Search Engine Optimization

Creating a website can be a great way to showcase your skills in web design, but all of that hard work will go unnoticed if your website is hard to find in search engine results. Through Search Engine Optimization, you can make it much easier for people to see your site.

When you type in a search query into Google, Bing, or any other search engine, the results appear in a ranked order. The ones that show up on the first page are the ones which get the most traffic. There are several reasons for this.

Most websites use common keywords in the text on their site as well as in the coding. This helps their page move up in the rankings because if more people search for a certain term or word, the pages with the term or word will show up higher in the list of results. For example, if you were to search the term “pet groomers” in a search engine, that search engine will list all of the pages with that term. The higher the page is ranked, the more traffic that page gets compared to the other pages.

Keywords help you move up in the ranks, but it takes a lot more than that to become first page material. Another way to move up in the ranks is to have lots of links on other sites that come back to your page. The more links that lead to your page, the higher in the rankings it’ll go. You can link to your site on your social media accounts that already have an audience to help out with that. Another way you could get links is through commenting the link on some blogs and other sites. The problem with commenting links to your site too much is that it can look like spam. Google and other search engines sometimes filter out activity that seems like spam, so those links would not help in the rankings. Be mindful of that.

Another way to move up in the rankings is to update your site regularly. Sites that get new content often are much more likely to gain an audience because that activity alone can make your page more noticeable in search results.

Think of search engines like they’re a newspaper and your website as a story. If you want your website to be front page news, you have to put in the work and effort to get it there.

There are other ways to optimize your website for search engine rankings but these are the main three that I will be using to optimize my website. I found this video very helpful in understanding Search Engine Optimization.

Domain Hosting & Registration

When you create your own website, one thing you will have to think of is a domain name. Do you want to pay for it or use a free domain? Which host do you want to use? Which registrar? What services do you want? All of these are important questions to ask yourself before you pick out the name you want.

Consider first whether or not the domain name you want is already taken. You can find this out by searching for it on WHOIS.net, GoDaddy.com, NameCheap.com, or NameSilo.com. These sites will let you know if the domain is available and give you prices if you want to purchase that domain.

Domain names are divided into a couple of categories. One of them is Open Top Level Domains (TDLs), which anyone can register for. These are the .com, .org, .net, .info, .biz, and .name domains. The other category is Restricted TLDs, which only certain people are allowed to register for. These include .aero, .asia, .cat, .coop, .int, .jobs, .mobi, .museum, .post, .pro, .tel, .travel, .xxx, and .website. Some domains are only offered in the U.S. such as .edu, .gov, and .mil.

After you choose the name you want for your website and know that it is available, you have to choose a registrar and host. Some registrars also offer hosting while others do not. Each registrar offers different additional services as well, so pick the one that best fits what you want to do with your site. This PowerPoint presentation has information on different services that can help you decide on a registrar that works for you.

I don’t think I would want to buy my own domain name right now. I think using free domain name sites like Weebly and WordPress work well for people like me who don’t plan on owning a business one day. I can get by just using those sites to showcase my work without buying a unique domain name. The domains I’m currently using include my name, and that’s really all I need at the moment. I can’t really justify paying $1000 or more per year just because I want my website to be lindseybullard.com instead of lindseybullard.weebly.com or something along those lines.

Whatever you choose to do, just make sure you research every possibility first and look into every registrar and hosting site that you think would be good. Each feature matters and could affect the future of your website in a positive or negative way.

Online Privacy and Security

It is becoming easier and easier for hackers to access private information online. There are several steps you can take to help make your online accounts and social media more private and secure. This article gives some great tips on how to stay safe on the internet.

