How to Build a Website
IDEA VALIDATION OF WEBSITE
When thinking about building a website, you should determine why you are building it. There are a lot of uses that a website can be used for but many people have gone about it all wrong. If you don't know how you are going to monetize your website or if people will actually use it, then it is going to be a large source of frustration when you complete your website and find that you are not making money or that people don't want to use it. It is best to validate the website idea before building it.
1. Already run a business - If you run a business, then that is a large validation point and you already have monetization methods in mind. Most people will want to be able to quickly access a website that has an easy to remember and type website address. People will want to be able to contact you through there with both your email and phone number. If you do not want to list your email, you can use a contact form that forwards a formatted message to your email address. This is useful as it prevents bots from scraping up your email and spamming you. You can get around this too if you want by using a tool that shows the email and won't allow bots to read it. You can use this tool for that: http://www.jottings.com/obfuscator/
2. Website to make money off of using new innovative idea - If you are trying to make a website to make money off of that isn't just for a business you are running, you will want to know if people actually find value and will visit your website to interact with it. This could be a forum, or something like Facebook, or a video website such as YouTube, or anything else. In this circumstance you will want to make sure you validate with people who will be actually using the website with real people. You are not your audience and therefore you yourself are not able to validate the idea. It is like trying to proofread your content. It just doesn't pan out that well. The same concept applies to colors, pictures, sales copy, and everything else you produce. You are not the audience. Produce for the audience, not for yourself. The audience you will have will surprise you in how they think and operate. Don't have your feelings hurt that others don't think exactly how you do. Marketing and product is all about the audience that is going to receive it, not yourself, so produce for others, not for yourself. That is not to say that you should not enjoy your product or service, it just means don't get hurt feelings and pay attention to your audience and how they think and operate.
2b. Validation - When you are trying to validate an idea, you are going to want to talk to your target market, not your family and friends. If you ask your family and friends they are going to either be very against it or tell you it is a good idea and there is going to be bias behind both of those reasons. In addition to being biased, they are not your target market and have no idea how your target market feels about the value you are going to try to provide. The value could be information, entertainment, or unique web app services. An informational website would be like a blog or a site that sells an info product such as eBooks, video courses, membership area information, or other. Entertainment websites would be like a video site, comics, pictures, funny videos, etc. A unique web app would be something like Facebook, eBay, Twitter, or anything else that has an interactive use that is web based. Even image hosting sites are web applications. There are many variations of each as well.
2c. Monetization - When thinking of a great idea for a website, you most likely have thought of making truckloads of cash by throwing up some advertisements. This is a bad idea. Advertisements have a two bad sides for anyone with a fresh new website.
First off, it takes a massive amount of traffic to make any money, let alone live off of. It requires over 10,000 views a day to make money. Many platforms will only give you enough to live off of at over 100,000 views a day. That is a day, not a month. For a month you will need around 3 million views a month. That is a lot of views. There are only three ways to have that many views. Your product is insanely popular (such as YouTube, Google, or reddit), you have an enormous amount of fresh content all of the time (requires more writing time that you and I have put together), or have a lot of ads you are paying for.
The second reason ads are a bad idea for your fresh new website is because people absolutely loathe ads on the websites they are on. It is like having a salesman constantly sitting on the sidelines of an event trying to sell you things. It gets in the way of you trying to pay attention to the website's actual content and purpose. Ads sometimes go further and actually put themselves in front of the content which is terrible or interrupt in other ways such as with auto-playing ads or ads like on TV that segment your content up which breaks the immersion and flow up. Ads are just not fun. They are important, but also extremely annoying. It is even worse when ads are on a website that has no real following or known value. So you show up and are instantly being harrased without even knowing what the website is for. No friends talked about it, and you weren't able to see what it was before getting advertised at.
Ads are basically just for the big guys. A great thing though is that there are many other ways to monetize your product or service but you need to figure those out before you build and validate that your customer base will actually be ok with that method of monetization.
