Essential Guide To Choosing A Website Designer

This post originally appeared at Essential Guide To Choosing A Website Designer via ShivarWeb

Essential Guide To Choosing A Website Designer

So you need to know how to choose a website designer.

But here’s the problem.

“It depends” is both the most correct and the most unhelpful answer.

There have never been more choices in the website design industry than now. But paradoxically, all those choices make actually choosing more difficult than ever.

The secret to choosing wisely is to understand exactly what you need rather than attempting to sort & filter all the choices on offer.

Like any other large purchase… a house, car, appliance, etc – ditch the idea of a “best” – and instead, write out your exact needs, requirements, and goals. The best option for you will usually self-select itself.

In other words, choose a website designer through elimination based your goals rather than searching out the one right fit.

With that concept in mind, here’s how to walk through the process of elimination to choose the right website designer for your project.

1. Define Your Technology Needs

How do you need your website to function?

Are you looking to build a “brochure site” – a place with your basic information and contact information?

Or are you looking to build something with certain functionality?

This step is critical because it decides what type of web designer or developer or agency you’ll need to hire.

A pure-play web designer usually does not actually work with HTML / CSS, much less traditional web languages like Javascript, PHP, etc. Pure-play web designers usually work in Photoshop and focus on branding, color palettes, imagery, feel, and user experience.

A pure-play web designer will often work with a front-end web developer to implement a design. The front-end of a website is what the user sees & navigates. A front-end developer will know HTML / CSS and Javascript – and will be comfortable with “back-end” technologies.

Back-end technology involves databases, scripts, and APIs – and generally making sure the computers are all talking to each other correctly.

Now – you’ll likely hire someone who is an expert in one, is knowledgeable in another, and is familiar with the third. If you hire an agency, then they’ll have all three.

Additionally, many designers / developers / agencies will work with certain platforms that already have core functionality built-in. When they work with these platforms, it will speed up the process and lower the costs…but also means that the client (you) needs to have some familiarity with what tools they are using.

But the main thing you need to think about is how much functionality does your site need? This will determine what type of website designer you’ll need, and how to discuss their process.

What To Consider

  • What functionality do you want now?
  • How do you want your website to grow?
  • Do you need to edit & manage your site content?
  • Do your visitors need to work with the site at all?

What To Avoid

  • Avoid using vague concepts or ideas.
  • Avoid accidental technology lock-in.

Example Scenarios

Think about a new fashion brand. Are you more focused on developing content or retailing clothes? Do you need to manage inventory? Do you want to build a community? How do you want to integrate your social presence?

A web designer could build a self-hosted WordPress website to handle the content and then add-in ecommerce with an ecommerce plugin, but it might be harder to manage inventory & social integration. They could also build an online store with Shopify to focus on ecommerce & social, but might hamstring your big content plans.

Think about a new non-profit website. Do you have expertise to manage & maintain the website? Do you need donation abilities or portal logins? Do you need to integrate with certain profiles?

A web designer could build a self-hosted WordPress website that could easily integrate donations and would be cheap upfront, but it would be harder to maintain long-term without someone who can train on the platform. They could also use a hosted website builder like Wix or WordPress.com that might have fewer upfront capabilities, but would be much easier to maintain in-house over the long-term.

Now – the designer that you choose should be flexible but also knowledgeable. It’s better to trust someone that you trust…but also verify that they deeply understand your needs.

2. Define Your Design Needs

How do you want your website to look and feel?

Unless you’ve had to design something for a client, it’s hard to understand how difficult it is to translate a vague idea in someone else’s brain into a tangible creation.

Sure, there are bad designers out there, but usually, the more specific you are about your design needs, the better product you’ll get.

Draw out something – anything – to show even the most basic direction you’d like to go.

Collect websites that you like – and note what you like about them. Here’s a bunch of example round-ups that I’ve written.

  • Wix Website Examples
  • WordPress Website Examples
  • Professional Personal Website Examples
  • Online Portfolio Examples
  • Weebly Website Examples
  • GoDaddy Website Examples
  • Restaurant Website Examples
  • Church Website Examples
  • Shopify Website Examples

Write out your frustrations with existing designs.

Additionally, keep in mind that it’s possible to develop some design assets yourself and let a web designer translate those existing assets into a website design.

For example, I’ve had clients use a photographer and bring in a web designer to build a site layout around their amazing professional images. I’ve built sites around a 99designs logo that clients have already made. Some clients even use automated design generators like Tailor Brands to create a look that a web developer can plug & play into a theme or template.

Once you have all your specifics down – you can use it to choose the right web designer.

What To Consider

  • The right web designer will be able to tell you how achievable certain features, looks, etc are.
  • Think about what process you’d like to work with. Do you want choices at every stage? How do you like to give and receive feedback? What are the most important parts of the design? When budget inevitably comes up, what are you willing to cut or prioritize?

What To Avoid

  • Avoid designers who can’t tell you how they’ll approach a design problem. Look for designers who do not have a stated process.
  • A written design process is best for you and them. Feedback stages can go on forever and make everyone frustrated.
  • Avoid vague wishes – even with emotions, be as specific and as concrete as possible.

Example Scenarios

Think about a restaurant website. An established restaurant will likely already have quite a bit of design assets in its physical location. Between logos, fonts, colors, ambience, etc – a web designer should already have a good bit to work off. Hiring a designer will be less about getting the design right and more about the layout, navigation, and design asset conversion right.

Think about a brand-new yoga studio. A startup might need a website design that can translate offline and throughout social media. Here, the owner will need to make a choice about developing a logo & brand feel separately (via a specialist graphic designer or logo contractor or AI brand software) or letting the website designer drive the look of the business.

3. Define Your Business Needs

What role does your website serve in your business?

Some of this will go back to your design and technology needs, but it’s especially pressing to consider before you define your budget & scope.

Think about how your business gets customers and how you do your marketing.

How will/does your website drive leads/sales? Is it something that your referrals & salespeople will offer as a brochure…or will your website need to drive new leads from online visitors?

Will it need to integrate with any business processes such as inventory or bookkeeping or order-taking? Do you want to move your business processes to the website via marketing/sales automation?

Are there any existing software providers that you want to integrate with your website now or in the future?

What To Consider

  • Think about both the near and medium term needs of your business.
  • Think about your domain names – and how you want to setup your email and online services.
  • Think about the incremental value of your website – what number of leads could it drive? What is a new lead worth?

What To Avoid

  • Avoid too much complexity – integrations and versatility make your website last.
  • Avoid thinking of your website as a cost – it’s an investment.
  • Avoid designers who do not work with integrations or cannot build out features that you need.
  • Avoid designers who cannot make a business case for changing your existing business processes.
  • Avoid designers who cannot explain how & why their approach will work through the medium term.
  • Avoid quick, “duct-tape” solutions.

Example Scenarios

Think about a local property management. An accounting firm could do well with a “brochure website” that simply funnels people to the phone and in-person consults. A nice brochure website (i.e., a website that simple provides information) might do fine. But what if the firm wants to add in client tools, secure portals, content marketing, direct listings, etc? Those features would require a website that can expand and develop over time. It might be worth developing a self-hosted website with a designer on retainer.

Think about a new jewelry business. A jewelry business might do business exclusively on Etsy, and want a blog to connect with customers. It might be easy to get a custom theme on a hosted platform like WordPress.com. However, it also might be a better choice to go a different direction at the beginning to integrate Etsy or lay the foundation for a non-Etsy online store.

4. Define Your Budget & Scope

How much money and time do you have to spend right now?

And “as cheap as possible” is not an answer – if this is your thinking, you should not be looking for a custom website designer. You should look for alternative options.

Your website is an investment, not a cost. If you approach it the same way you’d approach bulk-buying office pens…then you’re not going to get the result you want.

Now – I understand the desire to get the biggest return for your investment. But remember that it’s usually better to maximize your return rather than minimize your investment.

What To Consider

  • Think about your existing cashflow situation. Write out what a single new lead is worth.
  • Write out existing costs of having a poor or non-existent website.
  • Write out features, functionality, and design choices that you’d prioritize.
  • Think about payoff period and amortize your budget. In other words, if you budget $10,000 – and you expect the site to last 50 months, then that is $200/mo. Does that match your expected value?

What To Avoid

  • Avoid thinking about your budget in a silo – always tie it to scope or value.
  • Avoid thinking that you can have everything. Think about keeping your options open.
  • Avoid thinking about having a one and done project. Think about ongoing costs to either you, your staff or your designer.

5. Define Your Sources & Alternative Options

What type of designer do you want? And how do you find them?

The bad news is that most good website designers are not super-easy to find.

