10 Reasons Why It’s Worth Investing in Professional Web Site Development

10 Reasons Why It’s Worth Investing in Professional Web Site Development

Our friends at GoDaddy recently wrote a post titled 7 reasons why it’s worth investing in professional website development. I encourage you all to click the link and read the post as it contains some great information.

When I read it, I had my own thoughts on the reasons listed so I’ve taken the seven reasons from that post and have provided my answers below. Three other reasons came to mind as I thought about why I feel Unleashed is a great choice and they are included after the initial seven. As we focus solely on WordPress development, the solutions below are all based on WordPress.

1. Professionals can customize beyond templates

Elegant ThemeseEvery WordPress site has a theme (template) that determines the design and features of the site. Sure, there are a bunch of free themes available and some of them are OK. We’ve tried a lot of themes and found that there are many of them that are difficult and/or don’t work nearly as well as the demo.

Over time, we’ve developed a small number of themes that we use on most of the sites we build. We know how they work in depth and know that we can deliver a wide range of designs from them. There are also ways to extend our favorite themes to give them even more features and options.

Should you build a site yourself, you might choose a great theme and it’s possible you get a really bad one. When a bad theme is used to build a site, it can be very hard to switch to another theme at a later time.

2. The ROI is worth the initial cost

Let’s say you want a pizza for dinner tonight. It is simple to go to your favorite pizzeria and get a large pizza with a few toppings for $15-20. The alternative would be to make your own crust, either purchase or make sauce, get some cheese and the other toppings. Then add the time involved to take the raw ingredients and make the pizza. In the end, you could have a gourmet pizza or a complete dud and you will have spent a lot more money and time to get there.

Yes, a good Web site is an investment. If you work with a developer and provide the content required, it will save you money. Even if you built it yourself, you’d still need to come up with the content. What is your time worth? Expect that it can take you 3-5 times as many hours (minimum) to build a site as well as a good developer. In the end, will your creation be a masterpiece or a dud?

By using a pro, your site will be working for you sooner and will be designed to meet (or exceed) your goals. This brings a return to you sooner and that return will likely be much greater.

3. You can choose the right developer

No single developer is the right fit for every project and you’ll find many choices when looking for someone to build an awesome WordPress site. Clients sometimes judge only the cost and not what the developer can delivery. The goal is to have a site that best delivers on your goals while delivering a great return on investment.

We pride ourselves on being part of the GoDaddy Pro program as well as being a Google Partner. The online world changes every single day and we focus on educating ourselves on those changes so that we can deliver sites that follow all the latest standards. This also allows us to minimize the time and costs involved.

4. Managing your own content is still possible

At its heart, WordPress is a CMS (content management system). It is designed to allow multiple users to change content to varying degrees. Some clients only want minimal abilities to change a few words or photos. Other clients want full control of a site. Either option is possible and the abilities can even be changed at any time.

This also brings up the famous Spiderman quote “with great power comes great responsibility.” If a client has the ability to edit anything on the site, they also have the ability to accidentally create problems by clicking the wrong thing. We work with clients so they know how to complete the processes most important to them to minimize potential problems.

5. eCommerce functionality is doable

With a WordPress site, eCommerce functionality can be as simple as installing a plug-in. While it is technically quite easy, a good eCommerce site is much more complex. What types of products and/or services are you going to sell? What types of payments are you going to accept? Do you need to ship products? Are they downloadable? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered.

WP EasyCartWooCommerce is often mentioned as it is the most popular tool for adding eCommerce to WordPress. That does not mean it is the right answer for your site. We have found other tools that are better choices for our clients. Not only do we recommend these tools for clients, we use them on our own eCommerce sites so we know them inside and out.

6. Your site will be mobile-friendly and responsive

Google Mobile Sites CerticationWith nearly 2/3 of all Web traffic coming from mobile devices, it is an absolute must that your site works great on mobile devices. Visitors to your site could be on a computer screen that comes in nearly any size. Throw in the variety of tablets and mobile phones and there is just no single size anymore.

When we design a site, it is designed to be responsive. That means it adapts it to the screen of the device on which it is being viewed. Not only does it need to adapt to every screen, it needs to be usable on every screen. Your blog post must still look great on every screen. Visitors should be able to shop in your eCommerce store on every screen. Google created a certification test to make sure developers followed mobile best practices and all of our designers have passed the test.

7. Websites are constantly changing

One of the best parts about building a Web site on WordPress is that the platform itself is being regularly updated. We prefer to work with themes and plugins that are also regularly updated. First and foremost, this helps to keep your site secure. But these changes also support new and improved features.

