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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.


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

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.

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.

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.

Mini Websites – A niche for Web Designers

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Can a single page website be of value?

There is a segment of the business population who simply don’t require a large multiple page website. But, having a web presence would definitely add to their customer base and the potential for increased sales or allow a group a convenient way to keep their membership informed.

Marketing gurus preach time and again the importance of having a website. Yet most-many-a lot of these small businesses either don’t think a website would benefit them, feel they can’t afford it, or they plan to do it themselves and never get around to it. 

These businesses aren’t involved in national or international sales. Rather they are small industries and organizations or service industries. The businesses are often owned and operated by one or two people and offer a specific service or product within a localized area. 

Following are just a few of the industries that could benefit from a mini website:

Electricians and Plumbers
Dog Groomers
Adult and Day Care
Butcher Shops, Organic Food Mart
Taverns and Cafes
Barbers and Hairdressers
Handyman and Painters
Attorneys and Accountants
Non-profit Organizations
Homeowners Associations
Service Organizations

The key to these types of businesses is that their customer base generally knows what they want, they just need to know who offers it, where they are located and how to contact them.  A one page website offers enough room to give the visitor an overview of the value of the service/product offered, contact information, including a map and even allows for the business to include special offer coupons or monthly/seasonal specials.

A mini website is like handing out a business card on the web.  It puts a business or organization in front of a larger consumer base and just makes good marketing sense.  In today’s economy the more a business can do to attract customers the more apt they are to be in business tomorrow.

For web designers this niche market would be good to tap into. Best bet to reach this market is to advertise your service locally in the newspaper, post flyers, hand out your business card whenever the opportunity arises, make direct contact with someone you know who could benefit from a mini website. Be prepared to explain how a single page website can help the particular business or organization.

The mini website can definitely serve to help the small business or local organization attract new customers/members and increase both their visiblity and credibility.

Homestead web site designers have the ability to make these mini-sites quickly and affordably. They should definitely be in your list of services offered.