I believe in Santa Claus and

in bringing compelling stories to life. I'm Zack and my passion is helping you (whether you're a blogger, company, or even St. Nick himself) stand proud when sharing your story on top of the world's greatest soapbox: the Webiverse.

 

Sidekick For: Centreville UMC Upward Sports

Site Coordinates: CUMCUpward.com

Mission: After speaking with league leadership and the families using the previous iteration of the website, we established some key needs for the redesign: better information hierarchy, more seamless navigation, and an interface that reflected CUMC Upward's first-class volunteers.

Timeline: September 2013 - November 2013

Superpowers Used: HTML5, CSS3, PHP, Responsive Design, Zurb Foundation, WordPress Theme Development


Napkin Mockup

Just like anyone would do in a dining hall, I ran with these thoughts and the first design concept found itself on a napkin (see picture).

User-Centered Approach

The User: Upward Parent

Reason for Visiting: View pictures and easily find child's game & practice schedule

Solution:

  1. Reduce top-level navigational items from 12 to 7
  2. Create custom team pages with easy access to team calendars
  3. Showcase photos on home page in addition to a Pics and Vids page
  4. Go responsive! Over 30% of all visits are through a handheld device

Analytics: Before & After

  • There's been a 42.25% increase in the amount of time users spend on the site
  • 23.75% reduction in single page visits. This means more and more users are interacting with the site instead of just "bouncing away" from the first page they land on.
  • 371,352 (284% increase) more photo views from January 1, 2014 - March 31, 2014 versus January 1, 2013 - March 31, 2013

First Place

BEA Festival of Media Arts, Interactive Multimedia Competition (Solo Catgegory), 2014

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"Zack Ayers has designed, implemented, and continues to enhance our CUMC Upward league website. His website has replaced one that we paid a professional to develop and is much more aesthetically pleasing while also providing more information and functional capability than our previous website.

All of us, league administration, church staff and league parents have been very impressed with the quality of the site and how easy it is to navigate and submit pictures and video to share with others in the league.

Zack takes a lot of pride in his work product and is always open and available to discuss new and different ways his website can be used to promote the league and provide the needed information to all who use it. His creativity and design has taken our program to a new level of excellence."

- David Peterson, Co-Director of CUMC Upward Sports


Home Sweet Home Grown.


Sidekick For: Seth Ennis Music

Site Coordinates: SethEnnis.com

Mission: One of my longtime friends approached me in April about doing a website to promote his music. Seth, an up and coming country artist, needed a site that could easily showcase his music for recording studios and his growing fan base.

Timeline: April 2013 - May 2013

Superpowers Used: HTML5, CSS3, PHP, WordPress Theme Customization


Nashville Bound

This has been one of my favorite websites I've worked on to date. I've known Seth since we were nine years old - so naturally, working with a friend made this piece a ton of fun. My goal was to showcase Seth's music in a unique way while still holding the simplicity of a one-page design (a feature that was on his "must" list). As Seth heads off to Nashville to continue pursuing a career in music, I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to work on his website.

User-Centered Approach

The User: Recording Studios and Fans

Reason for Visiting: Check out Seth's music and tour dates

Solution:

  1. Discuss the information architecture - the most important (Seth's music) piece of the site should be at the top
  2. Have an easy to navigate, clutter-free menu
  3. Showcase photos on home page in addition to a Pics and Vids page
  4. Go responsive! Over 30% of all visits are through a handheld device
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Envision the triumph in 12 days.


Sidekick For: Eric Wagner, Author, Cyclist, & All-Around Cool Dude

Site Coordinates: LeavingItOntheRoad.com

Mission: Eric had been using TypePad as his blogging platform, but just wasn't satisfied with the look and structure of his blog. He had already completed his cross-country bike trip, so he didn't want the emphasis of the site to be so focused on the bike ride itself. Eric expressed a desire to keep his readers updated on the workings of his book project and some other topics of mutual interest (nutrition, wellness, training). Eric wanted all of this to be accomplished in a clean, simple design.

