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Tag Archives: Website Design

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

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 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.

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

Help With SiteBuilder Program for Intuit – Homestead Users

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Build a website and the world will beat a path to your door. It sounds great, but the reality is that unless your site is well designed and optimized for the Search Engines you will probably end up falling through the cracks and have very limited success with your site. For users of the ( Intuit ) Homestead Website software there are a number of ways to get support and help with the program.

The key to developing a web site is planning. A good place to begin is with the free Web Site Design Guide from S&J Enterprises.  With over 20 years of combined experience we are very familiar with the workings of the Site Builder program and how to develop a website that is both user and search engine friendly. The Guide provides helpful ideas and guidelines for designing and optimizing your Homestead website.

Download the free Web Site Design Guide

The Homestead Connection  is another great resource for Homestead users to get help with the program. The website explains how things work with the drag and drop SiteBuilder software.  Examples and tutorials take you through the basics of the program. There are also tips and information as well as links to sites and software that help to enhance your website design.

The Homestead Connection Forum  is a free, moderated Forum for Homestead users to get advice, offer help, receive site reviews, learn about Search Engine Optimization ( SEO ) and share in the Homestead Community experience of website building.

If you are an Intuit – Homestead user you can list your website(s) in the free Homestead Connection Directory.  The Directory was created to help webmasters get better exposure with the Search Engines and provide a quality directory for visitors. Your first listing is free and you have the option of adding a second listing or even a business card listing for a nominal fee.

Homestead Design and SEO  is the Blog resource we use to keep Homestead members up-to-date on design and Search Engine Optimization in addition to help with the Homestead program.

SEO Building Blocks E book by S&J Enterprises is a comprehensive guide that explains how to optimize your Homestead web site for the Search Engines. Simple directions and visual aids make it easy to apply   search engine optimization to your website. Examples and explanations show how to give your site more Search Engine and visitor appeal – both of which add up to more visits and more sales! 

The Homestead Website Design  E book was written to give Homestead users a guide to starting a home based web site design business. The book explains the steps necessary for start up, proper design techniques and ways to create an income stream to earn more from your business. Great even for the beginning webmaster who isn’t interested in starting a web design business but who needs help with site design.

Homestead Technology has both phone support  ( 1-800-710-1998 ) and a Help Ticket resource.  The Help Ticket can be accessed by logging into your Homestead account and clicking on Help.

There is a wealth of help for the Homestead user. Between the assistance offered by Homestead and the site building help from actual Homestead users, the Site Builder program is undoubtedly one of the best supported website building programs available.

Ethics in Web Design using Homestead Software

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Ethics in Site Building – Transparency and Integrity

There are a large number of Homestead users who have gone into the website design business. Some with  integrity and others not-so-much. Everyone in business is there for one reason (or should be) and that is to make money. But where is the line between making money and ripping off the client?

Many designers are not being forthcoming with their clients about where/how their site is being hosted and are charging their clients over and above what the actual Homestead package costs. One designer we found even charges clients extra for email addresses (included in the Homestead package) and for a Site Stat report (again, included in the Homestead package and probably not all inclusive). Outrageous!

Homestead allows multiple sites to be built on one account so designers are building the client sites within their own accounts (piggybacking). Basically they are holding that account hostage – for obvious reasons the client would not have access to the account, thus they also don’t have access to site stats and there is a question of whether or not the domain name is in the client’s ownership or the designer’s.

Designers can and should promote their services for extras like continued site maintenance, link development and search engine optimization. This is just good marketing. Charging extra for services that are already included in a client’s package with Homestead is, in our opinion, not an ethical practice. 

I’ve spoken with designers who use the piggyback practice and their reasoning is that if the client knew they were using Homestead they would just build their own site. Granted some might, but our personal experience is that many simply don’t want to be bothered with it – they just want a website, others have tried and failed miserably. The mainstay of our design business is re-designs for those who have tried and failed because they don’t understand design, usability and search engine optimization and their sites have fallen through the cracks. Several of these clients have become long term customers even after the re-design. They use our services for updates, maintenance and on-going SEO.

When we design a new site the client is made aware of the hosting/design program used and the costs involved. The account is opened in the client’s name and the domain is registered to them. They have full access to their Homestead account. This way, the client knows exactly where their site is hosted and how to access it in the event something happens to the designer. We have run into instances where people have a site, the designer has vanished, they have no idea where the site is hosted or anything else about it. Once we complete a site the client has the option of taking it over or using our services. It is not held hostage, stats are readily available for the client, all the options in their Homestead account such as email addresses are also available to them.

A designer’s job is to create a quality, professional website that will serve the client’s needs while making money for their work. In the long term it is infinitely better to be upfront with the client, charge a reasonable design fee and offer continued service than to overcharge the client and withhold their ability to access their account and the information available through the Homestead package.