 

One thing you can do is make sure to use new passwords for every account you have. Reusing passwords just makes it easier for someone who has hacked one of your other accounts to get into everything else you have online.

passwords

Another option is setting up Two-Factor Authentication. This means you would have to use a code to get into accounts when logging in on a new device. Usually the code is sent to your phone via text message and can only be used once. Each time you use a different device than the one you set as your trusted one, you’ll just repeat that process again. It doesn’t take long to set up and it’s a great way to keep people out of your account.

two-step-auth

A third way to stay private on the web is by using a password manager. Password managers help keep all of your passwords in one place, but they’re only accessible with a master password. You’re the only one who would be able to access it because you’d be the only one with the master password. Some password managers include Dashlane, 1Password, Keeper, and LastPass.

password-manager

It’s also good to think before you post. Once you put something on the internet, it’s basically there forever. Even if you delete things from social media, there’s a possibility that those deleted posts are backed up on that website’s server. This article has some tips on how to keep your digital footprint clean.

security

Check each of your social media accounts for privacy and security options.

In the field of communication, it is especially important to make your profiles and other online sources professional. If an employer Googles you, you don’t want a post of you doing something regrettable to be the first thing that pops up. Your potential employer won’t be impressed and it could cost you some great opportunities in the future.

People in a democratic society expect their privacy to be kept in all aspects of life, including their online lives. When that privacy is breached, it causes a shift in trust and judgement. Some might direct their distrust to the government because they believe the government should be the ones maintaining privacy for its citizens. I think that true democracy works if the people do what is in their power to prevent breaches of security as well. There might be discourse over privacy violations, but the discourse will only get worse if we do not do what is necessary to protect our own privacy online. We’ve been given the right tools, so now we just need to use them.

 

Online Learning and Web Design

There are a variety of ways to learn HTML online. For example, many websites offer free video tutorials and lessons you can take to help you learn. Out of all of the options, I think W3Schools is a great choice for beginners to learn HTML and CSS.

Image result for w3schools logo

The interactive lessons and tutorials explain everything in easy terms, which makes it perfect for beginners with little to no knowledge of HTML. W3Schools also lets you play with HTML on the site to see what effects it will make on a mock webpage. It’s fun and simple to use. This video shows you how to get started with W3Schools, so check it out!

You can take a look at some of the other options for learning HTML here as well.

For some, it might be easier to learn web design online. The web design class I am currently taking (CA 260) is a blended course, meaning it is taught partially in a classroom and partially online.

I personally like blended courses better than fully online courses. I think being able to ask my professor questions and have them help me with solutions in person is easier than having to figure it out on my own. Web design as a subject can be fairly difficult for some people to grasp without someone physically there to show them what they are doing wrong.

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) work for some students, but the majority need additional instruction from a professor in order to learn what they are meant to learn from a course. This article has more information on MOOCs, so read and judge for yourself whether or not MOOCs work.

Content Management Systems

When creating a website, one very important factor is choosing which Content Management System (CMS) to use. A content management system makes adding content and updating your website much easier. There are thousands of content management systems to choose from and each one has a number of different features that appeal to different website creators.

wordpress-development

I recommend using WordPress for any beginner because it is simple and easy to use. It only takes a few steps to install as well. First, make a config.php file with all of the information about the database, username/password, database host, etc. Then installation is just a click away.

It also has over 2,000 themes and over 28,500 plugins to choose from. You can even create your own themes. Plugins allow you to add video, audio, and other social media content directly to your site.

WordPress lets you create posts and pages simply. It looks and feels like you are just writing a document in Microsoft Word. You can even switch from the document style editor to an HTML editor which allows you to add HTML to your content.

wordpress-editor

WordPress as a CMS is much like WordPress as a blogging tool. You can create pages, posts, and content easily in the style of a Word document.

WordPress also sends its users a notification whenever an update to the CMS is available. All you have to do is click “Update Now” and it will update to the latest version. It is certainly the best CMS for people with little to no experience in website design.

Learn more information about Content Management Systems by watching this video and reading this article. Learn more about WordPress as a CMS and its features by reading these pages.

Email made easy

Sometimes emails can be harder to interpret and it can be difficult to get the point across using only text. That’s why it is important to have proper email etiquette. It’s also a great idea to have filters so important emails don’t get lost in your inbox.

