Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?
- A digital presence in the digital age
- Getting to your audience everywhere
- Visualising a Unique Brand
- Multimedia, multisensory experience
- Control and ownership
- Understanding visitors and customers
- Eco-friendly and money-saving
- Optimising the efficiency of operations
- Showcasing your expertise
Why have a website? Real benefits and uses – 1. A digital presence in the digital age
Having a digital presence and succeeding online have become a necessity. Search engines are now default go-to places for finding information, services, products, advice, friendship and even love. The business that Google, Bing or Yahoo does not list loses out. This is particularly relevant when you consider that Google alone counts 40,000 searches every second*! This has forced companies to have a website and ensure they are listed on search engines as soon as possible and as highly ranked as possible to get more clients. In today’s world, a company’s position is increasingly judged digitally.
The emotional blackmail and the fashionable pressure of needing to be online could never be the right way of getting a business into the real benefits and uses of having a website. As a result, it could hardly be the right premises for a business to create the digital presence that would indeed make the right difference for the brand. There is so much more to presenting one’s venture in a relevant manner without drowning one’s Unique Selling Point (USP), marketing it correctly and harvesting its advantages. In fact, many a time we have stumbled upon websites that just scream of having checked the box of the necessary online presence and indeed stopped right there.
So what more is there to a website than having a domain name, a logo, and some information about business services? Well this article argues that a Website is more than just displaying company’s information and brand. It is a global medium of interaction with existing and potential clients and is about continually attracting and retaining your client based on what your business does best, uniquely in a manner that satisfy your clients.
There are over 1 billion websites in the world (you should see them counting up every second!)1, a number by far different from the real total once the number of inactive websites are added. It is easy to see why, with all the work that is required not just to develop a website but also to keep it running. Digital developments, web x.0, Internet enhancements, hacking, bugs, patches, competition are as many words that any online presence has to deal with on a regular basis. For that, a website, an online course, a digital application requires on-going maintenance to keep up with the changes prompted by the opportunities as well as the threats thus presented by the Internet. This “oiling of the machine” involves Website Monitoring, Website Updates, Website Security, Website Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Content Refresh.
It is by monitoring your website that you can find out about its availability and access to it. A number of extensions provide monitoring features, many for free within reason. They will allow users to monitor their website’s availability and even sometimes to identify the source of the downtime. Knowing where to find the problem, how to tackle it diligently is paramount to reducing disruption to your digital presence and to the services that you offer and therefore to your customers. There is no automatic functionality that provides this kind of functionality or in fact skills and it is highly recommended to employ the services of a knowledgeable business such as ourselves.
Website updates are an important part of keeping your website fresh and active. To ensure those updates do not adversely affect your website settings or content, you need to follow a rigorous process of maintenance that requires backing up, staging, upgrading, testing and sometimes restoring. This needs to be done for each application that requires updating and can take time and be precarious.
There are four common types of updates:
- The core upgrades that relate to the framework itself on which your website is built e.g. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal…
- The extensions upgrades that relate to any additional codes that you add on to perform more specific functionality. In WordPress for example, these are the both common essential plugins pertaining to security, monitoring and performance, and business specific ones e.g. e-commerce or booking.
- The user interface upgrades keep the look and feel upt-to-date. These are for example the WordPress theme updates or Bootstrap updates
- In WordPress, there are also Translation file updates
WordPress core alone has had 19 updates in the 8 months just between Jan and Aug 20162, an average of over 2 updates a month. WordPress minor and security updates are automatic and JetPack lets you setup automatic updates for extensions in your website. Nevertheless, not all can or should be automatically updated and you must ensure you can still go back (restore your website to its pre-upgrade state if the update goes awry) and therefore allow yourself time to backup your website before the change. In addition, you will need to test your website to ensure that all upgrades have been successful and that your extensions and website functionality and look and feel continue to work with the new core codes the way that you expect them to. The more extensions you have, the more upgrades you will need, each preceeded of course by a backup for safety, and each followed by a test for quality assurance. You can see how the work can slowly but surely escalate your maintenance time.
Security is the most obvious requirement of a website on-going maintenance and yet it is often taken for granted. There are a lot of applications that will help website owners ensure security. Yet again, it is a question of identifying a security issue, preventing it in the short term but not analysing the issue behind the symptom. You can get to the bottom of issues on your own or you can get a security service such as ours to help.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation tends to be forgotten once a set of keywords have been chosen for the content and the website has been submitted to search engines. It remains important after that to maintain the website’s visibility and competitive edge. Regular analytics inform strategic digital marketing and this is something that keeps your site active, search engines aware and your digital business competitive.
Although last, content is definitely not the least and in fact might just be the most important aspect of maintaining your web presence. Unlike other maintenance aspects discussed before, content refresh concerns not just websites, web applications or online courses but also other digital presence such as social media, email newsletter and digital marketing such as banners and guest postings.
