Or: How I Started My Website Building Business
I’ve been a website designer for more than 20 years.
HOW I GOT STARTED
I built my first website in about 1994, using Microsoft Front Page, which was a very, um, interesting way to become oriented to what a website was and what made up a website. I learned about headers and links and images and fonts and colors and text, and many other things that anyone building websites needs to know.
Even though I learned a LOT, I still was a babe in the woods when it came to building websites. But at least I was DOING it. And I was learning.
In the early years, the websites I built were either for myself or for organizations I was a part of.
Fast forward a dozen years, to when a friend asked me to build a website for her gospel singing group. She had seen the website I had built for our community band and liked it, which is how she knew I could build websites.
I said sure, I could do that, and she said how much and I said, “No charge. You’re a friend.” and she said “No. We have to pay you something. It’s not right to ask you to do this for free.”
So I thought about this for a bit, and the light bulb came on over my head. I knew there were dozens, probably HUNDREDS of people and businesses out there who needed websites, and would need them more and more as it became evident to business owners that they HAD to have a website if they wanted to be competitive.
At the time, I was spending $25 a month with HostGator on their Reseller plan, which allowed me to host as many websites as I wanted to, as long as I stayed within their storage space restrictions.
I figured this came to $600 a year, and if I could get 12 clients at $50 a year, I could host them all for no additional charge, and that would pay for my website hosting!
So I told my friend I could build her site for $150 initial fee and $50 a year to host it in the future, and she was delighted and said go for it! So I did, and her site is still up. It’s at www.HeavenlyJourney.net if you’d like to see it. As of this writing, there’s something wrong with the security certificate, but I’ll get that fixed soon.
WEB SKILLS EVOLVING
I took out an ad in the local Coffee News – “AFFORDABLE, NO-HASSLE WEBSITES” from $150, and I actually got several clients from that ad.
My website builder of choice at that time was Dreamweaver, which I had gotten when I bought a non-profit version of Adobe Creative Suite 4 to use for my non-profit band.
Dreamweaver was and is an EXCELLENT website builder for people who want to dig deep into building websites, and need far more flexibility in what they do. I built dozens of websites using Dreamweaver, and my skills in building websites grew and grew.
I even built two websites that used their own MySQL databases, and both those websites are still up and running and fully functional today.
But there was something missing.
Being a (very) small businessperson myself, I was extremely sensitive to the budget constraints of other businesses and people. It frustrated me greatly on their behalf to have to charge my clients – sometimes several hundred dollars – to make updates to their websites that they could easily have made themselves, if only they had the software and the skill set to do so.
But being business people or individuals very involved in many other activities, they certainly didn’t have time to learn the skill set, and they certainly didn’t have the budget to go buy Dreamweaver or Adobe CS.
My Search for a Good Content Editor
So I began searching for a solution whereby my clients could log in and make their own changes to the content on their site, mostly like a word processor, without needing to call me to do it for them.
I checked out the big three blogging platforms – WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. I even used Drupal as a blogging platform to inform family and friends of my Mother-in-law’s health and progress when she was in rehab for a broken knee. It worked, but it frustrated me, and I couldn’t see asking my clients to learn it.
I tried several other types of front-end editors, but none of them were yet mature enough for me to want to try to impose them on my clients.
So I built my own.
I developed the KoFive editor in 2011, which allowed a website client to download the HTML code for a web page, edit it in an HTML visual editor, and put it back, then immediately see their changes.
By the way, the name KoFive comes from the components I used to make this happen: KomPozer, FileZilla, Irfanview, and the Opera browser. You can read all the details of the concept at www.kofive.com. That may be the one of the last websites I built totally in Dreamweaver. It’s totally idle now, kept only as a nod to nostalgia.
My Move to WordPress
I built one website and had one web client who used the Kofive technology, and while it worked, I was not very happy with it. It was awkward and far too involved for what I wanted for my clients.
I began looking around at what I would have to do to give my clients what I wanted them to have – a word processor-like interface, right on their website.
Then, in my other voracious reading, I began to read how WordPress was undergoing significant evolution. I already knew that WP was the granddaddy of blogging platforms, so I decided to check it out.
Thus, I began to learn WordPress. If you are still reading after this much blabberfingers, you probably already know that the two biggest challenges in WP are picking a theme and selecting the right plugins.
It took me a couple of years of learning and exploring and searching, but in 2015 I found the Divi theme.
Rant FOR Purchases; AGAINST Subscriptions
One of the things I like LEAST about most of today’s business models is their focus on subscriptions. Sure, subcriptions are good – for the businesses. They ensure an ongoing stream of income.
But subscriptions are terrible for the consumer, especially individual, small businesspeople like me. They burden us with an ongoing expense obligation that many of us are extremely reluctant to take on.
So when I discovered Elegant Themes, the company that makes the Divi theme, offered a lifetime membership in addition to their subscription plan, I immediately jumped on it and bought it.
I believe so strongly in being able to PURCHASE software, as opposed to having to subscribe to it, that this availability is probably a 50% factor in my spending decisions.
