Website Design Archive

Using WordPress to Build a Website

Posted October 5, 2016 By Callie

Do you own a business? Well, it’s about time that you had a website to showcase and advertise what you do and how well you do it. When it comes to building a website, there are several options. Some of the work won’t be easy. There’s a learning curve. For the smallest learning curve and also fun during the process, we suggest building your website using WordPress.

What Is WordPress?

For those who don’t know, WordPress is open source software that can be used to start a blog (WordPress.com) or a self-hosted website or blog (WordPress.org). We’ll be speaking about the latter today. While there is some coding knowledge required, it can all be learned as you set up the website.

WordPress comes with everything you need. In fact, it is the most popular content management system around, with almost 60 percent of business websites using WordPress as their platform. Better still, a lot of the themes and the plugins are free to download.

The Advantages of Using WordPress

WordPress has been worked on by hundreds of designers and programmers for years to build a competent platform for anyone to use. It is versatile, expandable, flexible and can grow in any direction that your business wants to grow.

In today’s world of responsive design, WordPress makes it easy to kill two birds with one stone (figuratively speaking). Each website you create is mobile ready. You don’t have to adapt your website later.

The WordPress content management system makes it easy to upload, edit, share and schedule content for your website. Integrating needed plugins is also easier here. And, when you get stuck, there is a community of professionals and novices ready to help with their experiences.

So, What Are You Waiting For?

Before you can get started you will need a name. Your domain name is your address in cyberspace. The name needs to communicate something about your business and be relevant. Register that domain name with your web hosting company. Depending on the size of your website and what it will be used for, choose a hosting company with enough server space to accommodate you now and in the future.

Now it’s time to install WordPress. WordPress.org can walk you through the installation process step-by-step. And, support is always available at any time.

You are ready to begin creating that site. One important feature of WordPress is its plugins. Plugins are like performance enhancers. While frowned upon in sports, they are heavily recruited in website usage. Thousands of plugins can be found in the WordPress directory for download. Here are a few of the many available:

* Contact Form 7 – Easy form for use on your website
* Google XML Sitemaps – Generate a sitemap to help search engines index your site better
* Akismet – Check comments for spam
* Yoast SEO – Improve SEO of your content on the site
* Jetpack – Protect yourself from hackers, check stats and load your website faster
* WooCommerce – Add an e-commerce component to your site seamlessly

Using WordPress as your platform and CMS provides a lot of power and functionality in one place.

You are in business to make money, not to lose it or give it away. While this is essentially true of all business enterprises, certain tasks could be costing you more when not handled professionally. Keep reading to discover the pros and cons of creating a business website yourself as opposed to using a knowledgeable programmer.

“Can I Do This Myself?”

Nowadays, do-it-yourself is all the rage. From fixing plumbing issues to putting an addition onto your home, getting your hands dirty is preferable to calling in someone who will charge you $75 just to walk in the door. The same can be said for website design. Companies offer templates that unfold with a click and do most of the work for you.

Constructing your website from scratch can save you money. With a few tutorials on coding, the basics can be learned. Setting up your website can take a few hours but if you already have a game plan and design strategy in mind, this can cut down on time.

You also learn something new. The brain is always in need of new neural pathways to keep it active and strong. What you learn about HTML and other coding languages can benefit the creation of future websites and blogs. If you develop a genuine interest, there are classes, books and more in-depth tutorials for additional knowledge gathering.

“What Did I Do?”

There is also another side to DIY website creation. Let’s talk about that for a minute. Your website may not look as professional as you would like. Small nuances that a programmer might tweak are often missed by a novice. And, for your viewers, they can spot a less than professional job readily and will shift their attention to your competition instead.

Any task that you handle in business has a time requirement attached to it. When you are unfamiliar with the technical aspect of the task, such as website creation, there is also a learning curve. What was meant to save you time and money will end up costing you more in lost revenue, time away from other marketing strategies, as well as the cost of bringing in a professional to fix what you have cobbled together.

Your website may come out looking great, on the other hand. But, if you’ve used a website design tool for ease of use, then the website most likely will resemble hundreds of others – but with your name on it. A business that is poised to make money and command its industry needs a unique aspect and branding. You won’t find that using cookie cutter software and templates.

How will you handle the question of website creation for your company? The final decision is up to you.

