3 Ways to Debug Tech’s Diversity Gap in 2020

Silicon Valley is struggling with a bit of an image problem. That image? Straight, white, male.

In 2018, women filled only 25% of all computing-related occupations — which is about the same percentage that we saw in the 1960s. For African-American and Hispanic populations, the representation in these fields is far below the national distribution.

And at the intersection of race and gender, the state of women in tech is even bleaker: 65% of women in computing occupations are white, 19% are Asian/Pacific Islander, only 7% are African American, and 7% are Latina.

In 2019, computer programmers are no longer high-school geeks, but meritocratic winners who wield considerable power in society. Engineers at Facebook — or more precisely, the algorithms they program — decide what news we see and what ads we get served.

(If you think that ads aren’t linked to economic opportunity, think again.)

Many formerly analog tasks — hailing a taxi, dimming the lights — now rely on code that only programmers can hope to understand fully. If women and minorities are left out of coding jobs now, that omission could have ramifications on the structure of our society for years to come.

It’s clear by now that social and environmental forces contribute to the differences in earning potential for women and minorities, and that these forces also hold the same people back from careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). What needs to be done? Let’s take a look at how to debug the diversity gap.

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1. Give Every Student Access to Computer Science Classes

Early exposure to skills is crucial for securing a job in one of the best-paid and fastest-growing industries around. Yet only 35% of high schools nationwide are currently teaching computer science classes. Some schools in the U.S. are exposing young people to the basics of programming, which serves to improve their familiarity and comfort with these subjects. But to open the doors of the tech meritocracy to the underprivileged, coding needs to be taught in public schools, as early as possible — even in elementary school.

There are a lot of barriers to this.

Because the public education system in the U.S. depends heavily on local control, it’s impossible to design and implement sweeping changes to curricula in one fell swoop. National standards like Common Core and testing-focused federal programs like No Child Left Behind often leave little room for enrichment classes or electives.

In some cases, nonprofits and businesses are stepping in to fill the gap; for instance, this year Google pledged $ 25 million to support programs that help Black and Latino students have access to computer science education. But a charity initiative here or there isn’t likely to create broad-based change.

It also won’t be enough for schools just to offer coding classes: the coding gap will only close with specific outreach to marginalized groups. There is substantial data to suggest that a learned lack of confidence can discourage minority groups from choosing certain subjects in school. And one 2016 study found that boys and girls begin school achieving in math at similar rates, with a gender gap appearing as early as third grade — this is significant, as previous research suggests that early achievement in math predicts interest and confidence in the subject in middle and high school.

Even more concerning, the study indicated that elementary school teachers perceive girls with nearly identical math scores (and classroom behavior) to be less proficient in math than boys.

This unconscious bias contributes to female students lacking confidence and performing worse in future math classes.  Unless teachers work to recruit girls and minorities to coding classes and overcome their own perceptions that girls aren’t as good at math, such biases will continue to keep their numbers in the tech sector low.

2. Expand the Scope of Nonprofits

We’ve certainly been entering the Era of the Nonprofit for the past few years, and nonprofits that aim to teach coding to women and people of color abound. (A few examples: #YesWeCode. Girls Who Code. Black Girls Code.)

Lack of access to training isn’t the only issues these groups face. In the case of underprivileged youth, for instance, a major challenge is the limited access some of these underrepresented students have to computers.

But the challenges extend beyond the physical, especially when it comes to connecting students with jobs that utilize their training. Limitations experienced in this realm — such as the absence of a professional network or an unfriendly corporate culture — can prevent any would-be software engineer or developer from thriving. Successful nonprofit coding programs will be those that succeed in the final stretch: job placement, hiring, and support during the transition.

3. Retain Diverse Talent in the Workplace

It’s not just a lack of candidates in the pipeline that’s keeping representation low; it’s also a lack of retention. Support needs to continue after coders become established in their careers. At 10 to 20 years into their tech careers,  56% of women leave the field, at a quit-rate double that of men.

Why are they leaving? One small study found that the most common reasons women leave tech jobs are a lack of opportunity for career growth, poor management, and the gender pay gap. Older research cites poor workplaces including few opportunities for development and training, little support for outside-of-work responsibilities, and undermining bosses.

A 2019 study published in Nature found that nearly half of women in science leave after having their first child, compared to 23% of men. Clearly, something needs to be done to better support parents in STEM fields, particularly working mothers.

There are a number of ways to support and retain female and minority coders, starting with simply calling out their accomplishments and good ideas. Nonprofits that encourage professional networking, like Women Who Code, can certainly help women find their tribe in the industry, but in the end, it will be up to tech companies themselves to enact policies to retain female talent.

The Reality of the Diversity Gap in the Tech World

The tech industry is booming, which, in theory, should mean more demand for programming labor. But with barriers to intercontinental communication quickly vanishing, more and more programming and web-design jobs based in the U.S. are being outsourced to lower-paid workers in other countries. In fact, computer programming jobs are projected to decrease by 7% over the next eight years in the U.S., even as the computer technology industry is expected to grow by 12%.

Whether computer programming serves to be an equalizer or perpetuator of inequality in the U.S. may depend on how fast minority groups can participate and get a “piece of the pie,” so to speak, before the available opportunities shrink.

The bad news is that it’s looking like underrepresented groups will still have to try twice as hard for a shot at the same jobs, which is truly unfair.

The good news is that people are more aware than ever before that the diversity gap in tech is a real problem. Ultimately, the U.S. education system will adapt, nonprofits will grow, and more female and minority students will find — and stay in — careers in computing-related tasks.

After all, diverse teams are the only way companies will keep up with the changing demands of a world where computers are not going away.

The post 3 Ways to Debug Tech’s Diversity Gap in 2020 appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

Your Guide to Lead Magnet Creation (53 Easy Ideas)

Take it from me: Acquiring qualified leads for your business is anything but easy. A common strategy for attracting new customers is to develop a strong content marketing strategy, but that is often not enough. Just because people enjoy reading your content doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to hand over their hard-earned cash.

(If it did, the content team at DreamHost would be cruising in Lamborghinis by now. Spoiler alert: We’re not.)

So, while creating great content is critical to the success of your website, you’ve got to take it a step further and make cultivating leads an ongoing process — one that continues even after a visitor has left your site.

By creating effective lead magnets, you can offer something valuable enough to your audience that they’ll be happy to give you their email address in exchange. Then using the best email marketing practices, you can nurture those leads until they turn into paying customers.

(Googles the price of a Lamborghini Aventador. Chokes.)

OK, ready to get started?

In this article, we’ll discuss what makes a good lead magnet, why your business should invest in developing a sales funnel, and how to create your very own irresistible lead magnet to power your marketing machine. Let’s go!

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Understanding Lead Magnets (And Why Your Business Needs Them)

“Lead magnets” are incentives offered by marketers. They’re provided in return for an email address (or other contact information) from a potential customer.

Email marketing has a return of $ 42 for every $ 1 spent. That’s a huge return on investment (ROI), and it makes a compelling case for including email marketing as a core part of your overall strategy. This is why lead magnets are so essential — they help you build up your email list more quickly.

Lead magnets also give you a way to sell to your site’s visitors over the long term. On average, a visitor will spend less than a minute on your website. This is rarely enough time to convince them of their need for your services, but lead magnets provide you with additional time.

The Qualities of an Effective Lead Magnet

Of course, it’s not enough to simply create a lead magnet. To get the best return, you’ll need to design one for maximum effectiveness. A great lead magnet is:

  • Free. You have yet to convince your prospective customer of your value to them, so they’ll probably be unwilling to part with their money just yet.
  • Solution-focused. You need to demonstrate how you can solve a very specific problem for your audience.
  • High quality. You’re providing a free sample of what you have to offer, so it has to show your products or services off in the best possible light. Your value proposition needs to be clear.
  • Easy to consume. An effective lead magnet is concise and provides value quickly (a PDF checklist is a popular example). Don’t make it too complicated.
  • Instantly accessible. Your lead magnet should take no more than a click to download — you don’t want your audience to lose interest and move on.

The next step is to create a lead magnet that incorporates all of these criteria. Let’s take a quick look at what that involves.

How to Create a Lead Magnet

Creating a lead magnet can be an involved process. You’ll first need to understand what your audience is interested in. One way to do this is by reviewing your existing content to see what pieces have performed best or had the highest engagement rates.

You can do the same for your competitors’ content by using a tool such as BuzzSumo. All you need to do is enter a URL and sort the results by the total engagement metric. This will help you better understand what your target audience cares about.

The BuzzSumo content research tool.

Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to create separate lead magnets for each buyer persona or segment of your audience. Each one should be tailored to meet your audience’s specific interests and provide something they genuinely need. In other words, don’t forget to focus on quality.

53 Awesome Lead Magnet Ideas

At this point, let’s take a look at some ideas for creating lead magnets. Almost any type of content can do the trick — here are 53 examples.

1. Checklists

An email campaign checklist.

Checklists are easily consumed and very actionable. They’re also easy to create. You can extract the main points from a few existing posts, and create a checklist from them. Then you can offer the result as a content upgrade.

2. Cheat Sheets

Cheat sheets typically condense important information into a few pages that can be referenced often. SmartBlogger’s “52 Headline Hacks” is a popular example of this technique in action.

3. Templates

Templates provide a starting point or outline with some base content for users to customize. A good example is Rosanna’s free marketing plan template for creative freelancers, which is gated behind a sign-up form.

4. Swipe Files

A swipe file is a collection of tried-and-tested ideas, as well as stellar examples of content that you can store for future reference.

A search for swipe files on Pinterest.

Here’s a handy article on how to create swipe files using tools such as Pinterest and Pocket.

5. Examples

Examples are an effective type of lead magnets. Job seekers search for resume and cover letter templates, while business owners look for sample proposals. Examples can also be offered as content upgrades for relevant posts.

6. Scripts

Scripts are valuable if you have an audience that needs help creating speeches, podcasts, and even films. For example, if public speaking is a skill you excel at, you can create a business presentation and offer it as a lead magnet.

