When you need a website, you probably wanted it up and running last week! Using website builders like Squarespace and Wix are perfect for certain businesses, but before you decide if it’s right for yours here are some things to consider.

In this post, I’m going to give you an overview of how to prepare and plan your website from design to launch, and what you need to be online in 30 days.

BRAINSTORM

Time spent: 8 hours or 1 business day

Thinking through your business goals will focus your project.

Questions to answer before starting:

Some of you love the DIY lifestyle. There is a lot of satisfaction is envisioning what you want and creating it. However, for your business, you need to consider a couple of things.

First, do you have the time to put into creating your website. Designing a website, picking out templates, and creating pages and content is time consuming. If this is just a resource website and not something you are updating often, putting the time into doing a DIY website is probably perfect for you. There are a lot of large companies, like Pixar, that use a Squarespace site because it gives them an online presence and that’s all that they need.

The second thing to consider is how you are using your site: Do you want your website to maintain an online presence or is it more of a sales tool? Our team has worked with a lot of businesses who have outgrown their website builder site. We often hear, “if it just did X it would be fine.” Since these sites have to be flexible to all kinds of businesses, they miss a lot of industry specific features. This is where a design and development team can take you to the next level.

DESIGN

Total time spent: 10 business days or 2 weeks

After you have decided the route to go, it’s time for the design phase. In design, you will start to get a feel for what your site will look like, but there is still some more work you need to do before passing it off to a developer or before selecting your website builder template.

REBRAND

Internal time spent: 1 business day

This is usually the time when a client questions whether they need a new logo, new typeface selections, and a fresh color scheme. The design phase is definitely the ideal time to have these discussions. If you think it may be time for a rebrand, we highly recommend conducting a branding session with your team.

Branding sessions can take some time, but after a few hours, you know what personality you want your brand to have and where you want to take your business moving forward. This type of strategic thinking is critical in making sure that your website accomplishes the goals you have for your business.

CONTENT

Internal time spent: 3 business days

With a brand personality, you can also work on crafting your message. The notes from your branding session will be helpful in writing the text for your internal pages. This is also the point where, if you aren’t a writer, you can bring in a content creator to flesh out your message and get it ready to go online.

Having your content written during the design phase will give your web design team more direction when creating your wireframe. From your content, they can focus their design on the user experience and effectively guide them through your website and ideally take them from casual visitor to your newest customer.

WIREFRAME + MOCKUP

Time spent: 10 business days

Once your brand and your content starts coming together, its NOW time to think about your website’s design. The first phase is wireframes.

With a wireframe, you want to sketch on paper the main blocks your site. When you draft a wireframe, the question you are answering is “Where does my content go?”

The wireframe will outline where photos, video, text, and CTAs are placed. This quick sketch is basically your website at 30,000 feet. Make sure you can visualize where the content will be place. If you see something missing or the flow feels off, make a change. If you are working with a design team, this is the hardest, but most important time to speak up. It’s hard because you can’t physically see the whole thing, but it’s important because this is the easiest time to make adjustments.

From the wireframe comes the mock-up. Your designer will take the wireframe and drop in your content so you can now see what the finished product will look like. This is usually where revisions start to be requested. If you are working with a team, make sure that there is a meeting scheduled to review your mockups. Before that meeting, get your notes together on what you like (and why) and what you dislike and want changed. These notes will be the guide your development team will use when making adjustments. If it’s not in there, it will stay as it was in the original mockup. Be honest, be critical, and know that you aren’t going to hurt someone’s feelings. Your design team wants you to be happy with what you see.

After a couple of rounds of revisions it’s time to bring your site from concept to completion.

DEVELOPMENT

Time spent: 10 business days

For the DIYer, this is where you will select your template and start dropping in in your content. Testing the site and making sure all the features that you need are available and functioning as you expect them to.

If you have chosen to work with a design and development team, this is where they takeover. You have done some solid heavy lifting and put a lot of thought, now’s the time when your developer will take all that and bring it to fruition.

You may be a little worried to step back for a bit, but knowing about what you will receive at the end of it will relieve some of that anxiety.

WORDPRESS

If you aren’t familiar with WordPress, here’s a little background. WordPress runs over a third of all websites on the internet. As open source software, developers can tailor the needs for an client making it work for business large and small.

We have helped clients of all skillsets increase sales with their WordPress websites by

The backend of WordPress is easy to manage so you will get a website at the end that doesn’t can be updated internally, but can also be adjusted as your business grows.

QA

Time spent: 2 days

Once your development team has coded out your site. It’s time for you to test it. Click everything. Go to every page. Make copious notes about what works and what doesn’t. The QA phase is your final stage before your website is launched so you want to make sure that it is exactly as you want.

Website Launch

At the end of your website journey, you will be excited and a little nervous for the world to see what you have been working on. While you want everything to work and be perfect, minor imperfections are expected. Most development teams you work with will follow-up with a few complimentary adjustments that weren’t caught during QA. As long as these are kept to a minimum, they shouldn’t add to the cost of the website.

Now is the time to share your new site with your customers by promoting it! Shout from the rooftops, send out an email to your customers, highlight your new site on social media, or add a blurb to your email signature. You want people to know that you are investing in your business and that they should think of you when they need you.

CONCLUSION

You are going to be involved in your website design. Whether you do it yourself or hire a team of developers, you need to commit time to making sure the design, content, and functionality will showcase your business in the most accurate way. Set aside at least 30-days to plan, design, and create your site for the best results. If you don’t have the time (or desire) to do it yourself, hiring a professional will give you a site that functions as you want it to with the ability to grow as your business grows.

Chances are your website isn’t perfect. Nothing against you or your website. But, to be honest, our website isn’t perfect either. With tools and needs changing so quickly, a website that functioned perfectly when it was first launched, probably needs a few tweaks and updates just a couple months later.

When we are approached by a new client, reviewing their current website is the first thing on our to-do list. If their current site functions fine, then we know that it’s editing the design to make it more user-friendly and accessible. When we are getting ready to draft a proposal, these are the steps we take to assess where our expertise will be most beneficial and how to effectively implement those changes.

There are two main areas that I look for when doing a website test:

  1. Website performance (aka. the visual side of things)
  2. How the internet views your website or how your site’s SEO is doing

1. 5-Second Test

Before looking at a site, I grab a sheet of paper, browse to the site, and scroll through the homepage for no more than 5 seconds. I close the window and jot down what I think the organization does.

A well-structured homepage makes your business goals clear. No one should have to search to figure out what you do.

You might ask yourself, “how can someone not know what I do? They searched a term linked to my business and landed on my website. There shouldn’t be a lot of ambiguity.” And, you’re right. There shouldn’t be, but there is. Let’s consider three businesses: Blue Apron, Instacart, and Epicurious

All three are food prep related, but in different ways.

Instacart makes it clear that they will just deliver your groceries. They provide you with no plan for those groceries, but you get what you ask for. While Blue Apron, lets you order their recipes. This is a little ambiguous at first, but as you scroll down, you figure out that they send you the ingredients with the recipes as part of their meal subscription service. Lastly, Epicurious allows you to search recipes. Since it is just a recipe site, it’s up to the user to figure out how to get the food into their homes to prepare the meal.

