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Website Design

Are you on the right website platform for your business?

website platforms-wix-weebly-vistaprint-wordpressBy platform I mean the service provider that hosts your website – such as Wix, Weebly, Vistaprint, WordPress to name a few.

Starting out the right way with a website means it’s less stress, easier to manage so it takes up less of your time, and easier to change as your business grows or changes.

Now I know that you’re thinking, Karen, you’re a WordPress Business Consultant so obviously you’re going to say go with WordPress.

Well yes and no…..

I think, you can correct me if I’m wrong, I think that most of the decisions to go with those kind of website platforms are budget and ease of use. However I don’t think that they’re as cheap as you think, either in terms of money or time.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing your website platform for your business needs:

Will it make me look professional?

This is so important. Your website is where people will get an idea of who you are, what you do, why you do it and whether they want to work or buy from you.

If you’re website is more relaxed for your clients, that’s great but it still needs to be done in a professional way.

For example I know a business that sells a high end product yet their website says designed by Vistaprint at the bottom. I’ve seen the recent TV adverts for Vistaprint and maybe they are trying to change their image but my impression of them is cheap business cards (and yes I have used them in the past). In my mind having an association with cheap on a high end product website simply doesn’t work.

For me (as a micro business owner) if someone approaches me offering a service or product and they are using a website that is free or send an email using from a gmail email address I think a few things:

  • someone is not serious about their business because they are not setting it up the correct way
  • someone is testing a new website / service to see if it works and they could be gone soon
  • whoever is guiding them with their marketing strategy either isn’t doing a good job or they are not listening to them

Will this platform allow my business to grow?

I know that when a lot of micro / home businesses start up that they are on a budget, I’ve been there and done that too. If you have a business plan (even if it’s just in your head) make sure that you have marketing in there and a rough idea of how and when to create or upgrade your website.

If you are simply testing an idea or you know that all you’ll ever want is a website with a few pages then one of the simpler platforms may be ideal for you. Yes right now all you may need is a 5 page website, but will that be enough in the future?

Do I own the domain for my website?

You want to make sure that you own your website domain. It’s an important part of your business and branding. No-one other than you should own it – not a website platform and not someone who set it up for you – only you.

Why? Because as you build your business people will get to know your domain name, and if you don’t own it then you’ve lost control.

You’d be shocked (or maybe you wouldn’t be) at the number of clients that have come to me either about to lose their domain or their hosting.

Some platforms allow to buy a domain through them, or give it to you for free, but if you want to leave you have to pay a fee.

If possible, buy your domain name first in your name (or your company name) and then add it to the platform.

Do I own the content?

Make sure that your content (text and images) are still owned by you when you use a website platform. In other words always read the small print – no matter how small it is and how long it goes on for.

Can I move my content easily to another platform?

moving boxes website contentYou would think that most website platforms have some sort of system where you can export your content so that if you decide to move to another platform super easy.

Unfortunately some platforms seem to think that if they don’t provide a way of easily letting you export your content (yes it’s your content after all) then you’ll stay with them.

If you only have a small website, only a few pages, then copy and paste is an option when moving your website.

Can you imagine doing that on a big website  that as grown over time to tens or hundreds of pages? I know business owners that either are or will have to do that at some stage.

Make sure that you have all your images and other content kept somewhere else so if you do need to re-create your website you have all the details.

Can I have a copy of my website for safe keeping?

computer safe file backupI can hear you ask, Karen do I really need this, they take a daily copy anyway?  The important word in that sentence is THEY. Yes they have a copy so how does that help you if you lose access to them?

Oh I have too many backups – said no-one EVER!

What’s a fundamental of buying property? Location, location, location.

What is a little known fundamental of having a website? Backup, backup, backup.

When you don’t have a backup of your own website here’s what some clients have some across:

  • If their website has a problem and it needs to be restored they have to pay to have the website restored (this can vary in price)
  • If they have an issue with their hosting company (payment has not been received although it’s been paid) they could lose their entire website if the hosting is taken down
  • If whoever hosts your website has serious issues such as server problem, you’ve lost your website and you may not get it back for days, weeks or maybe you’ve lost it forever

Yes I know I’m coming across as a backup lunatic person and you’re right. If you’ve worked damn hard on your website (or even if you haven’t), you want to make sure that you have a copy somewhere.

All my clients, yes even on WordPress and even with excellent website hosting companies, have a regular backup of their website which is sent to cloud storage. This means that if anything happens to their website, hosting, or even to me, they have a full copy of their website that can be restored quickly to get them back up and running.

