Signal 25th Anniversary

SIGNAL 25: What a great ride!

Signal 25th Anniversary

A Signal milestone opens a new era with new partners

It’s Signal’s 25th anniversary! On February 28, 1992, founders Rick Haynes and Dave Grinnell launched Signal as a graphic design firm, operating from the room over Rick’s garage in Bahama, NC. Twenty-five years later, the company is headquartered at Brier Creek in Raleigh with a powerhouse staff of 22.

We’re grateful to our many wonderful clients, business partners and members of the Signal family whose contributions have kept us going strong for a quarter of a century and counting.

Coinciding with our anniversary, we’re announcing leadership changes to help solidify our strong foundation. Longtime employees Jim Ellis and Phil Stephens became partners on January 1, 2017, joining President Ricky Haynes and Vice President John Gibson. As we welcomed our new partners, we saw Signal founder Rick Haynes step down from his role as CEO. Rick continues to serve in an advisory role as Chairman Emeritus.

New Partners

Jim Ellis joined Signal in 1999 and will continue to serve as Vice President, Account Director. He manages the business development team with seasoned expertise in account management, digital marketing, brand strategy and new business leadership.

Phil Stephens joined Signal in 2005 and will continue to serve as Vice President, Client Services. Phil manages key accounts and strategic partnerships with a commitment to creating exceptional customer experiences.

“Jim is nimble and adaptable, always thinking ahead and working tirelessly to keep us moving in the right direction. He’s never satisfied with the status quo. Phil is a charismatic and wise leader, known for his moral character and easy manner. No one has a greater commitment to excellence in client services than Phil. We’re honored to work with both Phil and Jim, who are not only great colleagues, but great mentors and friends. We look forward to what our team will be able to do next.”

— Ricky Haynes



Triangle Heart Ball 2017

Triangle Heart Ball: Celebration of Life

Triangle Heart Ball 2017

The Triangle Heart Ball brings together our community’s most prominent physicians, executives, philanthropists and leaders every February for an inspirational celebration of life.

This elegant, black-tie affair includes dinner, dancing, live entertainment and both silent and live auctions. It is a premier social event to celebrate and support the American Heart Association’s mission to build healthier lives free of heart disease and stroke.

In 2016, the Heart Ball raised close to $900,000, with about 70% of that support coming from corporate sponsors. Donations are provided directly to local hospitals in the area.

The American Heart Association first contacted Signal in March 2016 for help with activities surrounding the Heart Ball. We joined the team as an in-kind sponsor for creative work. For the 2017 Triangle Heart Ball, we were responsible for a number of deliverables, including:

  • 2017 Heart Ball theme
  • Save the date postcard
  • Invitation, envelope and RSVP
  • Program cover, tabs and page template
  • Fall kick-off save the date postcard
  • Fall kick-off invitation
  • Live auction booklet + poster
  • Print management

The Signal team could not be more proud to be involved with the American Heart Association and the Triangle Heart Ball, which a number of our team members will be attending.

The 2017 Triangle Heart Ball will be held this Saturday, February 18th at the Raleigh Convention Center.

User Testing

User Testing in 5 Steps

User Testing

User testing is part of any sound UX (or user experience) strategy, designed to increase the quality of a person’s interaction with your website, system, product or service. Getting a fresh perspective through user testing helps you identify issues as early as possible – ultimately helping you increase your ROI. As UX experts like to say, test early and test often.

Your User Testing Recipe

Step #1: Define your goals.

What do you want to test? Your detailed goals will form the basis of specific hypotheses. For example, a purchase is probably the most important goal of an ecommerce website. The hypothesis might be: Simple is always better. Reducing the checkout to three steps will increase our ecommerce goal completion rates.

If you’re testing a system or site that’s not yet completed, you may not have benchmarks or historic data to begin guessing what possibility might be better over another. Using the same example as above, the goal would still have a hypothesis – it would just be less specific: People are more likely to make a purchase if they like the experience.

Step #2: Create the scenarios / tasks.

Scenarios – or task descriptions – will help establish a realistic framework for your test. This step may seem straightforward but it is incredibly important. Remember, scenarios should always be a neutral as possible – meaning they don’t suggest a specific way for completing the task. A few examples:

  • Imagine that you are looking for a gift for your brother who is interested in professional golf. Visit, find a product you think he would like and add it to your cart.
  • Imagine that you want to download a browser extension to manage your bookmarks. How would you go about this?
  • Imagine that you just finished reading an article about the refugee crisis in Europe and you want to post a comment. Walk me through the process of how you would do so.

