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Personalised and inexpensive help service for DIY website builders

If you’ve built your own website using WordPress it’s likely that you will occasionally  come up against an annoying step that seems to have you beat and that holds you back from getting your site to look or behave the way you want it to.

We’ve just launched a new service to help DIY website builders like you.

It’s cheap, fast, personalised and friendly. Support, as usual, is unlimited and free.

See the details and/or ask a question here.

Rapid Prototyping

When a quick and dirty DIY website is enough…for now.

In the manufacturing world, Rapid Prototyping is all the rage.

Rapid Prototyping allows manufacturers to get a minimum viable product in the hands of users very soon after the initial idea for the product arises. If you are typically an early adopter of new technology you will have experienced this concept first hand on more then one occasion. Maybe your new phone bends easily or doesn’t hold a charge for long enough. Maybe you’ve had a new and improved one as a replacement without even asking.

Getting your idea in the hands of users is much more valuable to you than continually polishing your idea ahead of launch, only to find that someone else has stolen a march on you and has launched a very similar product or service. And it’s no coincidence that this seems to happen more often these days. The reason? Well, that’s all to do with speed of entry to the marketplace. The competitor that appears out of nowhere with a seemingly similar and seemingly better product than you has in many cases used its early adopting customers as an unofficial test bed.

You can test your idea to death at home by giving it to your husband, wife, cat or goldfish to try out, but by and large they will always spare your feelings and can never be considered truly objective or wide ranging enough to be valuable to your product development cycle. No, getting it in the hands of as many users as possible, as early as possible is the only way to be sure that you are moving in the right direction. The more users you have early on, the quicker you will perfect it or reach the point where you know it’s a dud and can make the decision to dump it and move on to the next idea.

This is why I fully encourage small business owners to just get something on the web using WordPress, even if it’s DIY. This is also why I make a point of offering web development help to DIY website builders so that they can build on cheaply from their original web presence to deliver a web experience more in keeping with their growing popularity. Business is not usually how you imagine it at the outset. OK so you’ve only got a basic, home made WordPress site, but remember that on day one, relatively few people (or none at all) are going to see it, so just get it up there and start improving on it as you get feedback from users.

Even if it has to be rebuilt from scratch at some point later (it usually won’t need to be), at least it got your idea out there and helped you to test the market and launch your idea in earnest, where the alternative might have been to procrastinate and fiddle about with your site until the optimal moment had gone and the potential you had lost to inertia.

If you have an idea, get a site up today and start promoting it. get out and talk to people about it, write blog posts and share it all over the social spaces your target audience frequents. The sooner you get your idea in the hands of an objective customer, the sooner you can perfect it, at least until the next level of perfection comes along:-)

Have a look at our Starter Sites, which probably have close to everything you need to get started for just £99/year.

 

 

Photo Credit: innovate360 via Compfight cc

How to use Google Analytics with WordPress

How do you know who is coming to see your site, how long they are staying and what they like?

How can you tell if your late night blog writing is paying off and actually attracting traffic to your site?

Answer: statistics.

Most websites come with cpanel access (ours do anyway) and this gives you access to various stats tools to help measure your site’s traffic.

In my experience, some of these can lead to an over inflated idea of your sites success due to the way they measure visits.

My preference is to use Google Analytics instead, which involves a little bit of work but is well worth it.

Here’s how i suggest you add Google Analytics to your wordpress site:

  1. If your wordpress theme has a facility for adding extra html to the HEAD section of your pages, its best to copy and paste the analytics code straight in there. If your theme doesn’t have this facility, its still possible to go this route but unless you are very confident in your knowledge of html and the structure of your site behind the scenes simply DON’T.
  2. Most themes don’t have that facility so instead you can use a plug in and there are many of them to help you here. Just search for google analytics in the plug ins section of your admin area. Make sure you click through to the plug in’s support site to see if its up to date and compatible with the latest version of wp before you install it.
  3. If you haven’t already, you will need to set up a google analytics account. Once done, you can add your site’s url as a property in the account which will generate a code. This code goes into the plug in settings page.

Once you are set up you can track the activity on your site very accurately and in great detail. Here’s a screen shot from a site I’ve been managing recently:

So which of these figures should you be interested in?

Most important especially in the early days is Unique Visitors, this is the big one. Don’t listen to people who talk about “hits” as each individual visit can generate lots of hits. What you want to know is how many individuals are you attracting to your site.

After that you will want to look at Bounce Rate; this is a measure of the number of single page visits you’ve had and a good indicator of how relevant visitors are finding your content when they click through from a link from somewhere else on the web and from search engines.

This happens when you write obscure blog post titles like “do you like pina colada and getting caught in the rain“…just stoopid!

I once included the phrase “wife swapping” within a post title for a lawn bowling green site and it still gets a lot of (presumably disappointed) visitors.

Seriously though, the bounce rate is a good thing to track.

There is a whole books worth of stuff I can tell you about Google Analytics, but its best just to have a good old search around in the mass of information it collects to see what is important to you.

Incidentally, if you are installing Google Analytics, you definitely need this.

Alternatively drop me a line, give me a call or just use the buy now button below and I’ll do it all for you…easy!

How to Back Up Your WordPress Website

cpanel back up wizardThere can be no worse feeling than making a tweak or adding a plug in to your WordPress site only, pressing preview and finding that your site has been re-designed by Picasso!

The horror I felt the first time I found a line of code at the top of a white screen or a jumble of header and content all over the place was palpable.

Worse is the sudden lock out of the admin area where you can’t even get back in behind your site to see what went wrong.

