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Category Archives: SiteBuilder Program

Homestead’s Latest Site Builder

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Welcome Websitebuilder

Websitebuilder is the 3rd generation platform from Homestead. As of now they are running 3 platforms; the original, downloadable desktop version, Site Builder Plus an online version and the new and improved Websitebuilder that is cloud-based and responsive, meaning the site will render correctly in whatever device the viewer is using.

The drawback or the plus depending on your perspective is that the site must be re-built. The existing site can’t just be moved over to the new builder as there is too much difference in the software. For those with huge sites this can be daunting, but you are able to build the site at your own pace and your original site will still be up and editable as always.

Being a dyed-in-the-wool desktop user I was very skeptical, but I decided to give it a try because I knew that mobile sites were important and I didn’t care for the Duda option. Much to my surprise I rather liked it. There is definitely a learning curve, it’s not particularly intuitive and there were/are some bugs and things the developers neglected to add, but I stuck with it and built a site. A lengthy process, but at the end I had an updated, more modern looking site. I’ll probably re-build it as I discovered a lot the more I built, but didn’t want to spend the time to back-track. I like it far and away better than the SiteBuilder Plus option.

The Pros:

  • It’s a responsive site builder. Meaning that it will render correctly (for the most part) across all devices. No need to use a third-party like Duda to get your site mobile friendly.
  • For those who use templates the offering isn’t huge, but they present a new, fresh look to sites and the program has the capability to change anything on the template. There are no blank templates, but you can simply choose one, select all the elements and delete and you have a blank canvas.
  • Finally! Drop down menus are available.
  • It offers a ‘built-in’ blog. No more having to run back and forth between your blog and your website.
  • You can add HTML or even embed a web page.
  • Colors are easier to find/change than in the previous builder.
  • There are several photo gallery styles to choose from and of course the ability to  add a single image. They’ve included an editor that gives you the ability to add effects to your images.
  • Offers the ability to build your pages using sections. Use different backgrounds for each section, divide your information by sections and you can even create a section menu.
  • There is much to discover in the new builder. The main editing menu is where you begin and from there the designer (that’s you!) can create a great site.

MainMenu

This is just a highlight of the new and improved Websitebuilder.

Feel free to add what you’ve discovered about Homestead’s newest site builder.

Coming Up: The Cons

Homestead Site Builder – Desktop Version vs Plus – Update

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It’s been over a year since my first post regarding the SiteBuilder program from Homestead so time for an update.

A little history:

Homestead began in 1996 and although a bit ragged around the edges, it quickly outdistanced it’s then competitor GeoCities and became a vital resource for people who wanted to build their own websites and for designers looking for a good platform on which to build and design sites for clients. The program continued its advance into the web site building world gaining many thousands of customers.

Enter Intuit. In 2007 Homestead was purchased by Intuit and thus began the slide down the slippery slope. Customer Service became a joke, outsourced to the Philippines; they stopped making upgrades to the desktop version and threw up a web-based editor that was buggy and worthless. No disclosure was ever made to existing customers about what their intent was in regards to eliminating the Desktop version – no straight answers could be wrung out of Tech Support and the program (both versions) started becoming unstable. Plus no doubt because it was some pieced together program they tossed out and Desktop because they had basically stopped supporting it except for a minor update now and then. Homestead and Intuit were never a good fit.

Which brings us to 2013. Intuit sold the Homestead web site builder to Endurance International.  What? You didn’t get the memo about the sale or what EI’s intent was/is in regards to Desktop SB? Neither did anyone else to my knowledge. Granted, they are in the transition stage, but still, it would have been nice to get a little note explaining that the program thousands use to promote their businesses, hobbies, etc. was under new management and maybe an inkling as to the direction new management intended to go with the program.

Once again I’m back to asking questions and not getting many answers. The only thing I was told with any degree of certainty was that Homestead (yes, we’re back to being just Homestead with no Intuit stuck on – YAY!!) is going to move Tech Support back to the states!  Three cheers on that one.

What are they going to do with Desktop? Dunno folks. I’ve asked for input from Homestead and to date have not heard anything.

