Wichita Professional Communicators presentation

I had an interesting opportunity come my way – the chance to speak to the Wichita Professional Communicators gathering at Larkspur in Wichita, Kansas.  Now, I’ll admit – giving me a chance to speak in front of people always gets my attention because I absolutely LOVE talking in front of crowds, throw in free lunch at Larkspur and I’m sold! 😉

However, it was also a great chance to network a bit, get the company name out there a bit more (since I do so little to push the company), and to put solid information in people’s hands.

The topic was basically “Websites on the cheap” – and I always like cheap.

I wrote part of this before the meeting, and notated some links while I was chatting so I could post this and folks could get a chance to review a bit of what I said on their own time, along with getting to expand on a few bits.

First off:  For everything I talked about, you DON’T need a web developer.  Yes, I understand what I’m saying is telling potential customers they don’t need to give me money.  But it’s the truth – in reality, hiring a developer just trades one finite resource for another.  We’ve got time as a resource, and we’ve got money as a resource, and quite often you can trade an expenditure of one resource for the other.

All the discussion was around using WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS) to quickly and easy get your content online and looking pretty.  Note that I mean WordPress.org, the free “blogging software” platform, not WordPress.com, the free blogging site.  They are related, but aren’t the same thing.

So what do you need for your own site?  A domain name, a host, and a little time.

I recommended DreamHost for the hosting solution.  There’s a couple of reasons:

  1. They are fairly inexpensive, but scaleable.  You can start with a cheap ($9 / mo.) solution, but if you have LOTS of traffic, you can move all the way up to your own personal servers, and all the possible stops between the two options.
  2. They play well with WordPress.  Quite literally, installing WordPress on a DreamHost account is clicking one button, and telling it where you want it:  Install Custom, and tell it what domain you want to install it in.  Boom!  You’re done.
  3. I also have the ability to provide a discount code (hey, this is on the cheap, right? 😉 – if you sign up, type in CLASSESWITHDAVIS as the referral code for a free extra domain name (note: you can host as many sites as you want to under a single DreamHost account.)  Full Disclosure here:  I get a kickback from that referral code  – so we both win 😉  And even if you don’t use the CLASSESWITHDAVIS code, at least give ’em my email address, so I can see how often people take my referrals and suggestions! 🙂
  4. They are normally ranked within the top 10 webhosts consistently.
  5. Fantastico service and support.  I’ve been with them for 9 years now!

Some of the sites that were mentioned during the discussion:

Great Plains Renaissance Festival – My least favorite site (because of it’s slightly clunky appearance, IMO) that gets tons of traffic, and really modernized the GPRF setup with things like online ordering, online entry for contests, Facebook connectivity, etc.

Linda Gregory Photography – Many people complain that all WordPress sites look very much the same:  Top header, sidebar, bottom footer.  Not so – this is an example of one that I did that has no sidebar, and a very non-wordpress like feel!

MidnightRyder.org – My ‘test site’ and personal site that I use for classes and personal blogging / branding stuff, along with being a sales point for my books and classes.  This site is highly abused by me during classes 😉  It’s also 1/2 of a project I’ve got going on to bring back online all 11 years worth of blog posts, project info, etc. back online (just for the heck of it, really.)  Given how often I used to blog, that’s a lot of data.

The Date Maven – an example “$500 site” done on the cheap.

Pixel Time Learning Centers – this isn’t one of my sites, instead it’s where I teach WordPress classes (which ranges from “introduction” to complete marketing and sales stuff – you pick how much education you want 🙂  It should be noted, however, that it IS a WordPress site, done by someone who’s not a full bore WordPress expert!

After you’ve got a domain and a WordPress install done… and that’s where my presentation really didn’t get to go much further.  It’s only a 30 minute presentation, throw in a few questions, and suddenly I’m out of time! 🙂  I did mention the classes real quick – look up at the Pixel Time website entry for a bit more about that (look for “Classes” on the right hand side of the screen on there.)

We talked quickly about theming.  The idea is this:  you write stuff (posts and pages in WordPress), but what happens when you want to change the font?  You don’t worry about what your articles look like – you change the theme, and that one change will affect all aspects of your site in one fell swoop!

The takeaway from this whole this is pretty simple – there is nothing here that’s impossible for you to do on your own.  However, the question is – is it worth your time to learn?  How MUCH time will it take you to learn it compared to the amount of time you have available until the launch of your project?

That’s what I really get paid for by most customers – the whole bit where I’m helping them trade time for money.  They don’t have to spend the time learning it – I teach them what they need to know (I hate lock-in – I want customers to come back to me when they NEED me, not because I’ve prevented them from making their own changes, or tried to convince them that maintaining their own site is too hard to do and requires specialized knowledge.

And I quickly mentioned iPhone / iPad development.  Pity, I really wish I could have spent more time on that – it’s such an exciting field to work with, and the customers I deal with in that field are ALL great! 🙂

I mention the $500 website concept – but I never got to dig into how that works.  When I do those, I put a lot of the content development work back onto the customer – provide me with content, what pictures you want, etc.  That helps me cut my time considerably, and cut their costs.  I probably do more $500 websites (volume wise) than anything else.  However, that’s not always possible – for instance, start throwing in field-specialized data setups (real estate, for instance), custom social networks (WordPress supports building your own Facebook style clones and community systems!), or extremely detailed theme design work, and the bill goes up quickly.  But even with bigger sites, I try and find everything I can do to cut down the costs – sure, just like telling a room full of potential customers “Hey, you don’t need me – you could do this yourself” it’s not necessarily the most profitable way of doing business from my standpoint, but, it generates a lot of goodwill between me and customers, and generates a lot of word of mouth advertising 🙂  Sometimes the right thing isn’t the most profitable thing 😉

 

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