This is the reason I bought a lifetime membership to the Toolset plugins, and why I bought the “lifetime pass” for DiviLife. It is the reason I delayed upgrading my Adobe products to Creative Cloud – I used CS6 for many years after CC became available.
Why I Chose the Divi Theme for my WP Sites
Because of the lifetime membership, AND because of the sheer power of the Divi theme, I had enough to convince me to get that theme.
When I build websites for clients, the first thing I want is CONTROL. I want to be able to control what I put on the site, where I put it, and what it looks like. Divi was able to give me that control, as much as all its top contenders. But none of the top contenders had a lifetime purchase available – they ALL wanted periodic payments! For me, that made the decision among them a no-brainer.
The second thing I want when I build websites is POWER. By power, I mean a set of tools that will allow me to do what I want to do quickly and fluently. Divi also gives me this kind of power. Once I have a concept in my head of what I want a website to look like, I want to be able to jump on it and just DO IT, without having to mess around wrestling with some recalcitrant piece of software that wants to force me to learn twenty other things just to get to the one thing I do want. So far – in the more than three years I’ve been using it as of this writing, Divi has not only given me this power, it has exploded in its evolution to give me even MORE of this kind of power.
A Divi Exception – And the Solution
One of my clients, who has had me build eight websites for him, hasn’t been able to (take the time to) wrap his mind around Divi. The last two sites I built for him I built in Divi, and he immediately logged on and changed the theme, to one he found and decided he likes.
Of course, if you’ve ever done this, you know that this will make all the content on the site appear totally corrupted, as a Divi-built website doesn’t play well when converted to a non-Divi theme.
When I first saw what he had done to those sites, I wailed in anguish. I was thinking I would have to go back into those sites and redo all that corrupted content. But then the light bulb came on again.
I realized, Divi isn’t just a theme. It is also a plugin. And because Elegant Themes subscription – either periodical or lifetime – includes access to ALL their products, I HAD that plugin!
So I loaded the Divi Builder plugin onto my client’s website, alongside the theme he chose, and PRESTO! Suddenly all the pages that had appeared corrupted when he changed the theme were BACK! They all looked just fine, just the way I had built them!
So my wails of anguish turned to relief, and to silent cheers.
The Happy Evolution of Divi
Since I began using Divi, I have used this theme on every website I have built. I continue to explore other themes, other pagebuilders, other content management systems and end-user enabling interfaces, but to date, none has come close to Divi in being exactly what I am looking for.
Since I began using Divi, the team at the parent company, Elegant Themes, has come out with one amazing upgrade after another, the most significant of which so far has been Div 3.0, which allows FRONT-END EDITING! For those of you who might not know what that means, it is simply that once you log into your website, you can go to a page and edit it almost like it was a word processor.
Sound familiar? Sound like something I said many years ago that I was looking for? Yep, that’s what it is.
What I Want in Future Divi Evolution
The biggest thing I would like to see in a future evolution of Divi is a very clear ability to SEPARATE THE POWERS.
Remember up above where I said I am very sensitive to my clients’ budgets? Where I said I wanted to give them the ability to easily edit their own websites, without having to call me to do it for them? I still want that.
However, in the current release of Divi, if a client logs in and uses the Divi Visual Builder (front-end editor), they can not only edit the content of the site – meaning the text and the pictures – they also get the ability to edit the look and feel of the site, to change around the elements, and to do a lot of things I simply don’t want them to be able to do.
In other words, I would love for Divi to set it up so I can give my website clients the ability to create, edit, and delete the text and pictures on any of their pages (or selected pages), but not to be able to change the DESIGN of the site.
I have had only one client so far who has tried editing their site and wound up totally corrupting it and I had to restore it for them (GOOD argument for regular backups!), but this would not have happened if I could have restricted them to front-end-only editing of the text and images.
The Elegant Themes and Divi BLACK FRIDAY Sale
And this brings us to the title of this article: The ET and Divi Black Friday Sale.
As I write this, Black Friday 2018 is one week away. Elegant Themes (the company that makes the Divi theme and plugin) is having a BLOWOUT sale, and you can see it yourself by CLICKING HERE or here:
Why am I promoting this? Complete honesty – they are having another giveaway, and I get more entries in that giveaway if I tell you about it. But that’s not the only reason.
More complete honesty – I will NEVER promote something I don’t fully believe in, and I totally believe in using the Divi theme. As I said, I use Divi exclusively for all new websites I build. And so if you want to build websites and have the ease of use and power that I need, there’s no better time to try out Divi than when you can get it at a blowout price.
Finally, after writing this article, I decided that my enthusiasm for Divi might be infectious enough to make others want to get Divi and use it on their own websites. I would not only highly encourage you to do so, I will tell you that I have just now signed up with ET as an affiliate, which means if you purchase an ET subscription through the link to the right, I will receive a small commission from the sale, BUT it will not cost you any more than if you went directly to the site. That’s the way I understand it, anyway. So if you decide you need Divi, and if you use this link (just click on the image), I’d be very grateful.
Did you read this far in this posting? Let me know by leaving a comment below.