If you haven't already, make sure you have checked out the first 2 days of our series
Caught up? Excellent, let's move on to...
Setting Up Your Site
Setting up websites is an aspect that many people are afraid of. You might worry about making an expensive mistake, buying something that just does work for your business, or fear signing up to something that requires you to be a techno wizard and invest hours and hours of sweat and stress into.
Thankfully you can have something beautiful, easy to use, inexpensive and most important, beneficial without being a super nerd or spending a fortune.
Back when I first got into creating websites everything was laborious and technical. We had to build everything from scratch, and even simple things like contact forms were put together in a different way depending on the programmer’s own preferences and experiences.
Now you do not even need to know HTML, the computer language of the content you see, even that is done for you! Modern web software has brought it to a point where creating your web site is so simple that if you can write an email you can write a web page!
The first task is to choose what you are going to call your site.
When people talk about Google.com or news.bbc.co.uk they are talking about Domain Names. These are the names that websites are found under, and where your email will be addressed to.
Because normal human beings are going to need to use and talk about them, you need to carefully choose a name that is …
- Easy to spell
- Easy to pronounce
If you can, get the “.com” form of your name, but if not do not worry too much. As Problogger.net proves, a dotcom is not essential, just nice to have.
Keywords in your name are also good, but not essential. My site is chrisg.com but I still rank in search engines for many sought after search terms.
A really great place to get Domain names is Godaddy.com
Your next consideration is which software to go with. My choices are:
- Joomla – For a content or community site
- WordPress – For blogging and simple corporate sites
- Drupal – Application building and hardcore content management
As we are building a content site in this tutorial, go with Joomla.
Whichever software you go with, it should be:
- Easy to use
- Well Supported
- Free or inexpensive
Those I mention above are all those things and more. People will try to sell you expensive solutions that tie you into long-term design or consulting contracts. Don’t be fooled. You don't need to be paying thousands of dollars.
Once you have selected the software you are going to use, then you need to select a hosting company to go with. Do not do it the other way round, or worse just go with the company where you bought your domain or broadband!
The biggest mistake though is people selecting purely on price. Those cheap monthly bills don’t look so cheap once you realize you are not going to get any support, the site is down for maintenance all the time and they expect you to practically speak binary in order to work anything out.
Your best bet is to select a host recommended by specialists who use the software that you have selected. It’s important that your hosting company is a good match for your chosen platform and can help you make everything work smoothly.
Of course, all of the above applies to My Artisan Web, but you knew that already!
My Artisan Web is the *only* fully managed Joomla hosting service on the web. It was built from the ground up by recognized experts in Joomla like Joomlashack and Compass Designs. You can create a Joomla website in seconds and never have to worry about "server stuff" or "code updates".
After you have organized where your site is going to live, next you need to decide how it will look.
Each of the recommended software tools has an abundance of free or paid designs to choose from, and you can normally count on some being included for you to try.
Have a look around the web to see the designs you like, don’t like, and suit the image you are trying to portray. What would your audience most like? Should you have 1, 2 or 3 columns?
The main thing is that you prioritize content over gadgets and widgets. People are coming to read, not be entertained by playing “whack a mole” with your buttons and banners!
Your sidebars are useful for showing your past content and categories, and also for displaying advertising. An absolute must is to promote your subscription options, be that a “news feed” or email newsletter.
While you can get moving fast with an off the shelf design, and with some additional tweaks and graphics can do a lot to make a unique image, do consider getting a professional design if you are serious about the site.
A good design will also have the following qualities for Search Engine Optimization:
- Indexing – Search engines will find it easy to read every page of the site.
- Titles – Titles will put the important keywords to the beginning of the title rather than the site name.
- Heading tags – Heading tags such as H1 and H2 will be used to emphasize important keywords over less priority content.
My Artisan Web comes with a selection of sophisticated, SEO ready, professional templates from Joomlashack.
Nothing adds brand value to the appearance of your site like custom graphics. It’s not just about having a logo, but providing non-verbally the spirit and personality of your site, and giving an instant snapshot of what it is about. As they say, a picture is worth quite a lot of words.
Here are some important tips for your graphic choices:
- Stick to color scheme – You want your graphics to look in keeping with the overall design
- Loading times – Huge graphics slow down the user experience. Remember not everyone has broadband, and they might be on a mobile connection paying by the megabyte. Also consider people using small screens, huge graphics also cause people to find your site unreadable.
- Clarity – You need to balance loading times against the impact of your images and message.
- Attention Grabbing or background? – Graphics need to serve a purpose, if the intention is not to get the visitor to take notice then make sure they blend into the background. Otherwise your page starts to look too noisy and nothing gets any attention.
An important aspect of your site organization is categorizing your content. Think of your categories as aisles in a supermarket rather than filing cabinet drawers – you want your visitor to browse and find lots of cool stuff; it is not about your own sense of organization that is important.
- Limit categories – More than 5 or 7 categories is too many, best not to overwhelm your reader with too much choice.
- Use keywords – Make your categories compelling to click on, and a little search boost by using a keyword will not do any harm
- Never use Miscellaneous – Make categories specific and leave the reader in no doubt as to the usefulness of your content.
If you are using Joomla and My Artisan Web, you'll need to note how this CMS structures its content. If you have your free trial up and running, you can check out these handy guides in the My Artisan Web tutorial section:
- Lesson 1a – An Overview of your My Artisan Web site
- Lesson 1b – Setting up Your Site
- Lesson 1c – Customizing Your Site
- Lesson 1d – Inserting Images into Your Content
- Lesson 1e – Choosing a Template
Once site owners realize how easy it is to add features to their site they tend to get carried away. Remember your visitor is there to find useful content, not get distracted by gizmos!
The important features you might consider are:
- Contact Form – So the reader can contact you rather than copy and paste your email, also will prevent you getting as much spam.
- Comments/Community – Build a sense of community by sparking discussions
- Search – Allow your reader to find content by searching rather than click-click-click browsing.
- Ecommerce? – Do you want to sell products?
- Email Subscriptions – Keep your visitors coming back over and over by allowing them to sign up to an email service where you can notify them of any new articles or news you post up.
At this point, if you have created a My Artisan Web site, you'll also have got some easy-to-follow tutorials on how to set it up with these guidelines. Check out the beginner tutorials, you should be up and running in just one evening!
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Summary of Day 3
As you can see, you have some important choices when starting a content site, but selecting the correct software and hosting company can make everything much easier. Once your site is up and running you need to fill it with content, which is what we will investigate in the next part of this series …