a few years following. They continued to release albums, and I got back into them in 2017. So when their latest album came out earlier this year, I listened to it a lot. For a good month, it was on repeat working at home, in the car, and my trip to Vail. And I got to know their last few albums better too. And they show up a lot in the rock chart playlists I listen to. Spotify says I spent 49 hours listening to Papa Roach this year.

Top Song: Elevate by Papa Roach

What Jason says: Elevate was probably the most popular song on Papa Roach’s latest album. It was on all of the rock chart playlists I listen to the most, so it got played more often than the other Papa Roach songs I was already listening to. Not my favourite song of the year, but it was my most played.

Crys Wiltshire – Digital Account Manager

Top Artist: Eric Harry

What Crys says: Eric Harry is the award-winning composer behind, who happens to be one of our clients. I discovered his music not long after they came on board. He quickly became my top choice for instrumental music when I am working or writing in my spare time. His music carries such emotion, and his albums are so beautifully put together. His tracks can make you feel uplifted or haunted and everything in between.

Top Song: Supermarket Flowers by Amber Leigh Irish

What Crys says: I discovered this song on an acoustic covers playlist Apple had put together, and the lyrics packed an emotional gut punch that stuck with me. It is a beautiful song that deals with the loss of a parent. Not exactly a happy song, but a beautiful one nonetheless.

Mark Rabey – Full-Stack Web Developer

Top Artist: Korn

What Mark says: I have been a huge Korn fan since high school. As a musician, I appreciate every bit of energy and skill that goes into creating their sound. As a programmer, there’s always been something about heavier music that gets me in the zone to write code. This year, Jason let me tag along to see them live for the first time, which got me listening to them even more.

Top Song: Blind by Korn

What Mark says: I wouldn’t say this is my favourite song in the world, or even by Korn, but it’s the one that always gets me going! I love starting off my week, or a new project hearing them growl: “Are you ready?”

Pam Higgins – Content & SEO Strategist

Top Artist: Brandi Carlile

What Pam says: From the moment I heard Brandi Carlile’s 2007 album “The Story,” I was hooked. Her powerful vocals and boldly honest songwriting with the Hanseroth brothers are inspiring. Today, her voice is stronger. Her songwriting and producing skills are exceptional, and her live performances, both alone and with the Hanseroth twins, are hair-raising and pitch-perfect.

Top song: The Joke by Brandi Carlile

What Pam says: “The Joke” is an intense folk rock aria with melodic twists and soaring vocals. The lyrics speak to the unloved and underrepresented, to the social upheaval surrounding immigration, gender inequality and the hope for a better tomorrow.

Thanks for listening! If you want to listen to the playlist on Apple Music, here is the link.

To end the blog, we will share Wendy’s end of the work week tune: Is it Friday Yet by Gord Bamford!

We’re excited to see what 2020 holds for our 🎧

cHaus Wrapped: Our Top Songs of 2019
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3 Takeaways From Toronto DesignThinkers 2018

Back in October, our resident Graphic Designer Kevin Cascagnette (hey, that’s me!) had the opportunity to attend DesignThinkers Toronto, an industry leading conference put on by the RGD (Association of Registered Graphic Designers). More than 2,000 creatives participated in the event over the course of two jam-packed days. Forty-eight speakers dove deep into a broad range of topics, including “Augmenting The Everyday Through Design,” “NSFW: F*ck Your Office,” and “Interactions Speak Louder Than Words: The Role of Storytelling in UI Design.” The conference boasted design legends such as  Jessica Hische, Bonnie Siegler,Alex Center, and Michael Beirut (MICHAEL FREAKIN’ BEIRUT) talking about their careers, their triumphs, and their shortcomings. Simply put, it was a remarkable two days.

So how can I chalk up two days worth of knowledge into three main takeaways? With blood, sweat and gin, I will try (*pours gin*).

GIF of attendees and arrow pointing to Kevin Cascagnette at DesignThinkers Toronto 2018

Takeaway #1 – There’s a whole world of designers out there looking to collaborate, learn, and grow together.

When I first walked into the conference, I was struck by the number of people that were attending; there was a broad spectrum of design experience represented, everyone from young people studying design in school to seasoned pros looking for some fresh inspiration. It was amazing to watch a community form from this diverse group, with everyone excited to be among “their people.”

