Building and Managing a Website Using Weebly

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If you are a returning visitor to our blog, you probably have a good idea of how important an online presence is in today’s digitally driven world. This post is going to show you just how easy it is to keep up with today’s technical society by building your own website using Weebly.com.

Based in San Francisco, CA, Weebly was founded in 2007 to help people create a unique website, blog or online store. Since its launch, Weebly has helped millions of people showcase their achievements, sell products for their business and communicate with online visitors around the world. The main purpose is to help people create a professional site without a need for technical experience.  Weebly now has over 30 million registered users. For more on the history of Weebly, visit https://www.weebly.com/about

What To Do First

Signing up is free and easy. Just go to Weebly.com/signup and create a free account using your Google Plus, Facebook account or email address. Once you are logged in, you will be taken to a page where you can choose one of 40 themes categorized by featured, business, online store, personal, events, blog and portfolio. Each theme can include an online store or blog, and they can also be edited to your taste using Weebly’s drag and drop feature which allows you to place things right where you want them.

How It Works

You can then change the page layouts by choosing from over 40 layout designs from Weebly or by using the drag and drop function to create your own page layout from scratch. Transferring designs is easy because Weebly uses similar layouts with “zones”, you can change your layout without changing the position of your content as frequently as you’d like as long as your content is in the designated zones. You can also have as many pages as you’d like.

For the advanced users, Weebly also gives you the OPTION to access and edit code: HTML and CSS. This gives the user more flexibility with technical design, and you can also import code into a separate hosting service.

Weebly offers technical support, email updates and a user friendly mobile editor that will show you how you can make your website mobile friendly. Prices are listed below with a minimum purchase of a 6 month subscription.Weebly PricingWeebly Pricing Comparison 1Weebly Pricing Comparison 2

https://www.weebly.com/pricing

Visit next week’s blog for information on website building using Wix.com.

What You Should Know Before Creating A Website

It is important to remember that building a website takes thought and time, but it might be worth the effort! Websites are the most original form of having an online presence, but in order to be successful, it must be well planned and organized. Websites can be used to link social media accounts, set up e-mail marketing or create an online store to sell your products. When creating a website, start by answering the following questions:

What is the purpose of my website?

A website can have more than one purpose. In fact, it should serve several purposes. For example your website objectives can include something like to enhance digital communication with your audience, provide marketing and technical support for your business or organization and to give an informative summary of your organization.

Who is your audience?

If you have a good idea about who will be visiting your site, think about what they might want to see. It’s also a good idea to request feedback from your clients to get ideas from their interests about what to feature on your website.

What content, resources and services do you want to provide?

Knowing what to include in your website prior to creating it will help the organizational part of the website, and your audience will be able to navigate through it easily. Resources and services can include technical support and online sales, but the content should include anything that will promote your business or organization. This includes graphics, virtual tours, links and extra resources, contact information, location services and details about the history, mission, products, brand, etc. Website visitors should be able to find what they are looking for within three mouse clicks of the homepage. Examples of additional pages include topics like “about, contact, products/services,” etc.

Page design should be clean and simple. You should find a balance between not enough content/design and too much detail. You don’t want to lose the focus of your audience by not having enough material, but you also don’t want to confuse them with too much going on within the website. Simple navigation is also important because it leads the visitors to each page, and it can also direct them back to the homepage.

The homepage should include the name of the organization and logo, a brief description to establish your credentials and photos that promote the description. Contact information (email, phone, fax, physical and mailing address) and hours of operation should also be easily found on the homepage or within a contact page.

What do you want your website to look like?

If you have a vision in mind, find a website building template that will keep you on track to reach your goal. How many pages do you want? Is there a certain format that you want to stick to? Are there certain pictures that you want to promote on your homepage?

What is your competition doing online?

It is perfectly fine to get ideas from other websites especially those that provide a similar service.

What is your budget?

Unfortunately, having a successful website will cost you, but it doesn’t have to break the bank! With the help of website building sites like WordPress, Wix and Weebly you can create your website for a small fee and/or monthly subscription.

It is also possible to purchase and own your own domain name with the help of sites like Network Solutions and GoDaddy. Domain names should be short and easy to remember (relating to your organization). Helpful hint: the domain name for the website (example.com) is very important, and should always be purchased and owned by the business or organization. Domains can be purchased for as little as $4 per month making it possible to keep your website under $100 per year.

Visit our blog regularly to stay updated on how to use the digital sites for building and maintaining your website!

Digital Marketing: What’s out there?

Did you know that more than 85% of American adults have access to the internet and use it every single day? Pew Research conducted a study in 2015 that showed only 15% of Americans didn’t use the internet. The World Wide Web has proven that the technical advantage is the easiest and fastest way to connect with people, acquire information and even shop! Which is why using digital marketing can greatly benefit your business or organization.

