First of all, I am not an expert. I have developed a few websites in the past, but every one has been a bit different. I can recognize some standard code, but I don’t write code. I came home from the North American Stampin’ Up! convention a couple of years ago, encouraged to start a “dot com” site. I had my standard website through Stampin’ Up! (DBWS) but an independent site gives more flexibility and I understand a “dot com” gives more credibility.
I had used Go Daddy previously and my BevAdams.com URL was still available, so I snapped it up. Way back when I used a Microsoft Web software which was no longer supported, so I went with WordPress and started studying other sites to see what I liked and what I wanted my page to look like.
Well, the first thing to do was create a banner across the top. That’s where I got stuck. I couldn’t figure out how to create a custom banner. I’d get frustrated and come back weeks later, only to get frustrated again. I’d email other demonstrators for advice and wouldn’t hear back. (More on that later.) Finally, I discovered that the theme I selected on WordPress did not support custom banners! I switched and started uploading photos and project planners.
You will need:
- Hosting: Someplace to send your website to be kept on the internet and a URL (website address). I chose Go Daddy, but I understand Square Space is also a good one. Square Space may be able to give more personal help than I’ve received from Go Daddy and WordPress.
- Website Creation System: If you don’t write code, you will need a template where you can just type in what you want and the template does the coding for you. I use WordPress.
- Note: There are thousands of templates. I am currently using picolight
- The template should be able to scale itself for full-size desktop screens, tablets, and phones. I believe that’s called “responsive.”
- Banner: I wanted a Banner/Header. Mine needed to be 1050 x 288 pixels. I made mine on My Digital Studio, but I believe you could create your own with a photo. You might even want to create one with card stock, ink, and stamps and take a picture of that.
- Camera: I just use my phone. I used to have a Samsung Galaxy S4 camera with 13 megapixels. I now have an LG G4.
- My “photo studio” is just some scrap beige Naugahyde clipped to a piece of foam board. Some people use a plastic bin to reflect light. Others use bulletin board paper, tile, or really any background that will bring the focus to your project. I have this light box and these lights on my Wish List that may give me better photos. Some day.
- Techy Terms I didn’t understand at first
- Posts = The daily writings, the log, or individual new items. These stay around, but older ones can be hard to find. These are the individual photos and comments about the cards, sales, or whatever.
- Pages = These stay the same. They can be changed, but things like your contact information should stay somewhere easy to find. My pages are the tabs just below my banner.
- Media = This would be the photos and tags you use.
- Tags = These are labels someone might use to search your site. Most of my tags refer to colors, stamp sets, and other supplies.
That’s the basics that I ran with for about a year. Now I find it’s worth adding some other helpful sources.
- I started getting lots of spam!
- It got to be a huge job to weed through all the trash but I didn’t want to ignore any real comments.
- Frequent comments were asking how I did my site. (Oh, that’s why nobody responded! They thought I was a spammer!) Many sites allow “approved” commenters to comment again without approval. That allows all kinds of awful links to be posted on a site. So spammers would write nice compliments like “You really brought up some good points” that might apply to many blogs, but not really a photo and directions for a project.
- I finally found the Plugin called Akismet. It costs $59 per year, but it has essentially stopped the spam. It does report how much spam it stops. This last March was a peak time. Thanks to Akismet, I did not have to look at the 5,392 spam messages that come in March alone or the 12,200 spam messages since I started paying Akismet.
- Subscribers: In 2015 I started collecting email addresses for those who wanted to receive updates on my website. I used Mail Munch. It’s free for my limited number of followers. Guess what! I have followers! Thank you for those who have subscribed! Thank you to those who make comments! It’s so nice to know someone is reading what I write!
- Contacting Subscribers: I sent out weekly emails with Outlook. I now have enough followers filled a second distribution group so messages weren’t blocked as spam. I started taking a critical look at the emails sent out by those I follow. A lot of them use FeedBlitz. May 2016 I set up my own FeedBlitz account. They automatically send out emails every time I create a new post. And it is also automatically posted on Facebook. I don’t have to worry about adding new followers manually or locate and delete the emails if someone unsubscribes. FeedBlitz is not free, but it won’t break the bank. They were half the price of Constant Contact. I couldn’t even find a phone number for Mail Chimp to ask questions. The friendly people at FeedBlitz answered the phone, patiently answered all my questions, and walked me through setting everything up.
- Webs By Amy I believe Amy will actually do all the work to build a website for you for a fee. But she also sends out a little bit of code that I copy and paste into the Appearance section of the template and my website will have a link to the digital Stampin’ Up! catalog. Thanks Amy!
- My Stampin Blog offers professional looking photos and links to the my Stampin’ Up! store for the products I use in my projects. I used to spend a lot of time copying and pasting and preparing those posts every Tuesday. My Stampin Blog does that automatically for me and they keep the prices updated. All I have to do is type in the item numbers or product names. Cool! When a catalog ends, they maintain a list of retiring products, updated daily. They have a small fee, but they save me tons of time! Double cool!
- Camera: Again, just my phone. I started with my Galaxy S4. I now have an LG G4. They both do just fine for videos.
- Speaking of YouTube, there are videos there on all kinds of things… WordPress, video editing, screen capture… You can learn all you need to know from YouTube.
- Camera Mount: I started with a piece of clear acrylic that I wedged under boxes on my shelf and set my phone on that. I moved up to this inexpensive gadget. When I got a new heavier phone, I had to upgrade to the next size up, but it was still inexpensive and still works great. I now use this, an even cheaper gadget that is easier to use.
- Video Editing: MovieMaker that comes free as part of the Windows Essentials package (free). You just copy in your video into MovieMaker (Be patient! It does take time for it to convert the format.) Make two cuts to remove the part you don’t want. One of the videos I watched as I learned that videos can be a bit jarring from one cut to another. That YouTuber suggested a bit of transition from one cut of video to the next. MovieMaker calls these animations. I usually just use a blur, but there are some very fancy animations. Add a still picture if you want. Add some free (not copy protected!) music. Then save and upload.
- YouTube: Who doesn’t love YouTube? MovieMaker used to make that transfer easy. That has started giving me a bit of trouble, but I found a little button that saves videos in the right format for YouTube and then I can easily upload through YouTube.
- Screen Capture Videos: Microsoft Expression Encoder. Free, if you limit the length to 10 minutes. You can record a longer video in 10 minute increments and edit them together in MovieMaker. This video shows how to convert the “project” into something that can be moved into Movie Maker for editing or just uploaded to YouTube.