Email Filters

It’s fairly easy to add filters to a Gmail account. This article has 6 simple steps to create a filter:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. In the search box at the top, click the Down arrow Down Arrow.
  3. Enter your search criteria. If you want to check that your search worked correctly, see what emails show up by clicking Search Search. 
  4. At the bottom of the search window, click Create filter with this search.
  5. Choose what you’d like the filter to do.
  6. Click Create filter.

I created a filter for emails I receive about my CA 260 class. I used the label “CA 260”. It was easy and didn’t even take me a minute to do. I will definitely use filters like this for all of my classes in the future so that they will be easy to find when looking for information.

You can also create filters by following these steps:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Check the checkbox next to the email you want.
  3. Click More.
  4. Click Filter messages like these.
  5. Enter your filter criteria.

Both ways are simple and effective. You should also check out the article 7 Gmail Filters to Make Email Less of a Chore. It has some great tips on how to keep your inbox clean and organized.

Email Etiquette

It is very important to have proper email etiquette due to the fact that you can only communicate using text. The way you word your emails should never come across as rude, insensitive, or have a tone that could be considered offensive. This is especially important for college students when emailing professors.

Here is an example of what I believe is the correct way to inform a professor about having to leave a class early:

Hello Dr. Sheffield, this is Lindsey Bullard from your CA 260 class which meets on Wednesdays at 3:30.

I am emailing to inform you that, due to certain circumstances, I will need to leave next week’s class early. I will get the information I miss from a fellow student and be prepared to make up any assignments if possible upon my return. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Lindsey Bullard

I would also include my student number with my name, either in parentheses or after my signature at the end of the email.

This article has some wonderful tips on how to write an email using proper etiquette.

Web Accessibility

Making sure your website is accessible to everyone is extremely important. This includes people with disabilities, elderly people, people who don’t have access to a mouse, and more.

accessibility

One thing you can do to improve accessibility on your website is choose a color scheme that won’t make it harder for colorblind viewers to see your content. It’s also a good idea to include text when using color coded buttons. This makes it easier for people with colorblindness to tell which button leads to which action.

Some of your viewers could also be epileptic, and they could be triggered into a seizure by icons that flash or blink rapidly. Make sure not to have any icons like that.

Another thing you could do to improve accessibility is to make sure your website works without images. Some of your readers could be blind, which means they will most likely have some kind of screen reader to deliver the contents of a page in audio format. Others might have images cut off because they want to access the content of the page more efficiently. When text is put onto the page in image format, the readers who have images shut off won’t be able to see that text. These are all important things to consider.

Some readers don’t have access to a mouse for navigation. It is important to consider keyboard only users when designing website navigation.

Another issue to consider is video content. It’s better to make videos have captions and/or subtitles so that users with hearing problems can understand what the video is about. It is also a good idea to not use auto-play for videos. If a user needs to have screen reader technology to access a page, the audio from the video will overlap the audio from the screen reader and cause a lot of confusion.

It is also better to keep sentences easy to understand. Complex sentences with a lot of jargon can confuse readers.

I plan to take all of these things into account when designing my website. I found this video and these articles helpful. Take a look at these two pages as for more information on making your website accessible to those with colorblindness and epilepsy.

Organizing a killer website

When creating a website, it’s important to think about the layout of each page. Start with your home page and work from there.

The Home Page

For each page, it’s a great idea to make a rough sketch of how you want it to look. This video has some awesome tips on creating an organized and eye-catching home page.

home-page-sketch

Sketching out your layout is always a good idea. It will help you organize your site for when the time comes to build it.

One tip from the video is to divide the home page into sections so that when you scroll down, you get a different section each time. Making the home page scrollable is a great choice when designing a website.

It’s also a good idea to include engaging media on your home page. You want your visitors to feel like they can interact with the site instead of just seeing a page with one or two things that aren’t very important.

Landing Pages

When creating landing pages, or individual pages with different content, it’s a better idea to categorize them under one tab in your main menu. This video shows how to add pages to a website on Weebly.

In the video, the person explains how to create a drop down menu under one tab. This is a great idea to show different pages for different categories of work. For example, if someone wanted to show different charity work they have done in the past, they could make a separate page for each charity organization.

css3-dropdown-menu

Here’s an example of a drop down menu. Each category links to a different page, so it isn’t all jumbled onto one. This makes navigation easier.