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There are so many options available for marketing your brand, products, events, or anything else that needs to be digitally exposed. Attaining a website and domain name is now easier than ever with the help of digital programs like WordPress, Weebly, Wix, GoDaddy and Network Solutions. Websites are cost-efficient with a world of opportunity for spreading information using graphics and virtual tours. There are no limitations to the amount of information you can include in a website.

mailchimp_logo1-300x180E-mail marketing is also a huge part of digital marketing in today’s modern world. Over 90% of the internet consumers check at least one e-mail account every day. E-mails are easy to navigate and offer on-demand navigation. Programs like MailChimp allow you to create a free e-mail account that can send up to 12,000 e-mails to 2,000 subscribers or less. MailChimp features include scheduled e-mails, mobile friendly software, campaigns, subscriber groups or lists and the option to link social media accounts. MailChimp also offers logistics so you can keep up with who is receiving and reading your e-mails. Statistica.com expects the number of e-mail users to reach 237 million by the year 2017.

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Social Media is the new big thing for internet marketing. Advertising through social media outlets is typically free, but paid ads can be as low as $5 per day. Popular social media platforms for marketing include Facebook (1.5 billion global active users), Twitter (over 1 billion global active users), Instagram (over 400 million users), YouTube (over 128 million American account holders) and Pinterest (nearly 25 million active users in the U.S.). These outlets work to serve a different purpose for specific audiences, but they all have one thing in common: they are great for providing interactive information and engagement.

The best part about digital marketing? It can be accessed anywhere at any time as long as you have an internet connection. 75.1% of the American population access the internet from their mobile phones.

Stay tuned to the Center for Technology Outreach Blog for more information on which digital marketing strategy might work best for you! For a better reference of the importance of digital marketing, visit http://www.internetlivestats.com/

What’s been happening with MSUESCTO?

It’s been a while since we’ve updated our blog! But there’s been a lot going on. Here’s a small sampling of some of the things that have happened since our last update. We’ll have more soon, including robotics, IMPACT2, Distance Education, and more! For up-to-the-minute information, check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Apps

We continue to expand our app offerings available for Extension professionals and clientele. For a list of our current iOS apps, visit http://techoutreach.msucares.com/apps. We’re also excited to announce we will have more Android apps soon!

Web Outreach

Our web outreach team, lead by Sarah Pittman, continues to roll out introductory websites for communities and organizations in need of their first web presence. There are many underserved organizations and governments in our state without a web presence at all, and we’re working to get everyone online! Here’s a small sampling of sites that have gone live:

Extension Websites

Our internal web team has also been busy with new site launches, here’s a few:

That’s all for now. Check back soon for more of what’s happening with CTO!

New MS Horse Park Website Launched July 1

The Center for Technology Outreach worked with the Mississippi Horse Park to design and build a new (and responsive!) Horse Park website, which was launched earlier this month. Check it out at mshorsepark.com, and be sure to like the MS Horse Park on Facebook!

ConnectMS Broadband App Released

Things have been pretty quiet here on the CTO blog the past few months, but we’re constantly working on new developments! The Center for Technology Outreach has been hard at work the past few months developing a new broadband app and website to help Mississippians find access to broadband Internet. With a focus on initiatives from expanding telehealth capability, e-commerce utilization, early years coding education, and more, the ConnectMS project is the springboard for all of it—and you can check it all out at connectmississippi.org!

You can download the iOS Broadband App directly from the Apple App Store, or you can try out the Broadband Web App if you’re on an Android, Windows, or other platform.

Happy 50th Birthday — Moore’s Law

Without getting too techie, April 19th was the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law. Not familiar with it? No worries …

Moore’s law refers to a statement made by Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel (yes, the company that makes the chips used by some electronic devices) where he predicted that the number of components (aka transistors) in a chip would double roughly every 18 months.

Ok, so what does this mean? Moore’s law has made it possible for computers, smartphones, etc. to become more powerful and cheaper. The more transistors you can pack in a chip, the cheaper the transistor become and the more powerful the device.

For example, the chip in your iPhone has approximately 2 billion transistors.

Since it is a physical process (packing more and more transistors into smaller and smaller areas), experts believe this cannot continue forever. The question then becomes, will the digital age continue even if our devices not get cheaper and more powerful?

 

Phoneography Series: Part III

While the definition of Phoneography slightly differs for each person, simply put, it is taking pictures with your phone. Some people take it a step further by saying Phoneography is shooting, editing, producing, and uploading multimedia content with only a smart phone or tablet. Either way, this series will help you take better pictures with your smartphone or tablet camera. We have already gotten familiar with the iPhone camera and composition. Today, we are talking about Lighting.


Lighting

Good light is key in any type of photography.  If you want a good photo, you must have good light. Cell phone cameras have become very powerful, but they don’t handle bad lighting very well.  If you are shooting in a low-light environment, your smartphone knows and will adjust the exposure to let in as much light as possible. However, this usually creates a “noisy”, or grainy, picture.

snipe-grainySource: snipe.net

When you have good lighting, it’s not only flattering, when you edit the photo, the colors will pop, no matter what app or filter you are using.

