Before the days of WordPress, I built websites for clients who couldn’t be bothered with HTML or CSS. Today, site building is as easy as sending an email. With easy to use free and affordable CMS (content management systems) programs, like WordPress, you are the web designer and programmer. Today, my clients hire me as a site consultant and ask me how they can build a better site. With so many other open source and free CMS programs, plugins and other tools that require very little knowledge of coding and programming, many of my clients have asked me, “which CMS is best?”,”how do I keep my site professional, while staying with the trends?” and “how can I drive traffic to my site?”
To better answer these questions, I recently revisited a great article that I found last year by Lauren Hockenson, a writer at Mashable.com, she offered some valuable tips on how to build a simple site that will attract visitors and have them coming back for more. Here are a few tips that I’ve come up with along my journey in site building, some of which were inspired by Hockenson’s article.
Finding a Host
To get your site started, you will first need to sign on with a reliable hosting company. Now, I know that you are running a business and trying to cut back on your overhead expenses, but having a free “blog” will do little to attract clientele, who are willing to pay for your services. To build a professional site with any CMS, you will want a hosting service that will support your online presence. There are many VPS (virtual private server) companies that charge small monthly or annual fees to offer you multiple email accounts and allow you to store and archive large files of data. The average fee for a Windows VPS hosting service is between $30 and $50 per month, which is a smart investment considering the amount of traffic that a well-made site will bring to your business’s front door.
The Right Look
In the early days of website building, a small business owner might hire a web designer or programmer to create their website and would have to badger the designer of the site to update or revise any of the site’s content. With CMS programs you can update, create or revise all of the content on your site with the greatest of ease. Hockenson recommends that you try out some of the free templates that are offered by WordPress that will project the look and feel that your business is going for. As Hockenson says, don’t be afraid to take chances and be bold in your template’s style. If you don’t like what you see there and want to take your chances with another CMS, two that I like are Weebly and Jigsy. Both are free and easy to use and have hundreds of professional templates to choose from. Weebly also offers cool extras like HD video and audio players, animated slideshows and an iPhone app, so you can post updates to your site while you’re away from your main computer.
Get Rid of Unnecessary Widgets
This bit of advice is for anyone who is building their first site: don’t go widget wild. Meaning, if you don’t have a current updated Tumblr account and you are not sure when you will find the time to update it, don’t place a widget for Tumblr on your site. I’ve seen clients who didn’t have a Twitter account, install a Twitter widget to their site. If you aren’t using the widget, take it off of your site.
This last piece of advice will help you if you are having trouble getting visitors to fill out those dreaded contact forms. Neil Patel, owner of two Internet companies that measure the conversion metrics for companies, Crazy Egg and Kissmetrics, advises small business owners to create contact forms that are easy to fill out with a limited amount of required fields. Limit your fields to name, email and message and you will see how quickly you get the information that will get your client-relationship ball rolling.
There is so much information that you might believe is necessary to have on your site, but the more sparse and simple your site is, the faster you will reach your audience. Be bold, simple and logical in all of your design and content ideas and you will do fine.