The good news is that your competitors don’t know that. If you put in a bit of work to find the right website designers – you’ll have a much better range of choices.

What To Consider

  • Good website designers have plenty of work. If someone is spending a lot of money on advertising & acquisition, then they are probably a giant agency with a churn and burn process.
  • Good website designers want to work with good clients. I used to work with web design clients, and I would take a great client for half-pay over a bad client. In fact, at a certain point, there’s not enough money in the world to take on a bad client.
  • Conversations and back and forths are not billable. That is not good for you or the designer. The more specific you are, the better.

What To Avoid

  • Googling what everyone else is googling.
  • Expecting more from a person or platform than is reasonable given how much effort you’ve put in.

Where To Look

Now – you could always do a Google Search. But I promise that you will likely be disappointed. Here are some better places to look.

For local designer / developer

Local web designers are usually horrendous at marketing their services. But many clients want a local designer that they can talk to in person.

Your approach will depend on your metro area, of course, but here’s where I’d look.

  1. Look for meetups to stalk. Web designers are always looking to upgrade skills and you can usually find some at a local workshop, class or meetup.
  2. Do a really specific Google search – one with search operators. Like this.
  3. Ask your favorite local businesses for referrals.
  4. Use city specific directories – this works especially well in smaller metros.

For a WordPress designer / developer

WordPress is an incredibly versatile content management system. It’s not ideal for every site, but it’s like 4 door SUV / Sedan of the Internet. It’ll probably do the job for you.

Now – the issue is that basically anybody can call themselves a “WordPress developer” – even if they really don’t know how the software works at its core.

It’s important to do #1 and #2 – because you’ll need to know if you are hiring a designer / developer who works with WordPress as their software of choice vs. someone who actually develops websites with WordPress.

Here’s where I’d look –

  1. Stalk local WordPress meetups.
  2. Stalk the attendees of WordCamps – big gatherings of designers who use WordPress.
  3. Stalk the community support forums of WordPress.org
  4. Do an incredibly specific Google search with something like intext:”Work with me”
WordCamp Attendees

One side note about WordPress designers – since they’ll likely use certain themes/theme frameworks – you’ll be able to negotiate a bit more on scope and do more with DIY.

For [other platform] designer / developer

Now there are plenty of other software options out there – especially “hosted options” like Squarespace, Weebly, Shopify, Wix, Bigcommerce, etc.

The key here is to understand the technology and what exactly you are buying (ie, you are paying more for a custom design over functionality since the hosted option bundles lots of functionality in with your hosting).

Lean heavily on the services’ support forums and Experts Exchange to find prospective designers.

For a general designer / developer

The great thing about web design is that you can work with a global talent pool if you want. There are challenges to working remotely but a lot of upside if you can do it well.

Again, for this search, I’d recommend relying more on internal platforms over random searches. Here’s a few examples.

99designs is a good option for contest-run design only competitions. I’ve implemented designs that my clients have bought through them. Here’s my general review.

Dribbble is the big hangout for designers doing cutting edge work.

Most developers will have a profile on Github or StackExchange or HackerNews. Look for ones who have good answers.

Fiverr is a surprisingly good platform if you are willing to try a few gigs before committing to a single designer. I’ve used them for several side projects.

Upwork is also good if you are willing to do a test project with several designers before choosing.

Tailor Brands is an AI-powered self-service platform that will develop a logo and entire branding setup for less than $100.

You’ll also find that vendors on ThemeForest will do custom work in addition to other marketplaces like CreativeMarket.

The point here is that a bit more effort into searching for good designers will give you much better options than general googling.

Alternatives to a Custom Website Designer

Now if you’re thinking “ok – I just need a simple, straightforward website, not a roundabout search” – then you’ll want to look into some Alternative Options.

Skip down to some alternate ways to get a website without having to choose a website designer.

6. Ask for Proposals

Now that you have a few website designers to choose from, the next step is to send out a proposal.

The better your proposal, the better your options will be.

Think about how you would like to be approached if you were a web designer.

Would you prefer a vague email asking how much a website costs? Or would you prefer a detailed description of a the project along with a ballpark budget range?

What To Consider

  • Providing a ballpark budget is the fastest, simplest & most accurate way to get on the same page as a website designer. Your budget does not determine your end cost – but it does determine who you even talk to. As an analogy – it’s how website designers know whether you are shopping for a used Toyota Corolla or a brand-new Ferrari.
  • Make your project easy to say yes to. Keep the next step & primary ask simple and straightforward (ie, “are you interested in the project?”, “if interested, what additional details do you need?”)

What To Avoid

  • Avoid sending lots of feeler emails with no intention of hiring.
  • Avoid sending an email with too much information or too many asks.

7. Follow up with Questions & Request for References & Portfolio

However the designer communicates upfront is how the project will progress. Communication never improves over a project – it only degrades. Look for a high benchmark to start.

What To Consider

  • You are using your requirements, questions, and details to get prospective web designers to rule themselves out.
  • Think about your priorities – sending too many questions is just as bad as too few.

What To Avoid

  • Avoid dictating the entire process. Remember that the designer’s questions for you can tell you as much as your questions for them.
  • Avoid making the designer do too much back and forth. If you think a call will be necessary during the design process, do this entire step via a phone call.

8. Request Contract & Project Plan (and declines)

Tangible expectations in writing help everyone in every engagement.

At this point, you should be able to choose a website designer.

The next step is to request a contract and a project plan from the designer that you want to work with.

A written contract helps *everyone* in the project. The contract should spell out “deliverables”, costs, responsibilities, intellectual property rights, and an adjudicating body.

A project plan helps *everyone* understand expectations, responsibilities, and timelines. This does not have to be complicated. It should communicate clearly though who is responsible for what and when.

Lastly, for the designers that you did not choose, be sure to send a polite decline. Even if it’s as simple as “Thank you for providing this information. We have decided to work with another company. We will keep your company in mind for future project & referrals.” You’ll save the everyone needless follow-ups.

9. Follow up & Communicate Clearly

A good website designer cannot help a bad client.

What To Consider

  • The website is going to be *yours* so you need to make sure you have all the information you need to make decisions.
  • Make sure you have all the technical documentation in your control.
  • Remember that a lot of design work depends on fast, accurate feedback.
  • Budget for not only time but also money for incidentals (ie, photography) and technical issues.

What To Avoid

  • Interrupting the project plan and micromanaging.
  • Providing the wrong feedback at the wrong stage.
  • Avoid verbal conversations without follow-up written documentation. Phone call notes are essential.

Conclusion & Next Steps

Choosing a website designer does not have to be a daunting process full of frustration and unknowns.

It does require that you clearly understand what you want, when you want it, and to clearly communicate your expectations.

If you are trying to find a good website designer – follow the process and you’ll be set!

Alternate Conclusion & Next Steps

Now – if you have read this post and found it useful…but…

You’re thinking “I just need a website! It’s 2020 – I just need a simple, affordable, quick standard website – not a complicated purchase with contracts and whatnot”

I hear you. I have friends who have been there. And there are options out there – but it’s not a quality custom website designer.

Here’s some options –

#0 – DIY w/ Automated Branding & Design

Many design options (including the ones below) require you to coordinate your branding, even if you are able to purchase assets like a logo or social media photos. But that leaves a lot up to you.

There is one company that focuses on completely automated branding – Tailor Brands. I’ve begun using them for my side projects. They AI and machine learning to create a whole range of design assets & guidelines.

They also have a bundled website builder or you can use them to complement #1 through #3. Check out Tailor Brands here. Read my review here.

Other website builders also bundle a logo designer with their software. Wix has a template driven logo designer as does Shopify.

#1 – DIY with a Website Builder

There are companies that specialize in businesses with a budget and no design or technical expertise. They provide hosting and pre-made templates all for a single monthly subscription. You might not get all the functionality that you want…but you will get a secure, fast, good looking website.

To find the right website one, take my website builder quiz or see my recommendations here.

I also have an online store builder quiz with recommendations here if you need ecommerce.

#2 – DIY with self-hosted WordPress

WordPress is a the most popular, most supported, and most versatile “content management system” on the Internet. It’s free community supported software that you install on a hosting account (ie, you rent part of a server from a hosting company). The software has a learning curve, but you’ll have 100% control and 100% of your options open. You’ll also be able to call in specific experts on specific problems. Or install do-it-all themes / templates.

I wrote a WordPress Website Setup Guide here.

#3 – Purchase Website Design from a Hosting Company

This option is a blend of #1 and #2 – if you want full control over your site with unlimited options for the future…but don’t want the learning curve of setting up a design yourself, then you can sometimes purchase website design services from a hosting company. They are usually able to provide these services much cheaper than an independent website designer since you’re also using their hosting services.