Here’s a portion of a comment made by a Sr. Supportability Specialist (say what? Tech Support by any other name ….)

As I stated to Sandy, we have not made any decisions concerning Sitebuilder Desktop, yet. We hear you. We know we have customers that prefer desktop to browser based Sitebuilder. We also have customers that prefer Sitebuilder Plus.

With that said, we don’t have the resources to make improvements to the desktop version right now. We haven’t made improvements for some time but we are evaluating whether or not we need to prioritize that type of work. I don’t have an answer on when we will get to those types of improvements. We’re still working on moving away from Intuit.

You can read the full thread on this topic –  Here

There are a couple of statements in there that made my teeth hurt. The first being that they have customers who prefer SB Plus – ohhhhhhhhhh, I so don’t think so. The only people who prefer Plus are the ones who have no clue that there is a better version. And the second really got my fillings pinging – we don’t have the resources to make improvements to the desktop version right now – EXCUSE ME! There are 1000s of users out there who have been loyal customers for many years who signed up for and are paying for that very version!

The only way we are going to save Desktop from extinction is to be the squeaky wheel – cast your vote Here, comment to this post, post on the thread given above and keep the pressure on.

Thus, a year and a half down the road we’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Move Over SiteBuilder Here comes Plus

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Change is something that either makes us giddy with anticipation or sends us off screaming and pulling out our hair. It’s also the one constant in life … the one thing we can count on to happen. And so it seems that change is looming on the horizon in regards to the desktop SiteBuilder from Homestead/Intuit.

In recent conversations with various Tech Support staff and responses to Help Tickets it has become clear that Intuit is transitioning away from the (beloved) desktop version of SiteBuilder. Many of you are already familiar with SiteBuilder Lite, the rather watered down version of SB that allows limited online editing – SiteBuilder Plus, the replacement for the (did I mention beloved?) desktop version will operate much the same as Lite, only it will be a full-blown editor.

The future of SiteBuilder

Read the rest of this entry

5 Ways to Lose Visitors

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We all have a mental list of things that bother us about websites; things that send us scrambling to another site.  The web is huge, competition is fierce and the best thing a webmaster webmaster hard at work can do is to adhere to the KISS principle. (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID). Users of the Intuit-Homestead SiteBuilder program to design sites need an awareness of what does and doesn’t work on the web. Read the rest of this entry

Website navigation – Is yours friendly?

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Is your Homestead site chasing visitors away?

If your navigation isn’t simple and straightforward you could be losing customers. One stat claims that 1/2 of online sales are lost due to the result of  a navigation that is poorly designed. That’s a pretty big number!

Your Home page is THE most important page of your site and it should be listed first in your navigation menu. Visitors look for the Home page link in the regular navigation so placing it elsewhere is a stopper for your potential customer. Every time you interrupt the flow of the visit you distract the visitor from their intended mission and make them focus on something other than finding/buying what they came for.

navigation menu on Homestead site

Can your visitor easily discern where each link in the navigation will take them or did you go with cute and clever link names that make the visitor stop and think about what that link refers to and where it may take them or what information it will yield?

Web users have two things in common:

  • They are totally focused
  • They are impatient

Using what you perceive as clever page names or icons without text  in the menu can be another stopper for the visitor that sends them elsewhere.

Consistency counts. Is your navigation the same throughout your site? It should be in the same location on every page, maintain the same structure, look and feel. Again, you need to make this a smooth, effortless journey, not an Easter egg hunt.

Location, location, location. Where is your navigation? Ideally it should be directly below your Logo/Header or on the left hand side at the top. Placing it anywhere else is going to be a stop and think for your visitor. Don’t neglect your site visitor in the (perceived) interest of aesthetics.

Have they been there, done that?  It is easy for visitors to a site to get confused as to whether or not they’ve already visited a page, this is especially true on larger sites. Using a regular link color and a visited link color, viewers can tell at a glance by the color change if they have seen a particular page.

How many times have you visited a site and had to get out the magnifying glass to read the menu? That menu is the life’s blood of a website yet designers/webmasters often use a tiny font and a light color for the navigation. This doesn’t mean you need to use a size 14 font in bold, black, but it does mean you should be sure the menu is easily read. Not everyone has 20/20 vision.

