I love my new website but working with it is stressing me out! Here’s how I’m dealing with this.
Tag Archive for: web development
It’s pretty much a given that websites need to be mobile-friendly. Should your site adopt a mobile-first design as well? For many, the answer is a firm Yes for a lot of good reasons.
All Sites Should Be Mobile-Friendly
It makes sense to invest in a solid mobile experience for customers. I can’t stress this enough: if your website and especially your e-commerce website isn’t easy to navigate or read on a smartphone, you’re turning off potential customers.
Mobile-First sites are specifically designed for mobile users.
Mobile-first design responds to customers who go online through a smartphone. Sites that sell consumer goods are best suited for this. Clothing, jewelry, consumables, furniture, and home accessories sell well with lots of images and videos.
They also don’t need a ton of written content because search engines recognize when a search comes from a desktop or mobile device and deliver results accordingly
Mobile-First Works for Desktop, Too
Google ranks mobile search separately from desktop search to accommodate all mobile users. So how can a business satisfy desktop and mobile users?
Mobile-first functions pretty well on websites regardless of the device they’re viewed from. E-commerce software like WooCommerce and Shopify understand this and have simplified adding images, video, carousels, etc. to sites, with layouts that encourage brief product descriptions. Programmers (and writers!) can add + and – signs to expand or compress descriptions.
The decision comes down to understanding what devices your audience uses when they are on your site. Check your analytics for this.
What if the breakdown is more or less even for mobile and desktop visits?
Go for the mobile-first design.
You can always add content-heavier pages for a blog, customer testimonials, and the About page, which is still important for a lot of consumers – many like to know details like where you source materials or the company’s civic or public services.
According to TechJury, a company that tests and reviews software and devices, 86% of shoppers use at least two channels (presumably a desktop/laptop and smartphone) when they shop.
I read newspapers on my smartphone so often now that when I open one up on my laptop, I’m almost overwhelmed by how big everything seems. That’s because they’re using a mobile-first approach. The papers I read tend to be pretty high on detail, which is why they still rank well on news searches.
Keep in mind that few people actually buy during their first visit to a site. They may come back a few times to read more or watch a product video to get more information. And of course, many return to see if prices have changed.
B2B Customers Use Their Own Smartphones at Work
People use their smartphones all the time, especially for searches, and even when they’re at work.
TechJury says fully half of all B2B queries last year were from a mobile device, and 55% of all page views were from mobile.
Why would workers search by phone even if they have access to a nice desktop or laptop?
Speaking for myself, it’s just easier to whip out the phone for a quick search. Right now I have about 10 tabs open, all of which have really important information I have to see. Why open another tab if I just need to do a one-off, search and the phone is right here?
Remember BYOD? Businesses stopped resisting it when they realized that allowing employees to use their own phones at work saved them money. In 2019, SpokePhone, a company that customizes communications for smartphones, asked why anyone would agree to use their personal phone at work.
They concluded people instinctively prefer using their own phones, even at work, even if it means handing out their personal mobile numbers to customers. Moreover, company phones are just that – purchased by the company – and not personalized like one’s own phone.
Mobile’s Bounce Rate is Near Zero!
Getting back to TechJury’s intriguing compilation of mobile-vs-desktop statistics, I was interested to read those mobile-friendly websites recorded a bounce rate of 0.2% by the end of 2020. Just three years earlier, the mobile bounce was 3% higher.
More than 60% of all internet search comes from mobile.
Overall, more than half of all internet searches have been conducted on mobile since 2017. Last year, they amount to 61%! That’s even with slower speeds than on a desktop, which could be one reason why more time is spent on a desktop – probably to complete actual work or school assignments.
Still, mobile is nearly equal to desktop in terms of all internet traffic.
In addition, for many people, their smartphone is their primary, if not only, access to the internet. The gig economy isn’t desktop/laptop friendly all around, especially for workers whose job is driving people or delivering goods.
Still not sure about your website? Read the full TechJury article. The compilation writer from Christo Petrov draws on respected sources including Statista, eMarketer, and SEMRush. It’s a compelling argument for anyone who’s selling a product online.
Over the past several months I’ve been working with WooCommerce experts who work with e-commerce businesses.
For those who aren’t familiar with WooCommerce, it’s a plugin from WordPress that turns a website into an e-commerce powerhouse. The Australian firm BuiltWith, which provides website profiling, lead generation, analysis, and other support services for e-commerce, reported that 12% of all e-commerce sites use either WooCommerce or use the WooCommerce Checkout tool.
On its own, WooCommerce powers nine percent of all e-commerce sites, just behind market leader Shopify and just ahead of Magento, two other popular e-commerce options.
