Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Taking The Plunge ~ Making My Own Website

Today was a much better day than yesterday. Summer returned to Colorado with 80 degree weather and I got to go spend the day outside working in the yard and playing with my critters instead of running errands and working, but it was worth it. To top it off I lost another two pounds!

For today's post I wanted to continue on a bit with yesterday's topic of goals. September 12th marked the second anniversary of my website.

Having a website was a big goal I had for several years before it happened. But like so many people who are antiquated in their thinking, I was scared to make one. How did I begin? What should it look like? Would anyone come to see it? Wouldn't it be expensive? Could I even do it?

I had so many questions and it kept me from doing it. But one day I woke up and said that's it, I have to do this. This goal had to be met. Other people do it, so I can do it too. I had never had any instruction, classes or tutorials on the computer. Slowly over the years I picked up coding. Don't ask me how, I just soaked it up as I went along the way I do much of what I learn.

I knew that if I was going to do a website I wanted to do it myself so I had control over it and when it was updated. Despite having enough coding knowledge to do a basic website, I did an internet search to find a program to do make one. The path of least resistance you know. I found a very good site that had programs listed by rating. The first one cost almost $700. *groans* The second highest rated one cost $35. *Perks up again* I could afford that! I did a search on the program and it had good reviews. I only found one complaint and it was minimal. So far so good...the program was sold on Amazon. I ordered it and waited.

In the interim I needed a domain and a web host. For this I asked a friend who has had websites for years. There are soooo many out there, how do you choose? She pointed me to NoMonthlyFees.com. When you pay your yearly fee (about $70) you get another year for another website for free to pass on to someone else. So she kindly gave me my first year for free. How great is that! By the way I still have a year's hosting for free from paying my bill this year if anyone out there wants it. Just E-mail me and I will happily pass it along. Pay it forward!

It's been a great host, it only goes down about twice a year for a couple hours for maintenance and I have never had my bandwidth exceeded.

Within the week my program arrived. It was pretty unassuming looking. The outside of the package was plain, and I opened it up to see no instructions. Uh oh! But I was determined to go forth, so I popped the CD in, and uploaded it. The tutorial on how to use the program is right in it. I have to say, it's the easiest, most user friendly, written in plain English program I have ever seen. You don't need ANY coding knowledge to use it. It comes with all the bells and whistles and you can make a pretty amazing site up and have it up and running in a couple hours with hardly any limits. The program is called SiteSpinner. It also includes a year free webhosting if you choose to use it. I HIGHLY recommend it. I don't know what the $700 program could offer that this one doesn't, but whatever it was I don't need it.

Ok so I had a domain, a web host and a program...but now what? What should I put on it? I have seen many artist's sites, some are beautiful and some are pretty boring and the latter surprises me. I don't really get that to be honest. I look upon my site as another extension of my art, so shouldn't it have artistic aspects? I knew I wanted to make it creative and fun to look at. But how?

Again I never had any instructions on making graphics, it's just a been a trial and error, self taught experience. I have never even read any of the instruction manuals that go with my editing programs. I just like to click stuff and try things to see what it does. That's the same process I used to learn to make bears and pretty much every other thing I know how to do. I learn something new every time I change it, and each time I think it gets a little better. In truth I use a rather old editing program. I have Paint Shop Pro 7. I have newer and fancier ones that I also learned to use, but I just like that particular one. I can always get what I want done. The only thing that limits me is my imagination. I am sure there are people out there reading this that groaned when I said that's the one I used...but it works for me. When the day comes that it's obsolete with computers and I won't be able to use it I am going to cry!

My website has gone through so many incarnations I can't even remember them all. But I look upon my site as my store front. I like to change the front window and the displays so it keeps it interesting and people like to come back to have a look to see what I have done next. It's no different than changing up my patterns to keep my work fresh.

So I had my site all done...but how to get people to come to it? Well to be honest that's the hardest part of having a website. The first thing I did was sign up for every search engine relating to teddy bears that I could find. I started promoting it on the net, but to be honest that's a slow process and there are so many places to promote that it's like spitting in the ocean. Plus it's so time consuming that I was spending more time promoting than I was working. I had to find a way to hit my target audience. I came across a site to promote the bears and bear sites that is just bears, and most recently I have started doing ads in the magazine again. I am getting there.

I know I still have a lot to learn, especially when it comes to photography, but all in all...I am glad I overcame my fear and did it. It has been worth the time and money I put into it, and I enjoy doing it! I hope you all enjoy it too.

If this is something you have been wanting to do, and you haven't done it...just do it! Overcome your fear. If anyone out there reading this wants to do a website and needs help, I would be happy to help you. I am no expert...but I will share what I can!


Heather said...

I actually bought a domain name about a month ago and have been sitting on it... thinking to myself "GET GOING!"... I suppose it's about time!

Amanda said...

Thanks ever so much with the easy steps. OK been here before in the past, but you can lose your mojo and confidence with things, very much so websites etc. Something to make us all look at.

SwanRiverStone said...

Oooo I wanna do a website! i really really do.. bUt I am scared I will get NO traffic to it( part of the reason why i am still on The E..I would love some advice!

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