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the case for custom web design the case for custom web design

Web Design

The case for custom web design

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Today I want to briefly make the case for custom web design because it’s something a lot of client’s don’t understand.

I work on large (6 figure) digital positioning and web branding projects for clients. During the pitches for these projects, it’s not uncommon to be asked a question like “why don’t we just buy a WordPress theme and customize it?”

To be fair, it’s not a bad question but it does show that a lot of clients really don’t understand how this whole web thing works.

A little history lesson

Back in the day, web pages were actually hand coded with HTML from top to bottom and the sites looked (and felt) crude, basic and rudimentary. BUT this was early in the cycle and it was just amazing to see a web page and we accepted that.

Next, WordPress came along and made content management sexy and super easy. It allowed content creators to manage the content more efficiently and even add skins (themes) to their websites.

As WordPress evolved and became more powerful, the amount and types of sites you could create grew almost exponentially. In addition, the quality of the themes that you can now find on sites like Themeforest is amazing.

Naturally, when clients see these amazing themes (often sold for less than $70), they wonder why companies like mine would charge them thousands of dollars to build an online brand.

The answer is simple – content should always drive design.

The case for custom web design

A long time ago when I was trying to figure out how to build online businesses, I would use themes and then try to retrofit content and it was always a mess.

It was a mess because doing it that way is executing online business steps in the wrong order.

Figuring out what a client is trying to articulate with their web presence should naturally generate a design brief that has the requirements for just the right website for that client. It probably won’t be a retail WordPress theme.

As a business, you need a custom design for your website because quite frankly, generic sites are boring. You can tell when you see a website that comes from a retail theme.

The navigation and look and feel looks similar to 1000 other sites. Unimpressive.

I believe that websites should be organic, living, breathing, digital objects that reflect their owners brand and personality.

A circus website (done properly) should be fun, bouncy, light and free. A legal website should be serious and conservatively designed.

It’s important to spend time and money designing your website from scratch because it’s the only way to fully articulate the essence of your business.

A fresh unique design is also a really good way to create a memorable experience for your customers because everyone else is using the same old recycled themes.

So who are off the shelf themes for?

Retail WordPress themes work well for bloggers or very small businesses or startups who have very little money for digital transformation. They work only when there is no time or budget for a custom site.

Let me be clear, nothing is wrong with using a retail WordPress theme if that is all you can afford but don’t kid yourself, for a serious business, it is NEVER optimal.

I have made 6 figures with simple WordPress themes before so I am not knocking them but always remember, in general, content should always drive design and never the other way around.

Onuora Amobi is VP of Marketing at Learn About The Web. He has an extensive background in both Online Marketing and Enterprise Technology solutions.

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Web Design

Digital Marketing Tips – Picking A Good WordPress Theme

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Studiopress Theme

When you get to the point where you need to select a theme for your WordPress site one of the most important things that you need to pay attention to is whether the theme has been optimized for speed.

There are some very beautiful themes for WordPress but most of them are coded badly and will only slow your website down.

It is best to choose a simple theme and combine it with good quality plugins for all the features that you want on your website than it is to pick a theme that is packed with complicated layouts, flashy-looking animations and lots of other features that you really don’t need.

Three of the best types of themes are Studiopress themes, Thrive themes and MyThemeShop themes. These are all coded well and have all been optimized for speed and we will be looking briefly at them later.

First, what if you already have a bloated or badly coded theme on your website? It’s time to change it and here’s how you do that:

Changing Your Theme

This is a big step because it means changing the entire look of your website or blog. SO, very important, backup your site entirely before you begin.

To install a new theme in WordPress:

  1. Open Appearance>Themes in WordPress and you will see all the themes you have installed on your site
  2. Click on the Add New button – it’s at the top of your screen
  3. On the page that loads, look through the list of themes until you find the one you want – move your mouse over it and click on Install.

Wait until the theme has been downloaded – please note, this does not install the theme, it only downloads it. You will need to activate it yourself.

  1. In WordPress again, click on Appearance>Themes and you will get that list of themes installed on your website. You should see the new one you downloaded in that list as well
  2. Move your mouse over the name of the themes and you will see a button that says Activate – click on this
  3. The new theme will be added to your website. If you want to see how it looks first, use the Live Proview button. This will show you how themes will look on your website, so you can make the final decision before you activate it. Alternatively, activate it and then go to your website.

So, how do you know which themes are right? Simple homework will show you which themes are speed optimized and which are full of bloat.

Bear in mind that some of the more popular themes are packed with features you don’t need, and the developers are liable to keep on adding features purely to generate income. As time goes by, this will all take its toll on the speed of your WordPress site.

To help you out, I have detailed three different groups of themes below, each offering simple themes, optimized to speed things up:

Thrive Themes

Thrive themes are built for SEO and conversion; they are light-weight, include image optimization built-in and plenty of content optimization options too.

The few themes available are all personalized to a specific niche and the image compression is a huge boost to speed.

