Archive for August, 2006

17Aug

It is really much easier to configure WordPress categories than you might expect. You can always add more categories as you need them, but you can get started now setting up a few relevant categories that you already know you will be writing about. I do recommend trying to stick with simple category titles that people might search for.

Web Templates Blog adds this quicky tutorial to your WordPress Themes startup info. How to Configure the categories of your new blog – and you’ll need it before long if you make regular entries that you want people to find. Here goes . . .

STEP #1 – Open the Admin Control Panel

Go to the admin control panel
Click on: Manage > Categories > Add New
View the Screenshot

STEP #2 – Adding New Categories

Insert the name of the new category.
Click on: Add Category
View the Screenshot

STEP #3 – Edit Categories

Now you can see the new category you have added on the list.
Click on: Edit, next to the new file name you created.
View the Screenshot

You need to verify that WordPress selected an a good file name. (Example: if you chose the category name of “The United
States,” it would select “the-united-states” as the file name. We would want to change that to “united-states”.

Save changes by clicking on on: Edit Category
View the Screenshot

NOTE: This new category will NOT show in the sidebar of your blog until you have added a post to that category.

STEP #4 – How to Assign a Post to a Category

When you write a new post, you will see on the side of the screen a list of your categories. Remove the checkmark from
the “General” category and place a checkmark in the category of your choice.

View the Screenshot

Before publishing the post, remember to create SEO Friendly WordPress URLs by choosing the file name (slug) for the
post.

View the Screenshot

If you did this, then you have proven yourself ready for anything wordPress has to dish out. Enjoy your blog, because not everything good is difficult.

Makin’ It Happen,
Arthur Browning

16Aug
Comments Off

Organize Your Website

Everybody wants a beautiful, easy to use website – seducing those customer/readers to return over and over and over again (it sounds like a love ballad). Figuring this out can be frustrating (website, not love). This is especially true when you are trying to find a method that works well for your website visitors while still effectively optimizing for the search engines (workin’ that magic).

For example: Maximum exposure in the search engines, do not use a pop-up window to view full size product images. You should optimize new pages for each of your products, using additional niche key phrases.

Now, firstly, and foremostly, use the template that has the basic structure that you want. 1,2,3,4 columns? Left hand links or right hand? Nextly, organize your website into categories – – yes, categories. It makes ordering your products/services and subproducts/subservices into easily found and labelled pages/subpages and navigation links/sublinks.

Using rows or columns of thumbnails is a good way to order things, along with a brief description of the product just below the thumbnail. Adding an “add-to-cart” button makes it easy to shop, and easier to sell. Each thumbnail image is linked to a new page, and the image text title should also be linked to the new page.

This new page should not be a pop-up window, and it should contain full navigation, just like all of your other pages. You should optimize that page specifically for an individual product. It should have a full-size image of the product, along with a thorough description of the product. Visitors should be able to click “add-to-cart” here as well. There should also be a text link for your visitors to return to the category page. Since you do not know which page your visitor is going to enter the site on it is important that they can make a purchase from either page.

These are just the broad strokes. You could add a site-search by keyword for your products or services, etc. And don’t let your visitors get all mixed up in your website (or mixed up in love if you can help it).

Raising the Bar,
Arthur Browning

15Aug

Screenshot of WordPress Free Template

WordPress probably has the most popular platform at present for bloggers. But is WordPress a good idea for Business? For most businesses, probably yes. How will you decide on whether to add a blog to your business? Here’s a rundown of the considerations:

Do you actually need a blog? – – Writing and updating a blog takes work and time, as well as some ability and interest in writing. If you don’t like to write, it may not be your cup of tea. You have to weigh this one out against spending money for advertising or links.

Who do you need to reach with your blog? – – This is all about telling visitors/customers about your products/services. Do your products need or benefit from explanation? Do your potential customers want to read? If you sell an impulse-buy item from a local storefront then there is probably no need to blog, a sign should do. If you sell complex, unique, or intangibles rich merchandise, then you have to get the word out somehow, and a blog is very effective once the URL is in front of their eyes – either by ads or by SERP.

