Here at Webfooted Designs we can’t resist a new year for goal planning, reviewing how we’re doing things and generally a renewed feeling of energy.
We’re having an exciting start to the year with new enquiries flooding in and ideas on how we can continue to refine the services we offer. I think simplicity is the key – keeping things simple and streamlined so we can focus on the important stuff and not get bogged down by unimportant detail.
What are your plans for 2020? Are you thinking of making some changes to your website or even having a new website built? If you’ve got some plans brewing please feel free to give us a shout and have a chat about how we might be able to help.
Be honest, when was the last time you updated the version of WordPress running your website? Last week, last month, last year? And have you been keeping your plugins up-to-date as well?
I know, boring!
But it’s really important to keep your website updated. Gone are the days when you could have a website built and not touch it again… Oh ok, I admit it those days never actually existed – it’s always been super important to keep your website content updated. But now that the majority of websites are running on a content management system like WordPress, you also have the job of keeping the software updated.
It’s important because it will:
- help keep your website secure from hackers
- help keep the site running smoothly as web technology changes
- keep Google happy
If you don’t take the time to update your software the worst case scenario would be that your site gets hacked, which believe me isn’t much fun! And if you leave it too long you may be looking at a rebuild – that is a pretty extreme case, but can happen.
If you’re worried about whether your website hasn’t been updated recently and aren’t sure how to tackle it yourself, give us a shout and I’m sure we’ll be able.
I treated myself to a bit of professional development last week and went up to Tavistock for a Small Business Support Day run by the marvellous Clair from Plain Sailing.
I first met Clair at the Inspiring Women conference that she ran last year (also in Tavistock) and since then I’ve been constantly inspired by her energy and depth of knowledge.
Last week’s workshop covered using Facebook for promoting your business, how to promote your website outside of social media, and blogging. I found myself switching between “oh yeah, I’d forgotten I knew that” and “ooh, I didn’t know that”. It was a great reminder of why it’s worth spending some time to refresh your skills every now and then, even if you think it’s something that you already knew about.
I had sparks of inspiration throughout the workshop and now need to go back through my notes and work out how to implement what I’ve learnt.
One thing that I found incredibly reassuring as someone who specialises in websites, is that it is still important to have a website for your business. It’s not enough to have an active Facebook page, you do also need at least a one page website away from that. It does sometimes feel that social media rules the roost these days, but what you need to think about is what if your social media platform of choice goes pop (like Google+ did a few months ago). You do also need an actively maintained website that you have full control over, so that you are not reliant on a third party site such as Facebook.
If I only take one thing from the day (and there was definitely more than one thing that I could pick up!) it is the importance of blogging. Clair gave the best explanation I’ve ever heard of why a blog is important for your website. It basically boils down to “because Google loves it”. Despite good intentions I am guilty of neglecting our Webfooted Designs blog, but I’m now feeling inspired to spend more time on it. But, following Clair’s very sensible advice, I’m not going to promise how frequently I will post – best not to promise a schedule than commit to something and then not stick to it! I’ll just quietly schedule it in for myself and see how I go…
Our lives this year have very much become about moving websites from one web host to another. As we mentioned in our previous post we’re spending the year changing our web hosting provider and this is involving meticulously moving our clients’ websites from one server to another.
It’s turning out to be an all-consuming task, but you know what … we’re getting pretty good at it. After the first few goes we identified a few areas that need careful attention and are confident that we’ve got everything covered. We have created a procedure to follow each time which makes the whole process nice and straightforward for us and nothing gets missed.
If you have been thinking about moving hosts but have been scared that it will be too difficult, give us a shout and see what we can do to help.
We’re making some important changes to our web hosting service this year at Webfooted Designs.
Over the last year or so we’ve noticed a deterioration in the levels of service we’ve been getting from one of our existing web hosts. They had started out as one of the good ones, being an independent UK-based company. But they’ve now been bought out by one of the larger companies and we feel that they’ve taken their eye off the ball as far as quality of service goes.
So, we have done our research, taken some advice, and selected a new web hosting provider. We’re really excited about our new web hosting service. It offers much improved speed and a server setup which is designed for WordPress-based websites. And, we can now offer SSL Certificates as part of our standard web hosting fee instead of as an added extra.
Over the course of the coming year we are gradually moving the websites we host over to the new service. If you’re an existing client you can expect to hear from us to discuss how this affects you. Or if you are a new client you can expect to go straight onto our new improved hosting service.
If are looking to get a new website built and like the idea of your web hosting being provided as part of the service, drop us a line today!
This year we will be finishing work at 3pm on Friday 21st December and will be closed for our Christmas break, opening again on Monday 7th January.
Happy Christmas to you all and we’ll look forward to catching up with you in the New Year.
If you’ve had anything to do with websites there is a strong chance that you will have heard of WordPress. We use WordPress to build websites, as do many web designers. See our post about What WordPress is and why we use it. We love WordPress!
But there can be some confusion as to what is meant by “WordPress” because there are two different ways in which you can use it: WordPress.org or WordPress.com. They both ultimately result in having websites based on the WordPress software, but how they are set up and what you can do with them is different.
