Category Archives for Website

UNDERSTANDING WEBSITE BASICS

As a business owner you are an expert in your field. Are you a website design and development expert? Most likely not if it isn't your field. That's okay. There are plenty of easy to learn and use DIY website platforms available. Before you sign-up for one, make sure you have everything you need in order. Understanding the basics must come first

Your Business Domain Name

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is the URL (universal resource locator) or website address (i.e. www.prosper-suite.com). In the U.S. there are several top-level domain options available (.com, .net, .info, .org). In addition to these top-level options there are also country code domains (.us - USA, .uk – United Kingdom, .me - Montenegro).

fb.me/prospersuite =facebook.com/prospersuite

Some companies have opted to use top-level country code domains to fully spell out a name (i.e. Blo.gs, Del.icio.us, or Fb.me – Facebook’s shortcut URL – try fb.me/prospersuite and it will redirect you to facebook.com/prospersuite). Additionally, over the next few years the industry-based options will become available (.travel, .pro, .museum, etc.).

Domain Name Tips

It is important to remember that your domain name is an asset and a public face for your company. It should represent your brand as much as the name of your company.

MainStreetShop.com

If you only have one domain name it should be (Your Business Name) + (.com). Keep your domain name short and as memorable possible. If someone could mis-pronounce or misspell your domain name, consider registering all the variations (i.e. illustrate.com, illusstrait.com, illusstraight.com).

If (Your Business Name) + (.com) is not available:

  • If you have the means and opportunity, purchase your business name ($50-$100K)
  • Try adding a location - YourBusinessNameNYC.com
  • Always try to register a .com if your business is commercial. Register a .org if your business is a non-profit. These are easier for potential clients to remember.
  • DO NOT add a 1 or any number at the end - business1.com
  • .NET is difficult for customers to remember. They will try up to 5 versions of a .COM domain and less than 10% will think to try .NET before giving up.

How Do I Create My Domain Name?

Your website is a public face of your company and services or products. You have three seconds to gain the trust of a potential client. When you are creating your website, consider:

You must register your domain name with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). However, you do not register your domain with ICANN directly. You must use a third-party provider.

Tip: Register your domain with a different company than you will host your website. It is a standard in website security to not put all of your eggs in one digital basket. 

Our top pick for domain registration is Namecheap.

Registration Process Tips

During the registration process you will be asked if you wish to make the registration public or private. If you select public, anyone can access the contact details associated with the domain name, however, some SEO experts say it aids in improving your SEO ranking. If you want to hide your contact information, select private and the registration company’s contact information will be shown instead. Private registration usually is an additional fee.

Once, you’ve registered your domain name make sure you “LOCK” the domain. A locked domain cannot be transferred to an unauthorized person or company. An unlocked account gives other people the opportunity to hold your business website hostage.


Business Web Hosting

What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting is rented space from an Internet hosting service for space on their server that is connected to the Internet. Some companies host their own website, but I’m not going to go in depth on this due to the high cost and technical specifics.

There are several web hosting providers that cost nothing to several hundred a month depending on your needs.

Tip: Remember to host your website with a company different from your domain registation company.

Our top pick for website hosting is Siteground. Siteground provides WordPress specific services. They also provide hosting for other types of websites. With one fee you receive a lot of services, including email.

Key Factors when Choosing a Service Provider?

There are a lot of factors to consider when you choose a provider. Unfortunately, many providers hide their true cost... until they bill you. Make sure to read the fine print and not just their services comparison chart.

Our favorite tip is to fully read the Terms and Conditions box. That is the easiest place to find the extra fees.

  • Cost per month; including add-on fees for email or traffic (bandwidth)
  • Reliability and Uptime (amount of time your website is available)
  • Amount of Disk Space
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    Email management
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    Databases
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    E-commerce Availability
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    SSL Certificates (cost can be included or additional)
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    Shared or Dedicated Servers

Website Set-up

Use a Template with a Website Builder

Website Builders usually include a monthly fee or an advertisement based free option. The two options below do not require independent website hosting. You may also be able to register your domain with these companies, however, we do not recommend it.

Squarespace is by far the most beautiful DIY website builder that comes with pre-made templates. Their design aesthetic is minimal and modern. The drawbacks are they charge à la carte for services that are standard on other platforms. If you need a quick website, try Squarespace. But switch platforms by the end of the first year.

