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Professional Websites

Professional websites need professional web designWhy do I make a dis­tinc­tion between pro­fes­sion­al web­sites and basic sites? Well, because basic sites aren’t the effect­ive online advert­ising tools most people want. For that, you need what I call a pro­fes­sion­al web­site.

So what’s the dif­fer­ence? Fan­ci­er design? Not at all.

Whilst good visu­als do increase sales, you also need:

  • “Respons­ive” web design — mobile-friendly lay­outs that adapt to dif­fer­ent screen sizes
  • User-friendly nav­ig­a­tion — “arty” designs that make vis­it­ors hunt for con­tent just don’t work
  • Search-engine friendly code — even the pret­ti­est site won’t impress if people can’t find it
  • Great, fre­quently-updated con­tent

The first three are included in my “basic site” solu­tions, but it’s the last point that really sets pro­fes­sion­al sites apart. They usu­ally out­per­form basic sites in search engines, because search engines pro­mote what vis­it­ors want to see — lots of high qual­ity, up-to-date con­tent. Small sites with lim­ited, out­dated inform­a­tion just can’t keep up with the chan­ging expect­a­tions of online audi­ences. So, pro­fes­sion­al web­sites provide the tools you need so cre­ate and main­tain fresh, effect­ive con­tent.

Of course, if you need help with copy writ­ing or oth­er forms of con­tent mar­ket­ing, I can provide that, too. Still, even that’s more cost-effect­ive with a web­site that’s built to be easy to edit and expand.

In short, even if you don’t need a full e-com­merce sys­tem, you do need a blog or Con­tent Man­age­ment Sys­tem (CMS) that makes it easy to add unlim­ited pages to your site. If you’re ser­i­ous about advert­ising online, that is.

Business Sites — Blogs & CMS Websites

A blog used to mean an online journ­al. Now, it means any list of short posts that appears as a single page in the main site nav­ig­a­tion. It may act as a home page, or as a “News” page, on sites with a sep­ar­ate homepage. A blog usu­ally lists posts in date order, shift­ing the old­est onto sub-pages. Each post may also be an excerpt link­ing to a longer art­icle.

On such sites, stand-alone edit­able pages add oth­er con­stant menu items like “About”, “Port­fo­lio” and “Con­tact” Pages. If you have the abil­ity to add an unlim­ited num­ber of pages to your site, then yes, you could do that instead of run­ning a blog — but the site nav­ig­a­tion would soon become unwieldy. A date-ordered blog list­ing usu­ally keeps ten or more of your latest posts just one click away from any oth­er page on your site.

Your Blog — Your Digital Marketing Hub

Blog posts are excel­lent items to share to your social media accounts — instead of writ­ing art­icles sep­ar­ately for each chan­nel. That way, your site becomes a hub for all your online mar­ket­ing efforts, instead of rely­ing on the whims of plat­forms that someone else owns. After all, even the big plat­forms do wane and dis­ap­pear, even­tu­ally. Do you really want them to take all your best art­icles with them when they do? No? Then write them on your own site, not dir­ectly on Face­book or Linked­In.

Anoth­er key advant­age of a blog or News page is that vis­it­ors don’t expect every blog post to be a long, com­pre­hens­ive, “ever­green” art­icle. It’s far easi­er to keep your site act­ive with a quick news update that may only be rel­ev­ant for a week or two, than to craft con­tent worthy of a whole new, stan­dalone page. That’s espe­cially true when you under­stand that put­ting up a tem­por­ary page and then just tak­ing it down again gen­er­ally res­ults in Google see­ing “404 — page not found” errors that will dam­age your search rank­ings. With a well-run blog, that out­dated con­tent will just shift into an archive — where it’s less obvi­ous to vis­it­ors, but can still be found by search engines.

An effect­ive blog­ging plat­form will also let you cat­egor­ise and/or tag your blog posts, so that vis­it­ors can find them more eas­ily. If you pub­lish a lot of strong, long art­icles about a spe­cif­ic top­ic on your blog, you can even cre­ate menu items for your main cat­egory list­ings.

WordPress Development

A “full” CMS lets you edit page frag­ments and com­bine them into pages, keep­ing each frag­ment con­sist­ent across the site. How­ever, the main “blog” plat­form — Word­Press — blurs this dis­tinc­tion.

In fact, Word­Press powers over 30% of web­sites and almost 60% of all CMS sites. Why? Because it’s extremely user friendly (espe­cially if set up prop­erly) — and insanely flex­ible. It sits at the heart of an entire “eco­sys­tem” of many thou­sands of plu­gin mod­ules. These let Word­Press (WP) act as a full CMS, provide advanced e-com­merce, appoint­ment and event book­ings, run online com­munit­ies and more. It also lets developers (pro­gram­mers) like me write bespoke plu­gins to provide fea­tures that exist­ing plu­gins don’t. As such, some design­ers use noth­ing else.

WordPress Development Pitfalls

Some design­ers think Word­Press can do any­thing. It can’t — just a lot. True, there are plu­gins for almost every com­mon require­ment. Still, I’ve seen some agen­cies try to cram stuff into Word­Press that it just can’t handle, with dis­astrous res­ults. You need a developer who knows the lim­it­a­tions of Word­Press before they start build­ing your site.

Also, some “Word­Press developers” can’t write a line of code. They just know how to find and con­fig­ure plu­gins. That isn’t always a prob­lem, but can become a big one. The web con­stantly changes, so when stuff breaks, it often takes a pro­gram­mer to sort it out. So, if someone claims to be a “Word­Press developer” — ask them if they can code. For any oth­er type of IT developer, that’s pretty much what “developer” means.

Whilst I’ve been a keen Word­Press developer (as in “genu­ine pro­gram­mer”) since 2004, I have also built many oth­er types of site, start­ing in 1996 — and had been pro­gram­ming for almost 20 years before that. So, I focus on using the best tool for the job. For blog­ging , that’s usu­ally Word­Press. When it isn’t, I’ll tell you, and we’ll either use a more appro­pri­ate plat­form, or build a bespoke web applic­a­tion.

Blogs and CMS sites also need fre­quent soft­ware updates to keep hack­ers at bay, so I build these on my Pro Host­ing Plus pack­age. I also add in extra lay­ers of secur­ity and per­form­ance-boost­ing fea­tures like writ­ing-qual­ity ana­lys­is and “struc­tured data” (which Google loves).

Ser­i­ous about online busi­ness? You need a ser­i­ous busi­ness web­site!

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Community Websites

From sub­scriber sites and for­ums to full-fea­tured social media sys­tems, com­munity sites are a great way to sup­port a club or pro­mote a cause. Unlike blogs, these sites aren’t lim­ited to a few, con­trol­lable staff logins. They also tend to store details for many mem­bers with site-edit­ing per­mis­sions. As such, secur­ity is even more vital, so I build such sites on my Busi­ness Host­ing Plus pack­age.

Plan­ning an online com­munity?

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