The Best Website Advice that You Will Get

Quiet waters of the Whtie Oak

Quiet waters of the Whtie Oak

In a society where family and friends are often in the next state instead of around the corner, getting business recommendations usually doesn’t involve talking to a live person.
Many young people will turn to a website before they even pick up a phone to call their parents. It is a pattern of communication that isn’t very surprising to the parents of this generation’s young adults.

If you are someone looking to understand what a website can do for your you, you will find some valuable information in the following commentary that can help you evaluate creating a web presence.  If you are someone who has building a website on his or her to do list, the advice in the this post is better than what you will get from most consultants who are trying to sell you their services.   I am not interested in selling anything to you but I am willing to share my web knowledge with you.

There is plenty of advice out there when it comes to websites for personal and business use.  However, about the only consensus advice for businesses is that you need one.  Doing a website right doesn’t have to be expensive in dollars, but there is a substantial investment in time.

If you don’t do a website right, it is possible to cause more harm than good for your business.  People who visit a website where it is clear that the content rarely changes or isn’t authentic rarely come back.

The most basic rule of a good website is that it has to have good content which draws a specific audience.  The content also needs to be fresh and relevant.  If you think that a website is something you create and don’t have to touch for the next couple of years, you are better off not doing one.

If you are serious about doing a website, the following information is what I have gleaned from eight years of blogging and well over a dozen years building websites. I started using websites for internal communication when I was a manager at Apple Computer.

The most important thing you can do when starting down the road to an effective website is to get your own domain.  If your website is a sub-domain off of someone else’s website, at least part of your efforts are going to benefit the main website and not your site.

The two domains which I use the most often are CoastalNC.org and CrystalCoastLife.com.  The first is built using Rapidweaver on the Mac.  The second is a WordPress site hosted on my own domain.

I have experimented with just about every tool that you could use from Dreamweaver which I used to build my homepage to various hard core HTML editors which I used to build and modify my “Welcome to the Beach” page.  I have found a number of Macintosh only web tools that I consider to be best in class. These include Coda 2, Rapidweaver, and Shutterbug.

That I haven’t found favorite Windows’ equivalents is more a result of me not looking for them than anything else.   Since I use both platforms and I am already comfortable using my Mac web tools, I have stuck with them.

While Dreamweaver is expensive, it is cross platform. Visual Lightbox which is a great way to do simple photo galleries  is free or very inexpensive and is also cross platform.  Komodo Edit is a nice free cross platform HTML editor.

However, you don’t need any of those tools to have a professional looking website with great content that is easy to update.

What I am going to recommend for a typical website is platform agnostic. You can do it just as easily on Windows as on a Macintosh.  The reason is that you build your website from a browser.

The browser becomes your most important tool, and I strongly recommend that you use either Firefox or Chrome. I can assure you that my advice is dead on when it comes to browsers.  However, browsers are always changing so if you start having problems, try another one.  Even I am much more impressed with Internet Explorer 10 than previous versions, but I am not ready to give it my complete endorsement after just a couple of months of using it.

Even more important than your browser choice, you need a really good hosting company. Surprisingly even a good one is not very expensive.  I use three different hosting companies, but I have found that the best for what I am going to recommend to be Bluehost.

I tried to use my other two providers to do what I am now doing, and they failed miserably.  It took me a lot of time and effort to come to this conclusion.  A company like Bluehost can also provide you with your domain and make setup very easy.  They can also help you transfer a domain that you already own.

The key to a simple website is using a piece of very robust, free software called WordPress.  I have been using WordPress software for years on their free site under their subdomain.  The blog that I have there is “Our Technological Infirmity.” I have tried to do similar sites with large databases of content with Rapidweaver, and it just hasn’t worked.

It is possible to have your own domain on the free WordPress site.  However, it does end up costing $25 per year and you still don’t have all the flexibility you would have with your own dedicated website.  You will get the power of WordPress without having to install and configure it yourself.

Over the years, I have found the free WordPress site to be just as reliable as other platforms that I use including Typepad, Squarespace, and Blogger.  Typepad and Squarespace are not free. Each of them costs more per year than your own website from Bluehost.

The advantage that the combination of WordPress and Bluehost have is that you can easily with one click install WordPress on your Bluehost domain. While this is not something that a completely non-technical person can do, it is something that anyone who has some blogging experience can work their way through without a lot of trouble.

Once you install WordPress, you have to pick a theme, and decide how you want to organize your site, but essentially you are good to go. There are tremendous number of things you can do, but you can also get started fairly easily and add more capabilities as you learn the software.

My WordPress site which has become the default home for my web presence. It  gives me all the flexibility that I need. I have a tremendous amount of content at the site.  Once you get some experience with your own site, you can easily explore the possibilities like slide shows or having your own private cloud storage.

The yearly monetary cost for my WordPress site is just a few dollars over $100 per year.  Of course the amount of time that I put into the site is much greater than most people who are just looking to do a simple business site.  My site has everything from a mainland travel guide to beach information and advice on growing tomatoes here in Eastern Carolina .

Most people would not need as much content as I have.  In essence I am building a brand around Crystal Coast Life and the diverse content becomes a good reason for over 1,200 unique visitors each month.

So has my site been successful? That is a very hard thing to measure, but I know the world is not going back to telephone books.

If you look at some pure metrics, my site has been a tremendous success.  I started the site in late spring 2011 and I am now averaging over 1,200 visitors per month . That compares very favorably to numbers that I saw when I was doing a contract blog for a local real estate firm.  The number of visitors has ramped up much more quickly than some of my other sites where I didn’t own my own domain.

I continue to get positive comments on the content that I post, and if you do a Google search for information about the Southern Outer Banks or the Crystal Coast, you will likely find me somewhere in the top search results.  Very little of that would be possible without using my own domain and creating content that demonstrates that I really know our area.

While some of what I have outlined might be beyond the technical capabilities of some folks, there are plenty of sharp web people around that can be hired for less than an arm and a leg to get you up and going.  Someone who knows what they are doing can get you started in just a few hours.  If you have the time and energy, you can make a huge difference in your web presence in just a few months. If you really are selling something besides just a simple product, having a presence on the web is a really good way to get your message across and show your clients that your interests go beyond just selling them something.

An easy first step is to go to Word Press, and try a little blogging just to see if you can get the hang of it.  You cannot complain about the price since it is free.

If you are ignoring the web or trusting Facebook, you should ask yourself just how often someone who isn’t a friend makes contact with you.   If you think Facebook is the solution, good luck with that. I’m pretty sure it is good for sharing content and comments with friends.  I have yet to see any business results from it.