I felt like a grimace emoji for a year, but I've finally turned that frown upside down. A straightforward project to redesign my website became an expensive and difficult nightmare. But oh, the lessons I learned to share with you (You're welcome).
After a year of putting off the redesign of my rickety, dated WordPress site, I began the project last June (yes, 2018). Back in 2013, I turned my blog into a full-blown website quickly for an industry event—and it looked that way. A colleague put it together with a few finishing touches from a designer. It was serviceable but not optimal.
Fast-forward five years of busy-ness between work and life, and my website grew serious digital cobwebs. Technology changes. New platforms come online. It’s easy to look old skool in a hot minute. That wasn’t OK for a marketing writer in tech. Here are 4 essential tips before creating or moving your own website.
Educate Yourself Well🤓
These days, there's a blurry line between a website "developer" and “designer," especially for consultant/small business sites. Many platforms are so WYSIWYG that it's easy to acquire or dismiss important skills—but not be particularly good at any. When you're moving a legacy site, it gets even more complicated. I went the website designer route, and in the process, left a hole in the developer part. Luckily she was gifted at figuring out how to navigate and customize features. Ultimately, though, it's a Catch-22: If you have a complicated site build or redesign, make sure the developer shows proof of a good design aesthetic; if you're going for a cosmetic facelift, go with a designer who knows how to nerd out when need be.
Consider (and Reconsider) Before Moving Platforms ⚠️
These days, there are a ton of website platforms. When I started my blog in 2009, there were two dominant forces: WordPress and Blogger.com. Now WordPress is now fighting off another biggie called Wix, the shiny upstart zooming its way to the top. As a loyal Wordpresser, I was seduced by the visual nature of Wix and its marketing features (oh, and it was also the platform my designer knew). The decision to switch to Wix was pivotal, as I had big concerns about losing blog SEO, followers, and moving my 75+ posts. I thought of keeping my blog on WordPress, but didn't want the hassle of maintaining two sites. In the end, I gained a beautiful Wix site, but I lost a great blog platform. Not only does Google favor WordPress over Wix, according to many SEO experts, but the Wix blog interface is clunky against the more sophisticated, intuitive features of WordPress.
Beware Bad Consultants🙅♀️
Did I mention that the designer I used was the second person I hired? I learned the hard way that when consultants hire certain freelancers, it may not be top-notch service. Unfortunately, I had two lousy experiences during my website built: first with a website designer and then with an SEO consultant. Ironically, both had great response time for the estimates and came with strong recommendations. I guess small potatoes doesn’t compete with larger clients? I pride myself on providing quality work, treating clients with respect, and creating a quality deliverable no matter what size the job. I believe most consultants operate this way, so I was disappointed and embarrassed for these two. Not only did these experiences ensure no future business from me, but they’ll never get a referral. Snap.
Take Time to Learn the Platform 🤦♀️
Raise your hand—who enjoys learning new software platforms? Yeah, dislike. There's always an education ramp, and it can be steep. Despite a quickie training session with my designer, I didn't fully know how to use most of the Wix features, including marketing emails, newsletters, contact lists, and other automation tools. I found out the hard way that the best laid plans...aren't. For instance, after spending hours on Wix crafting the perfect new website announcement email to send to my contacts list, I inadvertently sent out a blog post to all of the same people, which took away my launch thunder. Trust me, there was a lot of swearing involved. Lesson? Take the time to learn a new platform. Clearly, I still have a ways to go, because I almost published this post draft (the Publish button is the default at the bottom of the page). WordPress has several options in the right-hand corner so you can think about it.
But every cloud has a silver lining... I didn't do my announcement email but these experiences inspired me to write this post. Let's hope there's no Part II🤞