A strange twist of fate brought Matt Medeiros and I together, where we discovered we were actually on the same page. Today we discuss our common pursuit, WordPress development – what works and what you should focus on.
In today’s podcast episode:
00:45 – It started with a comment
03:37 – Two ways to approach WordPress development
05:04 – Prevent scope creep
06:36 – An obsession with speed
09:28 – Usability and responsiveness
16:20 – What are we putting on sites?
22:19 – When clients don’t want to blog
24:56 – Finding a value proposition that converts
28:07 – 100% WordPress
33:57 – Scaling the business
36:16 – Final summary and tips
Pick the good stuff. [Click To Tweet].
Delight your visitors. [Click To Tweet].
Avoid the dreaded scope creep. [Click To Tweet].
Speed gets rewarded. [Click To Tweet].
Have the right value proposition. [Click To Tweet].
Be responsive. [Click To Tweet].
James here from SuperFastBusiness.com. I also have Matt here from MattReport.com, and we are going to be talking about websites today, Matt.
Matt: Absolutely James. This is the first ever I think for the entire Internet to do a simultaneous recording. Some kind of a doppelganger podcast action going on. So I’m happy to be here.
James: Yes, so we should talk about how we met. It was an unusual circumstance, but quite often that is the way. I was invited to be a podcast guest on Jaime Tardy’s show, and somewhere in the conversation she asked me what’s changed from when I went online and I answered something to the effect of that it’s just become a lot cheaper and easier for people to go online.
And somewhere in the comments you said you agreed with everything I said in the podcast but you vehemently disagree with getting online cheap and easy. I was so taken aback, because I’m like, dude, that’s not my stance on it, I was just answering the question about it.
I felt somewhat taken out of context so I tracked you down from your Disqus profile and commented on you and said, “Hey Matt, I’m on the same side, with my Mercedes-Benz background and the fact that we are WordPress developers. I’m totally for having quality websites.”
One of the things that I think is even more noticeable now is as Google start hiding their keywords, the one thing that you really can own is your brand and your name, and I’ve noticed there’s a huge spike in search traffic coming to the sites with direct inquiries.
And that is because, certainly in our case, and it really looks like with you as well with your brand, that you put a little more effort into the logos and the brand meaning and people start searching for you by brand, and that’s the space you want to take. And when they get there, you really want to delight them. So we’re going to be talking about what would someone find when they go to your website, right?
Matt: Correct, yeah. And just real quick, I think I was on like a six-mile jog when I heard the podcast, and I was just like, “No, I have to get home faster so I can send James an email and say let’s not do things the cheap way.” Although I totally, now that we’ve connected and we’ve kind of hashed things out, yeah, definitely we’re on the same page.
Quality WordPress development
One of the things that is the reason why I take that stuff so much to heart, just like you do, having your own WordPress shop is we have a WordPress shop, and we’re building WordPress themes and selling WordPress themes, and there’s a lot of stuff, right, that goes into this – in time, effort, money.
And it’s tough when we see clients who just rip things off the cuff with some cheap free themes or themes that they find in Google that have malware installed into it.
So we pay close attention to the detail of the code of the design and then supporting folks, and that’s super important in the WordPress world. Just because there’s so much out there that we try to stress that we want folks to pick the good stuff, no matter what it is, but just pick the good stuff.
James: There is a lot of WordPress. I think what is it, 25 percent of all the world’s websites are WordPress now.
Matt: Yeah, it’s climbing up there. It’s crazy. It’s insane.
James: So it’s not hard to find a WordPress theme, but it’s actually harder to find one that is a really good theme. So in our WordPress shop, we work off Genesis. We found that that’s a nice, stable, clean, sort of base to build on, and when we do custom designs, we usually will wrap it around that. I’m not sure what you guys do there.
Matt: Yeah, we take a different approach. We have clients that will approach us, well they’ll come to us with Genesis and say, can you help us, you know, take this to the next level or build some kind of unique function, like e-commerce or some kind of like web app thing that they want on top of it.
But if we’re starting from scratch, with a fresh client who’s coming to us for design or development services, we will just use straight code that we’ve just built from scratch. We’ll not be using a framework or a theme to build from.