Step #3: Pick the people and location.

Next, make sure you have a quiet room or office to conduct the test – a place where participants won’t be distracted or feel pressured. You’ll also need a pre-selected list of participants. For an initial usability test, 3 – 5 people is generally sufficient. Participants should loosely fit your target audience and must not be familiar with your website. Why? People familiar with the site are more likely to have preconceived ideas about what works and what doesn’t – and getting insight from the wrong demographic may end up hurting instead of helping your efforts.

For smaller tests, you may want to consider the friends and family members of coworkers. They’re easy to access and typically don’t want much in return.

Step #4: Create your script.

The dialogue you will have with participants should be created beforehand and the individuals conducting the test should be familiar with it. It’s critical to establish a neutral, non-stressful rapport by outlining the following upfront:

  • Let participants know they’re not the ones “being tested.” It’s you/your website under scrutiny.
  • Ask participants to speak freely and openly with no worry about offending the site owners/designers!
  • Invite them to speak out loud as they complete the tasks you’ve defined.
  • Finally, let them know that they will be recorded and get any consent paperwork out of the way.

Tip: Having participants speak out loud as they complete tasks will reveal volumes of valuable information (and you can take notes). However, documenting every detail will still omit insights that are only realized during the post-test review. Make sure you have a good screen-capture tool recording everything participants do and say for best results.

Step #5: Analyze and improve.

Once you’ve done the test and fully analyzed the results, it’s time to identify and prioritize the top 3 – 5 issues uncovered so you can fix them. Set up your metrics so that you can start collecting data to measure the actual impact on your KPIs. Let that information collect and get started on the next set of hypotheses you’d like to test.

ADA compliant websites

ADA-Compliant Websites: What You Need to Know

ADA Compliant Websites

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications and governmental activities. What you may not know is that the ADA and other standards require that governmental websites be accessible to those with disabilities. Below, we answer the most pressing questions.

What are the requirements?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require that state and local governments provide people with disabilities equal access to their “programs, services, or activities.” This includes all information technology – including hardware, software and documentation.

I’m a private employer, so this doesn’t apply to me, right?

While most ADA information technology standards are aimed at governmental entities, private companies are not exempt from having ADA-compliant websites. Making websites more accessible for disabled users can enhance the UX (or user experience) for everyone. Signal has helped a number of private companies voluntarily improve the accessibility of their websites. Ideally, every website should be ADA-compliant, and we believe that more companies will be prioritizing this as part of website development / redesign efforts.

How do you implement an ADA-compliant website?

Accessibility is not difficult to implement if it’s planned for accordingly. In most cases, it requires extra attention to website design, content and functionality to meet specified standards. It also requires routine audits of your website to ensure it stays compliant as it evolves. The steps required are different for every unique website.

The Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities (AID) Foundation has a few high-level suggestions to get started.

  • Pair images, videos and audio with text. For users who are visually- or hearing-impaired, some form of accompanying text can enhance their experience. This includes captions added to videos, text transcripts of multimedia content, and descriptive alt tags coded on photos, infographics and graphical text elements.
  • Make sure you have the links. Lost links and embedded resources can be a challenge for disabled users. Create links to videos instead of embedding. Add links for transcripts of videos. And don’t forget to add links for media player downloads, so users don’t have to hunt them down online.
  • Avoid using strobe effects or repeatedly flashing images. These can trigger seizures in those who have epilepsy.
  • Be friendly to assistive technologies. Disabled users rely on a host of assistive technologies to help them with computers: joysticks, trackballs, screen enlargers, speech synthesizers and screen readers are a few examples. Java applets, scripts and plug-ins (including the ubiquitous PDF and PowerPoint files!) must be accessible to those technologies.

Event Marketing Materials

The American Heart Association engaged Signal to assist with its Triangle Heart Ball, an annual event which brings together community leaders for an inspirational celebration of life. The goal of the Heart Ball is to support the mission to build healthier lives free of heart disease and stroke. Signal joined the team in 2017 as an in-kind sponsor for creative work, returning every year since to design the Heart Ball theme, save-the-date postcards, invitations, envelopes and RSVP.