8 Ingredients of a Winning Website for Digital Nomad Girls

8 Ingredients of a Winning Website for Digital Nomad Girls

Melissa Love is a web design specialist for photographers and she is also the founder of The Design Space, a one-stop design shop which sells beautiful, affordable website templates and courses teaching web design to complete beginners. She is also our featured expert in the DNG Inner Circle this month where she shared her knowledge on WordPress & Divi.

Still unsure of whether you should set up a website or not? Check out our blog post on why every digital nomad girl needs a website!

8 Ingredients of Winning Websites for Digital Nomad Girls

Or alternatively, do you have a website but feel like it’s never ‘done’? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Everyone feels like that and it’s not a bad thing. Your website is an ever-evolving project that needs keeping an eye on, even when you’ve launched the latest and greatest version.

But what to tweak and when? Here are my must-have ingredients for the coming year.

1. A Home Page with a Message

Standing out from the crowd means sending a strong message to your potential ideal client about what you can for them and how you can do it differently.

Many creatives fall into the trap of thinking that it’s ok to just let your work speak for itself. I’m going to break it to you gently. It’s just not enough any more.

In fact, your home page has only one job to do. It serves just one purpose.

And that is to make your visitors click further into your site further, to raise their hand and to think, I’m in.

Famously, there is this quote which says that you have 7 seconds to really grab someone’s attention and keep them on your site.

So your home page is not about the portfolio preview (though it goes without saying that your homepage images and copy need to be killer) and it’s not about giving them as much information as you possibly can. It’s to create resonance.

Check out this example from Nadia Meli of a website which directly speaks to her ideal client and has clearly signposted call to action.

nadia meli website design digital nomad girls

Nadia isn’t afraid to reach out to attract her ideal client and also repel those clients who aren’t a good fit, and this is a good thing. Above all, her home pages is designed to create real resonance.

How you do that is up to you. My top tip is to ask yourself:

“What one thing would my ideal client want the most?”

2. A Responsive Website that Looks Great on All Devices

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that a website that works well on mobile is crucial now. But in case you aren’t convinced, here are a few stats.

  • We passed the mobile tipping point in 2014, which means that more internet browsing takes place on mobile devices than on desktop devices
  • Views on vertical screens are now exceeding views on horizontal screens, which means people are used to scrolling
  • First time visits are now more likely to happen on a handheld device

So, what does responsive design mean?

Pinching and zooming to view content isn’t good enough any more. Truly responsive content adjusts to fit all browsers and you’ll find that column layouts change and stack according to browser size.

If you are thinking about buying a theme or template for your website, resize the browser to make sure that the page content and menu rearranges itself to be viewable on mobile without needing to pinch and zoom to easily view the content.

Check out how this website behaves on mobile or by resizing your browser.

website design responsive digital nomad girls

Think, ‘mobile first’.

Do streamline your visitor’s mobile experience: you might want to hide or show some elements on mobile but don’t hide key blocks of text or pages.

Try to reduce clicks and repetition. If you have landing pages where people need to make a decision, eliminate them.

Don’t build an alternative mobile version. Google doesn’t like duplicate content and is starting to downrank mobile versions (eg. where you are redirected to an alternative url on mobile) in favour of websites where this doesn’t happen.

Designing your site to be mobile friendly, doesn’t mean that you can neglect your desktop site. Think of it as ‘mobile also’.

A note on Google’s new mobile-first index.

With more searches taking place now on mobile rather than desktop, Google recently announced that the Googlebots that crawl and index sites will be switching to mobile-first. This means that it’s now more important than ever to make sure your visitors are getting a great mobile experience.

3. Get Google Friendly

Although you might feel that getting to the top of the Google mountain is an impossible task, the good news is that Google just wants to do a good job, serving up the best and most accurate results it can to people who are searching.

This means you need to be more aware than ever before of what your current audience are searching for to get to your site and looking at once on it, so that you can serve up more of the same super-relevant content, in just the right format.

To do this, you need to be using Google Analytics & Search Console together, to get the full picture. Here’s what each of them can do for you…

Google Search Console

  • Tells Google which version of your site to serve up (ie. with or without the www)
  • Tells Google to index your sitemap and crawl your pages
  • Lets you know about any security issues and missing content
  • Tells you which terms people searched to get to your site

Google Analytics

  • Tells you which links people used to get to your site
  • Tells you where visitor are from and which devices they used to browse
  • Tells you where they went and what they looked at

Don’t forget to associate your Google Analytics property with your Google Search Console account.

You can find out more about Getting Started with Google here.

4. Speed Up Your Website

Image-heavy photography websites always struggle with balancing image quality with speed.

