Website Building and WordPress

This site isn’t about my work in web building but Noetic Media changed hosts and is currently off line.

My specialty is in helping small businesses who are looking for web updates or a web site built by someone who can “do it all” so to speak and who isn’t carrying high overheads. If you already know what you are looking for a just want to get a quick idea of my wordpress background, skip down to that last section of this page.

If you are still mulling over whether you need a website and are just doing a bit of tire kicking read on.

My WordPress background

How I Work

Do I really need a website?

But good question worth asking is why do I need a website if I can use a social media platform, especially since I have a fanbase there and it’s free?

Social media typically has a different function in the customer buying cycle and journey. It can be good for driving awareness to a new brand or a promotion for example. But using a social media platform means you are at the whim of the various algorithms those platforms use to control content. They are interested in making their own money. If you want eyes on your content consistently, you should consider paying for their ads and promotion tools.

But even in that case, using a social media platform exclusively means what you always have to compete with what else is there and why your audience is there. Your audience might be there for socializing only or may get distracted by what else is being sown to them. Your content and branding will always be framed by the platform branding and you are subject to their rules and decisions. You gain your audience’s full attention by the time they are on your website and can be the deciding factor that shifts a tire-kicker to a paying customer/client. It is often where people will go just as they’re making their purchase decision or what to learn more about who you are. It is always an opportunity to provide your audience with more information that they might not even know they would like.

Do I really need to Re-design or Update my website?

Ideally, you are keeping your content fresh so people have a reason to return to your site. But we don’t all have the time to do it. But if your website looks dated to other people, or you are changing your brand or business approach (ie. moving from a value brand to a premium brand, for example), you need to update it and consider a re-design. If your site looks dated, you might not look that successful or current, and this can become a trust issue for your audience. To learn more check out the decision below on design and why an updated website is important.

Where do I start?

So you know you need something and you would like to be able to update the text or post a news article yourself without going to college to become a programmer or paying someone by the hour to correct that spelling mistake you made in your About page copy. Check. I suggest a website built on a content management system (CMS) with your own domain name (that’s a yourname.com) on a webserver host (that’s a business that hosts your website files and serves them up to the internet for the world to access).

There are a number of CMSs around, the most popular being WordPress which has been used for both large-scale websites right down to the lone individual. You could choose a built from scratch website (it’ll cost you and you probably won’t be able to update it yourself) or another platform. I’ve used other CMSs but my expertise is in WordPress which I have chosen for its value, its flexibility, its scalability, and ease-of-use.

Next make a list of what you have to have and would like to have. Spend some time on your direct competitors websites and see what they are offering. Look at your own browsing and searching habits and pay attention to the things that influence you. Speak to potential customers.

What does a website cost?

Yes, I know you have probably heard the counter-question: how long is a piece of string? Maddening, isn’t it? But from a web builder perspective, most people do have a number in their head, subconsciously or not. My least favorite game is trying to guess what that is.

But I also understand that there are people who really have no idea what it should cost and it’s much harder than you would expect to get a sense of what you might expect to spend. No one wants to embarrass themselves by asking for a website for a fraction of what it will actually cost, nor does anything want to pay $10,000 for a $3,000 website.

Budget

One-time Fees

If you don’t yet have a website, need something professional with basic functionality, and really have no idea where to start thinking about a budget, $1500 tends to gets you about a 5-6 page site build based on a template, assuming you provide a proper logo, copy (the text) and good images, and pay for web hosting. A six-page site might include: Front or landing page, About page, contact page with form (so that your email address isn’t published to the world), product/ services page telling people what you do, privacy page (yes, you need this), blog or news page. A simple e-commerce site might be double that on upwards to $5000+ depending on your requirements and how much you are willing to do yourself.

Monthly fees

You might pay anywhere from about $150-$200 a year for your domain name and site hosting on up. Costs tend to go up with site speed. It’s difficult to get a fast site on a shared-hosting budget, but you may not need anything terrifically fast. Maintenance can really vary, but software needs to be updated regularly, and from time to time servers will cause problems and need to be re-booted, etc. You might be able to handle the minunum yourself and only pay for a developer or site builder to handle specific issues as they may arise.

You will find some designer willing to charge very little, and other a lot. Here are some of the things you should pay for and ask about.

Here are the things you should pay for:

Security

All websites have the potential to get hacked, and that potential grows exponentially based on lack of experience regardless of the platform. Many web designers or builders build a site, bill you and move on. And you have no idea of what security has been implemented (if any) or what you even need.

But trust me when I say that there are millions of web bots designed to constantly probing your site for vulnerabilities. You don’t need to be a big site with important data either. Hackers are just as happy, maybe more so, with a site that gets little traffic. might be an advertising click-through pharmaceutical scheme or a way to co-opt your site’s ability to send out emails or any number of things. It’s just the way of the world now. I remember when the first time I got hacked they just defaced my site. It’s got way more complex now.

Speed

Google cares about speed. But before I get into search engine optimization, so should you. Why? Because if your site loads slowly your audience will get frustrated, and depending on how invested they are to get to your site, may leave altogether. It matters. But unfortunately, it’s not just how your site is built, your host has a LOT to do with this.

Design

Design is a subconscious signifier that informs a user about your credibility and your band. It’s a holistic experience. It’s built on all of the user’s experiences of the world to date that they’ve subconsciously absorbed and categorized. From the moment they arrive on your site, they make that subconscious judgment and modify it, or justify it as they go.

It’s one reason why websites need to be redesigned from time to time. Your site may be giving the impression of being dated, “small-potatoes”, doubtful quality or not being on top of your game without you even realizing. Maybe you are saying value when you should be saying high-end or vice versa, maybe your fuzzy when you should be efficient. It is the impression they get that they can’t quite put their finger on. Before they have had a chance to think about it. Before they’ve read your copy.

