Online Presence: 5 Ideas to Consider
Good day ladies and gentlemen, my name is Craig and this is my first attempt at publishing an article on this new and interesting platform, Soapbox. As such, I believe some introductions are in order i.e. this is why you should use some of your valuable time to read my articles. Essentially, I write like an excited 12 year old and occasionally I make sense. This may just be one of those occasions. If you’d like to know more about who I am and what I do, check out my biography.
Today I’ve decided to look into something that’s been done over a billion times before with 100s of people trying to tell you that they’re the only ones with the secret to online success, but honestly, how hard could it be. Let’s work through the considerations and potential pitfalls to figure out how to create and maintain an effective online presence. It doesn’t matter whether you are a tech savvy individual or a business, this will help*. It’s worth noting that each of these ideas could fill an entire book, I have barely scratched the surface.
1. To Website or not to website
So, you want to share your content with the world? you need a website right? Nope. A mistake a lot of individuals and small businesses make is putting a lot of time and effort into their own online platforms and neglect the platforms that already have all the traffic, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn and of course spaces like Soapbox. If you are selling yourself or generating unique content, there are multiple online platforms designed specifically to host you and your brilliance and they already have all the market share. Learn them and leverage them to your advantage.
These services allow you to create and monetize yourself and your brand within a tried and tested framework on which millions of people are already finding success. For many people, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. Have a look at what these massive social platforms can do for you before rushing out to build your own website.
2. A brief foray into content management systems
There are still very good reasons to have your own website. Having your own website means you are in complete control (if you know what you’re doing) of all of your content. It also means you can offer specialised services that may not fit into the narrowly defined scope of the large social platforms. If you do decide you need a website, or if you already have a website, the acronym CMS is about to mean a whole lot to you.
A CMS, or Content Management System is simply a framework which does all the heavy lifting and allows the average non-developer to be a competent web developers while allowing professional developers and designers to save a lot of time and money while making some truly amazing things. I don’t want to spend too much time here since it’s possibly the most well documented thing on the internet and every developer and their dog have their own opinions about which CMS is the best. The truth is that is all depends on what you’re trying to build and there is no best CMS (when it doubt, Wo*****ss :P).
The major points to consider are, what are you doing, do you want to host the site yourself (shared hosting is also considered self-hosted, kinda) or do you want to subscribe to a full featured solution which includes the tools you need to build your site as well as takes care of the hosting. In my experience, sitting here at the bottom of the world, we can’t really give people the service they need using a fully managed service. This is just due to most of the managed services being hosted far away… We’ll get to that.
We’re going to take a quick commercial break here I know there are lots of words up there, even though I haven’t actually said anything useful. Let’s take a deep breath, stretch a bit and then we can continue to some more website consideration goodness. Yes, this is one of the things to consider. Getting all of this right takes a lot of patience, practice, trial and error. You’ll get it right with some perseverance.
4. Optimising the experience for your users
The point of anything you put online is that other people see it, it could be a very specific person or set of people or you could be trying to reach as wide an audience as possible. This brings us to the often-neglected idea of user experience. It’s not just Apple that needs to get this right. Whenever you are creating something, don’t forget about what it’s for and who’s going to use it. There’s a good chance that nobody at all will be reading this line in this document if I had just put a big blob of text on the screen, we have headings and paragraphs so you can follow along. I should really put some photos in too, but I’m lazy.
So when you design something for consumption on the internet, please consider how you intend the end user to use it. We all have a short attention span and arel very easily distracted these days. You have your few seconds of my attention, make it count. It had better load fast, there should be no unnecessary fluff and padding, the layout should efficiently guide the user from where they are to where you want them to be.
Everybody talks about SEO and performance like it’s some kind of mystical religion, but it’s not. Search engines want to show content that is most relevant to a user’s searches as it can, so it uses some math to figure out which links are likely to give the user the experience they are looking for. Everyone wants the same thing, the site must load fast and the content must be relevant and of course it mustn’t annoy the user or steal information. So search engines always direct users to the sites that check all the boxes and has a good track record.
5. Legal considerations and Security
Careful, you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of the law. Negligence is not an excuse. Depending on where you are in the world, there will be different regulations relating to how you should be treating your visitors, what you are and are not allowed to show them and what information you are and are not allowed to collect from them. Be sure to understand the laws of any country you are serving content to.
However, most of the world follows the same simple rules. Don’t post anything that is considered hate speech. Don’t trick your users, make sure your website does not serve any malicious content. Don’t shy away from things like encryption / SSL, your audience will be grateful. Also, this is your own name, protect it, don’t skimp on security. We have a saying in South Africa, you can’t foresee every single security vulnerability, just make sure your wall is taller than your neighbours.
I know I haven’t actually told you anything, but that isn’t the point of this article. I’m just here to start the conversation. I will likely follow up with some content specifically relating to each of these points in future if anyone is interested. Let me know in the comments below.
Random thought: “Have you ever had a good chat without yourself about whether talking to yourself is healthy?” Craig Baker, 2017.
*my opinion should not be trusted
How have you found success building your online presence?
Have you built or are you currently building your online presence? What tips and tricks could you share? Let us know in the comment box below!