Superpowers Used: HTML5, CSS3, PHP, Responsive Design, Twitter Bootstrap, WordPress Child-Theming

Timeline: January 19, 2014 - January 31, 2014


Quick Turnaround

Eric contacted me expressing interest in a blog redesign on January 19, 2014 and we brainstormed some ideas on January 20th. With the great content he had provided and using WP-Bootstrap as a parent theme, I was able to provide Eric a rapid turnaround.

User-Centered Approach

The User: Cyclists and anyone interested in nutrition & wellness

Reason for Visiting: Learn more about Eric's ride across America and follow his blog

Solution:

  1. Transfer Eric's TypePad blog to WordPress
  2. Create categorical hierarchy for Eric's blog posts
  3. Develop custom "The Ride" page
  4. Incorporate social media sharing capabilities on the blog
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"I wish there was more space to write about Zack Ayers' merits when it comes to web design. He took my average looking blog and turned it into a streamlined, gorgeous little corner of the web that I get to call my own.

I love my new blog so much it is now my home page so that I can look at it every day. If you want to redesign your blog, or are looking to create a unique and original one for the first time, I highly recommend hiring Zack Ayers for his talents."

- Eric Wagner, Author of Leaving It On the Road


Keeping the wheels turning.


Sidekick For: SMAD 404 (Advanced Interactive Design)

Site Coordinates: zackayers.com/smad404/bicycle

Mission: Create website using content provided by a journalism class from Fall 2013, displaying the content in an interesting and aesthetically pleasing way.

Superpowers Used: HTML5, CSS3, PHP, MySQL, Zurb Foundation

Timeline: April 2014


48 Hours? No Problem.

Such is the life of a busy college student (i.e, balancing classes, two on-campus jobs, preparations for job applications, and getting set to graduation). My mettle was put to the test while working under a tight deadline, but I've found some of my most creative moments come when thinking on the fly. Such was the case with the Harrisonburg Bicycle Project.


Our SMAD 404 class created a MySQL database and PHP files to integrate in our sites. It was up to us to determine how this form would fit in with our content. Using Zurb Foundation as a front-end framework, I used some server-side includes to help my workflow and organization of content. What a fun project that I can look back on with a sense of pride and accomplishment!

User-Centered Approach

The User: Cyclists local to the Harrisonburg area

Reason for Visiting: An interest in the interviewees stories and searching for local biking trails

Solution:

  1. Using PHP and MySQL, create a database of local trails that allow users to search for trails based on a number of criteria
  2. Layout the pages in a way that encourage storytelling through videos, audio, text, pictures, and maps
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Share a story, a good story.


Sidekick For: Erica Cavanagh, Writer & Photographer

Site Coordinates: EricaCavanagh.com

Mission: Author websites are a necessity in the publishing world. Erica desired a platform for her creative work to serve as a resource for anyone interested in her writing or subjects of mutual interest: West Africa, food, agriculture, travel, women & children's health, and well being.

Superpowers Used: HTML5, CSS3, PHP, Responsive Design, Twitter Bootstrap, WordPress Theme Development

Timeline: November 2013 - December 2013


What Makes a Good Story?

What doesn't make a good story? Just like Santa Claus, every story has a little bit of magic behind it. The fun part for us storytellers is bringing that magic to life for others around us - and there aren't too many folks out there better at doing this than Erica Cavanagh. A former member of the Peace Corps, Erica has seen and met all types of people. Many of her written works accompany a stunning photograph, so in many cases, her picture literally told a thousand words!

User-Centered Approach

The User: Readers interested in the subjects of Erica's writing and photography, as well as writing professionals (journalists, editors, authors, publishers)

Reason for Visiting: To check out Erica's awesome work!

Solution:

  1. Develop photography page where readers can view photos in a lightbox or read a narrative accompanying certain pictures
  2. Keep the navigation simple - Erica strongly desired a site where users felt oriented
  3. No fluff on homepage, encouraging users to dive into site
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"Professional, responsive, and dependable, Zack Ayers delivered a website that reflected and even improved upon my specifications. Throughout the process, his upbeat attitude and thoroughness made putting a website together a joyful experience."

