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Free Human Support

There’s a national company who is currently offering “Domain + Website + Email For Just $1 /MO” & “Free Human Support.” What did your Grandma always say? “If it sounds too good to be true…”


Forget that introductory price. (And it is an introductory price.) Companies that offer discounted rates for signing up more than make up the difference in other ways. You aren’t “working the system” by purchasing the service at the discount. You’re being taken advantage of.

You can be sure that these predatory companies will a) raise the rate the next year, b) limit whatever service is provided at the cheaper rate, c) make it difficult to cancel or change service providers at the end of the year, and d) require add-on purchases above the advertised rate, as a condition of the discount. Reviews of their customer service are historically bad.

There are also the Create Your Free Website Today! companies. Here’s a recent testimonial for what we’ll call Company X:

“…when you contact customer support (if that’s what you want to call it), they direct you to FAQ pages that are completely unhelpful. I put up with [Company X] for about 8 months. While the price is great, you get what you definitely get what you pay for – a cheap website. I realized it’s really not worth trying to go super cheap on something as important as my business’s website…”

28176049_sAt ISI, we offer standard hosting packages that include features like text changes and photo swaps. Our clients know what services and pricing they can expect. We work with clients to ensure their sites work the way they want them to.

When you’re ready to deal with some actual, ethical humans, contact ISI.

The humans are in their new office, at 115 Atwood Street, in Office 505.

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Alleghany Ed Foundation Scholarship Forms

This week, we’ve been updating 2016 scholarship forms for Alleghany County Educational Foundation. The Educational Foundation is a scholarship resource that manages and distributes scholarships from individuals and organizations in the county for seniors at Alleghany High School.

Students must complete 20 individual forms each year, to apply for over 70 scholarships. Several of the scholarships allow for multiple recipients.ACEFsite With only around 100 graduates each year, students who want to go college will likely receive some level of assistance from the organization.

Imaging Specialists helped improve what was a laborious, time consuming application process. Before 2008, students were given a stack of applications to fill out, by hand. That year, ISI digitized the forms and created an editable, master form in Adobe Acrobat that included all available applications. Form fields were linked throughout the document, so the student only had to enter contact info once – on the first form – and the information was populated throughout.

We made the form available, online, so that students would have access the from anywhere. Making it available in this way ensured the students would also always have access to the latest version of the form. Updates and changes made by the Foundation would, of course, be immediate and available to everyone.

Information submitted to the organization is in a clean, readable format. While the Foundation has opted to receive printed copies from students, we could easily set up a button, to submit the data, digitally, allowing the recipient to cut, paste or file the information directly into a database.

AEFFormThis year, we’ve worked with the organization to split the form, so that the main application can be filled out by each student, and submitted regardless of what individual scholarships they might be applying for. We also added a button so that students can save the document to the cloud in their own personal Google accounts.

Students are able to save partial or completed PDFs to their computer, a portable drive, or their Google account, so that they can edit,  re-save, or print out forms at any time.

If you have a complicated, time-consuming process you need to simplify, talk to us. We can help you find a solution.

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ISI moves to the BDC

Starting in January 2016, we’ll have a new address. We’ve moved to the Blue Ridge Business Development Center and are in Office 505, at 115 Atwood Street.


We will continue to offer all the of the same services at the new location, focusing on web services (design, development, hosting and maintenance), print publishing (page design, digital prepress, book printing), and television production (our existing series Silver Screenings, Alleghany Memories, and the upcoming Common Threads).

Our new location will bring ISI closer to several of our existing business-to-business clients, as well as new startups who might benefit from our print & document services.

Our online store, Shop Star Route, is still live, and the books we had available at our Main Street location are still available downtown. Star Route Books are available at Sparky’s Coffeehouse (at 32 West Whitehead Street), and the Alleghany Historical-Genealogical Society is retailing the books they have published at Alleghany Historical Museum (at 7 North Main Street). None of our titles are out of print and they’re easy to find at Shop Star Route.

We’re very excited about the new chapter for ISI. Looking forward to seeing you in the new year, at our new location.

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New Sites Launched

In the first part of 2015, we’ve launched several new sites (and site redesigns). Check these projects out, then contact ISI for your own website updates. From a complete design to an existing site that needs some sprucing up, or just moving from your current host- whatever your online needs, ISI can help!

Sparky’s Coffeehouse

Sparky’s site was originally quickly put together before the Coffeehouse opened in January 2014. It didn’t have many images – the only graphic on the site was the logo – and had a basic white background. After the redesign, it has a wider, more attractive format, with more graphics and much more information.

