Over the years I’ve dabbled with a number of little projects, but none had stuck with me more than simple website design. For context, I’ve only ever made websites for friends or family to help them out and I’ve never been paid for my work. I wanted to share a few of the sites. If I can make them, anyone can.
The first site I ever built was to prove a point, this was about 10 years ago.
Generation Blog – No longer live
At the time I was working for a great digital growth agency, Greenlight. My role, Head of Outreach, placed me in the SEO team and in particular the content and link building/earning side of that department. Google had released a major update and we had to change our approach to link building within a week. I’d suggested to my boss at the time that we develop a blogger community or network. It could have been my pitch, maybe the big sell wasn’t as big as I thought – he turned the idea down. Six months later, I tried again, still no. So, I went home, bought a domain and hosting, watched a couple of YouTube videos and went about building a website/community forum, where bloggers could create subgroups and ultimately network. They could also sign up to receive a weekly newsletter with brand opportunities. Not surprising to me, lots signed up within 24 hours and a week later, we’d commissioned our own blogger community at Greenlight.
Learnings: WordPress is incredible, Domains are cheap, Hosting can be expensive – if you buy the wrong package, Buddy Press is a great plugin, Hustle, don’t give up, prototype to show something works if you really believe in it.
The Stone Horse
My cousin and his other half run a lovely local pub in Kent. They didn’t have any money when they opened up to pay for a website, so they asked for a hand. Easy I said – by this stage I’d messed about with 10 or so domains of my own and thrown up holding pages or made something a little more complex. I bought them the domain, purchased a theme and set about making a website. A year later, I’d purchased Divi Builder (a modular, drag and drop website builder for WordPress) and we had a play with a new look and feel. One of the things I love most about Divi is its simplicity. Weekly, I update the specials menu for them, which is now a case of changing the visibility of items and takes a matter of minutes. It’s also been super useful for Covid-19 – Meg and Mike decided they would pivot the business to offer collection from the pub kitchen. Classic Pub Grub takeaway. We were able to amend the site in an hour to accommodate this for them, which has been hugely popular.
Learnings: When you’re going to be hosting multiple websites – look into reseller hosting as it’s cheaper, Don’t be afraid to redesign, Elegant themes/Divi provides a really simple modular based building platform with pre-set themes now, there are a few excellent plugins Divi Boost and Divi Switch that offer additional elements, consider pivoting a business to make the most of a situation and have an agile enough online solution to allow speed to market.
Wrights of Northampton
My better halves father owns and runs a yard and business that offers transport and haulage, van hire, repairs and storage facilities and was using word of mouth and social for promotion. It was time for him to have a website. Again, using Divi and some inspiration from competitors, I developed him a simple site to capture new customers. In the early days I gave him email hosting too. But, as his business grew, my little package was no longer good enough for them.
Learnings: Don’t be too proud to have conversation around capabilities – he needed a better email solution than I could provide, business email solutions are important for SMEs with multiple staff, be quick off the mark – new products are always being added – recently we added Isuzu servicing as they became a local partner. It’s OK to have a live WIP that will develop over time, keep your plugins updated to avoid being hacked.
A few of the plugins and tools I use to help these guys run their businesses:
- Elegant Themes – Divi website builder
- Divi Switch – Plugin
- Divi Boost – Plugin
- EZPZ hosting – Reseller Package
- Yoast SEO – Plugin for site optimisation
- WP Structured data Schema – Plugin, I don’t pretend to know what this does. But, the guys at work said it was important now.
- GDPR Cookie consent banner – plugin, does what it says.
- Sitewide Notice Banner – Plugin, has been very useful across all the sites to share Covid-19 updates. It’s a huge shame that we’ve had to use this. But, very useful all the same.
I’m currently working on a new one for my brother and dad who are looking to start a side hustle in Personalised Printing. Watch this space!
There we go a few projects and a few learnings, a couple of links to their sites (the link building in me will never die). Hopefully a few handy tips too