I’ve just recently launched the version for the Learning Revolution Web site you are currently visiting and I thought share some notes on the launch that you might find useful in thinking about your own Web site.
Theme and Hosting
First, I stuck with WordPress and a StudioPress theme for this site.
For building a “home base” Web site, WordPress is pretty much a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. As far as StudioPress themes go, I’ve used them on many sites – including the old Learning Revolution site – and continue to think they are the most stable, flexible, SEO-friendly WordPress themes out there. In this case, I went with the Mai Law Pro theme.
I also stayed with WP Engine hosting.
Partly this was because WP Engine actually bought StudioPress last year, so you can now get StudioPress themes free from them. Much more importantly, I have used them for all my sites for a few years now and have found the experience to be head and shoulders above using cheaper hosts like Bluehost or GoDaddy. The support is amazing and the technology is rock solid.
Design and Development Help
I know my way around WordPress fairly well, but I am not a Web programmer. So, I decided to enlist some help.
As I usually do, I relied on Upwork to find someone who knew much more about WordPress and Web development than I do. I also wanted someone who had strong experience with Studio Press themes. I found Rick Stewart at Windy Hill Developers, who specifically focuses on developing in Studio Press.
It was Rick who recommended the Mai Law Pro theme, and Rick who did the minor customizations needed to make the theme work for Learning Revolution. He also did a number of things to speed up the site, which it definitely needed. (He was also able to work in a separate development environment on WP Engine, which made it possible to keep the old site running, and push the new site live only once it was done.)
I pretty much stuck with the overall design that was baked into the Mai Law Pro theme, but I did use 99Designs to find someone to design the logo that you know see in the upper left corner of the site.
There were a couple of key reasons I decided to update the site in the first place.
First, I originally launched Learning Revolution to support my book, Leading the Learning Revolution, but the site has grown into much more than a book site. Visitors show up here looking for help with finding an online course platform, creating a course, and developing a strategy for their education business.
While I do still promote the book here, it was past time to give the site more of an identity of its own and improve capabilities to showcase and direct visitors to the resources they are seeking. The new site enables much better organization and a more visual approach to browsing.
Next, I really needed to up my search engine optimization (SEO) game – especially with an eye toward mobile devices. The old site was not really mobile friendly, so I had to rely on a plug-in to serve a mobile version. That worked okay, but was definitely not the best approach in the eyes of Google. The new site is mobile responsive right out of the box.
So, a few key points here:
- I stuck with technology that was already working for me rather than using valuable time and resources in search of something more perfect.
- There was a legitimate strategic reason for creating a new site. The old one was not really supporting what Learning Revolution has become.
- SEO matters a lot when your strategy relies on attracting traffic. Mine does – and so does the strategy of most Learning Revolution readers. SEO also gets harder ever day. Making sure you’ve got a Web presence that really supports it is critical. (See also Using SEO to Sell Online Courses)
Minimum Viable Web Site
One final, critical point: the site was not done at the time I pushed it live. I took a “minimum viable product” approach, got it to “good enough,” and then pulled the trigger.
There is still a lot of updating and revamping I want to do, but I knew that if I kept the site on the development server (a great part of what WP Engine provides), I would just keep tinkering and dragging my feet. With it out in public, I have much more incentive to focus on improving it. The same can be said about launching any product – including an online course.
I hope those notes are of use to you as you consider plans for your own Web presence. Feel free to share comments or questions below.