Help me: Advice for people starting on a website [aside]

Two overlapping talking bubbles in the form of a venn diagram.I’m working on a new project to help nonprofits gets started with WordPress and building websites. I’m hoping to have it ready in a few weeks, but before that, I’m hoping you can help me make it even better.

Particularly for smaller organizations, building a website—especially their first—can feel overwhelming. It can feel like a huge, monolithic task with no obvious way to get started. And once you do get started, it’s easy to stumble through it all with a lot of regrets.

So if you wouldn’t mind sharing:

  • What did you wish you had known when you first built a website?
  • What tips do you give to people just getting started?
  • What are common misconceptions about building websites?
  • If you’ve never built a site, what are your biggest concerns and questions?

Mostly, I’m hoping you can help me remember what it’s like to get started.

Thanks in advance!

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6 thoughts on “Help me: Advice for people starting on a website [aside]”

  1. Great questions Mark. I’ll be interested in what others have to say. Here are my thoughts.

    What did you wish you had known when you first built a website?
    That it’s never done. It’s an ongoing process, a living thing.

    What tips do you give to people just getting started?
    Be clear about why you need a website (or makeover) and what you want visitors to do. Also, to hire a professional. It’s hard enough figuring out the content without learning how to do a professional job, especially if you’ll never need those skills again. Keeping up, as you know, is a full time job!

    What are common misconceptions about building websites?
    That it’s easy. That it’s just plug-n-play. Choose a theme and you’re done.
    AND that it’s a product that gets completed (see first response).

    Happy Holidays. Hope this helps.

    1. Great responses, Sheila! I’m still working on the most important advice to help people continue keeping their sites going. This is good food for thought.

      I also liked this a lot:

      > That it’s just plug-n-play. Choose a theme and you’re done.

  2. What did you wish you had known when you first built a website?
    That sites need to be fed regularly with relevant and meaningful content and improved continually to function in an ever changing environment

    What tips do you give to people just getting started?
    Plan, plan, plan and partner with a team that asks lots of questions about your audience

    What are common misconceptions about building websites?
    Build it and they will find you—all for $500

    If you’ve never built a site, what are your biggest concerns and questions?
    How do I establish a budget, plan a timeline and know what the steps are?
    How do I pick a good team?
    How do I prioritize or phase the project so I can afford regular updates?
    How do I train my staff?
    How do I know what my audience needs?

    1. Barb, these are great. Thinking about prioritizing and project phases is something I probably haven’t thought about enough for this project. I’ll keep that in mind as I do my revisions. Thanks!

  3. The first website I worked on was for an ad agency. This was a long time ago so there was only one browser to worry about (Netscape) but the Internet Explorer browser was released soon after we launched and it was very frustrating to discover that things looked very different in IE. Now we’re in a different world where there are not only many browsers but also all the many versions of those browsers. A website can look different in any browser and any version of that browser.

    I also remember being frustrated to discover that the website colors that I could see on the Mac I was using were different when viewed on a PC. A red color could be indistinguishable from a brown, for example. We ended up learning to use a “web-safe” palette. Monitors are much better today and the web-safe palette is not really necessary. We also had to consider screen-size. Now you have to consider device as well. I think the main point to all this and what ties this in to web-sites today is that you actually can’t make a site perfect for every situation. You just have to do the best you can making your site viewable and accessible to the largest group possible. Using a good theme can take the pain out of figuring all that out.

    I think the other point that ties in to building sites today is to remember that what you see, is not necessarily what others see. Do your best to understand how others may see or interact with your site.

    Another thing to think about on a similar note is that when thinking about the layout of your site, don’t think about the site as having fixed dimensions like a piece of paper. If you align your logo to the bottom, for example, it may not be visible on the screen if the content above it takes up a lot of space. You end up needing to scroll down to see it. Aligning any important element to the bottom is generally a bad idea on a website.

    On a positive note, a nice difference between doing a website and printed piece is that you can change things when you make a mistake. It’s not set in stone. It’s not forever the way a printed piece is. If you think about that, it might help you relax and dive in. It’s fun and gratifying to publish something that the whole world can see.

    1. > remember that what you see, is not necessarily what others see

      Right on! This is a good one and one I still struggle to explain to people who are new to the web. I like that you find the silver lining to it all at the end :)

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