The Key to Your Website Is in the Detail

Posted October 3, 2016 By Callie

While you are crafting and designing your website pages, you are viewing the “big picture.” But, while you gaze out over the whole forest, don’t forget to take a look at the individual trees as well. Details are what separates a good website from one that people visit frequently and recommend to others.

Does It Really Matter?

The devil is in the details as they say. It is the detail at the smallest and most basic level that will make or break your website. When readers notice these anomalies, they may give you a chance to fix them. If you don’t, they will simply move on to a website that does take the extra time and effort to give their viewers a professional and aesthetically pleasing experience.

With that said, is your website up to snuff? It may require you to take a step back from your design so you are able to see what you couldn’t before. Ask a trusted friend to take a look at your work as a visitor would and find any detail flaws. It’ll all be worth it in the end.

Things That Are Worth Paying Attention To

Now it’s time to find out just where you might be going wrong with your website. What could potentially be driving people away from you? Here are a few tips.

1. Don’t try to put everything on the same page – It’s like hoarding for web designers. You may have a lot of lovely images and such, but they don’t convey the desired effect if they are all in one place. People can’t view them with an eye to focus on each one if they are not strategically presented. Spread it out.

2. Check for spelling errors – After viewing your web pages for several hours, your brain may just gloss over those missing letters because it knows that they were supposed to be there. Come back in a few hours with fresh eyes and catch those errors before you go live. Spelling mistakes are annoying and can slow down reading efforts. Besides, it’s just downright unprofessional looking.

3. Content breaks – It is hard to read a long content piece that is devoid of subheadings, bold typing, lists and the like. If you want readers to keep reading, build in some points of respite for their weary brains.

4. The grayed-out effect – Just like a dog can’t see colors, your web pages will become washed out when there is no contrast present to break things up and draw the eye to certain areas of the page. Websites are to be viewed for color and consistency as much as for the content. Just like French food, it should be a feast for the eyes as well.

Attention to detail matters to your audience. They want to know that you care.

The Importance of Making Your Website Responsive

Posted October 2, 2016 By Callie

It used to be that the only way that websites were accessed was from a desktop computer. Then, everything started shifting towards laptops because they were portable. Now, just about everyone has a mobile phone with web surfing capabilities. So, has your website been able to keep up? If not, here are some reasons why it is important to implement responsive website design.

What Is Responsive Design?

Have you ever accessed a website via your smartphone and had to learn acrobatics just to see the page? Maybe you turned it sideways to see the text in one screen or kept resizing with your fingers to see all the detail. You might even have had to scroll continuously from left to right just or read one sentence. It’s frustrating to be sure.

What responsive design does is code each webpage so that it automatically adjusts to the medium you are using to view it. Whether a tablet, large smartphone, small smartphone, laptop or a stationary desktop computer, each person will see the page in an optimized fashion for their device. Sounds great, doesn’t it. So, why isn’t everyone using it right now?

Five Reasons to Implement Responsive Design

Updating your website with responsive design tools right now will have several positive effects.

1. Higher conversion rates – People are not stationary and neither are their devices. Someone who wants to check out a product on your website to compare a price with something they see in the store, wants an immediate response. A mobile-ready site allows them to click a few buttons and order the lower-cost product you offer instead of paying more in the store.

2. Improved user experience – Responsive design says to a user that you are catering to their needs. For someone who uses their mobile device 90 percent of the time, this is huge. They can make dinner reservations, set up servicing appointments, book a hotel and even buy a product, all from their phone using websites that have implemented responsive design. When users feel valued and have a great experience, they come back.

3. Less work for you – Using responsive design at the outset allows you to focus on the most important aspects of your site and deliver that to viewers on a smaller platform. From there, it is easier to add more content for larger devices.

4. Better search engine rankings – Make Google happy with responsive design web pages. It is the same website but optimized for viewing with different devices. This is easier for you and the search bots than utilizing a separate mobile site.

5. Flexibility – Your site can adjust to a number of devices for viewing. You can add different content to be seen on each device as added value. The content will expand to fill the space given on each device, with the main content and design remaining constant across all devices for a seamless experience.

Is your website still best used for larger computers? It may be time to make the move to responsive design.

Test Your Website

Posted October 1, 2016 By Callie

What is the single most important thing to do beyond creating a website? It’s testing it. There are any number of ways that a website can be tested to ensure that you are doing what you can to reach your target audience, enhance sales and provide your readers with what they need to stay loyal to you. So, let’s get to work.

