November’s the season to pause to reflect on the year past. Memories of successes and failures will inspire our next resolutions. We look around at our gathered family and friends and remember how thankful we are for Google. Wait.
Can you be thankful for a website? I think so. The many blessings of the Internet transform our home and work lives daily. Small businesses especially have reason to say thanks, because it’s more necessary than ever to own your own website. And it’s never been easier. The following list of websites is compiled out of my own workflow and the recommendations of friends. All of them are free resources that I find really helpful for creating and maintaining our clients’ websites.
Google Drive and Dropbox
A cloud file storage service like Google Drive or Dropbox isn’t strictly a website, but it may be the most useful thing to come along since the Toastabag. Google Drive combines plentiful storage with a powerful word processor, spreadsheet builder, and other productivity tools. Many students I know use the service to collaborate on presentations and papers for school. You can even link Google Drive with IFTTT to edit your documents based on triggers like text messages, RSS feeds, and the weather. At work, I prefer to use Dropbox rather than email attachments to share files with clients.
If you want to write better company blog posts, you must read constantly. Keep up with all of your favorite news sites and bloggers with a news aggregator like Feedly. It’s like building your own CNN.com that only shows articles related to your interests. Feedly helps me find the articles I need to read today and save the ones I can read later on. It’s a good way to stay informed and inspired about the topics I write about.
I’m excited about Locu because it solves a big problem for small businesses. When you update your address or hours, how do you edit that information in all the places it appears online? Locu lets you sync that information across popular services like Foursquare, OpenTable and Yelp. It does the same trick for restaurant menus too.
Purdue Online Writing Lab
Words are more important than ever to small business websites. Google rewards websites for posting new and shareable content. If you thought your writing days were over after graduation, think again. Want your business to be found online? You’re gonna have to write new blog posts for the website. Refresh yourself on the basics of grammar and style with the Purdue OWL. Of course, you can avoid all of those tedious letters by getting help from a copywriter.
The images that accompany your words are important too. Every blog post on the Roundpeg blog requires at least one image and we may share the blog post on Facebook with an additional image. We don’t take all these pictures ourselves. So there are two legal options to get fresh images for your site. Purchase each one from a vendor like iStock or select a picture with a commercial use Creative Commons license. Photo Pin filters through Flickr to finds cool images you can legally use for a company blog.
Photoshop Express Editor
Once you’ve got an image, you need to crop and re-size it to work better online. Most pictures you take with your camera will like a mess if you upload them directly to your website. Even a photo you got through Photo Pin might not be the exact right size for your blog post. Use Photoshop Express Editor to easily edit those images online. No software to download and you can use it from any Internet connected computer in the world. Always upload your images the right way. Edit them first.
If you’re not into building websites, you may not care about StudioPress. But they produce the most flexible themes for WordPress. If you ask me for a website in two hours, I’ll probably turn to StudioPress for a theme that looks great out of the box but is really easy to customize as well.
One of the hardest things to do in web design is create a patterned background. In order to keep the site running fast, image files need to be really small. So a small image that can be tiled to fit any screen size is incredibly useful. Rather than make one by hand every time, I search Subtle Patterns to see if something in the collection fits my idea.
Everyone should know a little HTML and CSS. Especially if your website is built with WordPress. A lot of the minor frustrations of using the WordPress Visual editor can be smoothed out if you know a little code and where to put it. Codecademy offers free online lessons that feel more like puzzles than homework.
The WordPress Codex
When your website breaks (and it will, probably tomorrow), you’ll want to know where to go to get help with WordPress. While you should have someone’s phone number to call, the WordPress Codex is your guide for hundreds of how-tos and tips. There are guides to Pages and Posts and even more techie subjects like repairing database tables.
What websites are you thankful for?