Over the two days, this collaborative group shared questions and tips and meaningful conversation, to the point that I learned almost as much from my fellow attendees as the keynote speakers. It reaffirmed a belief that everyone at Collaborative Haus shares: we’re better working together than working against one another.

Kevin Cascagnette, Diane Torlone from Toronto, and Suzie Djordjevic from Detroit

The conference also proved that designers don’t take themselves too seriously; the number of designer jokes certainly proved that (example: designers always wear black, so of course a sign was posted with “Look a sea of people wearing black” above the large foyer area).

Takeaway #2 – Think critically & cohesively before you design.

This one seems like a no-brainer right? It is, but the need to think critically & cohesively was also something that the conference stated repeatedly. As designers, we have to ask questions of ourselves and our clients that might be uncomfortable. We’ve all been in situations where we’re not on the same page as someone we’re working with, and we need to remember that to have a clear understanding of a project you need to align yourself through common frameworks and language to meet your goals.

An example of this is trying to explain the visual design of “trustworthy.” Using words and language can help us understand what “trustworthy” looks like to person A or person B. While person A or B might be able to agree on words that describe trustworthy, they may also be on different wavelengths when it comes to what a “trustworthy” typeface looks like. It’s through processes like setting up a t-chart and having our clients lay out different font choices on the chart that we’re able to better visualize what “trustworthy” or “dishonest” might look like. In the case of the t-chart below, we see that we can also have the other axis help us narrow in on other traits the client wants their logo to represent like the ability to be taken seriously. By designing with expectation and fail-safes in place to help ensure we’re all thinking critically & cohesively, designs begin to take form in meaningful and impactful ways.

Michael Bierut speaking at Design Thinkers TO 2018


Takeaway #3 – Stay Inspired.

By the end of the first session of the first day, I had already realized how inspiring the conference was going to be, and it honestly felt as though the entire design world was focused in on the streets of Toronto. In addition to the inspiration by being surrounded by like-minded people, many of the talks focused on how successful designers had managed to stay fresh. What was their secret? How do you keep making magic when you’ve worked in an industry for close to 40 years (MICHAEL FREAKIN’ BEIRUT)?

The answer is in many ways was to stay inspired. Josh Higgins,  Executive Creative Director at Facebook, said that “Art Inspires Community, Design Builds Community.” This quote helped awaken my mind to the fact that the art I had been admiring for years had a significant impact on my daily design work. The idea of searching for inspiration all around us can be a tired cliche but seems to ring true time and time again. These everyday inspirations are what fosters our creativity and challenges our perspectives.

Many of the speakers also spoke of personal projects that helped propel their creative thinking and expand their skill set. It was through these personal projects that designers were able to expand their network, improve their skill-sets, and understand what design looks like from our clients perspective. As Mitch Goldstein put it in his talk Unknowing, “I have started to understand more and more that my creative practice is not about knowing what I am doing – it’s about confidently not knowing what I am doing.” His philosophy of making for the sake of making has provided him with a myriad of creative opportunities both professionally and personally. Whether the project was playing with glue guns and Photoshop or working on campaigns, all of the speakers firmly planted in my mind the importance of “playing.”

Jessica Hische speaking at Design Thinkers TO 2018

Blood, Sweat, and Gin

To try and capture the entire depth of what I learned, heard, and was inspired by into three main takeaways was next to impossible. With some of that blood, sweat, and gin I mentioned earlier, I hope I was able to brush the surface just enough that you were able to get a sense of how valuable it was to me both personally and professionally. Thanks for reading.

Photos by Connie Tsang Photography for RGD

BONUS Takeaway

In addition to all of the takeaways stated above, there was also a trade show element to the conference where I was able to learn about cutting edge print processes that could take any of your print marketing to the next level,  so give us a call!