Before You Go Live

Some aspects of your website always need to be examined and re-examined. It is the curse of good, the enemy of better. But, readers like to know that you pay attention to detail and here is where it all comes together. You have sent out press releases, announced that you will be unveiling a website for your business or other organization. People are waiting with expectancy, so don’t disappoint them if you can help it.

Here are some areas to pay special attention to before the big launch day.

1. Check for typos and other errors – If you don’t check and recheck, you are guaranteed to miss something. Ask a friend to read over your pages as a fresh set of eyes. This includes site maps, buttons, headers and the like.

2. Check your forms – Do they appear as they should? Do all the boxes work? Is it easy to navigate? Does it direct the customer to the right landing page when they hit “continue?”

3. Check page loading times – The kiss of death is that spinning wheel that signifies something is possibly going on in the background although you don’t know what. Ensure that loading speeds for pages are inside acceptable parameters. If they are loading slowly, there is a problem that needs attention.

4. Browser testing – Maybe you like Yahoo as a browser, but there are other options out there. Does your website load correctly in Firefox, Google, Safari and the rest? Note: this includes making sure that your website is mobile friendly.

5. Images – Do photos take a long time to load? Are they clear and of high quality? Are they overlapping content?

6. All links are valid – Do the textual links lead to the pages they are supposed to land on? Test each and every one for viability.

7. Fonts – How many times have you seen a page that has some weird squiggles on it or characters instead of a word? Make sure all fonts and characters show up as they should on each page.

8. Check your site map – Is there a site map and does it work to help viewers to navigate your site?

9. Social media – Are all icons present and plugins installed for social media on your site? Do they go to the appropriate site when clicked?

10. Contrast on the page – Is there a high degree of contrast for easy reading and absorption of information on the page? Is there enough white space within content?

11. Secure certificates- For e-commerce sites, it is important to have secure encryption for customer data. Are these present and working?

There is still a lot to do after the website pages are created. Don’t miss any necessary checks before launch day.

Six Ways to Keep Your Website Fresh

Posted September 30, 2016 By Callie

Wouldn’t you prefer something fresh over something stale? If we were talking food, you’d undoubtedly say yes. Well, websites are much the same. A visitor who continues to find the same old content or images will eventually move on. Below are six ways to ensure that your visitors keep coming back to you for more.

What Audiences Want

What do audiences on the internet want? At first, websites were few and far between so people accepted what they were given. Now that surfers are as savvy as website owners, they want more and won’t settle until they get it. If you are in touch with your customer base, then you have some idea of what they want to see. In order to keep people coming back to your site, the best practice is to provide what they need. That’s the bottom line.

Keep your Website Fresh with These Six Ideas

1. Update your content – Content is still king and that is what audiences crave. They surf to find out information and will stay with you if you can provide that. It is a time-consuming process, so strive for once a week. To help you out, hire a writer to create new content based on your niche market. Or better still, use every business encounter or issue as the subject of a new content piece. There is no substitute for experience and the knowledge it can impart to readers.

2. Add a blog – Blogs are always helpful. They allow you to interact with your audience in a more informal fashion. Exchange ideas; announce new product launches; host surveys; get feedback. A blog can be updated more often than your website and provide readers with something new to digest each time they return.

3. Repurpose content – Do you have a few evergreen articles? Turn them into short blog posts, quotes for images, podcasts, social media content and more. One article can be spun into a variety of new forms for audience digestion.

4. Check out the competition – See how they are maintaining their traffic. They may have latched on to an idea you hadn’t thought of.

5. Host a contest – People love to compete and win prizes. Advertise the contest on social media. This draws more people to your site and they will have a look around.

6. Ask for feedback – Customers always want to share their opinions. In fact, many people surf the web for reviews of products and services. Make sure that you are providing what your customers want by simply asking them a few questions. Make sure you follow through on their answers as well.

In today’s world, people want and expect more from websites. To stay relevant and fresh to your viewers, you might need to make some changes.

Seven Software Tools for Building a Website

Posted September 29, 2016 By Callie

When it comes to building a website, just the idea of the task is daunting to most people, especially if they are not programmers or designers. Fortunately, there are software tools available to help you build your website even if you are not proficient in coding language. Below are just seven of those tools that might be of use to you today.