When I am first looking at a website, if I can’t get a pretty good idea of what the company does, then the content and the calls-to-action need to be worked on during the design phase of the website project.

2. How Are Your Calls-To-Action Structured?

Once we have an idea of what your business does, the next thing we check on is how your calls-to-action (CTAs) are structured.  Here are the questions I want to answer.

Do you use consistent colors, styles, and font weights for buttons/links?

This is important so that as people navigate your site, they are met with consistent styling triggering the same response. Ghost buttons don’t elicit the same urgency as buttons that are filled in with a solid color. This is also a place where the classic color mood rules apply. Reds and oranges are great for energizing and engaging customers while blues and greens will provide a calming response.

Do you use phrasing that prompts action from the user?

If your CTA doesn’t compel people to act, then they aren’t doing their job! Make sure they the CTAs are answering the customer’s tacit question.

If they are looking at a product “ADD TO CART” is the obvious CTA. It answers the question, “How do I get it?” If they are looking at a service you provide “GET A QUOTE” or “CONTACT US TODAY” is the first step to get them to purchase your service.

There are certain phrases that work better than others, so try some out and see which works best for you. I look to see if the CTAs are compelling me to take action.

Does the content around the CTA guide customers to their solution?

If your product is multistep, providing customers with a peak into the process can help alleviate some of their concerns. If all they see is “contact us today” you are giving them no information and no peace of mind. While some people are ready to jump in with both feet just from the homepage, others may need some handholding to get them to take action. Answering some basic questions about a service’s process, or a product’s features, or a return policy will help someone who is  more tentative to take action.

3. Test site on mobile, desktop, and tablets

The next thing I look at is to make sure that the website functions correctly across different platforms. Responsive design is common now, but older sites can still have issues. Since 2014, mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic, but since most sites are designed at a computer, it’s still worth a second look.

The most common problems are with image size, headers not displaying correctly, and menus that are difficult to navigate. These are all easy fixes, you just have to work with the right team.

4. SSL Certificate

Checking that your website has an SSL certificate is quick. On most browsers, when you look in the address bar you will see a lock (🔒) icon. If you don’t see that lock, it’s time to get your SSL certificate. Having a certificate will let your users know that when they land on your website, it is actually your website and not a similar site, that is imitating your website. It allows them to feel secure in any purchases they make or any personal information that they may put into your site.

Another reason to get one is that Google likes them and will improve your ranking if you have the certificate. A lot of hosting providers partners partner with Let’s Encrypt where you can get a free certificate.

5. Working Links

Making sure your links work is critical. Whether they external links or links to other pages on your site, finding links that don’t function as a user expects and fixing them will improve the user experience. Since you can’t always control what other people do on their sites, I check to see what we can control on your site and how to fix it.

First, I like to make sure that any external links open in a new tab or window. This ensures that if they are redirected to a page that no longer exists, they have an easy way to get back to you and don’t have to re-navigate.

Next, I check to see with links on your site are broken. Using a tool like Ahref’s Broken Link Checker will help to identify any problem links and where to find and fix them.

6. Speed tests

A slow website makes for a bad user experience. You might think that your site loads quickly and there isn’t a problem. And it may, for you. But, I challenge to you clear your cache or use a private browsing window and open it again. Since you probably visit your site a lot, it will load quicker for you than for most people.

Checking site speed lets me know if your files and images are web ready or what changes need to be made. By using a service like Pingdom, I can get a list of all files being included on the website and how long they take to load. This helps me to identify what problems need to be solved and helps me to solve them quickly.

7. Review Google Analytics

Checking to see if you have Google Analytics installed on your site is more for your benefit than the customers. It’s free and will let you see how customers are finding and engaging with your site. You will be able to see which pages have the most traffic and capitalize on that by adding CTAs to those pages.

Here’s a real life example: I was working with a client who wanted to improve his business as a speaker. The page that was getting the most traffic was not his contact page, it was actually a page that just discussed his past speaking events. This meant that the page people were landing on didn’t have a call-to-action. This was a great opportunity to utilize the information and help people get the product that they wanted, in this case a speaker, by prompting the action that needed to be taken (“Contact Me For Your Next Event”).

Another thing you can do within Google which will help is making sure that your sitemap has been submitted. If you haven’t don’t this, you are missing a lot of traffic. This is an easy task to take on, and essential to helping large search engines index your sitemap for searching.

8. Search Ratings

Another thing I look for is how your website ranks for relevant search terms. Using the tool Uber Suggest, I can see who ranks above (or below) your site for specific terms. Using this, we can improve your website’s content and help you rank higher for terms that your competition may not be using.

I was working with a client recently who was having a difficult time trying to get their website being the featured snippet on Google. Customers were searching for “John’s Restaurant menu” but site that collects menus from all different restaurants was showing up higher in Google than them. We dove into the data and found out the the “menu aggregator” site pulls in tens of thousands of page views per day, while John’s Restaurant only pulls in a meager thousand. Google views the “menu aggregator” as more authoritative and therefore shows it higher in the list of results.

Outpacing a large, national company, when you’re small or local can be hard, but knowing what powers are at play helps you improve your results over time.

9. Image Alt Tags

Visual search is on the rise. You can benefit from it by including alt tags in your images. This will help improve your sites SEO by creating more information that can be indexed and searched by Google and other search engines.

Conclusion

These website reviews don’t take a lot of time, typically under an hour, but doing them helps me to provide customers with a structured game-plan for their business. If I look at a site and an overhaul is obvious, then I can pretend they don’t have a site at all and suggest a build-from-scratch approach. However, sometimes it takes some digging to see where our services can provide the most impact.

When was the last time that you checked your website’s speed? Site speed is a big factor in landing and keeping people on your website. In fact, just one second of loading delay decreases conversions, page views, and customer satisfaction! Best practices are for sites to load in under 1.3 seconds.

Go check your site now, I’ll wait…

If it loaded quickly, I want you to try something else. Open it in a private window or check your site with a tool, like Pingdom. Since you visit your site often, your computer has a stored version of your site guaranteeing that it will load quickly for you. Loading it in a private window will show you how it loads to a new visitor.

If it’s not as fast as it should be, there are some adjustments that you can make to website to make it load faster.

Image optimization

The #1 issue that I see when it comes to speed is images that aren’t optimized for web.

We all want crisp, clean images, so it seems logical that large images would be necessary. However, compressed images look the same as a raw image without the site slowdown.

This is an easy fix and there are a number websites out there that can help you to compress images for free.

Make sure that you upload image relative to the size that they need to be. Header images need to be larger than thumbnails. Make sure to consider the purpose when making adjustments.

Another thing to consider is the file type. Aim to upload images in jpeg when possible unless you need transparency then use PNGs.

Hosting Provider

An outside factor that can contribute to slow site speed is your hosting provider. If you have been using free (or cheap) web-hosting, then you are probably sharing server resources with loads of other websites. When that happens, your site doesn’t get as many resources as it needs to run efficiently and therefore slows down.