3 Takeaways From Toronto DesignThinkers 2018
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Spice Up Your Documents with these 4 Font Alternatives to Arial

We’ve all been there: looking at a letter, formal document, or poster with Arial staring back at us. Don’t get me wrong, Arial is a great font, it’s tried and true, and gets the job done. But at the end of the day, sometimes we’re looking for more than “getting the job done”, and that’s when our Alternatives to Arial come into play. Another awesome aspect to these fonts? They’re all Google Fonts, which means they’re easier to use on websites, free to download, and easily available from the Google Fonts site. So, without further adieu, 4 Font Alternatives to Arial To Spice Your Documents Up:

  1. Poppins
    A stunning geometric sans-serif font that combines functionality with a touch of curvy fun. The Poppins family includes five weights ranging from Light to Bold and also includes the alternatives required for Latin language elements like é, à, and ç and so on. Originally published by The Indian Type Foundry in 2014 and constantly growing in usage, this is a great alternative to Arial.
  2. Raleway
    Raleway might look familiar as it’s one of the font families used throughout the cHaus branding and website. Once again, combining a functionality with an element of fun, Raleway is perfect for businesses that are modern but don’t take themselves too seriously. Initially designed to only include a light weight, the font was expanded to include 9 other weights. Some of the interesting elements of Raleway include it’s approach to numbers. While most fonts keep numbers in line with text, Raleway drops some numbers below the descender line (see Anatomy of a Character here). This unique element can be both a positive and a negative, depending on who you ask, but don’t fret, as there are more traditional number characters available as alternatives included in the font.
  3. Montserrat
    Increasingly growing as one of my favourite fonts to use, Montserrat has an understated coolness to it that combines strong Caps letters with a retro vibe. According to typeface creator Julieta Ulanovsky, the font was inspired by the old posters and signs of the Montserrat neighbourhood of Buenos Aires and brings back some of the type-styles of the early part of the 20th century. If that isn’t a cool enough reason to download this font, maybe the fact that it is available in 9 different weights AND has an alternative version with rounded elements to it.
  4. Roboto
    Probably the most “Arialish” of the list, Roboto has all the elements that make a typeface great. It’s versatile, it’s professional when it needs to be, and it’s easy to read. The one noticeable difference to Arial is that Roboto has a more condensed look to it. This can be handy when you have a lot of content, but not a lot of space. Roboto is the only font on this list actually developed by Google and was actually created as the system font for the Android operating system. Google has described the font as “modern, yet approachable” and “emotional”. While it can be tricky to feel emotion when looking at a font, give it a try. Another fun fact about this font is that it is currently used on the B Division line of the New York City Subway.

And there you have it, four font alternatives to Arial that are sure to breathe some new life into your everyday typeface battles. When you’ve had enough of trying to figure out which fonts to use though, feel free to give us a call. We’ll be happy to quote on your graphic design needs!

Font-Lover-Kev, signing off.

Spice Up Your Documents with these 4 Font Alternatives to Arial
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11 Tips For Writing Google Ads That Get Noticed

If you think Google is a search engine, technically you are right, but you are also sort of wrong. Google is an advertising company. With 3.5 billion searches every single day, almost half the world’s population relies on Google searches to find what they are looking for. Those searches mean that there are businesses advertising to make sure they get found. That desire to be found adds up to a staggering 97% of Google’s revenue coming from advertising – so, yes, Google is an advertising company.

If you are engaged in business, it pays to engage with Google. It is something that national brands and downtown shops have in common, meaning that there’s lots of competition out there. If you want to be top of mind for potential customers, it helps to be at the top of their searches – enter Google Ads.

Let’s Talk Google Ads

Like all search engines, Google uses a unique algorithm to generate search results. You enter your search query, and Google displays results on its search engine results page (SERP). The closer you are to the top, the better (because when is that last time you went beyond page 1 for search results???). Depending on a number of factors, you may rank high or low in these rankings without spending any money to advertise with Google (these are called your organic rankings). Regardless of where you rank organically, there is a way to make it to the top of the Google searches. You can be at the top using Google Ads.

A key reason Google is beneficial for growing your business is that it gets found by people precisely when they’re searching for the things that you offer. So, if someone enters a search to buy a bicycle and you are in the bicycle-selling business, you want to be the first thing they see when they are ready to buy! In other words, you want to reach the right people at the right time. To ensure that you are targeting the right customer, Google Ads lets you target your ads to customers in certain countries, regions or cities — or within a set distance from your business or shop. This helps the person down the road, who is looking for a bike, find you.

Signing up for Google Ads is free. You only pay when someone engages with your ad, either by visiting your website or calling your business from the link on your ad. This is what is known as pay-per-click advertising. Because of the cost-per-click structure and the ability to capture a motivated customer you should ensure that your ad is relevant to the person searching and it takes them where they want to go.

