How To Check If Your Site Is Mobile Responsive

Am I Responsive

As you should already know, making your site mobile responsive is critical for your users and for your SEO rankings. If your users can’t view your site on their tablets and phones, you’re losing potential users/customers. And if your site isn’t mobile responsive, Google will ding your site which will affect your rankings and prevent you from showing up in SERP results. At a bare minimum, you should make sure you have the following on your site:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">

This means that the browser will try to render the width of the page at the width of its own screen. This prevents the browser on your phone from rendering a zoomed out page that’s barely legible. But, of course, this alone doesn’t make your website mobile responsive. You’ll need to make sure your content is formatted for tablets and mobile devices. If you’re not sure how to do this, it’s typically done through CSS media queries like this one for tablets:

@media only screen and (min-device-width : 768px) {
/* Styles */
}

If you’re not a CSS guru, this may look like a foreign language so go ahead and ignore it. Hopefully, you’re using a theme which has already taken care of making your site mobile responsive. The next step is to then check to see what your site looks like on different devices. Go to Am I Responsive and enter the URL to your site. You’ll see how your site looks on mobile, tablet and desktop browsers. This doesn’t quite test different browsers like Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc. but it does show what your site looks like at different sizes. If you want check your site on specific operating system and browser combinations, go to BrowserStack to check out your site. There are ways to automate checking or you can just manually check your site. This really depends on how often you’re changing your site and what kind of users are visiting your site (type meaning what devices are they using).

And lastly, but possibly most importantly, you’ll want to make sure Google sees your site as mobile responsive. To do this, go to Google Search Console and use the “Fetch as Google” feature to check your site by fetching and rendering your site on a mobile smartphone. This will show you and let you know if Google thinks your site is mobile responsive.

And now that your site is mobile responsive, go build amazing content and find new users/customers.

Launchaco – Build a Free Responsive Website

Launchaco

Launchaco is a pretty amazing free tool to build a responsive website for your product, startup or business that I found over on Hacker News. It walks you through 4 steps that lets you customize your website and then provides you the HTML and CSS for your website. With the files, you can then upload them to your hosting provider and voila, you have a website. All it takes is walking through 4 steps:

Step 1: Select Hero Template

You have 6 different hero templates to pick from and for each one, you can customize things like the page title, hero text and sub-text, hero image, and call to action (button, email sign-up, Google Play link, App Store link).

Step 2: Select Feature Template

You can have multiple feature sections to showcase different things like products, services or anything else you want your visitors to read. Again, you have 6 differente templates to pick from and you can customize the text and pick from different images to use.

Step 3: Select Social Template

Next you have 6 different social templates where you can provide social proof of who uses your services, your top customers or customer testimonials.

Step 4: Select Footer Template

And lastly, you have your footer template and you have 6 different options to pick from. They range from super minimal (just a couple links and copyright text) to the full kitchen sink with a closing quote, sign-up/email links and social media links.

And once you’ve gone through all 4 steps, you’re done and you have a website that’s ready to launch. And you can skip any of the sections as well, so if you don’t have anything to feature (yet) you can just skip and move on project management tracking software. This isn’t the most feature-rich site but it’s a good starting point. And the best part is that you get a responsive site (great for mobile visitors) and you can organize your content and get Google to start indexing your site.

Social Media for Small Businesses

socialmedia

In addition to creating a website for your business, you should make sure to setup the appropriate social media accounts for your business to attract visitors and hopefully customers. Promoting your business on the right social networks can help attract visitors to your website/business as well as attract followers who can share/promote your business. And it’s important to pick the right social networks for your business. Depending on the type of business, certain social networks are going to be a better match for the type of content you should share and have more potential customers.