Look for a hosting provider, like Classic City Consulting, that can manage your account monthly, make sure that it is backed-up, and has more resources being allocated to your site to keep it running efficiently. Also check that they provide server-side caching, like WP Engine or Kinsta, which removes the strain on servers by caching static content.

Minify Files

Your web developer can help you with this one! The gist is that the code that makes up your website has a lot of unnecessary characters that, when eliminated, can slightly increase your site speed.

Online tools

Elegant Themes put together a list of tools that you can use to minify your files:

Make sure to combine files into the same file (i.e. – all CSS into the same file).

WordPress Plugins

In addition to the online tools, there are WordPress plugins that can be installed to do this.

Some of these tools also provide all-in-one site optimization including caching and file compression

Host Video Externally

Video is a great tool to use on your site whether it’s for product demonstration, testimonials, or for engaging content. While it may be easy to just upload a file straight to your site, that is a guaranteed way to slow your site.

Using outside video hosting sites like Google or Vimeo and then embedding the link into your site is the way to go. If you have a big video on your server, every time someone hits your website it uses a lot of your resources. This way you can use YouTube’s resources, and they are set-up for it.

To make sure that the embedded video also doesn’t affect site speed, use lightboxes for videos. This will reduce the unnecessary server requests (like ads) and speed up your site.

Review Third-Party Tools

Third-party tools that you love and rely on may also be causing you issues. Chatbots, Google Analytics, back-up and security tools, social sharing tools, and integrated social media platforms working together can slow down your site.

While your server is trying to pull all the information from the other servers, your website visitor is impatiently waiting for the homepage to load. You can use tools like Pingdom to identify exactly what is causing the slowdown and either adjust or eliminate tools as needed.

It’s nice to have your Instagram feed on your homepage, but if they are causing people to bounce away from your site, it may be time to move it elsewhere.

Check Plugins

Deleting any unused plugins is always a good way to keep your site securing and running smoothly, but sometimes active plugin can slow down the site. One of our favorite plugins,  Ninja Forms, can slow down sites because the plugin loads it’s scripts and styles on every page – whether the form is present or not. This could be a potential issue with any plugin you have installed and activated.

There are some known culprits, but you can also install a plugin (we see the irony) that will evaluate your plugins. Hummingbird is one such plugin that will do the job.

Current PHP + WordPress Versions

Keeping things up-to-date is always a good move in making sure that your website is running efficiently.  One factor that you may overlook, because it can be a bit nerve-racking to consider updating, is your websites’ version of PHP. From version 5.6 to 7.2, page speed has drastically increased.

There was a major WordPress update in December 2018 and a number of newer versions since then. Making sure that your plugins are compatible with the newest version of WordPress and the newest versions of PHP is essential in keeping your site up and running quickly.

Conclusion

There are a lot of factors that go into website speed! Making sure that you are attending to each of the big offenders will help to increase site traffic, reduce your bounce rate, and create a user-experience that you are proud of. While some of these you can do on your own, you may need to speak to your development team to handles items like minifying files and updating versions of WordPress and PHP. Check your site often and don’t get complacent. If everything looks today, check again next quarter to see if any updates affected it.

If you have been thinking that WordPress is just for bloggers, we have to talk about what’s been going on the last 10 year or so. WordPress has become one of the most versatile content management platforms allowing people from all different backgrounds to get on the web. The system’s evolution allows business and individuals with varying needs and skill levels to use the platform successfully. Let’s answer the burning question: What is WordPress?

History of WordPress

Where WordPress Got Its Start

In 2003 a blogging platform called b2/cafelog was created by Michel Valdrighi and was built with PHP and MySQL. Two key features made b2 unique. First, it was one of the first systems that allowed for content to be stored in a database so people didn’t have to code out every page of their website by hand. This made it easier for developers to write code while also allowing non-technical users to continue adding content to their sites without having to write code. Secondly, it was also a trailblazer for the GNU General Public License. This means anyone can use the code to do whatever they want with it – in shorter terms: open source.

However, there is an inherent problem with a lot open source software because once the primary creator decides he or she has better things to do, the software is no longer supported and all of its users are left to find the next best thing. This is what happened with b2/cafelog – Michel disappeared one day and left all of his users in the dark. One of those b2/cafelog users was Matt Mullenweg. He knew he wanted to create a new platform that was open-sourced so other people could pick up the torch whenever he had to drop it. Since b2/cafelog was already open-sourced, he decided he could use all the cool pieces from that and add new features to it as a new release. He wrote a blog about it and decided to take the b2/cafelog code and make it better. On May 17, 2003, Matt launched WordPress 0.7 which would be its first release to the public.

WordPress Gains Some Momentum

Let’s zoom forward to 2010. WordPress 3.0 is released in June with a new feature called Custom Post Types. Up until this release, WordPress was mostly used for blogs as it only allowed for two content types: Posts and Pages. Custom Post Types opened up a new realm of possibilities for developers. If you were a restaurant owner who ran a franchise, now you could have a section on your site called Restaurants with each restaurant having a name, address, phone number and email address (amongst many other pieces of data). This new development was the conversion point of WordPress transitioning from a blog-only platform into a full-blown content management system. The 2011 year saw WordPress climb from a 13.1% market share to a 15.8% market share. This may not seem like a large leap, but WordPress’s closest competition (Joomla) only had a 2.8% market share the same year.

In short: WordPress increased by [almost] the size of its main competitor’s market share. Not too shabby for 12 months worth of work.

How is WordPress Built?

The two primary components of day-to-day WordPress shenanigans are themes and plugins. At its core, your theme controls the look and feel of your website while plugins add interesting functionality to your site that you don’t have to code yourself (ie. shopping carts, contact forms or even discussion forums)

Developer Aside: As we discussed before, WordPress is built upon a primary foundation of PHP and MySQL. As of WordPress 5.0 (or “the Gutenberg update” as most people call it), WordPress also introduced React into its development stack as well. This was a huge change from all the server-side systems that were currently in place. As a developer, it might be time to start introducing some more JS into your day-to-day activities so you can evolve with the changing WordPress landscape. Soon, WordPress may even be used primarily as a headless CMS.

Themes

Every style that is on your website is derived from the theme you have installed. And one of the biggest pros of using WordPress is the ease of switching from one theme to another. Let’s say you have had your current site for a year or two now – it might be time for a facelift. Once you find a new theme, you can upload it to your site and with a single click, activate it as your website’s new look-and-feel. However, if you do a quick search for WordPress Themes on Google, you will be required to navigate a plethora of choices. Some of them will be free while some costing $150 or more. You might find some on a marketplace that sells hundreds or a boutique company that only sells one or two. With so many options to choose from, where should you start?

Free WordPress Themes

For starters, WordPress.org has its own marketplace for free themes and one of the great things is that they are vetted for quality standards by the “code police” that run WordPress. The “code police” are volunteers that have a passion for WordPress and want to make sure it remains the high-quality product it is known to be. While this library of themes might not have the largest quantity of ones to choose from, you can rest [more] assured that you are using a theme that has quality coding behind it and thus is more secure. If you go the free route, you need to be very careful that the theme does not have anything malicious inside of it. It would be very easy to sneak in a few lines of code on a free theme that may send passwords for your website back to the creators of the theme to use however they want. This is hard to detect, as themes are typically made of up quite a few files, and perusing each of them line-by-line would take quite a bit of time. This is why I highly recommend using the WordPress theme repository if you want to go the free route since they are vetted for quality.