7. Toolkits

Matt Herron’s toolkit for creative writers is a lead magnet example.

People generally want to know what tools experts and influencers use. Your toolkits can function as lead magnets and generate income through affiliate marketing if you’re recommending third parties.

8. Resource lists

Who doesn’t love resource lists? A digital marketer could create a list of books, tools, websites, and more that help them stay productive. These can be offered as content upgrades as well.

9. Calendars

An example of a fitness calendar.

When creating a calendar-based lead magnet, it needs to be relevant to your audience. For example, if you’re in the agricultural industry, you could offer calendars for rearing and planting seasons. If you’re in the fitness industry, you might design a workout calendar.

10. Plans/Planners

Planners are typically created for very specific use cases. That includes meal planners for diabetics or vegetarians, workout planners for pregnant women, and so on.

11. Worksheets/Workbooks

Workbooks are often effective for business planning or creating custom personas. They typically help your audience with something practical and specific.

12. Printables

Printable language workbooks on Pinterest.

A “printable” is a general term for any resource that can be printed. This might include checklists, cheat sheets, workbooks, and more.

13. Prompts and Inspiration Files

Prompts and inspiration files help users generate ideas. For example, if your ideal customer is a web designer, you can offer design inspiration visuals. If your ideal client is a writer, you can provide creative prompts.

14. Calculators

Calculators are also useful as lead magnets. For instance, WebStrategies has a Digital Marketing Budget Calculator, which can only be accessed through an opt-in form.

15. Generators

From “lorem ipsum” to topic idea generators, these tools are often essential for productivity. You can create a generator that’s relevant to your business and offer it as a lead magnet.

Influencer MarketingHub’s Instagram hashtag generator.

For example, Influencer MarketingHub has free generators for business names, Instagram hashtags, and more.

16. Web Apps

Web apps are useful if you have the technical chops required or can afford to hire a developer to build one. You could even offer your calculator or generator as a web app that users must log in to.

17. Spreadsheets

Even in this age of mobile apps, spreadsheets are still a killer lead magnet, useful for both personal and business use. If you’ve created a useful spreadsheet for yourself, such as a time or expenses tracker, you can offer it as a lead magnet.

18. Recipes

Although there are tons of free recipes online, this type of content can still work well as a lead magnet if you offer curated content from across the web. For instance, you could let your audience choose what types of recipes they’re interested in via checkboxes.

19. Gated Content

Publishing platforms, such as Medium, gate the majority of their content behind a monthly subscription. To adopt this strategy, you might ask for an email address in exchange for access to the latter half of a blog post.

20. Tutorials and Guides

Tutorials are useful for teaching specific tasks and tools. They can be in audio, text, or video series format. Similarly, you can offer definitive guides as educational lead magnets. They’re often used because they’re highly effective, especially for educating potential customers about a particular concept, product, or service.

21. E-books

Alt-text: Derek Halpern’s “Get 5000 Subscribers” e-book.

E-books don’t fully satisfy our criteria for effective lead magnets. They are lengthier than a PDF checklist or an infographic. Regardless, audiences who prefer more detail than shorter lead magnets can provide will appreciate them.

22. Reports

Reports require you to do research and aggregate data. However, you can also create them from existing research. If you market primarily to B2B businesses in an industry heavily reliant on stats and data, this can be one of your best-converting lead magnets.

23. Infographics

Infographics can be used to present dense topics in a visually-appealing format. You’ll want to include facts and relevant statistics. To get started, you can condense some existing blog posts into infographics. These can also be shared on social media to promote the original articles.

24. Educational Videos

Videos are an effective marketing tool, as you can give your audience a close-up look at your products. They’re doubly effective if they can be made both informative and entertaining, and these days it’s not hard to quickly put together professional-looking videos.

25. Educational Audio

You can also offer educational audio content, for those who don’t have time to watch videos or read articles. You won’t necessarily need to create these from scratch since you can develop audio versions of existing videos or blog posts.

26. Webinars

Hubspot’s webinar page.

Offers with time limits generally work well, as they play to your audience’s Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Webinars are a great example of this in action, as they can only be watched live at a specific time.

27. Event Tickets

You can offer free tickets for live events in exchange for your potential lead’s email address. To promote your opt-in forms, you can even use social media and business ads.

28. Email Courses

Buffer’s email course opt-in form.

Email courses do not need to be downloaded and can be consumed instantly. Typically, you’ll send automated emails based around a specific topic. Teachable is just one of many tools that can help you create email courses.

29. Free Book + Shipping Offers

You can give out physical books as lead magnets and have your receivers cover the shipping costs, too. This is a good way to determine who your potential customers are, since anyone willing to pay to ship a product they consider valuable should be more willing to purchase your paid content.

30. Sample Chapters

You may not want to give out your ebooks entirely for free. In that case, you could simply offer sample chapters in exchange for email addresses and require payment for the rest.

31. Sample Audio/Video Clips

If you have high-quality videos, you can offer sample clips from them. Audio clips are also viable as lead magnets, even if your product is a video. All you need to do is convert your video into audio, using an online tool such as Zamzar.

32. Free Coaching Sessions

If it fits your business model, you can offer free coaching sessions to your audience in exchange for their information. This works out well since your audience will already be expecting a pitch at the end of the session.

33. PDF Versions

Another easy technique is to turn existing blog posts into PDFs and offer them as content upgrades. You can create the PDFs yourself using Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or a tool such as PrintFriendly or Beacon.

34. Transcripts

Video transcripts may be more accessible for non-visual learners. They’re also useful for those in your audience who have unstable internet connections or simply prefer to learn at their own pace.

35. Summaries/Cliff Notes Versions

If you have an ebook or another long piece of content, you can create a summary and offer it as a lead magnet. This isn’t restricted to just your own content. You can also create abridged versions of content written by experts and influencers in your field (just be careful not to plagiarize).

36. State of the Industry Addresses

For a unique twist, you can create reports and stats about current trends in your industry and then create a lead magnet out of them. This provides highly-valuable and up-to-date information. Keep in mind, however, that this content will need to be updated regularly to stay relevant.

37. Predictions

If your goal is to become an industry leader, one option is to offer insightful predictions about your industry. You can collect these predictions, include associated advice, and bundle it all together into a lead magnet offer.

38. Mind Maps

Mind maps make complex concepts easier to digest. They look a lot like visual outlines. While MindMeister is a tool specifically for making mind maps, Canva can also be used for this purpose.

39. Audiobooks

Ebooks take a long time to consume and don’t always perform well as lead magnets. However, you can turn your ebook into a more easily-consumable audiobook and use it to drive traffic to your site.

40. Presentations

Slideshare offers a lead generation tool for converting audience members into subscribers.

An example of a presentation.

This solution enables you to use custom presentations as lead magnets.

41. Roundups

A roundup is a list of tips, techniques, or recommended tools typically presented as an article or blog post. You can start by interviewing experts, asking for insights and advice. Then you can create a post by pulling quotes from the interviews and offer it as a content upgrade.

42. Newsletters

Sometimes, your email is the lead magnet. The Hustle is an example of a B2C company whose main service is sending relevant and entertaining emails daily with news from the tech and business industries.

43. Vaults/Libraries

If you’ve created a lot of educational content, you can compile it into a dedicated page or archive. Then you can ask for an email address in exchange for a handy all-in-one download.

44. Quizzes

A quiz on the Interact website.

A quiz is a series of questions for your website visitor to answer. To get a result, they’ll need to enter their email address. Quizzes are fun and convert well, plus tools such as Interact make them easy to create.

45. Surveys

Surveys can be used to solicit feedback from users who’ve been on your website a few times. Although they are more generally used for market research, they can also be implemented effectively as lead magnets, since many people will be happy to give feedback.

46. Giveaways

Giveaways help you get the attention of audiences who might have otherwise never looked your way. Using services like ViralSweep and Gleam, you can run giveaways easily. This generally involves offering some of your products for free in exchange for email addresses.

47. Desktop Wallpapers

Wallpapers can be inspiring, fun, or soothing. If you’ve made something really unique, you can offer it as an attractive lead magnet.

48. Membership Sites

B2B Marketing’s free membership offer.

There’s a reason exclusive memberships are so popular. They let you offer your audience the opportunity to join a community where they can access opportunities not accessible elsewhere.

49. Facebook Groups

Facebook groups can be used as lead magnets, just like with membership sites. They give you a great platform for building a community around your business.

50. Slack Groups

Slack has become popular in the last few years as a way for teams to communicate more effectively. It can also be useful for building communities around your brand and might work better than Facebook for certain industries.

51. Free Trials

Generally, before you pay for a tool, you’ll want to test it out to verify whether the cost will be worthwhile. Software companies typically offer a demo or trial copy for this purpose.

52. Coupons

Limited-time deals can be very attractive since no one wants to spend more money than they have to.

A limited-time deal on the Adidas website.

If you’re offering a product, coupon deals will make it much easier to persuade consumers to buy from you.

53. Case Studies

Case studies are real-life examples of customer experiences with your products and services. They are especially useful when you’re targeting other businesses. You’ll need to ask your customers for testimonials first if you want to create case studies.

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The Perfect Lead Magnet

Although email marketing offers a high ROI, it’s impossible to use it effectively without a strong base of subscribers. Lead magnets offer proven ways to increase your email list, ultimately leading to higher sales and greater profitability.

As you’ve read in this article, there’s no end to the types of lead magnets you can create. There are checklists, cheat sheets, swipe files, calendars, reports, infographics, PDF versions, etc.

All you have to do is select the option that best fits your business and audience and get to work!

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The post Your Guide to Lead Magnet Creation (53 Easy Ideas) appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

12 Ways to Get the First Sale on Your New E-Commerce Site

You’ve just set up your e-commerce site. The design is trendy, the product descriptions are top-notch, and you’ve set up the perfect payment gateway. You’re officially open for business — boom, mic drop, collar pop!