For these projects, I recommend InMotion Hosting – they have great support and are the hosting company for this website. See their design services here.

Other resources include –

  • How To Try WordPress Before Purchasing
  • Choosing Your Website Color Palette
  • Features Customer Want in a Local Website
  • Building Different Types of Websites with Templates

For any specific questions, see my contact page.

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How to Build a Minimally Viable Website

This post originally appeared at How to Build a Minimally Viable Website via ShivarWeb

How to Build a Minimally Viable Website

So you want to get your product/service/thoughts in front of an audience, and you need a website. Time to buckle down and create a massive, beautiful site, right?

Wrong.

When you’re launching anything, the most important goal is to get data. Without data, you can’t possibly make something as good as it can be — and that applies to your website, too.

You need data on what it takes to build & run the site of your dreams. You need data on who actually visits your site and what they do. You need data to decide what to do next.

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make when launching a website is starting too big and too well-designed (especially eCommerce sites).

You don’t need pages and pages of content or a fancy design. What you do need is a minimally viable website.

Here’s how to build one…

Define Your Goals

Before you do anything, you need to decide what you want to achieve with your website. What do you want people to do once they’re there? If you’re looking to make sales, what are your revenue goals?

This part of the process may seem counterintuitive — after all, this article is about creating the minimally viable product — but it’s key to building your site on the right foot.

Defining your goals upfront will help you know what to look for in the data you get and whether or not you’re on the right path, so don’t skip this step.

Choose Your Platform & Domain

Most business owners feel like their website has to use fancy tools and platforms to get the job done. Not so. In fact, a simple HTML template can be all you need (you can even host it for free with a Dropbox hack if that’s your thing).

If you’re into WordPress or some other website builder and can churn out a quick website, then go that route. Weebly and Wix both offer free plans on their subdomain.

The point here is to get your content somewhere quickly and simply but to also keep your options open for when you’re ready to make changes (and to track data).

Some companies like InMotion Hosting have a specific quick start setup service for $99 + hosting (which you need anyway). Companies like NameCheap will also bundle it with your domain.

A custom domain can be important – but remember that you can always change it. Your goal right now is data – not perfection. Go get a cheap domain from NameCheap or GoDaddy.

Set Up Analytics + Goals

Speaking of tracking data… the whole point of an MVP (or MVW in this case) is to capture data so you can find what works and what doesn’t. In order to be able to capture this information, you need to set up analytics and goal tracking.

There are a lot of options, but Google Analytics is the go-to solution (it’s also free).

The key is to make sure you have goals set up based on whatever action you want people to take. If you’re an eCommerce store, you need to be sure you have an eCommerce checkout set up. Make sure it’s a goal. Make sure the whole package is working correctly because you have to accurately track conversions (aka sales) – if you are using a minimally viable payment solution like PayPal or Gumroad – this might mean simply setting the thank you page redirect.

If you’re looking for email opt-ins, make that a goal. Set up any action you’re looking at as a conversion in Google Analytics for tracking. And like eCommerce sales, you don’t have to get fancy. This might mean setting your MailChimp thank you page redirect as the sign-up goal.

If you plan on marketing your website (which you should), you should also link Google Analytics to Google Ads and set up a retargeting audience with Google Analytics.

And lastly, you should set up a Facebook Ads account and place a retargeting (audience pixel) cookie on your website. And learn what exactly Google Analytics does.

Set Up Focus Pages

As I’ve already mentioned, you don’t need a 100+ page website on your first launch. When you’re creating a minimally viable website, you should focus on setting up a few landing pages where you can send traffic for conversion.

In some cases, this can actually be done with a single page.

Take this website: Fix the Electoral College. I built this with a single HTML file hosted on a Google Cloud account. I never wanted to build an entire website dedicated to the structure of American politics with all the security updates and information architecture needs — just a single, shareable resource. This single page website got clicks and shares from hundreds of key state legislators in a very targeted Twitter / Facebook campaign. Mission accomplished!

The goal is to create very specific pages (or a page) that visitors can land on and take action. If you can do that in one page — awesome! Do that. If you need more than one, then take that route. Just remember that this should be as simple and clear as possible and focused around whatever conversion you’re looking to measure.

Test, Test, Test

Once you’ve got your website up, it’s time to start testing and optimizing. The goal here is to keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t.

Keep in mind that everything you do will conform to the 80/20 Principle. I’ve seen lots of analytics profiles across a wide range of industries. In every single one, every metric conforms to 80/20.

  • 20% of the products make up 80% of sales.
  • 20% of content drives 80% of organic traffic.
  • 20% of ad spend drives 80% of revenue.

When evaluating your website, keep your focus on the 20% that matters, and keep expanding the overall amount of opportunity. If you’ve never read much about the concept, check out the original 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch AND the follow-up 80/20 for Sales & Marketing by Perry Marshall.

Next Steps

Now that you’ve got your minimally viable website, it’s time to take some concrete next steps. Remember, this isn’t about more planning. It’s about action. The whole point of launching your MVP site is to get feedback so that you know what to do next.

Check out InMotion’s Quick Start service or NameCheap’s one-pager that will bundle with a domain purchase.

To get that feedback, you’ll need to get people to your site and taking action. Check out this guide to promoting your website (for free) to get started.

Once you’ve gathered data – you’ll need to set up a more permanent website with more options. You’ll want to explore my essential guide to eCommerce platforms or my WordPress website guide or my guide to website builders.

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GoDaddy Email Problems: Solving Issues w/ Forms & Not Receiving Email

This post originally appeared at GoDaddy Email Problems: Solving Issues w/ Forms & Not Receiving Email via ShivarWeb

GoDaddy Email Problems Solving Issues w Forms & Not Receiving Email

For years, I’ve had issues with email forms on websites hosted at GoDaddy. Whether I was trying to get a contact form in WordPress to work, or simply forward emails within cPanel, the whole troubleshooting process was just a pain.

The GoDaddy email issue especially pops up when a client switches from GoDaddy email hosting to a 3rd party email host like Google, Zoho, NameCheap, etc.

And it turns out that it’s not just me. It’s a documented issue with everything from WooCommerce to other non-WordPress software.

But GoDaddy’s documentation is straight-up horrible and poking around StackOverflow / Googling developer forums gets old after a while. So here’s a short guide to GoDaddy form email problems that I wish I had several years ago.

Background

There are a few concepts to understand before picking a solution.

1. Your website form does not actually “send” the email.

Instead, the data goes like this –

  • User types information into the form
  • Form passes data to WordPress (or your CMS)
  • WordPress (or your CMS) passes data to your web host via PHP
  • Your web host actually transmits the email with its email header information

2. Email Sending & Receiving Is Incredibly Insecure

There is a reason why you generally can’t contact your doctor via email. And there’s a reason why you get so much spam.

Email is inherently insecure. It’s fairly easy to fake the sending and receiving address (aka “spoofing”). Hosting companies and the big email providers spend a ton of money and thought on authenticating email headers. And a lot of this authentication is based on reputation. So, hosting companies don’t want their servers to get a bad reputation for sending spam.

3. GoDaddy has a uniquely bad email problem & a uniquely strict email security solution

Depending on how you count, GoDaddy is the largest single domain registrar and hosting brand in the world. With that kind of scale, they have unique problems with dealing with spam.

However, they have also split from the rest of the industry in creating a security protocol. Their solutions get technical, but they basically block an entire range of ports for sending emails from cPanel / servers in addition to filtering out form emails sent “from” the big email providers like Google, Yahoo!, AOL, etc.

That’s justifiable…except for the fact that GoDaddy is the only host that I’ve used that has these sorts of email issues. They are incredibly strict with their email security – to the point that, well, I have to write guides like this.

Solutions

So what can you do? I’ve tried hacking around with all sorts of settings – including disabling some website security settings (bad idea). But I’ve generally ended up with 2 go-to fixes for the problem.

Use SMTP Authentication for Forms

SMTP is “simple mail transfer protocol.” It’s the Internet-standard way of authenticating and sending email. The great thing about SMTP is that you can sync it directly with your forms / WordPress / CMS.

So instead of passing the email to your web host to send, you can “send” it directly via whoever handles your email.

In other words, this solution simply cuts your web host out of the equation.

If you are using WordPress, you can install a plugin like Easy WP SMTP or WP Mail SMTP.

You’ll need to install the plugin and configure your SMTP settings based on your provider. Once installed, it basically replaces the standard WP_Mail function with your email provider. So any submission to your form is like someone sending you an email directly to your inbox.