2c. Scope - When making a website, keep the scope within range so that things do not get too diluted. It is difficult to market a lot of variation as well as produce the tools or content for them. Keep a tight and focused approach when working on your website projects. For instance if you were trying to sell a business solution as well as bounce houses for kids all on the same website, your scope would not be focused at all. Focus on one or the other. You can always make a separate website with a completely different domain name and feel.
TYPES OF WEBSITES
To get a good idea of what kind of websites you can make, you can check out the list over on Wikipedia. It is not a comprehensive list but it is very close to being one. Types of Websites
Thinking of a domain name - Generating a good name for a website is important. Much of the time it will also be your business name. If it cannot be your business name, try to make it easy to connect with your business name. It is important to find a domain early on and NOT ask others for help with it. If you ask other people and they think of a great name, they will more than likely go snatch it up and you will have zero recourse to get it back. So please do not post on forums or Facebook or public areas to come up with a good name. If you ask friends, be prepared to snatch up the domain before they tell other people who will be able to snatch it up. It is one part of your business you definitely want to safeguard and keep quiet before securing. (Patents are the same in that you don't talk about it until it is secured. With patents, once it is public, you can't patent it anymore. Provisional patents are low cost and easy enough to acquire. Nice little hint there.)
- Website addresses should be easy to remember. Don’t pull a xkcd.com on people. A strange spelled website address (URL) will be difficult for people to remember and will most likely having people end up on the wrong website.
- Choose a memorable address that is not too bland or it will be too generic and not stick in peoples minds.
- Do not use dashes or symbols in the domain name. It is hard to remember and hard to type and people will end up typing your address in without them and end up on other websites which only helps other people and upsets your audience because you didn't pick something easy to work with.
- The name should not be phonetically written oddly. If you have two words that end up butted up against each other, do not remove one of them. People type words in as they know them and removing a letter to make it shorter only messes up peoples natural instinct to type words in as they remember them. A great example is Augmentedev.com because they should have made it AudmentedDev.com and kept both of the letter d's in their url. So it becomes unnatural to type and even harder to tell people over the phone. This also messes up people when trying to convey your email address that is based on your website address.
- The website URL should be a .com because .com is the most natural thing for people to type. If you use anything else, even a .net, you will only be helping other websites by directing your users inadvertently to your competitors website. This also is very upsetting as a customer. Even as a website owner of a .net website, you will find yourself ending up on the .com version because of how ingrained the .com extension is in the minds of the general public. We can't force our habits to change that easily. Think about how when the power is out, you will still end up trying to flick on the light switches.
- If you have an awesome name, you can usually prefix it or end it with something if the un-prefixed or un-suffixed version of it is taken. For instance, I like to add “TheGreat” to the beginning of my domain names because it brings up pre-encoded feelings and it is super memorable. For instance, ContentWeavers.com vs TheGreatContentWeavers. This is useful when your great website address is taken by someone else. It is a great alternative to the unhelpful dashes and .net type workarounds people try to use.
Domain Generation Generators and Services - If you just cannot seem to think of a good domain name, you can use a free generator or hire a professional service that will keep your name secure and will not steal it from you.
Free and Dynamic
Buying a taken domain name - If you find out someone has your amazingly great domain name but they aren't use it, and you think you can buy it, don't. Buying domain names from someone that already has it is a bad idea. They generally cost a lot of money and as soon as you ask about it, they can ask any price they want. You cannot force them to give it to you. The only way to force someone giving you a domain name is if you have your business trademarked before they had bought the name. It is still difficult at that point. If you do want to buy a domain name from someone thought, there are many tactics you can use that go under the radar and will ensure that you have a better time than if you didn't learn all the little tricks about domain name acquisition. You can learn an enormous amount about this from iGoldrush who's entire business is talking about domain name related information. You can learn about how to buy domain names from people and deal with cyber-squatters and such there. Here are some articles that can help you learn more about buying a domain name that is taken.
- How should a person negotiate for the purchase of a domain name that is not parked?
