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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

Website Maintenance – Keep It In Good Shape

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Spring is here! It’s a good time to get your Homestead-Intuit website in tip-top condition.

Keep your Homestead-Intuit website in good shape

When was the last time you took a good close look at your website? We make quick changes now and then, but don’t usually pay attention to the big picture. A website can always use a bit of maintenance because errors tend to happen. A website that is error free is not only important for visitor retention, but is part of good search engine optimization as well.

Common Errors:

  • Spelling errors – spell check is great but won’t pick up homonyms (two words pronounced the same, with different meanings); weather/whether, break/brake for example.
  • Alignment errors – a misaligned list can make a site look sloppy and unprofessional
  • Overlaps – the border and bullet elements in SiteBuilder add padding and can throw off the placement of elements. Finding these requires checking the site in different browsers as each browser handles coding a bit differently.
  • Grammatical errors – Poor grammar can reflect negatively on your service or product.
  • Outdated information or events that have passed scream site neglect.
  • Broken links – they happen to the most diligent of webmasters.
  • The dreaded red X – this happens too. An image name is changed or it’s moved from the original location breaking the link to the image/graphic.
  • Stray element boxes should be eliminated. It’s easy to create a text box, get distracted and forget you made one. Using the Select All option will show all the elements on a page – including ones that shouldn’t be there.
  • Check the spelling in your Meta Tags. Page titles, descriptions, and key words often contain errors. Copy and paste them either to Notepad or directly onto the page to check them.

We tend to see what we know/think should be there rather than what actually IS there. If you have a really good friend, willing family member or co-worker who has time on their hands, enlist them to help proof your site. A fresh pair of eyes can help pick out those errors that you might be overlooking. If you don’t have someone who can assist then look at your website in a different way when you proof it.

Proofing Your Site:

  • Start at the back (last page) and work forward.
  • Read from bottom to top.
  • Copy the page content and paste it into notepad or Word and increase the font size.

Keeping your website in good shape will show visitors and the Search Engines that there is webmaster activity on the site making it more credible to both.

Download the free Website Design Guide to refresh your memory on the do’s and don’ts for websites and incorporate necessary changes when you are tuning up your site.

Google shaking up search results

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Besides the school-yard spitting match going on between Google and Bing (For more on the spitting match just do a search for Google and Bing click fraud – everyone has jumped on that posting bandwagon.), the latest news concerning Google is that they are about to shake up search results in an effort to reduce the incidence of spammy sites coming up prominently in those search results.

Beware! If your Homestead – Intuit site or article or post is essentially duplicate content, either something ‘borrowed’ from another site, or an article you’ve written and submitted on multiple sites you could well wake up to find it non-existent in searches. Sites that are predominantly links with little original or useful content are also apparently on the hit list – FINALLY

I’ve longed for the day when sites that offer visitors little in the way of original content and consist of nothing but links and clickable ads that will bring the site owner in $$$ and webmasters who copy and use other’s work, would end up in the nether-world of the www. Perhaps that day is coming.

Google’s Matt Cutts quoted on his blog, “The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content.”

It’s time to take a good, hard look at your Site Builder website to be sure it is going to stand up to the new search standards.

  1. Does the site have  informative content? A bunch of links and ads are not informative content.
  2. Is it original content? Have you duplicated that content elsewhere? On a blog or in articles posted to different sites? Or perhaps it is content taken from another site?
  3. Does the site employ black hat techniques?
  4. Has the content been written for the human reader or the search engines?  Sites written for search engines tend to lean toward keyword stuffing

Keep an eye on your site placement over the next several weeks. There are no absolutes and nothing to say that the new algorithm won’t make mistakes and drop a good site.  How to request reconsideration of your site.

Intuit – Homestead Site Builder Design Tips

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The frame – border element option in SiteBuilder adds functionality to the program and is  a nice tool to have.

Using it you can:

  • frame photos
  • surround a block of text to set it off from the page content
  • create a button

The options allow you the ability to:

  • increase or decrease the width of the frame – border
  • choose the amount of bevel for the frame
  • select the color

The border appears to be a rectangle but in reality it is a graphic with colored edges and a transparent center. This means that when you place a border or frame around something you are actually placing the graphic OVER the item.  If you have any links within the text block you are bordering or on a photo, those links will not be clickable as they are covered by the border element. An example of this can be seen at the Homestead Connection.