Is your buyer an internet user? This is an easy one. (Duu-uuuh!?)(Couldn’t resist) Is your buyer a blog reader type?

If you need SEO, a blog is an excellent way to boost your search engine rankings and get listed for a lot of your target keywords. If you know that your audience uses search engines to find information, a blog will increase your chances of getting their attention.

What else can a blog do? – Increase your visibility, brand your products, build a like-minded community, expand your presence to new locales, establish your credibility as an expert in your field, put a human face on your business.

You must try to be objective about what you want to achieve with your blog so that you can remain focused and spend your effort on activities that help. Some business bloggers not only spend time writing their own blogs, they read up on other blogs in their field. If you have no time to blog you can hire someone to do the work – but then you should rethink a decision to start a blog.

Decide on your platform because it can be very difficult to move an established blog to a new platform once it is started. A move can result in losing your data, search engine listings and readers, so don’t take this decision lightly. WordPress is my favorite, easy to use and free.

Screenshot of WordPress Free Template

To determine how successful your blog is in boosting your profile or profits you will have to measure your blog traffic and track sales. And to get your blog address out there for local business you can put your blog URL right on your business card and stationery so that your contacts can easily be updated on your business developments at work or at home. I’ve seen shops with their site address right on the sign. I’ve seen flea marketers and people selling right out of their cars with a blog address on their car or truck. You can buy these from auto signmakers.

If you have a blog that’s doing you some good, drop us a line, we’d like to hear about it.

Ever the Raconteur,

Arthur Browning

Screenshot of WordPress Free Template

14Aug

Web Templates Blog welcomes Robert Burridge for an interview. This interview is the latest in our series of interviews with web designers. Robert is Manager and Lead Developer of Website King. He has one project of which I am particularly fond, The World by Train. As it happens, this project and its protagonists will be picked up for a feature by the Discovery Channel. Congratulations Web Site King!!!

“I got into web design about four months after subscribing to the internet in 2002. I had surfed the web and gotten bored and decided to create my own site called ‘AskUncleShaggy’ which was a funny Agony Aunt column whereby its visitors would send in their problems (mostly fictional) and I’d give a funny answer. I was hosted free by AOL Hometown. At the time I was 29 years old and working as a Floor Fitter here in the UK. As my site grew popular I wanted to add a Guestbook, ‘Add to Favourites’ script and the like. After paying some ludicrous prices to Web Developers I went surfing and self taught myself a fair bit of basic HTML and Java. Deciding I had a real interest in this work I signed up with ‘Computeach’ for a qualification as a ‘Master CIW’ (Certified Internet Webmaster) which took 4 years and 4,000 pounds to complete. Because I’d started off as an amateur wanting to save money I make sure my company never loses focus of our goal – to provide PROFESSIONAL design at a low price.”

“I personally specialise in template editing (HTML, etc.) since by using a template we are able to offer our customers the very best product at the lowest amount of time and money.”

“I feel the next big development in Web Design will be Flash. With broadband accounts so low-priced everyone will switch, and viewing a Full Flash site will not be so much of a chore. Designers will love the freedom and the showing-off that only Flash permits, and for once we won’t all be kissing Google’s ass (!) They’ll have to move with US to ensure ‘the holy spider’ can index and rank our Flash sites.”

“I have worked with web templates since 2002; 80% of my work is based on templates. (I’ve asked Template Monster for extra money off a few times but they are not interested in customer loyalty and so recently we have begun to use other template providers including FlashMint and Boxed Art). We have tried many template providers including IceTemplates, Flashmint.com, BoxedArt, TemplateMonster and Sorbose. . .Our experience with IceTemplates was not good..we had to wait almost 5 days to download the template and were forced to give our customer a 20% cost reduction once we had finished the work for his company (we have never used them since). Boxed Art are okay but lack friendly customer service. Flashmint are great ! Templatemonster’s templates often seem the same as each other – small variations of the same template (or templates I’ve seen elsewhere); their customer service is good and my only criticism is why they insist on hiding their Pay by Paypal option when so many people today prefer to use it. Sorbose are great but they are very ‘Flash’ based and do not offer a service of supplying a chosen template as HTML (its Flash or nothing).”

