Notice anything different about the Internet, lately?
I am not sure if you have been watching the changes the web has been going through.
Fortunately, most of them are very interesting, bringing an exciting evolution with new and better options for building your business online.
The challenge is staying on top of all of the incredible choices and changes, while still staying focused on what is most important to you – running the day to day of your own business.
I know you don't have time to learn every new tool and feature that comes along, but some of you have been asking me to let you know what to keep in mind, as you are growing your online presence.
To help with that, I am putting together a series of posts called: How The Web is Changing.
This first post talks about several of the most important/interesting things related to Sites and Blogs (with an emphasis on WordPress, since so many of you are using it). I'll be exploring these changes for you, so you can consider which may be of value to your business.
If you don't have a WordPress website/blog, much of this will still help you evaluate building a site or redesigning one using some of these new technologies. Along with this review are easy Action Steps to help you evaluate whether they are important for you to pursue.
My next few posts will explore the changes in Mobile, Email Marketing and Social Media.
For now, here are some of the things to consider about your Website/Blog.
Changes to Websites/Blogs
Though many of you are already on WordPress, did you know they keep making it easier, while adding more features? And if you haven't checked out any of the newer themes, you are in for a lovely surprise!
For the last few years, we've seen major advancements (like image sliders without flash, being able to use more font options, and seeing the site look more consistent on different browsers!). Much of this technology wasn't supposed to be fully utilized until about 2014 (such as HTML5, not to mention CSS3 and Responsive Design). Developers are already building with the technology, which means there are more advanced options available to improve your website (whether you use WordPress or not).
Here's a quick and easy video to explain it in simple terms:
Don't worry, you don't need to learn any new technologies. That's the beauty of many of these features, they are being created to allow you to do things easier (in fact, you are probably already using some of them:
- Drag and Drop features
- Adding a video without using a plugin
Just know the technology exists to make your site even easier for you to use, while providing capabilities to do so much more.
Kind of like The Six Million Dollar Man/Woman (except much, much, much, much, much cheaper)
“We have the technology…better, stronger, faster…”
So, what does this mean for you?
Things that would have taken a lot of heavy programming to code are now easier to incorporate into any site, or are common features within WordPress and on some of the new crop of premium themes (and even free ones, like Twenty Eleven).
In other words, better, faster and unlike the Bionic Man, they are available and cost-effective for everyone.
My current favorite WordPress Premium Theme developers are:
- Theme Blvd: Angela Bowman turned me on to these themes by Jason Bobich of Alaska. Maybe the long, cold days made this all possible, or maybe this guy just has a good work ethic – which UniqueThink appreciates, but whatever it was, he took the time to create a series of videos to explain all the amazing features he has built into this new selection of premium themes. And each only costs $37
- My personal favorite of the moment is Alyeska. I am using it to do a fairly quick redesign of the Video Station's website (it's not completed, but we made it live, because it is so much better than their old theme, even with very minimal customization!)
- StudioPress: I've been recommending the selection of themes from StudioPress for a couple of years now, but the new batch of layout options offer more features, including a landing page template on many of them. Here is a new one called Focus
“I just finished spending time looking at pretty much every feature. It looks wonderful, and is so easy (and fast) to navigate. You are both priceless and invaluable, to be redundant. Thanks so much!”
– Bruce Shamma – Owner of The Video Station
Many folks will be happy with a theme by either of these developers, right out of the box (virtual box, that is), but if you are like most of my clients, you'll want a custom look for your unique brand. Either way, these themes are a great foundation to build a more engaging, dynamic and interactive site.
There are a ton of features built into all of these themes that I could write a whole blog post on (including image/video sliders and multiple layout options), but the other thing that is so interesting about many of these themes is they were created with Responsive Design.
We'll talk more about what Responsive Design is, in the near future, but for now, just know that a theme with responsive design takes into account what type of device your visitors are on, when they come to your site. That means the site will look great on a large monitor and just as good on an iPhone screen.
And for those of you using straight HTML or other platforms, Responsive Design is not WordPress specific. It's just that these themes are incorporating it.
If you have considered changing the look of your site, this may be the time.
New Releases for WordPress
Additionally, they are just about to come out with a new features release of WordPress. You may or may not need these features, but did you upgrade to the recent WordPress 3.3.2 security release? If not, please do so now, or contact me to do your upgrade!
Your WordPress Action Steps:
Take a look at your admin section (the kitchen, as I call it). Make sure you are up to date with version 3.3.2 (3.4 should be out any day now, but as you've heard me say, it is always important to upgrade when a security release comes out).
If you are up to date, skip down to the next set of Action Steps for Evaluating Your Current Site.
- If you aren't at the latest security release, you definitely need to upgrade now. But equally important, make sure you backup your site and verify your plugins are compatible with WordPress. Why? Because if your site isn't backed up and you have a conflict with a plugin, you could loose your site, or at least crash it
- If you are on a much older version (which I hope is not the case), the Broken Link Checker plugin may crash your site on upgrade, so deactivate and remove it, before you upgrade. Then reinstall the latest version, after your upgrade has been completed. It's a great plugin, so remember to reactivate it!
- Back up your theme, too, especially if it has been customized. You can also check to see if there is a new version of your theme – it will tell you in the upgrade section – but if it has been customized (and it wasn't done with a child theme or you are unsure), check with the person who customized it, before you upgrade
- After you have backed up and checked your plugins, upgrade to the newest version of WordPress
- If you have not had me teach you how to do the backup and upgrade, let's set up a time for a tutorial or have me do the maintenance for you! I can't say it enough, you have to stay up to date with the security releases.
Your Action Steps to Evaluate Your Current Site:
- Is it doing everything you want it to do?
- Are you happy with the look of it?
- Does it have all the functionality you want or need for your visitors?
- Is your content current and are you adding new content on a frequent enough basis?
- Are you integrating with social media appropriately?
- Do you provide easy ways for folks to share your content?
- Does it look/function well on different sized screens?
If the answer to these are all yes, congratulations and keep up the good work.
If the answers are no, it's time to do a little exploration.
For those of you currently using WordPress, or are interested in redesigning in WordPress, take a look at these new themes with Responsive Design. See what functionality they provide and which look you like.
Visit your competition's website, to see what they are doing right and what they have done wrong, too. (Don't just assume, because they do it, it works. Look at their site like a new customer might look at it. Is it easy to find the info you need? Do they answer the most frequent questions clients ask you?)
Then ask some of your current clients for feedback about what works and doesn't work for them, both on your site and – if you are comfortable with it – your competition's site.
What did you find out, when reviewing these Action Steps? Were they revealing? Did they help give you some direction?
Obviously, there are always more questions to ask and more to evaluate, but let me know what you discovered, by posting a comment below.
You can also help to direct the next part of this series, by letting me know if you are more interested in Mobile, Email Marketing or Social Media. Tell me which you'd like to see me write about next in this series: How the Web is Changing.