Upsides

  • You can keep using GoDaddy hosting without dealing with a migration.
  • Your forms should all send correctly.
  • The process is fairly quick and straightforward.

Downsides

  • It’s still a bit clunky to install just right.
  • Any mistake with SMTP settings will create delivery failed notifications.
  • It may create conflicts for any plugins that use WP_Mail functionality (ie, uptime alerts, etc).
  • You’ll have to maintain & update another plugin.

One of my clients used this solution for more than 4 years without issue. It worked and it made sense at the time.

Now – that last bullet downside finally got us. The SMTP plugin we used was no longer maintained. So with that, combined with other factors, it made sense to move to the longer-term solution.

Switch Hosting Providers

Like I’ve said in many hosting reviews, using GoDaddy for hosting is fine. They are cheap – and they integrate with their other products. They are usually “good enough” to use to just get started.

However, they have enough limitations – and even quirks like this – that switching hosting companies from GoDaddy is usually the best long-term option.

In the case of one client, I moved his website to InMotion Hosting and haven’t had any email issues since.

I’ve also used InMotion Hosting for this site for quite a while (read their pros/negatives here) – and have since tried out multiple contact forms. Every form from FS Contact Form to Contact Form 7 to my current JetPack contact form has worked well.

Now – it’s still ideal from an email security perspective to use SMTP rather than the default PHP mailer – however, their uniform and well-documented email setup at least allows more flexibility in my email/form setup.

Upsides

  • You get more flexibility with setting up forms & email.
  • Your forms will work with the default WordPress setup.
  • A move will likely pay off long-term with pricing & more advanced features.

Downsides

  • Migrating your website can be a heavy lift to solve a single issue – depending on how many services you have with GoDaddy.
  • You may want to install & work with an SMTP plugin regardless.

Next Steps

Forms & email are a critical part of any business website. Not receiving your emails or form submissions via GoDaddy’s servers is not really an option.

You can solve the problem in the short-term on WordPress with an SMTP plugin.

However, to solve for the long-term, you’ll want to move hosting companies to somewhere like InMotion Hosting or another good business host based on your goals & preferences or simply another good email hosting company.

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6+ Best Dental Website Examples for Inspiration

Dentist Website Examples

So you’re creating a dental website, and you’re looking for dental website design examples for inspiration and guidance. You’re also wondering which website platform is best to use for your website.

But before we dive into examples of what professional personal websites look like in the wild on a variety of website builders and hosting platforms, there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website: it’s not just about how the websites look. The functionality matters too.

Think of it like buying a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at a dental website examples should be done in the same way.

Do you want the website to have appointment scheduling functionality? Do you want a patient portal? This functionality needs to be consider before you start choosing a website builder + hosting platform.

Find The Right Website Builder for Your Dental Website

We collected the following website examples not just to show you how they look on different platforms, but how they can function, so you can be sure you create a website that fits both the look and functionality you need!

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Best Dental Website Examples

We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Again, when you’re looking to build a dental website, remember that you’re not just thinking about making the site look good. You want to think about what your site actually needs to do, and find a platform that supports all of your needs.

Ponce Dental Group

Ponce Dental Group

Software: Adobe

Hosting: Adobe

This dental website by Ponce Dental Group has all of the bells and whistles. You can book an appointment, manage your appointments, and learn about payment plans and insurance all from the homepage. And yet even with all of this information, the layout is still clean and information is easy to find.

If you’re looking for a website layout that allows you to have multiple calls to action without overwhelming visitors or making the site difficult to navigate, this dental website example is a great one to use for inspiration.

Bay Area Dental Surgery

bay area dental surgery

Software: Weebly (Weebly Review)

Hosting: Weebly (Weebly Review)

On the other side of the spectrum is this dental website by Bay Area Dental Surgery Center. We liked the simplicity of this website, with the clear header and subhead that tells you exactly what this dentist does and who they help, and the cartoon graphic that adds an element of creativity and branding to the site.

This example just goes to show that a simple, straightforward layout can still be incredibly effective for your dental website. You don’t necessarily need something with tons of advanced functionality or even advanced branding!

If you’re looking for a good dental website example that includes a simple template that you can just plug your content into and get going, this is a great one to reference.

Grace & Leedy

Software: Squarespace (Squarespace Review)

Hosting: Squarespace (Squarespace Review)

This dental website example stands out for a few key reasons. First, notice how clear the navigation is on the homepage. As soon as you land on the website, your focus is drawn to the options of where to go next. It’s straightforward and makes choosing a next step simple.

We also liked the download functionality on the Form page.

The clear instructions and bright call-to-action buttons make it easy for visitors to see exactly what they need to do, and including the forms on the website not only enhances new patients’ experience online… but in person, too! No more filling out endless forms in the waiting room!

This site is another great example of a simple template that makes the most out of the design and functionality to give visitors a great user experience.

Dr. James Catt DMD

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Codero + Linode

This dentist website example stood out to us for a few key reasons — the first of which being the color palette! Notice how the buttons, logo, and even header image all have the same color scheme. It makes the design look sophisticated, even though the layout is fairly straightforward.

Next, we also liked how Dr. James used focus landing pages to expand on each of his services:

This is a great way to make more detailed services pages that also provide valuable information for potential clients who may be doing research on dental procedures before deciding to move forward with them.

St. Lawrence Dental

St. Lawrence Dental

Software: Wix (Wix Review)

Hosting: Wix (Wix Review)

Have you ever gone to a website to try to find logistical information (like operating hours and contact information) and had to dig for it? How frustrating is that?

This dental website does a great job of keeping key logistical information in clear view. Notice how the operating hours, telephone number, and “request an appointment” button are all grouped together in the top right corner of the homepage. This gives visitors all of the information they need when booking an appointment, without them having to dig around the site to see when the clinic is open, how to call, or where to request an appointment.

Atlanta Dental Spa

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Google Cloud / Google

This website for Atlanta Dental Spa is another strong dental website example that hits all of the marks. The layout is clean and sophisticated, and although the site has a lot of content (including before / afters), it’s organized in a way that’s easy to navigate.

We particularly liked the Messenger functionality Atlanta Dental Spa includes, which allows you to chat with them on Facebook Messenger directly from their website.

Atlanta Dental Spa Messenger

If you’re looking for an overall example to use for inspiration for your dental website, check this one out!

Next Steps

Now that you have some inspiration in terms of the design, colors, and functionality you may want in your dental website, where do you go from here?

Well, it really depends on where you are in your dental website building journey!

If you’re ready to decide on a website builder, check out my guide to choosing a website builder here.

Lastly, if you’re wondering how to market your dental website, check out my guide to creating a local marketing strategy.

The post 6+ Best Dental Website Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How To Design a Website Layout w/ Best Practices & Examples

Website Layout

So you’re designing a website layout, either for yourself or for a client, and you’re looking for some best practices and examples to follow. 

Maybe you’ve even spent some time digging through templates for inspiration, because hey… it can’t hurt, right? 

Wrong!

Website templates are great… but they can be drastically affected by stock photos, brand assets, colors, fonts, etc.

Before you start browsing templates, you first need to understand what your site needs to do, what content you’ll have, and how you need to lay it all out for an optimal user experience.

So how do you do that? Great question! Here’s my step-by-step process to designing a website layout with best practices:

Step One: Set Your Goals 

A website is more than just a collection of pages. Really, it’s a roadmap for your audience. It helps them find what they’re looking for when they’re looking for it.

Which means before you start looking at templates and designs, you have to first understand what your audience needs from your site to begin with. 

What’s the goal of your site? Is it educational? Is it selling products? Is it a resume site to help you get hired? 

Before you can start navigating somewhere, you have to know the end destination. The same applies to your website. Before you even start planning the website layout, define the overall goal of the site. 

What to Consider:

  • Your website today doesn’t have to be your website tomorrow. Set your goals for what you want to accomplish right now.
  • Your overall website will have a goal, and each page will have a goal. Separating the two can help you get clear on the overall flow.
  • Your site is all about the user. What are THEY trying to accomplish?

What to Avoid:

  • Biting off more than you can chew. If you’re trying to do too much at first, you’re either going to end up with a messy site or no site at all.
  • Getting caught up in the nitty gritty. We’re not talking functionality, yet.

What to Learn:

  • How to create a minimally viable website

Examples to Copy:

Sean Halpin

Sean Halpin Portfolio

Sandy Springs Artsapalooza

Sandy Springs Artsapalooza

Step Two: Map Out Your Main Content 

Once you have the main goal of the website, you can start to think about what content you need. 

What types of information is your audience searching for? How should that information be grouped?  