Wix has a free option but requires their branding on your website. If your website is for your small business, do not choose this option. Look at the non-branded option when you are comparison shopping. We've had numerous clients lose their entire website. It has been a few years, so we do not know if this is still an issue.

Build from Scratch with a Designer or DIY

The major upside is you fully own and control your website aka your content. You don't realize how vital this is until your website goes down and customer service tells you, "Sorry, the system lost it. Your content is no longer available. You are free to make a new website. Is there anything else I can help you with?" Uh... yeah, I want my content back. I don't need a new service as the one I currently have clearly doesn't work. (true story)

You can also hire a Web Designer and Programmer. As individual freelancers, most charge a one-time fee that is either a flat or hourly rate. The WordPress platform is free, but requires customization -- and usually a couple dozen hours or more to work and look great.

WordPress began as a blogging platform, but has grown to be the most adaptable website builder. It is open source, so if there is a function you need, most likely someone else needed it too and built it. WordPress.org is our preferred platform. NOTE: This is different from WordPress.com. WordPress.org is downloaded and managed by you on your Website Hosting account.

WordPress comes with a basic, free setup. The beauty of the platform is that you can customize it. We highly recommend Thrive Themes Architect as your on-page, true drag-n-drop content builder. You will actually be able to build your website to look the way you want it to look. (Works like SquareSpace or Wix, but with a ton more options.)

What Does Your Website Say About Your Company

Your website is a public face of your company and services or products. You have three seconds to gain the trust of a potential client. When you are creating your website, consider:

  • Does your website represent your brand?
  • Does your website convey credibility and professionalism?
  • Does the visitor know that they have reached the correct website?

Website Design

A Stanford University study found that design instilled more credibility than awards, certificates, and privacy policies. What is the look and feel of your website?

Your color scheme should appeal to your audience and compliment your logo. A good rule of thumb in design is to stick with a five color palette. One of the colors should be your white and one is your black.

One of our favorite color scheme tools is Coolors by Skillshare. Explore color palettes for inspiration to begin to narrow down your five colors. Start locking colors as you find each one. You can slightly adjust colors, find alternative shades, or search for a random color if you aren't sure. Once your palette is complete, remember to save your work.

Simplify Content

We are all overloaded with content, so it is time to simplify your homepage, products/ services, website navigation, and the amount of text on your website.

Can your content say more with less words? Whip out the delete button and fine tune your content. Focus on brevity and your audience, then your SEO keywords.

Content and social media play a massive role in modern-day search engine optimization (SEO). Search rankings are based heavily on popularity, webpage shares and views. If a blog is not a part of your website, it is time to figure out how to launch one and sustain it.

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    Easy navigation at the top
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    Concise structure that moves left to right and top to bottom
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    Easy to read text. Consider the size and color.
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    Avoid clutter
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    Use short paragraphs

Embrace Responsive Design

Responsive Design means that a website’s framework changes based on the device of the user.

2015 will see mobile search reach the tipping point—the stage at which the majority of spend, organic traffic and paid clicks comes from smartphones and tablets, surpassing traditional desktop/laptop search activity, according to a new eMarketer report, “Key Digital Trends for 2015: What’s in Store—and Not in Store—for the Coming Year.”

Improve Images and Multimedia

High-quality photography and graphics are worth the investment. Your audience’s first impression of your business is usually with images either on your website or in social media. Large images are very trendy, but they must be used with caution because it can also affect your search engine optimization (SEO) and user experience. Large pictures means huge files, which decreases the time it takes for the page to display.

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    Make them complimentary to your color scheme and layout
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    Use to reinforce a message and break-up dense text
  • NEVER auto-play music as 93% of all people leave websites with automatic music
  • Avoid unnecessary animations and gadgets

You can learn more about taking your own or finding photos in our photography posts below.

Where to Start

If you are putting together your first website, it is okay to just want to get the first draft online. If you can afford a web designer and programmer, hire them right away so you can build your team. Websites always take more time than you expect.

You should expect a website to take up to six months from start to finish. Three months is a usual amount of time. There are usually three phases: Design, Development, and Testing.

Design is creating the look and feel of the website, as well as, the user experience.

Development is the coding of the website to meet and match the design and function. Content creation also happens during this phase - text and images.