Facebook

Facebook has become the defacto social network for all major demographics. In general, you should have a presence on Facebook. It’s simple to create a Facebook page for your business. The basics of the page should include: location, contact info, company logo, product images. Once you have the basics setup, invite all your friends and family and ask them to share with their friends/family. This will get your page bootstrapped and hopefully will pick up some new fans. Once you have a base, then start posting regularly (but don’t be spammy). You’ll know you’re doing it right if your friend/family start liking and leaving comments on your posts. This means that Facebook is surfacing your content on their feeds and they’re feeling compelled to respond. And once you get posting down, then I suggest you start researching and looking into Facebook ads. Paying for fans, likes and more exposure is tricky and can either be a great channel or a drain on your marketing budget.

Twitter

Twitter is a great channel if you have a bunch of die-hard fans already and you want to keep in touch and push updates/promos. Setting up a Twitter account is simple and then you can put your Twitter handle in things like email newsletters, signage around your business and even on your website. However, if you’re a new business or have more of a casual fan base, skip Twitter for now. The reason is that Twitter has a lot of noise, bots and spam. From a ROI perspective, you’ll end up spending a lot of effort to get followers (who might not be real) so it would be better to leverage other social networks.

Instagram

Instagram is a must-have if you’re a business that has a physical and visual product to sell – for example, if you are a restaurant, bakery, clothing designer, jewelry maker or artist, Instagram is an excellent channel to use. And two very easy tactics to jump-start your fanbase are to follow well-known celebrities and like/comment on their posts and when posting your own content, research what hashtags are popular and make sure to use them. And like I mentioned earlier, beg your friends and family to follow your account and to like your posts.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is basically a great network to leverage if you have a business that focuses on selling to businesses or professionals. For example, if you provide consulting services, or sell a product to businesses or you have a product/service that you sell to consumers but think businesses could be a new channel. Unlike other social networks, you shouldn’t spend too much time trying to attract followers on LinkedIn. Your objective should be to setup a presence on the network and get customers to leave positive reviews. These will become great SEO content that Google will index and send new potential customers to your LinkedIn profile.

Tumblr

Tumblr is a great micro-blogging platform that is a great starting point if you don’t have a blog already. Since Tumblr is meant to be short micro posts, this isn’t the platform for a long editorial or guide. However, if you’re a business with visual products, this would be a great platform to post pictures of your products. A great example would be if you’re a restaurant or bakery – everyone loves to see what is being made. It is also great to see pictures of happy customers. Not only will your customers feel connected, but they can also become your advocates and attract more customers. TLDR – if you don’t have a blog already, have things like pithy quotes, product pictures, customer pictures, sign up for Tumblr.

YouTube

YouTube is pretty well-known at this point and obviously is focused on posting videos. Successful videos that will help attract customers and build your brand include:

  1. Video review of new products/offerings
  2. Video tutorials on how to maximize use of products
  3. Customer testimonials
  4. Video tours of your shop
  5. Video podcast discussing interesting topics

Pinterest

Pinterest is a photo-heavy platform and is meant for businesses that have a lot of photo-worthy content. In addition, because most users leverage “boards” – it’s important to think about themes that users are organizing around. Think of a board that your typical user would have and how would your products/services look in that board. If you’re a clothing and jewelry maker, post pictures that attract these users to pin it to their board.

Google Plus+

Google Plus+ is an interesting platform because in some ways, it’s akin to Facebook but unfortunately doesn’t have the audience that Facebook does. So should you spend a lot of time on Google Plus+? The answer for most businesses is no. However, if you are looking to get more SEO traffic, it has been shown that posting high quality content on Google Plus+ can drive more traffic and help your ranking in Google SERP. So it’s probably worth a weekend of getting a Google Plus+ profile setup. But I wouldn’t advise spending time daily or even weekly on Google Plus+ unless you’re seeing a lot of engagement with your page and content.