This will become the overall architecture of your site (and the navigation). Remember, your site is all about your audience’s journey.

The end goal is to get them to the information they need in the fewest steps possible. It doesn’t matter how beautifully designed your website is if no one can find what they’re looking for! 

The key here is clarity. The navigation should be intuitive — your people shouldn’t have to dig for information. 

Define your site’s primary navigation and content groupings before moving into design, so you can choose or design a template that supports an intuitive architecture.

What to Consider:

  • Think about how a user who lands directly on a given page would feel (without having navigated from your homepage).
  • Think about someone how has accessibility needs, or is simply in a hurry would feel.
  • Again, less is more. If you don’t need multiple pages to say it, don’t use multiple pages to say it!

What to Avoid:

  • Burying important pages in a deep hierarchy. Prioritize key information
  • Death by content. Your website doesn’t have to be the final destination.

What to Learn:

  • How to use keywords on your website
  • Smashing Magazine resource on content planning

Examples to Copy:

Au Lit Fine Linens

au lit fine linens

Lesley M.M. Blume

lesley blume

Step Three: Get your page layout down 

I know, I know… it sounds counterintuitive to think about a layout before you start searching for a template. But again, this is all about organizing your information. 

If you have an idea of the type of layout you need for each page, you’ll narrow down template options a lot sooner (and will be less distracted by frills that you probably don’t need anyway). 

Again, the goal is to get people the information they need in the quickest way possible. Think about your own browsing behavior. You’re likely not reading each and every word on the site, right? 

What to Consider:

  • Use size to distinguish between important info / details that may not be as crucial — the most important information should be the biggest on the page
  • Use headers and subheads to help scanners find key sections + information
  • Bold important phrases and key information
  • Use bullets / icons to break up text-heavy sections (see what I did here?) 

What to Avoid:

  • Don’t sacrifice clarity for creativity
  • Don’t bury key information “below the fold” (AKA don’t make people dig and scroll endlessly for it).

What to Learn:

If you want a page-by-page breakdown, check out our guides on…

  • Homepage best practices
  • About Us page best practices
  • FAQ page best practices
  • Contact Us page best practices
  • Product page best practices

Examples to Copy:

Trello

Grovemade

Step Four: Lock in functionality

After you have a general layout in mind for your pages, it’s time to think about functionality on each page. 

When we’re dealing with website design, remember that sometimes less is more, especially if you’re just trying to get your site up and running.

Having a minimally viable website can be more effective than having some juggernaut with bells and whistles that confuses people or costs you a fortune to get up and running. 

Think through the minimum functionality each page needs.

For example, your services page probably doesn’t need social media icons / social sharing. However, you may want to include links to your social channels on your Contact Page, or bring in your Instagram feed on your About page if it’s applicable to your overall site goals. 

A well-designed website isn’t about how advanced the functionality is. It’s about how quickly and easily can you give people the key information they need to accomplish their goals on a certain page.

What to Consider:

  • Think about the functions that would actually enhance your users’ experience.
  • What functionality is a must-have right now, and what’s a nice-to-have down the line?
  • Functionality isn’t built in a template — it’s supported by your software (AKA your website builder).

What to Avoid:

  • Functionality for the sake of functionality. You don’t want to overload your site or confuse your users.
  • Biting off more than you can chew. Having the ability to upload your latest YouTube episode is great, until you have to keep up with it.

What to Learn:

  • Which website builder will fit your functionality needs
  • WordPress plugins

Examples to Copy:

Dave Horak

Cumberland Community Church

Cumberland Community Church Spanish Version

Step Five: Pick Your Template 

So you’ve done the planning, you’ve sketched out your site, and you even know how the site needs to function. It’s time to finally, FINALLY start looking for a template (or creating your own)!

What to Consider:

  • Templates are really just HTML and CSS… which means they can be recreated almost anywhere. If you see a Wix template you love but want to use WordPress, you can easily recreate it.
  • Keep your layout needs in mind that you defined earlier, and remember that most templates are fairly customizable.
  • Look beyond the homepage. Look at how the subpages and unique pages are presented.

What to Avoid:

  • Again, functionality is NOT something that comes with a template.
  • Don’t judge a template based on the photography and logo designs. Often, a template will only look a certain way due to the mock-up creative assets.

What to Learn:

  • How to create your web design color palette
  • How to write effective website copy

Examples to Copy:

Inherit Clothing

Beautiful Destinations

Beautiful Destinations

Next Steps

You’re all set! Just follow the step-by-step process outline above to design a website layout that’s clear, easy to navigate, and gets your users the right information at the right time!

The post How To Design a Website Layout w/ Best Practices & Examples appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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7+ Best Author Website Examples to Use for Inspiration

7+ Best Author Websites to Use for Inspiration

So you’re creating an author website, and you’re looking for author website design examples for inspiration and guidance. You’re also wondering which website platform is best to use for your website.

But before we dive into examples of what professional personal websites look like in the wild on a variety of website builders and hosting platforms, there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website: it’s not just about how the websites look. The functionality matters too.

Think of it like buying a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at an author website examples should be done in the same way. Do you want the website to have ecommerce functionality so visitors can buy books? Do you want people to be able to book you for speaking engagements? This functionality needs to be consider before you start choosing a website builder + hosting platform.

We collected the following website examples not just to show you how they look on different platforms, but how they can function, so you can be sure you create a website that fits both the look and functionality you need!

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Best Author Website Examples

We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Again, when you’re looking to build an author website, remember that you’re not just thinking about making the site look good. You want to think about what your site actually needs to do, and find a platform that supports all of your needs.

Marie Force

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Continental Broadband

Homepage has everything you need right upfront. The slideshow of images allows you to preorder the new release for popular series, see upcoming events where Marie is speaking, and access her series on Kindle Unlimited. You can also sign up for newsletter updates, read about upcoming releases, or buy her other books all from the homepage.

Marie Force homepage details

We particularly liked how Marie uses the “Reading Order” button at the top of the homepage to direct to her Books page, which shows all of her books and series and allows readers to dive deeper into each one.

Despite having a lot of books and series to display, the layout is organized, which makes it easy for visitors to find exactly what they’re looking for.

If you’re wondering how to display your work and key information for visitors in a way that’s clear and organized, this author website example is a great place to start for inspiration.

Jody Hedlund

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Unified Layer

What stands out about this author website is how clear the navigation is. As soon as you get to Jody Hedlund’s homepage, your next steps are clearly laid out below her header image.

We also liked how Judy included buttons to all of her social media channels directly below her name. It’s a great way to send people to your other profiles without breaking the overall design of the page.

Another thing that stood out to us on this author website is how Judy implemented professional headshots and book cover images on her media page that journalists and bloggers can download without having to request them from her team.

If you’re looking for a good example of clear navigation and how to include additional assets for the press, this is a strong example to use for inspiration!

Mike Palombi

Software: Squarespace

Hosting: Squarespace

This author website example stands out for a few reasons. First, we really liked how Mike included his logo in the top menu bar on the site. It stands out in a way that’s creative, but unobtrusive. It doesn’t detract from the navigation, but it does add that extra “branding flair” to the site to make it look professional.

When you scroll down the homepage, you can read more about the book in detail, or watch videos on the book and interviews Mike has done.

mark palombi videos author example website

This is a great way to incorporate different media types on your website to support and supplement your books and build credibility with your visitors.

Angela Meek

Angela Meek Author website example

Software: Weebly

Hosting: Weebly

Sometimes, people get so focused on a website’s design that they lose sight of the overall goal — and that’s to give your visitors applicable information about whatever your website is focused on.

Angela’s website is a great example of a simple, straightforward author website that doesn’t have a ton of design frills, but still manages to look clean, organized, and give visitors all of the information they need on her, her books, and how to get in touch with her.

If you’re looking for a way to get your content up in a simple layout, this is a great example to use for inspiration.

Lesley M. M. Blume

lesley m.m. blume author website example

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Media Temple

If you’re looking to create a more creative angle with your author website, we love this example from Lesley M. M. Blume.

Notice how Lesley intentionally uses design elements that capture the theme of her book. As soon as you get to the homepage, you get a sense of what Leslie writes about. It’s a great way to bring readers into the world of your work, and adds an element of creativity to your author website.

Tim Tigner

Tim Tigner Author Website

Software: Custom-built website

Hosting: Rackspace

This website for Tim Tigner is another strong author website example that hits all of the marks. The homepage header image captures the theme of his books, and the subtitle under his name is a great example of using strong copy to “hook” your readers in!

We particularly liked the Book Club Info page, which includes Tim’s downloadable discussion questions for book clubs who are reading his books:

Tim Tigner Book Club

If you’re looking for an overall example to use for inspiration for your author website, check this one out!

