So you have decided to use WordPress for your website. Good decision. It is a great Content Management System (CMS) that scales really well. Now you have to get it installed on your web server. You have two options for this: Continue reading “How To Install WordPress Correctly”
User Experience or UX is a term tossed around in the web development world. In this post, I will explain what I feel that User Experience is and what it is not.
What User Experience Is Not
User Experience is not the design. You can have a great design and a lousy user experience. Conversely, you can have a very simple design and a great user experience. This is because the user experience is not the design. Now, the design is part of it, but the design is only one aspect of it. Unfortunately, I see way too many websites where it is very obvious that the developers where very concerned about how it looked (the design) but not much else because it is really pretty but it was really hard to find what I wanted.
What User Experience Is
If you want a good example of a great user experience look at the Disney Parks. There are many entertainment options that cost way less, so why to people still pay big bucks and flock from all over the world to go to Disney? Because they provide a great experience from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave.
I define user experience as the ability of the user to interact with the product in an easy and enjoyable way. The following items are key to a good user experience:
- Relevant Content. If the content is relevant users will love the experience. If it is really out of date your site won’t do so well. I’ve seen business that have blogs where the latest post is from 2 years ago. That makes for a bad experience. Conversely, Amazon.com is a great user experience. Their products are easy to find, its easy to check out and you get the item really quickly (and you can see the order stats at any time).
- Clear Navigation. If it is really hard for users to find what they are looking for they leave and go elsewhere. It is that simple. My rule of thumb is this: if it takes more than 3 clicks from the homepage to find the page they are looking for, then it is not a good user experience. Move those items into a menu item accessible from the home page.
- Mobile Friendly. Way too many sites aren’t mobile at all. If you want to stand out make yours mobile. I have found that only about 20% of website I view are mobile. Also, on the mobile site don’t try to load everything you would on the desktop site. You wouldn’t try to fit all the furniture from a 5 bedroom house into a 2 bedroom condo, so don’t try to load everything from a desktop site on a mobile site.
- Security. People want to feel safe. If they go to your site and it is not secured correctly, they will leave (especially if they are buying). It is really easy to run a secure site using SSL Certificates and running over https. Read this post to learn more. Make sure your site is secure and it will help people feel safe and comfortable on you site.
So put yourself in the user’s shoes. If you went to your own website, would it be a good experience or would you leave? If you would leave, then go change it so people don’t want to leave. If you wouldn’t leave, keep doing what you are doing…your are the right track.
You have a website why not do it yourself? This now famous used by one of the many DIY website companies out there makes it sound so easy and you’ll be able to build amazon.com in 20 minutes.
Well I have a question of my own. This is your business, do you want your most visible marketing piece that is available 24/7/365 to be built by an amateur? If you do go ahead and do it yourself. But if you want a website that will make your business successful, hire a pro. In the rest of this article, I explain why.
Because Pros Know What They Are Doing
When you have a business, do you try do put up the building, run wiring, plumbing, etc? No, probably not. That is because you know it is not what you know how to do. Well the same is true of building a website for your business. Unless you are in the business of building websites, you are an amateur and as an amateur you will miss something that pros won’t, because they’ve done this a ton of times and you haven’t. Here is a list of things I have actually seen on businesses websites that were clearly done by amateurs using DIY templates:
- On a website for a handyman one of the pages where the logo was supposed to go said “your logo here”. They forgot to add their logo.
- I was recently checking out some fitness classes and on one of the pages it had a button that said “Button Text”. I was curious so I clicked it. It did nothing.
- In that same search for fitness classes on a different site in the footer it said “Copyright 2023, Your name here”. This was in 2017, I don’t even know how they came up with 2023. When I do this I add the date dynamically so it gets the year from the server’s clock and is always current.
It takes amateurs 10x Longer Than You Think
I remember a few years back when I was running my own business and I decided to build my own website. This is before I was a pro developer, I was doing analytics at the time. I thought it would take me a couple of hours. Well about 2 days later, I had it finished and it still didn’t look like I had envisioned it in my head. These days I am still surprised about how long it actually takes to build a website and I build them for a living.
While you are building your own website, all that stuff that you normally do, isn’t getting done. So remember this quick calculation. Take about 2 days of your time (let’s say 16 hours) and multiply that by however valuable your time is to you. Well if you value your time at $100 / hour that website you built would be $1600 and you will probably have missed something and not gotten anything else done for 2 days. Why not just hire a pro to do it rights for about $4000? That’s actually, a good deal. Many developers would charge a bunch more.
Amateurs Don’t Do Enough Testing
An amateur will most likely test a website on their preferred browser on their computer. A pro will test across many platforms and all major browsers. As an example an amateur might test on Windows version of Chrome. A pro will test on Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Safari on Mac and Windows as wall as mobile platforms. Why do this? Because different browsers on different platforms render sites differently. So that site that looked good on Chrome running on Windows might look really bad on Safari on an iPhone.
As an amateur you will miss something that pros won’t, because they’ve done this a ton of times and you haven’t
So if you want your business to actually benefit from a website, do yourself a favor and go hire a pro. It will save you a bunch of time and headaches (and be a better end product). These reasons are just the tip of the iceberg. Pro developers will be highly valuable in other areas I haven’t even touched on like e-commerce, SEO, security and maintenance. Remember, a good pro will make you more than they cost you. So go find a pro you like and start working with them today.
If you are reading this, I am assuming you have a website and you want people to actually find it. That is why you put it up after all. In this article I will give an overview of how to do just that, get found by your target audience. This process is called search engine optimization or SEO for short.