There are many types of Google Ads you can run including text-based search ads, graphic display ads, YouTube video ads, or in-app mobile ads – giving you plenty of ways to reach potential customers with Google Ads. This blog is going to focus on the most common Google Ad, text-based search ads.

What Is A Text Ad?

We will let Google answer that question:

“Text ads on the Search Network show above and below Google search results. A text ad on Google search is the simplest online ad that Google Ads offers.”

You have probably seen them a million times, so let’s refresh your memory:

That’s it. Notice the little “Ad” icon? That is what lets you know that it is a paid Ad. The three main parts of that text ad are:

  • Headline:

    This is the big blue text on the top line and is the first thing that potential customers are going to read. It is a good rule of thumb to include words that they may have entered in their Google search. Going back to the bike example, if they search “new mountain bike,” you want to match that by using those keywords, like “Jenny’s Bike Shop – Mountain Bike Sale.” You’ll notice in the above example that the headline has two sections, that are separated by a “-.” That means dash separates the headline into headline 1 and headline 2. Each part of the headline can have up to 30 characters each to promote your product or service. Depending on the device people are using to look at the ad, they may show differently, so make sure that they make sense read together or read alone.

  • Display URL (Uniform Resource Locator or Web Address):

    This is where you call on your potential customers to take action. Highlight details about your product or service and tell them what you want them to do. If you’re an online cosmetics store, your description might include “Shop Now” or “Find Natural Products Now.” If you offer a service, you might want to add something like “Get an instant quote online” or “Book an appointment.” You need to give them a reason to click and tell them what to do (known as a Call-To-Action or CTA). 

  • Description:

    Remember to keep these character length limits in mind:

    Field Max Length
    Headline 1 30 Characters
    Headline 2 30 Characters
    Description 80 Characters
    Path 1 (optional) 15 Characters
    Path 2 (optional) 15 Characters

Writing Time!

To effectively reach potential customers, your text ads should be specific, relevant, attractive, and have a clear call to action. Here are helpful tips that we have followed to create successful Google Ad campaigns for national and locals businesses alike.

  1. Highlight Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)

    If you haven’t thought about your UVP, think about these questions:

    How different are you from your competitor? What makes you stand out?
    What makes your product or service unique?
    What benefit would the customer get after buying what you sell/using your service?

    Think about what the customer is doing. They are searching for a word that is relevant to your business. It is also relevant to your competitor’s business. If you don’t mention what differentiates you from the competition, why would they click on your link? Your ad copy must highlight something they can relate to and benefit from. Remember that their search is a question and you are providing the answer – you’re providing the solution to a problem.

  2. Be Specific

    Write for what people are searching for. Each text ad you create links to a specific keyword, and it lets the searcher know that your ad is relevant to their search. So if you are focusing on the keyword “new bike,” you want to write an ad that is specific to that – it should mention that you have bikes for sale. Generic ad copy won’t work. Try to be as specific as possible, so that your Ad delivers the right message to your customers. Circling back to the “new bike” example, you would write compelling ads that contain the words “new” and “bike.”

    People are going to be searching for multiple words related to your business. That is why you need to write for the keywords that best target your customers. The best way to target different keywords and write specifically for each word is to have multiple ad groups for each set of keywords. This technique allows you to write specific ad copies for the different ad groups easily.

  3. Guide Them

    We talked about a Call-To-Action or CTA before, but it is important to know that it needs an individual section. A CTA is an action you want your searcher to take. Are you selling something? Tell people what they need to do to buy it. Are you offering a service? Tell people how to contact you or book an appointment. Calls to action make clear what the next steps are. If someone is searching “new bike,” you probably want to give a call to action about getting that new bike, like “Click to order.” What makes a good CTA? Actually, there is no golden rule – that’s why testing is so necessary, we’ll get to that later, but what you need to remember in that you need a CTA, like purchase, call today, order, browse, sign up, or get a quote – just make clear what the next steps are.

  4. Use Sales Terms

    People often use Google search to make a decision about something. Give them everything they need to decide to click. If you have a limited-time discount or stock an exclusive product, say so. Remember the most powerful word is “you” – people want to know that you are talking to them directly. Keep in mind, your potential customers are likely in a “what’s in it for me?” mindset. When you tell it what’s in it for THEM specifically, you have built a connection, making them more likely to click the ad and go to your landing page.

