"Being active on blogs and social media empowers artists" - Sandra Apperloo shares her blogging experience and wisdom on social media for creatives

[et_pb_section bb_built="1"][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.77" background_layout="light" border_style="solid"] I'm completely delighted to talk to Sandra Apperloo whose beautiful and popular blog ArtisticMoods showcases a different contemporary artist's work each day.  Sandra has an impressive Instagram following (135k) and runs a coaching programme to help creatives develop their own audience on social media, and she's very kindly agreed to share her experience and some of her tips with us.

Can you give us some basics about Artistic Moods? How was it born?

ArtisticMoods was born in 2013, after I graduated from university. I started planning it during my last year, got myself a part time job at an office after graduating, and then started building the blog. Funny enough, my studies weren't really related to art (I studied Language & Culture studies with a focus on Latin America) but it just made the most sense to me. Once I got the idea, I was so excited! I've always had a strong passion for art and digital communication was my favorite part of my studies. Now I'm very glad that I was so determined about my plans back then.

How do you find and choose the artists whom you feature on the blog? 

I find many artists online. On Instagram and Pinterest, and on other blogs too. Sometimes I meet them at events, or I come across artworks in galleries or shops. The reason I choose to feature an artist is always simple: I select the ones I love. For me it's very important to focus on the type of arts that are closest to my heart. I feel that this gives the blog a certain aesthetic. It also keeps the job fun for me. I can get such a rush out of discovering a new artist I love. It's such a great feeling!

Can we talk about your blog first? How did you get interested in the internet in the first place, and were you a techie person before that?

Haha, not so much. I had actually built another website before the blog, but that was long ago and I don't even remember the name of the outdated program that I used. Getting a bit more techie was something I had to get my head around, but once the blog was online and I started using social media frequently, I really got into it. Though I must admit I try to keep most internet activities related to my blog. Because I spend a lot of time on this, I prefer to spend my free time in the "real world." I don't use my personal social media very frequently, for example.

artistic moods social media for creatives

You told me that you built the blog from scratch. What was your experience of doing so? Was it easy/difficult/a nightmare/really fun? Obviously you love the blogging part, but I am really thinking about at the outset when you had to create the website from scratch.

It was definitely an interesting process. I would say it was all four. Some parts were easy, some were way more difficult than I expected. Getting stuck with technical issues was a nightmare, and after that, when the site was online and I got into it, it was a lot of fun. I tried to choose a theme that allowed people to be introduced to a lot of different art when visiting the website, while still keeping it structured.

Are there any website-building tips you can pass on to others? Mistakes you made, things you wish you'd known before you began, or had done differently?

My number one advice would be to follow the instructions you are given. I often was too impatient to do this and then I would get completely stuck in a technical knot. So frustrating! When you build a website while following the steps, it's really not that hard. But, really, DO follow those steps!

How quickly did your blog grow?

My blog grew quite consistently through the years, even though I really had no idea what to expect on that matter. The monthly amount of visitors I receive now is 30k, and I wouldn't say that that is huge. But it's enough to keep me going. My goal really isn't to become the biggest blog out there. For me the main thing is that I have a big enough audience to showcase the things that I do and offer, so that I can get by and continue doing the things I love most.

artistic moods

Do you get a lot of interaction from your readers?

I do. And I love that. It's really great to read comments I receive on blog updates and social media posts. It makes me feel that the work I do is appreciated. The only downside to this is that it's hard to respond to all these messages, especially in busy times.

Have you got any advice for people wanting to start a blog?

My advice would be to make sure you write about a subject you are passionate about. Blogs are not interactive or commercial platforms when they are started - attracting an audience will take time. As it will require a lot of energy, focusing on a subject you are truly enthused about will help you push through.

What would be your best tips for growing a blog?

Social media is quite an obvious but valuable tool to help you grow your blog. Share updates, be interactive, get to know your audience and the platforms you are posting on. Also, update your blog consistently, so that your audience will know what to expect. Set yourself a goal of a certain number of posts you want to write a week, and be realistic in doing so.

What have been the most interesting experiences you've had since founding ArtisticMoods?

I frequently feature ceramics on my blog, which at one point made me curious. I decided to follow a ceramics course last spring and completely fell in love with the process and the artistic freedom I experienced. I now spend as much time as possible at a ceramics studio called Noot & Zo, trying out as many different techniques as possible and working towards creating my own collection. This is my most important experience, because working on ArtisticMoods has helped me grow in something I'm passionate about. Also, it makes me work with my hands more, which is something I've missed during busy times with the blog.

Ceramics Sandra Apperloo

Every now and then I get asked to curate a selection of art for a gallery or publication. My most recent collaboration on this was with Create! Magazine, who asked me to select the artworks for one of their printed editions.

My most exciting, more personal blog adventure was my trip to Japan in 2015. I'm a huge fan of Japanese illustration and traveled there too meet and interview some my favorite Japan-based artists. Beside the fact that this was one of the most memorable trips of my life, I was blown away by the hospitality of the artists there. Every single person I contacted for an interview was open to welcome me, show me their studio and talk about their work. I was welcomed into such warm homes and amazing studios. And I got to meet with Hiroyuki Izutsu from the Tokyo Illustrators Society which was a huge honor!

A huge area of fascination for me is how artists use the internet to get the word out about their work and make sales. You've interacted with hundreds of contemporary artists through your blog... do a lot of these artists sell their work online? Do they have their own online stores? What ways do you mostly see artists using the internet to sell their art?

Yes, many artists sell their work online these days. It allows them to reach out to customers worldwide, which I think is a wonderful thing. Many artists sell through Etsy or Society6, and lots of them have their own online shop too. Some artists sell on several channels to spread out their customer network, which can be a smart thing to do

Do you see any clash between the worlds of art and technology or can they go perfectly well together?

Although some artists may disagree, I believe they can enhance each other. Being active on blogs and social media empowers artists. I do believe it can be a challenge for artists to combine the two at times though. For people who spend a lot of their time in their studio for example, this can require a lot of effort. I try to motivate people to somehow give internet activities a place in their routines as I do believe this is something they can benefit from greatly.

artistic moods social media for creatives

Social media has become a speciality of yours. When did you first get into it in a serious way?

When I decided to start a blog, about five years ago. Or actually, a little before that. I was a very active user of Pinterest. I loved how easy it was to discover new artists there. It was also my inspiration for starting a blog. Once I made up my mind to do that, I started sharing a lot of art on Facebook and Pinterest to build an audience. That way I already had a small network to whom I could announce the launch of my blog.

Which social media do you use most and why?

I'm most active on Instagram these days. It's my favorite place to reach out to people and to get inspired by artists. Most of the people I talk to feel the same. Funnily enough I wasn't active on Instagram until about three years ago. I hadn't realized its potential until an artist recommended I start using it. Now it's the most important channel I have to reach out to my audience.

What do you think your best tips would be to grow a huge social media following?

As with a blog, my advice is to be consistent with the updates that you share. Create a structure and a certain frequency so that your audience know what they can expect from you. Also, be passionate about the things that you post about.

My most important rule for sharing something on social media is that I really have to like it myself. Last, if you are an artist on social media, create a feed that expresses your art and style as adequately as possible. When someone new visits your profile on Instagram, it often does not take that person more than a few seconds to decide whether they are going to follow you or not. By presenting an accurate image of yourself it will be much easier for you to create an interactive audience that sincerely loves what you make.

social media for creatives

Can you tell us more about your Social Media for Creatives program?

With Social Media for Creatives I give private online coaching sessions to artists who are looking to expand their online audience. I analyze their activities on channels like Instagram and Pinterest and give them suggestions on how to present themselves online and grow their network.

I have been coaching artists for about six months now and it is such a fun and rewarding thing to do. I decided to coach people through private sessions because this allows me to delve more deeply into their individual situations and goals. I love seeing their feeds blossom and grow. Many of them become more confident with their social media too, which is a lovely nice thing to see.

What have you found to be the major problems creatives come up against when using social media to promote their work?

Showcasing art in a consistent social media feed is important, and this is something I have noticed artists struggle with sometimes; sharing images that match well with each other and adequately express an artist's voice. This can be hard for artists who don't have much social media experience yet or who are spending a lot of time away from their computer. I help them to dedicate time to build a more consistent feed, with photo assignments for example, or by helping to define their style, so that they become more aware of this.

Sandra Apperloo

Have you got any plans for the future with Artistic Moods? Can you share your vision?

I enjoy working on ArtisticMoods as much as the day I started the blog. I want to continue with ArtisticMoods the way I've done these last years, and open an online shop as soon as I feel my ceramics are "good enough" for this. I will then most likely start sharing more of my own creations too, but I don't think the main direction of the blog will change. Writing about my favorite artists is something that I will most likely continue to do for years to come.

Thank you, thank you, Sandra, for making time to answer my questions!  You can visit Sandra's blog at ArtisticMoods.com, find out more about her Social Media for Creatives coaching programme here, and see what she's up to on Instagram here.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Why you need Sumo

[et_pb_section bb_built="1"][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.77" background_layout="light" border_style="solid"] The tools offered by Sumo are just so amazingly useful that if you don't know about them I really want to introduce them to you.

I found myself referring to them frequently throughout my book Create Your Own Website the Easy Way, and since I wrote it, the suite of tools - which I've come to find indispensable - has grown even more. And all of the tools I'm mentioning here in this article come absolutely FREE!

First of all, it used to be a little bit of a hassle to configure a pop-up on your website. But now... Sumo makes it really, really easy.

I know that you are probably saying.. not popups! I don't want a popup on my website! They're so annoying and people hate them!

But the thing is that popups work. They are the absolute hands-down most effective way of getting people to sign up to your email mailing list.

Sumo's popups you can configure to only appear at certain times, every so often, or only when a reader is leaving the page, and not if a reader has already subscribed, or not if they're reading on a smartphone, and so on... so they really don't have to be intrusive or annoying. You can either leave it up to the system to detect when it's a good time to make them appear, or you can control everything yourself.

Take it from me that this works, because my Sumo popup form is the one that gets me the most people signing up from my website, out of all the different forms I have in different positions.

You can also set popups to appear at the bottom of your website so they slide into one of the corners as the reader scrolls down (of course, you only set it to appear if they haven't seen the other one)... now this can in no way be construed as intrusive, and it works well too ... it's the second most successful of my website signup forms.

Other signup tools are a strip at the top of the page (called a "Smart Bar;" see below) which you can also configure as a simple button to take your readers to another web page, an embedded form right within your web page content, or - and this was one that you couldn't do until recently without a paid-for program - a form that comes up when the website visitor clicks on a text link. Brilliant for including signup possibilities as part of your text, which is one of the best ways of having people sign up for more from you... when they're already busy reading and enjoying your words.

Finally, in terms of signup form possibilities, you can get a "Welcome Mat." This is a full-screen subscriber form that the user sees before they go on to look at any of your content. You get lots of different templates and can add your own photo background so you can make a "mat" that looks really professional and inviting. It's up to you whether this kind of thing fits in with what you're doing, but it's a brilliant way to offer a discount coupon or some other irresistible giveaway, and they work astonishingly well to increase your signup rate.

Your welcome mat could look like any of these (these are all templates that you can use with your own wording and images; apparently the plain one is surprisingly successful):

All these tools are amazing but what makes them even more amazing is that they come with a built-in autoresponder tool... and that is free as well.

So now you can have the people who sign up get an instant, automatic email reply from you, and you can even send them an email attachment which could be a checklist or tipsheet, or whatever it is that you want to send them.

You can also group-email people who have subscribed from within the Sumo interface, which could mean that if you're just starting out, you can avoid setting up an email list manager just at the outset; although as your list grows, this will be something you'll want to do.

Unfortunately with a free Sumo account, you can't connect directly with an email provider service such as MailChimp, so if you do use one of these you'll find yourself adding your subscribers to your MailChimp (or other provider) list manually. For my part I've been using Sumo tools for a while and when I set up with them, this was part of the free package so I am lucky enough to have my subscribers added automatically to my list. But to be honest it isn't really a big deal to have to do it manually and when you get to the stage when it is becoming annoying to do, that will mean your website is doing really well and getting hundreds of subscribers and you might want to upgrade to a paying account in any case. However, the autoresponder system will mean that your subscribers get an automatic welcome message from you in any case (once you set it up), even if your Sumo form isn't connected to your email mailing list provider, and I think that is the really important thing.

List-building tools aren't everything that Sumo can do for you. The vertical strip of social media sharing buttons that you've no doubt seen all over the web (shown in the screenshot below) come from Sumo too. You certainly want to implement one of these so that your visitors can recommend your site to their own network when they find something of interest there.

You an also configure a contact form on your website which is a brilliant way of getting interaction from interested people and building personal relationships with your site visitors. You can set it up so it's a small tab that appears at the side of your website that's easy to access and encourages people to interact (and it does; I've had loads of messages this way - I've had it set up on my online course page since I launched and that way have been able to answer dozens of potential students' questions; see below, on the bottom right where it says "Any questions?").

That's not it: Sumo also provides stats via Google Analytics, image sharing buttons, website heatmaps so you can see how your users are interacting with your site...

I strongly advise you go to https://sumo.com and have a look for yourself.  Whatever kind of website you have - WordPress, Squarespace, or any other - you can use these tools, and it takes just a few clicks to install.

No matter what you're doing with your website, I think you can really benefit from these three tools (and look at the rest as well):

  • the signup forms (whether you use a centre-page popup, a corner popup or a "smart bar" at the top)
  • contact form tab (to answer questions)
  • social media sharing tool.

Let me know the results!

 

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

It's finally here! - new online WordPress course

[et_pb_section bb_built="1"][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.77" background_layout="light" border_style="solid"] I'm delighted to let you know that after many months of work, my new online course showing you how to create your own website using WordPress is finally ready.

Taking control of your own website is essential - you really don't want to have to ask a web designer every time you want to make an update to your website - and WordPress is the perfect tool to let you do that.  It's the only tool that lets you stay completely independent of third party companies and for many people, that's the deal-breaker.

The course is based on my own real-world WordPress workshops.  I show you all the basics of how to get your WordPress site up and running, but I also show you how to take it on from there, so you can delve in just as deep with WordPress as you want to, or get just as creative as you like.

The course is entirely suitable for beginners and those who aren't particularly technically-minded, as well as for those who want to roll their sleeves up and get further stuck in!

Save

Save

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_button _builder_version="3.0.77" button_text="Click here to find out more" button_url="http://www.coursesbyalannah.com" url_new_window="on" background_layout="light" custom_button="off" button_letter_spacing="0" button_icon_placement="right" button_letter_spacing_hover="0" button_alignment="center" /][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Updates to Create Your Own Website Using WordPress In A Weekend

Create Your Own Website Using WordPress in a Weekend came out in June 2013 and between then and now there have been some significant changes that you'll need to know about when you're embarking on building your own website using the book as a guide. Most of all, WordPress has developed and improved and is now even larger in scope than it was when I wrote the book.

