Website templates

Always associated with awful design, these inflexible relics from the past are still around unfortunately. We’ve never used them, designing custom websites from the start.

However, in the last two or three years our design tools have allowed clients to easily change web page layouts. This makes our new, modern, flexible templates good starting points instead of rigid constraints.

We have many templates and they can be mixed and matched on a page by page basis or you can customise one to your liking and re-use it many times with your own content. These customisable templates save hours of design time and you don’t need to be a designer to use them as they are just drag and drop.

Page Builders – part one

Finally, here is our updated view of WordPress Page builders

WordPress has many great aspects but the page styling is very basic. Your theme is going to dictate what you can and can’t do with the header and the footer but the body content is usually left, right or centre, image wrap or no image wrap – and then there’s the issue of the sidebar. We’ve been creating custom WordPress themes since 2009 and there’s been some changes. Demand for better page design is a big one and so is the question of the sidebar.

We feel the sidebar is quite a liability these days. It is mainly a desktop thing and it can lure people into putting two items of important content across the top of the sidebar and the top of the body. Like a print based publication this gets the ‘above the fold’ content seen first. However, a lot of themes will send the sidebar content to the bottom of the page when viewed on a mobile. Exactly what you don’t want!

Of course the main meat of the content is in the body. Until Gutenberg shakes things up you have the basic and limited styling options of out of the box WordPress. This is where Page builders have really changed things. We haven’t comprehensively tested all of them and that’s not the reason for this post. We have used a few on production sites over a period of over a year and that long term usage is what this post is about. We have certainly cured the sidebar conundrum mentioned above.

We are still very trusting of the industry standard Genesis as our WordPress framework. It has a rock solid reputation and has given us no trouble since we started using it in 2009. It lets us customise the header and footer and do all kinds of things with widgets and much, much more. Just like standard WordPress though, the body part editing is basic. A commission in 2016 allowed us to progress this situation…

We took on a challenging Drupal to WordPress conversion job that required a layout with six columns. Those columns then had to break down into three columns for a tablet/iPad and then a single column for mobile.

We’ve now settled on the only Page builder that could do the job. We’ve had two years of using the product and trying out it’s support. It’s over four years old, bankrolled by a household name and grown well past the tipping point of being a mature product that won’t suddenly disappear. Support is superb and it’s now in our trusted tool set.
All of our clients can now request it at no added cost as we have an unlimited license!

Hosting April 2018

When you first buy your domain name you’ll probably buy a hosting package as well.
This package will usually include the domain name, some space for your website and an email service. Hosting packages vary wildly. The two areas this is most noticeable is web space hosting quality and technical support.

The most noticeable and measurable element to your hosting is your website hosting. If it’s slow, not only will you risk your potential customers going elsewhere but you’ll risk Google penalties. Google have started to move slow sites down the rankings because no-one likes slow sites.

The trouble with technical support is that it’s not until you need them that you find out how good they are. Some are brilliant but some make you jump through hoops before you get in the support queue. When you do get through to them the bad ones leave you more confused than when you started.

We’ve used many hosts over the years and some were shockingly bad. Some started great but got worse over time (usually after new ownership) and Siteground, the one we’re with now has been the best yet by a country mile. They are one of only four that are officially recommended by WordPress.
They aren’t the cheapest but you get what you pay for. Support is the best we have ever used and we’ve used them at the oddest hours in the week!

Moving hosts can be a complicated process but our host guides you through the process step by step as a part of the service. Or of course we can do it all for you.

It’s rarely a good idea to go for the cheapest in most things in life. We’ve only highlighted technical support and website speed, for the full story please see our hosting page at https://zct.co.uk/affordable-managed-website-hosting/