No Quick Solutions
Let me give you an example of good SEO strategy. If you want want some really good food, are you able to cook it in 90 seconds? No, really high quality food takes time to effectively prep and cook. The quick solution may fill your belly but is will never taste as good as some slow cooked bar-b-que.
Quality SEO works the same way, it takes time, but done correctly will work better. I say this because some people offering SEO services promise the world (we will make your brand new site #1 on Google in 24 hours). Don’t hire them. If you do hire an outside consultant or do it yourself know that for it to be effective it will take some time and effort.
Do Your Homework
This is the first step. You need to know your ideal audience and the terms that you think they may be searching for to find you. The better you know them, the better you can utilize target keywords. Many ways exist to find the right keywords including customer surveys, names of products or services you offer, and keyword research tools. So how do you use the keywords? There are two ways, which I shall discuss in the next sections.
Keywords In Meta Tags
The first strategy is to use the keyword meta tags. Meta tags are loaded by the web browser but are not seen be the end user unless they view the page’s code. These tags include descriptive information about the page. One of these is a keyword tag. If your website runs on WordPress or some other CMS, chances are that you can use a plugin to add the required keywords.
But only use a few keywords and only keywords that are actually relevant. That is because in the past some people tried to improve their ranking by using keyword spam where they would put dozens of keywords onto their webpage’s meta tag. This is rarely done anymore because the search engines became aware of the tactic and now penalize websites that do this.
As an example if you have a website for a hot dog stand you might have keywords such as: hot dog, corn dog, ketchup, mustard and relish. But notice all of these are relevant to a hot dog stand.
Keywords In Your Content
The second method for using the keywords is to work them into the content of the website. That is a best practice and is one of the recommended strategies by Google’s SEO guide. To demonstrate this using our hot dog stand example, the website for our hot dog stand may have pages where they talk about serving hot dogs and corn dogs as well as their condiments of ketchup, mustard and relish. All of the keywords they want people to use to find them are included in the content of the website.
One quick note about content. I am a big believer that creating fresh content helps your website. If you have quality content, it gives your users reasons to come back. The search engines really like fresh content too. So fresh content is good for both existing users and the users that have not yet discover you.
To recap we discussed why SEO takes some time, how to use keywords in meta tags and how to use keywords in your content will all help your SEO rankings. There is a lot more to your SEO strategy but this should get you started.
I was recently talking with someone about what I do and we were discussing email. This person wondered aloud why an organization would not just use a bunch of gmail accounts for their organization’s email. This post will explain why you should use a professional email in the format of firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am fully aware that plenty of people, especially those one man / one woman shop types, use Gmail (or Yahoo or Microsoft, etc.) for both their personal and professional email using the same account. However, you should think again if you are doing that. That is because while this shouldn’t be the case, people do make discernments about us based on how we present ourselves and you want to present a professional image.
Think about it, do you really want to put email@example.com (see note below) or firstname.lastname@example.org on your business card? If that’s the way you do things then why is it you show up in a business suit (ok maybe not a suit but perhaps slacks and a polo) to work instead of a dirty tank top and bare feet. The answer is you want to give the appearance of being a professional.
When your organization gets to be more than 1 or two people this starts to matter more. So what happens when the owner communicates to the client with a Gmail account and then the admin communicates with that client with Yahoo? Can you say inconsistent branding? Also when everyone in the organization is using email@example.com it re-enforces your web presence. I know I have gone to websites that I only heard of via the domain following the @ in an email address.
Did you know that the email hosting services offer better features than the personal accounts? They can do cool stuff like create groups, assign privileges and a bunch more. So if you continue to use a bunch of personal email accounts for your organization you are missing out on some features that will make your workflows better.
So in summary, using an firstname.lastname@example.org email address will be more professional, give a consistent branding for your organization and give you better features that will improve your workflows.
Note: FYI, I checked and no one actually has this email when I wrote this article. If you are reading this later and that’s your email, I apologize.
WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world. Approximately 25% of all websites use WordPress. However, there are two varieties of WordPress. In this article I explain both and why one of them is far preferential to the other.
Two Versions of WordPress
WordPress.com is the first version of WordPress I shall discuss. Using the .com version of WordPress the WordPress organization takes care of all the hosting and all you have to do is login and create your site. The result of this will give you a URL that looks like yourdomain.wordpress.com.
WordPress.org on the other hand is also called self hosted. Using this type of WordPress you would download the latest version from WordPress.org and install it on your web host, which you choose, using a domain that you own. Since it is so popular, almost any host offers WordPress hosting. Using the self hosted version, would give your site a URL such as yourdomain.com.
Oh and both versions are 100% free to use. So there is no cost to get WordPress (either version). That is one of the primary versions it is so popular (that and its really good).
My recommendation is to always use the self hosted version. It will give you the most professional representation for your organization. Think about it. What sound more professional yourdomain.wordpress.com or yourdomain.com?
Also if you use the self hosted version it will scale much better. For example, suppose your just starting out and you choose the WordPress.com version (yourdomain.wordpress.com). Then you experience some growth. How long are you going to want your website to be yourdomain.wordpress.com instead of yourdomain.com?
So do yourself and your organization a favor. If you are going to use WordPress to build your website, use the self hosted version on your own domain. And don’t think that hosting is going to break the bank. You can get some really great hosting packages for little more than a hundred dollars a year. If this is a concern to you, then you probably can’t afford a website anyhow because you will have many other costs beyond hosting such as development fees, stock photography, email hosting and more.