The success of a website involves many things, some big, some small, but navigation is VERY  BIG. The webmaster who doesn’t follow some basic principles of good design could be chasing customers away.

Happy webbing!

website design word cloud

Lots of Website Visitors – Few Results

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surfing the webThis is something we hear often. I get all these visitors to my site, but they don’t buy or they don’t fill out a form or they don’t do whatever it is that I am hoping they will do when they visit my site. These webmasters have well-optimized sites, all the t’s are crossed and I’s are dotted, they show up well in searches, but still the number of visitors far outweighs the resulting purchases or form filing or whatever action is hoped for.

Granted there can be mechanical or design flaws that might be preventing a visitor from becoming a customer/client, but that would be very obvious when some sales turned to no sales.

So how can it be that so many visit and only a few give us the results we had hoped for? Converting visitors to clients…

Tags can still be considered keyword stuffing

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I’ve been watching with interest the number of SiteBuilder webmasters  who are  using tag clouds or so-called tag lists on their sites.  This started in blogs, you can choose to use a tag cloud that shows up in the sidebar on blogs. Each time you write a post you add tags and the tags then show up in either the list or the cloud. The more often a word is used the bigger the font gets. All of these words in the cloud or list are active links. Click on one and any post that used that particular word or phrase in the tags will be shown.  Interesting concept, but unfortunately the search engines don’t necessarily see it that way. Consider that Google’s blogging platform, E-blogger, doesn’t employ this technique. That should be an immediate heads up for any webmaster or blogger.  Tag clouds can be viewed as keyword spamming

What do the search engines see? A conglomeration of words and links that may or may not have anything to do with each other, In ‘the old days’ this was called keyword stuffing and today, while they may be called tags, the search engines can still view the practice as keyword stuffing.

Webmasters need to employ the same good SEO practices with tags and tag clouds as they do with key words in order to stay in the good graces of the Search Engines.

Google’s guru, Matt Cutts, has a short video about tag clouds that will shed further light on Google’s view of tag clouds.

Form 1099-Misc and Website Designers

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tax timeThe controversial Health Care Reform Bill that was passed last year came loaded with all sorts of new laws hidden within its 2400+ pages. Many of you who use Homestead’s SiteBuilder program are designing sites as a business and that means these new laws apply to you.

Form 1099-Misc has been a requirement for a number of years for services rendered by an independent contractor in a business to business situation. When you design a site or do maintenance on a site for another business THEY should issue you a Form 1099-Misc if you receive $599 or more from them in a given year for your services.

The reverse is also true. If you pay another business over $599 for services that relate to your website design business you need to issue them a form W-9 to get their Tax ID number, etc. and provide them with a copy of a completed 1099-Misc form.

Beginning December 31, 2012, thanks to even more sneaky tactics when the bill was drafted, businesses will be required to obtain W-9 information and file 1099s for not only services but GOODS as well. That means you will need to issue a W-9  for the 1099 form anytime you purchase a product related to your business that is over the established limit. New computer from Best Buy? You’ll need to ask for their information. If your office supply purchases are  in excess of the $599 threshold  from any one business – 1099, if you claim a portion of your utilities phone, internet, etc. for your business and the amount exceeds the limit – 1099s will need to be issued. And on and on …… Try to get in the habit of issuing a W-9 prior to paying for goods or services.

The whole point of this is so the IRS can compare reported income against issued W-9s  in the hopes of collecting unreported income. And as is usual, the wording is ambiguous and about as clear as mud. There are of course penalties if you don’t comply.

The good news is that some lawmakers in Congress are currently making attempts to repeal and or modify the new laws attached to Form 1099-Misc.

Senate passes amendment to repeal 1099

Partial Repeal Likely

As a web site designer you need to be heads up and make sure you are in compliance with the laws that are currently in effect for tax year 2011.  Consult with an accountant or tax attorney for assistance in what information you need to be collecting, receiving and reporting.

