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There are a lot of great blogs out there that tackle what makes a good website, what website tricks to avoid and what new website trends are going to catapult to stardom. But there is one question that comes way before the rest, and that’s – why have a website in the first place?

This might seem a bit simple and you might be looking at your screen with a raised eyebrow, but the number of individuals and businesses out there that don’t use websites to their full potential, because they haven’t answered this question, is a lot higher than you think.

Window Shopping

A website is firstly not a static window display or a tool that only serves 1 purpose.

What do I mean? Well, there are far too many websites out there that look great but are basically sitting pretty. They don’t fulfil what they’re supposed to do, because most websites aren’t there to just look good, they are created to achieve specific business goals. Websites are there to strengthen brand loyalty, increase audience interaction, raise your business profile, and for most organisations – help you make a decent living.  A great website does all of these things at the drop of a hat.

It’s also easy to forget that window shopping has the word ‘shopping’ in it. If you don’t think about the mechanics of your website properly and just concentrate on the aesthetics, then people looking at your site will see a window and not a shop. They’ll see a pretty but pointless thing. What happens when your audience sees that your website doesn’t fulfil its purpose? Painful bounce rates that just keep on rising.

Keep a keen eye on those pesky bounce stats as your website moves along, it’s a great indicator for what is switching your audience off.  

Want an example of what we mean? Let’s take our very own Bamboo website.

Our website is multi-functional and has several reasons for existing. We are a web design company, and so the first obvious way we use our site is to help potential customers find us, get in touch and work with us, so an online and interactive directory of sorts. But, we also use it as an searchable portfolio of our work, evolving proof that we know how to design as well as a place for industry discussion and helpful information (our blog).

All of these elements are interlinked throughout our site and allow people to contact us, to understand who we are and whether we might fit with what they are looking for. Not sure what we mean? Take a look around our website.

Alive and Kicking

Yes website act, in part, as a digital shop front and designing it well ensures that your brand and tone are on point for incoming website traffic. But your website is so much more than that. Your website should be geared to be an interactive and evolving platform which guides users right to call to action heaven.

A lot of people also create the cardinal website crime of not evolving it with the times and with user behaviour. They create fantastic looking websites, build in all the snazzy bells and whistles they need to generate traffic and convert customers, but then as soon as its live and uploaded they leave it alone, free to hover like an aimless digital cloud on the world wide web.

Your website needs to be honed and improved, much like a plant. It needs to be watered and pruned.  For a website to grow a following or to nurture loyal customers it needs constant attention. The goal is to keep working on it, improving it and tailoring it more and more to the people that use it.

To Infinity

How do you ensure a website moves with the times and is in tune with your audience? Analytics and feedback are your best mates when it comes to listening to what your users want and ensuring your website achieves your business goals.

Track and analyse user behaviour. If I could put that phrase up in lights, I would. Track and analyse which pages are most popular, average page duration, which months your website is more popular, which time and day do you get the most hits and where do people tend to bounce off. All of this information is like sweet honey for marketing people because it’s basically free feedback and a call to arms to improve websites so that they run alongside customer behaviour.

If you take anything from this article, breathe these 5 golden tips in –

  1. Think about why you need a website in the first place
  2. Assess whether your website is meeting your goals
  3. Track users and what they are doing on your site.
  4. Understand how people use your website and evolve with them
  5. Push your website to interact with your audience

Do these 5 things consistently and your website will no longer feel like the forgotten toys in the back of your cupboard. Your website will be relevant again, will serve a specific purpose and reach far beyond your previous expectations.

Did we mention that we make pretty decent looking websites and love coding to or heart’s content? If you fancy a chat with us, give us a ring our come into Ziferblat Edge street, where all our website magic takes place.

Why coders are today’s rock stars

Every decade we have a ‘cool’ job gang. And every decade there are a set of people that go from working behind the scenes to rocking our professional world overnight.

This decade is the age of the coders. Gone are the socially inept stereotypes and in its place, are hip tech-savvy individuals working for futuristic Google-esque companies and changing the world as they code.

Tech is now seen as cool and as a by-product the people that have kept it afloat are the rock stars of this shiny new world. Coding trendy new apps, inventing social media, birthing websites, working with governments, or developing ground breaking software has transformed the classically introverted coders to completely different social creatures and given them public relevance.

Coders were the belly of the digital beast, but have long since walked out of their computer filled backrooms and onto the media stage. Coders are now talking about their achievements and are rightly seen as an integral part of the future of digital.

