This week I’m rolling out a new design for TheSolopreneurLife.com. It’s actually more than a new design. It’s a complete website overhaul: the exterior, the interior, a total engine replacement, new tires, new brakes, and new shocks. The only things left unchanged are the paint colors.
This is a bittersweet moment. I’m fond of the original website, which debuted in March 2010. It served me well. I’ll miss it, and I know you probably will, too. (But we can gaze upon the old site whenever we want via the magic of The Wayback Machine).
So why did I overhaul my WordPress website and move it to Copyblogger Media’s new platform, Rainmaker? Read on.
1. Big Changes in How We Access the Internet
You and I both know that smartphones are being used more and more for internet access. But did you know the tipping point has been reached and U.S. adults use smartphones more than PCs for the web?
U.S. adults spend 61 hours per month on the internet. Of those 61 hours, they’re using their smartphones for 34 of the hours and their PCs for 27 of the hours, according to a Nielsen study. I have no reason to doubt the stats, because I’ve seen how my internet habits have changed.
Since the launch of TheSolopreneurLife.com in 2010, wickedly-clever computer people developed a technology called responsive design. Responsive design makes it possible to create websites that look good on any device. Websites that use responsive design render their information to fit the user’s screen, no matter if it’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop.
In turn, rapid adoption of responsive design has improved the user experience for non-PC screens, which I’m sure has led to more use of smartphones for the web.
TheSolopreneurLife.com’s original design was created with the PC user in mind (in the site’s first year, only 5% of visitors accessed the site via smartphone). If you wanted to use your smartphone to read a blog post from TheSolopreneurLife.com, you had to tug and pinch. That’s not an ideal situation, especially now, with Google Analytics telling me nearly 30 percent of my site’s visitors in the past six months were using a smartphone.
So in 2012 I began asking myself: “Why am I still using a design that was built for PCs?”
I had my
“The design is so wonderful. I don’t want to leave it behind.”
“It’ll take too much time to make the changeover.”
“What if the site breaks during the transition?!”
Ultimately, my responses to those excuses were: “Make the new site handsome for all users, not just those on PCs.” “This is really important; carve out the time.” “Stop it, you’re being irrational.”
2. Concerns About Stability
TheSolopreneurLife.com was built on the WordPress platform. I’m a WordPress fan but one of its strengths (ease of customization) is the source of its major weakness.
Why is that?
Well, WordPress customization is achieved by using plugins, which are pieces of code that perform special functions, such as adding links to related posts to the end of a blog entry. There are thousands of plugins available, and most are free.
But the plugin developers don’t always maintain their plugins. So when a new version of WordPress is released, many plugins don’t work. And that’s not a good thing. Inevitably, I would update to the latest version of WordPress and then end up spending an hour or more fixing my website.
Fear stopped me from even trying some plugins. This fall I wanted to install an SEO plugin for search-engine-optimization analysis, but reports regarding an SEO-plugin-update-gone-bad were disturbing. I don’t know if the reports were fair, but they were enough to scare me off.
On top of all that, plugins can hurt your website’s speed and security.
With the Rainmaker platform, there are no plugins — the functionality of plugins is built in. If there’s a function that Rainmaker lacks, my understanding is you can request that it be added.
3. To Support My Goals
Revenue goals were a big reason for The Overhaul. Ultimately, my goal with the new website is to convert a larger percentage of visitors into clients for my marketing and consulting services.
Because of the new, easy-to-use technology that’s built into my overhauled site, it has the potential to generate more leads, more e-newsletter sign-ups, and more revenue from my products and services.
For example, Rainmaker makes it possible to quickly and easily add forms and sidebars to specific posts and pages. If you get a lot of organic traffic, like I do, this degree of customization is a powerful feature. It means I can deliver information to people when they’re looking for it.
From Self-Hosted WordPress to Rainmaker
To deal with the triple motivations of responsive design, stability, and conversion, I turned to Rainmaker, which will handle many of the technical aspects of my website.
In essence, I’ve outsourced/delegated many of my website-related technology chores, and I will use my newfound time to create content and work with clients. So I’m trading hours that generated zero revenue for hours that generate lots of revenue. That’s a good trade.
Responsive design, stability, and conversion rates aren’t the only reasons I chose Rainmaker, and I will explore them in a post later this week.
Enhanced the Brand
I will continue to tweak the website’s design, but the bulk of The Overhaul is finished. I’m pleased because I think the feel of the original site — and the identity of The Solopreneur Life brand — has been preserved and enhanced.