- Domain name buying and selling. Negotiating - Making and Receiving Offers
- How to Buy Domain Names Like a Pro: 10 Tips from the Founder of PhoneTag.com
Where to buy a domain - Many people will buy a domain name with their website is hosted. This is not the most favorable method as many hosting solutions have issues with not giving up your domain name when you move hosts. It is also much easier to be able to buy your name with a domain name registrar and just simply change where the domain is pointed to. So if you buy a domain name with the hosting solution, GoDaddy and later move your website to Bluehost, you will have to go through the hassle of transferring the domain name to Bluehost. You will also be forced to renew the domain name because of ICANN rules and this is not always a favorable situation to be in. Also some hosting solutions will attempt to keep your domain name captive. Many website owners have had issues with places such as GoDaddy and Webs.com in the past. Times change but the feelings those things have stay strong in people's minds. The safest option is just to have your domain name through a registrar.
Developers far and wide are very happy with the cost, simplicity, and customer service (not holding their domain names hostage), of NameCheap. You can easily point your domain name to your hosting solutions (e.g. Bluehost) name servers. (how to point to name server)
Internet Agency Information
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is responsible for all internet items and you can learn more about specific domain name and internet related items there.
Check with InterNIC for other high level domain name information as well as check for what names are available. This is also the place you will report folks who are doing what they should not be doing with their domain names.
Basics - There are many hosting solutions online. Be aware that the most heavily advertised companies such as GoDaddy and a few others are commonly seen but also have caused a lot of people problems. It is worth noting that many of these companies also change owners and the ownership also changes how they operate. Many people have had problems with GoDaddy and the other solutions that are low cost in nature that are also heavily advertised.
Specialized hosting solutions - there are many hosting solutions that are specific to the type of website you are hosting. Some are specific to WordPress (CMS) while others are specific to phpbb (forum platform). They usually will have a higher cost but are tuned to work very well with the specifics of how the platform is coded so that you will have a very fast solution that will not mess with your platform.
Hosting types - There are multiple types of hosting types. Shared hosting is where you share a server with other websites. This is fine but it opens up your website to being vulnerable to server hardware issues and attacks being made on the other websites on that server. You can have a dedicated server which means you have the server all to yourself. You can also get a virtual private server which means that the server space is virtual and can span multiple servers or be moved from one to another. This is preferable over having your own server because then it doesn't rely on the server hardware being ok. Many developers prefer that option. It is acceptable to start with a shared hosting solution though as many people do just fine with it and it is a good beginners price as well.
Traffic Spikes - If you receive a traffic spike because you were linked to by a massive website such as reddit, you may have some issues with your site going down. A way to prevent this is to install CloudFlare (video) which will help mitigate the problems.
Hosting Solutions - There are many solutions out there. Two great hosts are Bluehost or Digital Ocean. There is a service that helps you figure out the best hosting solution by using an automated system that scours Twitter for reviews both good and bad to figure out what solutions are best at that time. This makes sure the information is accurate.
SALES COPY AND MOCKUPS
Before building a website you will want to make sure to have a mockup and sales copy in mind and handy. You can build mockups in all sorts of different ways. Some people use Photoshop but many folks are not familiar with it enough to build a website mockup. Many people however are decent at using PowerPoint or drawing on paper. You can also use mockup tools that are specifically designed to make it easier to mockup digital user interfaces. You could hire someone to build a mockup.
You will want to also have sales copy ready because developers are not marketers or designers. They are developers. You can think of it like building a house. There are interior decorators, architects, and construction workers.
Interior decorator AKA Marketers - These are the people who know how to create content and sales copy that will lead to visitors converting into buyers. They are the people who figure out how things need designed in a way that will direct your visitors in the right direction and know where to place call to action buttons and such. You will talk to these people first or design this stuff first before ever having a website completely built. Marketers can work with your designer to create a great setup or they can help you mock something up that will work with the intentions of your site and its content type.
This is similar to how your decoration ideas or an interior decorators ideas can influence an architects blueprint designs.
