If you run a blog or business website in 2016 then you need help. Not like that, you're doing great actually if you made it this far, but a place to get good, reliable help fixing a website. Stop emailing your developer every day, too.
DYI has never been more in.
Sure, you could somehow buy the perfect website where everything works, but if you're even the slightest bit curious you're going to want to make/edit/add something you don't now how to make/edit/add. So who do you ask?
In this article I'm going to explain one story of a guy who should have gotten website help. A guy with a brilliant website idea that got left stagnant because he didn't have the tech skills and ended up losing his domain name to some who did.
Which professionals should read this?
Just to make sure I'm not preaching to the choir, I guess I should be clear that I wrote these messages for:
If you're creating a product website or informational page for an app (every good app has a website homepage along with an iTunes page, for example), much of the creation will be DIY and you'll have about 10,000 questions.
2. Project managers
Most project managers these days handle smaller tasks too like running the company website. It's a catch-all position and I want to help you PMs get home by 10pm more often.
3. Freelance writers
The saddest of all the interwebbers is a great writer with a broken website.
4. Everyday bloggers
Every blog needs fixing up and this one is close to my heart, because it's how I began in 2006. It's bloggers who can benefit the most form having a place to get free website help because knowing how to edit basic code or just content in your CMS can remove the fear of being online. A confident blogger can become a famous blogger.
As I said, it's bloggers who can benefit the most from knowing where to find website/blog help. Even Pat Flynn reps free help (check out his beginner blogging tips page). Plus, if you can figure out how to create and edit a blog, you can pretty much tackle any simple website, even laden in HTML/CSS. For this reason, let's focus on helping your average bloggers. This is after all where many of us start!
Why you need website help
Before I go into some really simple places you can get same day website help, I want to drop off a story. If you know this guy or have a similar experience, post a comment down below. He'd get a kick out of it, and should be over all this by now.
A great domain name and a bad site
Back in 2009, a friend of mine from an old business class was running a hotel review website (a niche blog at the time). His niche was solid -- free hotel advice on a rapidly growing number of resorts around the globe.
However, his CMS was not. When I asked him why he didn't pay for WordPress or something more stable he said he didn't believe in it: "Why should I have to? My website looks fine as is and it's working for my audience."
Sure enough, as his audience began to expect a more professional look, and he didn't deliver, people began to find other easy to use options (like Google Reviews, TripAdvisor to name a few). To picture how outdated my buddy's homepage become think failed operating systems kind of bad. Now you can find his domain name on TV, but it's not his business anymore because he had to sell it for pennies on the dollar. Yes, literally in television commercials. If you want to know which business we're talking about, I'd be happy to tell you in the comments below.
The message? Being online is all about ownership of your work and being responsible for maintaining it.
Basically when you're doing anything people count on you should know how to fix it. Anything from blogging to eCommerce, small to large. But no one hands us the tools to fix our websites.
In fact it's severe and cold in the website help arena. Experts fight to eat like anyone else and can't afford their time to offer beginner's free help, even with the experts' products! We've all felt belittled or patronized online. But there are things you can do to give your website a good chance at help right away like using WordPress.org - the largest community that's been getting easier to use for over a decade now. If you use WordPress, or just code, or a combination, you can find help in the following ways.
Note: the following techniques will help any Squarespace, Weebly or Wix user as well. Just apply them to your own software.
A few things to keep in mind
Now it's time to get into the bulk of this post. Here is a list of the top 5 places myself and countless others have found website help. They are ranked in terms of number of active users based on stats from their respective about pages and I've also tested their response times.
A beginner friendly list of links with individual forum topics (remember when we called these chat rooms, lol?) like 'Installation' and 'Themes and Templates' helps beginners get the ball rolling fast. Check out their First Steps with WordPress and enjoy getting a leg up in the competitive blogosphere.
The largest community of WordPress techies also has friendly experts who know how to talk to beginners, even though they'd rather talk about code...er...x. This is the place to learn about editing your core files in WordPress, and if you search for WordPress answers in Google (like you should) you'll often find answers to your very questions posted in the Codex. I would have made Google #1 here but that's just obvious and not very helpful.
Theme Forest is a massive online marketplace for website templates, plugins, graphic designs and more. They have both general forums and specialized product forums. I used their Mr. Tailor theme for client website recently and the theme had it's own forum! Hello, Swedish developers. Let's talk tech.
A more alternative version of WordPress help, this one is totally run by a nonprofit team of experienced (hence the name Experience?) WordPress users who all run their own personal blogs. It's a good example of a group of people who just want to help and is 100% free as well. Not quite the swagger of WordPress itself, but WordPress and Automattic have been known to absorb other WordPress camps so big things might be in store for these friendly geeks.
5) The Forum for Your Premium WordPress Theme
If you bought your theme, 95% of the time it will come with a forum. The idea is that because you pay these folks 20-80 dollars for a theme, they help you use it, and also they'd like you to create something nice with it and speak highly of their theme because that reflects well back on them. Some of the most helpful premium theme creators in my experience have been Kadence Themes and Theme-Junkie, though the X-Theme forum claims to be the best. Haven't fully tested that last one but let me know if you have.
SquareSpace is probably easy to use than WordPress, as the analyst who sits next to me at work can't stop talking about. I've tried it, it's amazing, fine. As such, thousands of professionals each day create their portfolio website with SquareSpace, making their answers forum a lively destination.
Weebly is not just a blogging tool, it's used to create millions of business websites too. It's where many of us start before using WordPress, or just stay forever.
Probably the quickest way to create a website for free, Wix has a easy to navigate forum run by their core team and a few additional developers who create the best layouts and designs for Wix. This one was definitely fun, we got an answer within 60 minutes and had the option of speaking with the developer on Skype after our question was answer (though we declined).
An international writers group founded by celebrity writer Jeff Goins, this one brings together aspirational bloggers and established writers alike to just talk, grow, and well, have a Tribe. As the smallest group I checked out, this one had the quickest response times and I'd recommend it the highest if you want to create and grow a profitable blog.
Do not underestimate the importance of free website help. I don't want to see you get bought out like my buddy and wake up 5 years later to see your former business on TV. Take responsibility -- get it out of the way -- and join the rest of us building our best work online.
Do HuffPost readers manage websites?
Where does your site live? How would you rate your ability to edit it? I know the HuffPost audience is a savvy group of bloggers and website peoples so I'm really curious to hear your thoughts.
See you down below.