Scott A. Winkler

Scott A. Winkler author website

Software: Wix

Hosting: Wix

If you’re looking for a more straightforward approach to your author website, this example by Scott A. Winkler is a great place to start.

This author website relies more on text than the other examples we pulled, but it’s an easy way to give readers an overview into who the author is and link out to his works and where you can buy them.

Remember, your website doesn’t have to be a design masterpiece. It just needs to give your readers the information they need and help them connect further with you and your work!

Next Steps

Now that you have some inspiration in terms of the design, colors, and functionality you may want in your author website, where do you go from here?

Well, it really depends on where you are in your author website building journey!

If you’re ready to decide on a website builder, check out my guide to choosing a website builder here.

If you’re looking to go DIY with a specific template to match your design and functionality needs, check out my Build a Personal Website: Templates, Design, and Setup Guide.

Lastly, if you’re wondering how to market your author website, check out my guide to creating a local marketing strategy.

The post 7+ Best Author Website Examples to Use for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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9+ Best Professional Personal Website Examples for Inspiration

9+ Best Professional Personal Website Examples for Inspiration

So you’re creating a personal website, and you’re looking for professional personal website design examples for inspiration and guidance. You’re also wondering which website platform is best to use for your website.

But before we dive into examples of what professional personal websites look like in the wild on a variety of website builders and hosting platforms, there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website: it’s not just about how the websites look. The functionality matters too.

Think of it like buying a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at a professional personal website examples should be done in the same way. We collected the following website examples not just to show you how they look on different platforms, but how they can function, so you can be sure you create a website that fits both the look and functionality you need!

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Best Professional Personal Website Examples

We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Again, when you’re looking to build a professional personal website, remember that you’re not just thinking about making the site look good. You want to think about what your site actually needs to do, and find a platform that supports all of your needs.

Susannah Rigg

Susannah Rigg

Software: Squarespace

Hosting: Squarespace

This professional personal website stands out for a few reasons. First, check out the homepage. The clear navigation + simple header image (with a strong call to action button!) make it easy for visitors to find exactly what they need.

Next, the portfolio page is a great example of using a card layout with images and text to display your work.

Susannah Rigg Portfolio

If you’re wondering how to structure your professional personal website in a way that’s intuitive, clear, and polished, this site is a great place to start for inspiration (especially if you have work or content to display).

Brian Smith

brian smith website example

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Unified Layer

What stands out about this professional personal website is how simple yet effective it is. As soon as your arrive on Brian Smith’s homepage, you know exactly what he’s offering (keynote speaking).

We also liked how the website spells out why you should book him to speak. As you scroll down the page, Brian includes some short copy about what he brings to the table and why the audience would want to hear from him.

Brian smith speaking

This, combined with the logos underneath, is a great way to build in added credibility.

If you’re looking for a way to position your expertise in a way that’s simple and clear, this website is a great place to start for inspiration.

Rational Reminder (Benjamin Felix)

Rational Reminder

Software: Squarespace

Hosting: Squarespace

This professional personal website takes a unique approach. Benjamin Felix uses his website for his podcast and thought leadership content around investing.

His homepage is a collection of episodes from the podcast, and as you dive deeper into the site, you can learn more about him, investing information, and his firm.

This is a great example to use if you have content you want to display, but also want an easy way to tie it back into your company (his Find an Investor page gives information on how to work with his firm — genius!).

Ian Enders

Ian Enders

Software: Minimally-built website

Hosting: Amazon Web Services

A professional personal website doesn’t need to be a multi-page, in-depth site. In fact, this is a great example of how a single-page site can be incredibly effective for someone who wants to just give a brief overview and link out to other information.

We also liked how Ian showcases his personality in the copy, and added an extra piece of customization with the sketch of him (instead of using a photo). Remember that your personal website should show off YOU personally — which means including a bit of your personality throughout.

Dave Horak

Dave Horak

Software: Weebly

Hosting: Weebly

Speaking of showing off your personality… oftentimes, people get so focused on design that they tend to forget that what really matters on a professional personal website is, well, you.

Dave’s site is a great example of how you can build your personal brand and showcase your work without a ton of flair (in fact, great copy will do the trick).

If you’re looking for a simple layout that gives you the opportunity to tell everyone what you’re all about, this one will do the trick.

Meghan Kreidler

Meghan Kreidler website

Software: Wix

Hosting: Wix

When showcasing your personality and creativity on your professional personal website, you don’t want to sacrifice clarity in the name of creativity. Meghan’s website includes the right balance of both.

The navigation changes the main box content, making it easy to read about who she is, what she does, and what she’s done.

If you’re looking for an easy way to put your work and experience out into the world, this layout does the trick.

Heath Fogg Davis

Heath Fogg Davis

Software: WordPress.com

Hosting: WordPress

This professional personal website is another example of a straightforward, intuitive website that’s easy to navigate, clear, and gives visitors all of the information they need to learn about you, your qualifications, and your thought leadership.

We particularly liked how Heath lays out his content:

Heath Fogg Davis thought leadership

Buy using short paragraphs with “Read More” buttons, visitors can easily skim his information and choose to dive deeper into what pertains to them.

Jasmine Star

Jasmine Star

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Amazon

If you’re looking for a more creative approach to your professional personal website, check out this example by Jasmine Star. She takes a different approach than the examples we’ve seen so far. Her site is bright, with large text and plenty of photos. It’s a slightly more creative, yet still polished, look.

We also liked how Jasmine positions herself on her site. When you ARE your brand, there needs to be a lot of, well, you on the site. If you’re wanting to creating a professional personal website for your personal brand, this is a great example to use for inspiration.

Rita Gunther McGrath

Rita Gunther McGrath

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Peak10

What stood out to us about this professional personal website is how Rita uses a video background header to show her speak. This, combined with a strong headline and call-to-action to learn more, immediately draws visitors in and positions her as an expert.

We also liked how Rita includes a short bio on the homepage:

Rita Gunther McGrath Bio

This is a great way to give visitors an overview of your achievements before inviting them to connect with you further.

Next Steps

Now that you have some inspiration in terms of the design, colors, and functionality you may want in your event website, where do you go from here?

Well, it really depends on where you are in your event website building journey!

If you’re ready to decide on a website builder, check out my guide to choosing a website builder here.

If you’re looking to go DIY with a specific template to match your design and functionality needs, check out my Build a Personal Website: Templates, Design, and Setup Guide.

Lastly, if you’re wondering how to market your personal website, check out my guide to creating a local marketing strategy (yes, personal websites need marketing, too!).

The post 9+ Best Professional Personal Website Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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8+ Google Sites Examples for Inspiration

Google Sites Examples

So you’re considering Google Sites as your website builder, and you’re looking for Google Sites website examples for inspiration and confirmation that you’re making the right choice.

Google Sites is Google’s free website builder software that it offers as part of the G Suite of Drive, Email, Hangouts, etc. It’s a template-based website builder, which means you have a set of templates that you can customize to a certain extent.

It makes nice designs incredibly accessible for DIY-ers while leaving the heavy-lifting (AKA hosting, functionality, coding) to someone else.

I wrote a full review of Google Sites here. It’s free, even for everyday users. If you are logged into your Google Account, you can start a Google Site here.

But before we dive into examples of what Google Sites look like in the wild, there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website platform: it’s not just about how the websites look. The functionality matters too.

Think of it like buying a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at a website platform should be done in the same way. We collected the following Google Sites examples not just to show you how they look, but how they can function so you can be sure you have a website that fits both the style you want and the functionality you need.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

General Website Example

Let’s start with a general round up of solid Google Site website examples. We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability.

Again, Google Sites works incredibly well for DIY-ers who want an easy-to-use website that they can throw up on their own without having to worry about the inner-workings, and who aren’t worried to much about adding any frills. However, be aware that with this comes trade-offs (i.e. you give up some control, functionality, customization, design capabilities etc.)

Keyingredient

KeyIngredient

Keyingredient’s website is a great example of how much content you can include on a Google Sites website, and how you can organize it. For websites that need to categorize content (like this recipe website, blogs, news sites, or portfolios) the card layout is an easy way to organize and showcase your top content without making the page overwhelming.

The website also allows visitors navigate directly to the content clicking on the image, which takes you to a full page on that specific recipe. If you’re needing a straightforward visual design with basic click-through functionality, use this example for inspiration.

Education Website Example

Education websites are a great way to provide course information, have a live syllabus, or even create a community for your class. Here’s a great example of what you can do with a Google Site education website:

Mr. Rees’ Social Studies Classes

Mr. Rees Social Studies

This social studies website is a great example of how you can use Google Sites to organize information for students.