And this is why it is so important. You may have lost the chance to reach them before you even got started.

Now, there is a lot of leeway once you have the basics down. If you tend to err on doubt about whether the font should be white or off-white and a smidge bigger or a touch more space, you will then need to ask the question: how much will that choice affect your audience’s decision to fulfill your call to action (CTA).

E-commerce

When it comes to selling things through your website, there are a number of complexities and issues, and different ways to go about it both large and small. Here is an area where you should pay for someone who has experience with your size business.

Things that you should consider paying for but might not need to

Photography

Of course, as a photographer, I would suggest you pay for photography! But if you are willing to pay for stock footage you can reduce this cost by a whole lot especially you are willing to do the work yourself to find what shots you would like to use. You might also be able to produce good enough product shots with your phone (shh, don’t tell people I actually said that).

There are two functions of photography you should be thinking about. The first is what you are communicating about your brand, who you are, and what you offer. What those shots actually are can vary greatly depending on your business and your approach. The other thing you might want to consider is whether you want to break up long text with images.

Next, if you are selling through e-commerce, your catalog product shots are even more important and should only show your properly lit product on a white background, where your life-style shots can be shown with people using your product, or with something that gives your product scale. If you offer a service, photography might include you working, or dealing with clients and customers, or just stock images of happy customers.

Writing

Copywriting is an art. So is writing for the web. But if you are on a budget, you might be able to write it yourself.

If you are selling online, I would do research on the tried and true sales letter formulas to get an idea of the areas you need to address to convert a potential lead. It doesn’t mean that you need to follow a formula, but it will help shift your focus from what you want to say toward what your customers want or should hear.

Maintenance

Maintenance is usually a monthly expense and not usually included in site build fees. The cost of maintenance varies, too. At a minimum, you should consistently make sure your site works properly and keep certain pieces of software up to date for security reasons.

What You Shouldn’t Pay for – at least not yet

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

I go out on a limb saying this since I have been paid to consult on SEO. Back in the day it was great to get your website up in the top ten or see traffic rise because of changes you implemented. But things have changed. Google’s algorithms are more complex than ever. They have to be to weed out the millions of sites that are trying to manipulate those algorithms. If you think about what Google wants, they want what you want. Ad when you do a search you don’t want pages and pages of spammy crappy sites.

Unfortunately, some of those algorithms favour big business, and certainly long-established sites that have plenty of other high ranking sites linking to them. It’s extremely difficult for a new site to get traffic. That’s the hard truth.

There are technical things you can do to give your site a better chance. And it’s a good idea to figure out what people would search for in order to find you, and then work that into your content. But if traffic is what you are after, you will need a different way to do it.

The most important advice I give away for free: be clear on your business plan and create a site for your audience and ideal customer. What do they want and need? What are they looking for? What do they need to know or believe before converting to customers? Then look at your competition. What is your “value proposition”?

My Web Experience

I have worked in the web industry for longer than I care to admit. More than a (cough) decade, (and that’s all I’m going to admit to).

I started with my own sites, initially building from scratch, but then as the demand for functionality grew more complex, started building in WordPress which, using PHP, is a modular platform with thousand (at least) themes and plugins. I am not a PHP programmer although do modify themes from time to time when modifications are needed using “child themes” (allowing you to update the themes without losing your modifications).

Over time various contacts have asked me for help and so I’ve worked on other people’s projects as well, sometimes as a producer or project manager, sometimes as a consultant, sometimes just to get content in for a site migration, sometimes to build out the entire project, sometimes to simply make updates.

I have done everything from acquiring domain names and setting up servers, right through to building, designing, and writing content, to updating and maintenance which makes me a good fit for other small businesses or individuals. If necessary, I will use a PHP developer if more customization is needed, but for the most part the WordPress platform and more than enough flexibility that those additional costs are not required.

What I bring to the table besides straight-up technical WordPress skills, is the total thinking. I’ve written business plans and have worked for marketing agencies, I’ve fixed hacked sites and dealt with a number of different web hosts over the years.

But I’ve gained the bulk of my in-depth knowledge that is relevant for individuals and small businesses through the building, running, and maintainance of my own websites. As a “multipotentilite”, I generate income through a variety of ways, and some of my income comes from my websites whether it’s directly through e-commerce, affiliate marketing, or advertising, or indirectly through gaining new clients or retaining existing ones.

That means I’ve been highly motivated to make sites that perform by providing value to my audience, loading fast for users, play well with Google, are current, are efficient for me to maintain and update, and are less susceptible to hacking. And I love to do it.

How I work

I work by the hour or a flat fee. I prefer to work for a flat fee (unless you are an agency, in which case it’s hourly for you, folks, you know why).

I prefer flat fee that’s because I abhor keeping timesheets and getting stressed over the length of time meetings, emails and phone calls take or justifying why battling with your web host actually took five freaking hours (It shouldn’t. But it has).

I guarantee you, that you always get a better deal from me because then I am free to focus on making your project the best it can be, rather than getting stalled and bogged down with pricing and estimating, scope management, change requests, and administration. If I wanted all that I’d go back to working for an agency! 🙂 I do the work because I enjoy it and like to help. Not because I plan on conquering the world. (Although, maybe I should think that through…).

Typically clients provide me with images and copy (text). Requirements for writing and/or specific design (like logos, slide shows, or banners) or photography is negotiated separately.

So let’s focus on what’s important. Tell me your budget hopes, and tell me your site needs and wishes, and I will let you know if and what’s possible. Even if you can’t afford my fees, there may be a way to get the essentials of what you are looking for through other means.