Here's a chapter-by-chapter, page by page rundown of what you need to know.  And here's a pdf version, in case you want to print it out.

Chapter 1 – An introduction to WordPress

Page 9

I say on this page that WordPress is easy to use. I have to say that WordPress has developed to such an extent and now has such a lot of possibilities as to what you can do with it and add to it, and the variety of themes you can use have got so wide-ranging in their features and complex in the way you work with them, that it is really no longer true to say that WordPress is an "easy" option.

What it is is the only option that independent non-programmer/developers have available to create themselves an independent website that isn't dependent on a third party. Which is what you would be if you used a company like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace that hosts your site and takes care of it for you. (Of course with WordPress you are dependent on your host, but you still have full charge of your website, and as long as you have backups, if anything suddenly happens and your host has major problems, you will still be able to recreate your site on another host pretty quickly and smoothly.)

So we can't really say that WordPress is easy, but it is really the only independent choice that you have available to you, and for some people, that is the clincher. That's why it is still the platform of choice of the vast majority of people wanting to set up their website, and at the moment, that's the way it's likely to stay.

If I were writing the book all over again, I would add a paragraph to say that WordPress, or at least going the "DIY" way with WordPress, isn't for everyone... if you're interested in what I have to say about this, I wrote a blog post about it here (http://www.alannahmoore.com/should-i-use-wordpress-to-create-my-website/). (And in fact this is the reason why I wrote my latest book, Create Your Own Website the Easy Way, which talks about systems other than WordPress, for those who don't need anything as complex and don't mind whether they're independent or not.)

I would still say, though, that WordPress is easy to keep updated. So if you need outside assistance to help you create your website, it will still be easy for you to add blog posts and make the necessary frequent updates to the site when the site is up and running.

Page 10

I would say in a nutshell that WordPress.com is really only good for blogging. If you're running a business website, not only are most of the themes very centred on blog layouts, but there's the other issue of remaining independent and most people will want to be if it's their business website they're dealing with.

That said, the newly-released default theme, Twenty Seventeen (http://2017.wordpress.net/), which of course is standard for WordPress.com as well as self-hosted WordPress, is a very attractive design that would work very well for most kids of small businesses (unless you really need an ultra-corporate look), and is clearly designed to represent a break with the "mostly-for-blogs" tradition of default themes up 'til now.

In fact, I like Twenty Seventeen so much that I'd go as far as to say that using WordPress.com with the Twenty Seventeen theme is a great way for a small business to set up a site very easily and with no hassle whatsoever, perhaps while they get going and get their ducks in a row for a more complex, self-hosted WordPress site that requires more setting up and maintenance. Perhaps it represents a new future for WordPress.com in that it may start to be used more for sites than for blogs, although it's been overwhelmingly for bloggers until now.

twenty seventeen

Page 12

Of course, there's no such thing as a typical layout for a WordPress site, as you can get themes in all kinds of possible layouts that you could want. The layout I chose for this section of the book a few years ago is still a pretty typical layout for a website, WordPress or otherwise, that one finds today.

Today though, rather than choosing a "boxed" layout - that is to say, having a white (or background-coloured) margin between the edge of the browser window and the content of the website (as in the example in the book) - people often opt for a "full-width" layout, which means that the large image at the top of the page and all the other sections of the page go right across the screen, reaching the edges of the browser window. (You can see the two styles side by side in the image below.) You can still usually go for a "boxed"-style layout with many themes, if you prefer it and want a slightly more understated or more blog-style look, but a "full-width" layout is now very often seen right across the board of different types of website, which looks very flashy and slick, and way more modern.

boxed

The use of huge images and videos has become more widespread as well - this is because we can more or less assume that the vast majority of site visitors have fast internet which means there's no need to worry about slow loading - to the extent that we used to, at least.  Huge, wall-to-wall images and videos are now everywhere - as you can see, they are now part of the new Twenty Seventeen default theme.

Today, also, we often see "parallax" in action, which is just the term for when the user gets the impression that an image slightly moves when you scroll down the page from one section to another. Again, this is just a way of conveying modernity and slickness; it doesn't have any real purpose apart from this.

And of course, the biggest trend and one that's here to stay, given that it's really convenient for mobile users and everyone today consults the web from their smartphone, is that of the one-page website: one section following on from another as you go right down the page, often with menu links that take you straight to the section you're looking for.

Those are a few design trends that are commonplace today that weren't as widespread back in 2013.

Chapter 2 – Your domain and hosting

Choosing a domain name

Page 15

Things have changed vastly in the domain name department what with the advent of all kinds of new extensions. Have a look at the "New TLDs" section of Namecheap (under the "Domains" menu) and you'll see dozens of new options available: .life, .pizza, .photograph, .cafe, .agency, .online, .boutique, .club, .london, etc. etc.

You can get these new types of domain name anywhere - Godaddy (https://www.godaddy.com/) or Namecheap (https://www.godaddy.com/) or whever you like - you don't have to go anywhere special and they're quite often very good prices as well.

Choosing your hosting

Page 19

I have a few changes in hosting recommendations to pass on to you. Personally I prefer Bluehost (https://www.bluehost.com/) now to DreamHost (https://www.dreamhost.com/), which used to be my top recommendation. (Of course, I’ve come across some complaints about Bluehost from time to time, but personally I’ve always had good service from them and am happy to recommend them.)

Siteground (https://www.siteground.com/) is also often mentioned to me as a good choice so you might alternatively want to have a look at them. In the book I didn’t recommend WP Engine (https://wpengine.com/), although famous, as they are significantly more expensive than any of the other hosts, however I’ve heard reports from people I know personally that their customer service is really incredible and that it’s worth going with them for that alone. So if you think you might need quite a bit of handholding, and might want to ask rather more far-reaching questions than those strictly concerning hosting, WP Engine might be the hosting company for you.

There's a new and important consideration to bear in mind when you're choosing a host and that's the fact that Google now prefers people to host their websites locally to where they are based. Your best bet is to ask around for local-based recommendations and then Google those hosting companies to check reviews.

Siteground and WPEngine have servers all round the world and you'll be hosted wherever is nearest you. For those in the UK, I recommend Heart Internet (https://www.heartinternet.uk/web-hosting); for readers here in France, OVH (https://www.ovh.com/fr/) seems to be the best bet that there is.

Linking your domain and your hosting

Page 20

The Namecheap interface (https://www.namecheap.com/) has changed since the book was published. In essence, you do exactly the same – you paste the nameservers your hosting company has given you into the blank fields in the nameserver area (DNS) of your registrar’s website. Here’s a screenshot of how the Namecheap interface now looks.

namecheap

How to point a domain to a website

Page 21

Pointing another domain to your main website, within Namecheap, is now much easier. Go to your list of domains, click “Manage” next to the domain you want to point, and you’ll see a “redirect domain” section, as shown.

namecheap

Since Bluehost is now my top hosting recommendation, I want to give you instructions on how to connect your domain to your hosting if Bluehost is your host (and you've registered your domain name somewhere else, such as Namecheap). It's not quite as straightforward as if you're using Dreamhost, where you simply add the domain name to the list of domains in your account and then paste the nameservers into your Namecheap admin area, as shown above.

If you are using Bluehost, click on "Domains" on the blue menu, from within your admin area. In the "Shortcuts" box, click on the link to "Assign a domain to your cpanel account." Select the option: "Use a domain that is not already associated with your account." Type in your domain name and copy the nameserver information provided to you. Scrolling down the page, check the radio button next to "Addon domain" and the radio button next to "Create a new domain."

Then add the nameservers to your registrar's admin area, as shown above. Bluehost's nameservers are "ns1.bluehost.com" and "ns2.bluehost.com."

Chapter 3 – Planning your website

Page 22

There's another kind of website I'd like to add to the list of different kinds of website you might be wanting to build, and that's a personal branding site. If you're selling your products or services using your personal identity as your "brand," or you're looking for a job and want to create a site that future employers would visit to get a picture of you, then you need a slightly different kind of a site, which is kind of corporate, but a lot more friendly.

It may be that there's been a rise in the number of businesses over the last few years that are based around individuals precisely because these can be conducted in a largely web-based way - consulting and coaching carried out via Skype; design, editing, social media and VA services conducted remotely, online courses, etc., with the image of the person being entirely created by the website and the social media that supports it. Whatever the reason, this kind of site has evolved into a category of its own now and you'll find many themes that cater to this need.

Typically this kind of site will include a large picture of the person at the top of the home page, press logos, a prominent signup form, and a "Work with me" invitation.  Some examples of this kind of site are Marie Forleo's site, Marie Poulin's (digital strategy), Elizabeth Saunders' (time management), Barbara Stanny's (financial wellbeing), Jeff Walker's (internet marketing) and VABoss (virtual assistant).

Finding and using images

Some good places to get stock photos for use on your site

Page 30

There are many more good places than I those knew about at the time of writing the book, including the wonderfully useful Librestock (http://librestock.com/) that lets you search 43 free stock photo libraries at once.  See here (http://www.alannahmoore.com/the-best-places-to-get-free-stock-photos-for-your-website/) for an article in which I list lots of other places.

Page 31 – If you want to get a logo made…

Buildabrand is unfortunately no longer in action.  Here are some other good logo makers:

With Oomph (https://withoomph.com/) Squarespace Logo Generator (https://www.squarespace.com/logo/) Hipster Logo Generator (http://hipsterlogogenerator.com/). This is a very particular "look" of logo but it could be just what you want.

I have also become a huge fan of the “1-1 Projects” service of 99Designs (99designs.com/projects). You can get a logo designed here without undergoing the whole competition element that was the original idea of 99Designs, and once you find a designer you like, you can get everything else you may need designed by them as well (business cards, other printed stuff, ebooks – whatever else you might need) at a really reasonable cost.

99 Designs - 1-1 Projects

I wrote a blog post here (www.alannahmoore.com/an-easy-and-effective-way-to-create-yourself-a-logo/) on how to create a logo yourself using an interesting font – for many people, this is all that you need, and it can look brilliant, as shown by this screenshot and the examples on that blog post.  All you need to do is choose a font that suits your style and you’re away.  (You can get fonts at Creative Market – see below.)

http://tattly.com

I’d like to say some more here on the subject of graphics for websites in general.

First of all, since I wrote the book, a wonderful tool now exists that you absolutely need to know about as it’s just perfect for the do-it-yourself website builder, and that’s Canva (https://www.canva.com/). Whether it’s large pictures for your blog (that are ideal for your website visitors to pin on Pinterest or share on social media) or graphics for your sidebar, it’s fantastically easy to use and what’s even better for people who aren’t brilliant with the design side of things, it has hundreds of ready-made, stylish-looking templates that you can just take and customise for your own purposes. You can see in the screenshot below some of the templates that are provided for you as starting-off points.

As well as graphics for your website, Canva can also produce images you can use on social media (all pre-sized to exactly the dimensions you need) and can even create ebooks, if you have needs in that direction, or material you can take off to print (brochures, posters, etc.).

PicMonkey (http://www.picmonkey.com/) is another tool that you may find invaluable in creating graphics for your website – many people like to use Canva for some things, and PicMonkey for others. Picmonkey has some great textures and background (chalkboard for example) and you can create collages with round corners for each image if you want to. You can’t use your own fonts with the free version of Canva, whereas with PicMonkey you can access all the fonts on your computer.

Another idea for creating square graphics for your website is to use one of the apps that are created for Instagram.  You can create the graphics with your phone and email them to yourself, then you can upload them to your website from your computer.

Examples of apps that are good for this: Over (http://madewithover.com/), Typorama (http://www.apperto.com/typorama/), A Beautiful Mess (http://www.abeautifulmessapp.com/), Instaquote (http://www.redcact.us/#instaquote) and WordSwag (http://wordswag.co/).

Of course, you'll choose a style that suits the kind of website you are creating.  These images are great for sidebar graphics that direct the visitor to different areas of your website, or for putting in a row across your home page, for example (lots of themes provide a space where you can add three or four images for different products or services you provide).

Creative Market (https://creativemarket.com) is a brilliant place to get patterns, illustrations and other graphic elements for your website. You can also get fonts, which you can download to your computer and use via either Pixlr or PicMonkey, images especially created for social media posts, and design elements (buttons and other graphics) you can use to add some individual flavour to your site.

You can also find a lot of ready-made “kits” to be used on websites on Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/). Search “branding kit” or “web graphics.” These are often of a particular “look” that’s very much in vogue at the moment, and if this is what you’re looking for, you may have found the perfect source of graphics for your website.

I've also recently been exploring Fiverr (www.fiverr.com/) as a good place to find designers for all kinds of needs. Nothing beats a specially-commissioned illustration to make a website look unique, and you can find designers and illustrators for all kinds of different styles here who are willing to do quick jobs for you at a great price (Not $5! Each job is priced individually.  Very good value, but still more realistic than $5!)

Page 33

Video is now much more prominent than it was in 2013. As you saw if you clicked over to look at the new Twenty Seventeen default theme (http://2017.wordpress.net/), there's a huge full-screen video right on the home page. Putting a video here is not, of course, obligatory; you can put a large image there instead, but it just goes to show how commonplace using video now is on the web.

Chapter 4 - Setting up WordPress

Since Bluehost is now my top hosting recommendation, I want to include instructions here for a WordPress Bluehost install, for those who have followed my recommendation.

Log into Bluehost. When you log in, you'll find yourself on the home page of the "hosting" admin area. Click the button that says "Install WordPress." (You'll see this button in the "Website" section of the page.)

Click the green arrow that says "Get Started."

On the next page, you'll see a dropdown to select your domain. Before you do anything, look below the dropdown to where you see a section titled "Helpful Plugins." You do not want any of the plugins they are suggesting, at least at this stage. So deselect everything that's being suggested to you in this section.

Now from the dropdown labelled "Select domain for installation," choose your domain name. In most cases you will leave the "directory" field blank. This will mean your website will be installed directly on your domain. If you were to write something in this field, Bluehost would create a folder and install WordPress into it (and to go to your WordPress website you'd have to go to www.yourdomain.com/folder/). So leave it blank, unless for whatever reason you specifically want WordPress installed into a different folder. Click "Next."

Write the title of your website in the first field (you can change this later). Write in a user name in the second field (don't choose "admin"), or you can leave your email address there. In the third field, change the email address if you need to to a different one at which you will receive admin notifications - or leave it as it is, if this is the email address you want to use. In the last field, type a password - you are advised to choose a very complicated one, or keep and use the one Bluehost has generated for you. (Having a complicated password is one of the things that helps keep your site safe from hacks).