Architects AKA Graphic Designers - These are the people who figure out how to take the stuff the marketer wants to do and turn it into a pretty picture / layout.
This is similar to how architects take your ideas for a house and turn it into an actual design that can be developed.
Often times you will find that graphic designers and marketers are the same person and are user interface and user experience experts. It is a mind-meld that creates a very useful end product. Having both sets of tools makes it very easy to create a very compelling and converting design that developers can use to build your website.
This is similar to when you have a very good architect who not only understands design methods but understands aesthetics as well.
Construction workers AKA Developers - Developers are the people who take your design and put it into a code format. They also will be able to create the dynamic content pieces and functionality. Things that work with databases of information to pull down or upload information and content for storage or utilization. Without them, your design is just a pretty picture that doesn't do much. Many websites are just static, which means that they just link to pages of content but don't do anything dynamic. Developers breathe life into your website so that users can interact with it and do amazing things such as search, sort information, and more. They are the final step in the website development process.
Developers are much like construction workers who take blueprints and turn them into an actual end product that can be utilized. They do all the hard work that designers and others would and could not do themselves. It requires the knowledge of many tools and methods that are always changing over time.
Mockups with PowerPoint - You will want to hide your bookmarks on your browser to get started. Make sure to have only one tab open. Take a screenshot of a website you wish to emulate or a template you enjoy or just take the screenshot and build from scratch.
Setup a text box in PowerPoint and type in two lines of text that match the content text on the page you are viewing. You will then overlay it on the page. Resize the text until it matches the text on the screenshot. This will give you a precise text size to use to type out your content. You can fill the text box with the same color if you need to by using the eyedropper tool in the fill tool options for the text box.
Draw a rectangle over the areas you want blocked out. Turn off the outline of the shape and go to the solid fill color. You can use the eyedropper tool to grab the color of the background you are covering up or you can pick a new color if you want to. This will help when blocking out the majority of the content of the screenshot where you will be putting your own mockup content. When you have this done you can select the background and the cover up shapes and create a group so you won't accidentally move them later on.
Mockup Tools - There are multiple online tools that do website mockups. A paid version is called Balsamiq and a free one that is similar in feature and functionality sets is NinjaMock. I would recommend using NinjaMock. There are others you can find if you search the internet for them. You can watch the NinjaMock video below to see what it can do for you.
Website usability - Make sure to have people review your website design as you go. You can do this for free if you post your website to www.reddit.com/r/design_critiques. You can also use a website usability testing service. Below is a list of services you can use for that.
Userlytics | UserTesting | UserFeel | TryMyUI | WhatUsersDo
Hire someone - You will want to look for graphic artists that are specialize in designing user interfaces. You may see the acronym UI which means user interface or UX which means user experience. You will want someone that is good at designing interfaces that are both aesthetically good looking but also provides a good user experience for your website visitors. Finding someone that is skilled in both the marketing and user interface areas is your best choice if you can find that mixture.
Marketing is an important to keep in mind when developing your website. If you are not hiring someone to do the sales copy and such for your website you will need to know a few things about it.
Email lists - It is important to develop a email list so that you can keep in contact with your audience. You can gather them from prospective clients, visitors, customers, etc. There are many reasons to keep in contact with people that visit your website. It is important to get familiar with anti-spam laws and regulations. It is also important to get familiar with reasons why you would keep in contact, how often you should keep in contact, and what methods to get in contact with your email contacts. You want to make sure that you don't send too many emails so that people don't unsubscribe and hate on your customer service. It is also important to communicate when you should so that your customers feel like you actually care and so they don't forget you exist. A good balance should be struck.
Email services - It is a good idea to use a mailing service that is accustomed to emailing a lot. Your normal email accounts will not be able to do the mass emailing you need and will be too easy to get flagged as spam. Using a service will alleviate a lot of your problems.
