Photo of Holly Christie website designer from This Demanding Life

This month we have a guest in the form of the lovely Holly Christie. Holly is an amazing website designer and she shares her knowledge with us about what makes a good website and what are appropriate tasks to ask your VA to do.

Introduction

When you commission a new website for your business, you’re not only investing in your online presence, you’re investing a huge amount of time; both yours and your designers. The best professional websites take a team of experts to deliver them, this includes:

  • Photographers
  • Branding specialists
  • Copywriters
  • SEO strategists
  • Website designers

Each professional has a unique skillset and a unique role in giving you an online presence that does your business justice and allows for the growth you dream of for your small business.

Whether you’re looking at a smaller investment, such as a pre-built or template website, or you want to go for the all singing, all dancing, custom built-for-you solution, your attention to detail with branding, copywriting and photography needs to be up there. You want your website to be the best representation of you and the best that your investment can buy. With the internet now being decades old, people expect a sleek experience and it’s no longer possible to run a successful business from a home-made website.

Just like houses can feel like the forth bridge of decorating….. finished the kitchen? Now it’s time to do the bathroom. Bedroom looking good? The living room needs your attention…… websites can feel like the same amount of work and within a short amount of time you’re going to want to make some edits such as:

  • Adding in customer testimonials.
  • Tweaking text
  • Updating services
  • Adding in new images

You should absolutely do this. A regularly updated website is a Google friendly website and it’s important to not let things stack up so the idea of making those changes doesn’t become overwhelming. The other thing you need to make sure you do regularly (fortnightly is best) is run your software updates. Websites are always a stack of components, in the case of websites I build you have:

  • Hosting
  • Platform you’re developing on (WordPress)
  • Theme (this gives you the framework & tools to build the site)
  • Plugins (these extend the functionality of the site)

These are all coded by different teams and therefore will all need updating regularly to extend functionality, fix any bugs, repair any holes in code etc. There are teams of developers doing this across the globe to make sure the websites available today are the best they can be.

Keeping up to date

If you don’t regularly run your website software updates you run the risk of your website being attacked by bots, having malware on the site and it could also lead to date breaches which could leave you exposed and with some hefty fines.

Most website developers & designers will offer a managed service after publishing the website so they run all your website updates and make sure everything’s running well, with little to no down time and your software is up to date. In the case of wanting to manage it yourself, the developer should teach you how to do this too. The pros and cons of the 2 options are:

Pros

Website DeveloperSelf Managed
Website is always kept up to dateIt’s not as expensive/free
If malware or issues arise, it’s the dev’s job to sort it out.If you have an issue on the website you won’t have the skillset to fix it.

Cons

Website DeveloperSelf Managed
There’s a monthly cost of between £30 and £50Issues can wreck your website and if you’ve tinkered with it a developer may not be able to fix it.

When to involve a VA in your website.

The first thing to really take stock of is, can your VA actually work on your website?

  • Do they have experience of the software your website is using?
  • Do they have a tried and tested record of working on websites?
  • What previous website experience do they have?

In the VA industries there are lots of techie VAs who work on websites as well as using other VA skillsets. A techie VA can help you from anything like adding a blog post to connecting payment gateways, to creating new pages on your websites.

A techie VA can be a brilliant resource as it means you don’t have to book time with your designer every time you want to make a change and you don’t have to use your valuable time on your website.

So when should you use your VA?

Text edits

This is a great use of a VAs time, particularly as editing text in WordPress is similar to editing text in documents and newsletters.

Swapping images

Want to update an image on your website? Ask your VA to do it.  Make sure they follow the website developer’s guidelines on sizing and clarity, as well as the branding designers’ brief of what type of images should be used on the site.

Testing forms, links & baskets

Ask your VA to run a quick test of the contact forms, shopping baskets and any links, such as those embedded in blogs, at least once a month, to make sure your website doesn’t have any errors and you’re receiving messages sent through the site.

Adding blog posts/podcast episodes

The designer who built your website should give you a guide on how to upload posts, what resolution the images used should be etc, ask your VA to follow the rules of the guide and look forward to having your blogs and podcast episodes professionally uploaded while you get on with your other work.

When you shouldn’t use a VA.

Plugins

Every now and then you’ll want to do something which will involve using a plugin on the website. This may be adding a mailing list sign up form or run a quiz on your site or help connect a payment gateway or a calculator. With plugins the possibilities are endless.  VAs will often gravitate to plugins they’re used to using on other websites without thinking whether that plugin will work well with your particular technical setup. Some plugins don’t work with some themes, Certain hosts won’t like certain plugins and putting any old plugin onto the website can leave things as a big old mess.

When looking to add a plugin to your website it is always worth contacting your developer and running it by them, first.

Additional pages

Your website will have been painstakingly designed and put together by your designer with nothing left to chance. There’s the page design that you and your clients see but there’s the behind the scenes parts you don’t see - the SEO, the mobile responsive settings, tiny tweaks which improve the design and performance, etc. When you add a page to a website there are certain practices that need to be completed to make sure the page is in keeping with the design of the site, is search engine optimised and mobile responsive. This isn’t a job for a techie VA, it’s a job for the designer who built your site as they’ll know the best way to create the most effective update to your website.

Technical updates

Technical updates can literally make or break a website. The best placed person to do this is a website developer as they can ensure updates are all done correctly, in the right order and, if something does go wrong, they have the skillset to fix it without it messing up your website or too much down time on your site.

Conclusion

It takes a village to run a business and having a highly skilled VA will free up time, resources and help with the smooth running of your business. Find a VA who’s a great match for you and you’ll wonder how you ever managed without them. Make sure your VA has the right skillset for the tasks you’re asking of them and when it comes to the website, if in doubt, get in touch with your developer, first.

Holly Christie is a website designer and small business mentor. She is the founder of This Demanding Life, Simply Sites and hosts the podcast; Your Business, Online, Your Way.

Holly creates custom build websites for growing businesses who want to be found online and her Simply Sites are perfect for businesses in the start-up phase. Through her mentoring services Holly helps small businesses get clarity, get confident and get clients. You can reach her at thisdemandinglife.com.