Welcome to today’s episode of the Business Bites podcast. I am Rachel Brenke, your host for the next ten minutes as we’re going to discuss a little bit about bootstrapping your own website.
I think one of the most overwhelming things for technically challenged individuals is getting a website set up. Social media is relatively easy, because the structure, format, and everything is provided for you.
When you’ve set up a website or a blog, pretty much the world is your oyster at that point. You can set up however you want to do it, but it can be really, really overwhelming.
Let me tell you right now, I am probably one of the most technologically challenged individuals. I have broken my website more times than I can count. A lot of my tips today are going to be from my experience so you don’t do what I have done in the past.
I’m also going to start off by saying having someone to custom design and manage – those are not necessarily the same person – but to manage a website for you is probably one of the most valuable things you can do especially in this day and age when having an online presence is so crucial. It brings you such cheap and highly successful marketing. It gives you a platform to speak to your audience, your potential customers. You just need to have it. You need to be there. Whether you’re running an Etsy store and you want to branch out and grow, you need to have a website. You can be a brick and mortar product or service. I still truly believe you need an online presence.
I want to walk through with you guys a little bit of my recommendations of how to set up a site relatively easy but so that you can customize it for yourself. I’m not talking about places out there that the hosting includes the set up for you. I’m going to walk you guys through how to set up your own WordPress website so you’re able to customize it with plugins and themes so that it can do what you want to do within reason. Just know that going into this, it’s going to be trial and error.
The first step we want to do anytime that we’re going to look up to set up the website is make sure we have a good hosting capability. I am a big fan of Imagely hosting, and I’ve got a couple other recommendations that I can include in the show notes as well.
You really want to have a good stable hosting environment and also ensure that the individuals, or that the company rather, that’s going to be hosting your website have really good customer service. I got sucked into a company last year that was not very good with customer service, killed me on Black Friday which is one of my biggest days of the year. Long story short, it was a really, really, really bad experience. My site was essentially held hostage. There was no responsiveness on customer service. I would have paid thousands upon thousands of dollars to have good customer service in that moment when I’m supposed to be cooking turkey and I’m in my office crying over a keyboard because I couldn’t get the site to work. That was not my fault. That was all on their end.
Having a good host is really important, but the second thing is I also recommend that you utilize WordPress platform. WordPress itself is free. You can get a WordPress site for free, all set up with templates and so forth, if you’re still totally bootstrapping your business. It doesn’t cost you anything. The downfall with that is you’re going to have your business name dot wordpress dot com in the URL, and I’m not really a big fan of that tag. We want to focus on your business and who you are.
So you can have … majority of people that I know about hosting … I know Imagely for sure and a couple others … They will do a WordPress install. You get WordPress installed in as a blank canvas for you to load anything you want. This is where I think a lot of times individuals, solo-preneurs, busy parents, or entrepreneurs like you guys listening, get tripped up because you go, “What do I do now?”
I recommend, and this is what I’ve done for all of my websites … None of them have been custom built. I have kind of custom built them by taking themes that have really good recommendations, really good coding, and then supplement it with plugins for the features that I want it to utilize.
Good hosting. Get the WordPress installed. Then I recommend a couple different places where you can check out some themes. One of them is also the host that I mentioned a little bit ago, Imagely, which by the way, they’re not sponsoring this episode. I just wanted to share them because they are completely awesome. Really good coding in their work. There’s also StudioPress. Both that and Imagely are on what’s called a Genesis theme. Don’t be too concerned about getting wrapped around that. Essentially you have WordPress, then you install Genesis, then you install child theme which is the theme that you want to install on WordPress to make it pretty.