I see many photographers uploading high resolution images to their website, mistakenly assume that their website platform is going to reduce the size of their images automatically. There might be some platforms that do this but it’s not common and having images that aren’t optimized for web will make it very difficult for your site to load well on mobile and Google do take site speed into consideration.

girl on laptop website digital nomad girls

Here are a few must-have tools.

Check your site speed on Pingdom, using the servers nearest to your location: https://tools.pingdom.com/

Use a compression tool like JpegMini reduce file size without reducing quality: http://www.jpegmini.com/

Make sure you’re happy with the quality of your web hosting in the first place. Some larger companies offering shared hosting have thousands of websites on the same server, which can dramatically slow down your site. A quick conversation with your hosting company will give you all the options.

Find more tips about speeding up your website here: https://thedesignspace.co/how-to-speed-up-your-website/

5. Install an SSL Certificate

If you’ve been hearing rumblings about all websites needing an SSL (security) certificate, then you’re right and now is the time to act because Google have announced that their Chrome browser will begin displaying a notice in the browser address bar marking sites without an SSL certificate insecure.

If you’re wondering why you need to do this, when you don’t sell anything on your website, Google are stepping up the good fight against data theft and want all websites that exchange data (cookies, contact forms) to be more secure.

Luckily most hosting companies have stepped up and are now offering free/cheap SSL options which are easy to install.

Find out just how easy it is here: https://thedesignspace.co/adding-an-ssl-certificate-to-your-website/

6. Backup, Backup, Backup!

Hand on heart, is your website properly backed up? No? Then don’t get sucked into the circle of updating doom.

You know what I’m talking about:

  • You’re not 100% sure that your site is backed up.
  • So you don’t update your theme and plugins in case something goes wrong.
  • Which makes your site less secure and more likely to get hacked.
  • And if you don’t have a recent backup and your site is hacked, you’ll be really, really sad.

So it’s actually more of a black hole than a circle. Don’t fall into the hole.

Firstly, not all backup plans are equal.

Most free backup plugins are what I call ‘zip and ship’. They zip up a copy of your website and send it off to the remote location you specify. Eg. Dropbox.

The problem is that as your site gets larger (photography sites get large quickly), errors start to occur with both the zipping and the shipping.

Instead, the safest way to back up is by using an incremental backup system. This means that after a first backup, the system only has to back up and changes, meaning your backup is way less likely to fail and can be set to run continuously every few hours.

There are some brilliant options (my favourite is Blogvault) and you generally have to pay for brilliance. But it’s a very small price to pay for peace of mind and a good night’s sleep.

Here’s a detailed walkthrough if you don’t have a solid backup plan: https://thedesignspace.co/how-to-backup-wordpress-website/

7. Contact Form Success

The moment a potential client presses send is probably the most excited and receptive that they are ever going to be about hearing from your business.

girl on laptop website digital nomad girls technology

And what usually happens? I look at a lot of websites and test a lot of contact forms, and I can tell you that mostly I see a boring default message starting right back at me, along the lines of “Your Form Has Been Successfully Submitted”. Sure, it’s reassuring but it’s hardly going to be the start of a beautiful relationship.

Secondly, the contact page often receives very little visual love. We might spend hours on building elaborate and enticing home pages, but not really give a second thought to how we present a contact page. ‘As long as it gets the job done’, seems to be the general approach.

In short, here’s what I think every Contact page should have:

  • Images and attention to detail when it comes to styling
  • A friendly, personal introduction
  • An email link as well as a contact form
  • Information about what will happen once they have contacted you (ie. timeframe, next steps)
  • Your social links
  • Redirection to a success page with a friendly message and links to your best work or bonus / fun content.

Find out how to implement your personality-packed contact success page, check out this blog post: https://thedesignspace.co/beyond-the-contact-page/

8. BONUS tip for creatives & artists amongst you: A Portfolio Designed to Sell

Although there has been a trend in recent years, of moving away from the traditional gallery, to showing only blog posts to showcase recent work, I think the ‘best of the best gallery’ is one of your key selling tools.

By showing only blog posts, you are forcing your website visitors to dig further to find what they are really looking for, when really, you really be making it easier for them. Your site won’t be the only site they visit. Why make them work harder?

A ‘killer images’ gallery is a great way of giving them a snapshot of your best work (and I mean your best – be ruthless. Keep it to 20-30 images, max).

When they return for a second look, that gallery will be an easily accessible reference tool, which will remind them what they liked about your work in the first place. They may even be wanting to ‘show you off’ to a friend or relative for a second opinion. In this situation, your ‘best of the best’ gallery comes into its own.

