Why you should design your own site
Step One : Design your site
When I decided to launch Bowers Voice I determined early on that I wanted the page to be focused pretty heavily on the essentials only : my voiceover demos. I also wanted to obviously include my contact information and the equipment that I use, but really not much more than that. Some may use wireframe diagrams, but I drew out a diagram on paper (a bit archaic, but useful) and spoke with some local services about having a professional build my site.
After a few calls, and learning that this could be a few thousand dollar endeavor, I knew that I really wanted to "bootstrap" it. I eventually decided that since I had not yet made dollar number one in this business, nor knew where said dollar would come from, that I was going to have to go it alone and build my own site if I could.
The first stop for me on the road to me building this site on my own was to at least learn the Markdown writing syntax, which I had heard was helpful for writers (especially those who used the web for their canvas). It took a short time to learn Markdown, and to John Gruber, its creator, I am forever grateful. Markdown has afforded me the tools and skill to write as I never had before. I suggest getting a Markdown editor like Ulysses and taking a stab at writing short-form pieces or blog content to get well-versed in Markdown. It will save you a lot of time in formatting your text later.
So that had text writing covered, but what about the website code?
Step Two : Find the right tool
I was determined, no matter what, to build this site on my own. I looked at Square Space, WordPress, and generally scoured the internet, but didn't like the feel of their interfaces nor was I enamoured with the options.
Then a light bulb went off - I had come to know Realmac Software via their list management app, Clear, which I loved, and remembered, "Oh yeah, they make this site building app called RapidWeaver, don't they?!"
It's only their flagship product.
RapidWeaver, by Realmac
I immediately bought RapidWeaver and logged into their community site to learn more. I put in probably 2 hours or so to learn how the app worked. Then, on one sunny Sunday afternoon, I sat down at my MacBook and finally started creating a site in it!
I referred to the visual sketch I had of the site, and found a great compromise in one of the built-in RapidWeaver themes, then customized it to my liking with menu button colors, picture (background) sizes, and fonts.
After 5 hours, I had the site that you see here. But that was only locally stored on my MacBook - how the heck do I get it onto the web?
Step Three : Find the host with the most (technical support)
I decided on the name - BowersVoice.com - early on. I had done some internet searching and thought that to have a synonymous site was the way to go, rather than to get creative and have the site called “EBVoiceoverFunland.com”, “Chattingwithmyself.com”, or some such nutty name.
Since I had to purchase Bowers Voice and the associated email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), I immediately thought of going to Go Daddy as the one-stop domain and email and hosting marketplace.
I don't know Go Daddy why gets such a bad name. Maybe it's all of the Danica commercials. Maybe it’s that they are not a small company who really cares about their customers in this slowly crowding “web hosting” space. What I do know, is that being such a novice at all of this site building stuff, I had to call them at least two times for support, and they were nothing but helpful in getting me up and running. They were great at ensuring that I plugged in the right addresses and passwords in the right places within Rapidweaver to be able to publish the site.
After plugging in all of the right information, I launched the site earlier this year by hitting the “Publish” button in RapidWeaver. Any further edits to the site (like this blog post) are done locally and the once again uploaded using the saved cPanel (back-end-web-fancy language for “interface tool created to simplify the process of hosting of a web site”) login information and simply pressing that “Publish” button. You can then pull up your browser and see that the changes have been recorded and published on the web.
"Not only do you have to sell your service or product, but also get that web page up, promote it, and keep it fresh".
Step Four : Let people know that you are online!
I try to Tweet as often as possible to a) Maintain any web writing skills that I have, and b) for the fun of it. SEO (search engine optimization) is covered very well on the Realmac blog, and is something that you should learn about there to help your site show up in the search rankings. As I type in “Eric Bowers” into Google, my site here is the 13th item that is listed. Not bad, but I could do better with SEO and more content publishing to push this up in the rankings. By no means am I an expert in SEO, but I have some grasp of it after reading the above blog post.
Lastly, do not get discouraged if you don’t immediately understand all of this. It took me a year from start to finish with this education, but I learned it all without any drive other than to have some knowledge and self-author and publish my site. The more that you understand how all facets of your business work, the better, I think. If I can be of any help after reading this, please feel free to contact me.