Let’s start with WordPress.com. This is a site which provides hosted WordPress websites. You create an account on the site and you are provided with a pre-installed WordPress website. You can customize the site using themes and plugins available through WordPress.com, but you can’t upload your own custom theme or use anything that’s not made available directly through the site unless you upgrade to the Business Plan. You also need to upgrade to one of the paid accounts if you want to use your own domain name, rather than have wordpress.com in your site’s address.
WordPress.org on the other hand, is a self-hosted version of WordPress. You download the software from WordPress.org and install on your own web hosting using your own domain name. This gives you a lot of flexibility, allowing you to use any theme for your site, whether it’s a free or premium theme, or one that you’ve had custom-built. You can also install any plugins you wish, allowing you to add in the functionality you need and create a website that does exactly what you need.
There are pros and cons of each approach. WordPress.com is a very quick and cost-effective way to get a website up and running. We consider this to be a ‘self-build’ options as you can get up and running very easily. If you’re happy to roll your sleeves up and have a go yourself this could be a very good option for you. On the other hand, WordPress.org ultimately gives you much more flexibility and control over your website.
WordPress.org is the approach we use because it allows us to do so much more for you. We provide domain name management and web hosting. We source the right combination of plugins to create the website that you need. We can use an off-the-peg theme or create a completely custom-built design so that your website very much reflects your business or organization. And, finally, we offer an ongoing service to keep your website backed up and WordPress updated to ensure your website continues to run smoothly and securely over time.
Contact us if you would like to discuss how we can help you with your WordPress website >
If the location of your business or organisation is important to you then including a map showing where you are is a great feature. You may be a bricks and mortar shop, in which case you definitely want people to be able to find you. Or, like us, you may be a business which has clients come to your office for meetings. In which case, a map can be really useful.
Up until recently, our go-to mapping service has been Google Maps. It’s the standard isn’t it? If you think of a location map you tend to think Google, right?
But recently Google has changed the rules. They have introduced a system whereby you need to register your credit card details with them to be able to show a Google Map and if your map is used over a certain number of times you will be charged for it.
As a small business you may not find this results in any actual charges, but do you really want to have to give your credit card details to Google on the off-chance?
From our perspective as website designers this has made us rethink our approach to using Google Maps. Up until now we would create the API Key needed for the map in our own Google account. This is much easier for our clients rather than having to create it for themselves. But we’re now thinking that might not be the best way of doing it. We can still offer Google Maps but there will be a bit more to setting them up.
So, we’ve been looking at alternatives and have begun to introduce OpenStreetMap into our web design process. You can see one in action on our contact page.
OpenStreetMap is a project designed to offer a map of the world which is free to use under an open license. This means we can use it without having to generate an API Key, or ask our clients to register their credit card details. And, even better, we have created an account with the project so that we can help develop the map. Which means if we find a client’s business isn’t accurately represented on the map we can update it.
This is all quite new to us, but we’re excited about where this might take us. If you’re interested in having an OpenStreetMap added to your website please contact us.
A recent addition to our porfolio is The Bird Loft, an ecommerce website selling specialist bird food and accessories.
This WordPress website uses the WooCommerce ecommerce plugin to provide a full ecommerce catalogue and shopping cart system. We’re massive fans of WooCommerce here at Webfooted Designs, it is by far the best shopping cart software that we’ve found for building online shops.
The Bird Loft has an extensive catalogue of products broken down into quite a list of categories and sub-categories, which demonstrates what’s possible using WooCommerce.
Other features of the site are a custom design, responsive layout, a choice of PayPal or WorldPay for payments, and a currency converter widget which allows their overseas customers to view pricing in dollars or euros.
We’re very conscious that when our clients talk about email software for their computers, most of the time they will probably be talking about Outlook. Outlook is Microsoft’s email software which comes as part of the Office suite. It’s very popular and a lot of people wouldn’t consider using anything else – there’s even a version that you can run on your Mac.
However, we don’t use Outlook. We have experimented with it at times but quite frankly don’t get on with it. Our preferred email software is Thunderbird, and has been for the last twelve years. Thunderbird is free email software offered by Mozilla (the same organisation that produces the Firefox web browser). We love it because it does exactly what we need it to do:
It’s Cross Platform
Thunderbird works on Windows, Mac and Linux, so whatever your computer is running you can use it.
Handles Multiple Email Addresses
We can easily manage multiple email addresses within the same software, keeping each separate so there is no confusion as to which email address is being used.
The software is actively developed by Mozilla, which means there are regular updates to it (which are applied automatically so we don’t have to actively update it ourselves). This means that the software is constantly improving and we can be confident that it is secure.
Easy to Use
We find it much easier to use than Outlook. It’s fully featured but not overly complicated. It does what it does well.
Simple to Back Up
Using the MozBackup tool it’s very simple to run backups of your email. We use the tool to take regular backups and store the backup files on an external hard drive. So if we are upgrading to a new computer or (horror of horrors) our computer goes pop, we can easily reinstate our full back history of emails without losing anything.
Thunderbird is something that we’ve been using for so long that we pretty much take it for granted. But when we hear from a client that their computer has gone up in smoke and they’ve lost all their emails, it reminds us how lucky we are to be able to easily reinstate our email at any time with the minimum of fuss.
Thunderbird does exactly what we need and doesn’t have the frustrations of other email software that we’ve tried using, and it’s free! At this point we wouldn’t even consider using anything else.