Before you even start building your website, you have to make a ton of decisions on how you’re going to do it- what’s the domain name, where do you register it, WordPress or Squarespace, how do you build it?
I walk folks through this in my free 30 minute consultations and make personalized recommendations (unfortunately there is not a one-size-fits-all best answer), but in case you need more info or can’t wait, here’s my thoughts on one of the biggest choices you will face when building your website: do you use Squarespace (or another drag and drop editor) or WordPress (or another php-based CMS)?
So you realized you need a website. Naturally, the first question on anyone’s mind is, how much is it going to cost? Obviously, there’s a huge range of options and in the Bay Area, there are many agencies who won’t even take your call if your budget is under $14k.
At our agency, the average price for a website is about $6,000, and we’ve made simple one-page sites for as little as $500. It’s the best deal in the Oakland/Berkeley/San Francisco area that I know of for web design.
As a web designer, I often go through a branding consultation with clients who are setting up a new business or nonprofit. In this one-hour session, we figure out the fonts, colors, feelings, and images that best suit you and your audience- it’s kind of like setting up a design language. However, not everyone can afford the 1-4 hour strategy session that takes, so here are some tools and resources for those who would like to DIY their design.
Canva- an entirely web-based Photoshop lite.
I love Canva and recommend it to any client that wants to make their own social media graphics. It’s an easy way to put text on top of images and make some very basic image adjustments.
Google fonts- free fancy web fonts
Did you know you can go to fonts.google.com to see and filter a list of all the google fonts? These are free to use on new web projects, usually pretty easy to download for offline use, and already incorporated into your google docs and slides. Try using the drop down menus to see only certain categories of fonts (like handwriting) or put in your own sample text to see it in action.
Pexels- free stock photos that don’t suck
Of course, it is always better to hire a photographer and get custom shots. But if you’re looking for something a little cheaper, or maybe just a quickie background image for your blog post where you don’t have to worry about copyright violations, check our Pexels. Their quality is excellent.
Coolors.co- color palette generator
Just hit spacebar to make new color combinations. When you see a color you like, press the lock button. It will give you the hexadecimal color codes (those six digit numbers at the bottom) you can copy/paste over to your designer or into your design program.
Magisto – quick and easy video creation
If you want a little video for social media but don’t have the budget to hire a videographer, try Magisto– it’s an app you put on your phone. Just choose the images and videos you’d like, pick some royalty-free music, and it gives you a video! Pretty great.
GifMaker- create animated image files
Gifs can be nice for use in email (where videos are not possible), or when you’re trying to show an animation that doesn’t need audio (like the illustrations on this page! I also like https://ezgif.com.
Cartoonize.net- make photos into cartoons or paintings (for free)
Ok, I almost didn’t put this in here because I’m a designer and I like things to be well-designed (and frankly, this site’s user interface is a mess!). But, I haven’t found a better (free) service out there than this one, if you want some fancy effects on your photos. It’s not as good as hiring a real illustrator to make you a real cartoon or painting, but hey- it’s free!
Lucidchart- DIY flowcharts and infographics
Want to build flowcharts or custom infographics, but don’t have the budget to hire me? Try this site, it is pretty easy to use and has 3 free charts on the free plan. They’re not as pretty as custom-drawn infographics, but they get the job done if you just need to communicate an idea quickly.
Are you DIYing your next design project but don’t know where to start? Get in touch for a some expert help, I have 13 years of experience in web and graphic design illustration. I’d be glad to point you in the right direction and offer you 30 minutes of my best advice, totally free.
Ok, so here’s the deal with search engine optimization, i.e. how to get your site ranked higher on google. You want more traffic, so it’s tempting to pay an SEO expert to tell you how to get better rankings. Of course, said expert is going to be a bit biased– after all, he’s not impartial, he’s selling a service- the service of search engine optimization.
I’m here as a website-maker for over 20 years to tell you the no-BS truth that seo experts won’t tell you. It all boils down to one secret, that’s not really a secret: content is king.
Well, that’s not 100% true. The biggest factors in google’s ranking you are actually a bit out of your control. But more on that later.
Ok, so I’ve had a lot of folks asking me how to get those little colorful info bars at the top of your website- you know, the ones that say you’re still open with modified hours, or explain your safety precautions you have in place, or just to answer that question you are getting a million calls about.
Luckily, it’s easy to put that information somewhere obvious on your site without messing up the rest of your website’s design. Even non-tech-savvy folks can do it!
A former client wrote into me today with this puzzle, and I thought I’d share it in case it’s useful to anyone else:
Hello Hunter, A while ago you updated my WordPress website. I noticed that when I go to my blog (diannej.com/b/), I see that the connections suddenly show as “Not Secure.” However, when I go to just diannej.com, it does show as secure. I have paid for an SSL certificate which should cover the whole site, but does not appear to be doing that. Any ideas why? Owen said he went to Siteground to get help, but they no longer seem to have a ticket desk for problems. Thanks for any assistance you can offer.
Yes, absolutely! Happy to advise. Bummer that Siteground is so unhelpful!
Ok, so here’s the deal about http versus https, in layman’s terms:
https sites have their identity confirmed. It’s like Anne Hathaway being carded to confirm she’s really her and not just an absurdly good look-alike trying to get free drinks at the exclusive club.
Why does this matter? You’ve heard of phishing, right? When a site poses as another site to steal your password or credit card information? Right? Good. So, this poser phishing site, it can look the same, even down to the url in the address bar, thanks to super sneaky technology. This is like being an Anne Hathaway lookalike who actually changes her name to “Anne Hathaway” to fool more unsuspecting bouncers. https is our defense mechanism against this, a technical way to confirm the identity of the site you’re visiting to ensure it’s the real deal.
But my site doesn’t even take credit cards! Why should I pay for a security certificate when I don’t ask for sensitive information?!
The best way to check is this website. It’s Google’s test for your responsiveness (aka how friendly your website is to cell phone and tablet users). Just plug in your URL and if it says “Awesome!” in green, you can sit back and drink your coffee with smug satisfaction, knowing your site is safe from the looming SEO disaster.