In this post I am going to be focusing on the physical development of my UK Martial Arts Finder site. I will be covering a wide range of topics from Domain Hosting through to Logo Design. Lets get started!
In my previous post UK Martial Arts Finder – Overview I explained how I had chosen the subject matter for my online project and that my first website would consist of an online directory of Martial Arts clubs in the UK. The next step in my process was to register a domain name and configure hosting.
Domain Hosting can be of great importance if you fail to make the right decision. In my article, Choosing the right hosting package I explore some of the potential pitfalls; in short the wrong hosting package can result in poor performance, negative ranking factors and unnecessary cost. As a web designer, I have had experience with quite a few hosting providers; as I was going to be using WordPress, I knew which was my preferred choice. I have used 1&1 for several years now and have never had any issues with the service they provide, I have also implemented WordPress many times through this provider and have had equally pleasing results.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with WordPress, WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) which was originally designed for blogging websites. The ease of use and dynamic nature of the system make it an excellent option for frequently updated Web Blogs. The popularity of the technology has lead to mass improvements in the capabilities of Wordpress, making it also a very good option to facilitate business websites with bespoke requirements.
A WordPress theme is the front end of a WordPress CMS, they come in all shapes, sizes and costs. A WordPress theme allows you to customise your website and apply your personal style. It is vital that you carry out adequate research before implementing a specific theme, take some time to look into to all of the design capabilities of the theme. I know it is hard to predict what requirements you will want in the future but if you can establish your intentions early on you will save yourself a lot of time and hassle. I have created WordPress websites where the theme has had limitations as the project evolved and it was a nightmare to rectify.
The theme I am using for my Martial Arts Directory is called Directorypress. It is produced by a company called Premiumpress and they have a good range of WordPress themes which cater for a wide range of categories. Having had experience with quite a few Themes, I would have to say that this is one of the better ones; lots of customisable features and good support. There is a particularly nice home page customisation, an area where many themes fall short and the import / export features will save you an unbelievable amount of time. If there is one down side to Directorypress, it is the navigation of the site; the menu is purely CSS based and provides a frustrating user experience when navigating through drop downs. The navigation of my site will be very important to me so I am using a separate plugin for my navigation called Ubermenu.
WordPress Plugins allow you to extend the capabilities of your website and introduce enhancements which are not a part of your theme. Like themes, they come in all shapes, sizes and costs and can provide simple functions such as embedding social media feeds or complex features such as Search Engine Optimisation. The following plugins have been added to my directory, some of them are pretty standard and will feature in pretty much every installation of WordPress in existence:
- All in One SEO pack – Essential, what more can I say
- Google XML Sitemaps – Equally important if you want google to have knowledge of all of your content
- Really simple Facebook Twitter share buttons – Share your content on social media
- Category SEO Meta Tags – Allows you to add meta data to categories. Vital for SEO
- Ubermenu – As already mentioned, the menu within Directorypress is weak, this I felt had to be changed and Ubermenu is a great product. It is not free but $16 well spent in my opinion.
The look and feel of your website has got to be spot on. I have a bit of OCD when it comes to formatting and would never publish a site on to the web which I felt was not aesthetically pleasing. If content is king, then presentation is queen! for my site 2 sites, I want an element of consistency, I want people to instantly know that the 2 sites are related and the colour scheme, menu system and logo are all great ways of achieving this.
The colour scheme for my sites was an easy decision for me, red and white! not only is it representative of Japanese symbolism it is aggressive to the eye and fit for purpose. The colours also tie in with my Logo.
The logo above will be used for both of my websites. The kanji is a recognised symbol of Martial Arts and the rest is pretty self explanatory. I designed the logo my self in Photoshop and it took about 2 hours to come up with the design and create it. On a side not, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with a graphical design / image editing tools as it will pay dividends in future projects.
All of the imagery I have used on the 2 sites have come from stock photography sites, Istock in particular, while it is possible to obtain public domain imagery, I feel they lack a certain quality and degrade the appearance of your site. I am not trying to be negative towards free images; I have used them before and will continue to do so, but as a rule…Never on a homepage!
I hope this has given you a further insight into the design process of my Martial Arts directory site. The process I followed for the Online shop was almost identical apart from the theme choice being Shopperpress, another theme from Premiumpress which has excellent integration with Amazon. I am currently working on a video which displays Shopperpress capabilities and hope to release it very soon!