We’re literally starting from scratch because of either performance reasons, caching reasons, or just they don’t need the other overhead of StudioPress and all that added function because they’re never going to use it. They just want us to build it, build it the way they want it, and just have a custom solution for them.
The problem of scope creep
James: Nice. One of the things we’ve found handy is to send training after we build a site to reduce down the sort of customer service drag that can happen. There are a few funny things that we could talk about, having WordPress shops, that probably aren’t that interesting to most others, but one of the ones that always fascinates me is how a job can tend to have scope creep.
It’s very hard to close off a website development job unless you’re quite firm in the beginning about what’s actually included and when the end of the job actually happens.
Matt: Yeah. One of the things that when I go to WordCamps – that’s like larger WordPress meetups for maybe folks who don’t know – that’s actually one of my talks, running a WordPress business and contracts, it’s all about that.
You know, these folks who are starting out, they don’t realize it at first, but once they get a couple of clients under their belt and then they get a bigger client, and all of a sudden scope creep takes them from “Oh, I thought you were just doing a six-product e-commerce…” and you realize they have 6,000 products and they want you to inventory it and put it up online for them, and you’re like “Woah, woah, woah, I don’t do this,” and they’re looking at you, going “Yeah you do, you’re building the website.”
And nowhere in the negotiations was that hashed out, nowhere in the contract does it say it. So yeah, definitely putting in what the requirements are and the expectations are early on, definitely.
James: So in order for us to avoid the dreaded “I’ve just got this one small change request” that quite often comes… We bake in the things that are important, so we should sort of rattle of a checklist, I think, of the things that someone would look for in a site.
Site speed gains importance
And right off the top there, one of the things that seems to be certainly more important, especially for search engine optimization and for conversions, making a website really sales friendly, is speed. And that seems to have become a lot more important in the last year or two.
Matt: Yeah. The speed of the site is super important because now, not only is it on the desktop or your iMac, it is now on your iPhone, your Android device, hell it’s going to be on your watch pretty soon, it’s going to be in your Google glass. So you’re going to have finite network speeds to work with, and the faster the better.
And you probably know this better than I, but optimizing for Google, it’s just so… It’s not easy. Because I run sites through their speed test all the time, and it’s like I can’t get them above 90 out of a hundred because they’re just like so fanatic with what they want you to either shrink down, or minimize, or compress, and it’s just like wow, there’s no pleasing Google a hundred percent yet, for me, anyway.
James: Yeah, and the chances are that there’s going to be a lot of things that can be done that your average person’s going to miss, especially getting those images to load really fast but without degrading the way that they look.
James: Exactly. Well, we’ve had an obsession with speed in the last six months, because one of the huge shifts we did is to migrate our servers away from a hosting company that was annoying us. And our development server’s so fast now that when we were handing over jobs, the customer would go, “Hey, why is my site so slow?” We’re like, “Uh, because your host sucks.”
James: So speed’s important. It should be a focus these days. It definitely gets a reward if it loads fast, just in pure conversions. People don’t want to wait. And as you mentioned, people are multi-screening.
And if you’re in a mainstream town, you might take for granted a reasonable Internet speed, but being a bit of a traveller, I can assure our listener that Internet speeds are not strong in many parts of the world and it’s quite often I’ll be travelling and find a speed of like a 1Mbps or 2Mbps in a hotel or in a regional area.
So there’s a lot of users out there on the Internet, and I was one of them for about three years with Internet so slow that I could actually see the cascading style sheet of Facebook loading. That’s how slow my net was. Like I could not watch a YouTube video without it buffering sort of slow levels. I could see my site, though. So that was really the test.
Making it user-friendly
James: Let’s talk about usability.
Matt: Sure. Yeah, so usability, you know, a person landing on the site, once they get to the site and it loads fast either on their iPad or their desktop, they actually can navigate the site properly, right? So that they can find your blog feed, they can find your social links, they can find your About page. If it’s an e-commerce site, they can buy your product.