Not only does the technology itself improve, we also focus on improving our skills and knowing that latest best practices in Web design. While you may choose not to have your site updated regularly, we’ll be ready to update it when you need it.

8. Keep all elements maintained and secure

It is thought that once a Web site is launched that all work is done for a long period of time. That just isn’t the case. It is not uncommon that some element of the site has an update almost every single day. If a client prefers, they can handle all of these updates. A far better value is to select a maintenance plan where all the updates are installed on sites for clients.

This keeps elements updated and keeps the site more secure as well. Additional layers of security are available for clients who want true peace of mind.

9. Your pages can be tested and optimized

If a user builds a site, will they test it on a variety of devices or do they decide it looks great on their own computer so it must be perfect? We want to test pages on computers, tablets and phones so that the user experience is consistently good.

Even when a site looks good on devices, it may not be optimized. Are images the right size in both dimensions and download size? Will the page perform well in search results? Can adjustments be made to make the site load as fast as possible? These are all tasks a pro will perform so that you get the best results from your site.

10. Resource for support after the site launches

When a site is first launched, it is only the beginning. Changes will inevitably be made. New content will be added. Quite possibly new features will be needed. Where is your time best spent? Is it becoming an expert on WordPress or working on your own business? Regardless of whether you are going to update the site or you want a developer to do it, we’re here to help.

We’d be happy to discuss your needs to see if we are the right developer for your project. Visit our Contact Us page or give us a call at 480-595-0065.

Featured image by Helloquence

Determining WordPress Theme Used on Sites

Determining WordPress Theme Used on Sites

As we work with clients on designing a Web site, we are interested in other sites they like. Sometimes they have an existing Web site of their own for which we need information to give them a quote on the makeover. When we see these sites, we want to know what WordPress theme was used to build them. It may be a great site we want to emulate, it may also be a theme we’d prefer to avoid. Below are three tools you can use to determine the theme used. With each, just enter the URL of the site and the tool will try to determine the theme used.

Note that these tools may not have an answer for a variety of reasons. The most obvious would be if a site wasn’t built with WordPress. Some themes have been highly customized and they are very hard to detect. Lastly, it could be a custom built theme for the site and therefore it isn’t a theme that is available for free download or purchase. We encourage you to test each of the tools as you’ll find that a theme that stumps one tool may be identified by another tool.

WPThemeDetector, What WP Theme Is That and WordPress Theme Detector are the three tools. Below is an example result for this site as generated by WordPress Theme Detector.

Not only is the name of the theme provided in the results, there is also a link to go to a page where the theme is available. You may only need to know the name of the theme yet it is nice that you can also purchase it as needed or simply to do more research on it.

Your Web Site is Under Attack and How to Protect It

Your Web Site is Under Attack and How to Protect It

Each time we hear about a Web site being attacked, the owner of the hacked site doesn’t understand why their site was targeted. The short answer is that the bad guys are rarely looking to attack a specific site. Instead they are looking for sites that are vulnerable. Let’s go over some of the specifics that can make your site vulnerable and ways you can protect it.

For a minute, pretend you are an enterprising hacker and you want to make the most money possible. If you are going to attack sites, wouldn’t it make sense to go after the most popular platform on the Web? WordPress powers 28% of all sites (as of this writing) which is far more than any other platform. Because of this, it is targeted regularly.

What Needs Updated

There are three major components to the WordPress ecosystem that can be vulnerable. First is the core WordPress installation. Next are themes installed in WordPress. Every site must have at least one theme and it is common to have 2-5 installed. The third are plugins that are added to a WordPress site. Typically sites will have 10-25 plugins installed. All of these components provide a way for bad guys to compromise your site. Let’s look at each component separately.

In a given year, the core WordPress is updated 5-10 times. Updates address known security issues, fix bugs and add new features. For site security, the most important reason to install an update quickly is to make sure the security issues are patched. When you purchase hosting for a WordPress site, it may include automatic installation of the core WordPress files. It also may not. We’ve seen sites that haven’t had the core WordPress updated in several years and those sites are huge targets for hackers.

For those of you who have hosting plans that automatically update the core WordPress, you can at least breathe easy on that component. Most site owners probably don’t even know if the updates are automatic so this is something worth investigating. If your site isn’t updated automatically, you need to develop a plan to check for updates and get them installed in a timely manner.

Do You Have a Good Theme?

It is possible that a theme never has updates released. While this may seem like a good thing since you don’t have to install the update, it typically means the theme becomes more vulnerable over time. Let’s pretend you use XYZ Theme (this is a fictional name) and it hasn’t been updated in a year. In total, we’ll say this theme is installed on 10,000 sites. When the hackers find an issue with that theme, they know they can attack a large number of sites very quickly. They aren’t targeting your site, they are targeting all sites with that theme.