Check the two checkboxes below that are unchecked, so that all three are checked, and click "Install."

Bluehost suggests you look at themes while you are waiting, and if you want to do that, then go ahead and do it. But don't make any decision yet. There are many more to be looked at and it will take you some time to decide.

When you see the "Installation complete" notification, click the link to see "credentials".

At this stage Bluehost is very keen to sell you a premium theme and will give you lots of popup windows to encourage you to do that. But this is not the right time to buy a theme, so just ignore all their offers for now - you can think about themes later.

Towards the right hand side of your screen you will see all your WordPress information. Now is the perfect time to copy this information (login address, user name, password) into a text document and save the document somewhere safe. Bluehost will also send you an email with the necessary information in it. (You can do a password reset should you ever mislay the information.)

You can now go to "www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin/" - and log into your new website.

Chapter 5 – Step-by-step: creating a basic model website

Obviously, since the book was written, the default theme has changed several times.  In order to follow the tutorial, you’ll have to use the Twenty Twelve theme. (It doesn't matter that this is an out-of-date default theme by the way - it's still a really good theme to use to learn the basics of WordPress and fulfills this job perfectly.)

Seeing as Twenty Twelve was the default theme when the book was published, readers would find it ready installed the moment they set up WordPress.  Now that it is no longer the default theme, you need to install and switch to the Twenty Twelve theme.  It’s really important that you do this as you won’t be able to follow the tutorial otherwise – all themes, even default themes, work a little differently and my instructions won’t make sense. This is how to do it:

Go to Appearance > Themes.  Click the grey “Add New” button right at the top of the page.  Type “Twenty Twelve” in the ‘Search themes” search box.  When you see the Twenty Twelve theme, mouse over the picture of it, then click the blue install button, as shown below.  Click “Activate” when it’s installed.  You can now follow the tutorial.

twenty-twelve

When you log into the admin area for the first time, you'll see a "Welcome" message asking what kind of website you are going to create. You can dismiss this by clicking the "I don't need help" link. After this, you'll see all kinds of links offering to take you to different parts of the admin area to help you get set up. This is WordPress trying to make their admin area more user-friendly for those logging in for the first time; the tutorial shows you what's what in the admin area in more detail, as well as anything else that you'll need to know to get started, so I advise you not to get derailed by clicking any of these links and just follow the tutorial in the book instead.

Since I wrote the book, the version of WordPress has obviously changed, as well as the default theme. We are now on 4.7.2, at the time of writing.  The interface looks different – more modern (for example, the side navigation is black, and the font is different, as you can see above and in your own interface), but it functions in basically the same way, with a few tweaks that have improved usability. The major difference, in terms of using it, is that it is now miles easier to work with images.  You can resize them right inside the editing area just by dragging the corners (as shown below), and easily add to and rearrange galleries (as you can see in the lower image below).  Where once it was a bit fiddly, it really is easy now.

Resizing images with the more recent WordPress interface. Much easier!

 

The plugins you need

Page 75

Instead of the Jetpack Contact form, many themes are set up to work with Contact Form 7 and require you to install it to make the theme work. Contact Form 7 is a very good contact form plugin so no need to activate the Jetpack one (in fact, you shouldn't, in case there is a conflict) if your theme specifies Contact Form 7.

The Jetpack suite has developed hugely since I wrote the book and if you browse around the Jetpack section of the admin area once you have installed and connected it, you'll see all kinds of tools you can implement. Go to the "Settings" section and you can see the different elements you can switch on and off grouped by tabs according to what they offer.

You can have a good look around and see what you think would be useful. I think the following are worth looking at for most people (although you'll want to carry out your own investigation to see if anything else specifically applies to your site):

Sharing - you can use this, however I prefer Sumome (which I'll talk about in Chapter 9 in the contexts of mailing lists and social media). Similarly, Publicise is a way in which you can easily post your blog posts to social media when you publish them to your site, but there are other ways of doing this I think are better because you should really tailor them to each platform.

Related Posts, Comments, Subscriptions (but read what I say in the Mailing list section below, Chapter 9, concerning contacting your site visitors by email).

Sitemaps - this is easier than setting up a separate plugin, which is what I recommended on page 150 of the book.

Site Verification. Connecting with Google Search Console (which used to be called Google Webmaster Tools) is great to ensure your site is being crawled properly. (See my notes about page 150 below.)

Protect, Monitor, Akismet (which is talked about in the book; you absolutely need this).

Tiled Galleries & Carousel - if you need to display a lot of images on your site and find your theme doesn't have a particularly nice built-in gallery or slideshow facility.

Extra sidebar widgets - there are a number of particularly useful widgets here that you can activate: Images (otherwise there isn't a simple way of displaying images in your sidebar without using code), Milestone if you want to count down to an event, Top Posts & Pages, Social Media Icons (if your theme doesn't provide them), Twitter Timeline, Facebook Page Plugin.

Widget Visibility - this is super useful. You probably don't want every widget on every page; here's how to choose what appears where.

Infinite Scroll - this won't work for every theme, but I like it a lot. Instead of making your users go from page to page when they're looking at the list of your blog posts, they can scroll down a list that goes on and on right down the page. Basically, it helps your older posts get more eyeballs.

Contact Form.

Page 77

Email Address Encoder (https://wordpress.org/plugins/email-address-encoder/) is now the preferred email address protector. (You can install as usual from within the Plugins area of your admin, rather than going to this link and downloading.)

Page 78

All in One SEO Pack has been supplanted by WordPress SEO by Yoast as the universally recommended SEO plugin for WordPress – it apparently has less of an impact on site speed (though personally I have no proof of that). Again, install it directly from the Plugins area. The Yoast plugin has a different interface (you can see a screenshot below where I talk about Chapter 9), but the essence is the same – you choose a title and a description for all the pages of your site. So, don’t use All in One SEO Pack, use WordPress SEO by Yoast instead.

Note that it is now not necessary to add keywords (“meta keywords”) to your pages for SEO purposes – of course keywords should be in the actual text of your page, but you don’t need to add them individually into any area of the interface so that they are present in the code of your web page, as we did before. Google declared a little while ago that it no longer goes by these, so this is one step you can leave out.

An additional feature that Yoast has that is really useful for optimising your pages for the search engines is its red, amber and green traffic-light system. Following the prompts, you can adjust your title, page text, and so on, in order to get the “green” status for each of your pages and blog posts, which indicates that you have done as much as you possibly can to achieve optimisation for each page.

You can find a tour around the Yoast plugin if you go to the “SEO” section that appears within your navigation once you’ve installed it, and if you want to go further, you can read their very detailed article about optimisation here: https://yoast.com/wordpress-seo/.

The information contained here is extremely detailed and my advice would be not to get too hung up about it while you are creating your website, but to come back to it afterwards if you find you need better search engine visibility. Lots of people spend a lot of time making sure each page on their site "goes green" in Yoast; whether it makes sense to do this depends on how important the search engines are for you. If word of mouth is the overwhelming way people get to hear about you, if people can look for your site by name and find it, then you don't need to spend hours fiddling around changing all kinds of other things on your site.

Reading the section on Search Engine Optimisation in Chapter 9 of the book will give you the broad outline of what you need to know while you’re building your site – and it’s important that you do read it before you do your building as it will explain to you the importance of the wording on the site pages, the way you label your images, the titles you give to the pages, and so on, which you won’t want to re-do.  Once you are armed with this knowledge, I advise you to complete the site to your liking and get it live, and only at that point dive further into SEO and carry out whatever tweaks may be necessary. Otherwise you risk getting caught up in details and having overwhelm take over before your site is even live.

Chapter 6 – Selling from your website

In this chapter of the book I only talk about adding PayPal buttons or the shopping cart that comes with PayPal. (Obviously, if you choose a full-blown webstore system (WooCommerce) there will be lots of other payment processors available for you to sign up with but this chapter deals with easy solutions rather than the full webstore option.)

Since I wrote the book another system has come along that has made things a huge lot easier for entrepreneurs: Gumroad (https://gumroad.com). Gumroad is perfect for downloadable products - ebooks, films, audio, artwork - and physical products as well. You simply put a little bit of code into your website where you want the "Buy" button to appear, the customer downloads the product, or you send it to them, and Gumroad pays you once every two weeks by cheque or by PayPal - it's really as simple as that.

One particularly great thing about Gumroad is that it takes care of everything concerning the European VAT law on downloadable purchases, which has caused a real headache since its implementation: now, if someone purchases a downloadable product, if they are in a European country, the person selling is supposed to apply the right percentage of VAT for the country the purchaser resides in! Gumroad handles all that so you don't even need to think about it.

One thing Gumroad doesn't take money for is services, so if you do coaching or consulting, it won't be the solution for you.

So, you can put in PayPal buttons and you can put in Gumroad buttons if you have the odd thing that you want to sell, but you might want to set up a full-blown store. In this case you need the full e-commerce outfit so you can run a proper online store-type website, and with WordPress, this means installing an e-commerce plugin and choosing an online store theme. At the moment, WooCommerce is the most-used e-commerce plugin for WordPress and there are hundreds of themes designed for it, so it makes sense to go with this one.

I want to say here that while this book is about WordPress, I am not actually a raving fan of using it for your DIY online store. The reason is that while it is relatively easy to set up, and the themes you can use for it are excellent, you often need "extensions" (add-ons) to make it work the way you want it to, and these are usually paid-for by the year (otherwise you don't get support and you may well need it). You also now need to pay to use the Mijireh service to make sure your site is compliant in the way it legally needs to be concerning the personal and credit card details of your customers (PCI compliance).

In addition, in my own experience of setting up WooCommerce for clients, adding extras can make it a little unstable and I've had annoying instances of conflicts that I've had some difficulties in managing to smooth out, and that have required a lot of interaction with support. To me, this seems like a lot of extra technicality and worry you can probably do without and I would seriously consider, if the margins will work for you, using an all-in-one service such as Shopify if you want a proper webstore.

That said, the appeal of being independent may be a deal-breaker, in which case I'd say go with WooCommerce but make sure you follow up the yearly payments for any add-ons you may need as it's really worth having the support. And realise there will be extra costs involved.

Chapter 7 – Exploring themes

Page 90

When choosing a theme, today it's not an "option" that your theme works properly on mobile - it absolutely has to be "responsive." All modern themes are now responsive. But if you're choosing a theme that's been around a while, you'll want to check.

Something new that's come along since I wrote the book is the increasingly available option to rearrange things on your WordPress pages so that your layout is exactly as you want it to be. If you're new to WordPress you may think it an obvious requirement, but until very recently you were constrained in your page layout to what the developers had decided.

There are a number of different add-ons that developers use to enable this facility so you won't always find it described in the same way. Often you'll see "Visual Composer" mentioned as this is more and more in use. Another term you'll see is "drag and drop interface." It's important to read the blurb carefully to make sure you'll be able to do exactly what you want to with the layout. If in doubt, ask, and don't assume anything.

A very new feature you may come across is something called "front-end editing" which is bound to increase in use - this is a way in which you can make changes to your site from the public side of your website, without having to to go the admin area to make the smallest tweak. This is available (called ("Visual Page Builder") with the very popular and highly customisable theme "Divi" by Elegant themes.

All these changes mean WordPress is becoming more and more customisable which can only be a wonderful step forward, but it does also make the whole thing more complicated for the beginner.

Page 92

Some of these theme makers are no longer in action. The following are now defunct (or seem to be): wordpressthemesbase.com, www.wpskins.org, www.wptemplates.org, shakenandstirredweb.com, skinpress.com. Obox themes are at oboxthemes.com.

To this list we need to add Creative Market (https://creativemarket.com), and for those who are looking for the more feminine blogger/craft-maker look, Angie Makes (http://angiemakes.com) and BluChic (http://www.bluchic.com); WP Explorer (http://www.wpexplorer.com) is a curated collection of themes, mostly of a nice, minimal style, some of which are their own.

Things have changed and today I would recommend you start your seach in this order rather than going through all the theme-makers I list in the book:

If you want a free theme, go straight to the WordPress Free Themes Directory (https://wordpress.org/themes/) rather than going to the individual sites, which would take you much longer.

For premium themes, first go to Themeforest and Creative Market (because many of the individual makers sell their themes there).  Then check out Elegant Themes ("Divi"), Themetrust, StudioPress, Organic Themes, Graph Paper Press and Dessign (the latter two are specifically for themes for creatives).

Or if you want one of the more feminine-style themes check out Angie Makes and BluChic straight away, followed by Creative Market.

Pages 94 onwards

Out of the themes I've chosen as examples here many are no longer available. We also see a change in design in that there is this wide-ranging movement towards larger images.

Out of the "flagship" themes I chose for each category, neither the business theme I chose nor the portfolio theme are available; the theme-makers have naturally moved on towards more up-to-date designs. The Structure theme, which I chose as an example of a magazine theme, is now only available only as a paid-for theme. Only Mystile (online store) is available still as a free theme.

Chapter 8 – In focus

Free business theme, page 102

As I've said, the Pagelines theme is no longer available. There are now many, many more wonderful-looking free business themes available now than there were when I wrote the book and you can easily find many brilliant options. I actually had a hard time finding a really good one that was free at the time, and now there are loads. More are being created daily and added to the collection, as WordPress has become a standard for all types of site, rather than being used primarily for blogs.

When looking for a free theme, you can look inside your Appearance > Themes area (click the “Add New” button at the top as this will let you access the directory).  Below we can see the results of a search I did for “business.”

Once you’ve identified themes that look interesting by looking at the thumbnails, open up the WordPress free themes directory in a new tab (https://wordpress.org/themes/) and search each theme by name. This way you can, in most cases, access the “Theme homepage” for each theme and from there, see a demo version of the site as it could look when fully customised. The “Preview” look that you’re given from within the Appearance > Themes area will just show you how the theme would look at its most basic, but these days with themes offering more and more customisation options, this doesn’t show you the theme as it’s really designed to look, so you need to see the demo in order to understand what you can potentially do with the theme.

Free portfolio theme, page 109

Unfortunately the lovely Visual theme is no longer available. But there are many other slick-looking modern and minimal themes available on the Dessign.net website. If you go to this page: https://dessign.net/category/premium/ you'll see many free options available, mixed in with the premium themes.

Free magazine theme, page 114

Sadly, the free version of the Structure theme is no longer available, only the premium version. This theme has entirely stood the test of time and is still one of Organic Themes’ most popular themes, only now you have to pay to use it.

There are dozens of other beautiful free magazine-style themes available however, which you’ll see if you search the free theme directory (Click “Add New” within the Appearance > Themes are and type “magazine”.