Riverbend Tree Farms

The owners of Riverbend Tree Farms first came to us before Thanksgiving, asking with help with a mass emailing service, before their Christmas tree lot opened for the 2014 season. They had a mailing list and needed a way to contact previous customers, and add first-time visitors to their mailing list for the future. We set up a quick contact form with their logo to get them through this season, and worked on a new site layout to launch in 2015.

Chilly Water Farm, LLC

Chilly Water Farm’s site came together from their current brochure, facebook page, and an unused blog that was still accessible online. We talked to them about how to remove the old content (after we downloaded everything that was still applicable), and developed a cohesive look for the site, with a color scheme that will easily translate to print and other mediums. We set up a PayPal shopping cart for quick, easy ordering of their Get Chillerized products.

At, we developed a brand new blog with a focus on bird watching, that matched the look of the rest of the site.

NC Society of Historians

ISI has hosted and maintained the site for NCSH for several years, and this year added a WordPress blog, increasing the functionality of the site for NCSH president, Elizabeth Sherrill.

Millers Camping

Bill Womble, manager of Millers Camping, was a previous web customer who returned when it was time to update an existing site for the campground. We chose bright new images and a new layout, updating text content and quickly put the new site live. We also added a WordPress blog to the site, and integrated the design of the site into the blog format.

Florida Keys Catamaran Charters

We first worked with the owners of Florida Keys Catamaran Charters to develop the website for their former bed & breakfast inn (which is currently for sale, and hopefully will be reopened when it sells). Recently, they decided to focus on selling the b&b and expand their catamaran charter business. This Spring, we modified both sites, updating information and adding photos.


Crackerfarm is the alias of Mike Beyer, a photographer & videographer based in Nashville, TN, who works with bands like the David Mayfield Parade, Langhorne Slim and the Law, and the Avett Brothers. He noticed his WordPress-based store was down when he recently added a new product for sale. After he tweeted for help, we contacted him, volunteering to fix the problem. (The problem turned out to be an incompatibility between his WordPress theme and an updated version of WordPress, which caused fatal errors and killed the shopping cart functions.) We soon changed him over to a new theme, to get him up and running. Then, we redesigned the site, to focus on his photography and improved e-commerce functionality, in a clean minimalist layout optimized for mobile web browsing.

Shady Rest Tree Farm

Shady Rest Tree Farm contacted us to move their site from their previous hosting company. We quickly moved the site, updated their shopping cart software, re-entered their existing catalog inventory, and integrated PayPal Web Payments. There was minimal downtime with the move.

Star Route Books

We also (somehow) found time to rework our own book publishing site.

Please check all of these sites out. You’ll probably learn something new from each of them, and you’ll definitely see a good variety of services ISI can provide. Contact us if you’re considering a redesign, need help with a troublesome site, or are starting out fresh.

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Limitations of Social Media Marketing

We recently saw this story on Social Fixer and want to share it with our readers.

If you aren’t familiar with Social Fixer, it’s a browser extension that “fixes” facebook. It changes how the site is displayed in a user’s browser. Social Fixer doesn’t do anything to harm facebook or alter the site – it only changes the way user-generated content displays.

Not long ago, Social Fixer’s page was suddenly “unpublished” by Facebook. It was totally removed. The page was not a small one- it had 34,000 “fans” and had been growing for years. They weren’t spamming people. They hadn’t violated the terms of service. There was no advance notice, or warning of any kind. No “stop doing X, Y, and Z.” No feedback on how to change.

Luckily, the business owner is able to contact his users in other ways, including through the extension itself. It’s just more difficult.

It’s important to remember that, while Facebook is a good way to stay in contact and find new potential customers, it is not a public service.  It’s a business. And with no traditional  customer service, user complaints don’t seem to be very effective. At any rate, this fellow’s appeal was ignored.

Facebook profits from the content you share across it. The more time a visitor spends at their site, the more money they make. They “mine” the data people enter, including everything from the time they spend, to their browsing patterns, to their likes and their associations with other users.

Your goal with facebook may be to find new people- and there is a world of potential on facebook- but your facebook and social media marketing strategy should be similar to your traditional marketing strategy. The number of “likes” you get rarely equals the number of sales you close. Neither does the number of subscribers to a newspaper in traditional advertising.

All advertising- whether it’s across a social marketing site, like Facebook, or in the daily news- should point your potential customer to your own site or store, where you have control over your message. Facebook is a valuable tool when used correctly, but it cannot replace a professional, secure site that you control. Your business should be the only one to benefit from your relationship with your customers.

Check out the whole Social Fixer story, and this follow up post. It’s really interesting.