The Rundown on How we Built our WordPress Website for our Photography Business
Building a WordPress Website for a Photography Business.
I’m stepping backwards a bit from talking about how I’m marketing our website, and instead want to start at the beginning – how we built the site, and why we chose to do it the way we did. Nowadays there’s a staggering difference in pricing between developers out there, and from freelancers to firms, you can really never tell whether to expect a quotation that’s in the hundreds or the thousands (or quite often the tens of thousands). We never want to spend any money if there’s an option not to, so here’s my wildly general summary of the whole experience, how we did it, and what it cost!
Why we chose WordPress
I’m probably a bit behind in discovering WordPress – at least for building a whole site rather than just a blog. I don’t know when it became so incredibly simple and stylish as a platform, but wow – am I glad it has! I have no development experience and aside from understanding a bit of basic HTML that I learned some ten years ago, I have no real feel for code. WordPress has brought the world of template-based design to entirely new levels. robably means a serious dent in many developers pockets, as with some time and energy, you can build something truly spectacular, for very little.
The templates available can offer you a complete website structure, and are infinitely scaleable so you’re not limited to the number of pages that are there already. Often the templates will have with content included so if you prefer, you can replace the sample text and images rather than start from scratch. This can help you to find your way around the WordPress structure and locate pages or images that you want to change more easily.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that your business is so unique and has such unusual specific needs that you won’t be able to find a template to suit you – you’ll be amazed how many designs, layouts and logical structures there are out there that someone has thought through for you. I’ve found that compromises about how you had initially envisaged your site working are small and often end up with a better, more intuitive result anyway.
How long does it take to build a site from Start to Finish?
We begun building our site in November last year, and built it largely outside of work time while we continued with our day to day work. We launched in March with all our new portfolios loaded, content written, SEO populated (see below about plugins) and old sites and domains redirected etc (see below about setting up redirects). So in total, under 5 months. If we’d had the resource to focus one person’s energies totally on the site, I think we might have managed to do this in a couple of months.
Choosing a WordPress template?
Hands down my favourite site with one of the most comprehensive collections of templates is Theme Forest – www.themeforest.net . It is part of the larger Envato Marketplaces – http://envatomarketplaces.com/ who claim to offer over 4.5 million digital products created by a global community of designers, developers, photographers, illustrators & producers. They are a market place, so the quality of work will vary hugely between suppliers, but so far I have had positive experiences, and the respective support forums, customer service and general quality has been high for all my purchases. The only snag is that many of them are US based, so don’t come online to answer your queries until late in our UK day, but that’s just a grumble.
Must have Plugins
All in One SEO Pack. Free.
The easiest and by far the most efficient way to make sure that ALL your pages have suitable SEO titles, Meta Descriptions and keywords. Idiot proof – you don’t need to know where to stick bits of code or how to insert something into the <head> of a page. This plugin literally makes it impossible to get wrong, and shows up which pages you SEO data included as a listing on your main pages list. No excuse for missing any.
Duplicate Post. Free
Enables you to clone pages from your site which are automatically put into draft mode, and then replace anything you need to before publishing. Very useful if you have a number of template style pages
Self explanatory that one I think, it runs in the background keeping back ups for you at pre-set intervals.
Bulk-Sizing your Images for WordPress
See my separate blog about how to best size your images for a website and getting the balance right between file size (and therefore page load time) and image quality and sharpness. It’s cleverly titled, ‘Sizing, Saving & Organising Images for a Photography Website’.
This is also the stage that you want to start working out some sort of structure for your files – labelling them not only for SEO purposes (using correct captions and alt tags etc) but also for your own finding purposes!
Finding a Developer to Support Your Site
Over the last 10 years I’ve been involved in the design of loads of websites, from small sole traders with a few pages to large database-driven e commerce sites. The only common factor is how ridiculous the amount of money you could spend on them if you chose to! As well as UK developers, I’ve worked with web developers from India, Russia, and more recently Croatia.
Working with someone who has English as a second language is always going to present problems, that’s unavoidable – it’s about whether the savings are worth the added stress. I’m currently using the Croatian guys, and so far they are great – responsive, expertly English-speaking and largely successful at achieving what I need. Oh yes, and compared to English developers they are cheap.
I would advise against using Indian developers if you are not pretty technical already – in my experience the language barrier is more challenging. I would particularly avoid most of the large corporations – you can risk getting a bit lost. The economies are mostly false, as a low hourly rate for what should be a simple task can end up taking 3 times longer than it should, and therefore costing as much as it would to pay someone here.
Of course this is just my personal experience, and it’s important to make a point that I don’t doubt many indians are hugely skilled at web development – it’s the communication and general structure of work that I don’t find works. Freelancers however, that’s a different story. I have never used an Indian freelance developer, but I used an Indian data entry / content loader that I found on Elance (http://elance.co.uk/) who was superb, and I will use him again for any similar projects. I am happy to pass his details on to anyone who is looking for someone. Incidentally, I also found my Croatian development firm on Elance. They are (I think) a very small operation, and I like the general security that operating through Elance offers me – I pay nothing direct to the freelancer or firm, Elance offers escrow payment services, and you only pay for work you have authorised.
Setting up Redirects
Whether you have invested in a new brand name and new web address or not, it’s important to make sure that any old URLs that will no longer be active URLs on the new site, are permanently redirected to a relevant page on your new site. This is known as a 301 redirect. Why is it so important? Because otherwise you risk losing any of the good authority or web ranking that your previous website and pages might have had. It’s important to do this BEFORE you put the new URL live. Even if you don’t think you have a hugely successful website, it’s still important to do – you may not know what genuine inbound links your old site has generated, all of which helps you to slowly build up web authority that builds popular and higher ranking pages. It’s a bit like giving google, and any of your potential searchers, a change of address card.
It’s also important to make sure that all versions of your URL are redirected to one form. EG http://www.blah and www.blah, and blah – ALL are pointing at your chosen version of www. blah.com. That way, you won’t be spreading any authority a page might have between two versions of the URL, which would lessen that pages overall authority.
There are millions of helpful articles out there teaching you how to do it yourself (eg here http://www.inboundnow.com/how-to-properly-set-up-wordpress-301-redirects), or using plugins that are available from WordPress (eg this one http://wordpress.org/plugins/simple-301-redirects/)
I didn’t deem myself as either technical or brave enough to do this myself, and have come across problems in the past trying to do so. I enlisted the help of our new Croatian team to set them up. It’s not been entirely smooth, and one of the old sites has periodically stopped redirecting. Maybe I would have been better being brave and using the plugin. Let me know if you have success with it!
I made a simple spreadsheet of all my old URLs (from both www.andrewperris.co.uk and www.packshotfarm.co.uk) and where I wanted them to point to in the new web address. So the old portfolio pages pointed to the new portfolio pages, old blogs transferred to the new, irrelevant pages pointed to the new home page. Then I sent them my list, they put the bit of code with my redirects into the right place somewhere, and hey presto, it sort of worked.