“Flash is a wasted opportunity – people hate to wait for it to load and Google can’t read it properly. Flash sites don’t index very well, which is a major put-off. For this reason we only use it for Headers and steer our customers clear of Flash Intro’s.”

“My inspiration is in fact the ‘Minimalist’ School of Interior design and ‘Bushido'(a Samurai code of ethics that encourages us to not litter our lives, be frugal and not confuse). I studied Interior Design at College and love the ‘Clean’ look. I try to not copy ideas or design inspirations. My favourite web site designs have to be. http://www.mercedes-amg.com/ (AMAZING !) and www.springdigital.co.uk/.”

“My personal toughest project was for a one-page ‘web site’ (which is no longer online) to advertise a ‘Sky Caddie’ Golf device. It took me 5 designs before I’d settled on the final design for the project and then the customer asked me to word it’s sales pitch!”

“My interests in webpage design are fresh ideas which most often originate from new blood working on templates or original designs. Although ‘500years experience as a Web Designer’ may sound impressive, we’ve seen a few portfolios of persons asking us for Freelance work and they are plain boring. Again, my favourite style is what ‘Templatemonster’ defines as ‘Corporate/Clean’. My dislikes in Web Design are that there are so many people out there without any real knowledge or qualifications trying to call themselves Designers/Developers. I also despise animated GIF fluffy cats and ‘Welcome’ signs the likes of which we see littered on WYSIWYG disasters every day.”

“Thank you for choosing to interview myself. On behalf of the whole team here at www.websiteking.co.uk we thank you for
your interest in our work and product.”

It’s a pleasure to interview a guy like Robbie, and I like the frank spontaneity he brings to the interview. Thanks to Robbie and the Website King team.

Arthur Browning

10Aug

A Content Management System (CMS) is used for webdesign so that the content of any of the pages can be created and changed from any internet connection. The php, asp or jsp scripts call in the data from the mysql or sql database to create the content of the page.

Static webpage design is easy, but content managment is hard. To update the webpage content on a regular basis, you would require continuous support. This kind of dependency leads to continuous expenses and/or a poorly updated site. This a problem that a content management system solves.

The management of content includes creation, updating, distribution, publishing, and discovery of content. CMS also helps to generate new pages, categorize the content, manage the layout and presentation of the site, manage users and permissions for the site, manage other dynamic modules on the site, and many other things by way of a user-friendly Admin Panel which requires minimal or no technical expertise.

THOSE BENEFITS AGAIN:

  • Create and Manage New Pages
    Manage Site Navigation and Meta Content
    Assign Users to Manage the Content in a Decentralized Way
    Manage Site Layout and Presentation by Editing the HTML
    Manage Other Modules on the Site (Perhaps Installing a Forum)
    Better Consistency
    Increased Security
    Reduced Duplication of Information
    Reduced Site Maintenance Costs
  • CMS-based websites have a “front-end” for the public, a database which stores the vital data of your website, and an Admin Panel to manage the site. Through the Admin panel you create the content pages just as if you are creating a document in MS Word. This is a completely non-technical interface using no code, HMTL, javascript, or programming language.

    You simply click to create a page and a page opens. You are then asked to define the attributes of the page; like Title of the page, Link Title for the frontend navigation menu, and page content. The page content box uses a WYSIWYG editor which helps you to improve the presentation of the page – making some text bold or colored, or creating hyperlinks. You can also upload images with your content. You can define the meta tags for the page, publish an expiration date, author information, etc. This all makes your page more meaningful. Once a page has been created you will save it in the database on the server. This stores all the content of the site, along with the other supporting details.

    CMS allows you to make the content management an interactive process between you and your users. A similar page can be accessible to your users to post content like articles, news or comments. The added content pages can be accessed through the Admin Panel and then approved or disapproved for publishing on the site.