It is important to remember to send your border elements behind the graphic or text in order for any links to be available. If  the area where you place the border is an element other than the main background use the Send Backward option rather than Send to Back.

Using the Element Layer Order in Homestead Site Builder

How’s your integrity quotient?

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You know how sometimes things just gnaw at you and even though you try to shrug them off they seem to constantly rear their heads and demand attention? This particular issue has gnawed long enough and its time to get it out there.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery …  but when it comes to claiming it as your own that’s a whole new ball game and when you do a lousy job of it that’s even worse. The real kicker though is charging people for so-called expertise  taken from someone else, edited just enough to maybe avoid copyright infringement and then presented as your own in an amateurish manner.

So what, you ask, is this all about? A couple of years ago this person showed up on the HC Forum asking for help.  He knew nothing about search engine optimization and had a site that was very poorly designed (and unfortunately it was a site he was designing for some unsuspecting soul).  Judy and I gave this fellow a ton of help and he purchased our book, SEO Building Blocks™.  The next thing we knew he began promoting himself as an SEO expert (remember, this is the guy who just a couple years ago didn’t even know how to spell SEO and you definitely DO NOT become expert in SEO in a couple of years) and selling information via videos (very poorly done and lacking in good/correct info.) and documents. Pity the person who purchases as they are not going to be getting expert advise, rather they will get info harvested from another source – in trying to escape copyright infringement he did a lousy job so the ‘expert advise’ is outdated and often incorrect. He has even gone so far as to incorporate the term Building Blocks into his content. Obviously integrity and honesty aren’t words in his vocabulary.

So buyer beware, if you are an Intuit – Homestead user and need some help with SEO, make sure that the source you purchase from is legit and truly knows the ins and outs of search engine optimization. Make sure that the seller is providing you good, quality, up-to-date information that will help you succeed on the WWW.

We have over 25 years of combined experience in design and SEO  and the Site Builder program. And,  ‘We wrote the book on SEO for Intuit – Homestead sites’®. If you want the ‘real deal’ visit us at SEO Building Blocks for information on the ebook that can truly offer you insight into search engine requirements and help with optimizing your website.

Thanks for letting us get this off our chests!

S & J

Is it Homestead or Intuit?

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Back in the day, Homestead Technologies was a small company that provided website building software called SiteBuilder. The program is a drag and drop system that makes it easy for anyone to build a website because you don’t have to know any code. You see what you’re building as you build it – that’s why these types of sites are also called WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). The building is easy, the knowing how to optimize the site and proper design techniques has a learning curve.  At any rate, the SiteBuilder program made the step into the World Wide Web relatively painless for the average person.

A couple of years ago Homestead was purchased by Intuit. So now their moniker is Intuit Websites by Homestead.  But  the SiteBuilder program is still being sold under both names. You have Homestead and you have Intuit.  As web designers we have clients who have purchased through both companies. Logically (or at least in my mind) you would think that the software would be the same, but that isn’t the case. To work on a Homestead site you need to download SiteBuilder from Homestead and Intuit accounts have to download the software from the Intuit site.  Same program, no differences in how it works, looks, or acts.

SEO Building Blocks, the expertly written guide to search engine optimization, applies to SiteBuilder and other drag and drop type sites.  And the Homestead Connection site offers Intuit and Homestead users help with the program, tutorials and useful tips to improve the design experience.

So is it Intuit or is it Homestead?  A smattering of both, but ultimately it is SiteBuilder.

So you think you’re a website designer …

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You have the Homestead or Intuit software and have decided that it’s so easy to use that you’ll go into the website design business.

Do yourself, or better yet any potential clients, a HUGE favor.  Do something else until you learn the right way to design sites.  Otherwise you are doing the client a disservice and contributing to the bad name that website designers have gotten because of the amateurish attempts of many.