Free e-commerce theme, page 120

Mystile is still available and it still looks good. You might want to look at Storefront (https://www.woothemes.com/storefront/) which is now WooThemes’ basic webstore theme, but to get it looking as good as their demo with the really modern full-screen image or video at the top, you’d have to add a paid-for extension.

Chapter 9 – Your live site

Growing your audience

Page 129, point 2

In the book I don’t mention Pinterest or the phenomenon that Instagram has become. Both of these are brilliant for marketing – of course, depending what you are doing or selling. There is no obligation to use these social media, of course not, but it could be that your niche suits them perfectly. If what you do is at all photogenic, do consider them; for ideas, see what others in your niche are up to.  (You can also create graphics of slogans or quotations and use these on Instagram.)

Point 3 – Facebook ads are vastly effective and are a very commonly used advertising tool.  Instagram now also takes ads, since very recently, so if you think it could suit what you are doing, it could be worth a look.

Page 130

I could add a point 9 in this section, which would be “Add a blog to your site.” (I actually wrote about this subject in the next section about how to keep your audience interested, but it is also a good way of growing your audience, not only keeping your existing audience tuned in.) I’m a massive believer in adding a blog, even if yours is a serious business site, for many reasons – and if you look around the web, you won’t see that many busy or successful sites that don’t have a blog attached. One very powerful reason is that a blog gives you scope to add relevant material to your site and this gives it value in Google’s eyes, meaning your site will get a better ranking. I’ve written a blog post about all the good reasons for blogging on your site so if you need more convincing, hop over here and have a read (http://www.alannahmoore.com/why-add-a-blog-to-your-website/).

Maintaining relationships with your visitors

Page 132

There are a few resources worth knowing about in the context of email mailing lists.

Your email service provider will provide you with a signup form that you can put on your site, but these aren’t generally very nice looking.  Some ways of getting nicer signup forms on your site, and generally increasing your signup rate, are:

SumoMe (https://sumome.com/) – these people provide all kinds of brilliant tools to increase your signups and make your website more effective in general. You can set up a pop-up signup box that appears when it looks as though your site visitor is about to leave, or you can have one appear as they scroll down to towards the bottom of your site. Another tool is a strip across the very top of your website with a call to action or a newsletter signup form in it (you’re bound to have seen these all over the web), another is a “welcome mat” – a signup form that appears over the entire screen for new visitors, once-only, that is hugely successful in raising signup rates. You really must look at what they offer – many of the tools are entirely free and are very widely used.

Popup Ally (https://wordpress.org/plugins/popupally/ – you can add the free version straight from your admin area – or http://ambitionally.com/popupally-pro/) – this plugin, which comes with free and premium versions, can provide you with nicer-looking signup forms than the rather bare ones offered by the mailing list companies, including one that fits into a strip right aross your page which is very much in vogue at the moment (most usually positioned right underneath a large full-width image at the top of the site; you only get this with the premium version but there are many others forms available with the free one). They can also provide you with popups that you can configure to be “polite” – that is, not annoy the hell out of your website visitors. (Popups, although they get very bad press, are massively effective.)

Bloom (http://www.elegantthemes.com/plugins/bloom/) – a premium plugin (by Elegant Themes, but you don’t have to be using a theme by them to use the plugin) that provides very nice-looking signup forms and popups, and is easier to configure than the option above (I actually prefer it, though you don’t get a “design-from-scratch” option, nor the full-width form).

I also want to mention Leadpages here (http://www.leadpages.net/; alternatives are Instapage https://instapage.com/ or Unbounce http://unbounce.com/). These are actually landing page services that you can use to grow your list, launch products or advertise webinars. They aren't free, but if list building is a serious aim of yours, you should look into them. They allow you to put links on your website that launch a signup box, and these are extremely effective. (You may yourself have signed up to receive book updates from my website via a form like the one pictured below.)

leadpages

Page 131-2

Here in the book I talk about sending out blog posts automatically using the Jetpack Subscribe widget or the Subscribe2 plugin.

It is very easy indeed to let your subscribers sign up to receive blog posts this way – you don’t have to do anything and they will just receive the blog posts! How effortless! – though there are a couple of drawbacks. One is that with Jetpack Subscribe, your readers will receive emails with “WordPress” written all over them, instead of your own branding. You might be ok with this if branding isn’t a big deal for you. But a very serious disadvantage is that you don’t have their permission to email them outside the agreement to send them blog posts, and you really do want to have permission to mail them whatever information you want – that’s the whole point of getting their email addresses.

A better way of letting your readers receive your blog posts automatically is to use a mailing list manager like Aweber or MailChimp instead (as per the newsletter section on the previous pages), and set it up so that the subscribers receive your blog posts by email (or links to them) whenever you post to the blog without you having to do anything at all. This way you also have the option of mailing these individuals outside of the blog, supposing you ever want to set up a proper newsletter or email them about any offers you may have, as they have given you permission to contact them.

In a nutshell, I’d always go with setting up an email list rather than simply working with a blog subscribe feature, even if at this stage all you want to do is let your readers receive your blog posts.

Another thing I’d add here is that it is common practice to give your website visitors an incentive – or several incentives – to sign up to your list. That is, a video, a guide, a checklist, or whatever it is that you think they might value. Your free giveaway material needs to be really good as free giveaways are everywhere on the web these days – as you are of course well aware. (By the way, you set it up so that your subscribers receive an email letting them know how to download or otherwise obtain their free gift, so you don’t have to mail anything out to them manually, unless of course you want to.)

Search Engine Optimization

Page 140

As I've said above, WordPress SEO by Yoast is the preferred plugin now for your SEO needs.  The interface does look completely different, but the principle is identical – you set page titles and descriptions for each of your pages or posts, and in addition, as I explained, the plugin helps you see how well-adapted your page is to your target keywords for that page, which is really useful (see the screenshot below).

I also mentioned, but I want to note it again to make sure you don’t waste time looking for a similar field within the Yoast plugin, that now there is no longer any use for “meta keywords” (which are just referred to as keywords and phrases in the book).  So don’t search for where you’re meant to put them in within the plugin – just forget them. (Step 5 on page 140.)

yoast

Integrating social media with your website

I didn’t talk about Instagram in the book as I think it was new at that point and hadn’t yet taken off into the hugely important social media platform that it is today. As I said, Instagram may not be for you, but if you do anything photogenic, you may be missing out if you don’t dive into it. Even businesses that don’t necessarily lend themselves to imagery have found they can create graphics using slogans and quotations which means they can be present and create a following there as well. Over to you if this could be something good for your business.

Note that you can only include ONE clickable link in Instagram, and that’s in your profile. What users normally do is post images referring to a particular blog post, recipe, product, or whatever it is, and say in the comments that there is a link to that information in the profile. They then change the link in the profile to the relevant direct link that goes to whatever it is that is talked about in the latest post. And they keep changing it as they post new images that point to their latest website content.

There are loads of plugins that allow you to display your Instagram feed on your website, WP Instagram Widget being one of them. If Instagram is important for you, you can play around and compare how the different widgets display your feed on your site, or do a Google search for "best Instagram widget for WordPress" and consult the most recent articles that come up.

Page 144

In the book I listed Rebelmouse as a social media aggregator but it doesn't seem to have really taken off, so I wouldn't bother investigating.

Page 145

These days your theme will probably have social media profile buttons incorporated into it, but if it doesn't, you can easily use the Jetpack tool. If you want to create buttons for your sidebar that match your theme's colour scheme, try Simple Social Icons by StudioPress (install as usual via the Plugins area of your admin).

As mentioned, for a strip of buttons at the side of your web page that allow people to share your content via their own social networks, the wonderful SumoMe (mentioned above, https://sumome.com/ - pictured in the screenshot) will do this for you.

Jetpack - I've already talked about the social media sharing features above, when talking about page 75 in Chapter 5: I prefer to use SumoMe for this.

Something you might find useful for your social media is the idea of scheduling your posts. This is a great time saver if you don't want to find yourself trying to promote your website on social media every day. Try Buffer (https://buffer.com) or Hootsuite (https://hootsuite.com), or the paid service MeetEdgar (https://meetedgar.com) that can recycle your content so you never appear to go "dead" when you're too busy to spend time posting to social media all the time. I think posting to social media this way is preferable that using the automatic "Publicise" feature of Jetpack, becuase you should really tailor your posts to whichever media you are posting to. (For example you can only post really short messages on Twitter and you need to use hashtags, whereas we don't commonly use these on Facebook and the messages are usually longer.)

Chapter 10 – Useful things to know

Legal issues

PCI compliance - As briefly mentioned earlier, PCI compliance is something you need to take into account if you're selling online. This is a complex issue; if you want to understand more about it, I advise you to do a Google search. In a nutshell, you now legally need to make sure your customers' personal details and credit card details remain in secure hands throughout the payment process. The way to make sure you do this when you're using WooCommerce is by using the third party service Mijireh (http://www.mijireh.com/woocommerce/).

EU VAT on downloadable goods - this is a real headache in that you now need to make sure your payment processor can take the required VAT amount for anything downloadable (ebooks, art, etc.) according to where the purchaser is based, not according to where you are based. This means it affects everybody! Try this plugin: WooCommerce EU VAT Compliance; https://wordpress.org/plugins/woocommerce-eu-vat-compliance/ or use the WooCommerce Taxamo extension (https://woocommerce.com/products/woocommerce-taxamo/); see this article for more explanation: (https://woocommerce.com/2014/12/handling-eu-vat-woocommerce/).

Maintaining your WordPress site

Page 149

I now recommend a different backup plugin, and that’s Updraft Plus (https://wordpress.org/plugins/updraftplus/; you can install as usual from your admin area), which lets you restore your website at the click of a button if you need to, and saves your backups automatically to Dropbox (you need to set it to do this – it’s of course a great idea, as you don’t want your only back up to be on your server, or your computer).

I can’t overestimate the importance of keeping your WordPress site up to date as hacks are more and more common these days, and one way you can help keep your site secure is by keeping everything (WordPress version, plugins, and theme) entirely up to date.

Given that security is such an issue today, a useful plugin to install is WordFence (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordfence/). This lets you know if your site has been attacked or infected. Should this ever happen to you, first ask your host for help, as they will most likely be able to give you advice, and may be able to restore the site to a previous version for you. If they can’t, and it turns out you need professional help, go to Upwork (https://www.upwork.com/), and seek out a hack repair specialist with a great reputation, who should be able to sort out the situation for you. It’s essential that you have a backup to provide the freelancer with, with so do get your Updraft Plus set up.

WordPress in other languages

Page 153 – Multilingual sites

Polylang (https://wordpress.org/plugins/polylang/) is a useful plugin to use for multi-language sites, easier to use than either of the others mentioned.

Adding functionality with plugins

Page 154

We should add to this list the fabulous SumoMe suite I keep talking about (https://sumome.com/).

Also note: WordPress SEO by Yoast instead of All in ONE SEO Pack Updraft Plus instead of BackupWordPress Polylang in addition to WPML and Qtranslate Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd my preferred "under construction" page tool (it lets you put a logo, etc, although the latter is perfectly functional, if a bit plain.)

There you go! There’s your most recent list of updates to the book.

If you find something else that really needs explaining, or correcting, please do let me know (http://www.alannahmoore.com/contact-3/) and I’ll be sure to add it into the next update list.  Thank you.

The best of luck with your website building.

Last updated on 31 January 2017 http://www.alannahmoore.com

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Updates to The Creative Person's Website Builder

The Creative Person's Website Builder came out three years ago, which is a long time in the world of the web.  It's time for a new update as there are many things that have changed since I wrote it. The first thing to say is that today, I wouldn't necessarily advise every creative person to go with WordPress.  WordPress was the brief for the book, as at the time it was the obvious choice for the creative who needed to get a self-built website up online.  Seeing as WordPress is now a significantly more complicated platform to build with, I'd now advise people to look at Squarespace, Dunked, Weebly, or Wix, and Big Cartel for those who want to sell online.  But if you want to remain entirely independent, and not reliant on any other company to keep your website up and online, WordPress, although more complicated now than it used to be, does remain your only option.

And of course, if as well as a creative type, you're also up for doing a fair bit of fiddling around on your computer and trying to work things out for yourself, well then WordPress won't pose you too much of a problem.

(I'm talking about self-hosted WordPress here, obviously - WordPress.com remains the only good choice for blogging that's hosted for you, today.)

Another thing to say is that design has changed in three years as well.  The emphasis is now very firmly on very large, full-width images.  That's not to say that the obvious portfolio layout has become redundant - not a bit of it, but you will now have the option of choosing a theme that displays your work at a very large size.  This will be a good thing for many kinds of artist.

Chapters 1-4 remain essentially the same.  There's no change in the way that WordPress is installed, and my words about website content and how to choose a theme are still entirely valid. One point is that it's now essential that your theme works well on mobile - it's not an "option."  But all modern themes will automatically be "responsive" these days, anyway.

Page 44 - ColorLabs now seems to be out of service. I'd add AngieMakes.com, a theme maker who caters to the "feminine" blogging market with some very nicely designed themes.

Chapter 6 - WordPress itself continues to work in the same way, fundamentally.  The themes now tend to have lots of different options, and since they all work slightly differently, you'll need to be sure to look at the documentation that comes with the theme.

One difference that's a major improvement is now that it's a lot easier to work with images and galleries, within WordPress as it comes, "out of the box."  This doesn't need any extra explanation.  As a successful design improvement should be, it's now pretty intuitive to add images and galleries; click on the image and then the pencil to edit images, once uploaded to the page.

Page 82 - I refer to the Twenty Thirteen theme being the default theme.  Now, it's obviously Twenty Seventeen that's the default theme.  You'll need to change or install the theme you want to use in exactly the same way as described in the book.

Pages 84-85 -  Talking about how to customize themes, there's something new and that's the fact that quite a number of themes today work with a system called "Visual Composer."  This is actually less the case for portfolio themes, but you may well come across some kind of system that allows you to drag and drop elements wherever you like within the page, thereby creating your own layout.  This may seem obvious to you if you're new to WordPress, but as more seasoned users will be only too aware, until recently, you were constrained in your page layout to what the developers had decided.  Now you increasingly have the possibility of deciding how to organise your content.

The most well-known example of a theme that works like this is the hugely popular Divi theme which works with Visual Composer and also has a "front-end editor," meaning that you can make quick changes to your pages without having to go right into the admin area (although you will need to do this most of the time when initially building the site).  You can upload a pre-made layout to Divi, which is a great development as it means you can get the benefit of some beautifully designed website layouts.  But unless you really love the challenge of working with something with a steep learning curve, or you're an experienced techie person, I'd think that the vast majority of creatives who need to build their own websites would be far better off with a theme that offers fewer choices.  Sometimes having to many options can lead you into confusion, and the right theme that is already pretty much exactly as you want it will be a far less time-consuming choice for a beginner.