Elegant ThemesOther themes are updated almost every week. While this can mean you have more updates to install, it also means the developers are making sure it is as safe as possible. This is one of many reasons we like Elegant Themes. Plus they are likely adding new features! The key is that someone must login to the back end of your site and install those updates in a timely manner. This is not a feature often included as part of your site hosting. So if you aren’t doing it, is someone else doing it for you?

Since most sites have a small number of themes installed, it is important to make sure they are all updated. Even the themes not active can be vulnerable. Maybe some of them should be deleted. Even then, the best plan is to make sure they are all updated regularly.

Plugins Provide Power and Vulnerability

Plugins make it very easy to add features to your site, even by adding a layer of security. But each plugin also provides one more component that can be vulnerable. You want a form on your site for visitors to contact you, right? So let’s pretend your site uses ABC Form Builder (again, a fictional name). It is a really popular plugin with 500,000 installs. And because it allows anyone to enter information, it is especially vulnerable if the developer has missed something. When you don’t update it for six months, the hackers will gladly come infect your site with malware.

Since most sites have at least ten plugins and these plugins are regularly updated, you have to really stay on top of it. On a given site, it is quite common to have at least five plugin updates in a given week. If any of them aren’t installed, the bad guys may have a way to attack your site.

We’re not aware of any hosting plan that includes plugin updates. Maybe your Web developer has included this in the plan they sell to you. What we’ve seen is that most site owners simply don’t install updates. It is those same site owners who don’t understand why their site was hacked. Are you installing plugin updates? Is someone else installing them for you?

The Basic Level of Protection

Bronze WordPress Maintenance PlanAt the very least, every WordPress site must have a plan in place to install updates to the three components we’ve discussed. Even if this is only done once a week, it could take 10-15 minutes to login to the site and get everything updated. Over a month’s time, that could add up to as much as an hour. Will you take the time to do it? Do you want to pay your Web site developer for an hour of their time to do it?

This is exactly why we developed our WordPress Maintenance Service. Even our Bronze plan does more than simply keep these components updated. Instead of just doing it weekly, updates are installed more often to make sure security patches are in place quickly. So do you want to take an hour or more to do it? Do you want to pay for an hour of your developer’s time? Or do you want it done for a fraction of the cost on an even more regular basis?

What Happens When My Site Gets Hacked?

Each hack is different. Some hacks don’t seem to have any noticeable change to a site. Other hacks will take a site completely offline. Would not having a Web site for a few days hurt you? Some hacks install malware which infects visitors to your site and causes Google to label you as a bad site and remove you from search engine rankings. Would it hurt you if your visitors are mad at you and your site no longer appears safe to Google? Getting that label removed and re-gaining your Google ranking can take quite a bit of time.

We’ve also seen hacks where legitimate blog posts are deleted and a number of spammy posts were added. Would it hurt you if the posts you created were gone forever? Would your visitors trust you if your site had a bunch of spammy posts?

Silver WordPress Maintenance PlanInstead of asking yourself why anyone would want to hack your site, you should just assume it is being attacked every single day. Why? Quite simply, it is being attacked. Installing updates regularly is the first line of protection. More can be done by making sure your site is backed up. Should it get hacked, the backup could save you. Active security protection can also be put in place to repel the attacks. This additional protection is part of our Silver WordPress Maintenance plan.

As I write this, I think of an appliance commercial from long ago with the tagline “you can pay me now or you can pay me later.” If you want to do the maintenance yourself, go for it. It’s just most of you aren’t doing it. I’d rather you invest in a maintenance plan to keep your site working well. If not, the cost to recover your site after a hack is probably going to be a lot higher. Add to that any lost revenue from being without a working site for a period of time.

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Unleashed Earns Mobile Sites Certification From Google

Unleashed Earns Mobile Sites Certification From Google

We know the importance of Web sites that work on mobile devices. Often when talking with clients, we explain the important and they don’t think it applies to their site. That all changes when we look at their traffic stats in Google Analytics and see the exact percentage of mobile visitors.

Google stresses the importance of mobile. If a site isn’t mobile-friendly, it gets penalized in the rankings. Even sites that function on mobile may not be optimized for mobile visitors. Does your site work well on phones and tablets?

We’re proud of the work we do on mobile sites. Our portfolio is one way to show clients what we can do for mobile visitors. We wanted something more and so we took the Google Mobile Sites Certification Exam. Yes, we passed and we did it with a 96% score! Below are the certificates we earned.

