Custom websites and Content Management
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Publications & Book Covers
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FAQs about Websites…
It can be pretty intimidating when you first go to sit down and think about your website. What should you write? What should it look like? And how do you find someone who’s professional, good, and won’t rip you off?
A lot of people have a lot of questions when they sit down to begin the process of developing a site. I thought I’d write down some answers to common questions.
If you are even more confused after reading this, don’t hesitate to email me and I’d be glad to clarify anything for you.
Please click on the question below to see the answer.
How much does it cost to have a website?
This is usually about $10 a year. If you use a major host or registrar, it can cost you up to $60/year. There is a huge disparity in what it costs to register your site. If you shop around you can find it as low as $10.
When you go to register your site, you’ll usually have the option to register the name for 1 year, 2 years, etc. It depends on where you purchase your domain name and how they structure their prices. There is no standard price so it really depends upon where you purchase your domain.
What happens after I register my domain name?
Once you have your domain name, you’ll need to purchase “hosting.” Basically, when you buy your domain name, you get just that: a name. It only means that no one else can use that name.
To have an actual site, you’ll need to purchase “hosting.” This is the “house” where your site and files and images will reside. I host all my own sites with a web host called “Charlottezweb.” I’ve been using them for years because I really like their customer service, they have the best prices, and I really like the “back end” control panels for their site (something that you may never ever have to even think about so don’t worry about it).
You can host your site with anyone, including many of the larger hosts such as GoDaddy, HostGator, or HostMonster. It’s up to you.
Plus, if you choose your host first, you can usually do everything in one step. By this, I mean that if you go to charlottezweb.com, you can register your domain name and choose your hosting package and setup your payments all at the same time.
If you are going to go with charlottezweb.com, the “Special” package is usually just fine for most sites. It’s only $4.99 per month. If your needs change and all of a sudden you have tons of files and need more email addresses, you can switch your hosting package without losing any of your files or having to redo anything.
And if you do use them, please mention my referral, okay? I get a small referral 🙂 Thanks!
Which is the best CMS for my website?
Again, that depends on what you need. I use both of them. Both Joomla and WordPress have advantages and disadvantages. Here is a brief summary…
Joomla is better if you ever have the need to embed one site into another. I know this sounds weird, but it’s the only reason I can think of right now that I can’t figure out how to do easily in WordPress.
For example, I made a site for one of my son’s classrooms. I created the site to teach the kids about internet safety and to have a place to post photos and homework information. But the thing the kids wanted most of all was to have games on the site! Now, I can program quite a bit, but I’m not really a game developer. BUT, with Joomla I was able to use a function that basically let me embed other sites right into my site and the kids weren’t traipsing all over the internet (which was good since they were only 8).
Advantages of Joomla:
- it’s free to download and use
- many of the components for J! are free or very cheap
- it’s much easier to move your site and database with Joomla than WordPress
Disadvantages of Joomla:
- it’s got a lot of security breaches. The developers are constantly working on this, but it’s “hacky.”
- it’s not as expandable as WordPress. There are literally thousands of WordPress plugins out there. There are a lot of Joomla plugins, but not nearly as many as WordPress.
- Many of the original Joomla developers were German so a lot of the documentation is in German. Google Translation helps, but it’s still kind of amusing and occasionally frustrating. 🙂
When I started out, Joomla was the first web development software that I learned so I made all of my sites in Joomla. But then my own site got hacked (which is not all that uncommon with Joomla unfortunately).
That’s when I switched to WordPress and that’s what I currently recommend right now to anyone who is just starting their site. Here’s why:
Advantages of WordPress
- It’s easy to learn so you can make your own text changes
- It’s very modular so you can add just about anything, anywhere, either for free or for a fee
- there are oodles and oodles of “themes” out there for WordPress
- most webhosts have automatic installers for WordPress
Disadvantages of WordPress
- it’s surprisingly difficult to transfer sites. For some reason, it’s easy to export text files, but they lose their images when you reimport. This seems to be a common problem, and it’s a real pain in the neck. When I create a wordpress site, I like to create it on the actual domain rather than on my demo site and transfer it.
- It’s occasionally difficult to have it look consistent across browsers, but this has gotten better and better over the past couple of years.
How Much Do You Charge to do a Website?