You are not a website designer if:

1. You aren’t aware of page weight, what it is, how to reduce it or even how to check it.
2. Alt text isn’t in your vocabulary.
3. Templates are your mainstay design tool.
4. You use the non-professional elements that just scream ‘Amateur’ or Non-Professional site.
5. You don’t realize that sites render differently in different browsers.
6. You haven’t taken the time to learn SEO (and even worse don’t know what SEO stands for).
7. You kidnap the site and ‘piggyback’ it off your own site. Thus the client doesn’t have access to the stats or the ability to go in and run the site themselves.
8. The link structure is poorly thought out and/or incomplete.
9. Usability also isn’t in your vocabulary.
10. The site isn’t consistent from page to page.
11. You think blinking, scrolling, flashing, jumping things are consistent with good web design.
12. You use “Black Hat” techniques.
13. You don’t understand the difference between java-script and plain text. And worse yet, don’t realize that java-script can have a negative impact on the site.
14. You still aren’t sure exactly what Meta tags are.
15. Page Titles show up as Home, About, etc. in the browser bar.

We are seeing more and more “website designers” asking for a site review on the Forum.  Upon reviewing these sites it becomes instantly clear that they have a long way to go before they should be turned loose on the unsuspecting public as website designers.  Having the ability to easily make sites with Intuit – Homestead software is great and does afford the opportunity to become a designer.  But PLEASE do your homework before you venture out and ruin a client’s potential to have a successful site due to your inability to design a site that offers usability, visitor friendliness and search engine optimization.

We have written two books that can help you successfully start your own web site design business. The first deals with starting a home based design business and the keys to good design. The second is a guide to search engine optimization that is an invaluable resource for anyone, whether a would-be designer or someone who is just building their own site.  Of course we’re interested in selling our product, but the bottom line is that we are more interested in seeing people succeed in their ventures by creating sites that do the job they are intended to do.

Homestead Website Design – The Building Blocks to a Successful Home Based Business

SEO Building Blocks – Search Engine Optimization for the Homestead Website

Books can be purchased separately or as a bundle.  Visit The Learning Center for more information.

Google making search more interesting

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In March, Google introduced something new into their search algorithm. Their statement in part says, “we are deploying a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search.” Simply put, semantic search is now a part of Google’s search results. By definition, semantic is the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text. Google’s changes will give results that target more queries and provide searchers expanded relevant results.

On page copy (content) is and has always been important for the Homestead webmaster but now it is even more so. The new changes allow a better use of related terms in your  information as the algorithm can understand the association of terms.  This makes search engine optimization (SEO) even more important for webmasters to gain good placement in searches.

The best part of Google’s improvements is how it effects longer queries…Google will be expanding the number of lines in the snippets to provide more information. The results will show the queried words in the context of the page. A search for ‘how to build a Homestead website’ is an example:

Search Results

The words in bold are what Google pulled from the site to match the search. In this example it is a snippet from one of our previous blog posts.

For webmasters who have actually developed good on-page copy this should be a real benefit by presenting your information to more searchers. It will not only provide results for the specific keywords but words that closely relate to those search words. These snippets may come from anywhere on the page.

This change should encourage better writing because the search terms utilized can and will include options beyond specific keywords. Phrases that semantically ‘fit’ may also be included in the results.  This should be a win win situation for both the web searcher and the thoughtful webmaster.

Homestead users should keep in mind that website design and information placement is important in regards to page copy.  As more information is added to a page it is possible for a website to initially overwhelm the reader/searcher with too much information to sort through.

It is wise to keep the top portion (above the fold) simple with emphasis on the main purpose of the site. Additional information can be placed lower on the page. The use of bold type for important information helps the reader to quickly scan to find the meat of the site.  Utilizing lists also helps the viewer to see at a glance what the focus of the site is. Both of these also help with the Search Engines.  By constructing pages in this way the reader can quickly determine important information in the first few paragraphs.  If what they see piques their interest they will continue reading/looking.

As search engines continue to refine their algorithms, on page copy becomes even more important. Webmasters will need to hone their writing skills and think beyond placing emphasis on just a few key words or phrases in order to fully benefit from searches.

Visit Google’s blog for the complete scoop on the New Improvements to Search Results 

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Be sure to visit us at the Homestead Connection Forum  for more help and information on making your Homestead site user and search engine friendly.

Homestead user who needs some help? The Homestead Connection  site offers users of the Intuit (Homestead websites) software, tutorials and examples of how to use the SiteBuilder program.