I was on a… It’s thanksgiving here in the States, and today’s Black Friday, with all the big deals going on. And I was on a Black Friday tech site today ordering a new hard drive, and the site was terrible but they had the best price on this hard drive that I wanted.
And literally the server kept crashing, which probably isn’t usability but I couldn’t use the site, and I still bought it because I wanted that price, and I sort of understand that I had to hit reload and go back to the home page and put it back in my cart. But the average person is not going to do that, right?
And then there’s usability for when they’re on their desktop, when they’re on their laptop, when they’re on their iPhone and iPad. So it’s really looking at it holistically and saying, can the person use this site, find the content that they want? Because ultimately it’s going to impact your bottom line or your newsletter signups, memberships, things like that.
Why you should go responsive
James: Well, we should probably talk about responsive at this point, because it kind of embraces multi-screening and the stats that I saw when I went to Google’s office here in Sydney were that most users are, I think it was somewhere like 85 percent of people in a single 24-hour period are going to use multiple-sized screens.
They’ll start something on a phone and finish it on a desktop. Or the other way around. So Matt Cutts from Google has talked about how responsive is really good for SEO, you won’t get any sort of penalties, because you’re really just dealing with one site, and it’s just resizing to whatever device you use. Or adapting to that environment.
The other way that people have approached this is to have mobile-specific sites. And you can get a little more technical there, having essentially two little sites there that you have to tell, depending on the browser, which one to use. Do you have a preference?
Matt: Yeah, so if we’re starting a real custom project, right, and this sort of harkens back to what you and I… how this all came about, anybody can just throw up a theme and turn on either WPtouch or the theme might be responsive and it will just work.
But when you start from scratch and you want to do something that really impacts your business, like if you’re a big brand and you’re making some serious cash, you should start with your design and your usability mobile first, right? You want to design in the mobile browser because if that’s where traffic is going and that’s where folks are reading your content, absorbing your content, design there first.
And then expand to the desktop, right? So we do responsive with a lot of our stuff. But even that can be tricky. Because like you said, if you wind up somewhere in the world with slow Internet speeds, or your cellphone carrier service is just not good that day, you don’t want to have this beautiful site that loads up these massive images and then just shrinks them down in responsive view, because ultimately it’s still loading all that stuff, it’s still loading those big assets, those big photos, so there are some ways to kind of tweak that.
But it all depends on your time, on your budget, and how deep you really want to go into this. For the most, for the common person, it’ll work fine, and you might not notice.
James: And it also to some extent depends on what you are selling. Maybe you have an informational based sort of a blog star site, with audios or videos, or whether you have an e-commerce store or a local service.
As simple as a phone number
Chances are, a lot of people looking for your local dentist shop or car mechanic, they’re going to want the phone number and the address to be really easy to find when they’re using their portable device. They’re probably a block away, just trying to find out where you are.
So think about the intent of the user when you think about usability, what is the most wanted action that you want to happen, and how can you make it as easy as possible. And the number one hack that I’ve found from most people that we’ve helped, is to have them put a phone number on the top of the website.
James: That’s like one of the easiest things you could ever do for a service site that will increase the use of a website, is to make it easy for people to contact you.
Matt: Yeah. And there’s nothing worse… and the people who are probably doing this the worst, that shouldn’t be, who should really be listening to us right now… are the folks who own restaurants. Because I don’t know about where you are, but in the States the restaurant sites are terrible. And you’re always in that moment where you’re like, “What’s the name of that place down the street? Let’s go there for dinner.”
And then you look it up, there’s no phone number, their menu is a PDF, and then you have to download it, zoom in, try to find what’s on the menu, it just doesn’t work in mobile. That’s a perfect usability case right there, where restaurants just need to have that stuff done right in order for people to consume this information.
James: And I think because they are so geographically dependent, a restaurant, I mean, there’s not much outsourcing or off-site stuff happening there. It’s like everything’s right local. They tend to ignore it, and they’re the typical site that’s going to be built by the kid down the road who’s studying tech at university and he’ll knock up a site for 50 bucks.
Matt: Yeah, or a 30 pack of beer.
James: Yes, or a free meal on Fridays or something.