Normal-Priced WordPress Themes

Now we start talking about money. As of writing, normal themes cost anywhere between $40 – $70. The majority of these themes can be found on marketplace-style sites that sell hundreds (if not thousands) of WordPress themes. Classic City Consulting has had the most long-term success with ThemeForest.net. Much like with WordPress’s theme marketplace, Theme Forest goes through a quality check before allowing authors to post a theme to their site. This allows them to filter out a lot of bad themes so they maintain their quality standards.

Even though there isn’t a way to determine a theme’s usability before purchasing and installing it, there are a few things we always look for that tend to narrow down the field.

Numbers

On the right-sidebar, ThemeForest publishes some useful numbers:

Features

Before you make a theme purchase, you need to know what you want to do with it. If you are going to be running an e-commerce store, make sure the theme is compatible with WooCommerce. If data collection is going to be vital for your site, make sure it’s compatible with Ninja Forms or Gravity Forms. Below is a list of the basics that should be considered for a handful of different use cases:

One-Click Demo Install

You have finally found a theme that checks all the boxes and have installed it – but what’s next? You want to be able to get your website looking exactly like the preview you loved so much, yet don’t want to have to rebuild everything from scratch. That’s where the last feature comes into play: when you are scrolling through the theme’s information, make sure they advertise a “one click demo install.” This phrase isn’t always the same, as there isn’t a standard phrase all theme developers use, but be on the lookout for something like it. If a theme doesn’t state they have a “one click” content import process, then don’t purchase it. You’ll have to rebuild the entire theme from scratch and will waste a lot of your time – which is the whole reason for buying a theme in the first place.

Expensive WordPress Themes

These themes typically offer the highest level of customization – but they do take some time if it’s the first time you’ve used them. We’re going to focus on Divi, however, most themes in the “expensive” arena work very similarly.

It’s a Framework

A framework structure means that most users can create a website that meets their needs by using the elements included to create a functional site layout. Frameworks, like Divi, are like the building blocks of WordPress design. You have a lot of different elements and it just depends on how you choose to create within those confines.

Built-in Page Builder

Divi comes pre-packaged with its own page builder. This will allow you to work with the various elements that come with Divi to create a customized layout for your company’s website. Everything is drag-and-droppable on the front-end of your website – you can see what your site looks like while you edit it.

Layout Templates

When you are using the Page Builder, one of the options it gives you are Layout Templates. These are pre-packaged/pre-laid-out groups of content blocks. Take a look at the screenshot above. This is a layout template for Team. It contains a row with three columns. Each of the three columns has a place to upload a team member’s square photo, name, a brief bio as well as a link to view their entire portfolio. By using this Layout Template, you don’t have to spend time creating each column individually.

Page Templates

One step above Layout Templates are Page Templates. Divi has pre-built entire layouts for pages for your use. These combine a variety of Layout Templates together on a single page so all you have to do is copy your content in, delete the sections you don’t need and “voila!” You could have an entire page built in less than ten minutes.

Wrapping Divi Up

As you can see, Divi is more than just a page builder or a basic theme. It’s an ecosystem where you can create customized experiences from the ground up. It does take some time to master (just like any other framework-style theme), however, it provides you with quite a few options for customization once you get the hang of it. If I was a business owner who was just starting with WordPress, I recommend starting with a theme that falls under the Theme Forest area first and then move up to a framework theme (like Divi) once you have gotten used to WordPress.

Changing WordPress Themes

Life is great: you have a theme, it’s worked out well, but it’s been a while since your site has had a change of scenery. You can go out, buy another theme and just activate it, however, there are some potential roadblocks you might run into if you just click the Activate button and hope for the best.

Back Up Your Site

Before you do anything, run a backup of your site. There is always the potential for problems when you run scripts on your website (ie. the theme activation). You always want to make sure you have an accessible copy of your site and you know how to roll your site back if there are any issues.

Are You Using a Framework Theme?

If your current site uses a framework theme (or a page builder), make sure your new theme also has support for it. If it doesn’t, chances are the content on your site won’t be transferable from one page-builder to another. A lot of page builders inject their own syntax into the content of your website (think of this as the difference between Spanish and English) and if you try to use a different page builder, it won’t be able to translate it from one language to another.

Are Your Widgets Areas the Same?

When you are using a theme, each widget area has a name that has been assigned by the theme’s creator (ie. Right Sidebar or Header). When you install a new theme, the widget areas might have different names. You’ll want to make sure you populate the new widget areas with the appropriate widgets you will need on your new site – as they won’t transfer over automatically.

Custom Menus

The same thing applies to menus as it does for widget areas. Each theme creator will name their menu areas differently, so you’ll want to make sure your menus are transferred over correctly (even if that means you have to re-create them).

Staging Area

Does your hosting provider give you a “staging” site? This is a version of your site that you can use that is not public-facing. It is used for testing out new changes on a copy of your site so if something breaks during testing, your customers won’t know the difference. This would be a great location to test out your new theme to make sure it doesn’t break anything.

Plugins

Plugins are what gives your site the functionality it needs to help you run your business. Whether that be anything from a shopping cart (WooCommerce) to data collection (Ninja Forms), WordPress has the plugins you need to accomplish quite a few (if not all) of the tasks you need your website to do for you.

Differences Between WordPress Themes and Plugins

I want to point out one big difference where the lines get blurred quite often. Let’s take a real estate theme as our example. This theme you installed on your site allows you to load in the houses you have for sale in an organized fashion. That’s fantastic unless the functionality of saving/organizing your houses is stored in the theme, what happens when you want to switch to a new theme? That property management piece will disappear. The line between a plugin and a theme is typically black and white, however, when you start looking into themes that provide you core functionality out of the box, that’s when you might want to throw up a red flag before you dive too far into purchasing a theme for your business.

Plugin Pricing Options

Just like with themes, we also have differences between free and paid plugins.

Free

WordPress.org has a fantastic repository of free plugins you can use on your site. These plugins have been vetted, however, there are 50,000+ at the time of writing and a lot of them are not maintained very well. What should you look for when going through WordPress’s list of plugins?

Paid

Paid plugins are a great way to go – especially when your company’s revenue is dependent upon it working correctly. Most of the time, a paid plugin is built by a company that is actively maintaining it – hence why you pay for the license to use it. You still need to do research into the plugin to ensure it’s not coming from a source that will halt development within a few months. However, there are a few things you can do to help guide your decision:

Differences Between WP.com and .org

This is probably one of my top-five most-asked questions over the course of my career. I hear it mostly from people who are about to start their first website and are trying to figure out whether they should go with WordPress.com or WordPress.org. However, it gets a little confusing when you try to figure out the differences between them.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a service owned by Automattic. It’s just like every other website building service, except it’s powered by WordPress. It’s 100% free to start your own website – you choose your template, toss your content in and you’re off the races. However, it does come with its limitations. We’ve talked a lot about installing plugins and finding custom themes, and unless you sign up for WordPress.com’s Business Plan, you can’t use any of them. But for a lot of people, that’s a perfect launching point for their business. They already know the WordPress system (or have at least heard of it) and just need to get a website up and running for their business as a proof of concept. The great thing is that all the content can be brought over into their own custom WordPress site when that time comes.

