Cary Coppola, left, and Drew Harden, managing partners of Blue Compass Interactive LLC, specialize in custom Web site design and business technology. Photo by Duane Tinkey
Cary Coppola, left, and Drew Harden, managing partners of Blue Compass Interactive LLC, specialize in custom Web site design and business technology. Photo by Duane Tinkey

Younger generations are becoming progressively more tech savvy, and the demands of the Internet are increasing, which means corporations need to make sure they keep up with the complexities of the World Wide Web, especially when trying to maintain a branded, interactive identity.

"Younger people are growing up more and more. They grew up with the Web, and now that's just how people find out information. So, it's really important now," said Drew Harden, a managing partner at Blue Compass Interactive LLC, which specializes in customized Web site design and business technology.

"Online presence is really, really important now," he said. "Do what you can to make (your site) look professional, because if people go there and it just looks really poor - it doesn't look professional or it doesn't have pertinent information - then people probably aren't going to stay because everything (else) is just a click away."

This increase in Internet use and presence in everyday life has changed the way companies brand and market their products or services. Though many companies spend thousands of dollars on traditional promotional products such as brochures and pamphlets, many other companies are seeking the benefits that the Web offers in terms of interactive marketing.

"If you look at how expensive it is to print a hundred brochures about what your company is all about versus a hundred-page Web site - that has updatability - (the Web) is just so much more cost-effective, and you can really reach so many different people," said Cary Coppola, the other managing partner at Blue Compass.

Blue Compass, which is located in Urbandale, has helped serve a plethora of clients who want to expand, change or simply update their online presence. Companies such as Spalding Equipment in Jefferson, Meredith Corp. and Principal Financial Group Inc. have sought consultation from the two men at Blue Compass for a multitude of projects including Flash presentations, Web page redesigns and logo alterations.

Other companies have sought the two men's expertise for rebranding entire company images, including name changes and logo redesigns. For instance, the former Agnew Tunink and Associates changed its company name to Tunink Murray Financial Group and completely renovated the look of its Web site and promotional materials with the help of Coppola and Harden. Also, the Harvest Initiative, which was founded by two Drake University students and launched with the help of Principal Financial Group Inc.'s then-CEO J. Barry Griswell, went to Blue Compass to establish its brand identity.

With clients ranging from the extreme Web know-it-alls to the Web-impaired, the men at Blue Compass realize how important it is to provide Web tools as well as a comprehensive understanding of Web-based designs after sites have been created. A Web site or a presentation isn't just created and then handed off to the client, Harden explained. Instead, "we try to create a partnership. Providing the client with the tools they need to easily maintain (their site)."

Maintaining a corporate Web site after it has been created can include updating basic information or links, uploading new photographs, videos or Flash presentations, or moving content around to better serve the site's purpose.

Blue Compass also has realized that different businesses have different needs. "Some companies want to start fresh, and some companies give you a textbook of guidelines," Coppola said. Depending on the size of the company and whether the branding alterations have to be approved by committees, the process can be extremely simple or severely complex for the branding artists.

"Total freedom can inhibit the creativity, but guidebooks can be difficult too," Harden said. "With a smaller company, just a few people are approving it, which can be easier." Either way, Blue Compass guarantees that it can follow the most complex, tedious guidebooks, as well as serve companies that are open to anything, or just getting started.

The size of the company generally determines the amount of work that specialized Web site design companies are asked to do. "A lot of companies don't have established Web teams or design teams that specialize in what we do," Coppola said.

He further explained that companies turn to Blue Compass and other providers of specialized services because it makes the most sense. "If someone specializes (in an area), you're going to want to use them," he said. "For instance, if you have an issue with a specific law, you want to go to that lawyer that has that legal background."

With this analogy, Coppola and Harden have established a streamlined process for clients seeking their services. When a client initially approaches Blue Compass, it receives an in-depth consultation meeting where all the ideas are laid out, and all the company's requirements, needs and wants are clearly articulated.

"We sit down and just have an open-table discussion about what they want," Coppola said. "Just talking them through a couple of ideas and making sure that they thought of everything that they want. Then once we get that completely out on the table, we start giving estimates."

Having quit their previous jobs at the same time and with expectant wives at home, Harden and Coppola followed their passion and risked everything to start their business. At first, both men sought out people they knew as clients, but eventually started to gain public recognition and began receiving phone calls from people they didn't know.

"All of a sudden, the telephone actually started ringing," Coppola joked.

Now, with approximately seven months under their belts, Coppola and Harden have put all their eggs in one basket - the Web.

"Embrace the Web, because it's not going anywhere," Coppola said.