Why WordPress is the Best Platform for your Website

Photo by Launchspresso via Unsplash

So you’re thinking of setting up a new website. Hopefully, you’ve done all the prep, like identifying your goals/target audience, and purchased a domain and hosting package. (If not, don’t panic. I’m here to help). Now, it’s time to pick your CMS, and WordPress is (probably) the one to choose.

But let’s back up a bit. If you’re not familiar with what CMS is, it stands for Content Management System, and it’s basically the system you choose to create your site and manage its content — think text, images, products, videos and anything you add regularly. These days, there are tons of CMSs to choose from with various features and levels of complexity that cater to everyone from newbie DIY-ers to experienced web developers. Two of the most popular are WordPress (powering 27 million websites) and Squarespace (powering 2.5 million websites). 

You may have also heard of Wix, Shopify, Drupal and many other rival platforms, but in this article we’ll compare WordPress vs Squarespace as they are ranked #1 and #3 most used Content Management Systems in 2020. Whilst both have their pros and cons, in my opinion WordPress should definitely be your top choice. Read on to find out why.

WordPress offers flexibility

While Squarespace may be a good choice for a basic, beginner website, WordPress is the way to go if your website is more complicated, or you’re not sure exactly how your business may grow in the future. In fact, if you have a business at all, WordPress is the best choice.

WordPress is a hugely flexible system with almost unlimited possibilities for customisation, whereas Squarespace is more of a quick and easy, drag-and-drop setup. If you’re doing things on your own, it makes sense that you may opt for Squarespace, because it’s easy and fairly low cost (from £13 / 15€ per month). But it’s also so much more limited in terms of features and customisation.

Although you may need to know coding (or hire someone who does) to set up your WordPress site, you really have so many different options when creating your webpage, especially if you want more advanced features, like an online shop. WordPress allows you to do more, and isn’t that what being a business owner is all about: expansion?

WordPress has endless options (read: plugins)

Plugins are the bells and whistles of websites, and WordPress offers more than 50,000 of them to choose from. While I definitely don’t recommend you install that many (I usually suggest no more than 10 for a basic website or 20 for an e-commerce or more complex site), it’s extremely helpful to have such an expansive array of options to choose from. 

It’s okay if you don’t know what plugins are. Basically, plugins are what allow you to customize your website and add new features. Some of my favourites are UpdraftPlus (for creating automated backups), or Yoast SEO (for you guessed it, for SEO optimisation). And if sustainability is important to you, plugins like TinyPNG (optimises images) and Hummingbird (a website performance booster) can make your website go faster and use less energy. As I mentioned, you don’t want to go overboard with plugins, because that can slow your site down. But WordPress plugins allow you to add almost any feature you can dream of, which makes your site, well, yours!

WordPress gives you full control 

WordPress allows you full control of your website. While the site itself may be more complicated to create, it’s nice to know that you can do whatever you want with full control over your own site.

If you switch web hosts, you can move your WordPress website to a new host without losing the website’s files, pages, content, imagery and everything else it utilises. Other CMS systems like Squarespace make it difficult to export your website to a new host, meaning if you want to move your site away from Squarespace, you’ll have to rebuild your entire site from scratch!

Update and monitor your website easily with WordPress

While WordPress may seem daunting initially, once your website is set up (regardless if you’ve done it yourself or hired someone to do it for you) it’s surprisingly easy to update, monitor and maintain. 

WordPress offers an ease, once set up, that many other CMS systems don’t. It’s intuitively simple to use, even for those who may struggle with tech.

One of the simplest things to do in WordPress once it’s set up is using the back-end area for writing blog posts. If you plan to create blog posts frequently, WordPress is the CMS to choose.

WordPress vs. Squarespace: The ups and downs

The WordPress vs. Squarespace debate is real, but generally, I find WordPress really allows your website to grow and evolve alongside your business. Squarespace, on the other hand, makes everything fairly easy to set up yourself, but you are limited in what you can do.

Because WordPress offers so many options and so much flexibility, it’s harder to set up. If you don’t know a lot about CMS, coding or setting up websites in general, it’s going to be a bit of work. 

You may have to hire someone. However, getting it done right from start can help you avoid a lot of stress and website issues later on. After all, do you really want to be dealing with a website redo down the line when your business is booming? No? Then pick WordPress.

If you need help designing your WordPress site, get in touch. I’m happy to help.


How to Plan Your New Website

A detailed, 10-step guide to follow when designing a small business website.