 

WordPress vs Joomla vs Drupal

CMS

If you’re starting a website for your business, a personal hobby, your social organization or a portfolio, a content management system (CMS) is a great way to get started. The most popular CMS systems are WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal. Each CMS is used by extremely popular websites such as Forbes, CNN, Sony, Harvard and even the White House. So if each CMS can handle sites like the ones mentioned, what makes one better than another and how do you pick the right one for your needs. The biggest distinction between the different systems are how much do you want to customize and how willing are you to invest into learning and/or paying to have those customizations done. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different systems and how they compare to one another:

WordPressJoomlaDrupal
Released 2003Released 2005Released 2001
Global Usage
140 Million Downloads63 Million Downloads15 Million Downloads
Cost
FreeFreeFree
Themes
4K+1K+2K+
Install Time
5 Minutes10 Minutes10 Minutes
Best For
Blogs
Corporate Websites
Small-Medium Sized Websites
E-commerce
Social Networking Sites
Anything

WordPress

WordPress is the most popular and well-known CMS platform that lets you create a website, blog or app. In most cases, WordPress is going to be the best choice. Like the others, it’s battle-tested and can scale to handle large traffic spikes. In addition, it has a wealth of support and experts ready to help (for a price). And if you don’t have deep pockets to pay consultants, there are thousands of free themes and plugins that can get you off the ground quickly. There will be some trial and error with figuring out which theme and plugins are right for you but WordPress makes it easy to enable and test quickly. And speaking of easy, most of WordPress is configuration and WYSIWYG driven so you don’t need to be a technical expert to make changes. It’s more like building your perfect burrito at Chipotle, pick from a menu and over time decide if you prefer the black beans over pinto beans and if the guacamole is worth the extra charge (always a yes for me). So, in summary:

Install difficulty: low

Configuration difficulty: low

Online support/guides: high

Joomla!

Joomla! is another popular CMS platform that lets you create a custom website for things like a company website, e-commerce, community portal or personal website. While WordPress is typically used as a blogging platform, Joomla! is typically used to create more custom website applications. And similar to other platforms, there are themes and plugins available to customize your site. Joomla! is typically thought of as more extensible than other CMS platforms. If you’re a developer or interested in learning how to customize Joomla beyond the typical configuration and WYSIWG editors, you can build on top of the Joomla! Framework functionality such as inventory control systems, data reporting tools, application bridges, custom product catalogs, integrated e-commerce systems, complex business directories, reservation systems and communication tools. Joomla! is a good choice if you have complex needs and have tried WordPress and found it too limiting. Online documentation and support is available but not as abundant when compared to WordPress. And in terms of hiring help, there are going to be far fewer resources familiar and specialize in Joomla!. This is worth keeping in mind if you need help scaling your website in the future.

Install difficulty: low

Configuration difficulty: medium

Online support/guides: medium

Drupal

And our third CMS is Drupal which provides robust features for building websites with complex security/permissions for large organizations. Like the other CMS systems, there are options for themes and plugins. Developers can customize and build add-ons/plugins but Drupal does have a fair amount of functionality available through configuration. One area that Drupal really shines is the built-in concept of user groups and permissions. This allows you to put people into different groups and give them specific access to different things like what they can modify and what content they can create/update. However, with all the extra functionality the admin interface is more complex and not as intuitive. And compared to WordPress, there are far fewer online guides and tutorials to help you customize your instance.

Install difficulty: low

Configuration difficulty: medium

Online support/guides: low

iPage Review

iPage Website Hosting

iPage is a web hosting provider that has been around since 1998 and provides a wide range of services including shared, VPS, dedicated and WordPress hosting. They specifically focus on helping small businesses get online. In addition, they provide a wide range of features/services such as website building/design tools, hosting utilities, marketing features, email hosting, e-commerce support and exceptional customer support. And that’s on top of the standard features like unlimited disk space, unlimited domain names, unlimited mySQL databases and a free domain.

Website Building/Design Tools

iPage has support for a number of different content management systems – WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. And there’s support for other blogs (PixelPost, b2evolution, etc), photo galleries (Gallery2, ZenPhoto, etc) and forums (Gbook, phpBB, SMF, etc). There’s also support for hundreds of templates/themes that are mobile optimized. And you can use the Weebly website builder to start your site.

Hosting Utilities

iPage provides standard hosting utilities like FileManager, FTP, secure FTP, PERL, server side includes and access/error logs. Some additional features include custom error pages, a URL redirect tool, website backup software and bandwidth/disk usage monitoring.

