Laughing Cat Studios - Web Design and eCommerce

Category — Website Design

Brilliant. Creative. Hands.

Take a look at these great posters. Using just hands and a phone, an American phone company advertised using his popular idea of painting hands in the colors of different countries.  It’s just brilliant.
Costa Rica
The Netherlands
South Africa
United Kingdom

June 9, 2012   No Comments

Automatically Update Copyright Dates

It’s the beginning of a new year and time to remind all web developers to check their copyright dates on their websites. My intention is to add simple code to my footers so I don’t ever have to manually update a copyright date. However, I must admit, I have not always been diligent about doing so. So this one is for those of you who have manually input copyright dates on the websites you have developed and are now having to manually update those dates.

To have a copyright in your footer that looks like this:

Copyright © 2007 – 2011. All Rights Reserved

If you are working with html files that are not set up to parse PHP, replace “2007″ in the following code with your copyright start date and then insert the following javascript code into your html file:

If you are working with php files, insert the following php code into your php file:

It’s as simple as that. Do it now on all your current websites and get into the practice of using code on all future sites you develop. Then on New Years Day, you won’t ever have to worry about it again!

January 2, 2011   No Comments

Image Basics for Web Design

Images for Web Design

need to be in one of three formats. Here we list some notable differences in the .gif, .jpg and .png formats.


Web Design AnimatedGIF (Graphical Interchange Format)

  • Best used for vector graphics, line art.  Not Photos.
  • GIF89a format provided enhancements for transparency, interlacing and multi-frame GIFs for animation.
  • Limited to 256 Colors
  • Compression format is lossless compression format – Which means no image information is lost when compressed.

Web Design with jpg
JPG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

  • Best used for photographs
  • Unsuitable for images with sharp edges, such as line art, logos and type
  • Compression format is a lossy compression algorithm which means that file information is lost when compressed.  Therefore, wait until all modifications are made to save and compress your jpg files.
  • Each time a jpg is saved/compressed, file information is lost.
  • jpg does not support transparency.

Web Design with png
PNG (Portable Network Graphics)

  • Created to improve and replace GIF
  • Compression format is lossless compression format – Which means no image information is lost when compressed.
  • Better transparency than GIF files
  • Does not support animation
  • Supports palette-based, true color and grayscale images

Interesting History: The motivation for creating the PNG format was in early 1995, after it became known that the Lempel–Ziv–Welch (LZW) data compression algorithm used in the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) format was patented by Unisys.

On December 24, 1994, Unisys stated that they expected all major commercial on-line information services companies employing the LZW patent to license the technology from Unisys at a reasonable rate, but that they would not require fees to be paid, for non-commercial, non-profit GIF-based applications, including those for use on the on-line services.

Following this announcement, there was widespread condemnation of CompuServe and Unisys, and many software developers threatened to stop using the GIF format. The PNG format was developed in 1995 as an intended replacement.  Unisys was subjected to thousands of online attacks and abusive emails from users believing that they were going to be charged or sued for using GIFs on their websites.  Despite giving free licenses to hundreds of non-profit organizations, schools and governments, Unisys was completely unable to generate any good publicity and continued to be condemned by individuals and organizations such as the League for Programming Freedom who started the “Burn All GIFs” campaign.

The US LZW patent expired on June 20, 2003.  Consequently, while Unisys has further patents and patent applications relating to improvements to the LZW technique, the GIF format may now be used freely.

December 28, 2010   No Comments

42 Questions to Answer Prior to Designing and Developing Your Company Website

You have decided your company needs a website or a company website makeover, so what’s next?  Spend some time researching answers for the following questions.   Answering these questions for your business prior to shopping for a web designer and developer, will make it easier to select one.

Setup Logistics

  1. Do you have a website (domain) name? Did you or someone else register the domain name?  Do you have control over the domain?
  2. Do you have hosting?  If so, what is your current hosting company and do you have access to the web server?
  3. If you currently have a website, are you in touch with the original website designer and developer?