Check out the detailed menu on the side that breaks down lessons. Students have access to notes, instructions, and assignments all in one place for each lesson for each class. It’s an organized and efficient way to keep resources all in one place.

Photography Website Example

Photography websites are all about the portfolio of work. When looking for a Google Site example to serve as inspiration for your photography, pay special attention to the layout options for your work. You want to be sure you’re showing off your photos in a creative way without sacrificing the user experience (AKA fast photo load speed, easy to navigate, high quality images, etc).

JSVFOTO

JSVFoto

When you have multiple segments in your photography portfolio, organization is key. This Google Sites photography website example is a great example of a clean, organized way to display your portfolio categories while also implementing an overall navigation that encompasses other areas of your work (i.e. reviews, novels, etc.). If you’re looking for a simple design that has a lot of versatility in showcasing your work, this website is a good one to follow.

Church Website Example

Church websites are all about telling people about your congregation, beliefs, and helping visitors feel welcome before they ever step in the door. Here’s a great example of a Church website build with Google Sites.

Morton Park Hall

What stands out about Morton Park Hall’s website is how clear the navigation is. It’s incredible easy to find information about what they believe, how to find them, and even to contact them. This site hits on all of the core functionality a church website should have, and organizes it intuitively, making it easy for newcomers and current congregation members to find exactly what they’re looking for.

Here’s a related post covering *only* church websites.

Business Website Examples

A strong business website showcases your services, gives customers the opportunity to contact you, and builds social proof. Visitors should be able to know exactly who you are and what you do when they land on their site, and should be able to easily navigate to what they’re looking for from your homepage.

PCS

PCS website

What stands out about PCS’s website is that while it uses a typical grid-style layout that most Google Sites use, the brand colors and icons make this website look and feel completely unique. This site is a great example of how to take a simple website layout and make it look polished and professional without having to create something entirely from scratch.

Flanders Hotel Bruges

Flanders Hotel Bruges

Flanders Hotel Bruges’ website is another great example of a business website that uses a simple design to look polished and professional. Notice how they use their awards to build credibility as soon as you arrive on the homepage. This, combined with high quality photography of the hotel and Bruges helps the hotel position itself as trustworthy and the right choice for visitors in the area.

Petits Gâteaux

Petits Gâteaux is a great example of a Google Sites website for a local business. Notice how the header image includes the logo and a scalloped design, giving the overall site a unique and fun feel without having to create and entire custom or complex site. We also loved how this local business included high quality photos of their pastries right on the homepage, giving customers an idea of what to expect right off the bat.

Personal Website Example

Personal websites are exactly what they sound like… personal! Whether it’s a resume / portfolio website you use to get booked or a blog you use to create content, this type of site is all about getting your personal brand online and owning your space on the Internet. Personal website should be easy to edit, manage, and customize.

Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber

With personal websites, it’s easy to get caught up in showcasing your personality and creativity. And while adding in some flair is fine, you don’t want to sacrifice clarity in the name of creativity. Andy’s website is a great combination of both. Featuring his tweets on the homepage is unique, and the clean layout makes the site easy to navigate. If you’re looking for an easy way to put your work, experience, and thoughts out into the world, this layout does the trick.

Next Steps

At the end of the day, choosing your website platform goes far beyond design. Why? Because all web pages are made of HTML & CSS with a few scripts thrown in. This means that any website template can exist on any good web platform.

What YOU want to focus on is the design elements and functionality that are available on the platform you’re choosing.

If you feel like Google Sites fits the design and functionality needs you have for your website, you can get started with Google Sites here.

Not sure if Google Sites is a right fit? Explore other good website builders here.

The post 8+ Google Sites Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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7+ Best Event Website Design Examples for Inspiration

7+ Best Event Website Design Examples for Inspiration

So you’re creating an event website, and you’re looking for event website design examples for inspiration and guidance. You’re also wondering which website platform is best to use for your event website.

But before we dive into examples of what event websites look like in the wild on a variety of website builders and hosting platforms, there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website: it’s not just about how the websites look. The functionality matters too.

Think of it like buying a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at a event website examples should be done in the same way. We collected the following event website examples not just to show you how they look on different platforms, but how they can function, so you can be sure you create a website that fits both the look and functionality you need!

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Best Event Website Examples

We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Again, when you’re looking to build an event website, remember that you’re not just thinking about making the site look good. You want to think about what your site actually needs to do, and find a platform that supports all of your needs.

Bonnaroo Music & Art Festival

Bonnarro

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Amazon

What stands out about Bonnaroo’s site is how much the design captures the essence and atmosphere of the festival. It’s creative, loud, and a bit in your face (in a fun and playful way). In terms of functionality, this event website also has all of their bases covered. You can buy tickets, see event details, explore the lineup, and even ask their help bot a question.

We especially liked how easy the website is to use. Even though there’s a lot of content packed into the site, the navigation is straightforward, and we didn’t have to spend time digging to find what we needed.

Bonaroo Info Navigation

Sandy Springs Artsapalooza

Sandy Springs Artsapalooza

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: GoDaddy

On the other side of the spectrum is this local events website for an Atlanta art festival. What we liked about this site is the simplicity. The design is straightforward, but it still includes all of the information you need about the festival (including built-in map functionality!). It just goes to show that your event website doesn’t have to be some masterful designed site… it can be simple and straightforward and still get the job done.

Atlanta Sport and Social Club 

Atlanta Sport and Social Club

Software: League Lab

Hosting: Amazon Web Services

Atlanta Sport and Social club is a really interesting example of an event website that uses a niche software provider (League Lab) to get very specific functionality. Take a look at their Schedule and Standings page.

Atlanta Sport and Social League Lab Functionality

You can filter by spot, date, location, and even neighborhood! They also integrate social events, corporate events, and photos. This is a great example of building a website that requires very specific functions for your niche. Remember that your event website isn’t just about what it looks like… it’s about what it does.

Mary and Bill

Mary and Bill wedding website

Software: Wix

Hosting: Wix

Another type of event website? Weddings!

Mary and Bill’s wedding website is a great example of how a simple event theme can be transformed into a fun, personalized website without having to custom-build something complex. Their “getting there” page has a cool designed map image, directions, and fun fonts and colors — all elements that make their website unique to them without having to spend money on a custom designed website that you’ll only update for a year or two.

The Mirage

The Mirage

Software: Adobe CQ + MGM Resorts

Hosting: Self-hosted by MGM

While technically The Mirage is more than an event website (it’s primarily a hotel website), it does serve as a great example of a site that needs extensive event functionality. We particularly liked how this event website example uses a card layout to display upcoming events directly on the homepage. Each card has its own call to action (like buy tickets), so it’s really easy for site visitors to see what’s coming up and then take immediate action on the events they want to attend. It’s simple, but incredibly user-friendly.

Digital Summit

Digital Summit

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: GoDaddy

If you’re looking for an event website that can display information for multiple events (i.e. several conference dates), Digital Summit’s website is a great example to use for inspiration. Notice how clear the navigation is — you can either view all events, or you can download resources (another great piece of functionality if you have educational materials to go with your event). Plus, the design is clean and polished, which is right on par with the audience they’re attracting.

Makers to Merchants

Makers to Merchants

Software: Weebly

Hosting: Weebly

Makers to Merchants is another solid example of an organization that uses a single website to promote several events. This event website uses dynamic elements (like a video header) to add some advanced design and functionality to the site. Notice how this site implements photos from previous events to give readers a feel for what to expect.

Makers to Merchants PhotosMakers to Merchants Photos

The design is straightforward, and the list of events makes it easy to see what’s coming up and RSVP quickly.

Event Details Makers to Merchants

All in all, this is a great example of a straightforward event website that gives readers all of the details they need, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at what the events look like!

Next Steps

Now that you have some inspiration in terms of the design, colors, and functionality you may want in your event website, where do you go from here?

Well, it really depends on where you are in your event website building journey!

If you’re ready to decide on a website builder, check out my guide to choosing a website builder here.

If you’re looking to go DIY with a specific template to match your design and functionality needs, check out my Build an Event Website: Templates, Design, and Setup Guide.

Lastly, if you’re wondering how to market your event website, check out my guide to creating a local marketing strategy!

The post 7+ Best Event Website Design Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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11+ Weebly Website Examples for Inspiration

Weebly Website Examples (1)

So you’re considering using Weebly as your website builder, and you’re looking for Weebly website examples for inspiration and confirmation that you’re making the right choice.