Keeping a blog or a way to continually speak about your business, its stories, its successes, its lessons, its news, what others say about it clients and press alike and a lot more is the best way to tell potential clients, current customers, competition and search engines that you and your business are active, knowledgeable, constantly fresh and highly competitive.
There are integrations that can be done between your website and your social media to allow every new article to be advertise on your social media. However, these types of automation won’t do is to choose the right content to re-advertise, to personalise messages to each social media, to find what people want to know about and refresh the content to answer specific questions and much more of what only the human touch and digital skills can do together.
One of the most time-consuming but nonetheless enjoyable parts of my work is to ensure that I am aware of the latest changes in technology. Now systems you use might alert you to security or bug fixes, enhancements or new features but one thing they might not always do or at least not completely is to let you know about new or best practice, new processes or just tips that make your life as a consultant easier. Don’t get me wrong, they do: they send newsletters, tips… Some of them even have announcements, notifications and other such little messages within their software. However, what I am talking about is the fountain of knowledge that is so often buried in super long forums, barely has the time to completely fit within the timely walls of networking events. When I go to the Adobe Articulate community forum, I feel saturated with information, great ones, but still staturated. Reading the WordPress news, going to its ‘codex’ and thousand and one place where the information exists is just, well work, specialised work.
Your website will have more than one link, including external links (pointing to other websites) and internal (pointing to webpages within your own structure). Part of maintaining your website involves checking that all these links continue to work as other websites might stop working, move things about and your own website might lose search engine credibility if it hosts so-called ‘dead links’. Part of maintaining your website therefore involves ensuring that none of your customers comes across a dead-end which turns your site into an amateurish presence and leaves the client wanting and definitely looking elsewhere for their answer. Tools like WordPress have such built-in or add-on functionality and this will reveal itself to be a great asset for the webmaster passionate about offering their customers a professional digital presence. It is worth feeding the results of such tools to strategy to help them minimise addition of such types of urls in the first place as this kind of exercise might not be feasible too frequently.
Check not only for dead links but also for redirects as those slow down the linking and do not in general look very good. In addition to verifying external links, it is definitely worth checking internal links. Finally it is an advantage to ensure that linking to your website is maintained. Having people linking to your website shows search engines that other websites trust you, but what you want to ensure is that the right websites point to you, and the right words are used to label those links. This is not about dictating what others should do with their websites but about ensuring that those you have a good enough relationship with can ensure that the backlinking is actually optimally mutualy beneficial. In fact, it should be part of the backlinking discussions in the first place to ensure that the other party understands what label you would prefer associating any link to your website with: there is such a difference between cheap websites and affordable websites!
The Internet offers great opportunities for today’s businesses. With 40000 Google searches a second, you cannot afford to not be listed among the first options. In addition, knowing that new businesses come only every minute, keeping your competitive edge with a consistently up-to-date fresh website business. You can do it yourself, no doubt, with all the digital tools available around, and distract yourself from the business of your own skill, preferring DIY to professional help in the midst of a competition that employs knowledgeable professionals. Or you can make sure you hire the services of the likes of website maintenance specialists such as 3E Web Media. We offer different options depending on how big the website is in terms of the number of applications it uses, to allow you to chose the relevant options for your needs or you can simply contact us for consultancy or custom requirements. Let us take care of your Website Maintenance or let us guide you at the very least, it would be our pleasure.
How to add icons to WordPress menus: Some examples
Do you want to make your menu more attractive with icons, or just add some social icon directly in it, even your logo or any other examples or reason that you can no doubt think about that involves icons or images in menus? The simple answer in WordPress is that ‘You can’. There are many ways that you can do it, from the simpler ones to the most complicated ones that involve coding / programming. This article is about the simplest way of them all, that gives a standard site a straightforward and easy way to make its menu look more appealing or at least more visual.
Examples How to add icons to WordPress menus
How to add icons to WordPress menus: There is a user-friendly plugin for that
Menu Icons Plugin: Settings
Menu Icons is a user-friendly WordPress plugin that allows you to do just that without the use of any coding!
- Find the plugin by searching for keyword ‘Menu icons’ in the plugin search box of yor WordPress installation
- Install the plugin and activate it
- Go to your WordPress menu (Appearance > Menus).
- The left-hand box should now have the item Menu Icons Settings. Check all icon sets, for ampler choice, under global and configure the default settings for icons.
Add your menu item with icon
- Add your menu item as you normally would, making sure you always enter a navigation label (the name of your menu item) even if you don’t want it to appear because you only want to display the icon (otherwise you get a ‘(pending)’ as you see below and the item might not be added!
- In this example, we have chosen a custom link menu item, we have not yet put a label to our menu item (to demonstrate the ‘(pending)’ and we are adding a link to a social medium, in this case the Facebook page related to the website being developed.
