DIY Tips for Building a Website
Having a website has become an essential step to surviving and thriving in modern business. Most of us have a unique skill or product that we can offer the world; it is one of the greatest joys of being an entrepreneur and a business owner. However, being your own webmaster–that is to say building a website and maintaining an online presence–was not part of the original job description.
I am a sound designer and audio engineer. Technology generally makes sense to me, and I have a skill set that lends itself to online sales in the form of stock sound effects. I talk quite a bit on this website about my mission to make sound design accessible for those who are not sound experts. It is an industry that I know and can provide quality advice on. When it comes to web design though, I feel a bit like one of my own customers. I have no formal training in web building or graphic design—just an insatiable curiosity to learn everything, and a slightly detrimental determination to be proficient at anything.
The premise of this article is a bit odd, but I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish with my website. I'm satisfied with its cosmetics and function (hopefully you agree), but there are a ton of online resources, plugins, and what-not that got me to this point. This post is a bit of a thank-you promotion to those providers, and an exchange of information to you the reader. If you see something on the site that you like, hopefully reading this post will clue you in to how you can add that feature to your website as well.
Reliable hosting is an obvious step to running a successful web business. Hosting companies are measured on some common metrics like server uptime and server speed. There are others who are far better at explaining the particulars than I am, but what I like most about web hosting is that it is scalable depending on my bandwidth/traffic needs. My first WordPress website was hosted through BlueHost, primarily because it was recommended by WordPress.com and the trial cost was minimal. There were plenty of other reviews recommending BlueHost for web hosting, but I’ve come to the conclusion that this is due to their highly profitable affiliate program rather than legitimate recommendations.
Why I Don't Recommend BlueHost
I became disenchanted with BlueHost after my trial hosting period ended, predominately due to the significant increase in cost to maintain the same value of service. However, it was not until I attempted a departure to a more robust hosting provider that things spun out of control.
While it is standard for hosting companies to offer a full cpanel backup option, BlueHost intentionally eliminated this option from the cpanel window. This was not the case when I first started hosting there, but at some point the change was made. Articles are even still available from the company explaining how to get a full cpanel backup, but they are outdated and do not reflect this dubious service change.
This matters because most competing hosting companies offer a complimentary simple migration service, which requires a full cpanel backup. Without access to a full cpanel backup, a more complicated manual migration is required. I contacted BlueHost Support multiple times regarding the matter, but I was never able to receive a proper cpanel backup. Several backups were produced by Support throughout the correspondence, but none of them met the requirements to perform a simple migration to another provider. Due to this tactic of seemingly trapping less tech savvy users into BlueHost, I can’t recommend this service to anyone.
I now host with a small company called NameHero. I have only been with this company for a short while, and minus the initial confusion of migrating away from BlueHost, I have been pleased with the service. Email replies from the support team have been quick (generally within 30 to 40 minutes), and the responses have been personal and thorough rather than a generic pre-written reply.
As far as the actual hosting service goes, the cpanel interface and file manager are very clean and seem to run smoother than BlueHost’s ever did. Excluding any promotional offer, the lowest service level available is very affordable at $5.99 per month. The promotional offer is regularly available at $3.29 per month.
Where NameHero Shines
What makes NameHero unique is their cutting-edge infrastructure. This company does not cut any corners on their technology, and it adds considerable value for your money. All plans include SSD (solid-state drive) server hosting, unlimited storage, unmetered bandwidth, and a free SSL certificate. One of the most impressive features though is NameHero’s integration with CloudFlare Railgun. This high-speed website enhancement is typically only available with CloudFlare’s business plan ($200/month), but NameHero offers it complimentary with all plans. The server infrastructure is further enhanced with LiteSpeed Cache, which can be symbiotically paired with the LiteSpeed caching plugin for maximum performance.
Altogether, Namehero hosting offers a cost/benefit ratio superior to its competitors. Its state-of-the-art infrastructure, efficient software integration, and tiered hosting plans can provide the support I need for my website, now and into the future.
I built this WordPress website using the X Theme from ThemeCo. The theme itself includes four main variations called stacks (Integrity, Renew, Icon, and Ethos), and each variation includes a light or dark template. Each theme can be further modified using CSS styling.
My website uses the Integrity theme, along with some CSS coding for a customized look. The X Theme has exceeded 196,000 sales on ThemeForest, and has been awarded an average rating of 4.75 out of 5 stars. It is reasonably priced at $59 USD, considering it is a versatile theme that includes ThemeCo’s proprietary software and graphics, plus free integration with several premium plugins including Revolution Slider, Envira Gallery, and Essential Grid.
