I have decided for this post to veer wildly off topic. No photos today 🙁
Lately, I have noticed so many of my fellow food bloggers struggling with technical issues, WordPress issues, hosting issues, transfer issues, finding a designer issues, that I felt I had to speak up.
You see, in my other life, the real one where I earn a living, I’m a web designer. I’m a web designer who works almost exclusively with WordPress. I try to keep the food photography and the web design separate, mostly out of fear that I don’t want this site, which is my escape, to become a constant plug for my business. That’s not what it’s about.
But on an almost daily basis lately, I’m seeing tweets and blog posts about the stressful situations so many of you seem to find yourselves in and I wish I could help you all and make everyone feel better about what they’re doing.
So I thought I would write a post about some of the things you need to consider when moving from Blogger to WordPress (which of course, I highly recommend! lol), finding a web host, hiring a designer and staying on track after the move.
I really hope you find it useful and that it helps you avoid some of the pitfalls I see others experiencing lately.
Moving From Blogger to WordPress
It’s a scary step. I know that. You’re thinking Blogger is annoying but it’s what you know and all your posts sit there safely and maybe if you mess with that, and go through the switch, things will go horribly wrong and you’ll lose everything.
It doesn’t have to be scary. It’s not a perfect process but here’s the thing: you need to do your homework. You need to find people who specialize in transferring from Blogger to WordPress. You need to ask them questions and listen to their answers.
This is your baby. For many of you, it makes you money. If it makes you money, it’s a business. You need to treat it as such and protect and respect it.
Yes, I absolutely recommend making the switch. WordPress gives you better SEO, it’s more robust, and it gives you more options.
Finding a Host
One of the first things you will need to do when you make the move to WordPress is source out a web host. They will do just that, “host” your website. Your site needs a place to live on the internet.
There are thousands and thousands of hosting companies out there. Be careful. Cheap doesn’t always equal good. But, sometimes cheap does equal good. I know, it’s hard!
Look for hosts that specialize in WordPress installations. Some will include the install as part of your package. You want to see some sign that they support WordPress. It means they will have servers with things like the right release of MySQL and PHP (which WordPress needs to run) on them.
Do your part. Know the traffic levels of your current site. Be aware of how many photos you have and if you upload at full resolution (which you should not do, by the way… resize those JPGs. Your blog will load faster and you’ll take up less server space AND make your photos less interesting to thieves.).
Ask yourself what your future plans are for your site? Will you be adding more photos? Are you aiming to increase your traffic and monetize your site? Talk to the hosting partners you are considering or enlist the help of your designer if the technical stuff makes you fall asleep or run for the hills!
Ask questions like:
- Will you back up my site nightly, weekly or ever? Is there an extra charge? (if they’re not going to do it, you’ll need to do it.)
- What happens if something goes wrong with my site and you need to take it off line? Will you notify me immediately? Will you help me find the source of the problem? Will you help me fix it if it’s beyond my technical ability? Is there an extra support charge for that?
- Will the plan I’m considering be enough for the traffic and content I currently have? Will it be enough for where I hope to be a year from now or will I need to upgrade?
Things crop up that you might not be expecting, but at least you will have some idea of where you stand before you make a decision.
Personally, I use a local hosting provider for my local clients and even some of my non-local (is that a word?) clients. The owner has come to know me well over the years, and he treats my clients with exceptional customer service. On the rare occasion there has been an issue, he’s worked with them or me to solve it. It helps that his company specializes in WordPress hosting and development as well. Ask your designer if they have somebody they recommend.
Finding a Web Designer
First of all there is a difference between web designers and web developers. Designers make things beautiful and usable. Developers make them work. They’re both important. I’m the former. I work with a couple of developers when I need help with the heavy lifting. They work with designers when they need something more than a basic looking website.
The beauty of WordPress is, the vast bulk of the heavy development is already done and included in the software. A lot of what’s not included can be added by using a solid theme framework (the skin that sits on top of WordPress making it look the way you want it) or by adding plug-ins (like separate software modules) that do very specific jobs. So often, all you need is a designer.
Now, designers are creative people. And sometimes us designers can be a tad… well… unique. LOL. We all know there are stereotypes of creatives out there that show us to be moody, quirky, flighty, flaky, inventive, sometimes genius. I’m not saying there’s not some truth to that…
However, there is absolutely NO excuse for your designer to EVER be anything less than professional when they are taking your money. None.
- They should respond to your inquiries promptly (within 24hrs on business days. We do occasionally sleep and spend time with our families. Please respect that.)
- They should meet agreed upon deadlines
- They should not be rude or condescending to you or any other parties involved in your project.
- They should present you with a contract outlining the agreed upon parameters of your project.