The other place that I recommend is Theme Forest. That’s not a Genesis. Simply download the template, upload it into WordPress, and then you customize it with the options. The downfalls in Theme Forest is there’s a whole bunch of different authors. Theme options can be in different places. There’s not always clean, good coding which … If you remember at the beginning of the episode I talked about I’ve killed my site a few times, it’s not necessarily me. It was me purchasing perhaps not a such good coded theme that sets up all the structure and the fonts and the colors and pictures and everything that I want. Make sure you’re looking at the ratings, not just what’s pretty and user friendly but also the ratings. How many times it’s been purchased and what type of support is provided by the author or creator of that theme as well.
Once I get that, I find a theme that I really enjoy. I’ll narrow down to around 3 or 5. I’ll test them all on mobile devices. Make sure they’re very responsive on mobiles. See the options that are available to me. I also keep in mind that I can built out a lot within frameworks with other plugins.
That’s the next step after you get your hosting, you’ve done your WordPress, install, you load your theme, fix all those options, then you can have WordPress plugins. There’s range from free to paid that are out there. Paid, you’re obviously going to get better support, because you get what you pay for. It can be a variety of things. There’s free plugins when you pay for the subscription for the service, such as Mail Chimp if you want to collect email newsletters. Some of the Mail Chimp plugins are free, but then obviously the Mail Chimp service, you have to pay at a certain point. Those are the kind of things you have to think about when you’re bootstrapping and building your website.
For me, I sit down. I do everything up to the point of the plugins. I invest in a really good coded theme, because that is going to be the framework. I don’t want to have any technical issues, because having to pay someone to come clean up is going to be way more expensive. Then I go into the priority order of the plugins that I actually need, of the functions that I need to include at the website.
That’s kind of how I go through a budget standpoint and an aesthetic. What are the most important functions that I need right now to be live? Then I just spend time on the website. I constantly monitor how it’s working. Just like I had a brick and mortar store where you come in everyday and turn on the lights, you check the cash register. I do the exact same thing with my website. I try to do a run through every few days. Make sure everything is working really well on multiple devices, WiFi, non-WiFi, and so forth just to make sure there are not any quirks or bugs going on.
That’s really important in this mobile day and age. A lot of people are on tablets or phones, so you want to make sure it looks good there and it’s responsive as well. You won’t know that if you don’t test it yourself.
Last thing I do want to leave with you guys on this. Sounds like a lot of crazy, technical information. Totally understand, it really is not that difficult if you look at the good reviews, find people that have good support. Those that have good support, good companies that sell the themes and/or plugins. You’ll learn through the process. You’ll learn how to do things.
I really strongly recommend you do go through learning all this even if you are the head of your company and trying to just be the manager. You may have team. You may have a web guy. It’s still important to learn how to upload a plugin, disable plugin, edit something, because you may not be able to get a hold of so and so individual. That was one of the issues I also had. It was a perfect storm last Black Friday. I couldn’t get a hold of my web person either, because they were with their family on Thanksgiving. It’s good to know you have your hands on. At least even if you have someone set it all up for you, have them sit down and walk you through how it all works, what the quirks may be.
One thing I should have said from the very beginning. Always recommend that before you make any major theme changes, any plugin changes, make sure you run a backup of your site. You can do this in a variety of ways. There’s plugins that can do it. Your host can do it as well. You should have multiple backups running, so that in case there is ever an issue, you can just roll back to the last time it was backed up and hopefully you won’t lose too much content or information from your site.
Hope that gives you guys a nice little structure to figure out how to bootstrap and get your blog, website, or shop online. Really important to do it. Sit down, go through these steps.
If you have any questions at all, there’s a plethora of resources on the web that can help you. I’ll drop some in the show notes as well.
If you have not gotten the website yet, make a goal. Let’s see if you can get it done in the next 4 to 6 weeks. If you already have one, run through. Run checks. See how you can improve the user experience on your site and the responsiveness. How can you make it so that it convert higher for more successful business for you?
Rachel Brenke is a lawyer, author and business consultant. She is currently helping professionals all over the world initiate, strategize and implement strategic business and marketing plans through various mediums of consulting resources and legal direction.
Hi, I’m Rachel Brenke
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