WordPress.org

You have this site on WordPress.com and now you’re ready to take it to the next level. You want the ability to customize your site with plugins, themes and possibly even a developer to help you code out that special feature you can’t find a plugin. Meet WordPress.org.

All of WordPress is 100% open-sourced – which means anyone can download it and change it however they want. All you need is a hosting provider that runs the appropriate systems (which most do). Once you make the transition to this version of WordPress, you own the code and the design and can take your website with you wherever you want to go. Are you done with cheap hosting and want to move to something more secure? That’s no longer a problem. Want to install a backup system that saves your backup files to a separate location from your website? That is also solvable.

Conclusion

WordPress is a pretty powerful tool that is very widely used. It gives you the ability to add new features with the click of a button and completely change the look and feel of your site in with another button push. It also has the ability to be customized so much that people don’t even realize WordPress is running the show behind the scenes. What will you create with WordPress?

Website design is always evolving. While industry trends are common, there are a lot of trends that apply to different types of businesses. These more versatile trends are exciting because the UX is familiar to your customers and they make your business feel fresh.

If you are looking for a way to spruce up your site without doing a complete overhaul, here are a few ideas to consider when brainstorming your revamp.

Animated Hero Images

Most websites you encounter have some form of animation. There are a lot of natural ways to use animation, such as hover effects and page transitions, but blending the natural with the user’s goals is an important balance to make because overdoing it on the effects can make your website feel like a middle school PowerPoint presentation circa 1997. (You know the one, where every page had a different transition and sound effect).

For using animation, decide what you are trying to accomplish. There are usually three main reason to use animation

  1. To indicate a state change, like a hover over effect on a button.
  2. To reveal something on the site. The flying biscuit used animation to reveal their full site menu.
  3. To emphasize an action that the user should take. On the Mellow Mushroom site, a site visitor knows to scroll down for more information because of the blinking arrow above the fold.

This is a great way that content first design can benefit your website. If you decide what content you want to highlight the effects needed to do so will come naturally.

via Flying Biscuit Cafe

 

via Mellow Mushroom

Bright Colors

Being that living Coral is the Pantone color of the year, it’s pretty clear that vibrant color palettes are in. Changing up your color scheme is an easy way to give your website a fresh look without a full overhaul. Think through the colors you want and even use tools like Coolors.co to be thoughtful in your color choices by finding colors that work together in gradient but also add pop.

To be really bold, this is the year to embrace lime green, gold, and neon purples.

If you want to get ahead of the curve for next year, Pantone is showing deeper tones of a more Earthy nature. This may not be the next trend, but we will see what comes at the start of next year.

via King of Pops

Unique Font Pairing

There are a number of different trends when it comes to typography, but the one that I really enjoy is unique font pairings. Selecting a unique and contrasting typeface to highlight key words and slogans throughout your website, you are emphasizing the key takeaways and making those ideas memorable.

There are some best practices when selecting fonts to pair that you should remember.

  1. Make sure the fonts have the same x-height so that visually it doesn’t mess up your layout.
  2. Choose complimentary fonts. This doesn’t mean they need to look alike, but they should convey the same mood or personality.

If you don’t know where to start, Canva has put together a great list of traditional font pairings.

via Atlanta Tri Club

via Whole Dog Market

Conclusion

Design is about YOU: Your business & Your brand. Trends this year are designed to stand out and accentuate key elements of a website. Select trends that fit your brand best. If you are using any of these elements, make sure you design with intentionality by focusing on what works best with your brands and what your customers have come to expect from you and your website.

A few things to remember, if you are using animation, make sure it is not overdone, but does assist with guiding visitors around you website. If you are using bright and bold colors, make sure they compliment your brand. You don’t need to completely change your brand identity to give your site some excitement. Lastly, when using multiple typefaces, select ones that are a similar size, but allow for contrast.

Design trends come and go, so many sure you are on the lookout for what’s up and coming so that your site always looks like it’s on the cutting edge!

You have probably been hearing a lot about the show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. In the Netflix series, decluttering expert Marie Kondo explains her KonMari method: Hold each item you own and determine whether or not it sparks joy. How your senses react to something determines whether you should keep it. With too much and too many, “what if” items will lead you to become overwhelmed with stuff you have just in case, but not things you want or even need. Goodwill is overflowing with items that no longer bring people happiness, but what does this have to do with websites?

You can apply this same technique to technology. We love WordPress plugins, but you can get your site in trouble if you don’t do some spring cleaning.

Not all plugins are created equal, and you don’t need all of them. An overuse of add-ons can cause your site to run slowly and inefficiently. Just like physical objects, the plugins you keep should spark joy and profits. While you may not be able to hold a plugin close, you can still evaluate its benefit to you.

Back up your site

I always like to remind users, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and do not make any changes to your site before making a backup. Most of the time you can make a change and nothing happens and then one day, the entire site crashes because you uninstalled something seemingly harmless but ended up being VERY important.

Once your backup in complete, review the plugins that you have installed. If you have been working with a web development team, chances are the plugins you have are high quality and are in use to better your site. However, if you see any that you don’t understand or are inactive, check out their ratings and reviews.

Evaluating Plugins

Unlike kitchen appliances, WordPress plugins aren’t the result of a late-night viewing of QVC. Typically, what happens is, while trying to solve a problem, you install a plugin, see that it doesn’t do what you wanted, and go in search of a different plugin. After a couple of  hours of playing around, you find what you are looking for and move on to the next item leaving the unneeded plugins installed, but inactive. These are going to be the easiest ones to remove because you don’t use them and they don’t spark joy. Think of these plugins as unmatched socks.

Plugins Likely to Spark Joy

If you have a couple of plugins that look like they do the same thing, but you aren’t sure which is better. Do some research!

Searching for the plugin will reveal a lot including how well it is maintained and used. Check out the sidebar below.

This is for Ninja Forms, one of our recommended plugins for contact forms. You want to see a plugin that has been updated to support the current WordPress Version as well as a lot of active installations. Additionally, the ratings will reveal a lot about the current version. As you can see a 4.5 star average makes this a strong plugin.

Since this is both well supported and necessary to your site functioning, it’s one to keep. This would be the “favorite outfit” in our KonMari comparison.

Similar Plugins

Why have two plugins for the same purpose? Although not common, it is possible for similar plugins to clash when activated on the same site. Particularly if you’ve installed multiple caching plugins, your site might slow down or even break, in the most extreme cases. Less is more: downloading caching sites on top of each other does not, as you might think, speed up your site.

Try to identify if two similar plugins are activated and if any content or functionality needs to be shifted before inactivating the one that you don’t need and deleting this.

This is the classic “I loved this shirt so much, I bought two!” but then you only wore one and now you need to let the other one go.