Testing requires the website to be viewed on multiple devices and website browsers. Any typos and coding errors are fixed. This phase ends with the launch of the website.

As a business owner, your focus should be on the content and not learning a new skill. If you can't afford a team yet, you can start with a Website Builder to minimize your to-do list. Eventually you may want to switch to a DIY system, but at least by then you will have a clear vision of what your website looks like and functions.

Potential Hires:

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    Website Designer
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    Website Developer
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    Website Copywriter
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    Photographer
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    Graphic Designer

Read More About User Experience

10 Steps to an Engaging User Experience | Creativebloq
"Ask yourself if your design would work on a tablet. If the answer is yes, you already have the two basic building blocks in place for a strong user experience: clear hierarchy and intuitive way finding."

THE BEST WORDPRESS PLUGINS FOR YOUR BUSINESS WEBSITE

WordPress is a completely adaptable publishing platform that excels through the efforts of designers and developers. The free platform is unique in giving individual’s access to their code and image files. There are many theme and plugin options to create websites of any kind. The real trick is knowing which ones work best at doing what you want to achieve.

Below we have compiled the top WordPress plugins alongside our favorites. Most of the plugins are free. We have included paid options when there isn't a comparable free option or if the paid platform is popular enough it needs to be included. The paid plugins are marked with a cash icon.

Admin

Enable Media Replace

Enable replacing media files by uploading a new file in the "Edit Media" section of the WordPress Media Library.

Download here.

Shortcodes Ultimate

Add responsive sliders, videos, boxes, tabs, and buttons to your website. This is an easy way to upgrade a free theme to look and function like a premium paid theme.

Download here.

WP Recent Posts From Category

Getting a person to your website takes effort and marketing. Don’t lose them after one page. Keeping someone on your site can be as simple as providing them options to read more content. The WP Recent Posts From Category plugin creates a visual navigation below each post.

Download here.

AMR Shortcode Any Widget

If you want to break the right sidebar design mold, consider the AMR Shortcode Any Widget plugin. It allows a widget's use anywhere on the site and not restricted to the sidebar or footer. This is useful if you find widgets you want to use in the page. For instance, you can use Mailchimp’s widget as a call to action section in your contact page. It can also be a visual break on your homepage.

Download here.


Content

WordPress Editorial Calendar

Consistency in a blog is key to keep readers. If your readers know to expect something new every Thursday, keep that promise. The first time your reader finds this not to be true will most likely be the last time they will come to find out. Use the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin to schedule out your posts. This works best for people who sit down and write several posts at once and then want to space them out over time.

Download here.

CoSchedule

Create an all-in-one editorial calendar for your blog posts, social media, webinars, and even e-books. Includes analytics for you to see what is working and the ability to allow CoSchedule to auto publish for you at the best time. You can also set how often you want to reshare your content to get maximum exposure.

Download here.

*Paid upgrades available from free version

Security

Google Captcha (reCAPTCHA) by BestWebSoft

Plugin Google Captcha intended to prove that the visitor is a human being and not a spam robot.

Download here.

iThemes Security

Take the guesswork out of WordPress security. iThemes Security offers 30+ ways to lock down WordPress in an easy-to-use WordPress security plugin.

Download here.

Analytics

Slimstat Analytics

Keep track of customer behavior and/or users on your website and during email campaigns.

Download here.


Comments

Disqus Comment System

Replaces the default WordPress comment system with a more advanced system to increase reader engagement, grow audience and traffic, and monetize content.

Download here.

Delete Pending Comments

A quick way to delete all pending comments. Useful for victims of spammer attack. If you don't need comments, we recommend using this plugin to help keep your website trim and light.

To keep your website running as fast as possible, keep it lean. If you blog but do not accept comments, there is no need to keep them on your server or to allow posting in the first place. You can use the Delete All Comments plugin to clean current comments and the Disable Comments plugin to stop them all together.

Download here.

 

Optimization

Smush Image Compression and Optimization

Reduce image file sizes so your pages load faster. You can set a max width and height for all of your images and compress them at once.

Images on your site also need to be lean. When you upload, keep in mind websites only need 72dpi and a 1200 pixel width to be crisp on-screen. If your theme has many different ideal image sizes, write them down for reference. A good place to keep them is in the Dashboard Sticky Notes. Also, use the WP Smush Pro plugin to reduce image size for all images in the media library.