My flat rate generally begins at $1,500. Most sites range from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on their size and complexity. This is for a typical site and not a “Store” or “Membership” or anything fancy. This includes:
- help setting up a domain or host account
- consultation on determining who is going to come to your site and my professional experience with how best to present yourself to potential customers/agents/visitors.
- help organizing and prioritizing your material to create an easily navigable site
- email account setup
- 3 initial concepts and 3 rounds of revisions
- optimization of any images used in your site
- text formatted and images placed
- a one-hpur tutorial either in person or via phone on how your site is set up so you can make your own text updates. In most cases, I also provide a customized handbook (pdf) with written instructions on how to update your site, where things are located, and your passwords, etc. This also includes screenshots so you can easily see where to go and what to do.
- if necessary, simple identity and branding are included in the site. By this, I mean that if you don’t have a logo, I’ll create something professional and clean looking in Photoshop to use for your site. If you choose to go all the way and get a real “logo” or “brand,” this would cost you extra and you’d get 5 or 6 initial concepts and then 3 rounds of revisions. (Please contact me if you want more information on this.)
Do you do custom work or use themes or templates?
I do both. In most cases, I’ll start with a theme that I like that has things where I like them, like a menu on the top or a tasty footer area or something like that.
This is helpful because it’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel every time you sit down. What a theme or template can offer is the ability to save tons and tons of time.
I usually use the same 2 or 3 themes, and I mainly choose them because they are very expandable and customizeable. Think of it this way: imagine a checkerboard. You have a designated space (the board) with many squares on it. A theme or template can work like this.
I can go in the back-end of a theme and customize the size and parameters of each of the individual squares, plus I can change the dimensions and parameters of the actual “board.” Then I can put different elements into each of the squares and apply different styles to them.
So even though I start by using a “theme,” I tweak the heck out of the CSS to meet your exact needs. Believe me, it’s a custom site by the time I’m done with it! If you want an entirely custom theme built from scratch, I can provide this for you. Please contact me for revised rates for this.
What is the difference between a Programmer and a Designer and Which Do I Choose to Do My Site?
The differences between programmers and designers have gotten very fuzzy over the past decade. Many programmers have become freelance “designers” and offer web development services. No offense, guys, but programmers make the ugliest sites ever. Yuck.
And they generally hand code from the ground up so it makes it virtually impossible for you to make your own text and image updates. Plus they are way more expensive.
WordPress and Joomla were both created with the express purpose of enabling the “average Joe or Jane” to take control over their own web sites. With each, there is no need to know any programming to make text or image changes. Yes, you would need to learn how to go into the back end and learn how to use the software, but they are both only slightly more complicated than going on Facebook and updating your status or uploading a photo. Really.
But it does take a bit of time and energy and know-how to get a site up and running. Especially if you want it to look awesome.
That’s where designers come in and why you want one to create your site (hopefully that someone is me!). BUT, when you choose a designer for your site, you should make sure that designer knows what he/she is doing and knows enough coding to create a functional site that looks consistent across browsers.
Back in the day (and probably still in some larger corporations,) a designer would create how a web page should look in Photoshop and then pass it off to a programmer to actually create the site. I know some designers who still do this, but they are a dying breed and you will undoubtedly end up paying way more because not only are you paying for the designer, you will also be paying for the programmer.
Most designers, by necessity, have become proficient in CSS and coding so they don’t need to outsource to a programmer. Look for someone who can do that, it will be worthwhile–you will come away with a great looking site and it will be more cost effective for you. Unfortunately, most programmers are not also designers–if you hire a programmer to do your initial site, be prepared to redo your site in a couple of years because it will be extremely difficult to do updates and you will also get sick of having an ugly site when your competitors have great-looking ones.
And while looks aren’t everything, great looking sites get better results than ugly ones.
How do I prepare my stuff for you to do my site
I’m glad you asked.
I have a checklist of questions for new clients that I ask them to fill out before we talk on the phone. Here they are:
Who is your site for?
Do you have your text ready?
Do you have your images ready/selected?
Please give me 3 examples of sites that you like.
Please give me 3 examples of your competitor’s sites (if this applies).
Do you need/have videos?
Will you need to setup email accounts and how many?
What is your favorite color?