Landing pages are included with each theme and there is also a full set of conversion tools for all users, including a number of widgets and plugins. Prices start at $49 for an individual theme.

MyThemeShop

MyThemeShop offers a wide range of WP themes, some of them free. With nearly 96 plugins and themes to choose from, there is pretty much something for everyone here, including blog-optimized themes.

Most of the themes are fully optimized for speed and are all coded cleanly, as well as being fully optimized for SEO.

The Lazy-Loading feature is built-in, automatically reducing the time it takes your website to load and prices start at $29 per year for a single theme or you can choose a membership option.

StudioPress Themes

StudioPress themes are owned by CopyBlogger Media, content marketing industry leaders. While most of their themes are aimed at blogging websites, they are all built on the Genesis framework, which is why you will often see them called Genesis Themes.

This framework is coded cleanly, is updated regularly and is one of the most secure ever built. There are loads of child themes to choose from and every theme has been fully optimized for SEO.

Most are light-weight and extremely fast, but the pricing is a little higher than others. However, there are several options to choose from, starting at just under $60 for the framework.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as speeding up your WordPress website, but it is an important place to start.

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Web Design

How To Find Out What Theme A Site Is Using?

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Okay, that’s not quite as confusing as it initially sounds! More and more websites are now built with underlying content management systems like WordPress and Joomla.

While this is good, the best part is that many of these websites utilize custom built themes, whether free or paid. Premium ones are developed structurally and systematically, with designs that scale great on desktops or mobile devices.

Responsive web design, as it is called.

But what if you like a particular design and want to see if you can use something like that on your website, or even a webpage — for example that dedicated landing or squeeze page you’re developing?

Luckily, it’s not hard to find out what theme a site is using.

You can peek under the hood, check out for hints by taking a look at the source of your chosen page. But a couple of solutions exist that accomplish this process a lot more elaborately.

And perhaps the best one around goes by the name of WPThemeDetector.

It digs deep and not only provides details and version number of the theme a WordPress powered site is using, but also author or company details of the designer.

This online detection tool also finds and lists any plugins used on the website you input, along with links to download these extensions. A few additional details are also offered — including previous analysis of a given site, where applicable.

Another less fancy site is What WordPress Theme Is That?, and it too provides similar functionality.

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Marketing

5 Easy Tips For Writing Landing Pages That Convert

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For online businesses, landing pages are without doubt the most important piece of puzzle. You need pages that not only convert readers, but deliver sales too.

The writing has to pull the readers in and generate conversion, ultimately resulting in a transaction.

Successful copywriters possess special skills that they’ve honed over the years. But the best thing is that you too can learn these techniques. Learn, and in time, master them. There are simple techniques at play here, and you can use these to create copy like an absolute pro.

Here are 5 basic tips on how to write landing pages that convert:

Benefits, not the solution

This is perhaps the most essential of lessons, but for better or for worse, not everyone follow it. Customers don’t really care about the products or service that you are offering. Fact. They don’t want to find out the solution you’re trying to sell.

Thing is, they already know the solution they need — they already have an idea of what they want. Thanks to the power of the web (and now social media), not only do people know the solution, they also have an idea of the kind of features and pricing that they are in for.

Your task is simply to lead in with benefits in your landing pages. Highlight the advantages people will get when they sign up or make a purchase with you. Benefits trump solutions, every time.

Killer headlines

People don’t really read your landing page from first pixel to the last. They scan the headlines, they skim the captions, the titles. Pay special attention to your headline, the sub headlines, and your call to action buttons, as these are the elements readers focus on the most.

If these hold their interest, starting out, they’ll read the major sections next, bullet points, short paragraphs, stylized text (bold, italics or underlined) and even image captions.

Focus on optimizing these as you write your conversion copy, and build around them.

Customer testimonials

Almost all (good) landing pages have some form of customer testimonials one way or another. This is really powerful stuff because basically, you’re not writing your conversion copy here, your customers are. Goes without saying, then, that testimonials produce conversions like nothing else.

These snippets of information from your buyers and subscribers are compelling. They’re golden. Paste them front and center if you can, on the landing pages you create, with pictures of your customers, for even better results.

Ask for action

This impressive technique is so simple, yet so overlooked. If you don’t ask for conversions, you’ll not get them. Everything you do (writing and design) should be focused on getting that final conversion, whether that is signing up for your newsletter, or subscribing to your service, buying your product.

Always keep this end goal in mind, and strategically place your call to actions throughout your copy.

Keep the writing simple

If you’re doing the writing yourself, it’s easy to fall into the trap of overly complicating things and using all manner of jargon and buzzwords. Even if you are a high caliber writer, your literary prowess is useless when it comes to copywriting.

Remember, your audience is going for simplicity — so should you.

Write short, simple and clear statements, free of clichés. A minimal sentence structure helps, short words don’t hurt, and not being overly fancy enriches the outcomes. Point being, if you can be simple in writing, you can write great conversion copy and create remarkable landing pages.

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