WooCommerce Is Open to Developers Who Create E-Commerce Tools
Like WordPress, WooCommerce is a free, open-source platform, meaning that people who do things like develop website applications can easily integrate their products to work with WooCommerce. (For more information about how application interfaces work, see this article from ModeEffect.) While it offers plenty of free and paid or fee-based tools (called extensions), being open source means it’s easier for developers to create customized solutions for e-commerce site owners. I think this benefits both developers and e-commerce businesses.
WooCommerce is so extensive, it’s easy to forget that it’s a WordPress plugin so it can run other WordPress plugins as well. However, many WordPress plugin developers have developed extensions specifically for WooCommerce. Yoast, an SEO tool that virtually all WordPress users (myself included) consider vital, has a WooCommerce extension.
WooCommerce Is (Almost) as User-Friendly as “Closed” Platforms
I don’t have any direct experience maintaining a WooCommerce site myself but I’ve seen enough to be confident that as a longtime WordPress user to know I could learn it pretty quickly. I had the opportunity to leaf through a pre-launch WooCommerce site a few years ago and liked what I saw.
WooCommerce generally scores points for being user-friendly although reviewers often point out that sites like Shopify and Etsy are friendlier. They probably are, especially for e-commerce business owners who “don’t use” computers. Shopify, Etsy, Weebly, and other “instant websites” are all-in-one website builder packages that also include hosting in their costs. I think this is why they are seen as more user-friendly than WooCommerce and Magento, which put the hosting decisions on site owners.
Moreover, WooCommerce requires first building a WordPress website, adding another step to the process.
However, setting up a basic WordPress site is pretty easy. Once you decide on a host—WordPress endorses BlueHost and SiteGround, the host I use—you have access to WordPress for free, and many hosts will help you set up a site as well. You aren’t limited to these hosts, either: there are tons of other excellent WordPress hosts including GoDaddy, which I personally think has the best customer service anywhere, of any business.
Like most website services, WordPress has an installation wizard that makes setting up a basic site a low-stress task. Your host can also help with setup, and there are lots of videos on YouTube and WordPress itself that can guide you along as well if you’re doing it on your own. Frankly, there’s nothing like working hands-on with a new tool to help you find it less threatening; remember, you’re not launching warheads or anything!
Once WordPress is set up, go to the Plugins menu and look for WooCommerce. Once you upload and activate it, you can use its setup wizard to guide you through it.
WooCommerce Hosting and Domain Registration
Hosts can also transfer an existing e-commerce website from another platform to their own, even from “closed” sites like Etsy. A clever host will know a few tricks like downloading a CSV file or figuring out an application interface (API) solution. At the very least, a CSV will preserve the content.
Domain registration works the same way for WooCommerce as it does for any other website. In the early days of the web, this was often done by separate companies but more hosts are providing domain registration as well and closed, all-in-one services take care of this as well and may be another reason why WooCommerce and Magento are written off as requiring “expert” knowledge. But today, many hosts like BlueHost and GoDaddy, do both. I work with clients who use GoDaddy for both hosting and domain registration.
I use GoDaddy to register and keep my domain. It didn’t offer WordPress back when I started my own website, so it didn’t make sense to use it for hosting. Plus, I got free hosting from a friend for many years—a sweet deal for which I will always remain grateful
I’ve read that it isn’t a good idea to use the same service for both hosting and registration. But if it’s a reputable site, with good reviews from places like TechRadar, I don’t see why there would be a problem. If you’re using a really cheap host who’s new or is small but you personally like the people behind it, it may make sense to separate hosting and registration just in case something does go wrong. At the very least, you want to hang on to your website registration!
In addition, some hosting sites are starting to specialize in WooCommerce. Large WooCommerce sites may want to look into these options as there are differences between hosting a WordPress site and a WooCommerce site, particularly where traffic management is concerned.
Tips for Launching a WooCommerce Website
I haven’t actually set up a WooCommerce site but I know people who do!
I also had the opportunity to sit it on Chris Lema’s presentation on setting up WooCommerce at Phoenix WordCamp in February 2018. Lema is an e-commerce expert and works extensively with WooCommerce. He literally set up a dummy site and showed the highlights seen in the setup wizard.
Interestingly, WooCommerce is a little less logical than WordPress. Here are a few tips Chris shared with us:
- Be sure to go into the settings section because the wizard skips over most of them. US-based e-commerce businesses are required to list a physical location so be sure to ask your client what address to use. You can also use a fake one and change it later. Do not, however, list your address as you will then start receiving all kinds mail you don’t want or need!
- The first content section you see in the software (right under the page title) is not where you add content about the product! This is a major stumbling block and the guy next to me at Lema’s presentation told me this cost him a lot of time. Look for the product description section, a small area which is what Google will see first as it conducts searches. The large content area is for details you may or may not want to add, but will probably help with search engine optimization.
- Always choose PayPal as a payment option. Not only is it wildly popular, Chris says, many people view money in their PayPal accounts as “free” money to use for shopping. I know that I often leave a few bucks in my PayPal account for inexpensive purchases like pizza or discounted books/ebooks.