Improving User Experience

Forty percent of web users will leave a site if it takes too long to load. Three seconds can be the difference between gaining and losing an audience. If your site is your e-commerce presence, that can result in major revenue loss.

What’s a WordPress specialist to do so this doesn’t happen?

Simple: Refrain from adding too many plugins. The magic number is between zero and five if you have shared hosting and between five and twenty for dedicated hosting.

Besides slowing down your site’s load time, poor plugins and their bad code can cause your site to crash. You might also experience reliability issues, and certain site features don’t load or function. Beyond these frustrations, certain plugins can make your site susceptible to security breaches. Every year, more and more sites fall victim to faster and more aggressive attacks. Outdated plugins are more vulnerable to harboring malicious code.

Don’t give attackers ease of entry to your prized site. Consider protecting your site, and speed falls in line.

Once you have decluttered your home, the last step is not buying things you don’t need. Same for your website. Improvements are great, but make sure you are intentional when adding plugins and that will make your site run faster, jump higher, and be the most secure it can be.

Conclusion

Remember, before you make any changes, back up your site. Backing up your site is essential. You don’t want to lose all your hard work to this point.

Once your site is safe, evaluate which plugins are not in use. Plugins that are inactive can be immediately removed. Plugins that enhance your user experience and ones that help your business be successful need to stay in place. If you have two or more plugins that do the same thing, determine which one is superior by looking at the ratings, reviews, and how secure a plugin is. Plugins that aren’t secure put your entire site in jeopardy, make sure that the plugins you have are maintained and secure. If you need to, migrate content type of the higher quality plugin and delete the lesser one. This will streamline your site and make it run faster.

It may be hard to delete a plugin you paid for and this is where the Marie Kondo technique can be really helpful. In a room, by yourself, where  no one can hear you, thank the plugin for teaching you something about your website. If you are deleting a plugin that is old, but you used a lot, you can thank it for all the hard work it did when your business was getting starting. If a plugin was never used because it didn’t do something you  needed, you can thank it for teaching you what type of benefits you needed to make your site run better. It may sound silly, but all of this will improve your site quality and that’s what matters!

If your website is designed on WordPress, you know that there was a major upgrade recently.

Part of what made WordPress popular was that anyone from a college student to a cooking expert could blog. This made content management easy, but, overtime, as the users changed the functionality needed to as well.

Users talked, and WordPress listened. They reimagined the classic content editor, Gutenberg, and introduced a way to customize content in a way that maximizes the page’s real estate, allows for different types of media, and allows you to preview the post.

What is Gutenberg?

Gutenberg is your content in artisanal, hand-made, organic, stackable blocks. Encouraging an advanced creative process, the new editor makes customizing your work a streamlined process.

Before, the content editor was basically an uninspiring space for users to present text. You could put your own spin on whatever you wanted to add – be it media content or a text layout format – but that required an intermediate understanding of code and a bit of back-end experience. With Gutenberg and the updated WordPress, blocks make everything easier.

Consider the web-creative learning curve considerably more scalable.

Putting the pieces to work

Here are some of the highlights of Gutenberg’s features:

WordPress is designed for anyone to begin publishing content, and Gutenberg builds on that idea. It is WordPress’ first major overhaul since its 2003 debut, so it will take a bit of getting used to. However, consider the above points a guide for getting started. From there, WordPress 5.0 makes writing content a core priority.

How do I get it?

Like any software update, Gutenberg is an easy installation.

It’s a good idea to backup your existing site, just in case. It’s free, quick, and relatively painless. When in doubt, have a back-up. If you want to take it a step further, it’s also a good idea to stage your site and test it in the latest version of WordPress.  Whatever you decide, ensure that your site is compatible with the latest update, and then press the button under the admin page.

Consider yourself updated!

Now that you have Gutenberg, it becomes the default editor for the newest WordPress. Check for regular updates (as any good content creator should), but the process is mostly automatic since WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg run hand-in-hand.

It is possible to run Gutenberg on an older version of WordPress, but that version is WordPress 4.8. This plugin has about 20,000 active installations, but that doesn’t make it a viable alternative to WordPress 5.0. Gutenberg is the new standard WordPress editor, and that means it might have a few stability issues that need to be worked out. However, don’t forget the future of content management.

What if I want to rollback to the classic editor?

It is possible to revert back to the WordPress of days past, but this is a route best taken with caution or at least, the promise to learn and adopt the latest update. Gutenberg might require a bit of a learning curve, and that’s fine. The platform is designed to be more intuitive than the standard editor, but it might take a bit of time to become natural.

As it happens, the classic WordPress editor is supported through New Year’s Eve, 2021. Since Gutenberg is a fundamental shift for WordPress, using the classic editor plugin is a great way to hone your content editing craft to the latest version. Keep in mind, however, that you need to keep learning Gutenberg.

Conclusion

WordPress is a content management empire, built on resources, community, and usability. Whether you’re new to WordPress or you’ve been blogging since day one, this is a shared advantage as common as any of the WordPress annual site themes. Gutenberg being the first major revamping of the system, it offers unprecedented advantages in terms of your creative process, new forms of media, and your writing.

Although in its infancy, Gutenberg is another step in setting yourself apart as a content creator. Consider it a direct correlation of growth: as you learn Gutenberg, the editor improves with you.

We get asked a lot of questions about web hosting. It seems like the part of the process that is most complicated because it’s not directly related to the design or development of the website. There are a few different paths to take when deciding on where to host your website. Let’s dive into some of the top questions we get about hosting and break down the answers.

Can I keep my domain name with a new website host?

Good question! Most of the time when you are creating a new website, the place you end up getting your domain name is the same place you use for hosting. SquareSpace, GoDaddy, Host Gator, etc. provide you with the option to get a website domain and launch your site all at once.

However, you can take it with you!

Your domain name is a separate from your hosting provider even if you got them together. As your business grows and your site demands more, moving to a new provider that allows you to manage the traffic you are getting is critical. And, when you decide to make that move, your domain name can move with you.

If you have a WordPress site, an easy way to get started is to buy your domain name from Name Cheap and purchasing a cheap GoDaddy WordPress hosting plan. That way, you can customize your site with WordPress while using your own domain name. Given WordPress’ status as the go-to source for content management by web users of all skill levels and talents, Reclaim is a sensible place to begin. Site hosts such as GoDaddy and BlueHost also offer platforms tailored to a WordPress site.

If my domain name is separate from my web host, what exactly is the domain name?

A brief explanation of how the internet works: A computer has its own IP address and they can pick between the vast network of wires that make up the Internet to find a specific site. The IP address is exactly that – an address. The numbers help your computer navigate correctly to a site, but the domain name is what you use to get it there.

All websites have a string of numbers that make up the IP address, but instead of typing “146.148.50.87,” just type “classiccity.com” in your browser’s search bar. That’s it, and it’s easy to remember, because you’re calling the Classic City website.

How does the web host work?

A website’s IP address actually points to the physical server (or computer) of your web host. Every site needs a host, and companies exist to provide website file storage and operational services. Based on your industry, specialty, or the purpose of your website, many hosting companies offer various plans at different price points, each including its own benefits and features.