  5. Keywords are key

    Keywords in your ad text show your ad’s relevance to the words people are searching for. For example, if you’ve included Mountain Bikes as a keyword, your ad headline could be “Shop Mountain Bikes.” When your potential customer searches for a term and Google provides ten results, they are likely to click on the results that have their search words in them. Google wants to make sure that ads are relevant for the searched keywords, and will make the search words bold within your ad. Like so:

    So when writing your next Ad copy, make sure to include your main keywords in your Ad Headline and Ad Description so that they are automatically bolded. Having your keyword in the Ad copy also makes your ad more relevant, giving you a better click-through-ratio (CTR) and a better quality score – trust us, those are good things.

  6. A Logical Landing Page

    The landing page is where the URL takes them. It is essential for your landing page to be relevant to your ad. Match your ad, and it’s keywords to the landing page – allowing them to do what your ad promises. The easier you make it, the more likely they are to purchase. Make sure the landing page includes the promotions or products in your ad. If it doesn’t, people might leave your website if they don’t find what they expect. One easy way of doing this is to highlight your Unique Value Propositions (UVPs) and benefits in your landing page that relates to the promise you made in your ad copy. If you promise a mountain bike sale page, make sure you are taking them to that sale page, and not some generic page – make it easy, make it simple.

  7. Experiment

    We talked about this before, but there is no single rule for writing ads. That’s why it’s essential to create three to four ads for each ad group and use different messages for each to see which does the best. Google Ads allows you to do this and rotate ads automatically to show the best-performing ads more often. Experimenting only works if you measure the results over time. You need to track all three options and see how they are performing, but make sure you give it enough time to get some meaningful data. Are your ads meeting your goals? If not, you need to rework them. If they are, try to determine what is working and why. There are many things that you can experiment with. Make sure you limit the number of variables you are testing, change one at a time. Key areas you can adjust include:

    • The Headline
    • Your Call-To-Action
    • Your Offer
    • The Display URL
    • Wording in your description
    • Adjust Landing Page
    • Adding An Ad Extension
    • Adjusting the Ad Group Keywords


  8. Don’t Forget About Your Display URL

    Many businesses don’t pay attention to their display URL. It plays a huge role in your ad’s effectiveness and click-through-ratio. The “path” is where you can point them in the right direction, to show that you are going to take them where they want to go. Include your primary keyword in the path. Remember that the display URL is only for display purpose. You can choose your display URL to be whatever you want and send them to your choice of landing page – provided that both are under the same domain.


  9. gREat rIGhting

    To make sure all ads are high quality, every one must meet professional and editorial standards. That means no extra spaces, sTrAnGe CAPItalIZAtiON, or unclear URLs, for example. Do not use excessive, gimmicky capitalization or exclamation points. When in doubt, make it easy and straightforward – like any good copywriting, you need to think of your audience and write for them. These three simple steps help:

    1. Who is your customer? Think about them and talk to them directly.
    2. What voice/persona do you want to take on with your target market? How are you going to sound when talking to them?
    3. Write an ad that will appeal to your target market emotionally. It should have keywords and follow the formats, but you should make it interesting too!


  10. Explore Extensions

    Google also lets you add extensions to your ad that will help it to stand out from the crowd. Location and site link extensions make your ads look bigger and more dynamic – they take up more real estate, making you more noticeable and separate from competitors. There’s no cost to add extensions to your campaign. Google does a great job of showing all the extensions that you can use and what they are relevant for, we suggest giving this a read if you are thinking about extensions.

  11. Consider Mobiles

    No matter what type of business you run, a vast number of consumers are probably going to see your text ads while searching for something on their smartphone. It would be best to cater to those individuals. Ensure the landing page associated with your ad is mobile-friendly. You can also use Google’s phone number extension to allow customers to phone your business instantly after spotting your ad. There you have it – 11 tips for writing Google Ads that get noticed. Get started today. Write ads, monitor them, and experiment as needed. Writing copy for ads can be fun, and once you start to figure your customers out, your ads will begin to perform better and better, and your business will perform better and better. Now get out there and write those ads!