Page 90 - I talk about the Jetpack gallery feature that allows you to jazz up the basic WordPress gallery, but most themes today offer a gallery that's styled by the developers, and portfolio themes will always have sleek ways of displaying your visuals.  That said, if you choose to use a very simple theme, perhaps if you're a creative blogger, you may find the Jetpack gallery comes in handy as a good way of displaying your gallery items.

Page 92 - Email Address Encoder is now the preferred email address protector. (You can install as usual from within the Plugins area of your admin.)

Yoast SEO is now the leader in search engine optimisation plugins.  It has a brilliant way of coding your pages red, amber or green according to how well they are optimised to a particular keyword that you specify.  This is really excellent.  (Though I caution against spending hours making sure every page on your site is "green" as I know many people do - it could be that word of mouth or local marketing is much more beneficial to you in terms of getting more business, so it's not necessarily a great idea to get too hung up on it.)

Page 94 - Again, most portfolio themes have ready-styled built in ways of displaying your artworks so you most likely won't need to add extra plugins.

To the plugins chapter, I would add MyBookTable, for authors - I'm using it myself, to list my books on my site, and group the different ways people can order the book into one single, tidier button.

Chapter 8 - You can still get the free Artworks theme here.  You will find other free themes by Dessign.net mixed in with the premium themes on this page.

Chapter 9 - If you don't want the complication of setting up with WooCommerce (today the only obvious choice for a WordPress e-commerce plugin), then you need to look at Gumroad.

WooCommerce involves all kinds of complications including extra plugins to make sure your site is PCI-compliant, and if you want support, you'll have to pay yearly to get it.  You may have the appetite for this kind of technicality, and the budget for the extra costs, and if so that's fine, it's a great way to run a webstore, but it's now more of a professional option than a DIY quick-set-up choice.

Enter Gumroad, specially built for creatives to be able to sell their products online - digital products such as films and ebooks, and real-life physical goods that you have to mail out, as well.  It pays you every two weeks on a Friday - no need to set up your own payment system - and is really a brilliant option!

If you want more of a store, then I advise adding a Big Cartel page to your site as a store page.  It can be customised in terms of colours and branding to more or less match your site and I've seen dozens of people using it really successfully.  Also, it's super simple to set up.

Chapter 10 - Of course, you can still use MyStile with WooCommerce, but I don't think it's the best option for most creatives who want to sell online.

Chapter 11 - Many themes now come with a built-in selection of Google fonts so you won't need to use a plugin to use them on your site.  Making your site look unique is now so much easier!

Very much worth stressing is the fact that free fonts you download to your compluter from places like DaFont.com will be accessible when you use an online image tool like Pixlr.com.  This means it's really easy to create entirely original site headers using unusual and striking fonts even if you don't use Photoshop.  (If you're a graphic designer, of course you've got all this handled, but not everyone has!)

You might want to look at these articles I've written on creating a logo using a generator, or making one yourself using lettering.

Since I wrote the book Canva.com has launched on the scene, which is a fantastic tool for non-designers to create brilliant graphics online that you can use for your website, or even for print (for example exhibition or performance flyers, or badges on your website to advertise events).  There are also some other graphic tools that are brilliant for creative bloggers who aren't necessarily Photoshop happy designers - see this article.

I've also recently started using the 1-1 Projects division of 99Designs for specific graphics needs, which needs a mention here as it's a really useful service. You can find good designers on Fiverr as well (not for a fiver though, obviously).

Chapter 12 - Of course, Google changes all the time without telling us what they're doing, in order to make sure the way they list sites isn't exploited, but one official, announced change in the way that Google works, since I wrote the book, is that keywords are no longer used.  I don't mean that you don't have to use keywords in your text. Not at all!  You must use keywords in your text.  But you no longer have the option of suggesting keywords that might be appropriate for Google to help it list your site. No more keywords hidden in the code of your page.  So, when you're using the Yoast SEO plugin, you'll see that there is no longer a field in which you type your keywords for each page.

Page 143 - You can now use Jetpack to create a sitemap for your site so that the search engines will index it correctly.

Page 144 - Facebook ads are the new way of advertising your website.  These are relatively easy to set up, and as with Google Adwords, you specify geographical locations and also quite a few other demographics of the people to whom you want the advert to appear; you can set a daily cap to make sure you don't overspend.  Instagram ads are a recent option as well (although I confess I have no experience of this myself).

Chapter 13 - Instagram is now a huge player, especially for people in the creative world, and it's also become a massive tool for driving online sales.

It's normal now for themes to come with a whole host of social media buttons built into them so you're less likely to need a plugin for this.  To display an Instagram feed on your site - a brilliant way of "microblogging" if you like, to show your audience what you're up to - you'll need to install a plugin such as WP Instagram Widget (there are many others you can try out as well, and customise in the way that you want).

Chapter 14 - Email mailing lists are still massively important, with MailChimp still being the service of choice for most of the smaller outfits that need a mailing list provider, due to the fact that it's free for up to 2,000 subscribers.

Note the advent of ConvertKit for bloggers since I wrote the book - an all-in-one mailing list/landing page system for bloggers to advertise their products and services.

Chapter 15 - A new EU ruling that you need to be aware of if you sell ebooks internationally is that you need to add VAT to your sales depending on which EU country the purchaser resides in.  This has been a massive headache for people concerned, and one that using Gumroad for your ebook sales entirely eliminates - they do it all for you.  Hooray for Gumroad.

Chapter 16 - I now recommend the Updraft Plus plugin for backing up your site.  You really must do backups, frequently, and save them carefully, as WordPress sites are getting hacked more and more often.  Don't worry if this happens to you - it most likely isn't a disaster if you have a recent backup; ask your host how you should proceed - they may in fact be able to do a restore for you themselves.

Page 166 - Polylang is a really good and simple to use plugin for multilingual websites.

Resources, page 168 - ODesk is now Upwork.comCanva.com needs to be added to the Graphics list. For logo design, Buildabrand is no longer in action; to this section we should add the 1-1 Projects division of 99Designs.

That's it for this time!  Good luck with your website.

Create Your Own Website the Easy Way

[et_pb_section bb_built="1"][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.77" background_layout="light" border_style="solid"] My new book is out!

This book is my favourite out of all my books.  It's written for anyone - individual, small business owner, artist, actor, film-maker, musician, writer, crafter, or whatever it is you do - who needs to get themselves up online.  The book is designed to show you that it needn't be hard, even if you're someone who's not used to this kind of thing and feeling challenged by the necessity to create your own website.  Tools exist today that mean it really needn't be difficult!

I guarantee that if you read this book it will reveal all kinds of things you had no idea about, and that you will come away realising that it really is within your reach.  It's full of examples of real, live self-built websites that show you exactly what you can achieve yourself, and I go into detail about working with images, creating graphics, where to get brilliant photos, how to set up an email list, how to sell online, how to connect to social media, how to prepare your site for the search engines - and pretty much everything you need to know to get your website to look and work as you want it to.

I think it's different from any other book out there on making your own website because it covers a variety of systems you can use.  It doesn't assume you want to use WordPress, for example - it gives you the information you need in order to choose what's going to work best for you.  The book does cover WordPress in some detail, showing you how the (quite complex) platform works, but there are many other systems you can use that are much easier and honestly look just as professional.  The book will help give you details about these so that you can make an informed decision.

You can see some page spreads from inside the book in the slider above.

If you want to find out more about the book, click this Amazon link (the link will automatically divert to the international version of Amazon you need, based on where you are) or see the book page on this site.

If you're in Paris or in London, you can get a copy from me directly, so get in touch with me here.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Create Your Own Website the Easy Way: DIY website-building resources

[et_pb_section bb_built="1"][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.77" background_layout="light" border_style="solid"] Here's a directory of the resources listed in Create Your Own Website the Easy Way.  I'll continue to add more as I come across new ones. I have not personally used all of these resources and I welcome your feedback, as well as other recommendations you may have.

The ones with an asterisk next to them are services are affiliate links, which means that I will receive a commission (at no extra cost to you) should you decide to purchase something when you click on the link. I have used all these ones myself, and have confidence in recommending them to you.

All-in-one (hosted) website-building systems

Strikingly* Wix* Weebly* Squarespace Shopify* (specifically for webstores) Big Cartel (specifically for webstores) About.me The Grid Supadupa

For musicians

Website builders, selling music online and digital distribution:

Bandzoogle ReverbNation Bandcamp

For photographers

Sites, storage, selling prints online:

SmugMug - store photos and create websites, with built-in online store for professionals. PhotoShelter 22Slides  Exposure - for “photo stories” rather than full-blown websites.

For creatives

Hosted online portfolio makers:

Dunked Format Carbonmade

WordPress

WordPress.com Self-hosted WordPress

Other blogging options

Blogger (Blogspot) Ghost Posthaven Medium

Domain name registration

NameCheap* GoDaddy* HostGator eNom 1&1 Hover Name.com

Tools to help you come up with a good domain name

Namemesh Domainr

Hosting companies (webhosts)

Bluehost (US)* Dreamhost (US)* Heart Internet (UK) WP Engine (international) SiteGround

Payment processors

PayPal Stripe Square 2Checkout Skrill Plus many others...

Selling online

Ecwid Spaces Square Gumroad

Good places to get WordPress themes

ThemeForest* Creative Market* Elegant Themes* - home of the very popular Divi theme. Organic Themes WooThemes WP Explorer Dessign ThemeTrust Graph Paper Press StudioPress Bluchic AngieMakes ColorLib WordPress free themes directory

Identifying WordPress themes

What WordPress theme is that?

Marketplaces/storefronts

Etsy Storenvy Bonanza Handmade at Amazon Ziibra Zibbet

Email that matches your domain

Google Apps for Work Zoho

Graphics tools

Pixlr Gimp Fotor ON1 Perfect Photo Suite Canva PicMonkey

Instagram tools (these can be used to make graphics for your website or Instagram)

Red Cact.us WordSwag A Beautiful Mess Made With Over

Infographics

Piktochart Easelly Infogr.am  Visme

Colour pickers

Color Picker Color Zilla Color Hunter Photocopa Adobe Color

Fonts

Google Fonts Typekit Font Squirrel  Creative Market* Font Pair (font combinations)

Online quote-makers

Make images from quotations:

Stencil  Pablo

Resources for making your own graphics

Creative Market* (patterns, mockups, styled stock photos, web elements) Etsy (search "web elements" or "brand pack") Subtle Patterns COLOURlovers InspirationHut IconFinder Noun Project

Stock photos

Shuttershock iStock  Fotolia Dreamstime Big Stock  Unsplash Pixabay Stocksnap Negative Space PicJumbo Death to Stock Gratisography Public Domain Archive Google Images LibreStock (search across several free stock photo providers at once - this seems to be down right at the moment but I'm hoping it will reappear as it's really useful)

Logo makers

Squarespace Logo  Withoomph Hipster Logo Generator  99designs Fiverr

Video

iMovie Windows Movie Maker

Audio

SoundCloud Audacity GarageBand Call Recorder for Skype Audio Hijack MP3 Skype Recorder Pamela

Podcast Hosting

Podbean PodOmatic Buzzsprout Spreaker Libsyn

Landing pages

Instapage Leadpages Unbounce

List-building and traffic building

SumoMe

Mailing list managers

Mailchimp AWeber Mad Mimi Convert Kit (email marketing for bloggers)

Online scheduling software

Allow customers to book their own appointments with you:

Calendly Vcita Time Trade  Appointy Acuity Scheduling

Live chat

Zopim Live Chat Inc. Click Desk Pure Chat Olark Spreaker Libsyn

Comments/discussion

Disqus

Forms

Wufoo Type Form Form Stack Google Forms

Events

Event Brite

Displaying videos

Huzzaz

Multi-lingual website builder

Voog

Social Media Tools

Buffer Hootsuite Edgar PostPlanner Click to Tweet Bitly (shortens links) Internet Marketing Ninjas (social media photo resizer)

Submitting to Search Engines

Google Bing

Advertising

Google AdWords Bing Ads Facebook Ads Twitter Ads LinkedIn Ads Instagram Ads

Customer Reviews

TripAdvisor Yelp Google Business Trustpilot

Stickers

StickerMule Moo

Online Competitions

Contest Domination

Webinars

Webinar Jam Webinars on Air Click Webinar Go to Meeting Webinar Ninja

Online Courses and Membership Sites

Teachable Zippy Courses Course Craft Kajabi Teachery

Digital Download Delivery

Send Owl e-Junkie Pulley App Sellfy Getdpd Fetch App

Order Fulfillment

Amazon Services Shipwire Rakuten

Tracking Traffic and Site Performance

Google Analytics SumoMe App Optimizely Google Search Console Bing Webmaster Tools

Plug-ins for self-hosted WordPress

These can be added directly from the Plugins section of your admin area. No need to download separately and upload.

UpdraftPlus Akismet Yoast SEO Contact Form 7 Jetpack Google Analytics Google XML Sitemaps Email Address Encoder Events Manager MailChimp List Subscriber Form PopupAlly Bloom (for attractive opt-in form signups, popup and embedded; can be used with any theme) WP Google Maps Coming Soon My Post Order NextGEN Gallery Sell Media Easy Digital Downloads Sensei WPML Polylang

Finding Professional Help

WordPress Support Forum WordPress FAQ Page WooCommerce Expert Squarespace Expert Wix Expert UpWork Freelancer WordPress developers

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Updates to Create Your Own Website Using WordPress In A Weekend

Note: this is not the most recent update list.  See here (January 2017).

It’s been almost three years since Create Your Own Website Using WordPress in a Weekend came out and inevitably there have been changes.  WordPress has developed and improved, some plugins have been replaced by other, better ones, and some of the themes I recommend are no longer available.

So here's your latest update list. I’ll go through the book chapter by chapter and let you know when there’s something different that you need to know about.  If you want to print this out, click here for a pdf version.

Adobe_PDF_file_icon_32x32

Chapter 2 - Your domain and hosting

Choosing a domain name

Page 15

There are a lot of new domain name extensions available which is great when trying to find a good domain name. It's so hard to find a good .com these days that hasn't been snatched up. Among the numerous new possibilities are .website, .online, .press, .agency, .boutique, .clothing, .fashion, .photography, .kitchen, .restaurant, .cafe, .design, .actor. And many of them are at extremely good prices per year as well. You don't have to go to a special website to register these new domain names - just go to Namecheap or Godaddy as usual and have some fun browsing around with what they've got.

