At the beginning of every year, much like pretty much everyone else, I like to take a fresh look at what I want to accomplish in the upcoming year. I take a look at where my various websites are and decide what I want to do with them. Last year the focus for EasySiteNetwork was to increase the number of website scripts I had for sale. This year I have decided to focus more on a content approach for EasySiteNetwork.
Instead of just creating and selling scripts I have decided to develop more blog style content for the site chronicling the projects I will be taking on during the year and sharing my knowledge on building and running a profitable web business. Each week (schedule permitting) I hope to take on a new project and release a blog post here with the details. The one week project here is the key. Like many small business owners I have many projects on the go at a time and often find it hard to stay focused on the task at hand. By focusing on small projects that can be completed in a week I hope to get even more accomplished.
The first project I intend to take on is a redesign of EasySiteNetwork.com for it’s new direction, so for this week the focus will be on redesigning Atlanta SEO Expert and EasySiteNetwork.
Day 1 – Fresh install and choosing a theme
EasySiteNetwork currently runs on WordPress and I don’t see any reason to change that, its a fantastic platform. Even though I could very easily just update the theme on the current site and create some new content I really don’t want to do that. It would leave the site in a state of ‘under construction’ while I rework everything. Instead I have decided to create a new site under a sub domain, install a fresh copy of WordPress there, create the base content and apply the new theme and then when the time is right, just switch out the old site for the new one.
EasySiteNetwork currently runs on one of my Amazon EC2 web servers. This makes it very easy for me to set up the subdomain and install a brand new version of WordPress. Amazon EC2 does however require good knowledge of linux, web servers and domain name management so unless you are comfortable with backend system administration I would recommend using a dedicated WordPress host such as BlueHost or Page.ly.
With a fresh install of wordpress I now have to find the right theme. I’m not a good designer by any means but thats not a problem with wordpress as there are thousands of prebuilt themes out there already I can choose from. I know I want to go with something clean, modern looking, 2 columns and blog style. Shouldn’t be to hard to find right.
I started out with the free themes on the wordpress site but quickly abandoned those as they looked a little basic for the more professional look and feel I wanted to go for. I started to browse through the various template sites and got sucked in for hours.
It turns out finding the right wordpress theme isn’t that easy. I must have looked through hundreds and hundreds of themes before I found one I thought would do the job. Before I get the template however, I need to create my plan for the site so that I am sure the template will fit my needs.
Day 2 – Creating a plan
Whenever I create a new site, or redesign one such as EasySIteNetwork, I always start with a rough plan in my head but before I go too far in the process I like to write down my plans. I do this for a couple of reasons. Firstly it helps me get things clear in my head and helps me catch anything I might have missed. Secondly I often find I come up with new ideas in the process. Spending some focused, dedicated time on the process rather than casually thinking about it during the day benefits me in the long run.
For EasySiteNetwork I already know I am going to use WordPress and have an idea of the theme I want, but I need to fully plan out the features of the site and also the content sections I intend to have. I normally like to use an online text editor for this process such as Google Docs or Evernote, anything that will sync my notes between my computer and my phone. I often find I am out somewhere and think of something I would like to add to the plan. Having synced notes between my computer and my phone means I can add the note to the doc on my phone and it will be on my computer later on for me.
The other key thing to my process planning is to think in both short term and long term. My plan is a complete plan of how I envision the site in the long term, including all the features and content sections I would like to have when I consider the first version ‘complete’. Once I have everything listed out I will then decide what items are needed for launch and what items will be added later. It’s important to limit your initial set of items for launch to as little as possible. Make sure you are launching a site that works and is useful for your visitors but don’t try and do everything for launch. The less you have to build initially, the quicker you can launch. If you don’t put a line in the sand you could find yourself developing your site for ever and never getting it launched. Also launching quickly you will be able to get fast feedback from you users and make changes if you need to before you have invested too much time.
Plans don’t have to be full written out paragraphs with pages and pages of descriptions. Mine normally end up in a few bullet points. Just enough to actually remember your ideas later on when you look at them. The benefit is more in the process of taking the time to really think about what you are doing.
