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7 Tips to Building a Brilliant Website

In Cloud, General, How To, HTD Tech Tip, Sponsored, Technology by Michael Sheehan0 Comments

When you build a new house, you start with a dream. You decide what you want in terms of layout, rooms, common areas, size, and much more. Once you have those wishes and desires mapped out in your mind, you get a designer or architect to put your ideas to plans and paper. After that, you begin building, tweaking and fine-tuning the design as the construction progresses. And finally, once everything has been built from the foundation and up to the roof, you can truly make it your own with furniture, paint, decorations, and the like. Essentially, you create the structure and fill it with the content and make it a living space. In much the same way, building a website, particularly a blog, goes through many of the same steps.

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Disclosure: This post was written by me through an activation with HireInfluence on behalf of Liquid Web. Although I received compensation for participating in the campaign, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Over a decade ago, I decided I wanted to design, build, and decorate my own “house” on the web, namely this blog. It started out as just an idea and as a place to collect ideas to share publicly with others. I had no idea as to what direction it would go, up or down, good or bad. Looking back now, it truly was quite an adventure and definitely a lot of trial and error. When I was approached by Liquid Web, a hosting provider who prides itself on building solutions to enable a great customer experience, it really got me thinking about my own process of building my little niche on the web.

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I started way back when blogging was relatively new. There weren’t “too many” blogs out there. I wasn’t the first, but I was early enough on to really stake out my property lines…and yes, I’m going to use this building metaphor throughout this article. I decided on a name “TechDad” and a domain “weblog.TechDad.net”. It encompassed what would evolve into my personal brand. I did change the domain after a few years, dropping the “weblog” because people had just shortened it to “blog” and then getting a new domain that I felt was a bit better (“HighTechDad”) and I dropped the .net and changed it to .com. Minor details now but they were major “design” changes for me back then.

Build Upon Your Ideas

 When you set out building a new site, whether you are alone or with a team, you must have a sense of purpose. Passion and purpose go hand-in-hand, and I have discovered that once you have passion driving you, it’s much easier to move things forward. If your heart isn’t in it, your head definitely won’t follow. When launching your website, you need to focus on your ideas and how you will be different, make an impact, gather an audience, and share. Essentially, be brilliant. But as you do this, you need to be sure your site has the capabilities to support your visions and what you want it to. And, you really should not have to spend loads of time focusing on the mechanisms that power your site.

Think of it this way, when you have people over to you house, how would you like to spend the whole time physically holding up a wall because it wasn’t constructed properly? Obviously, you wouldn’t want that. You would rather spend time engaging with your guests and not worrying that your house will fall apart.

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As you map out the plans to your online construction, you should consider the foundation and how it is constructed. For me, this is hosting. And I learned a lot of lessons along the way. Let me tell you now, if you are going to be starting a new site, WordPress or not, get a good hosting provider. And, IF you are planning on building a blog using WordPress, get a provider that does Managed WordPress Hosting, or at least has an option that is specialized for WordPress.

If you choose a builder or hosting provider who is not an expert at what they do, the end result will suffer. Is what you are building structurally sound? Do you have to worry about it day and night? Or can you focus on decorating with your ideas?

Failure is a Teaching Moment

Hindsight is always great. And I wish that I had known about what I previously recommended. I learned through a lot of trial and error. Taking the cheap route isn’t always the best. In the long run, it actually becomes more expensive in terms of time and resources wasted.

When I started, I took the cheap route. And it led to issues and failures. Let me quickly explain.

I started with cheap, shared web hosting. As my traffic to my site grew, I watched my site slow down dramatically. So, I moved to another provider. Later, that new provider throttled my CPU because I was using too many resources on my shared hosting environment. So, I moved to yet another provider. Then I started working at a Cloud Hosting provider. While I was at that cloud hosting provider, I didn’t initially move my site over to their service. And during that time, I ran a giveaway on my site that didn’t go as expected and my site was DDoS-ed. So, once again, I moved providers, this time to the cloud hosting provider I was working for. (BTW, Cloud Hosting is great, but that is another topic altogether.) Once I left that cloud provider, I moved my site to yet another hosting provider but with their shared hosting, my site was still underperforming. Then I made a leap to a hosting provider that specialized in WordPress hosting and had a dedicated service for that. Since then, while I do have the occasional issue (and my traffic continues to grow and my site gets more complex), I have relied on the advice of my provider and knowledgeable staff to help me optimize my site. Whew, tired yet?

The bottom line here is as you work to “Build Something Brilliant” (the tagline for this Liquid Web campaign), you will undergo some ups and downs along the way. So, you may have built your house, but you will continue to decorate it and perhaps build some additions or do some upgrades. You definitely will have to do some repair work along the way too. It’s never a completed project I have found. How many people, when they own or even rent a home, just leave it the way they got it? You do improvements and make it more “yours.”

But I have found that it is a lot better to ask for expert help along the way, than to try to always figure it out yourself (and pull out your hair).

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As I look back on my experience building and launching my site, I now realize how important it is to focus on hosting. And while I have, in the past, written a lot about building your brand, crafting stories, focusing on compelling content, and more, I rarely stopped to think about the hosting as the foundation upon which you build. As I said, hosting is the frame of what you are building. You wouldn’t build your home out of rotten wood, would you? You want strong wood or even steel. Think about the 3 Little Pigs. There is a lot of relevance there. While the straw and stick homes might be cozy and look nice, they won’t withstand the tests of time.

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7 Tips to Building a Brilliant Website

So, I would like to leave you with this set of 7 tips, especially if you are looking to start a new site, WordPress or otherwise. It’s that foundation, structure, and framework that will lead you to Build Something Brilliant.

Tips:

  1. Don’t settle on cheap hosting – saving money initially can come back to bite you if you are constantly putting out fires.
  2. Avoid shared hosting whenever possible – it’s great for testing and prototyping, but not for the real world.
  3. Trust your hosting partner’s advice – they are experts in their field and there to help you.
  4. Be prepared for failure – and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  5. Don’t skimp on security – providing a secure environment to your guests means they will feel safer.
  6. Focus on your ideas – worry about being brilliant and not on day-to-day infrastructure operations.
  7. Be different, helpful, and great – having your own property on the Internet allows you to make a difference in the world, and it’s easier than ever to build and share your dreams.

Disclosure: This post was written by me through an activation with HireInfluence on behalf of Liquid Web. Although I received compensation for participating in the campaign, all thoughts and opinions are my own. More information can be found on my About page.

HTD says: As you work towards Building Something Brilliant, ensure that you choose the best hosting provider to work behind the scenes ensuring your content is there for your audience.