Monday, May 19, 2014
Check Out the New Website
I now have a totally re-designed website, and invite you to take a look. The URL is the same as before: http://FrankBuck.org. Everything else is new, including a new hosting service. While I still have content to add, I wanted to make the site live, because I do think it is a significant improvement and one readers will enjoy.
Why the Change?
While I have been blogging for almost 10 years, my first experience with designing a website came in 2009. After purchasing a domain name (FrankBuck.org), I had one of those "now what?" moments. My hosting service did point me towards a set of free templates. I chose one and, through trial and error, was able to enter content and upload images and files.
Much has changed since 2009. From the standpoint of the reader, many more people today are reading their content from a mobile device. That's why a year ago, I changed the template for my monthly newsletter. Instead of continuing with the two-column design, I replaced it with a single-column design. (You can subscribe to that newsletter here.) The display on mobile devices is much better, and readers no longer scroll from side-to-side in order read content.
This blog's appearance on mobile devices is good, thanks to the folks at Google. I didn't understand exactly how it happens. All I know is when I read my blog from phone or tablet, all content aligns vertically. My website, on the other hand, appeared as a miniature version of what displayed on the computer monitor. Viewing content meant pinching and scrolling from side-to-side.
Secondly, the level of technical support available was far from satisfactory. Talking to a real person was impossible. I started to see some weird formatting, and could get no help.
Here is What I Did
First, I changed hosting services. I have been a reader of Michael Hyatt's blog for some time and had heard his recommendations for BlueHost. In particular, he talked about the high quality of customer service. I contacted BlueHost and created an account at a cost of $3.95 per month.
Since creating my account, I have utilized their tech support frequently. You get a live person, and the hold time for getting to a live person is surprisingly short. My experience has been that you get someone who is knowledgeable, friendly, and doesn't mind spending time with you.
Secondly, I needed a "theme" or template. Here again, tech support is important. BlueHost is not going to be familiar with the details of a particular theme.
My Theme Choice: Creativo
I purchased a theme called "Creativo." Ordering information is here. You can also view a demonstration of the theme. The $49 I paid for the theme has turned out to be a bargain due to its design, quality of the documentation, and the email tech support. A series of videos walks you through installing the theme, installing "demo data" (and believe me, you want to install the demo data), creating a home page, how to work with the "sliders" you see at the top of my homepage, and how to create blog posts.
My approach was to start with the demo data and modify it, following the video each step of the way. As I became more confident and understood the concepts, I began to get more creative.
Creativo is a "responsive theme." That term is important. It means that the site adjusts to the device on which it is viewed. When I view the site on my phone, the content aligns vertically and fits within the width of the screen.
I had my share of questions and ran into my share of problems along the way. Every single time I emailed RockyThemes tech support, I received an email response in less than a day (usually within less than hour). Sometimes, the response was to simply tell me where to go in a menu to find the controls I needed. Sometimes the answer was in the form of some html code and instructions on exactly where to paste it.
I could not have done what I did on the new website without the tech support from Stef, who is the person who responded to each of my emails. There is an old saying that you get what you pay for. I am glad I went with a paid theme, both in terms of the features this theme offers and the outstanding tech support.
Pulling the Switch
I spent several weeks slowly building the site, waiting until I had large blocks of time to devote to the site. During this time, my old site remained functional. When the new site was ready, another phone call to BlueHost provided me with the information I needed to move my website and email. One day, FrankBuck.org took people to the old site. The next day, that same URL took people to the new site.
Sometimes we don't think about everything ahead of time. Yes, if people went to FrankBuck.org, they wound up at the new site. But, if they had a link to one of the interior pages of the website, they wound up at a dead end. Since my old site was no no more, I had no way to go back to it and record the URL for each interior page. It was time to go "back in time"!
Did you know the Internet has a "Wayback Machine"? Go to http://archive.org/web and enter a URL. Select a date from the calendar which appears. You will see the site as it appeared at that point in time.
I selected my own URL and chose a date a couple of months in the past. I was able to navigate the site as if it was still live, and copied the URL from each page.
The next task was to figure out some way to have people directed to my new site if they entered a URL for one of those interior pages from the old site. A call to BlueHost tech support produced even better results than I had hoped. Rather than tell me what to do, tech support did it for me, taking each URL in turn and creating a redirect that would take readers to the appropriate page on the new site. (Now you see why I like this company so much.)
Future of This Blog
Eventually, the website and blog will be "one." All of the posts from this blog will be migrated to the website, and http://FrankBuck.org/blog will become the new address for the blog. At the bottom of the homepage, previews of the last four blog posts will always be displayed. Even now, you can see that element. At this point, only a handful of content exists. I expect the migration to take place sometime in June.
If you subscribe to this blog and get its contents in your email, I am investigating options which would not require you to do anything. When the migration happens, your content will still flow to your email, only from a different source. That's the plan, anyway. Let's keep out fingers crossed.
I do plan to keep the Blogger blog intact indefinitely. Many people have linked to it and to its various posts. At the appropriate time, information in the sidebar will be added letting visitors know where they will go to find new content.
Everything Under One Roof
Having a "responsive" website is the biggest motivation for making the move. Quality of technical support is a second reason.
The third and final reason for the move is to bring everything under one roof. Once this blog has been migrated, everything will be located at http://FrankBuck.org. I hope that when people visit to read blog posts, they will stay and read about workshop offerings and other resources. Those who come to read about workshops will hopefully explore blog posts while they are on the site.
Making the move is one that has taken time, and that time commitment is far from over. It has been a challenge. I must admit, it has also been fun.
It's your turn. If you have a website or blog, what advice would you offer others who are starting their own?