Be sure you get listed in that Directory

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As many of you know we offer a free directory to users of the Homestead – Intuit web site program. The Homestead Connection Directory was developed to give Site Builder and Store Front users a way to add a non-reciprocal, inbound link to their sites as well as giving them web exposure. We’ve gained some insight into how many people, who submit to more stringent directories, probably aren’t getting in or if they are, their listings probably aren’t doing them much good.

Using the Homestead Connection Directory (HCD) as an example, there is a link to the Guidelines as well as a FAQ page in the navigation menu. When you submit to any directory you’ll find a similar page(s) that list the requirements. That page isn’t there to just take up space … it lists the rules, requirements, limitations and so forth that the directory requires in order for your site to be accepted. READ THE TERMS AND COMPLY or you will most likely not find your site listed in that directory.

Again using the HCD as an example, one of the terms is that the Description not be any longer than 200 characters, including spaces. This is repeated on the form used to submit the site. Yet time and again we receive submissions that are in the 400-500 range.  We’ve been lenient and allowed a bit of overage and sometimes we even re-do the listing in order to meet the requirement. 9.5 out of 10 directories will simply toss the submission.

The flip side of this is the listing that comprises only a few words.  Ex: Dog Breeders or Houses remodeled. It’s a big world out there and there are many dozens of dog breeders and home remodel companies. Make that description work for you and make the visitor want to click on your link. List the area you are in. The search engines pick up on localities so this is especially important for those who serve a limited area.

Your Description should include your main keyword/phrase and it should make sense to the human reader. Many directories specify not to use exclamation points, sales hype, all capital letters, etc. Be sure you comply if you are serious about getting your site listed.

There is usually a character limitation for the Title as well specific criteria for the content of the Title.  This is usually the domain name of the site ( not the URL).  Sometimes you’re allowed to use the actual page name if you are submitting to an internal page.

Contact information is another area that often lacks enough information. Utilize the maximum amount of information allowed. Show that you are a legitimate business by including a phone number, city and state, contact person’s name (even just a first name is better than nothing), if your business is a brick and mortar store include the physical address and an email address.

Sample listing for directory

Sample Listing

Remember that directory listings can play an important part in your overall SEO. Make sure to read and follow the instructions for each directory you submit to in order to get listed and be sure that you give viewers enough information to make them want to visit your site.

Just have to share …

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Last year we posted about Transparency and Ethics in designing sites professionally with the Intuit – Homestead software.  This is also a topic we cover pretty seriously in our e book,  Homestead Website Design – Building Blocks to a Successful Home Based Business.

We stated that piggybacking sites, overcharging clients for services already covered by the hosting/program fees, not allowing clients access to stats or the ability to make their own updates and changes is A. not ethical and B. can come back and bite you. So, yes, we got a real chuckle out of the following letter we received last week from a gentleman who had purchased the book and read it and ignored the advice.

Greetings,

I’m wondering if you’re able to offer some brief guidance.  I own your Intuit by Homestead SEO and Website Design Business eBooks.  Without unnecessarily elaborating on the background, against my better judgment, I set up a few websites for other businesses under my own Homestead website account.  I didn’t do this to be unethical but because I reside in an area where certain business owners are seemingly not the type to even touch a keyboard even though many would like to have a website so asking them to set up their account with Homestead, at least at the time, seemed impossible.  Naturally I’ve now found myself in a position (as warned in your books) where one business owner (2 websites) is requesting immediate direct access to their websites and full control.  (I’m sure you’re not surprised.)

I was hoping you might instruct me on the means by which to most effectively accomplish this.  I’m planning to instruct the business owner that they will need to set up their own Homestead account under the Gold Plan to accommodate both websites and their existing features.  Do you happen to know if it’s possible for me to then transfer not only the websites but the domains as-is over to their new homestead account?  I’m sure I’ll need to rely on Homestead Support for details but I’m just hoping you’ll tell me this is possible and not terribly challenging to accomplish.  Any insight you can offer would be greatly appreciated.  I certainly learned the hard way that any future website assistance I provide will be under that person’s own Homestead account.

Steve (last name removed to protect the innocent)

Steve was given some direction on how to ‘clean up’ and hopefully it won’t have any lasting effect on his business.  He learned the hard way. You don’t have to.

Keep on webbin’ in an ethical sort of way.