Here is how my plan looks for EasySiteNetwork.
- Mobile versions – Site template must work with mobile devices
- SEO friendly (seo guarantee) – Site must be search engine friendly
- Social media links – Site design must have clear and visible social media link both for sharing content and signing up for feeds such as Twitter and Facebook
- Twitter feed – Site design should include the EasySiteNetwork twitter feed in the side rail of the page
- Newsletter signup (add later) – Site should include a visible call to action asking users to sign up for the newsletter
- Blog – general articles including weekly projects
- Scripts – download section for free scripts, email newsletter sign up required (add later)
- Resources – resource lists such as email services, theme services (add later)
- Tutorials – step by step instructions on how to do things (add later)
This plan is also subject to change. I may decide in a couple of months that some of my content sections don’t make sense and I might remove them. It’s important to have a plan but it’s also just as important to be open to change to that plan.
Day 3 – Configuring the site and installing plugins
The theme I bought was very flexible which is good but the flip side to that is it takes a lot of configuring to get it to be the way you want. The first thing I always set up are the standard set of plugins I use. These are the All in one SEO plugin, Google Analytics plugin and ShareThis social bookmarking plugin. In addition to these I installed a Contact Form plugin that creates a very simple contact form allowing people to send me an email directly from the website.
The second thing to setup is all the theme options. Most themes come with an options panel specially for the options provided specific to that theme. Typically it will include basic items such as the page layouts, coloring options and configuration for any plugins that come with the theme.
After configuring the theme I move to configure the standard options in WordPress such as the permalinks and the commenting sections. If you haven’t worked with WordPress before I would strongly recommend reading through a guide to setting up WordPress as all the features can be very daunting initially.
Day 4 – Modifying the theme CSS
Most people will be able to use the theme as is without any extra modification beyond the configuring the theme provides. Sometimes you will find that there are a few things that you would like to change that can’t be changed in the configuration. With the theme for EasySiteNetwork I wanted to increase the width of the page. To make modifications like this you have to go into the CSS and tinker with the code there. This is something I would only recommend doing if you are comfortable working with HTML and CSS. If you don’t have experience with HTML or CSS you should steer clear of touching them.
Day 5 – Adding pages
Now that I have the website looking the way I want, it’s time to start putting in all the new content. I am starting with with pages. There isn’t really much difference in WordPress between pages and blog posts but for EasySiteNetwork I will be using pages for the more static content sections (Scripts, Resources and Tutorials) and using blog posts for content I will be adding more to as time goes on (the actual Blog).
To start with I have decided to just get a few of the Free Scripts pages built out. If I tried to build out all of the sections this would end up being more than a one week project. My structure for the pages are pretty simple. I have one main page that will list all of the free scripts and then a single page for each of the scripts along with links to the demo sites and the downloads.
Day 6 – Adding blog content
Finally before launch its time to put in a few of the blog posts. Naturally this blog post will be included and I have a couple of other’s I have written in the last few weeks that are ready to go. I typically write my blog posts in a notebook tool such as Evernote and then when I am done will add them into WordPress and add the other items the blog post needs such as links and images.
Day 7 – Launch
Final day of the week and the site is now ready for launch. There are a couple of things I need to do for launch. Firstly I need to take a look at all of the pages on my old site that are getting a lot of traffic and redirect them to the pages on the new site. This needs to be done so that any pages that rank well in Google and other search engines won’t loose their traffic. I find the pages I want by looking at my top content in Google analytics for the last 2 months. The I take these url’s and map them to pages in the new site in the .htaccess file making sure to use a 301 redirect. This is done just by adding the following line for each page in the .htaccess file.
Redirect 301 /oldpage.php http://www.easysitenetwork.com/newpage.php
Now all I have to do it move all the files on my server from my beta directory into the main www directory and the switch out any references in my database that point to www.easysitenetwork.com.com to www.easysitenetwork.com.
And voila, the new site is now live!