To be honest, a lot of this can be done with a little bit of learning, but sometimes a helping hand is needed and that’s just that.
The sections of a website
The sections below are what I mean by websites. As far as I can tell, these are the steps towards making, having, maintaining, and enjoying a website online:
Domain Registry – the “online” part
I use and recommend Namecheap. I appreciate their approach, can stand by their service, and take pleasure in the fact that they almost always have the use of a coupon code. Little things like that can go a long way. Their interface/dashboard is nice and when it comes down to it, the price is right. There is a free “WhoisGuard” protection with every domain – this helps keeping spam down for domain registrants (as before, a little thing I appreciate).
Hosting – the other half to “online”
Again, I use and recommend Namecheap (by the way, I am not affiliated). Having the domain and host under “one roof” is an arguable perk with only one place to login for website management. Again, their service, help desk, ticket response time, and performance has passed my test, especially for the price.
I like to empower and “come alongside”/assist so that a client learns what’s going on and is in control of his/her/their domain. I encourage each business/individual to purchase and “own” their domains and hosting account by creating accounts for each. I aim for them to understand the basic management necessary for domain registrar and host (if interested) so they can see how easy it can be once understood (again, only if interested). If it is over their head or not of interest, I am glad to manage it for them.
Design & Development – the getting ready for “online”
Where to start with this one – it’s the core of a website: Colors, Logo, Font(s), Images/Photos, CSS, HTML, Photoshop, Illustrator, WordPress, Drupal, Themes, Templates, Customizations…ahh – this is a big list!
Let’s stick with the websites for the moment and take a look at possible approaches for a website construction, management, and then design. A common conversation in recent months might go something like,
Potential Site Owner: “We need a website…”
Caleb (to himself) – (“That’s often where it starts!”)
Site Owner: “I’ve heard of WordPress – everybody keeps mentioning it – it lets me login and edit or add content to the site from anywhere?
Caleb: “That’s true; it’s a pretty powerful (and growing) Content Management System. They call it a CMS.”
Site Owner: “Right, that’s cool. I like the idea of that. I hear it’s free.”
Site Owner: “Alright…well, can we make it look as good as a ‘normal’ site, or make it do what we need like selling products or signing people in, like a community – oh, and we want to start a blog.”
Site Owner: “It’s that easy?”
Caleb: “Well, there’s a little more to it, but here’s where we could start. WordPress is growing, it seems everyday, towards becoming a stronger and stronger CMS for users around the world. WordPress.com runs on WordPress, but some people want more flexibility and customization, so they install WordPress on their own servers (note the difference between WordPress.com/.org). Generally I recommend installing on your own server – there’s a lot more flexibility and customizations permitted!”
Site Owner: “Okay.”
Caleb: “I can recommend a domain registrar and host (if need be – I have no affiliation) and then we can start looking at the looks.”
Site Owner: “Looking at the looks?”
Caleb: “Right. There’s so many possibilities in design and overall “looks” of the site. I see 3 clear approaches towards design that we can take:
- Design with Customizations • from scratch
- Design with Customizations • from a design marketplace
- Design without Customizations • from a design marketplace
My favorite is the middle one because I feel like it’s a good use of time. Here’s why: WordPress and the WordPress community have made it super easy and fun to get a beautifully functioning website up and ready for customizing. Save yourself some time and money by visiting ThemeForest.net and exploring WordPress themes. Items are priced on the complexity, quality and use of the file. The site is home to a community of web designers and developers – they sell an entire WordPress theme, php and all, for under $50(!)
Browse the marketplace or tell me what you are kind of looking for (I keep adrift of these themes semi-regularly) and I can help you find one you might like. If a match is made, great! If it is almost made or a toss-up between a few, let’s discuss and customize with elements of each that you like…”
And on it could go from there. I recommend purchasing a premium theme because a lot of the hard work is done if there’s a theme you like. You may optionally download a non-premium/free if you just need something quick to get up there and don’t care too much about aesthetics or complexity/depth of theme.