Popups - You don't want to use a lot of popup type items on your website. If you do, it is a good idea to only use them as somone is leaving your website, when they click a button that triggers that action on purpose, and any other time that is reasonable. Don't popup something right as someone lands on your website or they will most likely leave right away. Be good to your customers, but also make sure to ask them for emails when nessesary and reasonable to using these tools. Most popups on websites these days are not windows but instead are just web elements that are layered on top of the regular part of the website. A popular solution for this is called Popup Domination.
Explainer videos - These videos are great to explain complex concepts quickly and capture the attention of your visitors on your website. You can make kinetic text videos using VideoRascal, an animated explainer video using PowToon, or product overview demo video by making a screencast. You can make screencasts using Screencast-o-matic or Camtasia.
Call to action - A call to action is nessesary to prompt people to do what is next. If you pitch someone something but don't give them any prompt to action, they are most likely going to be confused what to do or where to go next. A button is usually the best bet for a call to action. Usually this button is a color that is not anywhere else on the website except for your call to actions. This difference in color as well as not being plain text, gives them a lot of power to convert your visitors into buyers. You can use a button that says, "BUY NOW", "GET STARTED" or something similar to get them to go where you need them to go.
Colors that convert best - There has been a lot of talk about what colors convert best but the honest truth is it isn't necessarily a color but a different in color from the rest of your website. People tend to associate difference with importance because it doesn't blend in and match the rest of the layout. Orange is also been found to be a color that prompts action. Green is nice, blue is trusting, but red is danger. Yellow is just not nice to look at often and is a warning color as well. You can learn more about color theory psychology here or watch the video about colors that convert on Social Triggers here.
SEO - Be aware that overdoing the SEO however can lead to being penalized by search engines as the information should be realistically conveyed and not so technically engineered for conversions. The first priority of content should be to give value to your audience, not to rank as high as you can. You will rank just fine with medium SEO and high quality content articles with various keywords in it.
Long tail marketing - I would recommend also looking into long tail keywords. Long tail just means that you are going after the small pieces of pie the bigger competitors have targeted. The high competition keywords will be more difficult to rank because the large competitors will have more money to pay for the ads that use them and they will be able to have more articles and content that use those targeted keywords. Using long tail approaches will enable you to use other keywords that are still searched but are not high competition keywords that are hard to rank for. This gives you a massive advantage to still rank well. Hubspot has a great article on this read here: 6 Ways to Leverage the Long Tail in Your Marketing
Inbound marketing - You will want to take advantage of inbound marketing. Outbound marketing is where you pay for your marketing efforts with text ads, radio ads, billboards, and TV ads. Inbound marketing is using your value to draw people in using word of mouth type marketing. You create amazing value, and people are going to talk about it, share it, and make sure others go to you for what they need. If you hear about a business who is great to their customers, have great prices, quality products, and just are great to go to, you are probably going to go to them vs some random place shouting ads at you over the radio and on TV. Online you do this by creating great written content that the search engines will pick up and that people will share links to through email, Facebook, forums, and more. Forum users for instance are 7 times more valuable to a website owner because those people actually care about what is going on and are actively searching and sharing that information to help others and to learn. It is much more effective than just random ads they seen on Google or Facebook or anywhere else. You can also do inbound marketing by networking with people in related clubs and groups such as Meetup.com groups. Find a group that matches your niche and go meet and talk and network with those people. Start a workshop and teach people things even.
About pages - About pages have been a tricky thing for many people. There is a lot of argument how to do it. Many people want to learn more about the website and what it is about while others want to learn about the team and why they are qualified to run such a service or sell the products they do. It is easy for many to come off as bragging about their background while others enjoy knowing all the great things the people have done. I feel that talking about the team or owners should be last and talking about the website itself and what it's purpose and intent should be first. It is good to talk about the intentions and purpose and then talk about the features of the website and link to those sections from there. Then after that, talk a bit about the owners but not in a terribly bragging way. A way to talk about the team in the least bragging way is to talk about how they are as a person such as talk about how they are a great spouse, loving parent, generous friend, and do the entire thing in a 3rd person point of view so it seems as if someone else is writing a description of the person.