11 Tips For Writing Google Ads That Get Noticed
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How to Improve Your SEO and Accessibility with Alt Attributes

You took the time to find that perfect image for your website’s homepage or a blog post. You feel that image says everything you want to say about your business or blog. The last thing you would want is for it to be invisible. If you neglect the alt attribute of that image, it may very well be invisible from a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and accessibility standpoint.

If you want to ensure that your page is SEO and accessibility friendly, this post is a must-read for you. If you use alt attributes on your site, but want to improve how they are written, this post is for you too. If you just can’t get enough alt attributes in your life, well, you’re in luck as well!

What are Alt Attributes?

Alt attributes, also referred to as alt tags or alt text, are an essential element for an effective online presence. They are used within an HTML code to describe the appearance and function of an image on a page. Alt attributes strengthen your visibility to search engine spiders and improve the accessibility of your website for people who are visually-impaired. By neglecting to add alt attributes to your images, you keep those images, and your page, invisible. They are essential for these three reasons:

  • Adding alt attributes to photos is first a principle of web accessibility. Visually impaired users need to know what the picture is showing. A screen reader will read an alt attribute, describing the image, and provide a better understand of an on-page image.
  • If an image can’t load, an alt attribute will be displayed in place of an image.
  • Alt attributes provide better image context and descriptions to search engine crawlers, helping them to index an image properly and improving your SEO.

Writing Alt Attributes

Now that we have a better idea of the importance of alt attributes, it is important to know how to write them. So if you were to create an alt attribute for this image:
pug dog wearing birthday hat looking up
The alt text could say: pug dog. That describes the picture on a basic level, but does not give the full picture. A better alt text would say: pug dog wearing birthday hat looking up. Why does that work better? Well here are 6 tips to keep in mind when creating alt attributes that are SEO and accessibility friendly:

Keep it Simple

Google does not like long descriptions of images (see keyword stuffing below) and neither do screen readers. The most popular screen readers cut off alt attributes at around 125 characters, so it’s advisable to keep it to that character count or less.

Be Descriptive and Concise

Not only should the alt attributes be short, it should be to the point. Alt attributes are designed to provide text explanations of images for users who are unable to see them. Be clean in your description, while trying to say it in as few words as possible.

Location, Location, Location

Placing images with alt attributes near relevant text will help create a logical experience for non-visual users. For example, if I was to include the picture of the birthday-celebrating pug above, it should be placed near text about a doggy-themed birthdays.

Keywords are Key

Remember when I told you that there is an SEO component to alt attributes? Well, keywords are key for SEO. Alt attributes are an opportunity to signal to search engines that your page is highly relevant to a particular search query. It’s a great strategy to use your site’s keywords in order to help your images rank.

Keyword Stuffing

Like all things, keywords are great in moderation. Be careful to not misuse your keywords as it could end up hurting your SEO instead of helping it. Google does not like it when you stuff the alt attributes with keywords. In our pug wearing a birthday hat example above, you would want to avoid this alt attribute:

pug dog breed puppies doggies birthday party hat red white pup puppies woof

First, this does not accurately tell a screen reader what the picture is. Imagine having to make sense of a picture with that description!

Secondly, filling alt attributes with keywords results in a negative user experience, and may cause your site to be perceived as spam.

Don’t Neglect Form Buttons

What is a form button? Form elements are different types of input elements, like text fields, checkboxes, submit buttons.

For example:

shopping cart

This is an example of a shopping cart or add to cart form button. If a form on your website uses an image give it an alt attribute. Image buttons should have an alt attribute that describes the function of the button, for example, this icon could have an alt attribute of shopping cart.

You are now ready to write your alt attributes for all the images on your site. Every time a new image is added, be sure to write the alt attribute. Remember to go back to older images and ensure that they have alt attributes as well. This simple step will give you a more accessible website that is also SEO friendly, creating a more positive user experience!

If you are more of a visual user, here is a tutorial from Google about writing alt attributes.

How to Improve Your SEO and Accessibility with Alt Attributes
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3 Tips to Keep Your Computer Safe

For over 200,000 people in over 150 countries, logging on to their computers was not business as usual yesterday. The cyberattack that hit over the weekend, called “WannaCry” or “WannaCrypt,” caused disruptions to universities, hospitals, businesses, and daily life across the world. No catastrophic breakdowns were reported, but the cyberattack has people concerned about their online security.

