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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!

Tell me your plans

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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