Code of Fire

It comes as no surprise really. The internet is built by and dependent on coders, as is all software, most modern technology, and is used in music and modern art.

When what someone does becomes so crucially important across our entire lives they have much more room to fulfil their potential. In turn, this attracts more rising stars and helps make the industry even more ground-breaking.

Art and science is also becoming very blurred. The omnipresence of technology means that the new generation will have a much deeper interest and knowledge of basic tech and code and will use that to create, invent and innovate.

Even now, artists actively use creative software tools and web developers learn how to use the arts to create inspiring digital platforms. And because this generation’s coders are the first to pioneer the marriage between creativity and technology, they naturally become the Johnny Cash of code.

Here comes the sun

Coders were working underground for decades partly because it took society a long time to realise that coders aren’t strange people typing a string of incomprehensive letters and numbers.

Our access to technology has raised our awareness of code and its importance in our daily lives. This naturally peeked our interest in who makes our smartphone apps or how a website is built and makes us want to know much more about coders. We have that same thirst for celebs, and which makes them systematically cooler than the average joe.

Because technology is revolutionising our daily lives, it is also creating social and pioneering movements just like rock and roll did and still does. Being the first of a mass movement makes you ground breaking. Hackathons, big data and the internet of things are all trendy buzz words for a reason.

The idea of ‘geek’ is also finally being turned on its head. Scientists, tech inventors, mathematicians and coders are finally having their day in the sun because of the technological advancements they are creating and the digital movements they are pioneering.

Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.

WordPress is arguably the most successful and influential blogging and website platform there is, and is estimated to power 14% of the world wide web today. A large part of its success is due to its rich set of features and its highly adaptable and powerful plugins.

For those of us who are still getting to grips with the mysterious digital realm of building blogs or websites, plugins are basically bits of software that can be added onto your page by uploading them.

Plugins tend to either extend or expand how your page functions and in many cases, provide a complete solution for the user, i.e. most of the background work is done by the plugin builders.

Plug me IN

‘Which WordPress Plugins should I be using?” has to be the most existential and googled WordPress user question out there.

So before jumping head first into frenzied google searches for Top 5 WordPress Plugins to use, the most logical thing to consider before setting off is whether you actually need one in the first place.

To answer this, ask yourself the following 4 things –

  1. Can the issue be solved without a plugin?
  2. Does the theme I’ve chosen have a built-in solution?
  3. Do I want to find a plugin to perform a specific task?
  4. Is what I’m trying to change or improve actually necessary?

If you’ve brushed the first two off with a no and answered the last two with a firm nod of the head, you are on the right path and do in fact need a WordPress plugin. Next step on the road to your plugin holy grail is to decide whether to use free or premium plugins.

To pay or not to pay

A large part of the WordPress community actually believe all plugins should be free. There are a lot of free WordPress plugins already out there which are great because they do what they say on the tin and, if you are strapped for cash or don’t believe in paying for plugins, are a more than viable option to solve your WordPress building woes. Some popular free plugins include: Contact Form 7, WordPress SEO, Google Analytics and WP Super Cache.

So then why part with your hard-earned coin when you can just upload something for sweet nothing? The two main reasons to air out your wallet when it comes to choosing the right WordPress plugin are –

  • Range – in some cases the issue you are trying to solve hasn’t been developed by charitable plugin builders and premium can be your only option.
  • Reliability – support teams from premium plugins actually work on issues reported by users, maintain security and compatibility with the latest WordPress version and ensure the plugin is compatible with other plugins you might also want to use on your site. This can also happen with free plugins but isn’t as widespread.
  • Saves time and effort – the support team works on issues flagged by users which saves time and effort trying to work them out yourself and means you don’t even need to manually monitor your plugins for vulnerabilities.

Don’t forget that after you pay for your initial premium plugin you usually need to pay extra for any major upgrades!

The final hurdle

In the end choosing between free or paid WordPress plugins depends on your budget, whether there is a free plugin for what you need, the complexity of your issue, your knowledge of plugin set up procedures and how much time and energy you are prepared to invest.

Now all that’s left for you to do is to find the specific plugin for your issue. If you know your stuff, go straight to the WordPress directory and have a good, long search. If you are a little bit wary of making the wrong decision and love expert advice then there are plenty of great bloggers out there that can help you choose the right one for you. Type in your specific issue and let the magic of the internet guide you to the right plugin for you.

PSST! The team @Bamboo Digital Manchester might be the genie to your lamp. We also create our own WordPress plugins!

Sara is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She owns the commercial and creative content company Fraiche Ink, focusing on think pieces and marketing content.