With our lives moving at an incredibly fast pace and our attention spans becoming ever more diminished, your website’s first impression is becoming increasingly important. Did you know that the average user forms an opinion about your site in 50 milliseconds? Or that the majority of readers spend less than 15 seconds on a webpage? So, as website owners, our challenge is to make a good first impression, and keep our content sticky.
How do you make a good first impression with your website?
A website’s first impression for me is all about the layout. The menu bar tells the whole story – it is where I like to see a blog’s main topics. From there, I like to be able to use tags to quickly find my way around to what I’m looking for.
I’m a self-professed design and lifestyle blog junkie. The first thing I notice about a site is the layout, design and photography. A blog that makes a great first impression has a simple, pretty layout that is easy to read and pleasing to the eye and showcases great photography. If one or the other is off I’m not likely to return.
What do these answers have in common? They both form their feelings about a site at the first moment they see it. If it’s cluttered, difficult to navigate, or not appealing to their eye, they aren’t likely to stick around. They may not have read a word and yet they are ready to leave.
Here are a few things that, as a reader, give me a great first impression:
- A clean, easy to follow, cohesive design
- Fast loading of information
- Quick access to relevant information
- An immediate clue about the blog’s main focus
And some things that make me click away:
- Difficult to follow navigation, or a large amount of clicks to get the information I’m looking for
- High-resolution photos that take several seconds to load
- Distracting elements, such as pop-up windows or flashing ads
What do you think makes people come back?
These are the things that keep me reading when I visit a new blog: clean layout, unique design that says who they are, good grammar, content that is obviously written with a wider audience than one’s family in mind, and posts that aren’t consistently about the banal things in life. The one exception to the banality rule? Those who can write about the mundane and make me laugh. If you’re one of those few genuinely funny people out there you can write about putting the groceries away or retrieving the mail from the mailbox and I’ll still keep reading.
Jenna is a reader that truly wants to engage with a blog author. If you are a follower of her blog, this won’t surprise you, as her own blog is personal and she has built a wonderful community with her readers.
Being personal isn’t just for “personal blogs”. If you are in the wedding industry, you no doubt know the name Lara Casey. Lara’s site and social profiles promote her business, but also gives potential clients and industry readers a window into who she is as an individual. She is branding herself as much as she is branding her talent, and people want to connect with her, as well as connect with her work.
A few things that keep me as a reader coming back to a blog:
- Consistent, informational posts
- Unique content, especially written with a distinctive point of view
- Posts that start me thinking—this could be a post about business philosophy or beautiful inspiration photos
What resonates with you when you read a blog for the first time? What makes you return for more?
Big red flashing word of warning!
Be super-careful when you are following these instructions and be very sure not to edit the web server or database for your actual website! Always be sure that you have backed up your database and web server before doing this, just in case.
You need a test site.
Photo: © Studio Firma / Stocksy
So how do you set up a test site for your WordPress blog? First, purchase a separate domain name (anything works) and set it up for hosting. Then, take the following steps to copy your production site (the techie term for your user-visited website) to your test site.
If you are using VaultPress, you can use their automated restore to a new site feature. However, if you have a large number of uploads, the restore will take a bit of time.
Let’s say your production site is www.mycookingsite.com/blog and your test site is www.mytestsite.com/blog.
Step 1: Copy your web server
- FTP the following files and folders from www.mycookingsite.com/blog/ to your computer or hard drive Note that I’m ignoring your wp-content/uploads folder, as there is really no need to upload your image library):
- On your computer or hard drive, delete the plugin folder for Jetpack if you have it enabled. This is to insure that you do not confuse the WordPress stat engine when you create your test site.
- FTP all of the individual files that are at the same level as the wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes folder to your computer or hard drive.
- FTP all of the files from your computer or hard drive into www.mytestsite.com/blog/.
You’ve now made a copy of everything on your web server except your images (no need to have these on your test site).
Step 2: Copy your database
If you are using VaultPress:
- Navigate to your Backups.
- View your most recent backup.
- Click the Download button and select only the Database.
- Prepare backup and wait for VaultPress to email you with the link to your backup.
- You will receive a gzip file containing your database tables.
- Download the nifty WordPress Database Backup plugin.
- Go to Tools » Backup and run a backup of your entire database.
Step 3: Import your database
- Create a new SQL database through your web hosting company.
- Through your web hosting company, there should be a service called phpMyAdmin. Log into phpMyAdmin using the username and password for your database.
- Select your newly-created database in phpMyAdmin and click on the “Import” tab.
- Browse for your backup file, be sure that the format selected is “SQL”, and click Go.
Step 4: Update your test database’s WordPress options
- In phpMyAdmin, click on your test database, and the table wp_options (or wp_xxxxxx_options). BE SURE YOU ARE IN YOUR TEST DATABASE.
- Find the option name “siteurl”.
- Click the pencil on the siteurl line to edit the information.
- Change the siteurl to your test site.
Step 5: Update your wp-config file
- In FTP, navigate to the root of your TEST WordPress installation. In our example this would be www.mytestsite.com/blog.
- Open the file called wp-config.php
- Change the values for DB_NAME, DB_USER, and DB_PASSWORD to your test database information.
Step 6: Validate
- Visit www.mytestsite.com/blog/wp-admin and log into your test site. You will log in with the same username and password as your production site.
- Verify that your test site is visible at www.mytestsite.com/blog.
Voila! A perfect copy of your blog. Use your test site to edit your theme, install new plugins to play with, develop new functionality, test upgrades of WordPress or plugins, etc before applying the changes in production.
A few notes:
- If you aren’t on WordPress, but instead have an HTML website, you should still have a test site. Simply FTP the files from your web server to your computer, and then FTP back up to your new domain.