Whether you’re setting up your brand new website or on your fifth redesign (or anywhere in between), organising before you start is the best plan of action. This go-to guide will help you focus your vision in a clear and concise manner, making it simple for you to begin your small business website design process. Read on for 10 easy steps on how to make your website. 

Step 1: Define your website’s goals and target audience

Understanding how to plan your website is an important beginning step before you do anything else. Start by making sure you have clear and attainable goals, as well as a solid understanding of your audience. This is kind of like having a business plan, but specific for your website. 

  • Consider business leads, sales, offer information and brand awareness. Note your goals, what it is you’re offering and your brand.
  • Define your audience. Who is reading your website? Purchasing your product? Signing up for your course? Is your audience gender, age or location specific?
  • Plan how you’ll convert visitors to customers. Will you have a newsletter? An email signup? CTAs on your social media accounts? How will you monetise your website?

Step 2: Buy a domain and hosting package

Now that you’ve defined your goals, your website needs a home. This is called a domain. Here are some key steps for this important step in your website design.

  • Select a domain name. When buying a domain, you’ll want something punchy, memorable and short. Of course, the name of your brand is the most obvious, or your own name, depending on your offerings. 
  • Select the right domain extension. You’ll want to consider .com, .co.uk or otherwise. Of course, much of this depends on availability, but in general, you’ll want to choose .com, as this is the easiest for customers to remember. Tech companies should consider .co or .io, and if your brand is very location specific, say, located in Spain, you’ll want to consider .es, or .co.uk if in the U.K.
  • Consider your host. Just like in real life, some hosts are better than others. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay between £2.50 to £6 per month for basic web hosting. My personal recommendation is Pixel Internet, which has packages starting at just £2.49 per month — including an SSL certificate, which brings me to my next point
  • Don’t forget an SSL certificate. These are small files that attach a virtual key to your website. Basically, an SSL certificate allows for secure connections and authenticates your website. Not having this makes your site easy prey to hackers. Plus, Google tends to prioritise websites with valid SSL certificates. So, make sure your host includes this important extra. In many cases, an SSL certificate is free, but this could be a deciding factor when choosing your web host.

Step 3: Plan out the pages and features you’ll need

This step is fairly simple, and you can refer back to step one if needed (defining your business and brand).

Make a list of the pages you’ll need. Some of the most common are:
  • Home
  • About
  • Services
  • Shop
  • Blog
  • Contact
Make another list of the features you’ll need. Typical features are: 
  • Online shop
  • Payment system
  • Image gallery
  • Contact form
Consider any additional plugins or widgets you might like. Some examples are:
  • What I’m reading
  • Search boxes 
  • Countdown or regular clocks
  • Links to your social media channels

Step 4: Choose a CMS 

Deciding between WordPress vs. Squarespace may be the most complicated choice you’ll have when you design your website. Obviously, there are also other CMS options, but WordPress and Squarespace are the most popular — and with good reason. They’re both solid choices that offer a great amount of flexibility in your design. Just make sure to choose the one that can best handle your pages and additional features. Stay tuned for further articles on the WordPress versus Squarespace debate.

  • The case for WordPress: Best for those wanting something flexible, customisable and free (in some cases).
  • The case for Squarespace: Best for those wanting something easy to use, though it’s less customisable (perfect for basic sites).

Step 5: Prepare content and source images

Now it’s time to really dig in: what exactly will you be putting on your website?

  • Copy. Whether you plan to hire a copywriter or prepare content on your own, drafting it up will help you or your designer lay out pages. Make sure to consider all of your pages — including about you, your business and your services. Remember to use spell check or Grammarly!
  • Images. You can always take your own photos, or consider a stock photo subscription. There are stock image websites with free images such as Unsplash or Flicker, just make sure to read the fine print and give credit when necessary. Pay close attention to photo size, which can slow your site down if images are too large. If you need assistance with reducing image sizes, this handy guide can help.

Step 6:  Use SEO and keywords to your advantage

google-seo
  • Start with SEO. Your website needs to connect with the right users. So, you need to have the right keywords on the site in order for Google and other search engines to direct visitors there. Neil Patel’s free SEO Tool Ubersuggest, can help you find the right keywords for your site which will help it attract visitors and increase traffic.
  • Don’t forget about competition. Do your due diligence by researching competition in search engines with your keywords. In order to be the best, you’ll need to know what you’re up against. Understanding what your competitors are doing right (and wrong) will help you figure out to set up and maximise your own site. 

Step 7: Get a start on social media

Whether you hate it or love it, social media can be a powerful step to success in many markets.