All In One WP Security & Firewall
After a late night of typing away in my leather recliner, I came to a logical stopping point and decided to pack it up for the night. I woke up in the morning to a string of automated emails from my website, each an hour apart, informing me that a lockout had occurred on my login page. I soon came to realize that, in the middle of the night, my website became the target (thankfully not the victim) of a brute force login attack. My site was fortunately protected from this attack due to a free plugin called All-In-One WP Security & Firewall.
This plugin applies several top-notch security features to my website including a login block-out after multiple failed login attempts, which limited my exposure to the attack. It also traces and keeps a record of login attempts, which allowed me to blacklist the IP and prevent further attempts.
All-In-One Security contains a plethora of security options in addition to these. Google reCaptcha, file editing restrictions, and login page redirections just scratch the surface of this plugin’s functionality. Fortunately, it is designed to be user friendly, and will walk you through engaging the various security protocols to maximize your website security. Thank you to the contributors of this plugin for making the internet a safer place!
Superfly Menu is a responsive WordPress menu plugin that allows you to utilize an elegant animated menu on your website. The appearance and functionality of the menu is completely customizable. While I have opted for a static menu on the right side of the blog (or an expandable menu on mobile), the animation can be changed to slide in from the left, right, or top; or can appear full screen when a modal button is clicked or hovered over. You are in full control over which pages the menu appears on, and the menu accepts all standard WordPress widgets. If you are looking for a feature-rich menu to enhance the guest experience on your website, Superfly Menu is the way to go.
If you have any experience building a WordPress website, then you probably know how inadequate the core WordPress search function is. SearchIQ fixes this by performing detailed indexing of your website material. It is capable of finding information based on your desired settings using post titles, tags, metadata, and even down to the post body text. In other words, If you’ve written about it on your website, SearchIQ will be able to find it. Search results can be organized by topic relevance or by newest or oldest.
The most attractive part of SearchIQ is the search display that auto populates related results as you type in your search terms. In the case of blog posts, the window auto populates the blog article title and a thumbnail image. These results are clickable links, but pressing enter to perform the search brings you to a custom search results page which provides additional information. The visibility of the information displayed is completely customizable, and the colors of all elements can be adjusted to match your website theme.
The second most attractive thing about SearchIQ is the price. For websites with 2000 searchable entries or less, SearchIQ is completely free. This is plenty for a young website. For an established website that requires additional entries, the SearchIQ Startup Plan ($19/month) allows indexing of 5000 entries, plus faceted filtering. Have multiple websites? No Problem. Thanks to SearchIQ, you will have the ability to search across multiple domains.
As the amount of content on your website grows, a functional search option for your readers can be critical for site navigation. If you are looking for a professional website search engine that can make a positive impact in reader engagement, look no further than SearchIQ.
Not all of the resources I have used on Frontier Sound FX are various software or WordPress plugins. There are plenty of useful web apps, YouTube videos and blog posts from knowledgeable experts that can be of assistance when building your website. Some of my favorites are below.
A valid SSL certificate on your business website does more than provide a sense of security for your visitors; it provides data encryption to protect your customers. Having a website that begins with HTTPS and that little padlock icon in your URL even helps you secure a position higher in Google’s search results. In fact, without it, Google will actively punish websites by flashing “Non-Secure” warnings in search results and URLs for Chrome customers. Can you imagine the effect on your visitors if they go to click on your link and receive a warning that your site is not secure?
With that, Google has made their point that SSL/HTTPS is not only expected but here to stay. Needless to say, I was a little disgruntled after I had gone through the trouble to build a secure website, and somehow my URL warning still read “Not Secure”. This is when I discovered WhyNoPadlock.com. WhyNoPadlock is a free web app that analyzes your website’s code for proper SSL certification, then produces a comprehensive report of any errors. After running my URL through the web app, WhyNoPadlock quickly determined that one of the images on my homepage was sourced from a HTTP pathway, and thus barring my proper SSL status. I corrected the image in question and ran my URL through the web app again. I was given all green lights on my report, and the coveted padlock icon began to appear in my URL.
WP Learning Lab
After BlueHost’s complete failure to assist me with preparing a cpanel backup, I was left staring at two options in order to salvage all my hard work: Pay an expert an exorbitant fee to perform a manual WordPress migration, or figure out how to do it myself… and Option 1 was not going to happen (recall “detrimental determination” from earlier). Fortunately, I discovered Bjorn from WPLearningLab.com, who has an excellent Youtube video on how to manually migrate a WordPress website to a new host. Bjorn has a strong presence on YouTube, but also a nice collection of resources available on his website. If you like to DIY your website, I recommend checking out WB Learning Lab.
The internet can be an amazing place, with endless resources giving you the power to create. Hopefully your perusal through these tools has given you the inspiration to build or enhance your own website. The tools listed above are some of the best that I have found, but I am always on the lookout for more. If you have experience with any of them, or know of other useful resources for web building, please post them in them comments below. I would love to hear from you. Until then, happy website building.