So which platform is right for you?

If you want to know which budget platform I would choose – I would probably go with WordPress.com. They do the hosting for you, you can take your own domain, you can add options to expand or change your business, you can take a backup of your website yourself and you can export your content too.

With any platform there is a learning curve, whether it’s WordPress or something else.

Test out a few free platforms

If you want to find one that feels right to you then set up a few free accounts and see which one is  easier to use. Just be aware that the easiest one may not be the one that answers all these questions in a way that you like, but at least you would know what choice you are making.

Summary

In closing, ask yourself these questions to see if you’re on  the right platform for your business:

  • Will it make me look professional?
  • Will this platform allow my business to grow?
  • Do I own the domain for my website?
  • Who owns the content?
  • Can I move my content easily to another platform?
  • Can you have a copy of your website backup?

If you’re on the right platform, congratulations, you can sleep easy at night.

If you’re not sure, read the small print or ask questions of your website platform.

If you’re not on the right platform or think you may need to move, you can check out my website business process and contact me if you want some help moving to WordPress.

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Why do you want a website?

Why do you want a website?

If you already have a website then hopefully you already know why you have one (if not then I doubt that it’s working well for you and maybe we should have a chat).

Why do you want a website may seem like a really dumb question. Every business needs a website right?

In general my answer would be yes but we’re not thinking about generalities we’re think about you (yes you).

Let’s reverse the question for a moment – why wouldn’t you want a website?

Time – you don’t have time to update a website while you’re running your business and you don’t have

Money – to pay someone else to do it for you because you think that they are too

Expensive – since you think that websites are expensive you think that the expense will take away from your

Profit – your website should add to your profit rather than take away from it, it’s an investment not a cost.

The biggest issue I see before anyone decides on their website comes back to your Why. Everything starts with why?

(Note: If you haven’t watched the TED talk by Simon Sinek How great leaders inspire action it’s well worth watching since Simon talks about starting with why and has written a book about it too https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.)

When I moved from the UK to Australia nearly 10 years people often asked me why I choose the providers I used when we moved here. The simple answer is because they were online.

I didn’t have a yellow pages directory (does anyone even use them anymore?) since I was in the UK. I had no idea about local businesses and I didn’t know anyone in the area. The only thing I had access to was the internet and the businesses that were online received my business.

That was 10 years ago and now it’s even more important to be online since so many people are using mobile devices.

If your customers aren’t online and never will be and you’re sure that they aren’t online (you may be surprised at how many people are online) then maybe you don’t need a website.

According to ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/ProductsbyCatalogue/ACC2D18CC958BC7BCA2568A9001393AE?OpenDocument)

in 2014 – 2015 85% of people in Australia were internet users and in the aged group of 65 years, 51% of that aged group were online.

Do not make assumptions about your customers. If you’re not sure you could always ask them.

If you really don’t have the money to invest in a website (a good website is an investment and adds to your business), then think about how much extra time you have to build your own. There are DIY options available but all of them have some sort of learning curve.

Maybe you just want to go with social media such as a Facebook page or an Instagram account. Social media is fluid and what’s popular one year may be surpassed by something else next year. You have no control over the trends and you have no control over the platform either.

Facebook has been annoying me recently with the amount of changes that come through without any warning. And yes I’ll whinge about it but the fact is that it’s a free platform and actually they can do what they want with it.

I confess that I’m a recovering control freak so I love the fact that I have more control over my own business website than I do a social media platform that I get for free.

In summary, think about why you want a website. If your business had a website (or already has one) think about what result you want that person visiting your website to take – call you, book an appointment, download information, buy something…. what result do you want from your website?

Start with the end in mind and work backwards.

If you have questions about this drop me a line or connect through social media.

 

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The ‘not so sexy side’ of website design

glasses on a documentI was wondering what to write about today when I received yet another phone call from a small business owner unhappy with their current web designer and wondering what they can do about it.
I understand that it’s tempting to hand everything over to another person, especially when it’s something you don’t understand or it’s not the focus of your business. I know because I’m like that in other areas of my life. BUT (you knew that there was a ‘but’ coming didn’t you 🙂 ) as the business owner of your business the buck stops with you.

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To have a website or not to have a website……

This is one of the most popular questions I get asked… Karen I’m on social media but I’m not sure whether I really need a website or not?

