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Janine Warner on Crafting a Powerful Internet Brand With WordPress

by Topher Kelly
art & design, money & life

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Like many of you out there, I don’t speak tech. Conversations with web developers are like trying to understand my mother in a family game of charades — it takes a lot of focus, time, and energy. It’s ironic that, as the world becomes more reliant on the Internet to conduct business, there are so few people who can speak both tech and plain English.Janine Warner, one of those rare bilingual individuals affectionately dubbed the “Techy Translator,” has helped thousands of businesses create successful websites and blogs. From large companies to small start ups, Janine knows how to make a company thrive on the Internet.  In preparation for her course (which starts next week), I had the unique opportunity to ask Janine a few questions.

Q: You have given some powerful speeches in the past about selling yourself + services online. For creatives, what are some general reasons why establishing an online presence is vital to success?

Today, before someone hires you as a photographer, designer, consultant, or just about anything else, they are almost certainly going to Google you. If someone searches for you online you want to make sure that they see examples of your work in the best light. If you’re a fashion photographer, but the only images you have online are some old landscapes in a poorly designed website, you’re almost certainly losing business.

You want to make sure that your website reflects the quality and integrity of your work. You want to make sure your website tells your story, and reinforces the way you sell yourself in person. If you do it well, you may not even have to sell yourself; your site will bring in customers for you.

As we wrap up my creativeLIVE course on the second day, I’ll help you with some search engine optimization tips and show you my favorite plugin for social media icons and sharing. It’s fantastic how plugins make these important additions to a website super easy today. And it’s impressive how well some photographers, artists, and others have done by combining a well-design website with social media.

Q: Why do you use WordPress and what makes it the best and or easiest platform to use?

WordPress started out as a simple blogging tool and has gotten increasingly sophisticated and powerful over the years. Today it WordPress is a full-fledged content management system (CMS) capable of creating complex websites, highly efficient blogs, or both.

WordPress is an ‘open source’ program, which means it is not owned by any one company. Instead, it’s the product of many different developers working together over many years, and countless people testing and using WordPress to build sites. As a result, there is a vibrant and diverse community of designers and developers who create themes, plugins, and other tools that you can use to customize and enhance websites designed with WordPress. There are also many developers and web designers who customize WordPress sites for clients, so if you ever need a little extra help, it’s usually not that hard to find.

WordPress itself is free — that’s part of the advantage of an open source program — but you’ll find that many of the best plugins and themes cost money, because that’s how many of the best members of the WordPress community support themselves.

On Monday during my creativeLIVE course, I’ll show you some free themes and plugins that anyone can use, and I’ll also point out some of the best premium tools and try to help you determine when it’s worth paying for a theme or a plugin, and when it’s a rip off.

Q: WordPress has lots of addons and plugins. Are there any new ones in 2013 that you find interesting, helpful and “game changing”?

The most important lesson to learn is that plugins and themes can be made by anyone and, like anything else, there are good and bad options out there. My goal while on creativeLIVE, will be to help you identify the great ones, and avoid the ones that can cause you problems.

As far as the latest options, the big change is the move to responsive design, to using themes that change their layout to best fit different screen sizes. Most themes are not responsive, but there are a growing number of great ones out there and you definitely want a responsive theme to future proof your site.

In my creativeLIVE course, I’ll show you how you can quickly tell if a theme is responsive or not — and why it’s so important.

I’ll also show you how plugins can help. For example, the Advanced Responsive Video Embedder plugin makes it easy to insert videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and a long list of other video hosting sites in way that is responsive, so that your videos will also change size based on the size of the screen that your users has when they visit your site. By that I mean, the video will automatically display in a smaller size on a smartphone than on a giant computer monitor.

For more information about Janine’s creativeLIVE course, visit her course page.

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Topher Kelly

Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.