- They (and you) should stick to the spirit of that contract at all times
- They should maintain a relatively professional appearance with their other on-line activities
So, How Do You Find A Designer?
Well, my number is… just kidding!:)
One of the best ways is word of mouth. Chances are, you’re not going to have an unlimited budget so ask people you know who have WordPress blogs you like or who run small businesses with web sites you admire. They were probably working with budgets similar to yours. Ask why they liked their designer.
If you’re doing a Blogger to WordPress transfer, look for designers who offer that service.
Ask questions! Here’s just a few to consider:
- Can I see your most current work and may I speak to some of your recent clients?
- Have you done Blogger to WordPress transfers before?
- Will you help me find a web host?
- Will you assist me in securing a domain name?
- Can you explain to me the steps in a Blogger/WordPress transfer? What are some of the risks? What are the benefits?
- How many design options will you include and how many revisions are part of the price?
- Will you help me with an analytics package? With search engine registry? Email setup? Changing DNS servers?
- Will you help me with social media design like a Facebook page or Twitter background?
- What sort of training do you provide for WordPress?
- Do I receive any sort of support after the project is completed? Do you offer maintenance agreements? How much do you charge for changes or support after the project is done?
- How long have been in business? (you want to make sure they won’t disappear next week!)
Speaking in person or on the phone is always a good way to get a real feel for the person. There are many competent, professional designers out there but we all have our own styles and personalities. Do you like the look of the work they do? Do you feel comfortable talking to them?
If you have it narrowed down to two, who have equal qualifications and who’s work you like, by all means, trust your gut instinct and go with the one who you feel you have a rapport with. You’re going to spend a couple of months working with this person. You want to feel like you can talk to them.
Be a Good Client
Part of having a successful project is, being a good client. And that means, knowing your blog, doing some research, having an opinion and respecting the expertise of the person you are working with.
I don’t say those things to sound harsh but for us to do our very best job, we need to know what we are working with in terms of the type of site you want.
Here are a few things to know before speaking to a designer:
- What kind of traffic do you get? Are you picture heavy or text heavy? Or both?
- What is your goal for your blog next week, next month, next year?
- Do you want to evolve your blog to a more complete website?
- If you’re a food blogger, do you want to create a recipe index? Do you want to include a portfolio?
- Are you looking for a new design? If so, what sort of colours, designs etc are you drawn to or inspired by? What sort of feel are you hoping to convey? Rustic? Bold? Cute? Sleek? Earthy?
- Be up front about your technical abilities. There is a lot of work that goes into a Blogger/WordPress transfer. Many clients like to save money by doing some of the work themselves. Are you willing or able to do that?
I actually provide new clients with a fairly detailed questionnaire for them to fill out that asks many of the questions listed here. The more information I can get, the easier it is for me to give an accurate quote and come up with a design and site that fulfills all their needs. I also know that if a potential client balks at filling it out, they’re probably not going to be very easy to work with or they’re not serious about the project.
Emailing a designer and saying “I want a new website, how much does that cost?” usually leaves us shaking our heads!
Once you’ve found a designer, don’t be afraid to have an opinion about the things they present to you. We are looking for your feedback and we need some kind of sign that we’ve hit the mark or we’re way off.
If you love a design straight out of the gate, AWESOME! If you don’t, try to be specific about why and point us in the direction you want to go. Is it colour? Layout? Font? Size? Too bold? Too girlie? Too frothy?
A professional should not take your dislike or criticism of a design as a personal affront. But, try to be tactful and give constructive feedback. “I don’t like it” doesn’t help us at all.
We Won’t Always Agree
There are times on a project where a client asks for something that is not appropriate. There could be a variety of reasons. We may know that it will harm their SEO, or that it doesn’t follow strong usability guidelines (beware of the designer who waves aside usability and accessibility guidelines), or isn’t web standard, or it’s a trend that’s waning, or that that colour combination or font doesn’t read well on-line.
Your designer should always be able to give you an explanation as to why they don’t think something is a good idea. They should also try to suggest an alternative that will get you close to what you want. Respect our opinions, we do this for a living and we have the experience to give you the best solution for your budget dollar.
Again, beware of the person who dabbles in web design – some are great but odds are good that most of them don’t keep up with the dull side of the industry, like web, user and accessibility standards. And believe it or not, those things can affect your SEO.
NEVER. EVER. EVER ask your designer to copy another site design. This is completely unethical. Using a pre-made template that’s purchased and may be used by others is one thing. Showing us sites you like for inspiration is great and helpful. But asking us to copy somebody else’s design is theft. It is one of the few reasons that I will break a contract (and it is written into my contract).
This is part one! Part two, which will include things like budget, the design process and aftercare of your new site will come in a few days. I hope you find this helpful!