So let’s look at what websites do for your business and what social media does….

 

Website

Social

Media

Connects with your existing customers green tick green tick
Find new customers green tick green tick
Instant feedback from customers  green tick green tick
Increase website traffic  cross green tick
Share content green tick green tick
Create personal relationships with customers  cross green tick

Free to set up

(wordpress.com etc for websites)

green tick green tick
Makes a statement that you are a serious business green tick  cross
Builds your business credibility green tick green tick
Helps build an email list green tick  cross
Easy way to find information about your business green tick  cross
Have control over your business contacts green tick  cross

Social media is great. Seriously, I love it. However, (you knew there was a however coming didn’t you?) it’s not everything. It s a part of your business and marketing plan but I don’t think it should be everything.

Why not? Your business is very important to you.

If you had a shop you wouldn’t want some complete stranger walking in and changing things on you without telling you. Maybe they put a bouncer on the door to prevent your customers from coming in and seeing what you are offering! However that’s what some social media platforms do. Facebook seems to be constantly changing and you are NOT in control of your Facebook page – no matter how many likes and followers that you have. It’s known that unless you pay, your business page posts only go out to a percentage of your followers.

Now I’m not saying this as a website designer, I’m saying this as an online shopper. If I see a business that is selling something that I like on Facebook I go to check out their website. Why? Anyone can set up a Facebook page. That’s why they have introduced business page verification – that tick shows that Facebook has confirmed that there is a real business behind the business page and has verified address etc.

MG Website Design Facebook page verified

For me, a business that has a website is looking long term and plans to be around for a while. The business wants to have control over the business information they put out there and want their customers to find it easily.

Now I mentioned in the table ‘helps’ to build an email list’. In actual fact I confess that you don’t need to have a website to build an email list. There are platforms where you can set up what is called an ‘opt-in’ page where people will give you their email address in exchange for a free report, download, join a newsletter that kind of thing. These platforms are not cheap and if your reason for not having a website is expense then it’s actually cheaper to have a website long term. If you want to check out these type of platforms look at Lead Pages, click funnel and you’ll find more when you look in a search engine. By the way I like these platforms BUT I would use them with a website and not on their own.

Why would you want people’s email address in the first place?

Let’s assume I’m your someone who’s looking for your product / service. You know this because I’m following you on social media and may have even asked a few questions. However the only way your business can contact me is by sending me a message and on some platforms I may not even see it.

If you offered me a newsletter where I could get special offers, or find out more information that I’d be interested in then I’d be willing to give you my email address in exchange.

Now your business has direct access to me, and you can email me whenever you like. At least you know the email will be delivered to me (whether I read it or not needs to be covered in another topic).

But Karen, I don’t want to send out spam. I get so many emails that I don’t want to be someone sending out more!

Yes I’ve heard that before. Spam is any email that I’m not interested in but you’ve already established that I’m interested in your service / product. Any decent email platform will have an unsubcribe link in the email so people can leave your email list should they choose to.

So in summary, a website gives you credibility and control which you don’t find with social media platforms. It gives you a means of collecting email addresses of interested people who may turn into customers.

For those reasons alone I truly believe that every business should have a website.

Feel free to leave your comments / questions below, whether they’re positive or negative. Seriously, I can handle it 🙂

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Where the magic happens

Mount Gambier Website Design WorkspaceLet’s get to know each other a little better. Here is a picture showing my workspace. As you can see I definitely don’t have a wireless office!

I do have a new laptop which is why I have two laptops on my desk. I would love to say that I have one for each hand so I can create websites twice as fast but I don’t think you’d believe that :-).

I am transferring data from my old laptop to my new Windows 8.1 laptop. Now I’ve stopped cursing it and have some programs loaded it that make it do what I want we’re getting along fine.

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We’re nominated….

Today we’ve been notified that we’ve been nominated in the Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce NAB Outstanding Business of the Year Awards 2013. This is very exciting since this is our first nomination. The winners will be announced at the presentation evening on Friday September 20th at the Barn.

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How often to update your website?

Subtitle – a website is for life not just for Christmas!

Okay that’s all a bit of an exaggeration but what I’m trying to say is that websites shouldn’t simply be created and then left alone.  Just like a dog, websites need to be fed regularly with juicy bits of news about the business. Don’t worry that’s where the comparisons with dogs ends!

Websites used to be difficult to update by small businesses so the website would sit there for months and possibly even years without any content being added. However with Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress and Joomla any business that can use applications like Microsoft Word can also add content to their own website content.