  • Claim social media handles. Whether you’re ready to fully set up your pages or not, you should immediately claim your social media handles. Depending on your brand, business model and target audience, you may want to start with networks like Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, Youtube, Pinterest, Linkedin and Twitter.
  • Setup your pages. This part may take a bit longer, and it’s best to start with one at a time. Setting up your channels in anticipation of your website launch can work to your advantage. They can alert your target audience to your new webpage, increasing traffic.
  • Create a social media strategy. When considering a social media strategy, make sure it offers value to your target audience. Strategies vary greatly by network, but one solid tip is consistency. Have a plan and execute it regularly. And make sure to link back to your website whenever possible in order to drive traffic to the site. 

Step 8: Channel your design inspiration

Create your digital mood board for inspiration. Photo by Kobu Agency on Unsplash.

Whether you have aptitude for design or not, this is the fun part — it’s time to get creative! And don’t worry if, well, you have no clue. With a little research and time, you can easily figure out what you like and what you don’t.

  • Start a list. Design inspiration can be as easy as picking your preferred websites. It’s best to go with immediate feelings or gut instinct here. The moment you see a website — do you love it? Hate it? Easy on the eyes? Jarring colours? Too busy or just the right amount of simplicity? Choose your favourites and then figure out what it is you like about them.
  • Remember, it’s not just about aesthetics. This is also a good time to figure out what’s important to you in a website besides just appearance. Is having an eco-friendly or sustainable website important to you? Is a super speedy website essential (nobody wants to wait for a slow website loading these days)? Do you want a focus on images? Or prefer more text? 
  • Use Pinterest. Pinterest makes it easy to create a digital mood board with everything you like. Save what you love online to your boards, which can offer insight on how to design your own website.
  • Browse web design sites. Once you’ve figured out what you love (and what you don’t) and set up your moodboard of ideas, sift through web design sites like Awwwards to find a style that fits your vision. This will also alert you to any website design trends you may want to utilise for your own site.

Step 9: Prepare your branding

Consistent branding will help users get to know you and recognize your brand. 

  • Create logos, colours and fonts (or a vision for them). Revisit that Pinterest mood board or the websites you love to think about what colours and fonts work best with your brand. Consider a custom logo design that fits your brand image.
  • Hire a graphic designer. If a logo is important to you, hiring someone can ensure it’s done right if you aren’t super knowledgeable in this area. If you feel confident to do this step on your own, by all means, DIY!
  • Finesse the tone. Make sure the copy and images you’ve selected on your site fit with your brand. Consistency in this area will ensure you’re staying in line with your target audience.

Step 10: Set up your site: Hire a web designer or DIY

The moment of truth has arrived: it’s time to set up your website. 

  • The case for DIY: It’s cheaper to set up your own website, but much more time consuming. It may be frustrating to run into roadblocks along the way, and these can cause delays in your launch.
  • The case for hiring a web designer: This is an investment. Of course, it will cost you money, but likely much less stress, time and worry, allowing you to focus on the other aspects of your business. If you do decide to go with a designer, find one you feel can make your vision a reality. Make sure to provide your designer with all your ideas, content, keywords, branding vision, social media channels etc. The more information you can give, the more likely it is that your website will be designed exactly how you envisioned. 

Want to design a new website? To get started, contact me. I’m available for hire on a freelance or contract basis, and it would be my pleasure to make your website vision a reality. Contact me here for information, details and pricing.


Is it Time for a Website Redesign?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Thinking about a website redesign? These are the things you should consider.

If you’re pondering a website redesign, you’re not alone. Major companies tend to redesign their websites every two to  three years. Some websites even undergo work or changes every six months. 

But perhaps you’re a smaller business, or just one person. In these cases, how do you know if or when your website needs a redesign? 

The decision will be clear and easy if you use the below information to evaluate. Here are all the ways to tell if your website needs a redesign.

The website redesign signs don’t lie. Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

1. Your website is dated

Dated can mean many different things when it comes to websites.

The first thing that may come to mind is that the website is old and clunky. Year after year, websites become more modern and streamlined. Sometimes less is more when it comes to a website, and a refresh will add new web design trends and give it an updated, more contemporary look. 

To say it bluntly, if your website is ugly, it’s time for a new one!

If your website has a lot of cheesy stock photos, graphics or styling, this may mean it’s time for a change. Updating photos can give the website a whole new look, just make sure that your image size is alway optimised so as to not slow your site down. 

2020 is all about sustainability. It’s cool to be eco-friendly, and your website should be too. Creating and maintaining a sustainable website will ensure your brand stays relevant in current times. Plus, saving the planet one website at a time means you’re doing your part.

