ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Though he’s lived his whole life in the television age, Ty Klein can understand how challenging it must have been a half century ago to be an early promoter of television during the golden age of radio.
As a professional Web site developer, Klein has to convince potential clients they can benefit from promoting themselves through a new-fangled medium: the Internet and World Wide Web.
He also has to convince them that an eye-catching visual message will pay off better in the long run than a words-only message that costs less to produce-and that it’s worth extra money to have it done well.
Klein thinks he’s winning the battle, slowly but surely.
“It’s a big challenge,” he said. “But I see Hillsboro being unique in the fact that it’s a progressive place for the size of the town.”
Through his business, called Klein Graphic Design, he has designed Web sites for several local businesses, including Circle D Corporation and the Real Estate Center. He also maintains Web sites for other local companies, businesses and institutions.
The Hillsboro native solicits clients on his own, and also receives referrals as an independent contractor through Print Source Direct in Hillsboro.
“I’d say the community is becoming more aware of the need to stay on top of things visually, whether it be logos, signage or the use of other imagery,” he said.
Klein feels his combination of artistic and technical skills give him an advantage over many would-be Web designers.
“For me, the goal has been to try to retain both sides,” he said. “Most people get somebody who is really technical and can’t draw. Or the other way around-someone who can design really well but can’t put the thing together and has to rely on somebody else to do the technical work.”
Klein’s interests in art and computers emerged during his early teen years.
“I grew up with the computer back when the Tandys first came out,” he said. “As most kids do anymore, I had a knack to learn that kind of stuff. I actually got pretty good at troubleshooting and thought about going into computer science.”
As he went through Hillsboro High School, Klein also pursued his interest in art. When he graduated in 1993, he decided to pursue graphic design at the University of Kansas instead of art.
“I decided to play it safe and not be a starving artist, so to speak,” Klein said. “People kept telling me to go into commercial graphic arts because you can at least get a decent job.”
While he was at KU, graphic design began shifting from drawing and pasteup to computerization. Klein was among those who chose early to embrace the trend.
“By the time we were seniors, classes were starting to require you to have course work done on the computer,” he said. “Anybody who was doing it on the computer had the advantage.”
When use of the Internet and World Wide Web began to rise, Klein took the initiative to learn the coding needed to create Web sites.
“Unfortunately, the Web stuff was still pretty new then at most of the colleges,” he added. “Most didn’t have a program in it, or they offered it through their computer science department.”
After graduating from KU in 1997, Klein was hired by Baker University to work with print graphics and Web work-even though he hadn’t had much experience with the latter.
“I did print for six months, then started developing their Web site,” he said. “After that, I became the person responsible for updating the site and learning new technologies.”
While at Baker, Klein began taking on free-lance work. One of his favorite projects was developing computer screen savers on behalf of Universal Press Syndicate. His task was to incorporate animated characters from the Doonesbury, Fox Trot and Cathy comic strips.
“They basically said, ‘Here’s the characters; you have creative freedom to design how it works or what it does,'” Klein said.
In 1998, Klein accepted a full-time position in the public relations department at Tabor College. He and his wife, Roxi, are both from Hillsboro and valued the opportunity to be closer to family and work in a Christian environment.
Ty continues to work full-time at Tabor, where one of his tasks is to maintain the school’s Web site. He pursues his work with Klein Graphic Design in the early mornings, evenings and sometimes during his lunch hours.
Klein’s Web site clientele hasn’t exactly mushroomed since coming to Hillsboro, but he offers at least two good reasons for that.
First, he doesn’t believe every business should invest money in a professional Web site.
“I’m not going to push somebody into something that I don’t think is do-able or worth their effort,” he said. “A lot of businesses downtown don’t really need a site, unless then want one purely to be current.
Business and companies that benefit most from a quality Web site are those who want or have clientele from beyond the local area, Klein said.
“A lot of businesses don’t have people who would be interested in their merchandise unless they live here,” he said. “If people live here, they’re going to come in regardless.”
He feels the site he created for the Real Estate Center has been effective because the business has significant clientele from outside the area who are interested in finding homes in Hillsboro.
The site is successful also because the business owners promote it regularly, too.
“Most companies don’t realize you have to promote the site and update it to keep people coming back to it,” he said. “You need things other than just product information.”
The other hurdle Klein faces in developing his Web site service is the relatively poor Internet accessibility Hillsboro is saddled with presently.
“A lot of smaller communities seem more progressive in this area, but it’s only because they have fast connections,” he said.
Until that situation improves, he said, “the Web is going to be hindered in terms of the number of people who want to be on it regularly, as well as people wanting to be on it with Web sites. That’s a hurdle we have to deal with. We can’t provide some services because we can’t do them on a dial-up system.”
In addition to creating Web sites, Klein Graphic Design offers a variety of other computer-related services, including consulting, preparing CD ROM presentations, and digitally retouching family photos.
“I’m pretty much interested in all kinds of digital stuff,” he said.
As his business develops, Klein tries to balance the small-town tension of providing top-flight services at prices local folks think are reasonable.
He said for a business that wants an effective Web site, professionalism is worth a little extra investment.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” he said. “You want to present yourself as being professional. But in another sense, being in a small town, you want to be personable and reasonable with your rates.”