Now you just sit back and wait for the orders to come in, right?

via GIPHY

Sorry, Charlie. Getting that first sale can be a challenge, even with a solid marketing strategy.

Ideally, you’ll want to begin to market your offerings even before your store is launched. However, you can take many of the same steps to promote your shop after it’s up and running. All you need is a little patience and an understanding of which techniques are most effective and affordable.

In this article, we’ll discuss 12 ways you can get that first sale on your e-commerce site. Let’s get started!

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12 Ways to Make Your First E-commerce Sale

1. Reach Out to Your Network

The first people to be aware of your business will likely be family and friends, and you can solicit their help in getting that first sale. If your product genuinely solves a pain point for anyone in your personal network, sell them on the benefits of buying from you.

This is not much different from promoting to strangers online. To get started, ask your immediate family and friends to try out your products. You could even provide free samples. You can also reach out to your personal network on social platforms like Facebook, where you’ll likely be connected to old classmates and colleagues.

The key here is to know your products inside and out, be aware of what problems they solve, and sell people on their benefits. Make sure to follow up with anyone interested and take the time to thoroughly answer their questions.

2. Start a Blog

A blog offers a way to increase brand awareness and bring new traffic to your website. It’s also a platform where you can better expose your products to your audience. The more visitors you can bring to your site, the higher the probability you will make a sale.

 “A blog for an e-commerce store.”

Some examples of content you can create on your blog include:

  • Articles that demonstrate how to achieve a goal using your products
  • Roundup posts that showcase your best solutions for solving a specific problem
  • FAQs that answer questions people who might be interested in your products will have

To improve your success rate, you’ll also want to do some keyword research. Organically working in some relevant keywords can help your posts rank higher in search engines.

3. Build a List of Email Subscribers

Email marketing is a proven tactic for customer acquisition and retention. This means it can be a core part of your e-commerce marketing strategy.

Signups for newsletters generally indicate interest in your brand. Therefore, an email list can generate one-off sales and drive repeat purchases from customers whose interest you’ll keep active by sending them regular (and relevant) content.

Tools like Jackmail (which enables you to send automated emails) and Mailchimp (which provides email templates and tools for tracking metrics) can help you create and manage your own newsletters easily.

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4. Solicit Help From Social Influencers

As a new brand, it’s vital to keep costs low. One cost-effective strategy for getting your first sale is working with influencers – or to be more specific, micro-influencers.

Micro-influencers give you access to small, targeted audiences who already have a connection with the influencer and trust them. These influencers actively cultivate engaged and loyal followers and can get your product in front of that audience with their seal of approval.

This is a worthwhile investment because the costs involved are typically low. That also means you can work with multiple influencers to reach increasingly larger audiences as your budget increases.

"A search for influencers.”

The first step to getting started with this type of marketing is to search for influencers within your niche. You can explore relevant accounts on social media to locate candidates, or use a dedicated influencer database like Socialbakers.

5. Host Giveaways

Everyone loves free things. When you’re just starting out, you can use this simple fact to your advantage to create awareness of your business and products.

Hosting contests and giveaways can bring much-needed attention and help you build trust with potential customers. You don’t have to start big, nor do you need to give out your most expensive products. However, you do need to be willing to offer a few starter products for free.

Giveaways can help you generate interest in your brand, as you’re drawing the attention of both participants and winners to your paid offerings. Participants may also share your products or information about the giveaway itself with their friends and networks.

Services like ViralSweep and Gleam help you run contests and giveaways online while keeping things simple and professional. There are also dedicated WordPress plugins you can try out, such as RafflePress.

6. Give Discounts

Unlike giveaways, discounts do not require you to give away your products entirely for free. Plus, discounts may make it easier to persuade a potential customer to buy from you.

“An example of a giveaway.”

It can be difficult for new buyers to justify purchasing from your store at full price, especially when you have no established reputation or past customer reviews. Offering some of your best or most affordable products at a reasonable discount can be a strong incentive, reducing the risks and enticing visitors to give you a chance.

Just remember that when setting up discounts, you’ll need to take production and shipping costs into account and make sure you don’t overextend your budget. It’s also a good idea to create sales with time limits, which play to visitors’ Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO).

7. Simplify Your Site’s Design

By simplifying your website’s design, you can make it easier for potential buyers to use your site without any hassle. This is key for turning interested visitors into e-commerce conversions (in other words, your first sales!).

One way to simplify your site’s design is by reducing the number of products displayed on its pages. You want to ensure that your site’s interface is not cluttered, and that a visitor doesn’t have to jump through many hoops to find what they want. This is one reason to have a prominent search bar and clear menu options for easy navigation.

You’ll also want to use a lot of blank space to help focus visitors’ attention on your Calls to Action (CTAs). That can mean removing distracting and unnecessary elements and avoiding the temptation to include too much information on each product page.

Finally, keep in mind that mobile phones far surpass desktops and laptops for making online purchases. Therefore, you’ll want to ensure that your store is fully responsive.

8. Build Your Brand on Social Media

Building a brand makes it easier for existing customers to stay connected. It also helps potential customers find and learn about your business and the people behind it. To this end, you’ll want to create accounts on major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even TikTok.

By using social media, you can tap into audiences that are already using those platforms. You can grab their attention and create positive feelings towards your brand while creating and sharing relevant (and engaging) content.

“A brand Instagram page.”

Attracting an audience through social media is a topic worth several posts of its own. In short, you’ll want to begin by doing some audience research, and deciding what platforms to focus on. Then you can start sharing content and promoting your products, linking followers back to your e-commerce site.

Also, don’t forget that many social media platforms have groups formed around specific interests and topics. Joining these groups can help you connect with relevant potential customers and generate interest in your band. A great place to start is by signing up for and posting on Facebook Groups that are centered on your niche or industry.

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9. Market to B2B Clients

An alternative way to generate your first sales is by selling to other businesses, rather than (or along with) directly to individual customers. Ultimately, your goal is to get your products into buyers’ hands, whomever they might be.

This can be done by selling to wholesale retailers, either on a local, national, or even international level. Selling to businesses might not result in high profit margins, but it is a way to get your products in front of the right consumer audience. Once you have enough brand awareness, you can start to target customers directly.

10. Refine Your Product Descriptions

You’ll only make a sale if your site’s visitors understand your products and what benefits they offer. This means creating clear and detailed product descriptions. It’s important to include all the relevant details and specifications, as well as high-quality images and other media.

An example of a clear product description.

Some users might research products beforehand and only visit your store to make a purchase. However, others will begin their buyer’s journey on your site and will be entirely dependent on the information you provide.

You want to ensure that those users can learn everything they need to know about your products without having to leave your site to find more information. To make that happen, you’ll want to find out what questions your target audience is asking, and include those details for your products.

11. Streamline Your Checkout Process

You may have generated interest in your products, but people aren’t buying because they’re frustrated by your checkout process. For that reason, you’ll want to do everything you can to reduce cart abandonment.

If users have to create an account or are forced to answer too many questions during checkout, they may decide it isn’t worth continuing. Each additional step is a chance for your customers to change their minds about following through on their purchases.

One practical step to take when streamlining your checkout process is asking only for essential information, such as billing and shipping details. You may also want to include a progress indicator to let customers know how close they are to being done.

12. Attend a Trade Show

Of course, there are also ways to market your brand offline, such as by attending trade shows. You can likely find both regional and national events that are relevant to your niche and audience. There are plenty of sites that compile trade shows by industry and enable you to search for them, such as 10times, EventsEye, and TradeFairDates.

A search for trade shows.

At these events, you’ll get to meet both individual customers and wholesale vendors. You can drum up interest by offering free samples, exclusive coupons, or promo codes to any visitors who come by your booth. While it takes a little more work than some of the other options on this list, trade shows are an excellent way to get some exposure and start building relationships.

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Get Those Online Sales

Launching your online store is only the first step in starting an e-commerce business. Getting your first sale can be a real challenge. However, by taking a few well-proven steps, you can start your e-commerce store off on the right foot.

One of the best strategies for getting those initial sales is to put a lot of high-quality content out there, via your blog and social media profiles. You can also host giveaways and offer discounts to drum up interest or look into less obvious options such as marketing to B2B clients and attending trade shows.

If you’re looking to build or grow an online store, our WooCommerce hosting packages make it easy to sell anything on the world’s biggest e-commerce platform. Don’t hesitate to check them out!

The post 12 Ways to Get the First Sale on Your New E-Commerce Site appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

10 Ways to Make Your Website Accessible

Every website owner wants to attract as many visitors as possible. However, few take the steps necessary to ensure their site can be used by everyone. There are millions of users out there who rely on sites being accessible, and if you don’t take the time to understand their needs, everyone will be missing out.

Fortunately, accessibility isn’t difficult to implement. You just need to understand the underlying issues that can make a site hard or impossible to use by certain people. Once you do, you can take steps to avoid those mistakes and make your site welcoming to all visitors.

In this article, we’ll look at what website accessibility actually involves and why it’s so important. We’ll also outline the most important accessibility guidelines and show you how to implement them on your site. Let’s get going!

A Brief Introduction to Web Accessibility

Ideally, everyone should be able to use any website on the internet. It shouldn’t matter if they have a condition that affects their capabilities or what hardware and software they need to use. This is the main tenet behind the concept of web accessibility.

The fact is that millions of internet users have special needs, disabilities, and impairments that can make it difficult or even impossible for them to use certain types of websites. By designing your site with these challenges in mind, you can ensure that it’s welcoming to as many users as possible.

While there are a lot of disabilities and conditions that can affect the way people use websites, let’s take a look at some of the most common categories of impairments:

To work around these issues, many people use assistive technologies to browse the internet. This includes screen readers that vocalize the text on each page, speech recognition software that converts speech into text, Braille terminals, and even alternative keyboards that accommodate special needs.

As such, it’s possible for almost anybody to browse the web. What’s more, you can make their experiences significantly better by designing your site with accessibility in mind.