Your brand should inspire trust in your clients and customers, and having a fresh website is one of the best ways to do so. Customers trust in brands that take the time and energy to maintain a user-friendly website, which leads me to my next point.

2. Visitors can’t find what they’re looking for

If your visitors can’t find what they’re looking for, the result is simple — they’ll go elsewhere. It doesn’t matter how great your product is. If customers can’t access it (and access it quickly), they’ll get frustrated and move on, likely to a competitor.

Maybe the information they need or want is there, but if they can’t find it, or processes are erroring out, they won’t stay — or come back. 

And of course, if anything about your brand has changed — your contact details, your offerings or services, your logo or really anything at all, it’s important that your website evolves to reflect whatever is new.

3. Your website isn’t getting sales, traffic or leads

Your website should be getting you business. Clicks lead to customers, and if those clicks aren’t leading to anything, then it’s time for a redo. 

Using the right keywords should help drive traffic to your site. If your traffic isn’t high, you may need to consider changing those keywords so your site ranks in searches and is apt for your target audience. SEO is important for search rankings, essentially gaining you more views which can hopefully then turn into sales or business.

Another thing to consider is bounce rate. Are people leaving your site before they even get a chance to really check it out? If your bounce rate is high, it means your customers are not finding what they need, at least not on the first try. When someone leaves before their drink order arrives on a blind date, you know it’s time for a makeover, and the same goes for websites.

And some visitors may take a little longer to check things out, but if you’re finding that they leave shortly thereafter, it means your site simply isn’t concise or user-friendly. The longer visitors spend perusing your site, the more likely it is that they’ll become a customer — or at least remember you. 

This is when conversion rate comes in. It should be easy for visitors to become customers — but does your site make that simple enough? Have you ever searched around a website, frustrated and eventually left because you couldn’t figure out how to make an appointment, get the information you needed or successfully complete a purchase? If you seem to have a lot of visitors but not enough customers, it could be a sign that your website just isn’t well-designed. 

And once a consumer is lost or frustrated with your website, it’s hard to regain that trust and change them into a client.

4. Your website is slow or has technical issues

We live in a world where users have zero patience for slow websites, broken websites or having to constantly refresh websites. In fact, 41% of people say that technology has made them more impatient than they were five years ago. Thanks to instant gratification people get from speedy new websites, they’ll have less patience for your site if it’s slow.

In fact, a study by BBC showed that for every additional second it takes a page to load, 10% of users leave. That essentially means that if your website takes an extra five seconds to load, you’re losing 50% of your traffic! 

Maybe your images are taking forever to load, or your links are broken. A website redesign can help optimise your links and image file sizes and move your site to a more reliable web host, speeding everything up.

And don’t forget that mobile phones account for over 50% of website traffic. If your website looks substandard or won’t load correctly/ quickly enough on a phone, it’s time to change that. Plus, new web design trends will ensure that your website can look better than ever on a phone, and that’s an easy way to gain customers that are constantly on the go.

5. It’s annoying to manage and update your site

We’ve focused on the visitor experience thus far, but what about your own experience using and updating your website? 

After all, you are responsible for adding new information, services and updates to your website. If the admin area is confusing or slow to respond, it will take more time to update it. 

Or worse, you’ll have to pay someone to update it regularly. Paying someone for a redesign so you can easily update and manage your own site is much more cost-effective in the long run.

You don’t want to be dealing with learning code to edit your website when there are CMS options out there that make it simple for business owners to update and manage their websites. Systems like WordPress have a plugin for just about everything, and once your website is updated, you can use it to do new and different things to help your business grow.

6. You don’t have a website to begin with

I hate to state the obvious, but it’s 2020. And if you don’t have a website, you should. What are you waiting for? 

Having social media accounts is not enough. A Facebook page does not replace the professional look of your own website. 

Setting up that website with all the latest web design trends will help customers take your brand/business seriously. And, it will connect you to more users. This gives more people the opportunity to find out about what you and your business are offering to the world.

How to start your website redesign

The hardest part is admitting that you need a website redesign — or a website in the first place. So now what? 

Stay tuned for my next article on planning a website redesign, which will include a handy checklist with all the things you need to know and do when starting and managing a website redesign.

If a website redesign (or getting your first website) seems overwhelming, I can help. Click here to see some of my website redesigns, and contact me here to discuss packages, options and rates.


How to Speed up your Website by Reducing Image File Size

Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash

Optimise your website by reducing image size (without losing quality) to help it run faster and improve performance.