    CMS-based websites can be designed wholly, or you can choose any open-source system: Drupal, Xoops, Mambo, Joomla, Typo3, etc. The question arises, ‘Won’t my site look like everybody elses’s?’ The answer is not necessarily. Many quality content management systems will allow you to apply templates and plug-ins to your site which can set the design of your website apart from others. You can do nearly anything that HTML and CSS can do. Typically, you can find templates on the main web site for the content management system that you’ve chosen – but there are a lot more custom skins that can be purchased, and most main websites let you design your own. And this makes your new website as exclusive as any site can be.

    Content management systems are no longer new to the market and they are established as a very important part of the internet. Now CMS-based websites can create SEO friendly pages and be managed by users worldwide.

    Rockin’ Steady,

    Arthur Browning

    8Aug

    Web Templates Blog welcomes Kimberly Barreda to our weblog. She has allowed me to interview her, making it the latest in our series of interviews with web designers. Kimberly is the Editor of Active Living Magazine. I especially enjoy the healthy, recreational slant of this magazine and the caring voice of the articles, something this society needs more of. My favorite article from the current issue is “The Social Graces – Fielding Personal Questions In Public Places”.

    Kimberly came to my attention when I found out she was involved with charitable projects that involve websites and webpage templates. Kimberly explained that she had made a request of Template Monster to donate a template for John’s Golf Course – The Non Profit, No Greens Fees Course for the Handicapped. This project is about making sport and recreation available to the handicapped. The website has a lot of great promotional photos, my favorite is the photo of John with Terry Bradshaw.

    Kimberley Barreda requested template #6807 from templatemonster.com
    to use for the website. John Espinoza – a Special Olympics Golfer, did not have a lot of resources and Kimberley wanted to upgrade John’s website to something considerably more effective so they could further the work they had started together.

    So, Kimberly, how did you get into website design? “I paid someone three hundred dollars to design a page for Cripworld.com in 1994 and he stole my money. While he was working on it, I asked him if he’d teach me html and he said no.”

    Do you remember the very first site you designed? “Yes – it was HIDEOUS – I thought I could make this great ‘map’ of my site and it would be so cool, with drop shadows and clipart.. then I thought I was REALLY advanced and started using FRAMES – hahahhahhahhhahaaa – lots and lots of frames. . .”

    Are you specializing in any way? “I work for a publishing company that operates a network of (currently 14) sites – all with different content but all disability related – and being in the community – it’s where I do my best work.”

    Where do you get your ideas for webpages? “It depends on the site – sometimes I have ideas in my mind on what I’d like to see if I went to the site. . .other times, other people have a concept that would be really cool – for the art, we go to Templatemonster.com usually – I browse the new art with the sites we’re developing in mind and something usually jumps out at us.”

    Have you ever worked with website templates? “Extensively – we have 14 sites in the network and I believe 10 are template based. I used to use Moira’s web jewels, then I paid a known cartoonist to design some, then I found Template Monster. Moira’s was fun, they were free. . .Template Monster has worked out really well for us.”

    What do you think about Flash technology? “I’m on diallup – lots of us still are and it makes me wait. . . Great presentation and the ability to offer something fun – we’ll be using flash extensively on a new site that features sports videos – but if you’re on dialup – I usually skip the intros if they provide a link.”

    I asked Kimberly to tell me more about John’s golf Course. “The story is wonderful, a disabled veteran and volunteers from around the country build a golf course for people with disabilities that is completely free. It was built after John’s brother Michael passed away in a car accident. John started swinging Michael’s golf clubs to be closer to him and that got Steve (John’s father) thinking – so they all went to a local golf course and – well – were treated less than courteously. The family heard every word the gentlemen said about John. So did John.”

    “Now the course is 9 years old and the tournament last month was a lot of fun. I won ‘worst golfer’ of the event. They still work on no budget at all and they sell tamales to raise money to cover the expenses as well. They are such nice people. Maybe you would want to golf with John if you’re ever in the area? . . .they LOVE the site – absolutely LOVE it. . . it was considerably different before the design – just white with lots of text.” Thankyou, Kimberly.