Contact forms - Contact forms can be done very well at times. It is good to have a bit of what you expect from the peoples message so they don't wonder what is going on. Some contact forms just have a subject line and content box and after you send it, you find out it is a comment that shows up somewhere. That is no good. It is nice to know that it is a message that is going to be responded to and how it will be responded to. Give a bit of information on it. It is also nice to give a dropdown for the department or reason you are sending it so that it can be sorted appropriately. It is also good to leave an option in that dropdown that says "other" in case their message doesn't fit one of your template reasons. If you don't give them an other option, they may just leave and not send you anything at all or send it to the completely wrong department because they were forced to choose an option.
If you have multiple reasons to be sent messages, it is nice to have a dynamic form that allows extra information to be sent. So if you are being asked for information about your services, you can add in another content box and ask them some background information like you would do on the phone. It is nice to have a dynamic form that allows for flexible communication.
In addition to a contact form, it is good to have a phone number they can call, a map embedded to your location if you have a physical location they can visit, hours of operation, and anything else that would be good to have on your business card. The contact form page is a useful place to have all that business card information. You can even advertise a bit on there just to keep them informed enough if you need to do that. An image of a friendly face can also be useful there so that they feel they are connecting. Images of smiling people has been shown to increase trust levels and therefore conversions.
Social media marketing - If you are trying to market your website, it is a good idea to look into social media marketing. Using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other platforms are useful in spreading the word about your website and products. You can use them to talk about related content so that people are more apt to share the content and thus be finding your social media marketing account. You can look at how powerful social media marketing is checking out the information that Shopify has gathered over time. Which Social Media Marketing Platforms Drive the Most Sales
DO IT YOURSELF, USE A PREMADE SOLUTION, OR HIRE A DEVELOPER?
There are three main options when it comes to developing a website. Many people just think they have to pay someone to build one and that it is going to never be something they can do. Times are changing and more and more people are hearing about how to get a website off the ground on their own. There are two options there. You can do it yourself by coding it or using a CMS, which is a content management system. The second option is to use a prebuilt solution where you sign up, modify a few things, put in your content, and setup your products or services to be sold. The last option is to hire someone to do it for you, and that is the more expensive solution.
DO IT YOURSELF OPTIONS
With a do it yourself solution, you can learn to program your own website, which isn't advisable to do right away, but it is advisable to learn a little bit of web programming so that you can tweak and modify your website where you need to and understand what developers and forums will be talking about when talking about how to change up your website when you have questions. There are many online solutions for that.
Learn how to do web programming here: Codecademy
If you intend to learn the coding yourself, you should know that it takes a considerable amount of time (6+ months) to be anywhere near ready to build your own website and even more time to do it in a secure way. Unless you have enough time to dedicate to that, you should consider the other options first so that you can get your website up in the time-frame you need it up in.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
CMS Options - There are three main content management systems that you will be able to use on hosting solutions. WordPress is recommended and the most popular option people are choosing these days because of its flexibility and powerful set of themes and plugins available. You can also look into Drupal or Joomla which are other popular options people have chosen to use. They are harder to upgrade and work with so I do not recommend their use for beginners who want to build their own website. Those options are usually chosen by older and more experienced developers who just are not interested in the newer WordPress platform. People tend to stick with what they know and I do not fault them for that.
WordPress started out as a blogging platform but is now a very powerful CMS. Some may not consider it a full blown CMS but there are plugins that you can get that will fully extend it to be a full blown CMS. For beginners you will not need to worry about this at all. Be aware that WordPress.org is the place you find plugins, themes, and information about WordPress. This is a safe location to find free themes and plugins because they validate all uploaded themes and plugins that are listed in their directories there.
WordPress.org - Themes, plugins and location for WordPress related information.
WordPress.com - This is where a person can host their non-commercial website. Do not attempt to monetize your website here or you will be in violation of the user agreement. You also cannot do a lot here. Best to get WordPress installed on a hosting solution instead.