6a00d8358081ff69e201a3fd306355970b-800wiSource: abeautifulmess.com

Even though it is not always available, the best lighting is the sun. If the sun is too harsh, you can take your pictures indoors by a window, or look for shade, which will cast softer shadows.

6a00d8358081ff69e201b8d0d7a168970c-800wiSource: abeautifulmess.com

Don’t be afraid to play with exposure though. Knowing where to tap on your phone to get the results you want, and quickly, will help you become a better phoneographer. Tap on the dark area to brighten your subject. Tap on the light area to create a silhouette. Tap all around the screen to see the different exposures and find the one you want.

CY365-Phone-Photography-Tips-9077Source: captureyour365.com

IMG_1593Source: iphonephotographyschool.com

Remember: tap on dark=bright; tap on light=dark

Lighting Your Subject

Straight On: The sun, or your light source, is behind you but facing you subject. This gives you an even plane of sunlight.

bradpitt297x368Source: madphotoassistant.wordpress.com

At An Angle: The sun, or your light source, is coming from either side, or diagonally, which creates dramatic shadows.

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Backlit: The sun, or your light source, is behind your subject, facing you. This creates a soft cast across the picture. Make sure to tap the screen where your subject is located to capture all of the details.

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Source: lighting-essentials.com

Low-Light Setting Tip: If you are shooting in low-light environments, the most important thing to remember is to keep the camera steady, otherwise your photo will have motion blur.  You can use the volume button on your iPhone headphones to snap the picture without even holding your phone, or you can prop your camera on a flat surface and set the self-timer, creating an instant tripod. Both options will help keep your phone steady and still to help prevent blurring.

Part 4 of the phoneography series will focus on editing pictures. If you have any questions or want to know something specific, leave a comment below.

The Importance of Responsive Web Design: Part 1

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Our world is more connected today than ever before. The Web can be accessed from all types of different devices, with even more yet to be imagined. Yesterday was the Internet of Things Day, a day dedicated to the advancing trend of the Internet (and, by extension, the World Wide Web) being accessible and integrated into our everyday world. While mobile apps may be the “in” thing right now, the Web has been around for far longer, and isn’t limited to the walled gardens of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and so on. The Web was designed to be device-agnostic, viewable on as many devices, and as many screen dimensions, as possible.

What makes this possible today? The answer: Responsive Web Design.

What is Responsive Web Design?

Responsive Web Design is a term that was coined by Ethan Marcotte, a designer/developer, in his landmark article on A List Apart, Responsive Web Design way back in 2010.

According to Wikipedia:

Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).

Wikipedia.org

The basic building blocks to a responsive web design are:

  • Fluid grids (a layout that adapts based on screen size, for example)
  • Flexible images (images that expand or are replaced based on the viewport, for example)
  • Media queries (code that manipulates the elements on the screen, allowing for the two above things)

While I’ve already probably become too technical for the average reader, know this: if you want to have a website for your organization, then by default you should seek out someone who can build it for you using the elements of Responsive Web Design. If your website can’t adapt to the device that your customers are accessing it on, and things appear broken, the site won’t load, and so on, that is going to cost you customers and money due to a frustrating user experience. Your typical customer, citizen, user, or whomever your website’s market caters to is going to be viewing your website on a variety of different media—some on desktop computers with gigabit Internet, others on a several years old iPhone 4 with spotty 3G. While you can’t control all of the experience for your audience when it comes to your online presence, you can control how your site is built.

And the only solution that can cover all of your bases is to make sure your website utilizes Responsive Web Design.

To be continued…

Stay tuned for the next part of the Responsive Web Design series, where I will go into more detail on ways you can make sure your site can best reach your audience.

Pew Internet Releases Data on Teens, Social Media, & Technology

The Pew Research Center released yesterday the results of a nationwide survey of teens ages 13 to 17 regarding technology and social media use. A couple of points worth highlighting include:

  • One-quarter (24%) of teens reported going online “almost constantly” while 92% reported going online daily. 34% of African-american teens reported going online “almost constantly” compared to 32% of Hispanic teens and 19% of white teens.
  • Nearly three-quarters of teens have or have access to a smartphone. African-american (85%) teens are more likely to have a smartphone compared to white (71%) and Hispanic (71%) teens.
  • Social media platforms most used by teens include Facebook (71% reported using Facebook most often), Instagram (20%), and Snapchat (11%).
  • Middle and upper income teens lean toward Instagram and Snapchat while over 50% of lower income youth use Facebook most often.
  • 11% of cell-owning teens reported using anonymous sharing or question apps such as Whisper, Yik Yak, Ask.fm, etc.). Of these, 16% reported being Hispanic compared to 7% African-american and 9% white.

Yep, these statistics confirm teens are truly digital natives. As local governments and businesses increase their online presence, it is important to keep in mind that not all age groups and/or demographics utilize Internet in similar ways.