We design a lot of WordPress sites for first time bloggers, and I find myself giving the same tutorials over and over again for our clients. I decided to create a little slideshow that goes over the basics of WordPress so that my initial tutorial with new clients can be spent answering specific questions about their site and their needs. And because I am so nice, I have decided to share it here with you as well. Enjoy!
The pit of suckiness is a term my old improv teacher used to use in our rehearsals. Whenever our troupe would make some great leaps forward and get in a groove, inevitably we would crash and just do horrible work for a while. Our teacher was also a math teacher, so he chose to illustrate this particular phenomenon as a graph. As you are developing any skill, you always get better over time. As you learn, you end up doing some terrible work while your mind or body is readjusting to a new set of skills. This sucks.
I feel like I have been in a pit of graphic design suckiness the past couple of weeks. Everything I am working on feels like a mashed up, unguided mess. I know it is because I am integrating new skills and improving, but man it is frustrating. I’ve recently switched over a lot of my initial graphic creation to illustrator instead of photoshop. It is a whole different workflow and skill set, but my graphics are cleaner and vector based and therefore so much easier to integrate into full site designs.
No matter what skill you are building, you have to work extra hard to climb out of the pit of suckiness. Don’t get too frustrated and just know you will get past the hump. It is absolutely worth it to keep improving, and each time you claw your way out of the pit you are so much better off than when you fell in.
I touched on this topic a bit last July, but a client recently asked my opinion about it so I thought I would revisit the issue. What is the best way to feature your latest news and accomplishments on your website? A scrolling feed of all of your postings going back chronologically to when you launched your site, or a curated single post of your most recent accomplishments and gigs?
Unless you are blogging and keeping a searchable archive of your newsfeed, I am firmly in the camp of a single post latest news page. It depends on a lot of factors, like how much time has passed between your updates and how often you update your site, but I like to see a latest news area with only relevant events that have recently occurred or are coming up.
If you have a blog feed, you can be going into more detail about your accomplishments and events. WordPress has a feature called Sticky Posts that allow for certain items to stay at the top of your feed so that your current events don’t get lost below the fold if you are posting a lot. If your site doesn’t have a blog attached to it, your news page is where people go to see your most current information. Items on your home page should have an expiration date for when they are no longer relevant. That doesn’t mean that old items have to be deleted from the internet, but rather those items belong elsewhere on your site. Jobs belong on your resume, events that have been recorded belong on your media page, and news items belong on your press page.
Ultimately, the point of your site is to put your best face forward and curate your online persona. You have to decide what information you want out there for people to see and how to present it. Does your short film from 3 years ago deserve the same feature as the show you are performing in this week? You be the judge.
Pinterest is an amazing social network that has changed the nature of blogging and image sharing. Most bloggers I know are using the standard Pin It button plugin on their blogs that allows for readers to pin an image from the bottom of every blog post. Unfortunately, that method often results in improper sourcing and a rabbit hole of incorrect links.
Unless your readers are pinning from the permalink of a particular post, chances are the pin they create will just redirect to your home page instead of the post itself. Or it could just pin to the actual image file, robbing you of a visit to your actual site. Or worst of all, it could just lead to a 404 broken link page.
Test it out on your own blog and make sure that when someone clicks that Pin It button, your images and posts are being sourced correctly. Otherwise you could be losing a ton of traffic to the dreaded 404. The best way to combat this problem, first and foremost, is to make sure your own Pinterest boards are filled with properly linked images. Like Smokey says, only you can prevent improperly sourced internet content.
Has this happened to you? You made your site on your Mac, and Apple went and pulled the rug right out from under you? I don’t condone building your site on a template builder (like wix.com or iWeb) for a lot of reasons, but this is by far the biggest one. The shut down of MobileMe left a lot of small websites in the lurch with a big neon “Closed” sign. We all know technologies change and progress, but you have to make sure your online identity and properties are protected against things like this. Do you know for sure that your website is going to be there when it matters? Be careful you don’t miss out on a job or lose a sale because of outdated technology!
The hardest part about filling your website with content is not picking which pictures to use or what videos to display; it is writing your own biography. A biography on your site gives the viewer a snapshot into your life that your resume credits don’t provide. Sure you could just fill it with a list of your most impressive professional accomplishments, but it is better to give it a personal touch that lets the user know who you are as a person.
So often clients of mine have trouble writing their own bios (there’s a joke in there somewhere about actors always talking about themselves, but I digress). If you are having trouble writing a few paragraphs that sum up your personal or professional life so far, do what the pros do and hire a ghostwriter. Pick someone who knows you really well, like your Mom or your best friend, and have them write a bio for you. It keeps you from getting hung up on details and helps take your own personal bias out of it. If nothing else, it gives you a starting point that you can edit later. Unless you have an actual ghost from a 90’s TV show writing it for you, then just do whatever he says.
I can’t tell you how many times I have frantically searched for my mute button when I have been researching actor’s sites. Far too many people have the media on their website set to autoplay. That is when audio or video automatically starts playing when a website is first loaded. It is one of my biggest pet peeves on the internet, and it hurts my soul whenever I come upon it. It feels like getting kicked in the face by those break dancing kids on the subway.
I implore you, never put any sort of autoplay audio or video on your website. There is no faster way to guarantee that whoever is looking at your site will click the little red X in the corner of their screen and never come back. Unless you like it when you go to an actor’s website and your computer speakers automatically start blaring their demo recording of “Music of the Night.”
Image via The New York Times
I don’t have any problem with those stock template builder sites like wix.com and 1and1.com, they work for some people and are perfectly fine if you want a website that does the bare minimum. I personally don’t think having another company advertise on your site helps your image, but I’ll talk about that in another post on another day.
What I do have a problem with is people who charge unwitting actors money to build them a “custom” site on one of those services. That’s like asking a carpenter to build you a piece of furniture, and he gives you something he put together from IKEA. The time you spend gathering your content for your site and sending it to that “designer” is the same amount of time it would take you to build that site yourself using Wix or the now defunct iWeb.
Having and maintaining a website is time consuming and expensive. Even those build-it-yourself sites can charge you an arm and a leg if you want professional features. By all means, build your site yourself if you have the time and knowledge to maintain it. But if you are hiring someone to do it for you, make sure you are getting your money’s worth. Don’t let your website be built with particle board and an allen wrench.