E-commerce Support

Because iPage focuses on small businesses, they provide a suite of features to get your small business online. All the plans include a free online store with PayPal integration using an easy 1-click installer. You have your choice of different shopping cart applications such as AgoraCart, OpenCart, OSCommerce, PrestaShop, Zen Card and Tomato Card.

Marketing Support

iPage provides online marketing guides to get your site off the ground. You can also take advantage of a $100 Google AdWords or Bing credit to buy traffic for your site. And you also get a free Yellowpages.com listing and a toll-free phone number for your business that you can list on your website.

Shared Hosting

iPage provides a number of shared hosting options ranging from basic HTML/PHP hosting to WordPress hosting. The Essential and WordPress hosting plans are reasonable and are similar to other hosting providers.

PlanFeaturesPrice
Essential PlanFree Domain Name, Unlimited Disk Space, Unlimited mySQL Databases$1.99
WP StarterBasic WordPress Package$3.75
WP EssentialWordPress Expert Support, Enhanced Security, Super Speed$6.95

VPS Hosting

As for VPS hosting, iPage has a number of options that are typically more expensive than other hosting providers like DigitalOcean and BlueHost.

PlanCPURAMStoragePrice
Basic1 Core1GB40GB$19.99
Business2 Cores4GB90GB$47.99
Optimum4 Cores8GB120GB$79.99

Dedicated Hosting

iPage’s dedicated hosting options have a wide breadth and can not only be extremely powerful but also extremely pricey. If you’re thinking about dedicated hosting, I would highly recommend looking at VPS options that will give you the same control/flexibility and more economical scaling.

PlanCPURAMStoragePrice
Startup2 Cores4GB500GB$119.99
Professional4 Cores8GB1000GB$151.99
Enterprise4 Cores16GB1000GB$191.99

 

How to Make a Website

Build Your Website

Why this guide?

Every company should have a website to answer questions and promote their business, every person should have a website to be their online presence and every project should have a website to connect with users and garner support. Once upon a time, getting a website online was difficult and required the help of someone with specialized technical skills. These days, it’s pretty easy to get online but it’s still hard to have an amazing website. This guide will help with the former (since it’s easy) and this site will help you achieve the latter.

Quick overview

The major steps to getting a website will be the following:

  1. Determine what type of site you’re trying to setup
  2. Pick a domain name for your site
  3. Pick a hosting provider for your site
  4. Purchase the domain and hosting provider
  5. Start customizing your site
  6. Make your site amazing

Before we get started

Okay, I’m glad we haven’t lost you yet. You’re on your way to setting up your own website. But let’s agree on a couple things before we get started:

  • This guide isn’t going to answer every question
  • This guide isn’t going to help you build the next Facebook or Google
  • This guide will be focused on being simple for beginners

Step 1: Determine what type of site you’re trying to setup

The first thing we should all agree on is what type of site you’re trying to setup. This isn’t an exhaustive list but your site should fall into one of these major buckets:

Business Website

This is pretty straightforward, if you are a business owner of any type and you’re trying to have an online presence to acquire more customer, sell more stuff or rank on SEO, this is you.

Content Blog

This is a pretty wide category and could range from you wanting to have a personal blog to post thoughts and musing once a month to being an up-and-coming mommy blogger promoting products through daily posts generating thousands or millions of dollars (hopefully the latter).

Custom Web Application

And lastly, this category covers the aspiring entrepreneurs and folks who are working on side-projects (e.g. open-source, startup, hobby). What distinguishes this from the other categories is if you are going to be writing custom code (not just HTML/CSS). If you don’t know what this means, this isn’t you.

Step 2: Pick a domain name for your site

Picking a domain is either really easy because you already have a name of your company or your project or it’s going to be a challenge because you’re trying to come up with a name for a personal project/blog. In either case, you still need to find/pick the exact domain for your site. Luckily, we have a guide to help pick the perfect domain – How To Pick The Perfect Domain For Your Website. The tips for picking the right domain:

  1. Be intuitive and avoid being too clever
  2. Avoid confusing words
  3. Avoid confusing words

As for purchasing the domain, I highly recommend Google Domains.