    The Real Deal,

    Arthur Browning

    7Aug

    Blogging is getting more popular everyday. Bloggers have things to say and pictures to show. Most bloggers want comments, dialogue, recognition. Will visitors come back? It depends on how your site feels. The feel of the blog is based on how it looks, what it says, and the way you say it. Visitors make the decison to return, bookmarking your blog, for these reasons.

    People first visit your blog because they know you, or they know the subject of your blog, hopefully from the title. If you use obscure wording for your title then your blog is never seen by the reader who searches for the subject of your blog. Of course if you are the blogger who just wants to cathart or ramble on about whatever strikes you when you’re on the net, then blog your way to obscurity. I’ve read some of these blogs and so have you, e.g. “Ho-hum – well,well, my, oh my. Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten out of bed. What’s it all about?” Gimme a rest!!! Mold is more interesting. Who would ever return to hear this gas.

    Or maybe your blog is a rant – a self indulgent, self righteous rant. Maybe your pissed, yearning to convey the hard injustice of the true cynic – – proven with curse words and verbal abuse of those not so near or dear. “Lame mother – – s, I will never party with those scumbags again. Like I need that kind of sh- – to jack me up.”

    Or maybe you are the demented soul who believes people want to know that you don’t actually have a subject, e.g. “Seems the same, nothing like now, nothing like before (here a hint, there a hint, everywhere a hint, hint).” Finally, you intuit that the real title of this blog should be “Kill me, please.” Enough humor.

    If you have a subject, please stick to it, that way we get to read your subject matter. If you wander off into the bush of your sultry life of non-subject-related experience, we will abandon you. Promise.

    If you have subject matter and you present it simply without digression then you are ready for the next step. That step is, ‘Say it the way you mean it’. Say it with feeling, clearly, with conviction. Because the way you say it is important. Would you read a gardening blog that sounded like this: “I put in a few plants last week. I guess they are doing okay. Hope it rains this week.” I don’t think so. Let me hear it this way: “On Monday I planted 12 euonymous coloratae in the partly shaded area along a wire fence that I’m going to hide. I’ll have to water them twice a week until they are established.” Some gardeners might actually relate to this.

    Try to update daily, because even if you have traffic, it will dwindle without some regularity. It’s better to have a daily concise entry than to have a once a week long runon.

    When it comes to looks, you will need a webpage design that feels comfortable. This isn’t about internet marketing strategy so much as that the viewer has to feel good while they spend time looking at your blog. You can use a flash template, but this isn’t necessary. A wordpress theme with logo design is adequate. The webpage design you use to create your blog should have a good color combination and graphics that invite us to come back.

    Carrying the Torch,

    Arthur Browning

    4Aug

    As you work with your webpage template you always have to consider how it will look, and how it will function. It wouldn’t hurt to know how those search engines will see it as well (SEO!?!?). You can use the W3c validator and the W3C CSS validator but what about those pictures, links, keywords?

    Let’s start with the search engines. Let’s give the spiders something to sink their. . . uh, eyes into. Yes, I’m talking about keywords, content, links!! There is a very interesting analysis, scanning utility at Inet. David Walton has provided this validator service free of charge. As well a lot of good tutorials. David also sells an array of webpage templates.

    Go to his Content and Analyzing page and try your webpage. Just type in the URL and give it a few seconds. Voila, you will find an easy-to-read display and an effective profile of your website’s search-friendliness. I ran several pages through it and I got plenty of info.

    Watchfire has the WebXACT tool, which will point out quality problems as well as accessibility and privacy issues with your template webpage. After it has scanned the page it gives a list of errors and warnings. The errors can be corrected, and on the warnings you can just make a judgment call. I ran several webpage template URLs through the website and it works great.

    So next time you are down to running tests on your project, consider these two very helpful online validators.

    Feelin’ the Moment

    Arthur Browning

    1Aug

    Web Templates Blog wants to welcome Adrian Mullan to our weblog. He has consented to do an interview, the latest in our series of interviews. Adrian is the owner and founder of Webdummy. Adrian is a webpage designer and has interests in internet marketing and search engine optimization. The Webdummy website has some great tutorials and excellent demo visuals. In Adrian’s portfolio I especially enjoyed Manor House and the Cheeky Edge.