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Why Making Your Website Accessible Should Be a Priority

As you can imagine, the benefits to the user of making your site accessible are huge. This is an important thing to do simply from a humanistic perspective, as it ensures that you don’t shut out people with disabilities.

Of course, improving accessibility on your site provides you with a lot of benefits as well. Crucially, it immediately expands your potential audience. The math should be evident here. If more users are able to use your site, you’ve just grown your potential user base exponentially. This could put you one step ahead of competitors who may not have taken the same steps towards accessibility.

By thinking in terms of accessibility, you can also benefit all your visitors, not just those who fit the categories we listed earlier. Many of the considerations involved in making your site more accessible will also improve its overall design and usability. Plus, you’ll be making your site more flexible and “future-proof” along the way.

Finally, it’s important to note that many countries have laws regarding web and software accessibility. As such, you may be legally required to match specific accessibility standards.

Thankfully, you’re not alone. The Web Accessibility Initiative project has been working since 1997 to help improve accessibility online. Be sure to check out the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, also known as WCAG, on their site. These guidelines specifically outline steps you can take to make your site more user-friendly.

Similarly, WordPress has its own Make WordPress Accessible team that focuses specifically on the platform. There are also countless other community-driven projects, such as A11Y, that provide guidance and resources to help you create highly accessible websites.

10 Ways to Make Your Website Accessible

Now we’re going to look at a few ways you can make your website more accessible right away.

First, we should mention that one of the most important things you need to do is choose the right Content Management System (CMS) to run your site on.

When it comes to accessibility, few CMSes can top WordPress. As such, we’ll be referencing a number of solutions specific to the WordPress platform throughout this guide (although you can find accessibility tools for nearly any CMS).

1. Make Sure Your Site Is Keyboard-Friendly

This step is also the most important. Put simply: for a website to be accessible, it must work without the use of a mouse. This is because many assistive technologies rely on keyboard-only navigation. As such, it must be possible to use all of your site’s major features via a keyboard and nothing else. This includes accessing all pages, links, content, and so on.

The most common way of navigating using a keyboard is with the Tab key. This will jump between areas on a page that can have “keyboard focus,” which includes links, buttons, and forms. Therefore, your goal should be to ensure that all web content and navigation can be accessed using Tab.

This is easy to test — simply use your own site without a mouse. If you find that you can’t access certain elements or that navigating is difficult, you can pinpoint those issues and address them. To help you out with this, WebAIM provides a handy guide for keyboard accessibility design.

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2. Make Sure All Content Is Easily Accessible

In addition to making your site keyboard-friendly, you also need to ensure that all content on the page is actually accessible. While this is usually not a problem, it can be an issue when a page contains dynamic content.

In short, content is dynamic if it can change without the page it’s on reloading. This can become a problem if the site doesn’t inform assistive tools of the change. For example, many screen readers will only “read” the site as it appears when it first loads. As such, you need to make it aware when something shifts, or the user will miss the new content.

One way you can do this is by using ARIA landmarks. These are tags you add to content in order to clearly define it on the page. You can tag dynamic content as a “live region,” which enables screen readers and similar devices to understand the content as it changes.

ARIA is also useful for making navigation more straightforward as it lets users skip directly to specific content. This way, they won’t have to tab through every menu item just to get to your main content and can easily pass over other link-heavy sections. The same effect can be achieved using skip-to-main links, which are invisible links that let users skip menus. However, ARIA tends to be more flexible and efficient.

The Make WordPress Accessible handbook contains a section on ARIA landmarks that you may want to check out. It’s also worth noting that all WordPress themes with the accessibility-ready tag will have ARIA landmarks added by default.

3. Add Alt Text to All Images

When adding images to WordPress, you’ve probably noticed this field.

alt text field example

Here, you can enter the alternative text for an image. This text acts as a replacement for the image if it fails to load.

example photo with alt text "photo of a green plant"

However, alt text (sometimes called alt attributes, alt descriptions, or alt tags) is also accessed by screen readers to “read” the picture. You can, therefore, use this field to describe an image, giving context to users who would otherwise miss it.

As if that weren’t enough, alt text can also help you improve your site’s SEO, giving search engines more information to crawl. Just make sure to write descriptive summaries of each image, and try to include your keywords whenever it makes sense.

4. Choose Your Colors Carefully

We often talk about color blindness as if it’s a, no pun intended, black-and-white issue. However, it’s more of a spectrum since different people perceive colors in unique ways (remember The Dress)? As such, you need to make sure the colors you select on your site contrast well to ensure that everyone can distinguish between various elements on the page.

The most pressing issue is making sure text stands out against the background. Ideally, you should set a dark color against a light one, making sure that they don’t bleed into each other.

Let’s say you want to use a blue color scheme. You’d want to avoid creating a palette where the shades are too similar in hue and saturation, like this:

example of blue color scheme similar in hue and saturation

This is very difficult to read. Instead, a clearer color contrast works much better.

blue color scheme with clearer contrast
You’ll also want to avoid clashing colors that could cause eye strain. Check out this headache-inducing album cover if you don’t believe us.

There are plenty of online tools you can use to find and test color combinations. WebAIM has one, and we also like Contrast Checker because it gives you a score in real-time. The latter tool also enables you to switch to monochrome to get a rough idea of how effective any given combination is.

5. Use Headers to Structure Your Content Correctly

Another key task to make your site accessible is structuring your content by using headers carefully. Doing this will make your content much easier to understand and digest and improves flow.

Additionally, clear headers also help screen readers interpret your pages. This makes it much easier to provide in-page navigation. It’s also simple to do as you only need to ensure you use the correct heading levels in your content.

For instance, you should only use one H1 per page – usually as the page title. This can be followed by subheadings starting with H2, which can then be nested further with H3, followed by H4. These should always be used in order so you should avoid using an H4 directly after an H2 (and so on).

6. Design Your Forms for Accessibility

Forms are a useful addition to most sites but must be designed carefully. What’s most important is to ensure that each field is clearly labeled. You should also aim to place the labels adjacent to the respective fields. While a sighted user can easily match a label to the corresponding field or option, this may not be obvious for someone using a screen reader.

You should also aim to provide instructions and information in a clear way that the user can easily understand. To create accessible forms in WordPress, you can use a tool like the Caldera Forms builder. This is a plugin specifically focused on accessibility, which will make your job much easier.

7. Don’t Use Tables for Anything Except Tabular Data

When it comes to displaying data, tables are handy. They make it much easier for all users, including those using assistive technology, to parse a large amount of data. To get the maximum benefit, however, you’ll want to keep your tables as simple as you can.

In addition, it’s best to avoid using tables for anything but tabular data. For example, you should never use a table for layouts, lists, or anything else. This can be confusing to screen readers and similar devices.

If you do need to create more complex tables, you can follow this guide from W3. It shows you how to code a table while maintaining accessibility standards.

8. Enable Resizable Text That Doesn’t Break Your Site

Most devices and browsers will enable users to resize text, which can be helpful for those with visual impairments. However, if you don’t build your site to support this feature, resizing text could break your design or make it difficult to interact with your site.

A good practice is to avoid absolute units, such as specifying text size using pixels. Instead, use relative sizes, which enable the text to scale depending on other content and screen size.

dreamhost web hosting simplified landing page

You should also never turn off user scalability as this will make it difficult for users to resize the text at all.

To make sure your site meets these criteria, test your font sizes thoroughly by increasing the zoom level in your own browser. If you notice that content becomes difficult to read or navigate, you can check out this guide by WebAIM that discusses font size.

9. Avoid Automatic Media and Navigation

Automatically-playing media files have been a bane of internet users since the days of MySpace. As annoying as it can be to have music or videos start when a page loads, this is an even bigger issue in terms of accessibility.

For example, figuring out how to turn off the media can be difficult when using a screen reader, while other users could simply be confused or even frightened by the sudden noise. You should, therefore, avoid including elements that start without the user first prompting them.

It’s also best to avoid automatic navigation, such as carousels and sliders. This can be incredibly frustrating if the viewer needs more time to absorb all the information before moving on to the next slide or section.

10. Create Content With Accessibility in Mind

Finally, we come to the core of your site: its content. While designing your site for accessibility is hugely important, you should bear the same considerations in mind when creating content.

This means paying attention to relatively minor things, such as always fully writing out acronyms, to more important points, like making sure you give all your links unique, descriptive names and anchor text.

If you’ve read through this entire tutorial, you’ll already have a clear idea of the potential issues that can cause certain users trouble. Keep in mind that — just as your site should usable by anybody — your content should be approachable and readable no matter who discovers it.

Web Content Accessibility Matters

Making sure your site is welcoming to as many people as possible should be a top priority. There’s no reason to exclude anybody, especially since it’s relatively easy to avoid doing so. Not only will your users thank you, but you’ll also likely see benefits in the form of increased traffic and conversions.

By taking the time to understand the possible flaws in your design and content, you can make sure your site is optimized for accessibility today.

At DreamHost, our mission is to empower people to get online. That means we take accessibility seriously. If you’re ready to set up a site, consider DreamPress, our managed WordPress hosting solution. With automatic updates and strong security defenses, DreamPress takes server management off your hands so you can focus on what really matters: creating a site that can be used (and enjoyed) by everyone. Learn more about plan options today.

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Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

Line and Grid: Building Brands and Breaking Boundaries

The solid, intersecting lines of a grid are foundational tools of graphic design. Designers use grids as a guide to create visual flow and rhythmic space. Grids keep their projects consistent, balanced, and harmonized.

And the best designers know when it’s time to break out of that framework.

That’s the concept behind Alex Banman’s Toronto-based business, Line and Grid, which represents the intersection of bold, classic design principles with making a strong impression in connecting to an audience.

“The purpose of my business is to multiply the value of my clients’ marketing efforts through brand design,” Banman says. “I usually work with smaller-sized businesses, directly with the owner.”

In launching his business just over two years ago, Banman broke out of his own personal grid by pivoting from a promising young career as a talented branding designer to making it as a business owner.