These “disasters” are rarely more than a plug in conflict which can be resolved relatively easily, but I have had a client delete their entire website in an effort to
free disk space! There was plenty of free disk space of course so the primary aim was met, but there was no longer a business website, just lots of lovely free disk
space.

That story had a happy ending, because we had a…Back Up plan.

Many people shy away from backing up their WordPress site because it appears too difficult. There’s not just the site to back up but there’s also one of these pesky
database thingy’s and no one wants to mess around with those do they?

Fortunately its easy when you know how.

You can use a plug in for this, but it easy to do it manually.

All 4Donkeys hosting clients have access to their website’s control panel (cpanel) which is different to the wp admin area; this is where the bare bones of the
operation are managed.

Here’s my 10 simple steps to feeling good!

  1. Log in to cpanel
  2. Scroll down to the section titled “Files”
  3. Click on Backup Wizard: Box 1 will be pre-selected.
  4. Click on the “back up” button within the Option 1 box; this takes you into Box2.
  5. Select “Home Directory”, box 3 opens and gives you a button to download a copy of your Home Directory…
  6. Download the Home Directory file to a folder on your PC (preferably one that is synchronised with off site storage like Dropbox).
  7. Depending on the size of your site this might take a little while.
  8. Then click on box 2 to return to the download options.
  9. Select mySQL databases which will take you to a list of the databases for your site (usually just one).
  10. Click on each database in turn to download a back up file and store safely as before.

Of course you should do this regularly if you are updating your site frequently and always make sure you have a copy saved to somewhere other than your own PC and
somewhere other than you own building. Cloud folders are great for this. I use Dropbox, Amazon Cloud and Google Docs, all of which are free.

Happy backing up.

Any questions please feel free to call me or drop me line, or head over to Maintenance and I’ll do it all for you.

Why you should build your website with WordPress

Schwags

WordPress is an open source (free and constantly developed) software program initially associated with blogging, but increasingly the web development platform of choice for many website developers and coders.

A lot of people are building their websites and blogs using WordPress without you even knowing it.

You can build a website today for absolutely no financial outlay whatsoever over at WordPress.com, or if you are bit more comfortable with coding and tweaking, you can
install the WordPress software on your own server or hosting space and develop your site that way.

If you decide to go the hosted route, you will need to make sure that your hosting company will support Wordpress and that you are able to create at least one SQL
Database on your account. Most free hosting will not allow you to do this.

You might be familiar with WordPress as a blogging platform, but it is also a very powerful and intuitive web development tool.

The web development work that I do uses WordPress almost exclusively and I have chosen to work this way for many reasons including:

Database Driven
Wordpress is database driven, so what you see on the screen when you call up a page in WordPress isn’t a static HTML page; it is actually the contents of a database
field or fields that have been presented to you on screen as a page or post that takes on the exact look and feel that the site’s developer intended when she built the site.

This process also makes WordPress very quick to load as only the absolute minimum of re-loading is going on each time you click a button or link.

The database in theory also makes the site very portable, so if you decide to change hosting, the site can be transferred simply to a new server (don’t try this if you don’t know what you are doing however, because simply doesn’t necessarily mean easily)

Modular

WordPress is the most intuitive web development tool due to its modularity. Remember in the old days when you asked a developer to build you a website for your small business?

If you came back to the developer later to say your business was changing direction and you need the site to reflect this with a new look and maybe some different pages
and functionality, you would be greeted with a sharp intake of breath and the inevitable words:

to be honest you’d be better starting from scratch.

Well with WordPress, there is never any need to start from scratch; you can keep all of your content and functions whilst changing the look and feel of the site easily.

More importantly, a 4donkeys client can start today with the simplest of blogs and end up with a mini social media site, full of bells and whistles somewhere later down the line and I will never have uttered the words:

“you’d be better starting from scratch” at any time along the way.

This is one of the most compelling reasons to build with WordPress.

Another is that even if you decide to load up WordPress and start building your own site, I can jump in and help you with the hard stuff anytime without having to undo loads of mistakes and bad code.

I can help you do just one little bit of your functionality or take over expanding the entire site.

Consistency in Design
Building your site with WordPress is also a good way to ensure that you don’t have a hotch-potch of different designs and looks on different pages. The theme or design you choose drives the look of the site, so that no matter what you type and no matter how many changes you make to a page or post it will always take on the look and feel you have already designed into it. And by and large it looks professional almost regardless of what you do to the content.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Being found on search engines is obviously a very important aspect of website development and WordPress is very strong on this right out of the box. However it is
also so tweakable that it almost unfair to sites written in other languages and programs.

I recently wrote a blog post about the amazing seo plug in for WordPress available for free from Yoast.com

Coding

If you are proficient at writing computer programs or coding, especially in html and css3, you can take WordPress to extraordinary levels, but there is absolutely no
need to get into any of that if you don’t want to.

Through tweaks to the CSS styling of your WordPress site or the addition of plugins and added html code we can make your site do just about anything you want.

Leaving all of that aside however, the main point I want to make about coding is that there are literally thousands of coders working on WordPress right now, to take
it to the next level of development.

Every now and then a major new version of WordPress is released and in-between these major releases, smaller updates are made to take care of bugs and to add
functionality.

And if you can think of something you want your WordPress site to do, the chances are that someone has already written a plug-in to make it do that. Some of these are
free and some you have to pay for, but generally speaking they are mostly fantastic.

I recommend that you build your new site with WordPress.

Why not get started today.

Photo thanks to: David W.