    “I’ve been in the tech sector for about 11 years now, but didn’t get into web development until around 2000. At the time my father was looking to build a website for his appliance importing business. So I hacked together my first site (it was pretty bad), but it got me into the industry. I managed to get a friend to re-do the graphical design component of the website and I’ve been devouring everything web related since.”

    I asked Adrian about his early work. “In the beginning, all experience is good experience. . . I quickly worked out which areas I wanted to specialize in (web marketing, seo and usability). I think for website owners (especially small business owners) getting a website up and running these days is relatively straight forward. The challenging part however, is how to get the right eyeballs to the site once you’re up and running. And once you’ve got the visitors, how to get them to do what you want (buy something, fill in a form, download your software, etc). If you speak to most people who have a website and ask them what their number one challenge is, most will say ‘getting the right traffic to my website.”

    “I’ve gotten this question many times over the years, so last I decided to publish a course called ‘The Internet Demystified’. It’s written to show small business owners how to market their websites effectively available at WebDummy.com.”

    What are your specialty areas? “Overall internet marketing, Search engine optimization, Sales copy, and Usability. . . You can have the best looking site in the world, but without some of the above elements, it’s going to be an upstream battle.”

    I asked Adrian if he had ever worked with website templates. “Yes, I’ve used a few good templates over the years. . . http://www.templatemonster.com/ , http://www.oswd.org/ , http://www.pixellogo.com/ , http://www.designgalaxy.net/ . . . I think the true test of any website template is how easy it is to modify the template to suit your needs. While many templates look great on the surface, they can be a nightmare to modify. Occasionally we see templates where the original PSD file is hard to work with because the layers are not properly named/organized – but it’s getting better. . . It would nice to see more template providers go towards lean and mean templates, instead of the usual flashy stuff. . . The problem is, if you pull the regular person off the street and ask them ‘what do you think of this website’ instinctively they will base their decision on the aesthetics (not content, usability, search engine friendliness, etc). Having said that, I can understand why template providers promote graphics intensive layouts.”

    When I asked about Flash Technology, Adrian responded, “In a nutshell, great technology but bad implementation. . . I read somewhere that a recent survey of end-users discovered that 85% of people hate flash intros and find them annoying. This is not surprising. . . Flash is great if you’re designing an online game. It’s great to use within the interface of web applications. It’s great for graphical ads. But by and large, it usually doesn’t serve a real purpose on most websites. . . If you think about it logically, flash is designed as ‘attention-getting’ and ‘eye-catching’ – hence the name ‘flash’. The problem with this is that it distracts users from the real reason they’re on a website – which is the content.”

    Adrian gave his source of inspiration “Nice, clean and useable designs. . . If you look at some of the largest sites on the net (e.g. Google, Amazon, eBay) most of them look nothing like the typical website template. They’ve been designed to be clean and quick to load.”

    Adrian provided two examples of websites that he appreciates that he did not design “Apple.com and Mozilla.com . . . Both sites are clean and easy-to-use with a nice mix of graphics and content.”

    What was the toughest project or customer situation you’ve encountered? “I think like most web professionals, it’s dealing with customers who change their mind every 10 minutes. I’m currently dealing with one customer who has changed his ‘vision’ for the website half a dozen times. My advice to customers is, know what you want. Be clear and be specific. If you can approach a design firm with a crystal clear specification of what you want, you’ll save yourself a fortune in time and money.”

    What does the future hold? “Number one, Video and audio. This has been in the pipeline for sometime, but we’re only just getting to the stage where broadband connections are becoming the standard. Number two, D.I.Y. If you’ve looked at what has happened with the explosion of blogs, I think a lot more people will come online in the next few years with a ‘diy’ mind-set. The tools need to improve, but that will happen over time.”

    Thank you Adrian for sharing your experiences and knowledge, especially your thoughts on webpage templates, flash, and the future.

    Arthur Browning

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