“I’ve always felt that I wanted to run my own business,” Banman says. “The pressure was building for years; I had waited a long time for the right moment. I felt that I wasn’t going to start unless I just started at some point.”

So he took the leap and created his own one-man branding agency, building up an impressive portfolio of clients in industries from real estate to duct cleaning, designing logos and branding websites, fliers, even trucks.

In the process, he’s embarked on a crash course in marketing — both for his own business and his clients — and has found DreamHost, his trusty web host, to be a surprising key partner in his success along the way.

Breaking the Grid

A native of British Columbia, Canada, Banman made his way to Toronto after studying design in college. As a large city center, Toronto was a great place to jumpstart a career in graphic design.

“I was always interested in starting my own business,” Banman says. “But I spent about seven years working in the industry before [making the leap].”

Trained in design for print, Banman taught himself some coding skills and worked several jobs in digital branding before being hired by a real estate agent. “I built his brand from the ground up; I did his print materials — promotional booklets, mailers, and business cards — and also published his websites and digital ads.”

Working for others gave him some practical experience in moving beyond the principles of graphic design to seeing for himself how these principles actually help business owners connect with clients and reach their goals, providing context for his skills in creating a visually-stunning graphic.

“It helped me see how my work fits into the bigger marketing machine,” Banman says.

Even through this success, Banman felt the pressure building to act on his dream to break out on his own. Partway through 2017, he started making plans — wrapped up projects with his employer, rented a coworking space, and in February 2018 finally took the leap.

“I was really excited to be doing what I wanted to do,” Banman says. “I was nervous in some ways, but I was also quite confident because I had done reasonably well as an employee. It was definitely a mix of emotions. I wasn’t sure what would happen. There were so many challenges — every single day during the first year and a half of my business. It felt like I was learning something new every day.”

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Selling the Skillset

By his own admission, Banman was idealistic, even cocky, when Line and Grid was newly minted. But as he got down to business, he soon enough got a taste of the real-world challenges of going solo in the marketing industry.

Fortunately, Banman was able to keep his real estate employer as a client but found that garnering new ones didn’t come easily. He had hoped to get some leads through networking in his coworking office space, but that wasn’t working out. Part of that, he says, was because his business’s services are so intangible — and the other part was how much he had to learn about selling himself.

Alex Banman, founder of Line and Grid
Line and Grid founder, Alex Banman

“I realized how niche my skillset is,” Banman says. His work for others had been part of a bigger marketing strategy, allowing him to focus on just one part of that strategy: branding design. As a business owner himself, Banman realized that while he could create an effective logo and crisp website design, he had a lot to learn if he wanted to actually get eyes on that branding.

“If you aren’t getting your designs and your messaging in front of people, it doesn’t matter how good it is,” Banman says. “I had to broaden my understanding of marketing and the role my specific services play for a business. So that was a big lesson. And still, I’m still getting a handle on that and learning about the technical side of marketing every day.”

Banman discovered that an essential piece to selling himself — and keeping clients — was crystal clear communication.

“In the past, I’ve been a bit of a rock star designer — I was confident that I was bringing something super valuable to the table,” Banman says. “Since I’ve become the business owner, the way my clients feel on a day-to-day basis in communicating with me is hugely important.”

The clients Banman works so hard to land could drop him at any time — a fact he’s all too aware of in every interaction.

“I’m younger, I’m new at this, and what I sell is intangible,” he says. “People are very careful and wary. The quality of my communication with clients has been extremely important. I’m careful about being clear — so they understand exactly what’s happening each step of the way — and making the experience positive and enjoyable.”

The Power of Branding

Line and Grid example client design.

While Banman helps his clients with some aspects of marketing, his primary work and passion is branding. Branding is anything that defines a business’s ethos, connects with its customers, and makes it stand out among the clutter of competition. This includes logo design, along with any visual messaging across print and digital mediums.

“Branding is so powerful because it multiplies the success of a businesses’ marketing efforts,” Banman says. “It helps people remember the business. It generates buzz in the marketplace. It solidifies the business as a market leader, when the message is communicated clearly. Clienteles trust branded businesses more than unbranded businesses.”

Line and Grid design examples of stationery.

Banman has seen again and again how effective branding can be at turning around a business. One client, in particular, stands out — a small duct cleaning company in Vancouver.

“The project actually failed at first,” Banman says. “I did quality work and what we agreed upon. I made some website changes at a set price, and I did some design work. But I also promised more clients and web traffic. And a month later, we weren’t seeing the results.”

So he headed back to the drawing board.

“We did some research in the marketplace, and I made suggestions based on that and came up with some new strategies,” Banam says. “The short term, we had positive traction. And he was happy; he was selling more.”

The long-term results were even more telling. At the end of the year, the client discovered he made 150% of what he had made the year before and attributed the success to Banman’s work.

“He was able to pay off all his debts,” Banman says. “He’d been in debt for years, ever since he started the business himself. He was able to completely get out of debt and was super busy. That was definitely the project I’m most proud of since I started my business.”

Banman’s work is all about the design. There’s nothing like pulling up an empty doc on Adobe Illustrator and getting lost in the flow of making art, watching a design take shape. It feels great, he says, to create something and send it out into the world.

“My inspiration comes from my client’s goals and their company ethos,” he says. “It’s inspiring to see how passionate the business owners are about delivering a certain quality of service or product and how much they care, and what they do to deliver a quality product or service. And then also their goals and what they want to achieve and what they want to reach with their business for themselves and for their families and for their communities.”

Joining the DreamHost Fan Club

Imagine you’re at a restaurant, and you’ve just asked the waiter for a glass of water. Four hours later, he shows up, exasperated, and says, “That will just be a few more minutes.”

Banman felt like that waiter when he confidently told his client it would be no problem to migrate a domain — not through DreamHost — for him. Hours later, passed around from support person to support person, Banman came up short on his promise.

“It was just making me feel like I look super incompetent,” Banman remembers. “I thought it would take me a few minutes to migrate the domain, and it ended up taking hours. I don’t price by the hour; I give a quote upfront so there’s no unexpected costs. Fortunately, this client understood and asked me to bill him extra. If he hadn’t, I would have lost out on revenue there.”

The experience shocked him — a longtime DreamHost customer, he was accustomed to a simpler way of doing customer service.

“So with DreamHost, it’s just completely painless, every single time,” he says. “The service is reliable. The user interface is intuitive. And it’s affordable. It just works really well for a business owner like me.”

Banman doesn’t remember exactly why he chose DreamHost in the first place, though he does say that the name and design — the branding — spoke to him. It didn’t take long for his web host to grow on him.

“I’m just absolutely a huge fan of DreamHost — maybe a little more than the average person for a hosting company,” he says. “Getting things done is easy. The packages are affordable and economical for small businesses like me and the ones that I serve. But the main thing that I think is just so important is the customer service is absolutely incredible. Hands down, I can’t think of any better customer service.”

Banman always works with his clients using their system of choice, but when clients are looking for suggestions or building a website from the ground up, he recommends DreamHost. He’s proud of how his own website can act as a portfolio for him, showcasing his design skills and his own brand ethos.

Line and Grid example illustration.

“As a graphic designer, you have to have a great website,” he says. “I like the bold, modern look of my site. It’s about communicating boldly with a clean-cut, cold, sharp aesthetic. The work is front and center. I want clients to be able to see exactly the level of quality of what we’ve done in the past and therefore, what we can do for them.”

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Branding and Rebranding

Like many small business owners, Banman is focused on growth, especially since Line and Grid is in its infancy. As part of that growth, he’s planning to rebrand a bit himself, improving his business to better meet his clients’ needs and attract new ones in the future.

“My next biggest goal is to just market my agency a little more aggressively,” he says. “I’ve come to the point where clients have a positive experience with me; I’m streamlining the process more; I’m improving my skills all the time. And it’s time for me to get a better handle on the technical sides of marketing in order to reach more clients.”

While some new business owners might look forward to hiring employees and delegating some of their work, Banman’s vision is slightly different. “Rather than maintaining a price point and servicing more clients over time with a larger team, I intend to improve the service more and more and serve higher-paying clients as time goes on.”

For now, there are more design grid guidelines to follow (and still more to break) as Banman builds his business, outlining his own future.

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Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

DreamHost Joins MobileCoin Foundation

Today we’re happy to announce that DreamHost has joined the MobileCoin foundation.

MobileCoin is a cryptocurrency designed from the ground up with privacy, price stability, and usability in mind. MobileCoin’s low-cost global payment network is key to the continued success of our global customer base looking for an inexpensive, easy-to-use payment platform.

What are cryptocurrencies?

Put simply, cryptocurrencies are digital currencies. They’re encrypted and decentralized payment systems. And there’s a lot of them out there. You’ve probably heard of Bitcoin — the world’s first cryptocurrency. In all, there are over 6,000 digital currencies trading today with names like Etherium, Dogecoin, and Brettcoin, to name just a few!

MobileCoin is simple to use.

MobileCoin aims to be as easy and intuitive to use as some of the world’s most popular payment systems. It was created with ease-of-use and a focus on the end-user experience at the heart of every design decision.

It’s stable.

MobileCoin is designed to be highly resistant to the volatility inherent in most cryptocurrencies. It’s what’s called a “stablecoin,” as its value is tied to actual currency in the world. It’s quite unlike other cryptocurrencies whose value can jump and rise several thousand dollars over the course of just a few hours due to the actions of just a few coin holders.

It’s fast.

Traditionally, most cryptocurrencies have been very difficult to use. Technical hurdles — combined with tremendously long transaction times that take hours (or days!) to complete — have caused many cryptocurrency enthusiasts to treat it as a long-term investment and not a spendable currency. Due to some smart architecture decisions, most MobileCoin transactions complete in under 10 seconds.

It’s secure.

MobileCoin is focused on user privacy. As its name implies, MobileCoin is meant to be a mobile-first cryptocurrency that integrates into secure communication apps like Signal and WhatsApp.

Our Involvement

DreamHost is proud to be a MobileCoin launch partner.