Coding? Help!

Not everyone wants to be a coder, designer or programmer. All those lines of code give them the creeps. Instead, they like to see the streamlined images and grammatically correct content that spits out on the other end. If you are novice, there are tools to assist with building a simple website that don’t require a PhD.

These website builder tools come equipped to provide the latest in HTML coding as well as the latest advances in web design. Depending on the purpose of your site, the design that fits with your business vision, and whether you are going to add e-commerce or not, there are a variety of options.

Seven Useful Web Builder Tools

1. Weebly.com – This site builder is easy to use for website creators with no experience. It provides a responsive design across devices so you are only creating one site. The drop-and-drag feature makes it quick and seamless to add content, change themes and get an e-commerce store up and running on your site.

2. Squarespace.com – Also a popular site building tool, it offers a free trial but is paid software. Like Weebly, it provides responsive design templates and is adaptable for a variety of use. You can create a blog, full website, online store and more. Works for both novices and programmers.

3. Wix.com – This software tool, like Squarespace, is an HTML5-based tool. You can create stunning websites in very little time. Choose the type of website you want to create and then begin customizing and designing it. Several options are available in the free version, but more flexibility is allowed with the paid one.

4. Homestead.com – This is a paid service that ranges from less than $10 a month to $60. You are provided with toll-free support. You can set up and customize your site quickly. There are thousands of templates to choose from. A shopping cart on your site will cost you extra, though.

5. Yola.com – This site-building tool is easy to use. Great for those new to site building with no coding experience. You’ll like the graphics tools but probably not the storage. To get unlimited storage, you’ll need the gold membership which is about $17 per month.

6. GoDaddy.com – Just about everyone has heard of this tool. You can choose from about 300 themes, and hosting features are also available. Use it to create blogs, websites and e-commerce stores.

7. Webflow.com – This software builder comes with hosting, design tools and content management system all in one. And, you don’t need to know a word of code to do it.

Need help getting that first website up and running? Try a website builder software tool.

Seven Common Web Design Mistakes

Posted September 28, 2016 By Callie

When it comes to creativity, web designers have it in spades. But, can too much of a good thing be all bad? Below are seven design mistakes that could turn folks away from your website.

Look at Me!

That’s what you want your website to say, but without blinding the audience. Business websites are looking for a unique way to announce their presence that gets the attention of viewers and keeps it. At first glance, they are interested, but what they find upon further observation may cause them to think twice. Avoid ushering them in, only to push them back out with what they see.

Seven Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make with the Design of Your Website

1. Poor navigational skills – On your part, that is, not that of the viewer. The first thing anyone wants to know when they visit your website is how to get around. They need a map. Place site maps in conspicuous places. Also, headings need to be prominent and self-explanatory. It might be cute to use the term “Loo” as a heading but if you live in the United States, “Bathroom” is going to get a better response. And when visitors can’t get past the home page, they leave altogether.

2. Illegible font – It might seem cool to use a gothic style font on a Halloween website for effect, but those who are trying to read it won’t think so. If viewers stumble over your content for ten minutes trying to figure out what it says, they will take their business elsewhere. That’ll be pretty scary for you.

3. Clutter everywhere – You can have as many pages as you want for your website. Everything doesn’t have to squish on the same page. In fact, too many images, buttons, text and sounds lead to sensory overload. Tone it down and space your content accordingly.

4. Contact information non-existent – Just because you create a business entity on the internet doesn’t mean that phone numbers, email addresses and physical addresses are a thing of the past. Customers will use a variety of contact methods to reach you. Make sure that they can do that.

5. Poor form – We are not talking about your dance moves, but your registration and opt-in forms. Only ask for the information you need.

6. Background check – You may not be a criminal but that background is. Dark font on dark background or dark images with a dark font won’t make readers happy. Avoid this combination and save a reader’s eyesight. Preview pages to ensure that you can read them easily. If you can’t, neither will your audience.

7. Keep it seamless – Images and color schemes should match the purpose of your website. From page to page, vary the images and content but not the color scheme to provide continuity. Too many styles mixed together gives a schizophrenic feel to the entire site and viewers can become easily distracted.

Creativity does make your site unique, but too much of it and everything becomes a disaster. Keeping everything at its simplest level works best.