- Your web hosting provider should also allow you to easily password-protect your test site’s domain.
- You should also read the WordPress Codex articles about Restoring Your Database From Backup and phpMyAdmin.
Edited To Add: See comments below for some reasons why you need a test site – this can include changes to your WP theme, or testing out plugins and new functionality, and creating new page templates – and also a shortcut method that doesn’t involve a whole backup of your production site.
We all work or blog in industries that require a unique perspective in order to succeed. We don’t produce commodity products. Instead, we work with clients who want a fresh and informed opinion or idea.
Due to the speed of information movement in today’s society and the low barriers to entry in many industries, competition is increasing at exponential rates. If you create a product, that product will be copied. If you have a wonderful blog that enjoys success, it will inspire others to blog and connect in that circle. If you are a graphic designer, individuals with access to the same tools and technology will use your ideas. What are you putting out there to make sure people choose you?
What makes you You?
There’s an economic principle called competitive advantage, which says that firms that succeed have some form of advantage over their competition—an ability to add more value, therefore bringing in and retaining more customers (or more readers, if you are blogging). One of the keys to success in business is to find your competitive advantage early and exploit it.
What is your competitive advantage?
You may have a faster product assembly or access to better materials. Or perhaps it’s more intangible than that – relationships that you have cultivated or a creative spin on an idea that you’re able to take to market with great speed.
What is your competitive advantage? How are you exploiting it for your business? Can it be replicated?
After your domain name has been registered and you’ve chosen a hosting provider, the first thing that you will want to do is create email addresses. A few addresses you may want to add:
You can choose to manage these email accounts through your hosting company’s email interface or manage the account through your personal internet email address or with Outlook. I manage my blog email addresses through my personal Gmail account. If you would like to do the same, visit Settings ? Accounts and Import in Gmail. Choose ‘Send mail from another address’ and follow the prompts.
Your hosting provider should also give you instructions for setting up your first FTP user (if one was not already set up for you).
What is FTP?
FTP, or file transfer protocol, is the way that you upload and download files from your server. Your hosting provider will give you access to a web FTP program that is good in a pinch, but to get the full power of FTP I recommend downloading one of the several free FTP programs available. I personally use Core FTP, which you can download for free here. In essence, what this program allows you to do is to transfer files back and forth from your computer to your server with one click.
To log in to your FTP program you will need the following information:
- Host Name – a host name can be either your server name, your website address, or your IP address. For ease, let’s use your website address. So, my host name would be editandpost.com
- Username – this is specified either by your hosting company or by you within your hosting company’s interface.
- Password – also specified by you or your hosting company during setup.
The port for log in is typically 21 (verify with your hosting provider). Your connection type is FTP.
Once you’ve logged in to your FTP program you should see a screen that looks a bit like this:
Now you’re ready to rock and roll with FTP, you have email, and your server is a blank slate. Next in this series, we’re ready to install WordPress!
Let’s face it, a lot of us are fans of horrible reality TV, including The Bachelor. But we if dive in a little closer, we can see that we can actually learn something from the “journey”…
Photo: © ABC
Lesson 1: Not everyone is your soul mate
The Bachelor has 25 amazing women to choose from. Of course, his connection will be stronger with some than with others.
So how does this translate?
- Not every client is your client.
- Not every potential sponsor is right for you.
- Not every guest blogger fits your aesthetic.
- Not every blog/website/magazine/etc is a good fit for your advertising needs.
It took me a long time to come to terms with this. It’s hard to feel comfortable with saying no! But in the long run, it’s in your best interest to know your business or your blog well enough to make an informed decision about who you should work with and where best to spend your time and money.
Lesson 2: The popular choice isn’t always the right choice
Remember Bachelor Jake? Polls showed that most viewers wanted him to choose Tenley, but he followed his heart instead and proposed to Vienna.
There will inevitably be a time where you have to choose a path for your business. Perhaps it’s a price increase, a geographic move, or a new product you want to introduce. Your decisions won’t always be popular among the masses, and that’s OK. If you have evaluated and determined your course of action – stick to your gut and believe in yourself, because what’s right in everyone else’s eyes isn’t always the right choice for you.
Lesson 3: Sometimes you just have to let go
Megan left Chris’s season of The Bachelor when she knew the “spark” wasn’t there.
One of the most difficult problems faced in business is when to let go – of an idea, of an employee, of a product line, etc. There is no right answer. It’s of course different in each situation, but the key is learning to recognize when it’s time to cut the cord, and when you make the decision, confront the problem directly, make an action plan, and follow through.
Lesson 4: First impressions are important
On episode 1 of Ben’s season of The Bachelor, the all-important initial first-impression rose went to Lindzi, who was also one of the final two ladies.
We all know the old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. It’s cliche, but it’s true. Most first impressions are now made online, when someone is researching service providers or reading past reviews of products. Potential customers or clients may find your Twitter feed, personal blog, Facebook page, and of course your website.
- How do you present yourself online?
- How does your website/blog reflect on your business?
- Is the branding consistent with your intended message?
- Is what they see representative of what they get?
Lesson 5: It’s OK to admit you were wrong
Even if you aren’t a fan of The Bachelor, you may remember the absolutely wild After the Final Rose where Jason broke up with the winner, Melissa, only to ask Molly to date him again. Jason and Molly have now been married for 5 years and have a daughter, while Melissa married a former boyfriend and has two children.
It’s inevitable that we will all make bad decisions. Handling success is easy, but handling failure and accepting our bad outcomes is so much more important, in life and in business. It’s OK to make bad calls, to admit you were wrong, and to try, try again.
Of course, there are many other life lessons we can learn from The Bachelor, most of which are quite obvious to non-reality-TV contestants! What have you learned from watching The Bachelor?