We’ve always embraced open source projects that help people own their digital presence, and MobileCoin ticks all the boxes. It’s a low-cost global payment network that helps all our customers, particularly our international customers, transact business safely and securely.

DreamHost will be inaugural members of the MobileCoin Foundation, and we’ll be donating our time and resources to run several smartly-designed, highly encrypted MobileCoin processing nodes on our network.

These nodes are just a first step. We’ll continue to offer advice and guidance through our seat on MobileCoin’s Technical Advisory Committee and can’t wait to see how our many small business customers choose to take advantage of this new payment technology.

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Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

How to Create a Link Building Strategy

Your website is not an island. While creating top-quality content is important, your website’s relationship with every other site on the vast sea of the internet is just as vital. You won’t get very far if no one is linking to your pages, and you can’t expect many people to do so without some effort on your part.

Even if you can’t force people to link to your content (and you shouldn’t because your mama taught you better than that), you can take some simple steps to encourage other sites to send visitors your way.

All it takes to generate quality links is a little careful planning and a few proven techniques.

In this post, we’ll talk about why you need a fully-developed link building strategy. Then we’ll explore how to create one effectively. Let’s get going!

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What Is Link Building (And Why Does It Matter)?

Unless your website is very unusual, it’s going to contain a lot of links. Internal links point towards other pages on your own website, while external links point away from your site to other web pages. Having plenty of both is vital for your site’s User Experience (UX) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

However, there’s another kind of link that should be on your radar as a website owner.

Backlinks are links on other web pages that point towards your website. So if someone writes an article on their news site and includes a link to one of your blog posts, that’s a backlink.

 A blog post with multiple backlinks.

Backlinks are just as important as the links you include on your own site because:

  • Links to your site improve your visibility, helping to familiarize people with your brand.
  • They also bring new visitors to your website, including those you might not have had an easy way to reach otherwise.
  • Google and other search engines view backlinks as a positive symbol — they indicate that others find your content useful and worth linking to. Therefore, having plenty of quality links to your site (from relevant websites with high domain authority) can improve your search engine rankings.

There’s no doubt that the more people are linking to your site, the better. However, there is one big problem when it comes to backlinks — you rarely control them. This means you’ll need to engage in some link building or take steps to increase the number of backlinks pointing your way.

Doing that isn’t always easy.

There’s a lot of content for people to link to and they may not even know about yours. So you’re most likely to succeed if you can put together a comprehensive, well-thought-out link building strategy.

The Dos and Don’ts of Link Building

In a moment, we’ll walk you through the process of putting together your link building strategy and successfully executing it. First, however, it’s important to cover some basics.

For example, there are things you’ll want to avoid (like the plague) while conducting your link building efforts. These include:

  • Avoid paying people to include your links on their sites. That’s generally considered unethical, and if Google finds out you’re doing it, you’ll be penalized severely.
  • Don’t mislead people about your links in an effort to get them featured. This is likely to backfire on you — if people click on a link leading to your site but find out that your content isn’t relevant to them, they’re just going to leave.
  • Never spam other people’s sites with your links manually. It can be tempting to add links to your site’s content to as many other websites as possible. However, doing this too much can harm your credibility and get a lot of your links reported as spam.
  • Opt out of link directories and link exchange schemes. These are shady techniques developed to get a lot of links into the public quickly — like the above methods, they can backfire and get the attention of Google (and not in a good way).
  • Familiarize yourself with “black hat” link building techniques and don’t use them. This mostly means trying to get “hidden” links on pages by cloaking them, making them hard to see, or even hacking directly into other sites. Pretty gross, right?

Some of these are obviously bad ideas, while others (such as link exchanges) might initially seem smart until you learn more about them. None are worth the risks involved.

So what should you do? We’ll go into more detail shortly, but let’s lay the groundwork with these link building “dos”:

  • Encourage links from high-quality and high-ranking sites. The quality of your backlinks matters just as much to Google as the quantity. So where possible, you want to try and get backlinks from sites that are trustworthy, well-maintained, and visible.
  • Focus on relevant websites. You want to encourage new visitors likely to be interested in what your site has to offer. Backlinks on sites relevant to their needs are much more valuable than backlinks from random pages.
  • Reach out. You don’t have to simply hope for backlinks — you can actually ask for them directly, and there are several effective (and non-intrusive) ways to do so.
  • Use a variety of techniques. One link building method may not get you too far — but a combination of three or four smart techniques can make a big difference.
  • Create awesome content. Your content marketing matters! The truth is the better your content, the more likely people are to link to it, whether as a result of your efforts or simply stumbling across it.

At this point, you’re probably wondering how to put all of this into practice. Without further ado, let’s jump into the practical portion of link building 101.

How to Create a Successful Link Building Strategy (In 5 Steps)

First, a caveat: Like any way of promoting your website, there is no “one right way” to do link building. Likewise, there’s no golden ticket that will get you a hundred backlinks by next Thursday (if you find one, hit us up!).

However, you can take some basic steps that will greatly improve your chances of successfully increasing backlinks. We recommend starting with the following five steps, molding them as needed to fit your unique needs.

Step 1: Take a Close Look at Your Target Audience

A lot of successful link building comes down to pursuing backlinks in relevant places. This means you have to be very familiar with your target audience. If you don’t know what they care about and where they hang out, you can’t encourage links they’re likely to see.

If you haven’t done so already, this is a perfect time to put together a target audience profile. That’s a detailed description of the visitors you’d like to attract to your website. You’ll want to research them carefully and collect information on their demographics, behaviors, interests, needs, and so on.

Audience demographic information.

When it comes to link building, you’ll want to pay particular attention to where your target audience spends their time online. What sites do they visit and which social media platforms do they prefer? These are the places you’ll benefit most from including in your link building strategy.

This is also a good point to research your competitors’ backlink strategy.

If you can, find out what kinds of sites link to your top competitors. It’s also useful to know what online places and communities your competitors are ignoring, as those can contain audiences hungry for the quality content you’re offering. That’s a link opportunity you don’t want to miss!

Step 2: Audit Your Existing Content

Next up, it’s time to think like a content marketer. You can’t encourage links to your site unless you know what you want people to link to. Generally, you’ll want to focus on specific content, rather than simply your home page (which can appear more spammy and less authentic).

So this is a great time to conduct a thorough audit of your site’s existing content. While doing this, you can:

  • Look for top-quality pages and posts (or even product pages) that you think other sites would want to link to. Add these to a list as you go, so you know what represents your best content.
  • Find any content that could be great but needs a little improvement. With a few tweaks, so-so articles can become a target for a quality backlink. This means ensuring that they’re up-to-date (for example, make sure you don’t have a broken link in the text and that stats are still accurate), match your brand’s style guide, and provide value to your audience. This publication checklist is a good way to make sure you don’t miss anything.
  • Search for “gaps” you can create new content to fill. There may be information or topics that you think other sites would be happy to link to, but you haven’t written about yet. You can follow our guide to writing a blog post to get started.

After auditing your content, the next natural step is to start improving and expanding it. Having lots of high-quality content makes link building a lot easier.

It’s also worth noting that if you don’t have a blog on your website yet, now is the time to start one! There are few things better than a blog for generating lots of new, timely content that people will want to share with their audiences. If you’re not convinced, check out how these companies are using their blogs to increase brand awareness and build their reputations online.

Step 3: Consider What Link Building You Can Perform Yourself

As we mentioned earlier, most of link building involves getting other people to link to your site of their own volition. However, there is a little link building you can do on your own, without venturing into spammy territory.

Who doesn’t love a little DIY?

The first and most important part of this step is internal linking. You need to make sure all of your online presences are connected. This means your social media accounts should point to your site (and vice versa), and if you have more than one website, they should be interlinked as well.

Website link on a social media profile.

You can also include some links to your content on other people’s websites, particularly in forums and comments sections. But be careful — don’t create too many of these links and make sure they’re always highly relevant. You don’t want to be that person shilling Bitcoin on every other post.

Your best approach is to find sites and communities your target audience is present on and engage genuinely with them. When organic link building opportunities come up and you can share a helpful link, don’t be afraid to do so. While these links are not considered as valuable by Google as a natural link created by someone not affiliated with your site, they still have an impact.

Step 4: Start Conducting Outreach

At this point, you’ve done a little link building of your own. You’ve also improved your site’s content marketing efforts, which will hopefully generate more links for you organically (as people stumble across and share your pages and awesome articles).

However, the best way to build links is to ask for them.

Yep, you can reach out to a website and simply ask them to link to your content. This is a common practice and can be very successful when approached carefully. It can even help create the foundation for mutually-beneficial relationships between you and other relevant sites.

So, what does successful outreach look like?

Everyone’s strategy is a little different, but the following tips and techniques are key:

  • Reach out to highly-relevant sites. This is where all your research back in Step No. 1 will come in handy. Sites that see your content and audience as relevant to them are more likely to welcome your request, rather than seeing it as intrusive.
  • Offer specific content they can link to. It’s not usually effective to just email blogs and write, “Link to my website, pretty please?” Instead, use the results of your content audit to identify specific pages and posts you’d like to share and request links to them specifically.
  • Share genuinely useful content. A link building request is obviously self-serving, but it doesn’t have to be all about you. Do some research on the site you’re reaching out to and find something you think would really be interesting or useful to its audience. Blog posts, tutorials, infographics, and videos are all great options.
  • Suggest specific places your links could be included. This shows that you’ve done your research and makes accepting the request easier on the target site. You can propose new links where none currently exist or even offer a better piece of content as a replacement for an existing link. Don’t forget to offer up some anchor text to make it even easier for the other site’s admin.

Most importantly, remember to be polite and conduct yourself professionally. Never demand that someone include a link to your site — people who manage successful websites learned not to feed internet trolls a long time ago. Instead, create a concise and friendly message that you can send to the sites and blogs on your list and try to personalize it for each one.

Step 5: Get Involved in Guest Blogging

Guest blogging can be one of the most powerful tools in your link building strategy. Also called “guest posting,” it involves writing a brand-new post specifically to be featured on another website. This post can then contain one or more links back to your site and content.

