Ever thought about developing your very own web presence? Find out everything you need to know to start building your own website with the man committed to teaching kids (and adults) how to code…
Despite there being more than one billion websites on the web today, creating your own can seem a bit daunting. So, to set you on the path to developing a website to call your own – be it a blog, an online shop, or anything in-between – we’ve been speaking to Stefan Mischook of StudioWeb.
Stefan’s been building websites in one form or another since the web’s early days in 1994. He now works closely with schools in the US to teach students the basics of coding, but he’s got a fair few tips for people of all ages on how to get started. Read on to find out how you too can begin mastering the magic of the world-wide web, to develop your very own site…
US-based Stefan Mischook has been building websites for over 20 years, and it all stemmed from the need to develop his own:
“I built my first website in late 1994 to promote my import/export business,” Stefan explains. “Since then, I’ve been involved in numerous projects, building websites and web applications for companies large and small.”
So, without further ado, what’s Stefan’s first tip for developing your own website?
1. Know your purpose
Like all good things in life, before getting to the how, you need to know your why. Stefan says the first step in building a website is understanding what it is you want to achieve. Is your website for branding only? A blog? Or selling homemade products? And what’s your budget for development?
“Small, homegrown businesses with tight budgets should look to use templates, and possibly a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla,” Stefan says. “Another option, if you just want to get your website up and running as soon as possible is to use a turnkey site builder.
“Site builders like Weebly or Squarespace make it easy to get up and running fast, but they may come with limitations that you wouldn’t have if you created your site from scratch or using a CMS like WordPress.”
2. Learning code isn’t essential, but it helps
“You don’t need to know how to code if you’re using the solutions above, just like you don’t necessarily need to know how to change a tyre on your car,” Stefan says. “But having even a little bit of HTML and CSS can give you key skills that will make updating your site trivial.”
In fact, one of Stefan’s friends who owns a travel tourism business recently mentioned how learning HTML and CSS was one of his best ever time investments:
“Having that knowledge gave him an understanding of his website that allowed him to make better decisions about the website’s direction, as well as being able to understand what tools and services were best given his needs,” Stefan explains.
There are a huge number of options for learning the basics of code, including courses on Stefan’s KillerVideoStore site, website Codecademy where you can learn code interactively for free, in-person courses held around the UK, and countless YouTube tutorials.
3. Opt for a domain name that’s short and easy to spell
When it comes to choosing your domain name, Stefan’s top tip is, make it simple:
“It’s getting harder and harder to find good names but it is worth the effort,” Stefan says. “Whether you use the domain extension .co.uk or .com is largely irrelevant. However, there are some exceptions. If you have a local business in the UK, a .co.uk domain extension may be best to help inform your visitors that you are locally-based.
“It can also help search engines recognise that you are UK-based, thus favourably directing UK–based searches to your site.”
4. Make the most of multimedia
When determining the content of your site, you’ll want to return to what it is you want to achieve and who you’re trying to reach. Maybe you have existing content you can repurpose, or perhaps you’re starting from scratch. Either way, it’s important to consider what your message is and how you’d like visitors to interact with your website – and what tone and language you will use. It may help to take a look at how similar sites are organised and the language that they use.
“These days ecommerce sites should have a blog as well,” Stefan says. “It’s all part of what’s called ‘content marketing’ and it’s a powerful way to bring awareness to your company, and build trust with your prospects.
“Text-only websites are fine, but throw in audio (mp3) and video – YouTube or Vimeo are easiest – and your website will be even finer! Not all subjects lend themselves well to audio and video, of course, but it is something worth exploring. The main point of your website is to get your message out, and the more ways in which you can deliver that message, the better.”
Linking to your social channels or even pulling your social feeds through to your site can also provide an easy way to increase the visual appeal of your site.
5. Tend your website like a vegetable garden
You’ve selected a platform, secured a domain name, created your content and set your site live – job done? Not quite:
“If your website is to have any success, you ought to plan on developing it like a vegetable garden,” Stefan says. “A little care and watering on a regular basis (think updating content and search engine optimisation) goes a long way to channeling traffic to your website – and keeping it coming back.”
So there you have it – a beginner’s guide to getting online. But if you need a bit more inspiration when it comes to creating content for your brand-new site…
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