If you need help getting your site to work well on mobile devices, we’d be happy to help. Please contact us with a brief description of your needs and we’ll get started as soon as possible.

Converting an HTML Web Site to WordPress

Converting an HTML Web Site to WordPress

I recently read a blog post entitled How Much Should An HTML To WordPress Conversion Cost? Anytime that a question is somewhat generic, it is impossible to give a cost. But the post did bring up some important information.

First, let’s talk about the conversion process. Deep down, all Web sites are built with HTML. A common process in the past was to hand craft the HTML code. While the site may be awesome, it did take more time to build the site and some changes could be time consuming.

Now it is more common to use a content management system like WordPress to build a site. WordPress, the theme chosen and plugins do much of the heavy lifting and allow the focus to be on the content of the site.

We’ve done quite a few of these conversions and having the original HTML code can be helpful as it can be pasted directly into WordPress in many cases. But that is just a starting point and we often will make changes so the site uses the functionality WordPress offers so the site will function well on all devices.

Having a WordPress site also makes it easier for clients to make minor changes to the site. This can allow clients to save some money or use that money to allow us to make other improvements to the site.

Part of the post focused on using an “agency” vs. using a “freelance designer”. The stereotypes perpetrated can be frustrating as it said agencies were likely to be there after the site launches to provide support and freelancers were far less likely. I’ve found that both agencies and freelancers can be there for support and I’ve also found they can disappear after a site launches. It really depends on each individual agency or freelancer and we’ve heard a lot of success stories as well as horror stories.

Recently a client posted a really nice review on our Yelp page, even though Yelp’s robots decided it was “not recommended”. This a huge fail for their automation as we’ve already worked with this client on four sites and there is no doubt there will be more in the future. Below is their review or working with us. Should you want to work with us on a conversion from HTML to WordPress, give us some basic information and we’ll discuss the project with you.

Unleashed came recommended to us by a trusted source. But still, it’s website design, and we had had more than our share of bad experiences with some shady characters in the past. Not the case with this company. They could not be more responsive, more knowledgeable or more principled. Since getting their help on a specific problem with a GoDaddy upload, we have transitioned into a more collaborative relationship, bringing them in to consult on everything from social media (double-spacing after a period, they politely pointed out, is a big no-no. Thank you for that!) to AdWords to the picky little technical details that leave us all so frustrated. After spending three hours trying unsuccessfully to embed a YouTube video onto our home page, we cried “Uncle” and asked them to look into it. In less than 10 minutes they called us back to explain that since our site has an SSL certificate and the site we were trying to link to (NBC’s YouTube, no less) does not, embedding a link to a non-secure site is not possible. And that is just one small example of the many problems they have solved for us. Their expertise, flexibility, and ability to offer a variety of solutions have made us proud to call them a partner and recommend them for website design three times this year alone. We cannot recommend Unleashed highly enough.

Why a Good Web Site Won’t Cut It Anymore

Why a Good Web Site Won’t Cut It Anymore

The folks at Website Magazine had a good article recently about what you need to have a site that works well for you. There was so much good information in this article that we’ll have more blogs in the future that focus on a specific section of the article. We encourage you to read Why a Good Website Won’t Cut It Anymore… and What You Can Do About It so that we can discuss it with you.

The second paragraph of the article was a bit surprising.

Everyone has a good website now. Even guys with food trucks have sleek, responsive online storefronts they use to pump out information and social media awareness. A good website is the minimum expected standard you have to meet, but it doesn’t give you any advantage.

Before you did deeper in the article, you really need to be honest with yourself as to whether you truly do have a good Web site now. Does it work on all devices, specifically phones? Has it been updated in the last year? Last month? Does it incorporate your social media channels? As the paragraph above states, this is the minimum expected standard and there are many sites that fall well below the standard.

In order to have a good Web site, it needs to be built in a responsive manner. Sure, there are various technical issues involved in the process. A good Web designer should be able to take care of this for you. Sadly, some Web designers aren’t nearly as good as they may claim.

One of the more difficult tasks can sometimes be getting great content from clients. Even if you get good content, does the client have a clear goal of what they want the site to accomplish? Just claiming you want the site to increase sales is not a complete answer. For example, one client was very clear about their goal. The site was supposed to make the telephone ring. This goal was quickly accomplished to the point that the company had to hire more employees to answer the phones.

Of course just making the phone ring could be a nuisance. If there are questions that can be answered on the site, it may make the call more efficient or it could even mean the call is never made as the company isn’t the right answer.

We want to help you get to the minimum of a good site. From there, we want your site to get taken to the next level so that it is delivering on your business goals. Let us know how we can help you develop a great site!

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