By now, we understand the difference between a domain name and a web host. So…what makes a good hosting provider?

Deciding on a Web Host

When looking for a web host, consider factors such as site performance, security, and load time. Using managed hosting for your website, for example, means enhanced security at the server level as well as daily backups from your site. You don’t want to lose your digital identity.

Fortunately, this is easy enough with WordPress. Almost a third of websites run on WordPress, and there are managed hosting system tailored specifically to WordPress. While you get to focus on the upfront and public elements of running your site – such as operating your business, drawing in customers, and optimizing your site for search engine results – using managed hosting entails having all of the back-end parts of your site – such as storage and site operations – taken care of.

This means your site is supported, quick, and easy to use. It also means your site is secure.

The most cited reason for a site’s failure does not come from a security breach, but rather the domain’s owner failing to update all elements of the WordPress site. Managed hosting not only takes care of regular updates, but also warns the site owner of malicious plugins and themes and prevents harmful attacks.

To this end, it might not be an outside attack that causes you to lose content. Having a managed host not only protects your site from outside harassment, but also provides regular backups – often daily – for your website. Should something detrimental happen to your site, all it takes is one click to restore your site from the most recent archive.

Caching is no longer a manual process, either. Instead of installing an additional plugin, a managed host makes your site faster and easier for users through its own caching system. It takes advantage of reverse proxy that does not change even as you update your content or alter your theme.

Managed hosting means everything is automatic and in one place. Why make it complicated when it can be simple?

Get SSL Certified

Google cares about its users, and they want you to care about your customers. If your site does not already have an SSL certificate, Google will flag your site. Getting an SSL certificate is necessary for everyone, but is particularly important if your site is tied to e-commerce.

The two main contingents rely on your site setup. If your site takes any sort of data – such as password logins, search results, or contact forms – or if your site uses HTTP://, be sure to implement SSL.

If you don’t, visitors to your site will receive a warning that your site is not secure.

An SSL certificate – or secure sockets layer – ensures an encrypted link between a web server and browser. Without the certificate, that connection cannot be securely established. It provides the name of its holder, a serial number and expiration date, a copy of the certificate holder’s public key, and a digital signature of the authority who issued the certificate.

Users’ valuable and sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers are protected under SSL. Information is still passed between a computer and a server, but only the server can read it.

SSL also protects you from criminal activity.

With cyber crime on the rise, protecting your site means protecting your visitors’ information. Because an SSL certificate protects data in transit, not data stored in a server, it is designed to keep valuable information hidden. If your site processes payments, rather than redirecting visitors to PayPal, for example, you are required to be SSL certified.

For that reason, the SSL certificate builds trust with your site’s visitors. It is becoming second nature for most web users to look to the address bar and see “HTTPS” with a padlock – highlighted in green when making a financial transaction – to ensure their protection. As the web continues to become more dynamic, certain outlets also become more vulnerable. As a site owner, take steps to keep the worst from happening.

Staging Site vs. Live Site

A staging site is a copy of your live site that you can edit and then take it live when all your changes are complete.

Though it can get technical, using a managed hosting provider (such as WPEngine), you can set up a 1-click staging site to preview any changes you plan to make to your existing, sans actually making those changes in real time.

Be sure to avoid some plugins (such as those with automated posts) and be mindful of proper domain direction when copying 1-click staging from your existing website.

WordPress Staging Site How-to

Let’s focus in on WPEngine’s hosting platform for now. From your WordPress dashboard, simply click on the “WP Engine” logo on the side bar’s top-left corner, selecting the “Staging” tab, and click “Copy site from LIVE to STAGING.” After a bit, your site is copied to a staging environment.

Accessing your staging site’s server is exactly the same as accessing the server for your live site, just with a different name. Simply create a new SFTP account on your server and set the environment to “Staging.”

Feel free to make all the design and copy edits you want.

Once you ready to take your staging site live, all it takes is a few clicks on the WordPress dashboard. After logging in, return to the “WP Engine” logo on the top-left of the sidebar. Under the “Staging” tab, click the red button marked “Deploy site from STAGING to LIVE.” Select the degree to which you want your site overwritten via the dropdown menu, and your updated site is live.

Build your support system

Website hosting has its challenges. You and your team will run into issues regardless of skill level and experience…and that makes sense.

What separates the seasoned WordPress user from the novice is the support system they’ve established.

This is one area in which it’s really not okay to skimp on quality. Don’t be fooled by the cheap cost-effective services out there that offer email-only communication. That’s basically snail mail when you’re trying to run your business and your site is down. Look for support services that have technical specialists on live chat or are available by phone to help when things go wrong. Such a feature is a marker of an above-and-beyond level of support, and sites that offer that kind of contact are likely to also feature improved security, regular theme updates, performance optimization, and repair broken links.

When choosing a support system, be thorough. Ask in-depth questions about what features they offer beyond support, response time, and – of course – cost. A good way to decide on a WordPress support system is customer feedback.

That’s why part of our business is hosting sites. Classic City Consulting has a partner with built-in support, so that we don’t have to charge our customers small fees for every single technical issue. Having an integrated support service ensures a better experience not only for you and your business, but also for your customers.

Consider everyone when designing your experience.

Shared Hosting

Just like managed hosting, shared hosting comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. A part of the myriad of options you get for web hosting these days, shared hosting is exactly as it sounds: multiple sites sharing a single server. These other sites are unknown to you, and that’s okay because each customer is limited by their hosting plan.

To that end, shared hosting is the most cost-effective sort of hosting available, with plans ranging from $2.99-$9.99 a month (That $5.99 hosting you’ve heard so much about? It’s shared hosting.) Part of that plan also includes technical maintenance coverage as well as a cPanel for personalized site maintenance. However, using a shared hosting plan means your site isn’t quite as customizable as you might have liked, and there’s also the possibility of your site running slowly with increased traffic.

In short, shared hosting is ideal for those just getting started with WordPress. As your skill improves and your business grows, it might be a good idea to upgrade to managed or dedicated hosting, which is possible given that you aren’t locked into a standard plan.

Conclusion

Whatever route you choose to take with your hosting, you need to make sure that your site is with a stable and secure service. Your business requires a certain web presence, and the back-end of your site is the core of how it works. Be specific with your web hosting needs. There are options tailored to exactly what you need and what you can do. Remember, how your site functions is a reflection of your business, and it starts with what goes on behind the scenes.

Remember the phrase “There’s an app for that”? In WordPress, it might as well be there’s a plugin for that. With more than 50,000 plugins to assist with everything from social media to spam blockers, it’s easier now than ever customized your site with just a quick click and download. But, with so many options, where should you start? We work with dozens of small businesses around the country. While they are all different, here are a few that seem to benefit everyone regardless of business type.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides a way to understand the visitors to your site with insights like demographics, how they behaved on your site, and if they returned at a later date. Once you know what interested someone enough to get them to your site, you know how to make their experience better.