It’s much more clean and organized to have separate pages for different topics.

5 Tips for Organizing Your Website

  1. Make your home page enticing, but don’t use Flash. Flash can be distracting to the viewer, and good websites don’t need all those bells and whistles to entice their viewers.
  2. Put a footer at the bottom of the page. This is where you’ll provide links to your contact information, your about page, social media, and more.
  3. Make separate pages for different content. Categorize and use drop down menus to make navigation simple.
  4. Make sure to provide at least a Home, Contact, and About page. Those are the three most common pages and provide important information to viewers.
  5. Your home page should appeal to your target audience. Use features that will entice that audience.

I found this article helpful. It explains ways to organize pages and create a website that will bring in more viewers.

Joining Weebly

Weebly is a great tool to use for creating your own website. Weebly has features that make it simple to edit and make changes to your site. The “drag and drop” feature lets you drag any element you could want onto a page, and you can change it any time. This is especially great for people learning web design because it’s simple and easy to understand.

weebly-drag-and-drop

Weebly’s “Drag and Drop” feature makes it easy to add elements to your website.

Weebly has features for inserting audio clips and videos as well. If you want to share your own work or host work found online, you can easily do so by dragging those elements using the drag and drop feature.

weebly-audio-and-video

Drag and drop the audio or video elements right onto the page.

It’s also super easy to create your own slideshows and backgrounds. Weebly has its own extensive photo gallery, and many of those are free to use. You can also upload your own photos and to your site.

You can also manage your website and Weebly account by using their mobile app. It lets you stay updated on the statistics of your site, and you can even create and manage a mobile version of your own website.

weebly-features

Weebly is compatible on desktops and Mobile devices, so it’s easy to create new content anywhere.

The theme selection on Weebly has a wide variety to choose from. You can pick something simple and polished or fun and artistic. You can also change your theme any time. For my website, I’m choosing the Clean Lines theme. I like the look of it, and the colors are always changeable so I can make it the scheme that I prefer. I’m not sure if I’ll want to change it in the future, but for now I think it’s perfect.

I found this article very helpful in setting up my Weebly account. I hope it’s helpful for you as well!

 

How to blog like a pro

Blogging can be really easy if you follow the right steps and blog about something you are actually interested in. All it takes is a little preparation and research.

blogging

First, you’ll want to pick a topic you actually like to talk about. Otherwise your post will be boring and dull. You don’t want to come across as unenthusiastic or you’ll lose readers.

Next, you’ll need to prepare and do some background research on your topic. It is extremely important to have all the correct facts. If your sources and information aren’t credible, your readers will lose interest in your blog. Always double and triple check with multiple, credible resources before posting anything that might diminish your own credibility.

research for blog pic

Research your topic thoroughly.

Then, you might want to make an outline of your post. It helps to have everything you want to say planned out so that each post will flow smoothly. Posts that jump from one thing to another and back are harder to keep up with. Your readers want something they can easily comprehend.

After you’ve written your post, you might want to add some photos or images that relate to the topic. This makes readers more engaged in what you’re discussing and gives them a short break from reading. Plus, pictures enhance your post in a way that words sometimes can’t. What’s that saying? A picture is worth a thousand words. So use them! But don’t bog down your posts with pictures either. Find a good balance.

Once you’ve completed your post, pictures included, go back and proof read for any spelling or grammar mistakes. Your readers will get pretty annoyed if your posts continually contain typos and comma splices.

proofread

Another thing to avoid is writing long paragraphs. Try to divide up your posts into sections of about 3 or 4 sentences each if you can. This makes it easier for your readers to follow along.

As I’ve said in previous posts, I am a Communications major. It’s a very broad field, but almost any job in it will probably require blogging experience. I am going to do my best to make each post appealing to potential readers and showcase my abilities to any potential employers in the future.

I found these two articles very helpful when making this post. Hopefully it helps you too. Happy blogging!