- Under the navigation label, you will see the label Icon and a link immediately after to select an icon from the vast number of icon types you have allowed yourself before, including adding your own image. Click on Select to choose one for your particular The new meta box on the left with the link to select an icon on the right
How to add icons to WordPress menus – menu item
- The box that opens offers you a view of the sets of icons you have enabled as well as the image option if you allowed it so you can add your own uploaded custom images. You can choose a type of icon on the icon set menu, enter a keyword to search for a specific icon (e.f. facebook), and a chance to preview the result by slecting an icon so that you can also adjust the setting, for example not display the label or change the font size.
- Click select at the bottom right of the box when you are done. You can always get back to modify your settings by clicking on the icon in the menu item box, or remove the icon by clicking on remove
The Menu icons WordPress plugin is the simplest, most straightforward way to-date that we have found to add icons to WordPress menus. The advantage, even for digital experts like myself, is that it is easy to train our clients to use it and they don’t have to learn any complicated code. There are of course limitations in spite of its number of icons, its flexibility, its many configuration settings, and the additional add-on tabs and image option that allow you even more. Those limitations might occur in more demanding websites e.g. that require change of icons on hover. Some loss of display integrity might also occur in more complex frameworks and underlying themes, wich might interfere with the plugin display. Always test across browsers before deployment. If you require an even more flexible and configurable option, watch out for the sequel for this article coming soon.
What are Content Management Systems?
Content Management Systems (CMS) are software that make it easier to create and manage content with little to no requirements for technical understanding. CMS tend to be database-driven and handle a lot of the related data transactions that can be complex to the average user such as capture, storage and some manipulation. The data being stored in a database make it reusable and gives dynamism to the site as stored data is reusable (e.g. tags). Of course, advanced tasks can still be performed for those who are more technical but increasingly there are add-ons that take care of even that, from those that assist with configuring the look and feel of a site to those that add technical and even specialist functionality to the core features of a CMS.
The concept of CMSs took website owners a long way from creating bespoke solutions from scratch, creating single points of failures and potential product maintenance costs associated with limited choice of product support, interestingly so, in spite of the fact that a lot of those are open source and therefore are reliant on the good will of independent and unpaid developers for support and maintenance.
The fact that WordPress is the most used Content Management System in the world is a good reason for adopting it if you want to follow fashion. We have nothing against that approach, we just believe that we need more substantial information to create a solid base for a website that we assume should be around for years to come. There are reasons for its success though: WordPress is one of the easiest system to set up, use and manage and it has among the most plugins (especially free ones) written for it.
I started with Joomla, a powerful CMS that I still valued more than WordPress. Yet the ease of maintaining websites (upgrade, transfer, backup, restoration and more) completely won me over and I am now specialised in WordPress although I still do the occasional work with Joomla for some clients. Joomla is amazing, robust and clean and I am talking about the latest versions from 3 onwards, but it is not easy to learn for the average user, it is a pain to upgrade from previous versions and there are not many free working plugins for it. WordPress, I suppose, attracted the user who believed they were entitled to be part of the Internet oyster as the revolution was happening, here and now.
To sum up…
So why use CMS? Because they make web development easier for the regular diy user and even for the user who might get their website developed by another but will still have an opportunity to add content and manage their digital presence.
Why use WordPress? WordPress is the CMS that most epitomises the concept described just above, which is probably the reason why it is the most popular CMS in the world.
And how to use WordPress? A lot of the articles in this blog aim to help you out with this.
Imagine you want to display a map showing locations, e.g. places you have visited, venues in which a musician has gigged, worldwide radios from which a song has been broadcasted and so many other examples you could think of. There are many ways you could this, no doubt. We are going to show example based on the following scenario: we are going to plot a map showing the radios stations that played the award-winning debut album by one of our clients’ artists, Tiki Black. It does make comparison easier when different options are shown using the same example and that is our purpose here.
Using Maps Marker Pro
In the first example below, we are using a WordPress plugin called Maps Marker Pro. Leaflet Maps Marker is the free version and will allow a similar feel, however, the option for marking the maps are not as clearn hence the choice to put in the additional cost.
Radios Broadcasting Out Of The Black
Maps Marker is quite straightforward, so simply follow the instructions. The way we created this map was to create a layer called something like Out of the Black LP radio broadcast and create a marker for each radio that aired songs from the album. Then we created a page and added the Maps Marker shortcode for that layer , shown next to the layer when you list them all. This allows us to create many other layers e.g. radio broadcast for album number two or venues in which songs from the first album was performed. This also allows to use a particular marker in more than one layer, after all, songs from different albums from the same artist have a good chance to be played by the same radio(s)! This therefore enables the use of the same location for different purposes which removes duplication and makes maps management effective!
click for tip [/su_button]” behavior=”click” close=”yes”]Using layers makes it easier to manage different set of markers.