I’ve been building websites since 2002, and for a living since 2009. The changes in available tools, styles and requirements has been breathtaking in my industry. But one thing that has remained the same is the goal of communication.
People and Goals
I build websites first and foremost to help my clients communicate a specific message to their site visitors. Whether that site is to “buy our product”, “use our services”, or “get help from us” or maybe to “join our cause”, each site is really in the business of selling something. That’s the gauging line I use to understand where I am headed- the point is NOT to make a website for website’s sake, but to engage the user into responding in some way.
That’s why I say People and Goals – because that’s the most important part of a site, and that is usually how my conversations with clients go.
Website Technology – I choose WordPress
I am predominantly a WordPress web designer because of People and Goals. WordPress is a Content Management System that lets my clients easily change and fine tune their message with a easy to use backend interface. You may have already been urged to use WordPress by your favorite Brother in Law or your favorite college student. I’m a fan, and have been building websites in WordPress since 2007.
This is what I like about WordPress
- Easy for developers to design in
- Easy for clients to add new information
- Easy to add features through an extensive library of free and paid add-on features. Features such as:
- SEO tagging
- Social Sharing
- Content Organization
- Membership Sites and Forums
Basically, WordPress has become, in my eyes, the defacto standard in web design… WordPress runs more than Sixty Million Websites. I know – that sounds like a lot – it is. WordPress runs 23% of the top 10 Million websites on the planet.
Website Design is a balancing act more than ever between mobile readiness, content organization, photo, graphics, font, and color selection. There are a few different directions that web designers take in the act of ‘design’. I’ll list them here so you can see where I come from:
Option 1 : Buy a website template
The business of creating website templates for WordPress has become a big business over the last several years. There are literally thousands of web designs out there that look pretty awesome with generic content. Many are crafted overseas. You can find all sorts of templates at ThemeForest.net (the defacto seller in 2015). I admit, I browse through them often looking for ideas.
Why Templates are Good: Out of the box, templates that you can find look good, have a great fixed color scheme and often have visual editors that let novices change and adjust fonts, colors and some basic features without having to write a line of code.
Why Templates are Bad: Unfortunately, these templates often break over time because they use libraries that do not get updated, and they become incompatible with the latest plugin add-ons. My earlier work used some of these templates, and, in the wrong run, they cost me and my clients the most money!
Secondly, I do not believe in templates because a design has to match a client’s content and goals. Website templates can be generic, and made for tiny one word pieces of content. What do I mean? well, take for example a menu for a steel distributor. Say they purchase a web template for $49 and want it to work. Forcing content, features and customizations is like trying to make a 7 year old put on last year’s snow boots. It never works, and there could be crying involved.
Option 2: Completely Custom Design
More often seen OUTSIDE of the WordPress arena, designers that want to reinvent the wheel and create something fresh and new for their client often spend so much time reinventing wheels, that a client can walk away with a bill 4x-8x what others would pay.
Option 3: Designing around a Template Framework
I rely on the Genesis Framework from StudioPress. Brian Gardner and his friends have created a code system that allows web developers like myself to create fully custom website designs using a straightforward, and highly editable framework. Text, graphics and the framework itself can be edited, rearranged, torn apart, rebuilt and made to work as the end client demands.
Depending on the client and desires, I will start with the a bare template and start from scratch, or I will start with a readily available (to me) pre-made design as a starting point – and them customize to fit.
Features and Coding websites
Adding content to a website is very easy. Formatting is even easier. My job gets fun and challenging when a client has a special need- maybe a connection to an old AS400 system, a PDF customization tool, eCommerce, or fancy form design.
I purchase and maintain developer licenses for the tools that I deploy on client websites, or I stick with the most popular ‘free’ systems. Gravity Forms, WooCommerce, Yoast Analytics Tools, and others round out my go to tool suite. If it can be done, I will find a way, or make a way.
Search Engine Optimization Suggestions
If you get me on the phone, or in person, I will tell you that Search Engine Optimization is hard. It is a long term effort to continue to post new and relevant content regarding your topic that people want to read. There are no shortcuts, not ‘get on the first page of Google’ secrets from third party hacks or your “budget seo” guy headquartered in Mumbai, India. Although I will always provide the technology framework and instruction for clients to perform well, it is up to them to bring a wealth of content and dedication – and if it is not available, I can help- as long as the topic is one that we can dedicate our time to.
Give me a Call!
I wanted to write out the topics that I very often bring up with clients during an initial phone call, or an onsite visit- Just to familiarize you with how I work. This is my business, and I believe I’ve found the right set of solutions to perform well time and again, are stable, and allow my clients to take on as much of the effort that they want!