Eight Reasons Your Business Needs a Website

Posted September 27, 2016 By Callie

Are you a brick-and-mortar business? How do others find you aside from walking past your door? In order to grow, something needs to be added to your advertising scheme. How about a website? Below are eight reasons why your business is already suffering without it.

Remember when all people asked for was business cards and brochures? If you attended a networking event empty handed, that was exactly how you were going to leave – with nothing. Advertising is still the rage and people do take business cards, but there is one difference – the content on the card has changed. Traditional addresses have been replaced by website addresses.

My Business Needs a Website Now

Still on the fence about a website? It’s time to hop off, and here’s why.

1. You are out of the loop – Just like no one would gave you a second thought if you didn’t have a card or brochure, when they find out you don’t have a website for your business, you become “persona non grata.”

2. An excellent advertising tool – While you have all those brochures, flyers, business cards and ads already, make them perform double duty by adding your website address to them. People can share your information with potential customers who are not local so they can see what you are offering as well.

3. Your business is never closed – Just like those diners what are “Open All Night,” you are as well, but without the need to actually be awake for it. Potential customers can find helpful information any time of the day or night. If you have an e-commerce store set up, they can also make a purchase while you sleep.

4. Pay more attention to making money – Instead of answering the same question for the umpteenth time over the phone or through email, use a FAQ page on your website.

5. Save money in the long run – Yes, you will save money even if you pay a professional to handle the set-up of your site. Over time, the monthly cost will decrease as your business increases.

6. Build brand and credibility – A business that invests in a website shows a commitment to building the business. You can create a logo and a brand for all to see, while being seen as a professional in your industry. Compelling content that is fresh also builds reputation and credibility.

7. Updates are easy – Want customers to know about a new product line? Advertise on your website. This makes email marketing easy because you don’t have to fill your copy with information they can find on your site. Simply plug the new stuff and direct them to the landing page.

8. Customers multiply like rabbits – A website has a worldwide audience. Instead of just those who live in Poughkeepsie, you can reach people in New Delhi, Tokyo and Vancouver. Everyone who might be interested in what you have to offer can find you.

So what are you waiting for? That website won’t build itself.

Building a Website in Six Steps

Posted September 26, 2016 By Callie

It is time for your business to reach the next level – presence on the internet. Now that you are ready to develop a website for your business, where do you begin? We will take you through a few basic steps to get you going on your first website.

Step 1: Choose a Platform

This is just what the name implies; it is the base on which your website will stand. For newbies and even those with some knowledge of websites and coding, WordPress is the most popular choice for a platform. It is used by over 50 percent of all websites. It is easy to use and most of the work has been done for you by a host of developers and web designers. Other options include Joomla and Drupal. For the beginner, though, WordPress.org is the recommended choice.

Step 2: Choosing a Domain Name

What will your site be called? What is your business niche? What is your focus? Use these answers to come up with a name. Write down several and then check online to see if the one you want is available. It may take a few tries to find one you like that no one has taken. Keep it as short as possible and also easy to associate with your business. Buying a domain name may cost a few bucks, but it’s worth it to have your own business name.

Step 3: Find a Web Hosting Service

You can’t have a website without a host. The hosting service is where your data will be stored, on their servers. Depending on how much space you need now and in the future, it might be worth a few more bucks a month to ensure that your site won’t crash or get turned off. Free web hosting services usually don’t provide enough bandwidth for a major business website.

Step 4: Create a Site Map

Before you begin to put together your website in cyberspace, it needs to be put together on paper. Using a simple design, sketch out your pages: headers, content, images and positioning of these elements. Also, include which pages will link to other pages, how they will link, pulldown menu options and the like. Knowing roughly how you want it to look goes a long way to getting the focused finished product you want for your business.

Step 5: Install WordPress

WordPress.org makes it easy to install their website program on your computer. One-click installation is offered. You can then log into the content management system and look around to see how to set up pages, edit and upload content and more. There are many options with WordPress.

Step 6: Design your Website

For those who know coding, you can use HTML or CSS to change the pages to look like you want them to. HTML can be used in a simple text editor to get your content to show up the way that you want it. WordPress offers options for free themes for design templates to begin with. A variety of options are available, so take some time to peruse them. If you don’t like it, you can always change it.

Are you ready for a website? Here are six steps designed to get you up and running.