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A Simplified Guide to Understanding The Tech Behind Your Website

December 19, 2017

Website

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Your website is where your brand turns into business (wise words from Jesse of Idealust). Most people I speak to that own a business have said they don’t feel any confidence when updating or maintaining their website. A lot of that fear stems from not understanding the tech side of their site.

Since having a website is an essential in modern business ownership, I want to instill more confidence in my fellow entrepreneurs. I have been working with websites and code for over 16 years so I’ve learned a thing or two (and have seen a lot of tech fall out of favor) in that time. So let’s talk tech. And I promise, it won’t be as scary as you think!

Domains, Subdomains, and DNS Settings

Let’s approach this section as if your website was a brick and mortar location for your business.

A domain is the address people visit to find your website. It’s the main component of your url that you’ll copy and paste to send people to your site.

Domains can have a number of TLDs which are the letters following the dot after your chosen name. For instance, stefanijessica.com has a com TLD. But showit.co uses the co TLD. There have been some really fun (and fantastically weird) TLD options added recently that you can use to really make your domain special and stand out. Some of my favorites are:

• .tech
• .win
• .art
• .baby
• .lol
• .ninja

The possibilities are endless! I use a service called Namecheap that gives me a fantastic price on my domains (which typically need to be renewed every year) and they include domain privacy. I highly recommend this service because your information you use to obtain your domain can be publically shared on a service called whois.net and let me tell you, the spam is real friends. So do yourself a favor and always get domain privacy when you can.

But wait, there’s more…

Another characteristic of a domain is called a subdomain. Think of a subdomain as another room in your brick and mortar shop for your business. Your domain is the lobby that welcomes your visitors, pages are the rooms that they visit to learn more about you and contact you, and a subdomain is the attached shop where you sell resources related to your main services. Subdomains are great if you want a related site to your own that features a podcast, resource shop, or a related service.

When talking about domains, sometimes you’ll hear about DNS settings. The only time you need to worry about these settings are in the following scenarios:

• using Gmail as your business email (more on the soon)
• connecting your domain to your website (more on that too!)
• when you’re changing your name and need to funnel your website traffic to the new website/domain
• rerouting other domains to your website

Rerouting is best used when your business name is often mistyped in a common way or if you want to purchase multiple TLDs to avoid copycat sites but point all of the traffic to your main site. When you relaunch with a new business name, rerouting also helps you to not lose all the traffic you’ve built up and bring your loyal audience along on the new direction for your business.

Platforms, CMS, and Hosting

When you have a website online, it is hosted with a company (kinda like you’re paying rent to a landlord). Hosting is essentially a company selling you space on a server (similar to a huge hard drive) with other websites.

WordPress is a CMS (content management system) that you can use on your hosted website to make design and consistent updates (like blogging) a lot easier. It is not a platform though.

Squarespace and Showit are both platforms. The difference between a CMS and platform is:

• a CMS can be customized much more in terms of how you want to use it and still relies on code to create your website’s design
• a platform not only hosts your website on their own servers but they also create the app that allows you to design your website

Squarespace and Showit use a drag and drop system to allow you to design your entire site without having to use code if you don’t want to. When you use a platform, you’re receiving their support team to help you when things go wrong or you get stuck using their application. CMS usually relies on group support and forums to figure out problems happening on your website.

Email

There are 3 main choices when it comes to your business’ email.

• personal email service (like Gmail)
• business email purchased from G-Suite
IMAP email purchased from your website host

Using a personal email is not your best choice. Having a true business email (something like hello@yourbusinessname.com) looks more professional and trustworthy to prospective clients and customers. And the good news? Your email will be the cheapest investment you most likely make, either monthly or once a year.

You may be looking at the list above and think, “What the heck is an IMAP email?”

IMAP is simply an email account that is kept on a server (similar to the server your website is hosted on) and it syncs with whatever devices you check your email on. So if you look at an email and delete it on your phone, it’ll be deleted already when you check your inbox on your computer. It’s the same as G-Suite, but you can control which program you use to keep your inbox managed.

Newsletter Integration

Adding sign up forms for your newsletter on your website is key to growing your email list. Sign up forms are typically styled in 3 ways:

• popup – A popular form of form, popups are the most easily noticed but without finesse, can also scare potential customers away and even hurt your Google ranking. You want to use popups with great care.
• modal – Ever see a newsletter prompt slide from the bottom or side of the screen? That was a modal and it is similar to a popup but is a bit more subtle.
• embedded – This type of form blends right into your content. It’s a great option for content upgrades at the end of your blog posts.

Your provider (2 of the most popular are MailChimp and ConvertKit) provides JavaScript codes so that you can add the forms to your site.

WordPress provides plugins to easily integrate your email list account on your website.

Squarespace allows you to add the text in your settings. The path to the proper spot is as follows:
Settings > Website: Advanced > Code Injection
Then paste the code in the header section.