Updating your website content is important for a couple of reasons – you want people to come back and visit your website so you need something new for them to come back for and also search engines will think your website is stale if you don’t update it. If search engines think that the website info is old then your business website will drop in its rankings and eventually it’ll be hard to find.

Business owners often ask what to write on their website. It can be news about the business itself – new products or services, how to use your products / services, events that you’ll be attending or special offers. If you have a business or events diary go through and see what can be newsworthy.

If you are already updating a Facebook Page or Twitter account, that can be placed on your website easily with a CMS website.

How frequently you update your website depends on the news you have to offer but at least once a month would be good and once a week even better.  You need to decide how often to add content to your website depending on your business and your available time. Once you have decided that you want to keep it consistent. If you decide that you’ll write one article a week you can write more and then schedule that they can be published one a week but you don’t want to write four articles and then publish them on the same day. Search engines like consistency and so do your customers.

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What do I need to ask a website designers?

If you don’t know much about website design yourself then there a few questions you may want to ask before deciding who you want to develop your website. You can always ask several companies the same questions and then compare the services and prices – just make sure that you are comparing like with like.

How much will it cost?

Now this will depend on what you want your website to do for your business. Some designers will charge by the website, by the hour, or will supply a quote based on information that you give them.

How much will the ongoing costs be?

Clients don’t always ask this question but it’s important that you know the initial set up costs and any ongoing costs since some website systems have monthly charges.

Will you be able to change the website yourself?

Now we realise that you don’t want to become website designers since you’re busy running your business but there may be a time when you want to add some information.  Find out upfront whether you can do that yourself or whether you have to pay a developer to do it or if you have to buy special software. If you need special software how much will this cost?

What if you want to change the look and feel of the website?

Websites need to be reviewed and updated every few years. This isn’t simply a way for web designers to earn more money but there are changes in the way that people use websites and these changes need to be incorporated into websites. Some years ago you wouldn’t have seen links to social media on website but now they are usually on every website.  Likewise people’s tastes change and a website can be changed to add a new logo, to change the colors or simply to move things around a little bit. How easy will that be to do? What costs are associated with it?

For clarification here are our answers to those questions.

How much will it cost? We’ll talk to you about you require for your business and maybe fill in some forms to make sure that we’ve understood exactly what you need. Based on that we’ll give you a quote and we charge by the hour. To give you an idea a basic WordPress website with about three pages and a basic custom template would be about $400.

How much will the ongoing costs be? You have to continue paying for the hosting and the domain name but there are no extra ongoing costs for the website design. The software we use are free Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress and Joomla. You only pay us for our skills when you use us.

Will you be able to change the website yourself? We supply technical documentation for the website and we can show you how to amend or add information yourself. If you use products like Microsoft Word then you’ll be able to add and change information in WordPress and Joomla.

What if you want to change the look and feel of the website? That’s not a problem. Both WordPress and Joomla have separate templates that can change the look and feel of the website. There are many free templates that you can use, low cost templates that you can buy or we can build you a custom made template. Changing from one template to another only takes a matter of minutes and the website comes with default templates. If you want us to build you a new custom made template then that can cost than $100 depending on how you want the template to look.

Let us know if you think we need to add any other questions to the list and answer them ourselves.

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What do I need for a website?

This is one of the most common questions that we get asked.

Basically there are two parts

– a domain name (which is your address on the internet)

– a hosting account (which is where the information for the website is stored)

You can buy the domain name and hosting separately or together.

At the time of writing you can buy an Australian domain (.com.au) for about $22 for two years. Hosting varies from company to company and also depends on what you want from your website.

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Is your business online in Mount Gambier?

The Smart E-skills training is coming to Mount Gambier in March and I’ve already signed up. Why would a Mount Gambier Website Designer sign up for an e-skills workshop? Mainly so that the knowledge can be passed on to local businesses like you.

Local businesses need to be online so that customers can find them.  One of my clients picked up business from Queensland in Mount Gambier. Why? He was the only gardener that the person in Queensland could find online in Mount Gambier.

Back to the Smart E-skills training… If you are interested in attending this training please contact the number on this Smart E-skills flyer (355kb). This workshop has nothing to do with me since a government initiative which is why it’s FREE. I do think that it’s a bloody good idea though.

If you don’t want to attend the training but do want some down to earth, no technical jargon on updating or setting up a website simply get in touch.

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