Step 3: Pick a hosting provider for your site

Once you have a domain name, you need to pick a web hosting provider. This is where the type of website you are trying to setup will help.

If you are setting up a business website, check out our guide for Best Web Hosting for Small Business from $2.75 a month.

If you are setting up a content blog, check out our guide for Best Web Hosting for WordPress from $1.99 a month.

If you are setting up a custom web application, check out our guide for Best Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting from $4.99 a month.

Step 5: Start customizing your site

Coming soon…

Step 6: Make your site amazing

Coming soon…

 

How Much Disk Space Do I Need?

Disk Space

Disk space is the amount of hard drive space on your server necessary to house all your website files. A simple analogy is the same way you can’t take anymore pictures when your phone’s hard drive fills up, you can’t add any files to your server once it fills up. In addition to images, you wouldn’t be able to upload anymore movies, files or code once your server is full. The biggest variables to determine how much disk space you need are:

What kind of site do you have?

Depending on whether your site is a personal blog, a small business website or a new killer web app, you’ll be hosting either images, videos or lots of custom code.

How much unique content do you have?

Once you figure out what kind of content you’ll have, you need to figure out how much content do you have? For example, do you have 100 images or 1000 videos or maybe you have 10,000 PHP/JS/HTML/CSS files.

How much will your content grow?

While it’s great to count how much content you have, what you’ll also need to estimate is how much will that content grow over time. Think at least a year out as a good starting point – for example, in a year, do you expect the number of images you have to double or stay constant.

Hopefully you have the above answers handy. Once you have them, enter them into the calculator below to get an estimate of how much disk space you’ll need.

 

As you look at web hosting providers, pay attention to how much disk space they provide. On average, most basic shared hosting and VPS hosting will give you somewhere between 5GB and 20GB for basic hosting. That should be plenty if you’re starting a website for the first time. However, if you have an existing site, you might have already exceeded the basic allotment or you might have a better sense of how much growth you expect to see over the next 12 months. And lastly, if you need over 20GB of disk space, you might want to consider a CDN to host your files which could prove to be cheaper and faster.

How To Pick The Perfect Domain For Your Website

Domain Name

The right domain name can make or break your website so be sure to take the time and pick the right domain. Once you’ve put it out there and start getting visitors, it will be a lot harder to change domain names (but technically possible). So whether you’re a small business owner or you’re a budding entrepreneur with an amazing idea, you’ll need to come up with a memorable domain name and more importantly, you’ll need to come up with a domain name that’s available. So let’s start with some basics:

Be intuitive and avoid being too clever

You want something memorable and easy to enter, so don’t try to be clever and come up with something complex that isn’t intuitive to visitors. For example, if you’re a pie shop – don’t go with something like www.getpi.com because you want it to be nerdy. If you end up being too clever, all you’re doing is sending traffic to someone else’s website.

Avoid confusing words

Avoid numbers because it’s not clear if you meant “7” or “seven”. Avoid using “to” since it’s hard to distinguish from “too” or even “two”. Same goes for words like “by” and “bye” and “bi”. Luckily, website names don’t have to be grammatically correct, so you can get away with phrases with improper sentence structure.

Be creative if your ideal domain isn’t available

I’m sure lots of people would love to have “foo.com” which isn’t available. However, you could try “getfoo.com” or “fooapp.com”. There’s lots of ways to add relevant words to your business or company name to increase your odds of getting it.

Still need help?

If you’ve reached this and you’re still struggling, you might want to take advantage of some of the online domain name generators. These are a great way to get some creative suggestions that you might not have thought of. Most simply ask that you provide a keyword or a starting phrase and they will provide creative suggestions of domains that are available. Some of my favorite sites for this are:

LeanDomainSearch – very straightforward search that provides a nice list of “creative” domains related to your keyword/phrase

Instant Domain Search – nice simple interface that shows you results instantly and even the price/availability

And lastly, once you’ve found the perfect domain name, you need to then secure it and purchase it before someone else. I have used multiple domain registrars and I have all of my domains currently with Google Domains.