Website Content and Website Design

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What is your primary message?
  3. Is your content complete?  If not, who will be responsible for content creation and under what timeframe can you expect the content to be complete?
  4. Do you have a logo? What format is it in?
  5. Do you have the hex value for your current company colors?
  6. Do you have photos you need to use?  Are these photos optimized and sized for website design?
  7. Describe the style of website you are looking for.  Is this a brochure site, or a blog?
  8. If you have a catalog or brochure, would you like the website to be consistent with the look and feel of those marketing pieces?   
  9. Will you be providing creative direction or will you expect creative direction to come from your web designer?
  10. If you currently have a website, what do you like about the site and what do you hate about the site?  When is the last time the site was updated and why?
  11. Who are your competitors and what are their website addresses?
  12. What are several websites you like?

Website Development

  1. What do you need your website to do?
  2. Do you have any specifications?
  3.  Is there any specific functionality you need?
  4. How many pages do you need?
  5. Do you need an image gallery?
  6. How does your company handle email?
  7. Do you have a newsletter?
  8. Do you need any password protected areas?
  9. Do you need ecommerce?
  10. Do you need the website to tie into any particular 3rd party applications?
  11. Do you need a contact form?


  1. What is your time frame and budget?
  2. Does the site launch need to coincide with a product launch or any other important milestone?

Site Marketing

  1. Do you need social media tools built in, like Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Stumble Upon, etc.
  2. How familiar are you with search engine optimization?
  3. How will you market your site offline?
  4. How do people find your current website?
  5. How important is search engine ranking to you?

Site Maintenance

  1. How are you going to maintain the site?
  2. How often do you need to update the site?
  3. Do you need a content management system?
  4. Will several people be editing the site?
  5. Will your IT person be involved?
  6. What software do you have?
  7. Are you or anyone on your staff familiar with HTML and CSS?
  8. Do you or anyone on your staff have Photoshop or other image editing software?
  9. Will you want or need help in making changes? If so, would you need help routinely?

Answering the above questions will give you a great start in designing and developing your company website.  Feel free to contact Laughing Cat Studios at (205) 533-9050 for a consult!  We’d love to work with you on the design and development of a fabulous site for your company.

June 2, 2010   1 Comment

7 Excellent Reasons to use a Blog for Your Business Website

Over the last decade we have seen the emergence of blogging software such as Typepad, WordPress, Blogger and Drupal (to name a few).  With the advent of blogging software, we have seen websites move from static to a more dynamic, user-interactive state.  Here are 7 of my favorite reasons to use a blog for your business website:

1)    DIY (Do It Yourself).  As a business owner, you and your staff can modify text and graphics without involving your web developer.

2)    Fresh Content.  Articles and images can be added by multiple users in your company to provide fresh content for the site.  Search engines love fresh content.  In addition, fresh content lets your users know you have not abandoned your website.

3)    Branding and Customization.  Blogs can be customized to reflect company branding and can be developed to look as traditional as a traditional website.

4)    Search Engine Optimization.  Blogging platforms are designed to optimize in search engine results. 

5)    Open source development.  Plug-ins and extensions.  Large community of open-source developers creating features for your site.  Many of these are easy to install, customize and use on your site.

6)    User Engagement.  A blog lends itself to more user engagement.  Internet surfers of today are expecting more interaction with the sites they visit than ever before.  In the “old days”, a user would visit a site and expect to see a brochure site where they could read about the company mission, see a few photos of the business and possibly get directions.  Today, however, users want interaction.  They want to participate in a poll or giveaway, comment on your articles, rate your products, sign up and engage. 

7)    Social Media.  Simple to add Twitter widgets, Facebook fan page widgets and a medium for your users to share your site via their favorite social media outlet. 

Do you use a blog for your business site?  If so, what are your favorite reasons to use a blog platform?   If not, tell us why.

May 18, 2010   No Comments

Web Design in 2010

2009 was a year of adventure and the beginning of a journey for me and for Laughing Cat Studios. I am thrilled to have found my passion in designing and developing web sites for small businesses. I want to send a big thank you to all my clients of 2009 and say that it was a pleasure to work with each and every one of you.

We look forward to designing a few more ecommerce sites in 2010. In addition, we are excited to be designing a website for a new live music venue here in Birmingham Alabama.

Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous new year!