But don’t just leave it there. Below your main gallery, make sure you signpost your visitors to other ‘whole event’ galleries or blog posts that are specifically designed to appeal to the ideal clients you want to target.  

Check out the portfolio page I recently designed for Andrea Ellison. It includes a beautiful main gallery, but below the gallery, you’ll see three blog posts which describe exactly the kind of weddings that Andrea loves to book.

andrea photography portfolio digital nomad girls

Note the language she uses – ‘laid back, ‘relaxed’, ‘chilled out’. The message comes across loud and clear.

None of the steps above are difficult to implement but they do take a bit of time to get right. Getting familiar with some of the underlying principles of maintaining and improving your website, is worth every minute of your time.

Take care of these website basics and your website will take care of itself.

 

Melissa has an incredible course where she teaches every single step from buying a domain & hosting, to building a beautiful & functional website from scratch using the Divi theme. DNG readers get 10% off the (already very reasonable) course price with the code ‘nomad10’. Melissa’s course won’t only teach you all the skills needed to build your own website, but you’ll have skills to get started working as a WordPress web designer yourself! Check out her course here!

 

 

 

Why Every Digital Nomad Girl Needs a Website (and Everything you need to get started)

Why Every Digital Nomad Girl Needs a Website (and Everything you need to get started)

If you’d love to create your own WordPress website but all the different terms and lingo make your head buzz (plugins, themes, hosts, domains, aaarghh!) then this is the guide for you. We’ll show you why every digital nomad needs a website and explain all the terms you need to understand to get started.

This post includes some affiliate links to products we love and use <3

 

Today I’m going to talk about something that is really important for any (aspiring) digital nomad girl out there, and that’s: websites!

I know there can be a huge barrier to creating your first own website, and I totally get it as I was there myself, not that long ago.

I remember how hard it was for me when I first started out – the jargon was confusing and the sheer volume of information was overwhelming. So I took it step by step, ended up falling in love with WordPress and now I even design websites for other people sometimes.

My website helped me get great clients, put myself out there and learn great new skills. That’s why I think it’s so important that every digital nomad girl has her own website.

 

Every digital nomad girl, I hear you ask? Yes, each one of you.

Digital nomads are entrepreneurs, freelancers, bloggers and Jills of all Trades, but no matter your background, profession or experience, you should have your own website and here’s why:

Take Control

Ok, so maybe you’re a freelancer and you find all your work on platforms like Upwork or People Per Hour. You might be making a great living, but you have no control over the platform you’re using. One day, Upwork might decide to double its fees (like they did in May 2016), or close down, or get hacked. Then what? As unlikely as it sounds, technology changes quickly and it’s risky to put all your work eggs into one basket. Having your own website means you are in control.

Brand yo’self

Freelancing is becoming increasingly popular. A LinkedIn profile or Facebook page are not enough to really stand out from the crowd. Freelancers are starting to understand the power of personal branding and your website plays an important role in your brand. It is your own little corner of the web that you can make completely yours. Instead of having to please every potential client, you can talk to the audience you want to attract, and be authentic and real, all while remaining professional.

 

Why every digital nomad needs a website Featured Image

Be found more easily

Whether you’re looking for takeout dinner, cute kittens or a quote about a new kitchen, where do you turn?

Google, that’s right.

And so will your potential clients. Having your own professional website will make it easier for clients to find your services, especially if you’ve positioned yourself as a professional in your niche. You want to be on different platforms, use social networks AND have your own web presence to make it as easy as possible for others to find you.

Collect leads

A website is much more than a business card or portfolio. You can use it to collect leads and grow your email list, which is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to online entrepreneurs and freelancers. Don’t miss out on this chance to grow your list, even if you don’t think you need one yet.

Increase your credibility and showcase your portfolio

Even if you find your work through word of mouth or through freelancing platforms, your own website gives you credibility. And let’s face it, we are digital nomads, not just nomads. Your own website shows you’re serious about your business and a professional. You can showcase past work, share testimonials from past clients who loved working with you and show new clients all you have to offer them.

So you see, having your own website brings huge advantages.

But why do so many digital nomads not have a website yet? Because it’s scary! For non-techies it can be especially daunting. Do I need to learn code? Which platform do I choose? Will I design it myself or do I have to spend a fortune for a web designer? The good news is that over the last years it has become so much easier and intuitive to build your own website, and it doesn’t need cost a ton either. Some of you won’t have the time or patience to create your own websites either, and that’s totally fine as well. But if you are playing with the thought, read on to find out how to get started.

Here’s how you can create your own professional website using WordPress. I will talk you through each step and use super simple language.