Be ready to buy when you find your ideal domain name. I haven't had this happen, but I've had people tell me that they've found a domain name, waited a day or two and mysteriously found that it's since been grabbed - how this has happened we do not know as it's illegal behaviour for domain name registrars to snap up a name because they see it's being searched, but if you find your dream domain name, it's not worth risking losing it.

Choosing your hosting

Page 19

I have a few changes in hosting recommendations to pass on to you. Personally I prefer Bluehost now to DreamHost, which used to be my top recommendation. (I've come across some complaints about Bluehost from time to time, but personally I've always had good service from them and am happy to recommend them.) Siteground is often recommended so you might alternatively want to have a look at them. In the book I didn't recommend WP Engine as they are significantly more expensive than any of the other hosts, however I've heard reports that their customer service is really incredible and that it's worth going with them for that alone. So if you think you might need quite a bit of handholding, and might want to ask rather more far-reaching questions than those strictly concerning hosting, WP Engine might be the hosting company for you.

In addition, apparently Google now prefers people to host their websites locally to where they are based, which is a new consideration since the book was published. Your best bet is to ask around for recommendations and then Google those hosting companies to check reviews. As well as good reviews, you want to look for an excellent uptime record, unlimited storage, the possibility to host unlimited domain names, unlimited databases, and unlimited bandwidth. Either live chat or telephone support is a must - you don't want to wait 24 hours for an email reply if your site goes down.

For those in the UK, I recommend Heart Internet.

Linking your domain and your hosting

Page 20

The Namecheap interface has changed since the book was published. In essence, you do exactly the same - you paste the nameservers your hosting company has given you into the blank fields in the nameserver area (DNS) of your registrar's website. Here's a screenshot of how the Namecheap interface now looks, and if you want to check you're doing exactly the right thing, see this article.

namecheap

Page 21 - How to point a domain to a website

Pointing another domain to your main website, within Namecheap, is now much easier. Go to your list of domains, click "Manage" next to the domain you want to point, and you'll see a "redirect domain" section, as shown.

namecheap2

Chapter 3 - Planning your website

Finding and using images

Page 30 - Some good places to get stock photos for use on your site

There are many more good places than this, including the wonderfully useful Librestock that lets you search 43 free stock photo libraries at once.  See here for an article in which I list lots of other places.

Page 31 - If you want to get a logo made...

Buildabrand is unfortunately no longer in action.  Here are some good alternatives:

With Oomph Squarespace Logo Generator Hipster Logo Generator.

I have also become a huge fan of the "1-1 Projects" service of 99Designs. You can get a logo designed here without undergoing the whole competition element that was the original idea of 99Designs, and once you find a designer you like, you can get everything else you may need designed by them as well (business cards, other printed stuff, ebooks - whatever else you might need) at a really reasonable cost.

I wrote a blog post here on how to create a logo yourself using an interesting font - for many people, this is all that you need, and it can look brilliant, as shown by this screenshot and the examples on that blog post.  All you need to do is choose a font that suits your style and you're away.  (You can get fonts at Creative Market - see below.)

I'd like to say some more here on the subject of graphics for websites in general.

First of all, since I wrote the book, a wonderful tool now exists that you absolutely need to know about as it's just perfect for the do-it-yourself website builder, and that's Canva. Whether it's large pictures for your blog (that are ideal for your website visitors to pin on Pinterest or share on social media) or graphics for your sidebar, it's fantastically easy to use and what's even better for people who aren't brilliant with the design side of things, it has hundreds of ready-made, stylish-looking templates that you can just take and customise for your own purposes. You can see in the screenshot below some of the templates that are provided for you as starting-off points.

(https://www.canva.com)

As well as graphics for your website, Canva can also produce images you can use on social media (all pre-sized to exactly the dimensions you need) and can even create ebooks, if you have needs in that direction, or material you can take off to print (brochures, posters, etc.).

PicMonkey is another tool that you may find invaluable in creating graphics for your website - many people like to use Canva for some things, and PicMonkey for others. Picmonkey has some great textures and background (chalkboard for example) and you can create collages with round corners for each image if you want to. You can't use your own fonts with the free version of Canva, whereas with PicMonkey you can access all the fonts on your computer.

(http://www.picmonkey.com)

Another idea for creating square graphics for your website is to use one of the apps that are created for Instagram.  You can create the graphics with your phone and email them to yourself, then you can upload them to your website from your computer.  Examples of apps that are good for this are Over, Typorama, A Beautiful Mess, Instaquote and WordSwag.  Of course, you choose a style that suits the kind of website you are creating.  They are great for sidebar images that direct the visitor to different areas of your website, or for putting in a row across your home page, for example (lots of themes provide a space where you can add three or four images for different products or services you provide).

Creative Market is a brilliant place to get patterns, illustrations and other graphic elements for your website. You can also get fonts, which you can download to your computer and use via either Pixlr or PicMonkey, images especially created for social media posts, and design elements (buttons and other graphics) you can use to add some individual flavour to your site.

https://creativemarket.com

You can also find a lot of ready-made "kits" to be used on websites on Etsy. Search "branding kit" or "web graphics." These are often of a particular "look" that's very much in vogue at the moment, and if this is what you're looking for, you may have found the perfect source of graphics for your website.

Chapter 5 - Step-by-step: creating a basic model website

Obviously, since the book was written, the default theme has changed several times.  In order to follow the tutorial, you'll have to use the Twenty Twelve theme.

Twenty Twelve was the default theme when the book was published, so readers would find it ready installed the moment they set up WordPress.  Now that it is no longer the default theme, you need to install and switch to the Twenty Twelve theme.  It’s really important that you do do this as you won’t be able to follow the tutorial otherwise - all themes, even default themes, work a little differently and my instructions won’t make sense. But it's entirely easy to do.

Go to Appearance > Themes.  Click the grey “Add New” button right at the top of the page.  Type “Twenty Twelve” in the ‘Search themes” search box.  When you see the Twenty Twelve theme, mouse over the picture of it, then click the blue install button, as shown below.  Click “Activate” when it’s installed.  You can now follow the tutorial.

twenty-twelve

Since I wrote the book, the version of WordPress has obviously changed, as well as the default theme.  The interface looks different - more modern (for example, the side navigation is black, as you can see above and in your own interface) but functions in basically the same way with a few tweaks that have improved usability. The major difference in terms of using it is that it is now miles easier to work with images.  You can resize them right inside the editing area just by dragging the corners (as shown below), and easily add to and rearrange galleries (as you can see in the lower image below).  Where once it was a bit fiddly, it really is easy now.

images

You can easily add images to galleries and rearrange them in the more recent version of WordPress.

Page 78 - I used to recommend All in One SEO Pack as the preferred choice to prepare your pages for the search engines.  There is now a consensus that WordPress SEO by Yoast is better - it apparently has less of an impact on site speed (though personally I have no proof of that). The Yoast plugin has a different interface (you can see a screenshot below where I talk about Chapter 9), but the essence is the same - you choose a title and a description for all the pages of your site. So, don't use All in One SEO Pack, use WordPress SEO by Yoast instead.

Note that it is now not necessary to add keywords ("meta keywords") to your pages for SEO purposes - of course these should be in the actual text of your page, but you don't need to add them individually into any area of the interface so that they are present in the code of your web page, as we did before. Google declared a little while ago that it no longer goes by these, so this is one step you can leave out.

An additional feature that Yoast has that is really useful for optimising your pages for the search engines is its red, amber and green trafic-light system. Following the prompts, you can adjust your title, page text, and so on, in order to get the "green" status for each of your pages and blog posts, which indicates that you have done as much as you possibly can to achieve optimisation for each page.

You can find a tour around the Yoast plugin if you go to the "SEO" section that appears within your navigation once you've installed it, and if you want to go further, you can read their very detailed article about optimisation here: https://yoast.com/wordpress-seo/.

The information contained here is extremely detailed and my advice would be not to get too hung up about it while you are creating your website, but to come back to it afterwards.

Reading the section on Search Engine Optimisation in Chapter 9 of the book will give you the broad outline of what you need to know while you're building your site - and it's important that you do read it before you do your building as it will explain to you the importance of the wording on the site pages, the way you label your images, the titles you give to the pages, and so on, which you won't want to re-do.  Once you are armed with this knowledge, I advise you to complete the site to your liking and get it live, and only at that point dive further into SEO and carry out whatever tweaks may be necessary. Otherwise you risk getting caught up in details and having overwhelm take over before your site is even live.

Chapter 8 - In focus

Free business theme, page 102

The Pagelines theme I chose for the book as an example of a good, free business theme is no longer available. But times have changed! This theme would now look totally outdated if we chose it today. There are now many, many more wonderful-looking free business themes available than there were when I wrote the book. More are being created daily and added to the collection, as WordPress has become a standard for all types of site, rather than being used primarily for blogs.

When looking for a free theme, you can look inside your Appearance > Themes area (click the "Add New" button at the top as this will let you access the directory).  Below we can see the results of a search I did for "business."

business themes

Once you've identified themes that look interesting by looking at the thumbnails, open up the WordPress free themes directory in a new tab (https://wordpress.org/themes/) and search each theme by name. This way you can, in most cases, access the "Theme homepage" for each theme and from there, see a demo version of the site as it could look when fully customised. The "Preview" look that you're given from within the Appearance > Themes area will just show you how the theme would look at its most basic, but these days with themes offering more and more customisation options, this doesn't show you the theme as it's really designed to look, so you need to see the demo in order to understand what you can potentially do with the theme.

Free portfolio theme, page 109

The Visual theme is still available and it still looks great. Understated and arty, it's perfect for artists and designers who want a very minimal look. (By the way I love the themes created by Dessign.  While you're on their site, I think it's really worth having a browse around.)

Free magazine theme, page 114

Sadly, the free version of the Structure theme is no longer available, only the premium version. This theme has entirely stood the test of time and is still one of Organic Themes' most popular themes, only now you have to pay to use it.

There are dozens of other beautiful free magazine-style themes available, which you'll see if you search the free theme directory (Click "Add New" within the Appearance > Themes are and type "magazine".

Free e-commerce theme, page 120

Mystile is still available and it still looks good. You might want to look at Storefront (https://www.woothemes.com/storefront/) which is now WooThemes' basic webstore theme, but to get it looking as good as their demo with the really modern full-screen image or video at the top, you'd have to add a paid-for extension.

Chapter 9 - Your live site

Growing your audience

Page 129, point 2

In the book I don't mention Pinterest or the phenomenon that Instagram has become. Both of these are brilliant for marketing - of course, depending what you are doing or selling. There is no obligation to use these social media, of course not, but it could be that your niche suits them perfectly. If what you do is at all photogenic, do consider them; for ideas, see what others in your niche are up to.  (You can also create graphics of slogans or quotations and use these on Instagram.)

Point 3 - Facebook ads are vastly effective.  Instagram now also takes ads, since very recently, so if you think it could suit what you are doing, it could be worth a look.

Page 130

I could add a point 9 in this section, which would be "Add a blog to your site." (I actually wrote about this subject in the next section but it is also a good way of growing your audience, not only keeping your existing audience tuned in.) I'm a massive believer in adding a blog, even if yours is a serious business site, for many reasons - and if you look around the web, you won't see that many busy or successful sites that don't have a blog attached. One very powerful reason is that a blog gives you scope to add relevant material to your site and this gives it value in Google's eyes, meaning your site will get a better ranking. I've written a blog post about all the good reasons for blogging on your site so if you need more convincing, hop over here and have a read.

Maintaining relationships with your visitors

Page 132

There are a few resources worth knowing about in the context of email mailing lists.

Your email service provider will provide you with a signup form that you can put on your site, but these aren't generally very nice looking.  Some ways of getting nicer signup forms on your site, and generally increasing your signup rate, are:

Popup Ally (https://wordpress.org/plugins/popupally/ - you can add the free version straight from your admin area - or http://ambitionally.com/popupally-pro/) - this plugin, which comes with free and premium versions, can provide you with nicer-looking signup forms, including one that fits into a strip right aross your page which is very much in vogue at the moment (most usually positioned right underneath a large full-width image at the top of the site; you only get this with the premium version but there are many others forms available with the free one). They can also provide you with popups that you can configure to be "polite" - that is, not annoy the hell out of your website visitors. (Popups, although they get very bad press, are massively effective.)

Bloom (http://www.elegantthemes.com/plugins/bloom/) - a premium plugin (by Elegant Themes, but you don't have to be using a theme by them to use the plugin) that provides very nice-looking signup forms and popups, and is easier to configure than the option above (I actually prefer it, though you don't get a "design-from-scratch" option, nor the full-width form).

SumoMe (https://sumome.com/) - these people provide all kinds of brilliant tools to increase your signups and make your website more effective in general. One is a strip across the very top of your website with a call to action or a newsletter signup form in it (you're bound to have seen these all over the web), another is a popup, or a "welcome mat" - a signup form that appears over the entire screen for new visitors, once-only, that is hugely successful in raising signup rates. You really must look at what they offer - many of the tools are entirely free and are very widely used.

I also want to mention Leadpages here (http://www.leadpages.net/; alternatives are Instapage https://instapage.com/ or Unbounce http://unbounce.com/). This is actually a landing page service, that you can use to grow your list, launch products or advertise webinars. It isn't free, but if list building is a serious aim of yours, you should look into it. They allow you to put links on your website that launch a signup box, and these are extremely effective. (You may yourself have signed up to receive book updates via a form like the one pictured below.)

leadpages

Page 131-2

Here I talk about sending out blog posts automatically using the Jetpack Subscribe widget or the Subscribe2 plugin.

It is very easy indeed to let your subscribers sign up to receive blog posts this way - you don't have to do anything and they will just receive the blog posts! How effortless! - though there are a couple of drawbacks. One is that with Jetpack Subscribe, your readers will receive emails with "WordPress" written all over them, instead of your own branding. You might be ok with this if branding isn't a big deal for you. But a very serious disadvantage is that you don't have their permission to email them outside the agreement to send them blog posts, and you really do want to have permission to mail them whatever information you want - that's the whole point of getting their email addresses.

A better way of letting your readers receive your blog posts automatically is to set up an account with Aweber or MailChimp instead, because that way you can get emails sent out whenever you post to the blog (or however you choose to set it up) without you having to do anything at all, but you also have the option of mailing these individuals outside of the blog, supposing you ever want to set up a proper newsletter or email them about any offers you may have, as they have given you permission to contact them.

In a nutshell, I'd always go with setting up an email list rather than simply working with a blog subscribe feature, even if at this stage all you want to do is let your readers receive your blog posts.