Valerie Latawiec, Owner
Laughing Cat Studios

January 11, 2010   No Comments

Google Website Ranking Explained

The following is a link to Google’s explanation of the technology they use to rank websites.  In a nutshell, Google uses a patented PageRank algorithm (which consists of more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms) to examine the link structure of the website.  Then they conduct hypertext-matching analysis (which examines the entire content of a page) to determine your website’s ranking of relevance and reliability for the internet search user. 

Laughing Cat Studios conducts keyword research and evaluation prior to the development of your website to aid in the best possible ranking with Google and other internet search engines.

Corporate Information – Technology Overview

June 9, 2009   No Comments

8 Recommendations When Selecting a Domain Name

For those who are new to domain name selection, you can visit to check the availability and ownership status of your preferred domain name. You can try this domain name selection tool at which gives you ideas for a domain name for your business.

Most of us can put a business name to “Have it your way”, “Where’s the Beef?”,, “My Bologna has a first name”, “Good to the Last Drop”, “Head On”, “Five. Five Dollar Footlongs”, etc. Just like a well written (and sometimes very annoying) jingle or catch phrase, a domain name should be extremely easy to recall. Keeping this priority in mind, here are some things to consider when selecting a domain name for your business.

    Keep the name relatively short

  1.  The domain name must be typed out and not all of us are rapid fire typists. is too lengthy and somewhat irritating to type in, as opposed to In addition, longer names are more difficult to recall. A one word domain name is ideal.
  2. Do not use names that are difficult to spell

  3. I have one of “those” last names. I would never use my last name as part of my business name or for an email address for that matter. Who would remember how to spell
  4. Stay with a dot com address

  5. There are several options when it comes to web domain extensions. Your business can have a .com address, a .net address, a .biz address, a .info address, a .org address, etc. However, the large majority of people will not remember which dot “what” is on the end of your domain name. Although many businesses settle with .net or .biz in order to secure the domain name of their liking, I recommend sticking with .com, unless your business is a non-profit organization, then it is appropriate to consider .org. Most internet users will try .com first. You wouldn’t want your potential customer to end up on your competitor’s website.
  6. Do not hyphenate your domain name

  7. Do not hyphenate your domain name. Again, most people will not remember to insert the hyphen (or dash) or will not insert it in the appropriate place. Remember, domain names are not case sensitive and can include only letters, numbers and hyphens.
  8. Use complete words with the correct spelling

  9. If the domain name for my business was www.laughingkatstudios .com, most people would mistakenly type in “cat” rather than “kat” when typing in the URL address. Or if your business name was Mountain River Coffee and you abbreviated “Mountain”, many would not know how to abbreviate correctly. or or
  10. Use complete words rather than acronyms

  11. Yes, is not nearly as lengthy as However, lcs does not give my business the name recognition it needs. People may not remember whether the site name was or I may have a different view if my company name was IBM.
  12. Purchase other versions of your domain name

  13. If you are lucky enough to find the perfect domain name dot com for your business, purchase the dot net version as well. If you are unorganized and may not remember to renew your domain name annually, then purchase the domain name for several years in advance.
  14. Consider buying your ideal domain name

  15. Finally, if you are set on a particular domain name and someone else owns that domain name, you may be able to purchase the domain name from them. Buying and selling domain names has become big business. The following video is the first in a series of videos on buying and selling domain names:

March 30, 2009   2 Comments

Welcome to Laughing Cat Studios!

Welcome to Laughing Cat Studios! We are enjoying this venture of designing and developing websites for small businesses in the Birmingham Alabama area. In addition, we are willing to work with small businesses across the United States, providing they will work with us by telephone, internet, email and fax. When we contract with your small business, we view the deal as becoming part of your team. We guarantee client satisfaction 100% of the time.

Laughing Cat Studios offers domain name registration, website design, website development, website hosting, search engine optimization, and monthly website maintenance to ensure your site remains fresh.

If you own a small business and would like to sell your products online, Laughing Cat Studios will partner with your company to make it as pain-free and affordable as possible. Depending on inventory turnover, we will develop a schedule to periodically add new inventory to your website ensuring your current products are always available online.

We look forward to joining you on your business journey. Thanks for stopping by!

March 24, 2009   1 Comment