I bring you a very special guest today for the Reverie Rendez-vous. Aside from being my lovely husband, he is the genius man behind my wild web design dreams. I have been wanting for him to share with us all some basic technical tips on how to effectively set up a website, and I am so excited the time is here. These are some great tips and I hope they serve you well! Jon is also a phenomenal business owner and videographer, you can find his amazing work here.
“There are over 1 billion websites today. Think about that. That means for every 7 people on earth, 1 of them has a website. And at only 25 years old, the web is only growing. So what chance does my site have? Well, a pretty good one actually. My dad has always said that there is plenty of room at the top. Needless to say, there are many sites out there, that are not ‘at the top’. Which means there is room for yours and mine. But it doesn’t mean it is easy. Having a ‘good’ site in this modern multi-device world, can be tricky. It has to work well on anything ranging from smart watches to massive tablets, from your mom’s Dell to the newest and most powerful laptop, and whatever else is around the corner. You have to be able to update it easily. And you have to somehow come up in search results on Google and the like. In the last decade, I have built a few websites, and like many projects, there is a lot of low hanging fruit that can benefit you in tremendous ways if we focus on what is important. I want to go over 4 topics when it comes to your site, that I have found to be most helpful to me, and to my clients.
There are a few of these for sure. But I am going to make it simple for you. Because there are two that stand out. WordPress and Squarespace. Those are the two places I send most people when they ask my opinion. And they both do different things really well. What WordPress does well, is provide a tried and true platform that is one of the largest in the world. That means there are loads of tools and templates (themes) available for it. And a lot of people know it, so it is much easier to find designers and developers to help you with it. It also allows a developer to build you a design from scratch that is totally customized for you. It is hard to beat that. (Based on who you hire of course!) But that brings up one of WordPress weaknesses… there are a lot of not-so-good themes out there. Some are just downright awful, others are ok and could work well if you are a good designer and can take it the last bit, but that isn’t everyone. So with WordPress, you have the potential of having an amazing site… but as Uncle Ben said, “With great power, comes great responsibility”, so that means it also allows you to have a mediocre site. All of that to say, if you have the budget for a custom site, WordPress is the way to go, and get a great designer/developer to work with you.
Squarespace. You know it. You’ve seen the ads. It looks gorgeous! Within minutes you can have a beautiful site live. It requires no knowledge of code or designing sites, and it is very easy to use. It is a very good deal, and includes a shop or blog if you need them. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Well, not so fast. It is almost TOO beautiful. What I mean by that, is that Squarespace goes to extra lengths to really bring out the ‘sexy’ in your website with them, and sometimes that sacrifices performance or compatibility. (Think of Mom’s Dell.) And the other downside, is that Squarespace does not have a lot of templates. The templates they do have look great, but without a lot of customization, they can look a little generic, if your audience has seen other sites that use the same template. But by all means, the sites CAN be customized to stand out.
Along the same lines as Squarespace, there is Weebly and Wix, two other popular platforms that operate in similar ways. My recommendation is, that if you are going in that direction, Squarespace would be the better one. And where Squarespace excels, is if you don’t have a large budget or much time, it gets you up and running very easily.
On any of the options I have mentioned for platforms, most of them can give you a free sub-domain, such as, mycoolsite.wordpress.com or myawesomesite.squarespace.com. Do not use these! For ~$10 a year, you can get your own custom domain that will work with any of the platforms. Isn’t mycoolsite.com much ‘cooler’? You typically register your domain with another company. Even if the platform says it can do it for you, it is best to use someone else, in case you want to switch platforms in the future, that makes it a lot easier. I prefer Google Domains.
I have one piece of advice when coming up with your domain. If you say it to someone, they should be able to write it down without you having to spell it out. That also works in reverse. If they see it, they know how to say it.
MANY books, articles, blog posts, wills, have written about getting good search results. I am going to give you the simple version because guess what? Google employs MANY PHDs to ensure that you can’t figure it out. So I know I won’t figure it out at least. So let’s try to do it the ‘honest’ way. This is what search engines look for: they want to show good and relevant content, and they do this in two primary ways: Reputation and Relevant Content.
So write good and relevant content, and work towards getting other reputable sites to link to yours.
Phew, you launched your new site! Congrats! Wait a second, did you forget to install some kind of analytics so you can ‘see’ your traffic? You did? Congrats again… you are in the majority! Without analytics you are driving blind. Google Analytics is the most powerful and popular form. I would recommend getting that setup. It is pretty easy to do and works with most platforms. Google walks you through the whole process. There is also a plugin that is available for free if you are on WordPress called Jetpack which includes analytics. It is less powerful than Google, but is easier to setup and you can view the data in the Dashboard area where you create and manage your content. But use Google if you can. You can learn a lot from the data. Even if it sounds boring… it does, but it is not I assure you!
So, not too bad? Whichever direction you go, you can end up with a great website, and even more important, a great web strategy. And with that in hand, those 1 billion websites will look less intimidating. Happy building!”
REVERIE MINGLES: Which one of these four areas has been the most challenging for you? In what way?