The attack was carried out via an email attachment. The malicious software or malware, contained in the attachment locks users out of their computers, with the threat of destroying data if a ransom is not paid via untraceable bitcoin.

The question for many remains, “am I safe?”. The good news is that there are things that you can do to keep yourself safe online.

3 Tips to Keep Your Computer Safe
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Technology & Accessibility

As the old cliché goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” This saying is as true for solutions related to disability as it is for any other ambition. With the necessity of technology in our daily lives, individuals with disabilities, and those who advocate for them have designed many tools that work for all, along with guidelines for how to harness its power. This concept is not a new one. In 1808, Pellegrino Turri invented the typewriter to help a friend to write legibly. In 1886, Herman Hollerith, who himself had a cognitive processing disability, invented a method to use punch cards to transport and manage data, later founding the company that would become IBM.

Technology & Accessibility
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5 Design Trends You’ll See in 2017

The trickiest part of design trends is that they’re almost never new, just a resurgence of a design aesthetic that was made popular before. Let’s take a look at 5 of the trends that will be making a strong comeback in 2017.



If 2016 was the year of thin and light minimal sans-serif fonts, 2017 will be the year of serifs – ranging from slab to slim. These fonts offer class and elegance and when combined with the right graphics can still come off as modern and fresh. Who knew Times New Roman would actually come in handy?


While this trend was popular in 2016, it’s not going anywhere. It allows for a bold and clear message. The trick to this trend is not over-using it and finding other creative ways to include it in photos.


As more website & print designs are heading towards minimalist layouts, many designers and brands are trying to find ways to infuse personality and vibrancy into their brand which is why bright colours are making a comeback. Many brands are shifting towards gradients with very subtle hue shifts. Instagram’s recent rebranding saw the introduction of their gradient colour palette across their apps.


While this trend might not be as easily spotted from afar, you can be sure it is out there. Designs Rooted in Reality are essentially designs that pull the familiar textures and effects commonly associated with the real world into the digital world. This includes more paper and ink textures online, and even the imitation of letterpress and other old school technologies.



Partially connected to designs rooted in reality, you should expect to see more logos with hand-drawn elements this year. Hand-drawn logos and graphics help to convey warmth and authenticity and will be most popular with brands wanting to connect to a more youthful audience.

5 Design Trends You’ll See in 2017
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Ailsa’s Must Have Whisky

Whoever said that Canada can’t compete with a Single Malt Whisky has obviously never tried Cape Breton Rare! Whether it is the fact that the Glenora Distillery draws its clear spring water from MacLellan’s Brook which trickles down the beautiful Mabou highlands, or whether it is the fact that the craftsmen learned from Bowmore Distillers in Scotland who lent their hand with production training and the sourcing of authentic Scottish Copper Pot Stills, it’s award winning whisky has a smooth, flavourful taste that competes with world renowned single malts.

Add this to your Christmas wish list, or better yet, take a trip to Cape Breton Island and visit the Glenora Distillery, take a tasting tour and pick up a bottle yourself, you wont be disappointed.

Ailsa’s Must Have Whisky
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Pam’s Holiday Reading List

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

by Adam Grant

Adam Grant, is a top-rated teacher at Wharton and an influencer in international HR with a Ph. D. in organizational psychology. His book Originals is an exploration of how people, can and do, choose to step forward and champion unconventional ideas and values.  If you are looking to originate ideas and practices Originals offers fresh insights on a variety of topics that will leave you feeling hopeful and, possibly, a little exhilarated.   






15515791_10211458907566132_978401787_oBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is an award-winning #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat Pray Love and several other internationally bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction.  Her book Big Magic dives into the creative process and shows us insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. Gilbert encourages us to embrace curiosity, let go of suffering and uncover the hidden jewels in ourselves. She offers tactics on how to face down our fears and live a creative life.






15502835_10211458906366102_1335968998_oBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is a New York Times bestselling Author and a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship who writes fiction and non-fiction. Lamott knows there is no better way to write than to sit down and do it, line by line. It does not matter that your first draft is “shitty,” all that matters is that you keep your eyes open and keep moving forward. She offers tips such as finding a writing partner and carrying around index cards to jot down fortuitous phrases. Bird by Bird encourages, instructs and inspires writers with blunt honesty and humour.

Pam’s Holiday Reading List
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