DigitalOcean Review

DigitalOcean provides virtual private server hosting that is highly customizable with high availability at reasonable prices. Unlike other hosting providers that also provide shared hosting and dedicated hosting, DigitalOcean only provides virtual private servers which are referred to as droplets. A droplet is a resizable cloud server that comes in a number of configurations:

ProcessorMemoryStoragePrice
1 Core512MB20GB SSD$5
1 Core1GB30GB SSD$10
2 Core2GB40GB SSD$20
4 Core8GB80GB SSD$80
12 Core32GB320GB SSD$320
20 Core64GB640GB SSD$640

Some of the best features that come with DigitalOcean include:

Deploy in seconds – spin up a droplet in 55 seconds

SSD performance – all servers are equipped with SSDs

Highly available storage – attach multiple highly available volumes up to 16TB to a droplet

Fast network – each hypervisor has a 40Gbps network

Resize – scale your droplet’s resources up or down based on your usage

Backups and snapshots – enable automatic backups or take a snapshot at any time

Monitoring – keep track of your droplet’s bandwidth, disk and CPU levels

DigitalOcean has support for a number of different regions:

  • New York City
  • San Francisco
  • Toronto
  • London
  • Amsterdam
  • Frankfurt
  • Bangalore
  • Singapore

You can deploy a VPS to the region closest to your visitors in order to provide the best performance. In addition, you can setup a backup of your site in another region in order to have a spare site in case a region goes down.

Another big advantage to going with DigitalOcean is the number of one-click applications they provide. In less than 10 minutes, you can have any of the following applications up and running: Cassandra, Discourse, Django, Docker, Dokku, Drone, Drupal, Elixir, ELK, Ghost, GitLab, Horizon, Joomla, LAMP, LEMP, Magento, MEAN, MediaWiki, MongoDB, Node.js, ownCloud, Redis, Redmine, Ruby on Rails, WordPress.

And lastly, DigitalOcean is extremely developer-friendly. They do everything from provide extensive APIs so you can automate the creation and provisioning of droplets to hosting meetups so you can meet the team behind DigitalOcean. There is also an extensive community that includes user submitted questions, tutorials and projects that integrate with the DigitalOcean APIs.

 

Merchant Marketing Corner for Small Businesses

AMEX Shop Small

The Merchant Marketing Corner is a great resource for small businesses created by American Express. The site provides resources to help attract new customers as well as get existing customer back to your store (both online and offline). And to help promote small businesses, American Express is incentivizing their card-holders with 2X rewards when they register their American Express card and use it at a registered small business. And if you’re a small business owner, they provide the following resources:

Promote Shop Small

As a small business, you can let your customers know they’re supporting a small business by having in-store signage, adding Shop Small logos to your websites and emails, and lastly promoting Shop Small through all of your social media profiles (Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, etc.). American Express provides a download with the digital assets that you can use to print and embed the relevant Shop Small images.

Attract New Customers

To help attract new customers, American Express has created an online Shop Small map. As a small business, if you have a physical brick and mortar, you should definitely register. Once you’ve registered, new customers will be able to find you in the online registry which will get a lot of attention Saturday November 26 for Small Business Saturday (also the day after Black Friday).  You can also reach new customers by posting ads online – American Express will even cover the cost of getting your ads on sites like CNN and Weather.com.

There are some pretty cool resources put together by American Express. But there are some gotchas to all these perks – the first one is that you have to be a small business that accepts American Express and have a verified merchant id. In order to have your business added to the online registry or get free advertising, you need to have an account and verify that you own a small business that accepts American Express. I don’t think it’s worth accepting American Express for these perks but if you already accept American Express, then I highly recommend creating an account and making sure your small business shows up.