Another thing I'd add here is that it is common practice to give your website visitors an incentive - or several incentives - to sign up to your list. That is, a video, a guide, a checklist, or whatever it is that you think they might value. Your free giveaway material needs to be really good as free giveaways are everywhere on the web these days - as you are of course well aware. (You can set it up so that your subscribers receive an email letting them know how to download or otherwise obtain their free gift, so you don't have to do anything manually.)

Search Engine Optimization

Page 140

As I said above, WordPress SEO by Yoast is the preferred plugin now for your SEO needs.  The interface does look completely different, but the principle is identical - you set page titles and descriptions for each of your pages or posts, and in addition, as I explained, the plugin helps you see how well-adapted your page is to your target keywords for that page, which is really useful (see the screenshot below).

I also mentioned, but I want to note it again to make sure you don't waste time looking for a similar field within the Yoast plugin, that now there is no longer any use for "meta keywords" (which are just referred to as keywords and phrases in the book).  So don't search for where you're meant to put them in within the plugin - just forget them.

yoast

Integrating social media with your website

I didn't talk about Instagram in the book as I think it was new at that point and hadn't yet taken off into the hugely important social media platform that it is today. As I said, Instagram may not be for you, but if you do anything photogenic, you may be missing out if you don't dive into it. Even businesses that don't necessarily lend themselves to imagery have found they can create graphics using slogans and quotations which means they can be present and create a following there as well. Over to you if this could be something good for your business.

Note that you can only include ONE clickable link in Instagram, and that's in your profile. What users normally do is post images referring to a particular blog post, recipe, product, or whatever it is, and say in the comments that there is a link to that information in the profile. They then change the link in the profile to the relevant direct link that goes to whatever it is that is talked about in the latest post.

You can only post to Instagram via your mobile; there are loads of plugins that allow you to display your Instagram feed on your website.

Chapter 10 - Useful things to know

Maintaining your WordPress site

Page 149

I now recommend a different backup plugin, and that's Updraft Plus (you can install as usual from your admin area), which lets you restore your website at the click of a button if you need to, and saves your backups automatically to Dropbox (you need to set it to do this - it's of course a great idea, as you don't want your only back up to be on your server, or your computer).

I can't overestimate the importance of keeping your WordPress site up to date as hacks are more and more common these days, and one way you can help keep your site secure is by keeping everything (WordPress version, plugins, and theme) entirely up to date.

Given that security is such an issue today, a useful plugin to install is WordFence. This lets you know if your site has been attacked or infected. Should this ever happen to you, first ask your host for help, as they will give you advice, and may be able to restore the site to a previous version for you. If they can't, and it turns out you need professional help, go to Upwork (https://www.upwork.com/), and seek out a hack repair specialist with a great reputation, who should be able to sort out the situation for you. It's essential that you have a backup to provide the freelancer with, with so do get your Updraft Plus set up.

WordPress in other languages

Page 153 - Multilingual sites

Polylang is a useful plugin to use for multi-language sites, easier to use than either of the others mentioned.

Adding functionality with plugins

Page 154

I should add to this list the fabulous Sumo Me suite I talked about a little earlier (https://sumome.com/).

Also note: WordPress SEO by Yoast instead of All in ONE SEO Pack Updraft Plus instead of BackupWordPress Polylang in addition to WPML and Qtranslate Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd is a better tool than underConstruction (it lets you put a logo, etc, although the latter is perfectly functional, if a bit plain.)

There you go! There's your list of updates to the book.

If you find something else that really needs explaining, or correcting, please do let me know and I'll be sure to add it into the next update list, or if it's urgent, I'll add it here.  Thanks!

The best of luck with your website building.

Last updated on 6 April 2016

Save

What makes a good website?

What makes a good website?  This is something I thought about a lot while writing Create Your Own Website The Easy Way, and I sounded out my friends on their opinions as well. My friend Elizabeth Milovidov of Digital Parenting Coach (whose self-built website is featured in the book) gave me this brilliant answer, which of course I put into the book, and I want to quote here:

"A good website is one where your particular tribe or target audience gets what you are trying to say and appreciates the manner in which you say it, and they come back to you again and again because you are a trusted friend.

A good website is your digital face, a friendly handshake, a warm hug, a kick in the pants, a glass of wine, a cup of great coffee.

A good website may need a bit of tweaking, a bit of polish, so don't think that once it's done, it's done.  You can come back to it in a year and see what still works or what doesn't work so that as you evolve or your business evolves, your website evolves to reflect that change."

A good website is a kick in the pants.  I love that!

A good website has to look right, engage its audience, and carry out the purpose for which you created it.

What do you think makes a good website?

Wix - the easy way to get yourself a great website?

The other day I had a session with a very, very nice, enterprising and inspired lady for whom I designed a WordPress website back in 2009.  Of course, that site badly needs updating as six years is a very long time in the world of the web.  In fact, it needs a complete rebuild, not just an update, as the theme I built won’t work with the latest version of WordPress as it’s changed so much, for example, they didn’t even have proper menus in WordPress back in 2009!  Not to mention the fact that the site design looks antiquated by this stage.  So this site badly needs re-doing - it’s a  big job, and it turns out the client just doesn’t have the budget to get it done, although I offer her the simplest and least-involved options available. But I realise something.  She hasn’t been really using the old site much anyway.  The blog posts are years old and she hasn’t added anything new in ages.  All her activity happens on Facebook, which she posts to prolifically and has quite a following.  Why hasn’t she been using her blog?  It turns out she doesn’t feel comfortable in WordPress anyway.  It’s just that little bit too complicated for her to want to post to regularly.

This lady is the ideal example of a client to whom I recommend Wix.  If WordPress is too daunting a prospect - and the whole point of using WordPress is to be able to take charge yourself and post as often as you like - then Wix may be your answer.  My client was at first resistant, saying she liked the look of her existing website too much to want to change.  However, in Wix, you can design a site to look exactly as you want it to (which you actually can’t in WordPress - that is, if you’re not a developer).

So is Wix the easy answer if WordPress is just that one bit too involved for you?  Yes, I think it is a really good answer for many people.  My clients come to me assuming I will recommend a WordPress site to them just because everyone's talking about it - but honestly, WordPress isn’t for everyone.  (See my blog post about that here.)

wix

Here’s the lowdown on building a site in Wix.

  • You either start with a blank canvas (which is what I did in the end for this client, and recreated the look of her old site), or one of their really good looking templates.
  • You add your own images and text.
  • You add a blog if you want to.
  • You hook up with social media using one of their free plugins.
  • You add a signup form for your opt-in list.
  • You can add a shop with their own easy-to-use e-commerce system, or integrate Shopify or Ecwid if that’s what you prefer.
  • When you’re ready, you switch your domain name over so that it shows your new Wix site, following their instructions.
  • Wix is a “hosted” system, which means you don’t need to worry about hosting, or upgrading, or anything like that, so it immediately removes that stress.  You’ll want to get a paid-for package so that your site doesn’t display ads - you really don’t want that.  But the packages are very reasonable, about $8 for the lowest monthly package that allows you to add your own domain and remove the ads.

There are a few downsides, of course, to using Wix.

  • The disadvantage of your site being hosted by someone else is that you are dependent on their system.
  • If you ever decide to change your platform, you can’t export your site (or blog) content - you’ll have to copy it manually and rebuild it all from scratch.  For this reason, if you want to build a site with a large number of pages or if you plan to blog prolifically, I don’t recommend Wix as the best solution for for you.  (What you could do is run a WordPress.com site on a subdomain of your domain - your blog won’t be integrated, but it may be a good answer for you as it's still simpler than running your own site on self-hosted WordPress.  They have clear instructions on how you can do this.)
  • Another drawback is that if you want to change the design of your site, you have to rebuild the site in its entirety - you can’t just switch themes.  I don’t think this is a major disadvantage though, if your site isn’t huge.  (In fact, changing themes in WordPress is not usually just a simple matter of switching over - if your theme, or your site, has any complexity, there is always a lot of work to do to get it looking right and working correctly.)

So, in a nutshell, if WordPress is too daunting, and you want a site which you can really take control of in terms of how it looks, Wix may well be the answer for you.  But not if your site needs to be vastly complex or large, seeing as you can’t export your site content.

Here are some examples of live Wix sites - click on each for a live example - you can see that they really do look good.  (They have many more examples on their "Get inspired" page.)

If you’ve built your site in Wix, or you have experienced building a site with Wix, do please comment (down below) and let us know how it went for you.  Do you recommend it?  Or not?

Note, May 2016: Since I wrote this post, I now favour Weebly over Wix for easy-to-build sites. When I wrote this post, Weebly's templates were rather outdated in look.  Now, they've redesigned their templates and they look wonderfully modern and appetising.  I've recently helped quite a few people make sites using Weebly templates and they've worked really well, and the key is that it's a super-simple system to use.  That said, they don't have a start-from-scratch design template, which Wix does, and this is what we used to recreate the client's old WordPress site in the above example.

 

How to add a MailChimp newsletter signup form to your WordPress website

MailChimp isn't the only email mailing list provider out there by any means, but it is the one that practically all the entrepreneurs I meet are using - probably because it's free up until 2,000 subscribers.  So in this post I'll tell you how you can easily start collecting subscribers for your MailChimp email list. First, obviously, you'll need a MailChimp account.  Click over to www.mailchimp.com and sign up for a free account; you'll need to click a button in an email to activate your account, and then fill in quite a lot of information before your account goes live - MailChimp needs your address in order for the emails you send to be compliant with spam prevention rules.

Then you need to create a list.  Of course, there are many other customizations you'll want to make before actually sending out a newsletter, and you may also want to customize your signup forms and the confirmation emails your subscribers will receive (to do this, click the name of the list you've just created, then go to Settings > List Name & Defaults and click the "list forms designer" link next to "Send Final Welcome Email" - you can now choose from the dropdown menu which item you want to customise).

But you don't actually need to do anything else on the MailChimp site, if you don't want to, before you can begin collecting email addresses from your website visitors - it will work right away with the settings just as they are.

Next, you need to put a signup form on your site.  You can embed a form directly into your web page using the code that they give you, but it's most likely you'll want to put the form in your sidebar, and for this you'll need a plugin.  From within the admin area of your WordPress site, go to Plugins > Add New and search for "MailChimp."  A list of plugins will appear, but the one you want is the one at the top of the list MailChimp List Subscribe Form by MailChimp and CrowdFavorite - this is the official plugin, and the easiest to configure (although, as you see, there are many others as well - go ahead and try out these ones out if you want to).

Once you have the plugin installed and activated, go to Settings > MailChimp Setup.  Choose the list you've just created, and type the wording you want to appear on the form.  You can also fiddle around with the appearance of the signup form, but you'll need to get it set up before you do this, so you can see how it looks.  If you scroll a little further down the page, you can choose whether you want people to have to include their names when they sign up, or not - it's your call.

Now, go to Appearance > Widgets and drag the MailChimp Widget into the sidebar.  You're all set to start collecting email addresses.

15 easy ways to make your website work better for you

I'm often asked by readers to look over the websites they've just built to see that they are as good as they can be, and these are some of the most common suggestions I make.

1. Make it easy for your website visitors to contact you.

It's madness to make your website visitors hunt around for your contact details. Put a "Contact" link either in your main menu - it's usually the last item, and it's here that people will look first - or in a footer menu. Better still, put your telephone number and email address (and any other contact details you want to supply) on every page.

2. Show your email address.

Include a visible email address on your website, as well as a contact form; many website visitors don't like contact forms, and prefer to contact you directly by email. Your email address isn't a secret - you have no worries in making it visible, as long as you spam-protect it so it can't be "harvested."

3. Organise your menu.

You shouldn't have a "wrapping" main menu - that is, one that continues over two lines because it has too many elements; this makes your site look messy and amateurish. Instead, group your menu items and stack them up using sub-menus, perhaps grouped under headings, if you have a lot of items you want to include in your main menu.

4. Keep up your blog.

If you don't have time to blog regularly, don't include a blog on your site. You don't have to post all the time - for a business site, this isn't even necessary; just make sure you post regularly, even if it's only once a month.

5. Integrate social media into your website.

Consider including activity streams on your site - your latest tweets, or recent activity on your Facebook page - rather than the static badges. If you're not into blogging, this is another way of showing you're alive and active.  Plus, if you integrate your social media, you're not directing your website visitors away from your own website.

6. Make use of images.

These days nearly everyone has a fast internet connection and we can see this change reflected in the way websites are designed - the use of pictures has become more and more prevalent and we are no longer shy about including many images, and sometimes even very large ones on our sites.  So, don't hesitate to include images on your blog posts and elsewhere on your website (your About page, for example) - and don't make them tiny in size, as it makes your site look old fashioned.

If you don't have your own photos you can use images from stock libraries; if you are original in your choice, these don't have to look like stock photos, and you'll find them surprisingly inexpensive.

7. Make your content easily readable.

People's concentration tends to be short when they are reading on screen - they want to find what they're looking for as quickly as possible. So space out your text, use plenty of headings, and keep your sentences short. Break up your text into easily-accessible chunks and include plenty of white space on your pages.

8. Flaunt your testimonials.

I know many people feel shy about displaying testimonials (everyone I talk to does!) but you mustn't let this stop you. Think of your own surfing experiences - reading customer testimonials can make the difference between whether you buy an item from one site, or another - so if you have great customer feedback, make sure everyone can see it.

9. Include a Google map.

If you have a real-world store or office, make it easy for people to find where you are. It's also helpful to include any useful information about public transport or parking.

10. Use a meta description.

This one is really important!  Make sure you control the description of your website that people will see in Google. You need to make sure it's as enticing as possible, to encourage people to click on your link instead of someone else's.  The way to do this is to include a meta description in your website code - otherwise just the first words of text on your home page will show up, instead of text you have carefully crafted expressly for Google. Depending what platform you use for your website, there may be a built-in way to add a meta description (as there is with Wix), or you may need to add an extension (for WordPress, you can use the All in One SEO plugin or WordPress SEO by Yoast). A meta description shouldn't be longer than 160 characters and you can include useful information such as opening hours and a telephone number, if relevant. See the following screenshot to see what I am talking about.

Make your description as enticing as possible. You can include calls to action, prices and telephone numbers. Note that the keywords searched - here "men's ties" - show up in bold, so you want to make sure your descriptions contain your major keywords as they will immediately resonate with the person searching.

11. Include an FAQ page.

The job of a "frequently asked questions" page is to remove any potential objection or doubt a customer may have in their mind that is preventing them from contacting you, hiring you, or buying your products (or whatever it is that your website aims to do).  You'll want to include all possible details (terms, refunds, how it works, etc...) on the FAQ page - it'll cut down on your time answering basic questions via phone or email, as well.