WordPress Guides - There are a number of excellent WordPress guides that will get any beginner up to speed and help them out a lot with understanding the system. We have listed some here for you.
- WordPress User Guide (PDF high quality - $6, Editable Word Doc - $40)
- Video User Manuals (video in dashboard - $24/mo )
- WP101 (video in dashboard - $19/mo)
WordPress Themes and Plugins - Themes are graphical templates that you can install to your WordPress installation. You can think of it as the outside of a car. WordPress would be the core functionality of the car such as the engine and such that comes standard. Plugins would be considered as add-ons that add different types of functionality. Things like chat boxes, dynamic form builders, and sometimes even things the modify the internal functionality of the CMS.
You can find themes and plugins on many marketplaces and websites. If it is a website and not a marketplace, make sure to validate their trustworthiness before buying. Do not trust random testimonials on their own website. Make sure to corroborate their worthiness by Googling their website name and see how others are getting along with their products. If it is a marketplace, you can check the comments left by other buyers to see if they are having issues with the product or vendor of that particular theme or plugin. You can see this easily on ThemeForest.net or CodeCanyon.net (trustworthy Envato marketplace websites).
WordPress Themes - Themes on WordPress.org are trustworthy and free. DO NOT trust free themes found elsewhere on the internet. There is a great article on the dangers of free themes and where to find free themes that are trustworthy over on WMPU DEV. Free WordPress Themes: The Ultimate Guide
Many themes try to incorporate functionality into them but that is a bad idea as they can become very bloated and the code may interact in bad ways with plugins you install.
WordPress Plugins - There are many plugins that can give you the functionality you need. Some are free and are located on WordPress.org. There are many free plugins online that are trustworthy but you will need to validate their trustworthiness before installing them. They can become outdated which opens you up to security problems or they could just be untrustworthy all together.
There are plugins that enable you to run eCommerce websites (e.g. WooCommerce), build powerful and dynamic forms (e.g. Formidable Pro), run contests, collect emails, and much more. You can see a massive collection on CodeCanyon.net located here.
When you create a WordPress website you will want to install a number of very common plugins. Some of the most common plugins are for SEO, link checking, backups, security, forms, email capturing, customer support chat box. That is not a comprehensive list. You can find a list of common plugins by viewing the CodeCanyon.net link above or by checking out the list produced by WP Theme Detector.
I would recommend looking into the plugin that has helped us with this website. It is called Thrive Themes Content Builder. It enables you to build your content quickly and wonderfully.
Misc. Platforms - There are a few other platforms you will run into on the internet often. Some are fine and some I recommend you avoid because of the difficulties that they have given others and myself alike. At the time of this writing...
Webs.com is a platform that is overpriced and difficult to use in a useable manner. Their customer support is also difficult to work with as well as even trying to contact them. I have used them and they have always caused frustration for me as well as many other developers who have worked with them.
Weebly is ok to use but has also caused me significant problems in the past both in terms of functionality.
Wix used to be a platform that utilized Flash and that was bad, but now they are utilizing HTML5 which is perfectly acceptable, so they have changed their ways for the better.
Squarespace is highly desired and recommended by many far and wide for how pretty their product looks and how it operates.
Premade eCommerce Solutions - There are a number of excellent premade solutions for people who want to run stores online. These are great solutions to use because you don't have to worry about PCI compliance issues and they take care of all the hosting issues and more. All you have to worry about is the business side and keeping the products and content updated. Some will allow you to pick themes as well which is nice. Shopify even has apps you can install for extra functionality if you need it. You can hire developers to build apps for that platform as well. I recommend looking into ShopLocket first though as the platform is extremely easy to get started with and will allow for pre-orders and you can embed the product widget into different platforms such as WordPress, Tumblr, and more. Gumroad is a great solution too if you want to sell through Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else that you can drop a quick link into.
A payment processor is a payment solution that will help take your customers payment so that you are able to get paid for your products or services.