Nothing’s more irritating than waiting for a website to load. Slow and clunky websites should be a thing of the past, but many sites don’t run as quickly as they could. And image size may be the culprit.

A study by BBC showed that for every additional second it takes a page to load, 10% of users leave. That essentially means that if your website takes an extra five seconds to load, you’re losing 50% of your traffic! Research by Google also showed that if your website takes three seconds or more to load, 53% of users will leave.

Reducing image size can help your site load and respond quicker so you don’t lose out on those page views or potential clients. And optimising images can also help boost your website’s SEO rank too. In 2018, Google made website speed a factor in mobile search ranking.

But what does image optimisation have to do with speed?

Maintaining a speedy website involves a number of factors, but making sure your images are small is something that can really help to keep things moving quickly. It makes sense: smaller images load faster, and a faster website ensures an improved user experience and therefore a higher retention rate. 

How to optimise your images

Thanks to online image optimisation tools, it’s easy (and free!) to make sure your images aren’t slowing down your site. 

Many online tools exist to shrink images, but some are better than others. The best online tools will shrink your images while still retaining their quality, ensuring your website runs as smoothly and as quickly as possible. These are a few of my personal favourites:

Tiny JPEG

Tiny JPEG uses an encoder to analyze each image’s texture, pattern and colour. Apt for users wanting to resize several photos in one go, you can drop or upload up to 20 JPEG files. The tool then strips the image of unnecessary metadata. This ensures your photo files are now smaller without sacrificing image quality. 

My favourite feature of Tiny JPEG is the WordPress plugin which automatically optimises new images upon upload. And if that’s not enough, the brand’s adorable animated panda bear happily chomps on bamboo and cheers once your images are successfully reduced in size.

Kraken

Although there’s a paid pro version of Kraken, the free version is surprisingly versatile. You can upload images directly or simply type in a URL. Users can choose from three types of optimization modes: lossy, which is the most common, lossless, which retains every single detail if you’re working with extremely detailed images and expert (best for photographers or pros), which allows for a more custom image adjustment. 

Reduce Images

Reduce Images is ideal for beginners or those needing more custom image resizing for just a few images. Upload a photo and then choose a new size (by percent or pixels), format (JPEG, PNG or GIF) and background color (black or white).

Bottom line

Using these easy tools, there’s no excuse for having large images that clog up your site. But if you simply can’t be bothered or are wondering what else may be slowing your website down, get in touch. I can provide an analysis of your website to figure out what’s causing the issue and how to fix it. 


Arsenal Footballer Héctor Bellerín Plants Trees For Wins

Photo by Roscoe Myrick

“No win, no trees” is the new motto of Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin, a footballer who has started his own unique sustainability campaign. He’s promised to plant 3,000 trees each time Arsenal wins a game this season.

The Premier League is back to business after a 100-day shutdown thanks to coronavirus, and Bellerin isn’t wasting any time. At the time of writing, Arsenal has won four games thus far, which means Bellerin has planted 12,000 trees

Plus, after a 7th July match that ended in a draw with Leicester City, he planted 3,000 more for good measure — Arsenal put in a worthy effort, after all.

Bellerin’s trees are planted in the Amazon, an area of the world which is feeling the effects of deforestation at an alarming rate. In just a one-year period in 2018/2019, the Amazon lost almost four thousand square miles of rainforest. Let’s hope Arsenal keeps winning — because the Amazon could really use the extra help.

You can join Bellerin in saving the Amazon by donating: for every dollar donated, one tree will be planted. On his fundraiser page, he shows his support for a sustainable future, saying, “I care deeply about making a positive impact for future generations. We need healthy places to play outdoors and where biodiversity can thrive in nature. Thanks to support from the team and fans, we can plant lots of trees together!” At the time of posting, almost $20,000 of his $30,000 goal has been raised.

That’s not the only way you can help. Bellerin is working with an organisation called One Tree Planted, and you can donate apart from his campaign to offset your carbon — one easy way to make your own website (or lifestyle) more sustainable.

While you can always just randomly plant trees at your leisure in various locations around the world with One Tree Planted, consider using Tree Nation, which offers CO2 neutral packages that fits your needs. Packages guarantee to offset a fixed amount of carbon by planting a specific number of trees each month. 

And if Arsenal has a losing streak, don’t fret. True environmentalists may even hope they lose, because the Amazon will still get its trees — double the amount, in fact. In response to Bellerin’s campaign, Paddy Power has announced they’ll plant 6,000 trees every time Arsenal loses. Now that is truly a win-win.