- Erica Cavanagh, Writer and Photographer


Investing in the best solutions.


Sidekick For: Vinoy Real Estate

Site Coordinates: VinoyRealEstate.com

Mission: Design a WordPress site for a client who will want to create similar sites in the future. The website needed to fit the specifications presented by Vinoy Real Estate, yet offer a sense of simplicity for its users.

Superpowers I'll Use: HTML5, CSS3, PHP, Avada Theme Customization

Timeline: February 2014 - March 2014


Project Details

This was a unique project - when a Vinoy representative first touched base about the project, he expressed a desire to implement similar WordPress sites in the future. With a short turnaround time in mind, we agreed that customizing the Avada theme on WordPress was the most time-efficient and future-proof solution. That way, he could always count on using the Avada theme for future projects without worrying about whether I'd be available for work (I am still a college student, after all!). In the end, I had a great time putting my child-theming skills to the test and Vinoy was pleased with the results of their new website.

User-Centered Approach

The User: Anyone interested in Vinoy Real Estate

Reason for Visiting: To partner or invest in Vinoy in a real estate project

Solution:

  1. Vinoy stressed the importance that the site is geared towards drawing the interest of potential investors. Thus, the option to "Join the Vinoy Investment Network" is a prominent feature on many pages
  2. Don't over complicate the pages - the typical user isn't a digital native, so it was important to emphasize the ease of use for users
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"Zack Ayers helped establish an online presence that reflected the core of Vinoy Real Estate: delivering strong results. Zack's upbeat attitude made the process of building a website an enjoyable one. I highly recommend Zack for any website design or redesign projects."

- Rick Bishop, Parter of Vinoy Real Estate


Brighten the lights of Madison.


Sidekick For: Technology & Design (TAD) at James Madison University

Site Coordinates: info.jmu.edu/tad

Position: Web Developer

Missions Accomplished: Maintain University Unions websites, publish content developed by other student employees, assist in the rebranding efforts of JMU's Master Calendar

Timeline: April 2013 - May 2014


My Role At TAD

"The web development team at TAD aims to provide organizations within University Unions the tools for effectively communicating with the JMU community through online media in an accessible, convenient, and meaningful way." (TAD)


It's an amazing opportunity as a college student to have the chance to gain real world experience in an environment so full of talent and life. Since August 2013, I've been able to work with a number of University Union organizations (primarily Festival Conference Center, info.jmu.edu/festival and Event Management, info.jmu.edu/eventmanagement). We're currently in the planning process of overhauling about ten websites within University Unions.

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It's a bird, it's a plane...no, it's RocketBike!


Sidekick For: RocketBike

Site Coordinates: itsrocketbike.com

Position: Front-End Web Developer

Missions Accomplished: BECO Asset Management Website (BECOAsset.com), implementing a wiki page on the P1 Technologies website, general bug fixes on client sites

Timeline: January 2014 - May 2014


My Role At RocketBike

This is a unique and fun opportunity - I'm currently being subcontracted by RocketBike to tackle some client projects ranging from routine website updates all the way to building company sites. It's exciting to be part of an up and coming web design company.

Step out beyond the screen.


Sidekick For: SMAD 231 (Writing for New Media)

Site Coordinates: sites.jmu.edu/screensighted

Mission: Challenge the JMU community to think beyond the screens that seemingly dictate our daily lives.

Superpowers Used: HTML5, CSS3, WordPress Theme Customization, Team Leading

Timeline: November 2013 - December 2013


Prescribing Screensightedness

What if we all took a second to step away from our screens (computers, smartphones, tablets) and truly invest in the lives of those around us? This was just one question my Writing for New Media class asked ourselves in the brainstorming of the project. We developed a quiz for users to take and based on the quiz results, users would be directed to take a certain challenge. Each member of the class picked a challenge to implement in their lives for a week. We all documented our experiences to serve as an encouragement for others taking the challenge.


My role on this project was to serve as the web team lead and the WordPress advisor for the class. I customized the CSS3 files to match the specs that the design team requested.

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