Weebly is an all-in-one “hosted website platform.” A hosted website platform is where all the components needed for a website come in a single bundle with a single monthly price.

Weebly provides the software to manage your website content; they provide the designs and functionality. They provide add-ons & extensions for unique functionality. And most importantly, they also provide the hosting (aka the server where your website files live) & security all in one price.

Essentially, using Weebly is like renting an apartment. You can customize the inside, but you don’t have as much freedom as owning a condo or a home.

But before we dive into examples of what Weebly websites look like in the wild, there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website platform: it’s not just about how the websites look. The functionality matters too.

Think of it like buying a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at a website platform should be done in the same way. We collected the following Weebly examples not just to show you how they look, but how Weebly websites can function so you can be sure you have a website that fits both the style you want and the functionality you need.

General Website Examples

Let’s start with a general round up of solid Weebly website examples. We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Again, Weebly works incredibly well for DIY-ers who want an easy-to-use website that they can throw up on their own without having to worry about the inner-workings. However, be aware that with this comes trade-offs (i.e. you give up some control, functionality, customization, etc.)

Double Arrow Veterinarians

 

Double Arrow Vet

Double Arrow Veterinary Clinic’s website is a great example of  using a basic website template to get the job done. Visitors can immediately book an appointment, the navigation at the top is clear and concise, and the important information bar puts all of the must-know info front and center. If you’re looking for an easy website that allows you to provide crucial information, this template is a great example.

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

Pueblo Dental Surgery

Pueblo Dental Surgery

Pueblo Dental Surgery’s website is a great example of a solid, straightforward website. The navigation is clear, the homepage includes an introduction with copy that describes what the center is all about, and the video is a great touch for visitors to dive deeper into learning about their services. If you’re looking for a basic website where you can plug in your services + information, this is a good example to use for inspiration.

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

Wedding Website Example

Wedding websites are a great way to give guests information about the big day, show off your personality, and post updates / pictures / anything else you may want to share with those who are involved with your wedding. Given this website has a shorter lifespan than say, a business website, you’ll want something that’s easy to customize, edit, and manage. Here’s a great example of what you can do with a Weebly wedding website:

Forbes and Don

The Wedding of Forbes & Don

Forbes and Don’s wedding website is a great example of how a simple template can look polished and elegant without having to custom-build something complex. Their fonts, black and white photography, and fun copy (check out how they met!) gives the traditional template added personality. Remember, a wedding website has a relatively short lifespan. What you’re looking for is something you can easily customize and add content to without spending a ton of time (or money!).

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

Photography Website Example

Photography websites are all about the portfolio of work. When looking for a Weebly website example to serve as inspiration for your photography, pay special attention to the layout options for your work. You want to be sure you’re showing off your photos in a creative way without sacrificing the user experience (AKA fast photo load speed, easy to navigate, high quality images, etc). Here are a few examples of photography websites we liked:

Alex Kormann Photography

Alex Kormann Photography

What makes this Weebly website a great example for photographers is the layout. The simple grid pattern centered on the page immediately draws visitors’ eyes to Alex’s work. If you want to explore a piece further, you can hover over the image to get the story, or click to see the larger photo and read the caption. Alex has given visitors an easy way to view his work in a way that’s sleek, visually coherent across the board, and is easy-to-use — all hallmarks of a great website.

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

Tommy Trenchard

Tommy Trenchard

This Weebly website is another example of a great layout for photographers. The use of the carousel of images on the homepage (with the smaller versions underneath) gives the website a unique interactive feel without overloading the functionality or taking the visitors’ attention away from the work itself. If you’re looking for a way to include some interactivity on your site without sacrificing user experience, this is a great way to do it.

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

Ecommerce Website Example

Ecommerce websites are all about their products. A good ecommerce website should have high-quality product images, be easy to navigate, and keep the focus on what you have to offer your shoppers! You’ll also want to include strong product descriptions and an easy check out process. Here are a few of our favorite Weebly ecommerce website examples:

The Box Bros

 

The Box Bros website

A great ecommerce website comes down to a few main things: high quality product photos, easy navigation, and easy check out. This website from The Box Bros checks all of those boxes. We particularly liked the product page, where the main focus is on the product images themselves. To get more info, users just have to hover over the image to see the name and price range.

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

Star Cleaner

Star Cleaner

Start Cleaner’s website stands out for a two main reasons. First, the header section includes all of the crucial information you need — the product name, what it does, and a discount code you can use when you “buy now”. The navigation is also clear and concise, and the banner at the top that broadcasts free shipping adds a nice value proposition.

Second, the chat with us bar in the bottom right hand corner of the page adds a layer of customer service that’s perfect for ecommerce sites. It gives shoppers an easy way to ask questions or get in touch if there’s an issue.

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

Artist Website Example

Need to showcase your art? An artist website is a great way to create a digital portfolio of your work. These websites should be easy to navigate, keep the focus on your artwork, and allow prospective clients / commissioners to contact you easily. Here’s an example of a great artist Weebly website:

Wendy Leach

Wendy Leach

Wendy’s website stood out to us for a few reasons. First, the use of her illustration in the header is a great example of how to implement creativity on your Weebly artist website without having to create something incredibly complex or custom-built. Sometimes, a touch of uniqueness goes a long way.

We also enjoyed the sketch book page of her site. It’s a fun to showcase pieces that perhaps don’t fit with her main work, and a great example of how navigation / website structure doesn’t always have to be your usual “about“, “portfolio“, “contact” pages (just remember not to sacrifice clarity for creativity).

Wendy Leach Sketch Book

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

Music Website Example

Similar to artist websites, music websites are all about the music. Which means if you’re creating a music website, you’ll need a player so visitors can listen to your work on your site. You’ll also want to give people the opportunity to connect with you by listing social media channels, tour dates, and places they can buy your albums! Here’s a strong example of a music website created with Weebly:

Boyante

Boyante

Boyante’s website is a great example of keeping the focus solely on the music. Their navigation gives visitors clear directions on how to learn more about them, hear their songs, and buy their music. The social media icons in the top right corner are also a great touch.

Further down the page, the site includes a music player combined with a simple about section. The combination of the player and the text is a great way for visitors to listen to the songs while also reading about the band, and the Spotify Follow button is a great way to move fans to their Spotify channel, where they can stay connected to their music and new releases.

Boyante Music

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

Business Website Example

A strong business website showcases your services, gives customers the opportunity to contact you, and builds social proof. Visitors should be able to know exactly who you are and what you do when they land on their site, and should be able to easily navigate to what they’re looking for from your homepage. Here are a few examples of strong Weebly business website examples:

E.S. Johnson Builders

ES Johnson Builders

E.S. Johnson Builders is a great example of a sleek and professional business website that checks all of the boxes: it’s easy to navigate, showcases work and services, and has contact information clearly displayed and easily accessible. We particularly liked the slider at the top of the homepage, which visitors multiple navigation options, like see available homes and view current projects (both essential for homebuyers who want a custom-build).

We also found that the Services section further down the homepage, where they feature a breakdown of their services with buttons to dive deeper into each, was a great way to add another layer of navigation to homepage without making it muddled or confusing.

ESJ Builders Services

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

FocusStage

FocusStage

FocusStage is another great example of a sleek business website that hits all the marks for great user experience, clarity of communication on what the business is about and how they can help you, and ease to contact. One of the elements that stood out to us was the video header on the homepage, which adds dimension without complication. We also liked the breakdown of the FocusStage process — it’s a great way to show visitors what it’s like to work with this financial firm.

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

Personal Website Examples

Personal websites are exactly what they sound like… personal! Whether it’s a resume / portfolio website you use to get booked or a blog you use to create content, this type of site is all about getting your personal brand online and owning your space on the Internet. Personal website should be easy to edit, manage, and customize. Here’s an example of a Weebly personal website to use for inspiration:

Dave Horak

Dave Horak

Oftentimes, people get so focused on design that they tend to forget that what really matters on a personal website is, well, you. Dave’s site is a great example of how you can build your personal brand and showcase your work without a ton of flair (in fact, great copy will do the trick). If you’re looking for a simple layout that gives you the opportunity to tell everyone what you’re all about, this one will do the trick.

Explore Similar Weebly Templates!

Next Steps

At the end of the day, choosing your website platform goes far beyond design. Why? Because all web pages are made of HTML & CSS with a few scripts thrown in. This means that any website template can exist on any good web platform.

What YOU want to focus on is the design elements and functionality that are available on the platform you’re choosing.

If you feel like Weebly fits the design and functionality needs you have for your website, you can explore more Weebly templates here.

Not sure if Weebly is a right fit? Explore other Weebly alternatives here.

TK nate links needed above!

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