This would be my recommended process for Site Construction (WordPress), Design (WordPress Themes) and Customization (we can take it from there with all the graphic design tools we need). Have a look at the portfolio for examples of graphic design work and finished sites.
As part of a website or presence online comes the need for password management. It has been my experience that we sometimes find ourselves in need of a piece of paper to write down a new password or are always cliicking “Forgot my password” and then forgetting the new one we just set.
I use and recommend 1Password, available for both Windows and Mac (again, I am not affiliated – just a happy customer).
Email News or Email Marketing
I use and recommend MailChinp. They are top of the line (in my experience), fun to use, and helpful to learn. I might even suggest that their tools, guides, and seemingly constant innovation make Email Marketing easy for “the rest of us”. Again, I encourage an interested client to learn as much as they can in this field, too, as it might be more accessible to them than they first thought!
That being said, I have experience with email newsletter/template design and am glad to explore this option with you.
With any website comes the chance for online (“e”) commerce. I use and recommend PayPal for the ease of setup and widely recognized/trusted name that comes with it. For larger companies/business who subscribe to/pay for their own payment gateway (like PayPal’s Website Payments Pro or Authorize.net), we build that right into the site so the customer experience is a smooth, flawless motion.
What’s a Facebook page? How do I sign up for Twitter? Can I do all this from my phone?
These are common questions I have been encouraged to show a new and learning generation of business online. Whether or not you live on your website or also on a Facebook page/Social Media stream, integrating the two can be a fun and rewarding (if not eye-opening) experience.
For the really motivated and interested, I might help through the world of Facebook Advertising or Google AdWords. For the highly verbal, tweets can be your friend. For the business or individual, I recommend making that distinction online as well, and social media can be an effective way to do this.
While we’re at, below are “social networks” that I can recommend you consider, either for yourself or your business:
- Facebook – Profile and/or Page
- Twitter – personal and professional identity/tweets. Mixing the two can be useful, but it seems in most cases, people like to know who/which they are “following”.
- LinkedIn– “Facebook” (sort of) for business/professionals. Less personal, more business/professional education, what you’ve done/are doing. The “World’s Largest Professional Network”.
- Google+ (“Google Plus”) – newest to the scene, Google is rolling out their social media answer to the tune of a Facebook-esque presence in the world of all things Google. If you have a Google/Gmail account, you’re already ready.
- About.me – a one stop shop for people o learn “about you”. Check some of them out and see if it interests you.
- YouTube/Vimeo – two well-known video sharing sites. Vimeo is cool and beautiful – the Vimeo community attracts artists, creative video, and quality work. YouTube (the largest most recognized video sharing site), recently received a redesign from Google. Vimeo doesn’t let just anyone post on their site. Check them both out. You can customize the look of your YouTube “channel”.
Photos & Images
Believe it or not, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of images, graphics, and logos used in an average to above average website. If your business requires/involves multiple images and you could use some image help, that comes as part of the project with me. Working together, the goal is to improve in all areas possible. Leaving you with a better, more organized library of photos/images and all of your files is something I can’t avoid. It helps in my workflow and I think in the long run it’s something that is good for all involved. If you missed it above (in the graphics/design section, I also send you with all the artwork and designs so YOU own them and can do with them as you want.
Video & Video Editing
I have occasionally been asked, “Can you do a video?” While I do not have thousands of dollars of camera equipment, I do have some nice editing/video-related software. If it’s part of the project, let’s talk about it. I might not be your guy (or might have to defer because of time) but I might be able to help you realize the idea.
I like to use Final Cut Pro, Motion, and other excellent video editing software. If you have a Mac, I’ll send you what I can in iMovie ready format so you can archive and hold on to it to “play” anytime you want in the future. Again, it’s all yours.
Well, this might sound funny, but the “last but not least” part of web design and development is the computer. Silly as this is to say, I use and recommend a Mac. However, I am more than happy to work with Windows.
I was fortunate enough to be shown a Mac and made it my first choice when I got a new computer as a senior in high school. It has been a happy experience ever since.