Showit works best with embedded forms. You use an embed element to paste the code into and the form will be directly on your site. You are able to design it from there to mesh perfectly with your website.

Types of Links

Links are capable of more than simply opening a new page. You may want to link a particular section on the same page so that your site does that cool scrolling thing. You’ll want to link the section’s ID.

An ID is the name of a section (or division) or your website. When you link to a specific section on your page, it will look something like this: stefanijessica.com/#about
I know what you’re thinking…isn’t that a hashtag? You’re right! It’s also an indicator that when someone clicks your link you’ve created, you want them to be taken to that part of your page. It’s labeled that way in your code (all the crazy alien language that creates a website) so your website will bring a user right to the content you want to highlight.

Hyperlinks

If you use WordPress to blog and use the Yoast SEO plugin (which is a requirement if you blog on WordPress to be honest with you), it mentions that you should use internal and external links within your posts.

Internal links are other pages or posts on your own site. For instance, if you’ve spoken about a subject on the blog before and you’re writing a new post on the same topic, linking to your older post is a great way to keep your readers clicking around your website. External links are simply websites other than yours that you may reference in your post. It’s good for SEO to have a mix of these in each post.

Backing up Your Website

It is so important to make sure you have a direct backup of your website or at least a plan and the tools you need to restore your website if it gets taken down for the many reasons that can happen. It’s not something to worry about constantly but you want to be prepared.

CMS Backup

With WordPress, since your website is not built on a platform, you’re able to export your website so that you have the content as a file. Depending on how often you blog, you’ll want to export your site once a month or so. You can easily access the export tool on your WordPress dashboard.

Your design will need to be backed up differently, the easiest way to do that is to keep a version of your theme saved on your computer. And always backup your backups onto an external hard drive. You can never be too safe.

Platform Backup

It’s a bit trickier to backup your website when you use a website platform. You typically don’t have direct access to the code used to create it. The best way to backup your site is to make a folder on your computer and make sure the following files are inside:

1. every bit of content on your site
2. subfolders for each page on your site with the photos and graphics you have on that particular page
3. a screenshot of your website’s pages (I use Full Page Screen Capture, an awesome Chrome extension)
4. for Squarespace: a plain text file with the CSS you or your designer may have used to customize your template (and which one was used)
5. for Showit: a screenshot of the design settings and the fonts you have on your website, and don’t forget to take screenshots of your mobile design too!

Ecommerce

If you have a shop on your site or plan to open one soon, you’ll have a few options for your ecommerce software.

If you are a Showiteer, Shopify is a fantastic option for you. For only $9/month, you can embed a button onto your shop listings so that people can immediately checkout or even add items to a cart. You can run discounts and sales, keep track of inventory, and organize your products with ease.

WordPress does have a plugin called WooCommerce that you can use to set up a shop, but I personally think it’s overly complicated and more of a hassle than an asset to your business. Other than Shopify as an alternative, you can use Etsy. It’s fantastic if you sell handmade goods and has expanded recently to work well with digital downloads as well.

The platform with the most user friendly shop is definitely Squarespace. They make selling items simple and keep track of your sales, inventory, and so much more, all integrated right on your website. You get automatic payments from Stripe (they process your customers cards and deposit the money to your account). It’s a great choice if you want to use as little business apps as you can.

SSL Certificates and Legal Pages

Google has been talking about SSL certificates a lot lately. SSL certificates are simply a way to verify information on your website and for a person to know it’s safe to share sensitive information in forms. Depending on your platform or hosting, the investment for a certificate can vary. But it’s a good idea to get one as soon as you can.

Squarespace has already upgraded its customers sites to include SSL protection. Showit also is working on getting each subscriber one, regardless of their subscription tier. When you have a hosted WordPress website, that is when you’re looking at purchasing a certificate yourself through your web host. They are very willing to help you buy the right one and can walk you through the process.

Website Legal Page

Every website legally should have a page with a privacy policy, disclaimers, and terms and conditions.

 

Your privacy policy should let your readers know what you do with their information, like if you sell it to a third party. This information needs to be included when users fill out a form either to contact you or to sign up for your newsletter.

Your disclaimer should tell your reader what guarantees you are providing pertaining to the content on your site. Should they take your blog posts as a guarantee that their business will earn more money if they follow the steps you’ve shared? If you cannot promise such a thing, letting them know in the disclaimer that your advice may not work the same for everyone covers any liability on your end.

Finally, your terms and conditions are just that. What is the audience agreeing to when visiting your site? And you want to make it clear that the policies on another site you may link to have nothing to do with your own.


Woo, I know that was a lot of information. Thanks for sticking with me this far!

I will be writing posts of their own when it comes to Google Analytics and how to organize your business because those definitely deserve their own posts. If I missed anything, let me know your question in the comments! I’m happy to help others feel more educated and confident when it comes to their website.

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