Chris’ presentation was quite entertaining and was well worth the time and extremely affordable cost to attend WordCamp even in my case for just one morning. To see Chris’ favorite WooCommerce extensions, check out his slide presentation Launching Your WooCommerce Store Workshop.
WooCommerce is Great for Blogging!
WooCommerce is its own little world but it’s still a WordPress plugin and retains the blogging DNA.
Blog on WooCommerce just as you would on WordPress: create a new post, add categories, tags, media, and metadata. Yoast, a popular SEO tool (I used it all the time) has an extension for WooCommerce that builds upon its WordPress version. It supports Pinterest and ties in with the the WordPress version to coordinate and boost breadcrumb trails. There’s also a Local SEO version for those e-commerce sites that also have a local brick and mortar presence.
What should you blog about? Well, what do your customers care about? Look at your emails for clues. Typically, they are interested in:
- New products
- Product care
- Special offers
- Staff introductions
- Customer testimonials
- Photos and videos
Depending on your customers, it’s usually ok to share a little personal information such as how you dealt with a Noreaster (something we don’t worry about here in Arizona), a kid going away to college, a new puppy. As the great big shoe company says, just do it!
And if you can’t find the time—hire a professional writer!
The Internet of Things (I0T) is here and it’s hungry. Right now, a lot of brainpower is being used to figure out battery and energy solutions so that Alexa never fails to respond and the FitBit doesn’t overlook the stairwell you climbed coming back from lunch.
Consider, too, that IoT needs computer processing power as well to function. Assuming our chips survive Spectre, will IoT users get the power they need?
IoT and a New Approach to Supercomputing
IoT devices are the ultimate in wireless, on-the-go technology and its numbers are growing. Last year, Gartner forecasted there would be 20.4 billion IoT devices by 2020. More than 60% of current IoT applications are in the consumer market, but businesses will no doubt identify new uses for it and make more demands for IoT power, including processing power.
Supercomputers are the first solution most businesses and industry enthusiasts will think of. But supercomputers are expensive and consume a lot of energy. They would place IoT out of reach for many consumers and small businesses. But guess what? There is a better way: leashing the power of idle and underused processors.
The Phoenix area where I live and work is a hub of creative technological thinking, particularly in mobile and IoT. Two years ago, I caught a presentation by Chris Mattheiu, then with Citrix, at the annual Phoenix Mobile Tech conference. He spoke about sharing unused processors to power anything that requires computing— not just IoT—although that’s what initially sparked his interest.
Even to me, a non-techie who writes about mobile and IoT tech, this made sense: Create a supercomputer that doesn’t generate more processing power but uses excess power that’s just sitting around unused. IoT itself, Mattheiu pointed out, is idle 80% of the time. It doesn’t need a steady supply of processing power, but it does need a reliable one.
Mattheiu had already created the website computes.io to deliver processing power to those who need more than they have on hand. In January 2018, he announced its formal launching as a new business. Computes serves businesses and nonprofits that need additional computing power that would otherwise require buying additional resources. It can run on the cloud and deliver to any device, on any browser and through any operating system.
It’s already got one impressive customer: the University of Wisconsin, which is using Computes to find patients with early onset Parkinson’s Disease for clinical studies.
This approach to get supercomputer power without spending a lot of money is great news for smaller companies and startups, which are powering a lot of Phoenix-area tech businesses these days.
Who Needs Additional Computing Power?
In addition to the impressive size of IoT users, there are plenty of others who can use additional computing power. For me, the most obvious one is in graphic design.
As a dedicated WordPress fangirl, I am painfully aware of the amount of sheer memory graphics take up on a website. There are solutions for this terrible problem (!) but what about the folks who are creating those graphics? Artists are not generally overflowing with excess cash to buy into more Amazon cloud space, particularly for short-term projects.
Computes works for them, too, and I suspect local Phoenix-area artists and videographers will love this solution. The same goes for those working with machine learning (formerly known as artificial intelligence, or AI), another small but strong industry in these parts. Not everyone has access to the supercomputing services at ASU!
Computes is also looking to attract a “cryptocurrency” market to leverage from idle gaming systems, cryptocurrency mining—a popular activity on campus these days—and to support applications like fault tolerance, which ensures websites remain active even when there’s an issue that would normally bring a site down.
IoT devices and machine learning/AI aren’t trends anymore: they’re as permanent as data collection and mining. Even cryptocurrency keeps marching on. Their presence, and that of the next thing on the horizon, will make more demands on power, even if they don’t need it all the time.
Most of us hate wasting resources. This “mesh computer” as Computes calls it, works in a way similar to how solar power customers sell excess power back to utilities. Plus, it’s good to see a technological advance that will actually help small businesses and nonprofits better manage their resources. The fact that this great idea was hatched right here in the Valley of the Sun makes it more than a little sweeter.