 

Which platform?

Well, let’s just say there are MANY platforms out there. Some of the most popular are SquareSpace, Wix, Weebly and WordPress. To make it even more confusing, WordPress has two different versions!

Two different WordPresses??? Why oh why?

There is the free-to-use, but much less powerful WordPress.com, and the fully flexible WordPress.org which requires self-hosting (we’ll talk about what that means in a minute). There are pros and cons to each of these platforms, but today we will only talk about WordPress.org.

The reason I think WordPress is the best option is that it is 100% customisable, it’s affordable and you own all your content. Many other platforms technically own your content (it’s in the footnotes, I checked). And while you will have to pay for your own hosting, and possibly even a theme, with WordPress, it’s still one of the cheapest options.

Ok, so you believe me that WordPress is a great option to get started? Awesome! Here’s what you’ll need to know to create your own WordPress website:

Why every digital nomad needs a website laptop 2

Domains: your website’s address

The domain name is the name of your website and the address that allows others to find it, like real addresses help people find your house. Every website needs a domain name, so you will have to think of a good one. Many freelancers use their own names (if still available), or you can think of a unique name for your business.

Make sure it’s recognisable, easy to spell and professional. You can register your domain (buy it) from any domain provider or even from your hosting provider (which we’ll talk about next). Depending on the provider and the type of domain (.com, .co.uk, etc.) you will pay around $10 per domain per year. GoDaddy is a good option and you can find a link to them here.

Hosting: a place for your website to live

If you’ve looked into WordPress.com and .org before, you probably came across the word “hosting”. It sounds a bit daunting, like something out of Star Wars, right? That’s how I felt when I first started making sense of WordPress. Basically, a host is like your landlord. Hosting companies own servers, and your website will live on one of these servers. There are many different types of hosting, but a simple plan will be more than enough when you’re just starting out.

I personally use Siteground for all my websites now because they have amazing customer service, are really affordable and are very reliable. You can get hosting for one year from around $4 per month, and they take their customer support very seriously at Siteground (I have spent many a fine hour on their live chat at different times of day and night).

If you’d like to sign up with Siteground you can use this link here (there’s no extra cost to you – DNG will simply get a small commission, which helps us keep our blog live and running. Thanks!).

Ok, so now you have a domain and hosting, your new website has an address for people to find and a place to live. Yippee!

 

Next: WordPress 🙂

The next step is to install WordPress. This was the step that really confused me in the beginning. I didn’t realise I should install WordPress on the hosting, not on my computer! Oh well.

The good news is that many hosts let you install WordPress in just a few simple steps and sometimes they even install it for you if you contact their support desk. For example, Siteground has a quick and easy 1-click WordPress install.

Once that’s done, you can now access the backend of your WordPress website. Yaaay!

It would take waaay too long for me to explain all the ins and outs of the WordPress dashboard here, but I’ll explain a few important things you’ll need to be familiar with:

Most of you will already know about themes and plugins, but maybe you’re not actually sure what they are.

 

Themes

If WordPress is the skeleton of your website, then the theme you use is the skin, or the outfit (less morbid) of your website. Your theme will define what your website will ultimately look like. So how do you find a good theme? That’s the tricky part!

There are soooo many themes available, some free, many paid, and a lot of them look very pretty. A few things you should keep in mind when picking a theme is how flexible it is and whether it’s responsive. Responsive means that it looks good on all devices – mobile, tablet and desktops – this is really important.

My absolute favourite WordPress theme is the Divi Theme by Elegant Themes. I fell in love with it over two years ago and have built all my websites using Divi. It’s not the cheapest, but once you buy it you can use it on as many websites as you like and you get access to all of the Elegant Themes plugins, all their other themes, and all future updates too.

What I love about Divi is that it’s sooo flexible. It uses a super awesome drag-and-drop builder that allows you to move around different modules (like text, images, videos, sign up boxes etc) really easily and you can customise it as much as you like. Because Divi is so popular, there’s a huge community of Divi whizzes out there who are super supportive and who create a ton of content about Divi. Whenever I need help I just pop into one of the Divi Facebook groups and get help.

 

Plugins

Plugins are also really important. They’re like little apps for WordPress that let you add a tonne of functionality to your website. From security to social media buttons, shopfronts to sign-up boxes, all can be achieved with plugins. Loads of them are completely free to use, which helps to keep the budget down.

I really hope you have a little better of an understanding why you should definitely have a website and also how you can get started with WordPress without being totally freaked out by the jargon. Want more WordPress tools? Download our FREE Digital Nomad Toolbox with lots more tools!

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