Figuring out how someone lands on your website is important for developing your marketing strategies. Knowing what actions or search terms were used before someone found your website will help you strategize how to get other people to your site. It could have been a simple search for a related term or they could have found you if another website linked to yours. You may not be the first or last stop in someone search history. Where they’re from and where they’re going is information you can use to strengthen your own web presence. Finding topics that resonate with your audience means you have a chance to create a valuable relationship.

For  e-commerce businesses, Google Analytics allows you to track your site metrics. It’s essentially a revenue report showing the number of visitors, duration of visitor, sales made, and revenue. A key aspect of the plugin is devoted strictly to business results

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is the original WordPress plugin for search engine optimization. Yoast provides information not only for site visitors but also for search engine spiders seeking to provide information for autofill the next time you search.

Its key purpose is to provide information for writing SEO-friendly content. Relative to your site the Yoast SEO plugin is another form of creativity. You can learn more about what attracts customers and terminology to enhance their experience.

Yoast helps you get technical about your writing style.

While Google Analytics is about learning your customer base to build the ideal web experience, Yoast is about tailoring your web content. Keeping the editing process in mind, Yoast offers a live preview feature for search results. The same is true for the ever-important canon of improving your social media.

From there, you can take it a step further: Yoast Premium.

An enhanced version of the standard Yoast SEO experience, consider the premium edition to get even better at managing your SEO. Premium offers assets such as content insights to reveal the five key phrases most used on your page, writing suggestions for links to other pages in real time, and unlimited support from a support team, not merely a list of FAQs and forum posts. Even better, Yoast Premium has a redirect manager, meaning that a changed URL or an updated version of your site will not deter visitors, instead of the dreaded 404 error message.

A site’s usability is as much about content readability as it is about the actual framework of the site. Visitors should not have to root around endlessly to find what they need, and the ideal site is the first stop on a search engine. You can’t be on page one without an optimized site. Getting there starts with understanding what users want.

Ninja Forms

Ninja Forms offers a way to build mailing lists, manage and edit user submissions, and receive data such as users’ email and phone contacts with embedded forms. The intuitive drag-and-drop interface and extensions for expanding your contact base, such as MailChimp and Constant Contact. Each builds on the idea of simplicity while also offering an unlimited amount of signup forms, creative form presentation, and sorting users based on their preferences and responses.

In the age of bots, there is truth to the argument that chatbots could eradicate preferred contact forms. However, plenty of sites still do not offer immediate action interfaces for collecting data, and the bots themselves are still considered somewhat stop-gap in their usability. To that end, whether contact forms are going away in two years or ten, your customers have to get in contact with you and Ninja Forms offers an ideal, seamless integration for doing so.

Conclusion

Combining the three pieces above means learning why people visit your site, how to gather more visitors, and how to optimize their experience. There’s a reason WordPress is the most popular content management system, with a seemingly endless gamut of support systems, customizable add-ons, and styles.

However, it’s important to note that not all WordPress plugins are created equal. It’s easy to download and activate a plugin for your site, but give the plugin a quick review before you install it. Pay attention to how many active installations are running and read reviews on the most recent version. It also helps to scroll through support forums and consider what issues might others have had and decide whether those would be your issues too. A larger, more vetted plugin has less of a chance of being problematic and more of a chance of enhancing your site.

…And why you should, too

Having a customized website seems expensive and difficult to manage, but WordPress is the go-to platform to make it accessible for businesses of all sizes. As the most popular content management system powering a quarter of the world’s websites, the WordPress community has built a catalog of plugins and themes that allow for quick customization. This has allowed people to make a unique space online.

1. Open Source

It is this design that makes WordPress the respected, go-to platform, but the added bonus is that you are never alone! Its open source community comes together to troubleshoot users’ issues. The continual improvements make WordPress the ideal platform for content management.

Being an open source platform means that the license is available to anyone for any purpose without restrictions. You can download WordPress,  install plugins – softwares additions – host your own website, and upgrade to the latest software, all free of cost. Its place as the top CMS brings validity, familiarity, and security to its growing community of developers. That community lends itself to integration with an array of service applications. It doesn’t matter if you’re experienced or building your first website: WordPress makes content management possible for all.

2. So Many Themes + Plugins

WordPress offers a library of themes – 50,000 and counting – tailored to any website type. Installing the right theme allows you to speak directly to your target market. Think of the theme as a way to establish your brand voice.

Your website is the basis for your entire marketing plan, and plugins help you use it effectively. Need help with search engine optimization? Try Yoast SEO, the #1 WordPress SEO plugin. For businesses looking to start an online store, WooCommerce is a seamless plugin that allows you to sell anything. Just as it appeals to all levels of the web developer spectrum, it can front a variety of sales tactics for different businesses.

3. Complete Control

WordPress is a secure and professional resource that is also easy to manage. But how does it stack up against other content management systems?

Consider the other two most popular systems: Joomla and Drupal. Though WordPress still leads far and away in market share, it also supplies the online presence for noteworthy outlets such as Forbes and Reuters. It thrives on user friendliness and ease of content creation.

A quick compare and contrast:

WordPress

Joomla

Drupal

With WordPress, a single user can also manage multiple sites at once. Once you have your domain, you can install multiple WordPress applications (for no cost at all, by the way), each one a different site. Building off one site with a new URL directory, anyone of any skill level can showcase work of different sorts.

4. The Technical Side

I said it earlier, but it’s worth saying again: not everyone is a developer, but everyone can use WordPress – and anyone can understand the concepts behind the complex moving parts.

Let’s unpack once fundamental WordPress detail: Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs. An API is what allows for communication between to applications, such as a web browser and a site’s server when a user visits a website. In short, an API is how two websites interact with each other.

Taking it a step further: Representational State Transfer, or REST API, is developed through guidelines for developers to ensure API functionality.

There are five basic constraints to make a REST API

So, how does the REST API relate to WordPress?

In 2016, WordPress full integrated it’s API into WordPress core (version 4.7 to be exact).  Having this built into the core gives developers the freedom to not rely on PHP (and server-side logic) to perform tasks.In the real world, this means that you can create WordPress-based mobile apps that communicate beyond the standard site configuration.

All of that is wonderful, but what about if you find yourself with a specific, certain request, such as a constantly-updated news section for a static site? Enter the Headless CMS. It’s a content management system without a theme, nothing in the way of pages, nor is there a user interface with which to build your pages. Developers can provide content as a service (CaaS) while content storage and delivery are handled separately. Creating and authoring content, organizing content storage, and improving workflow and collaboration are benefits of a headless CMS.

Headless CMS architecture allows for improved flexibility to build your own front-end framework tailored to a specific project. Production is also faster, and you can display content to any device while controlling the user experience from a single backend. A headless CMS also allows for improved security and scalability. When you keep the backend and frontend separated, your site doesn’t have to go down for maintenance. You can also customize your site without compromising performance.

Why WordPress? Why Not!

Using WordPress is not without its challenges. Different frameworks always bring innovative and creative approaches to building your website, and certain skill levels mean accomplishing various things.

That’s the beauty of WordPress.

A customizable platform meshes well with tiered software applications. WordPress is about creating your platform to the best of your ability. WordPress is designed for any user, not simply developers. Anyone can learn from an ideal web experience. From there, tell your story.