PayPal (website) - PayPal is a common payment solution provider. It is important to note that they are very well known for locking down peoples accounts. You can remedy this by understanding their arbitration process and keeping excellent records of everything that has to do with a customer interacting with you and your product. If you have this, you should do fine for the most part.
It is also a good practice to keep a low balance in their accounts and to move it to your bank account as often as possible to reduce the amount they could have locked into their system.
They are not a bank and if you read the agreements in depth you will find that when you agree to use their system you are agreeing to the terms they are going to be using.
They at least have a decent arbitration system whereas banks and other platforms may not give you that option at all. If they do, it might be more of a hassle even. Just be aware of what is going on with them and keep up to date on the news that is about them as well as any payment processor you end up using. Make sure to use the business account or whatever accounts are in line with the practices and things you will be doing. If you don't PayPal will not be friendly with you very long and could end up with your account frozen with all of the funds inside of it.
Many people are opting to use other payment solution providers so as not to have their accounts locked down with funds still inside. This is something to be aware of and to think about when choosing your payment solution provider.
Stripe (website) - You can use Stripe which is also a great solution that people seem to be very happy with. It is a great PayPal alternative.
Authorize.net (website) You could use Authorize.net which is a very big processor and you can do quite a bit more with them than you can with other payment processors.
Dwolla (website) - The Dwolla payment processor is a very good alternative to PayPal due to their pricing strategy. It is more of a flat rate system than a percentage based system as PayPal is. You can see more about that with this powerful infographic on their blog or this comparison chart screenshot.
Merchant accounts (Wikipedia article)- Merchant accounts with banks are also possible but more of a hassle to setup and the fees associated can become quite a big hassle. Beginners should use either PayPal or Stripe for their payment processors. Developing your own system and working with merchant accounts with banks can open you up to PCI compliance issues that are very serious and frustrating to deal with.
HIRE A DEVELOPER
Finding a developer can be quite difficult. There are many types of developers. Some are comfortable with certain technologies and very averse to using other platforms. Some even are very against using WordPress whereas other developers love it and only will use that platform. There are developers who have their own CMS platforms but you should not use those as they will be proprietary to them and you will have a difficult time switching developers if you have to at a later time. Some have a very good interview process that will make sure they know every nut and bolt of your concepts and intentions for your website whereas others will just stumble through the whole process. It is a good idea to work with a developer who is going to take their time with the interview process so that they know enough about your project to actually do a good job with it. If they are just going to jump in then it is probably going to end badly. That is with firms at least. Freelancers don't have a ton of extra time so they may be more lax on the interview process for your project.
Finding a freelancer can be dangerous but some freelancers are extremely good at what they do. You can find some very good developers if you go to Meetup groups that are for WordPress or website developers. These groups will be able to connect you to great developers. I have even met one that works for WooCommerce.
If you work with a foreign based developer, you are most likely going to end up with messy code, security holes everywhere, copied code off of forums, and in general a mess. You can find fantastic developers that are outsourced but that can be very dangerous to do. It is really your choice if you want to gamble with your money that much.
Recommended Development Companies
- GlowTouch – Contract company recommended by Bluehost
- First Dynamic
- WebDesign309 (WordPress Devs)
- The Hybrid Developer - This guys websites are astoundingly beautiful and well designed. (example)
- Digital Telepathy - Developement with beautiful User Interface designs (example)
- Marion Serenio - Gorgeous website designs and web development
- Men With Pens - Gorgeous websites and a copy-writing service as well. (WordPress Devs) (example)
- Robert Leonardi - Spectacularly animated and graphical website designs (example)
Dev Freelancer Communities
- Elance – Links you to up with developers
- Matchist – Links you up with developers
- WordPress Coder – WordPress development specific
You will want to learn a bit about more about SEO, privacy policies, and other website related subjects but this crash course should get you started on your way. The legal world is catching up with the internet so get associated with the FCC website as well.
To learn more, you can book an appointment and we can answer questions you have about websites and help direct you to powerful resources and tools that will enable you to build a fantastic website.