Download here.

WP-Sweep

Keep your website tidy and automatically delete duplicated meta data, unapproved and deleted comments, auto drafts, and revisions.

Download here.


Automation

Revive Old Post - Auto Post to Social Media

Many blog posts are evergreen, but too many are not used to their full potential. You should share blog posts again and again. People often do not see your social media post the first time, so use your content fully! Revive Old Post allows you to set the sharing interval and number of posts to share to drive more traffic to your website. Paid version upgrades to multiple social media accounts and includes images.

Download here.

Forms

Typeform

Build beautiful, interactive, mobile-ready forms, surveys, and questionnaires without code.

Download here.

Contact Form 7

Doesn't store responses / emails in the database, but is free and has great add-ons like PayPal.

Allow people to contact you without getting spammed by using a contact form. The most popular contact form plugin is Contact Form 7 as it adapts to your theme and design. You can create several forms and place them throughout your website with shortcodes.

Download here.


Scheduling / Booking

Acuity Scheduling

Embed your online appointment calendar. The free scheduling / booking plugins we have tried either don't work or have a distracting design that cannot be customized. Acuity is affordable and has a clean design. Integrates with MailChimp, Quickbooks, FreshBooks, Square, PayPal, and other platforms.

Download here.

E-commerce

WooCommerce

Free and most comprehensive e-commerce plugin for WordPress. If a third party has an integration for e-commerce on WordPress, they most likely have a WooCommerce integration available.

Download here.

Easy Digital Downloads

If you are only selling digital downloads, make it easy on yourself and use Easy Digital Downloads. There is very little to learn and figure out so you can start selling right away. It is free and capable of selling music e-books, software, photos, graphics, or any type of media.

Download here.


Marketing

Social Warfare

Add good looking social media share buttons to your pages and posts. Pro version has the option to display the share count next to the share button. This social proof helps encourage viewers to share themselves.

Download here.

Email Marketing

Mautic

Create forms and tracking that syncs to your Mautic account. Mautic is the most advanced open source contact and email campaign management system available. The paid upgrade account includes unlimited email marketing, contacts, and a custom domain. Mautic is comparable to ActiveCampaign and Infusionsoft, which only offer paid monthly packages.

Download here.

*Paid upgrades available from the free version

Mauticommerce

Connect your WooCommerce customer information with your Mautic contact and email campaigns.

Download here.

*Mautic has paid upgrades available from the free version. WooCommerce is free.

MailChimp

Easily create forms for your website visitors to subscribe to your mailing lists. MailChimp is an easy to use mailing list platform that has a free option, but you will need to upgrade to get access to analytics, drip feed campaigns, and more advanced features.

The most powerful marketing resource you can use is someone’s email address. You can reach people through many channels, but the inbox is still the most read and personal space there is. Keep this in mind during the design process of your website and integrate your email agent. Mailchimp is the most popular because it offers design templates with an easy to use interface. It also has comprehensive analytics and a robust free package. You can use Mailchimp’s native code and paste it into WordPress, but it is far easier to use their plugin.

Download here.

*Paid upgrades available from free version

MailChimp for WooCommerce

Sync WooCommerce store with your MailChimp account to create targeted email campaigns based on buying behavior.

Download here.

*MailChimp has paid upgrades available from free version. WooCommerce is free.

SEO

Yoast SEO

The first true all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more.

The greatest SEO trick is unique content. Creating your new and personal blog posts will far surpass anything else. The Yoast SEO plugin creates a new section within the editing section of your post for keywords. It is interactive and uses color coding to let the user know how much more SEO is possible for each post.

Download here.

Simple 301 Redirects

Create a list of URLs that you would like to 301 redirects to another page or site. Now with wildcard support.

Download here.


Big Picture

Keep in mind what you are trying to achieve for your client with your WordPress blog hosting. If your client is using your website to book a spa appointment, is it easy for them to book? Once you know the precise actions you want your viewer to take, you can begin building a plugin resource. Our list above is just the beginning. If one works for you, begin looking how other websites are using it and build out your resources. Research alongside your website plan, which includes WordPress blog hosting available through many providers.


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Read More About Plugins

How to Install WordPress Plugins?| siteground
"Generally the Plugin installation is a straight-forward process."