by Stephanie Padovani
I remember how frustrated, overwhelmed and just plain lost I felt when it came to our website seven years ago. We had a good-looking site, but we just weren’t getting traffic and working with our “webmaster” was a nightmare; it took months…and scads of cash…to get anything changed.
Today I manage our websites myself. Thanks to the magic of “content management systems” like WordPress and Joomla, I can upload new articles and images, add features and make changes on my website when and how I want.
It’s been a long, hard journey. So I’d like to share some tips your webmaster probably isn’t going to tell you so that you can avoid some of the painful mistakes I’ve made.
1. Make sure your domain name and hosting are registered in your own name.
When we set up our first website for our wedding business, we just wanted someone to do it all for us. When our webmaster offered to take care of our hosting, we were thrilled that it was one less thing we had to do.
Unfortunately, when we had a parting of ways and wanted to move our website to a new host, we found out that we couldn’t do it because our hosting account was in his name.
If your domain and hosting account is registered in your webmaster’s name, he or she technically owns your website…including all your images, videos and text.
Most webmasters are going to be reasonable about this, but you can prevent any issues over the ownership of your domain and website contents by making sure everything is registered on an account in your name.
2. You CAN manage your own website.
If you can edit a Word document, copy and paste, and send and receive email, you can manage a WordPress website. You don’t have to be a programmer or a tech-wizard.
The old-school website designers don’t want you to know this because they want you to come to them for every little change and adjustment on your website. It’s good for business.
But if you have your website set up on a WordPress platform, you can add and make changes to your heart’s content. You can even limit your own access and do automatic backups to prevent yourself from messing something up.
If you want someone to do everything for you and you’re happy to pay someone for the privilege of not thinking about it, a traditional webmaster may work just fine. But it doesn’t HAVE to be that way.
3. A website designer is typically good at programming or designing…but not both.
When we go to a website designer to get a site built, we expect them to be good at the technical side of the website (programming, coding, functionality) and the design side (graphics, aesthetics, artistry.)
These are two very different activities and few website designers excel at both of them. In many cases, you’ll hire someone who is very good at the technical side, but mediocre or even lousy when it comes to artistic design. Or you may find an artistic designer who isn’t as competent when it comes to building the site.
Keep this in mind if you’re hiring a single person to design your website. Most programmers partner with a designer to cover all the bases.
4. Templates and themes can get you a beautiful, professional website at a very reasonable cost.
A template is a pre-done layout for your website. When most people think of using a “template” they assume it means their website is going to be boring or generic.
However, there are thousands of WordPress templates that are both gorgeous and functional. By choosing one that offers most of the features you want and then hiring a programmer to modify it to your liking, you can have a unique website at a fraction of the cost of a website that is custom-designed from scratch.
5. I’m not an SEO expert and I don’t care if your website gets you visitors and leads.
Just because someone can build a professional website that does not automatically mean they will set it up so that you get found in the search engines. And just because they’re a brilliant programmer, that doesn’t mean they’re going to design a website that makes money for you.
If your site looks good and functions well, but no one knows it’s there, you have a problem. If visitors land on your site never buy, you’re not going to be in business for long.
Most website designers are in the business of building websites. They don’t teach you how to use them or how to set them up to get targeted traffic for your business.
That’s another reason content management systems like WordPress come in handy. WordPress websites are search engine friendly right out of the box; a few minor tweaks to the settings and Google will love you. It can be more difficult and costly to set things up optimally with your webmaster, and many of them don’t understand or follow the nuances of SEO.
Do you love or hate your website? Leave a comment and tell me about it.
Stephanie Padovani shares oodles of wedding business marketing tips at BookMoreBrides.com.