An example of a “write for us” page.

You can often get farther with guest blogging than with simple link requests. After all, you’ll be providing content to another website for free. In return, they’ll link back to your site. This is a very attractive proposition for blogs, in particular, since they’re always in need of fresh content.

Just like with outreach, guest blogging is most effective if you follow some simple best practices. These include:

  • Avoid sites that want you to pay them to publish your guest post. Most blogs will accept this kind of content for free, so there’s no need to pay for placement unless you’re desperate to be featured on a specific high-profile blog.
  • Check the blog to see if they have guidelines for guest bloggers. Many will have a dedicated “write for us” page that outlines their requirements, what they will and won’t accept, and so on. By carefully following these guidelines, you’ll increase your chances of getting past a busy blogger’s spam filter.
  • Do your research. Find out what the blog’s style is like and what kinds of topics they cover. This will help you come up with a topic idea that they’re more likely to accept.
  • Reach out with a proposal first. Don’t simply write up a full post and submit it — these will often be rejected and can waste a lot of your time. Instead, reach out to the blog and let them know what topic you’d like to cover, what key points you’ll include, and what link(s) you’re hoping to see.
  • Create quality, unique content. Never copy content from your own site or elsewhere (plagiarism is always a big no-no) and instead take the time to put together a unique, polished post for each blog. Also, avoid getting too “salesy” about your own website or products and focus on providing real value to the blog’s audience.

This is the most time-intensive of our link building strategies. Still, it can pay off in increased visibility, improved authority, and links that are perfectly placed to capture your audience’s attention. Plus, you might develop mutually-beneficial relationships with some of these blogs, providing further opportunities for interlinking in the future.

Measuring Your Link Building Efforts

The above steps should get you well on your way to running an effective link building campaign. However, like other digital marketing tactics, it’s important to measure your effectiveness. Otherwise, you won’t know if your efforts are paying off or if your approach needs to be adjusted.

Trying to keep tabs on your backlinks manually can be very difficult — it’s best to use an analytics tool instead. Many solutions can tell you everything you need to know about your backlinks, quickly and with minimal fuss.

If you have a favorite analytics tool already, chances are it can help you out in this area. If not, a perfect place to start is with Google Analytics. This tool is free, accessible to beginners, and full of useful metrics and features.

For instance, you can go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals in your Google Analytics dashboard.

Referral traffic in Google Analytics.

Here, you’ll see data about the visitors who arrive on your site from external links — in other words, everyone who comes to your website via a backlink. This includes a summary of trends over time, as well as a detailed breakdown of all the links leading to your site and how popular they are.

A list of referral sources.

You can use this data to monitor the results of your backlink strategy. It’s also handy for seeing what sites are linking to yours, and which ones drive the most traffic your way. When combined with Google Analytics’ many other data points, this can even tell you how your link building strategy interacts with your other marketing and SEO efforts.

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Pass the Link Juice

If you want to improve your website’s traffic and attract more of your target audience, link building is necessary. A complete link building strategy helps you encourage relevant sites to share your content with their audiences. It’s a method that takes a little time to master but is cheap, cost-effective, and highly-trackable.

Of course, bringing traffic to your website is just the start. You also want those new visitors to have an excellent experience — which starts with high-quality web hosting. Fortunately, our shared website hosting can do the trick!

The post How to Create a Link Building Strategy appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

What Is Domain Privacy Protection?

The consequences of a data breach can range from relatively harmless to potentially costly. You may already have multi-factor authentication turned on everywhere, only use strong passwords, and never click on a suspicious link.

But if you’ve ever registered a domain name, you may not be as secure as you think.

When you register a domain as a website owner, you are required to provide contact info — your phone number, email address, and mailing address. This information isn’t private by default and can be the gateway to some unfortunate outcomes with shady characters on the internet. That’s why we’re here to help you understand the measures you can take to protect yourself.

In this article, we’ll discuss domain privacy protection — what it is, why it’s worth investing in, the potential trade-offs involved, and how to enable it. Let’s get started!

Free Private Domain Registration

We believe you should be able to control how much of your personal information is shared online. DreamHost includes WHOIS Domain Privacy at no cost for the life of your domain.

What Is Domain Name Privacy?

Domain name privacy (also called WHOIS privacy) is a service offered by domain name registrars to keep your personal contact information from being publicly displayed in the WHOIS directory. That directory is a public database of all website domain names, which includes contact details about the owner of each domain, and can be accessed by anyone.

The WHOIS directory is maintained by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the organization responsible for introducing Top-Level Domains (TLDs). ICANN requires that the following information be associated with each domain:

  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailing address

Let’s take a look at why you’d want to keep your WHOIS information private, beyond just the fact that “it’s exposed.”

Why There’s a Need for Domain Name Privacy

Several different websites enable you to do a WHOIS lookup, including the official ICANN site. It’s easy to understand why this directory exists — having a central and public database of domain names and their owners can come in handy if there’s ever a legal dispute over ownership.

“The official ICANN lookup tool.”

More than that, however, is the accountability this system affords in cases of cybercrimes and copyright theft. Information acquired from the WHOIS database can be used to limit the malicious behavior of offenders across the internet.

Here are some of the most common ways people typically use information from the WHOIS directory:

  • To buy a domain that’s not currently available. Business owners sometimes find that the domain name that matches their unique brand has been taken. The WHOIS directory is one way to find the current owner of the domain and offer to buy it. This is particularly relevant if, for example, that person doesn’t have a live website containing their contact details.
  • For unsolicited marketing efforts. If you have a domain name, you’re probably either looking to build a website or already have one. Therefore, you can expect to receive dozens of emails from marketers offering to help you build or redesign your website.
  • For running scams. Aside from spam emails, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll receive emails from people who’d like nothing more than to scam you out of your website’s data or profits.

As you can see, there are ways that those with both good and bad intentions can use the WHOIS database. The bad will outweigh the good for most people, however, especially if you’re not a large corporation that can simply use the public address of its headquarters in its WHOIS details.

The Pros and Cons of Domain Name Privacy

At this point, let’s take a closer look at what you stand to gain or lose when you opt for domain name privacy, rather than sharing your information openly.

Pros:

  • You protect your personal contact information since all identifying details will be replaced by the domain registrar.
  • You’ll avoid some spam (meaning less work for your spam filters) and attempted scams.
  • You can mitigate the risk of having your site hacked (and your customers’ details compromised) or hijacked completely.

Cons:

  • You are sometimes charged a premium for this service, which can be anywhere between $ 10 to $ 30 (in addition to usual domain hosting fees).
  • You risk creating a false sense of security. Your protection is still not 100% guaranteed, as disreputable companies may sell your personal information.
  • Ownership of your domain name is less legitimate. The entity whose details is listed in the WHOIS database for a domain is considered its legal owner.

It’s worth noting that here at DreamHost, we offer domain privacy for free, which mitigates one of the chief disadvantages. This means that for most users, the positives of keeping their domains private will outweigh the few drawbacks.

Before moving on, we should also mention that some TLDs have special circumstances, and domain name privacy may either be attached by default or be forbidden. These include:

  • Privacy by default. Domains such as .al, .gr, .ca, .is, and .uk have varying levels of restrictions placed on them. For some, no information about the owner is disclosed, whereas for others, the owner’s home address may be hidden but not their full name.
  • Privacy is forbidden. This applies to domains like .us, .in, and .it.

So when deciding whether or not you want to make your domain private, you’ll also want to consider your TLD and find out if it has any special rules.

How to Enable Domain Name Privacy for Your Website

There is no one right answer as to whether you should or shouldn’t enable domain name privacy. It’s a recommended step for most users, but the pros and cons detailed above should also guide your decision-making process.

If you do decide to pursue domain name privacy, there are a few ways to do so:

  • Get a secondary email and P.O box. This is a costlier method than paying for domain privacy (around $ 100 on average), but it is an option. You just replace your own address with that of a P.O box and create a secondary email you don’t use for anything important (so it doesn’t matter how many spam or scam emails are sent to it).
  • Use a domain name privacy service. Entering your personal details anywhere online obviously comes with some risk, but this can be mitigated by keeping that data private. Domain registrars can replace your information with anonymous details so that only they have access to that data.

If you have a website here at DreamHost, adding domain privacy is easy!

You’ll start by visiting the Registrations page of your DreamHost control panel and using the checkbox to enable privacy for your desired domain.

The Domain Registrations page of the DreamHost control panel.

Just check “I want all my contact information private” and save your changes. That’s all you need to do!

Get Domain Protection Today

Although the WHOIS public directory has an important role to play, it is often misused for purposes such as scams and identity theft. So while you may be painstakingly keeping your personal details protected everywhere else, you might be sabotaging those efforts by leaving your details exposed in the directory. Investing in domain name privacy is a practical way to protect both you and your website’s visitors.

Want a painless process for your next domain registration? Try DreamHost for hundreds of unique TLDs, straightforward pricing, and free WHOIS Domain Privacy!

The post What Is Domain Privacy Protection? appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

Need an Online Portfolio? Get Yours Up and Running in Just 10 Minutes

If you’re a freelancer, you probably already have a solid Facebook page, current LinkedIn account, or Twitter presence. But if you’re looking to land top clients and thrive in a saturated market, relying on social media isn’t enough. You also need an outstanding online portfolio.

The benefits of a digital resume are tenfold — seriously. 

A portfolio website can help you establish your personal brand, show off your talents and skills, land new jobs and clients, and solidify your professionalism in a way that social media just can’t on its own.

So first, let’s talk about what makes up a good digital portfolio. Because, obviously, if you’re going to do it, you want to do it right. Then I’ll show you how you can use DreamHost’s own website builder to get your portfolio online in less than 10 minutes. 

Yup, just 10 minutes!

We’ve Got the Ultimate Website Design Tool

When you partner with DreamHost, you get access to WP Website Builder and more than 200+ industry-specific starter sites for free!