12. Have a mobile version of your website.

More and more people are surfing the web on the move, and this includes making purchases.  So you need to make sure your site is legible on all sizes of screen, if necessary implementing a special "responsive" or mobile version of the site for those accessing it via a smartphone.  How you do this again depends on the platform you're using; many systems have inbuilt mobile versions or responsive templates available.

13.  Allow people to share your content.

If people want to share your content, make it easy for them; include "send by email" links, and "Share" buttons so they can post your content to their own Facebook or LinkedIn networks, or tweet it.

14. Put yourself in your site visitors' shoes.

What do they want to know? How will they benefit?  What information can you give them that will make them choose you over one of your competitors?  When you're writing the text for your website, make sure you focus on the benefits for your customer of choosing your product or your service.  It's astonishing how many sites I'm asked to review where the website owner has just listed the features of their products or services when really, this should be turned right around to show the benefits for the prospective customer.

One of the very best examples of writing with your customer in mind that I know of is the website for JohnLewis.com.  This is a very well respected UK department store and their website is a lesson in how to write for the web.  Take this example, and marvel at how, instead of listing the dull-sounding features of the washing machine they are trying to sell, the copywriter has managed to make the description positively exciting by turning around every single feature into a benefit the prospective customers can actually visualise applying to themselves, and in effect, improving their lives.  Do click over and take a look - making this change in the way you write, to really engage your visitors - whether your site offers objects for sale or encourages people to hire you for a service, or simply showcases your designs or your knowledge - will have a huge impact on the impression you give and the ultimate success of your website.

15. Be clear about the purpose of your website.

This is the last item but perhaps it should be the first, as it is certainly the most important.  What purpose do you want your website to serve?  Do you want customers to buy from you? Do you want them to sign up to your email list?  Do you want to provide information to your site visitors, thus presenting yourself as an expert in your chosen area?  Once you're clear about your aim (or aims - you can obviously have more than one), ask yourself if your site is achieving your goals.  If not, there will be plenty of changes that you can make.

Good luck - and please do leave your comments below to share your experiences with other readers.  Have you made a change to your website that has had an immediate impact?

Save

Save

5 really useful WordPress tips

Obviously in my line of work I get the chance to see many different self-built websites and discuss them with their owners.  The following are some of the most common minor tweaks I find myself suggesting to people.  (They apply only to WordPress sites.)

1. "Posted by admin."

I see this really often and it bothers me a lot as it's just so easy to change!  Who wants to be known publicly as "admin" when they've authored a blog post? All you need to do is change your "label," either to your first name, your full name, or a nickname. Even if you don't feel it appropriate to put your own name, why not choose your business or website name - or even just your initials?  To make this change, go to Users > Your Profile, scroll down a little and type in your name or "nickname" - the name you want to appear as the author of the blog posts - in the "Name" area. Select your choice from the "Display name publicly" dropdown, and save the change.

2. Re-name your "Uncategorized" blog post category.

Yes, of course you do need a "catch-all" category for blog posts that don't fit in anywhere else. But it looks so uncaring not to name this default category something more meaningful than just "Uncategorized!"  Again, it's easy to change the name of the default category to "Blog" or "Updates" or "News" - and you'll find that all the posts that have already been filed under this category will automatically appear under the new classification, so there isn't even any sorting out to do. Go to Posts > Categories, mouse over "Uncategorized" where you see it in the list of blog post categories, click on "Quick Edit" and change the name and the slug (just type the same thing twice); click "Update Category." Now your blog posts look so much more cared-for!

3. Change your permalinks.

Warning - you'll want to do this at the beginning of your setup - if you do it once you have any amount of content on your site, you'll mess up your menu and any internal links - plus anyone who's bookmarked your pages or posts won't be taken back to the right place in future.  So do this before you launch, and preferably right from the beginning.

WordPress automatically saves pages and posts with a web address that looks like this: http://www.yourdomain.com/?p=123

This doesn't look very elegant if you're quoting a web address to someone in an email, for example - and more importantly, it doesn't mean anything to Google. What you want is a web address for each page and post that looks like this:

http://www.yourdomain.com/page-title

as Google will be able to make sense of whatever page title you have given the page or the post (of course, you'll have considered the search engines when you decided on the page title).

To do this, just go to Settings > Permalinks, select the radio button entitled "Post name," and save the change.

4. Display your email address.

I'm always pointing out the necessity of displaying your email address to site visitors in case they're unwilling to contact you via an email form (a big percentage of my workshop participants tell me that they are always suspicious of using email forms). But at the same time, you do need your email address to be protected.  We often see email addresses displayed as email AT yourdomain.com - this works, but it looks rather clumsy, and the email address isn't an active link.  Far better to install the Email Protector plugin (by Pixeline) and have your email address appear as a link (this happens automatically once the plugin is installed) that's protected from spam harvesters.

(Note that your email address may not be protected by the plugin if you type it into a sidebar widget.)

5. Make use of short menu item labels.

Menus that wrap onto two lines are a particular bête noir of mine - unless, of course, your theme accommodates them easily, or was especially designed for a double row of menu items. One way to save real estate in your menu area is to cut down on the length of the navigation labels, while still keeping the longer title on the page itself, if necessary.  (Of course, the title you give to a page is by default the label that's given to that page when you add it to the menu.)  FAQ is a good example - it doesn't make any sense to take up all that space by writing "Frequently Asked Questions" in the menu area, whereas you'll probably want it to appear in full on the page itself.

Your home page is another example of a situation when you're likely to want a different label in the menu to what is written on the page. You'll want to have "Home" in the menu as it's what people expect (plus it's short) - but you certainly don't want "Home" written as a title prominently at the top of your home page - it looks terrible, and is completely meaningless. (Note, this only applies if your theme doesn't let you remove the title on the home page - all premium themes will allow you to do this, or the home page layout will automatically be set up not to show the title.)

What to do in these situations? First change the title of the page to the longer version of the title that you want to appear on the page (or save it directly with a long title if you are creating the page from scratch). So, create a page that is called "Frequently Asked Questions," or give your existing home page a new title that you won't mind seeing written very visibly at the top of the home page (perhaps a one-sentence introduction containing your main keywords - or at any rate something that sounds engaging to your visitors).

Then go to Appearance > Menus and add the new page to the menu (if it isn't there already). When the item is in the central area, you'll see that it has the long name you've just given it; click on the small triangle to the right of the menu item next to "Page," write the shorter label that you want to see in the menu in the "Navigation Label" field ("Home" or "FAQ," to continue with the same examples), and save the menu. Now check your live site, and you'll see the change - plus a shorter, neater-looking menu.

menu

I hope you find these five easy-to-implement WordPress tips helpful.

How to prevent hacks on your website

Hacks do happen occasionally, so I asked my friend Claire Gallagher of Claire Creative to write this short low-down on what you can do to keep yourself out of trouble. -------

As a site owner, it is important to protect your website from unwanted attacks. Hacking is unfortunately something that does occur in the world of websites, no matter who hosts your site and no matter its subject matter, and you can’t ever be sure you are 100% safe.  However, there are a number of precautions that you can take to reduce the risk of attack. Here are five points to address to improve your site’s safety.

1. Your computer.

The computer that you use to log in to your website should be secure.

  • Use anti-virus software.
  • Don’t download files or applications from sources that you don’t know.
  • Use spam filters on your email account.

2. Your host.

Choose a reputable host that offers customer support. Before deciding on a host, check online reviews to ensure that the host is reliable.

3. Your passwords.

Choose a secure password for your hosting account and your admin area (if your site uses WordPress or another content management system). It is also a good idea to change your passwords regularly.

Note that if you use a WordPress site, you should avoid the default “admin” as your user name.

Your hosting company will most likely provide you with a complex password for your FTP – you should change this from time to time as well, whether or not you use FTP to upload files to your website.

4.  Your version of WordPress and plugins.

Your site, just like your computer, runs on software that requires occasional updates. WordPress updates are released regularly to protect against hackers and generally improve the performance of your website. It is highly recommended that you keep WordPress and plugins up to date - it’s one of the best ways to protect your site from attack. With any software update, there can be compatibility issues, so take a backup before you do your update.

The same advice goes for any other content management system or open source software you may be using on your website.

5. Your backup copy.

Despite your best efforts, your site may still get attacked. Never fear! If you have a backup copy, your site can be restored in all its former glory, with limited downtime – all you need is a back up copy of your site and your database (if your site uses one - WordPress sites do use a database).  Your hosting company will advise as to how often they take security backups, and if you use WordPress, it’s a simple matter to set up an automatic backup system from within your admin area.  Updraft Plus is one of several free WordPress plugins available.  (You should make sure you keep a backup on your own computer, as well as stored on your host, just in case anything ever happens to your host!)

 

What's the deal with WordPress?

If you're on the point of building your own website, you've certainly heard about WordPress, and perhaps you've even decided already, without knowing too much about it, that WordPress is definitely for you.  Everyone's talking about it – but what is it, and why might you choose it to create your website? WordPress is a free software that anyone can use.  It's the most-used CMS that there is at the moment - this means a "content management system" - a "platform", or system that you can use to put your content online, without literally building it in code.  20% of all websites in existence are, apparently, built on WordPress.  You simply install it on your website, usually with just one or two clicks depending on your host, wait for the email confirming your installation, and you’re ready to start.

To install the full version of WordPress, you do need your own domain name and your own hosting, and you might want to buy a premium template as well, so it would be wrong to say that it’s completely free.  But building your site on WordPress will reduce your costs dramatically, compared to getting a web designer to design and programme your site from scratch.

Let’s get something straight first – there are actually two versions of WordPress.  There is a version that is known as “WordPress.com” that is hosted for you, meaning you don’t have to purchase and manage your own hosting setup.  This is a kind of “lite” version of WordPress and it’s brilliant for bloggers.

However, if you want to develop your site further than just creating a blog – for example, if you want to accept payments for products or services or list events on your website, you’ll find WordPress.com is not for you.  Or simply, if you want to remain in control of your own website and not have it hosted by another company, then you’ll want to go for the second version, the “full” version, that is known as “self-hosted” WordPress or “WordPress.org.”  The self-hosted version of WordPress is the one we are talking about here.  To use self-hosted WordPress, you’ll need your own domain and your own hosting, and you’ll have to install WordPress yourself, but none of this is difficult to do.  After that, how far you want to go in the development of your site is up to you.

WordPress runs on templates, which are known as “themes.”  There are a vast range of themes available, designed and created by independent designers and programmers all over the world.  Some of these are free, and some you have to pay for.  Until quite recently, free themes were overwhelmingly for blogging sites and there wasn’t a great range available for other kinds of site.  Now you’ll find a selection of free themes you can use if you’re setting up a business site rather than simply a blog, and some of these are good.  But for the majority of people setting up a WordPress site, you’ll want to choose and invest in a premium theme because they look much more professional and offer you more customization.  Buying a theme is a one-off payment (usually around $50) – once you’ve bought it you can use it indefinitely, and to my mind this is one of the best investments you’ll make as it will mean your website looks as good as it possibly can.

Customization is an issue I want to touch on at this point.  Someone who has used a website creator such as Wix may be surprised that you can’t drag and drop elements around your site in the way you can if you were creating with Wix.  The reason for this is that the coding behind a WordPress site is much more sophisticated than that behind a Wix site and your WordPress site can be made to do things on a far more complex level, if you want it to.  So, you don't actually design your own site if you use WordPress - you run on a theme that has made most of the design and layout decisions for you.  If you want a site that you can customize to a large extent, for example change the colours and fonts and maybe decide on your own layouts, you’ll need to choose a very recent theme and check the small print as to exactly what you can do with it – you’ll find that not all themes allow you to change colours and fonts and layout the way you might expect at the outset.  The answer to this is to choose a theme that looks as nearly as possible the way you actually want your site to look.  There are so many hundreds of beautiful themes available that you’re sure to be able to find something that’s already exactly as you want it, and it will most likely be completely unrecognisable once you've got your own images and wording in there.  (See here for some of my tips on choosing a WordPress theme.)

A WordPress site can be made to do almost anything you want it to.  It can work as a “brochure” style website for a small business,  or as a portfolio.  You can set it up to take payments online, to create a membership site, to list event dates.  This is thanks to a vast number of “plugins” available – most of them free – created again by independent programmers all around the world.  (A plugin is an "extra" that makes WordPress do something it doesn't already do all by itself.)  Every WordPress site has an integrated blog right within it and can be connected to your social media as well in a variety of ways – to display your Facebook stream, your Pinterest boards or your Instagram pictures, and it can even show your products listed on Etsy that people can choose right from your site.

How far you want to go depends on you – if you’re not very technical, you may find that your needs are met by using a fairly basic theme, but if you enjoy experimenting, you’ll certainly want to develop your site further once you start to see what you can do with WordPress.

I’m not a blind advocate for WordPress in all cases (I write more about this here).  It may be that if you want an online store, it may be easier and more appropriate for you to set up a webstore using Shopify.  And as I said, if you simply want to blog in a very light-hearted way, it could be that a ready-hosted blog at WordPress.com or Typepad might fit your needs perfectly.  But for most types of websites, a self-hosted WordPress site, as simple or as complex as you need it to be, will be a very good solution.

If you’re undecided, here are some of the reasons why you might want to use WordPress.

  • It gives the power to the you as the website owner.  You don’t need to rely on your webmaster to make updates so you can easily keep your website up to date.
  • It has a fairly user-friendly interface, especially compared with some of the other complex systems out there.  Most people find it easy to work with, once they've browsed around a little, and having got the hang of it, you’ll be able to make updates easily.
  • Once the site is built, it’s an enormous time saver – you can add pages, images and blog posts extremely quickly.
  • It’s free – or should we say, extremely low cost, compared to getting a website built from scratch, and there are no monthly fees apart from your hosting.
  • You're in charge of hosting it, which means you have entire control.
  • It can be made to do pretty much anything you want it to – thousands of developers worldwide work on plugins to make it more and more flexible.
  • Because so many people use it, there is a huge support network for users and developers.
  • You can easily find a developer to work on your site as so many programmers build with WordPress.
  • Even getting a site built by a professional with WordPress will be much less expensive than hiring them to build it from scratch.
  • It's robust and reliable, and secure – any security holes are fixed with frequent updates to the system.  (You must make sure you keep everything updated.)

Now, having praised WordPress and told you what a great system it is, I do have to repeat that it isn't for everyone.   Most people who I help set up websites are really pleased with what they can achieve, and very much enjoy the creation process and the fact that they can now add to their website themselves and make changes as they please.  However I must say that some people I work with do find it a headache, and they'd be much better off either hiring a professional, or using a simpler system to get an uncomplicated "brochure" website up and in place.  See here to read more about whether WordPress is for you - you really want to make the right decision before you start.

wordpress