What Makes A Good Online Portfolio?

If you include the following must-have elements into your digital resume, rest assured potential clients will be wowed by your talent — and your website.

1. Unique Domain

It should go without saying that your online portfolio needs to be its own website — and that means you’ll need to choose the right domain name. As a freelancer, it’s often smart to either pick your own name or the name of your business for your domain name. While .com is still a very popular TLD, there are many more options available — at DreamHost, we offer 400+ domain extensions. All those domain options mean you can find a TLD that perfectly fits your business and your personal brand, whether it’s .photo, .guru, or .band.

2. Responsive Design

The best news about creating an online portfolio: You don’t have to know how to code to get a professional website up in minutes. Instead, when you use WP Website Builder, you can pick your favorite mobile-responsive website theme and then just add your own content.

Remember: It’s vital to have a mobile-responsive design. Today consumers spend 87 hours per month browsing on their smartphones — and only 34 hours surfing on a desktop. If you want to reach all your future clients or potential employers, having a mobile-friendly website is not optional.

3. High-Resolution Images

There are several reasons why good graphics matter, but here’s the most important: The images you choose can make or break your website. That’s because your graphics are the first thing visitors see first. If the pictures look good, visitors will stay engaged and assume you know what you’re doing. But if you’ve got unattractive images or poor-resolution photos, your website can drive visitors away

4. Samples of Your Best Work

The main reason a prospective client goes to your website is to see your work samples. So whether you specialize in writing, design, or another skill, give them what they came for! Consider including 10 to 20 pieces of your best work or projects to showcase. If you don’t have real-life samples because you’re just getting started, feature spec work on your website instead. 

5. “About Me” Page

Not only do potential clients want to see your work, but they also want to get a sense of who you are from your professional portfolio. An “About Me” page is a great way to showcase your personality and pitch your work ethic. Think of it as an evergreen cover letter. 

6. Videos

Videos are the most widely consumed content on the internet. As you build your portfolio, consider showing off some of your samples and introducing your work in a well-crafted video that can be easily uploaded to your portfolio.

7. Contact and Rate Information

It’s common to have your central message on your main page, and then add other pages to your website for secondary information — think “Contact Info” or “Pricing.” If you’re looking to pick up freelance work with your portfolio, you need to make it easy for potential clients or employers to navigate your site. Here are five fail-safe rules for structuring your website’s menus and pages

It’s as simple as that! 

When you give your personal brand an online presence, you set yourself apart from other professionals and are one step closer to landing the perfect client. 

How To Get Your Portfolio Online

To boost your job prospects, you need to create an online portfolio website. But getting one up and running doesn’t have to be a complicated — or lengthy — process. Here’s how to create a great-looking portfolio site, step by step. (No advanced web design expertise necessary!)

1. Connect to WP Website Builder.

To get started, you’ll need to select “WP Website Builder” as an option during your DreamHost purchase. Then, we’ll automatically install WordPress and our website builder tools, BoldGrid’s Inspirations and Page and Post Builder, for you. Once you’ve logged into WordPress, you’ll see the Inspirations setup page.

If you’re already set up with us (yay, you!), log in to your WordPress site or access your site from your DreamHost panel. On the left menu, select Inspirations. Here, you’ll access the tech that powers our premium site builder. 

'Inspirations’ menu in the WordPress dashboard.

You’ll see the BoldGrid three-step outline. Click the orange Let’s Get Started! button to begin.

BoldGrid’s 3-step outline

2. Pick your theme.

Browse through the theme categories on the left side of the screen to find the template that works best to showcase your work. Hover over your prefered theme, and then click the Select button.

WP Website Builder themes menu. 

And don’t stress. The WordPress theme you choose doesn’t have to be perfect at this stage. Later on, you’ll be able to edit your theme to align with your brand.

3. Add contact information.

Now it’s time to add some simple contact and social media information. WP Website Builder uses this information to set up social media sharing for you, but you can also skip this step if you’re not interested. 

"Adding your information.”

4. Finish and Install.

When you’re ready, click on the Finish and Install button. While you wait for the quick-start wizard to set everything up, feel free to take a well-deserved break. 

5. Edit your theme.

Now it’s time to add your personal touches. Make adjustments to your theme — editing colors, placement of text and other features, and fonts. Add and build out page options based on the functionality and look you want, explicitly gearing your layout to promote your work. Then it’s time to add some killer images and original content. Flex those creative muscles!

“Making changes to a page.”

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Ready to Get Started on Your Portfolio Site?

Now that you know how easy it is to set up your own website, there’s no reason not to have your own online portfolio — unless, that is, you want fewer paying gigs. It’s time to start showcasing your work beyond social media accounts. 

With a decked-out online portfolio website, you can position yourself in search engines for discovery and boost your job prospects. The best news? With DreamHost’s WP Website Builder, creating a professional online portfolio has never been easier. 

The post Need an Online Portfolio? Get Yours Up and Running in Just 10 Minutes appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.

Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge

How to Design a Website Without Knowing How to Code

As a small business owner, the importance of owning a website cannot be overstated. When you’re just starting out, however, you may not have the funds to hire a web designer. So the task falls to you or your team instead.

The good news is that you can build a website yourself without getting bogged down with any technical details. Using WP Website Builder, DreamHost’s suite of premium tools and plugins, you can quickly set up a professional, easily-customizable website — no coding knowledge required!

In this post, we’ll walk you through setting up a basic hosting plan with WordPress and WP Website Builder pre-installed, which you can use to create a responsive website from scratch. Let’s get to work!

We’ve Got the Ultimate Web Design Tool

When you partner with DreamHost, you get access to WP Website Builder and more than 200+ industry-specific starter sites for free!

An Introduction to WP Website Builder

The landing page for WP Website Builder.

It can be challenging to design a unique, fully-functional website from scratch. Going the traditional route requires you to learn, at the very least, web design languages like HTML and CSS. You also need to consider responsiveness across different devices, cross-browser compatibility, and accessibility for different types of users.

Enter WP Website Builder!

Built by our friends at BoldGrid, WP Website Builder is a drag-and-drop tool for creating websites with minimal effort. You’ll get access to a huge selection of professional website templates, making it simple to create a unique-looking site and publish your content quickly. And while you don’t need any coding skills to use WP Website Builder, you’ll be able to scale up your site’s functionality over time because it’s built with WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system (CMS).

Best of all, as a DreamHost user, you get access to WP Website Builder for free! All you need is one of our Shared or DreamPress plans.

How to Design a Website Without Knowing How to Code (In 6 Steps)

So how can you get started with your new site? The following six steps will take you from purchasing a hosting plan all the way through building a website.

Step 1: Create a DreamHost account

Shared hosting plans come cheap and are perfect for getting your small business off the ground. You get a user-friendly interface with a no-stress one-click installer and the flexibility to build any kind of website: whether that’s an e-commerce store, a business website, or a blog.

For new website owners, we’d suggest starting out with either a Shared Starter or Shared Unlimited plan. On the checkout page, tick the checkboxes shown below, either under the Additional Options section or in the right-hand menu, to pre-install WordPress and include WP Website Builder.

The checkout page for the DreamHost Shared Unlimited plan.

If you already have an account, you can access your DreamHost control panel to add WP Website Builder to an existing WordPress installation instead.

Step 2: Access Your Website and Choose a Theme

At this point, you’ll want to log in to your new WordPress website. You’ll be presented with the BoldGrid Inspirations wizard, which will walk you through much of the setup process. Click on the Let’s Get Started button to begin.

The WP Website Builder BoldGrid Inspirations wizard.

Next, you’ll want to choose a theme for your website. This will provide a starting point and help to determine your content’s appearance and layout.

The Inspiration wizard theme selection screen.

Hover over any theme to see it more closely, and click on the Select button to apply it to your site. We’ll go ahead and select the Cobalt theme. Keep in mind that you can always change your theme later, and you’ll also be able to customize many of its elements and styles.

Step 3: Choose Your Content Structure

Once you’ve selected a theme, the next thing to do is choose a content structure. Click on the Change Content button to begin.

The Inspiration wizard Content screen.

You’re given three Pageset options: Base, Five Page, and Kitchen Sink. You can also choose whether or not your website will have a blog.

Adding a blog to your site.

The Content screen also lets you see how responsive your website will be across different screen sizes. That way, you’ll know what it will look like for both desktop and mobile users.

Step 4: Enter Essential Site Information

This next screen lets you fill in information that will be used to populate key aspects of your website, such as your contact information and social media account details. You can also leave this screen as-is and edit these details later.

The Inspiration wizard Essentials screen.

Once you’re done here, select the Finish and Install button to complete the installation.

Step 5: Design Your Pages and Posts With the Drag-and-Drop Builder

After the installation is complete, you’ll be presented with your WordPress dashboard. The next step is to begin customizing your website by adding new pages and posts (if your site includes a blog).

The WordPress dashboard.

We’ll start by adding a new page called Documentation and include some content on the page using blocks.

The Add New Page screen.

The next screen is divided into two sections. The right-hand side of the page gives you a selection of blocks, and the left shows you a preview of what your page will look like once it’s live.

Hover over an appropriate block and click the + Add to Page button.

The Add New Page screen.

Here’s what our page looks like once a few blocks have been added.

A new page with multiple content blocks.

Once you’re satisfied with a block, select the checkmark icon to accept it. 

Step 6: Customize Your Blocks and Publish Your Content

After adding a block, you’ll be taken back to the main editing screen. This is where you can edit the blocks you added or include entirely new content.

The Add New Page screen.

When you’re done editing, preview your page to make sure you’re satisfied with the look, and then select the Publish button to make it live.

Publishing a new page.

If you chose to include a blog on your website earlier, you can create posts just as easily now. Click on the Add New link that appears when you hover over the Post menu.

Creating a new post.

You can then create your post exactly the same way your page was designed. Clicking the + button will open a menu with different types of block options. Once you’ve created your post, preview and publish it, or save it as a draft to continue editing it later.

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