Fun With Web Sites — Not!

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If there was one thing I really, really didn’t want to do myself in this project, it was design, build and manage my own website.

Being a journalist for two decades, I knew enough about building websites and the back end of content management systems to be afraid.

Afraid for my time and sanity, that is.

Developing a consumer product, brand and business plan required enough work (on top of my regular life as an editor, mother and wife). I knew that I didn’t really have enough time to learn how to build a website from scratch and then actually do it.

Designer Drawing Website Development WireframeAt first, I hired a former colleague to build my website. But very quickly, I realized how expensive it was going to be if I didn’t just do it myself.

And so, I scrapped that plan and jumped in–kicking and screaming the entire way.

I did most of the work on my website very late at night, after everybody else had already gone to bed. This, of course, made me very, very tired.

Have a Plan

My goal with the website was to launch a blog about makeup brushes, build some relevant traffic and then flip the site to a full consumer site when I launched the My Brush Betty Cleaning Kit.

I bought some 101-level website-building books and started doing things, quite literally, one step at at time. The hardest part of building a website wasn’t deciding what I wanted on it and where. It was everything else.

Setting up the website took a little while. In the beginning, I made a super amateur mistake by not knowing the difference between WordPress.com, a free-ish platform where you don’t get to really pick your name, and WordPress.org, where you select the website name and host.

The mistake didn’t cost me a lot of money, but it was a little bit of a time inconvenience to get back on track. And it did cost a little money, as every mistake does. Ultimately, I ended up following Andy Williams’ Websites for Beginners to set up my site. If I had to set it up again, I would have to return to this book and follow the directions all over again. It’s a process that I’m sure is very easy if you set up websites all day long. If you aren’t using it regularly, it’s like navigating a maze.

These early set-up decisions, I learned in Andy’s book, were important because they can affect your site’s SEO, and I knew I wanted to start building those Google connection points and pathways before my product launch, which would make it easier to reach customers when I launched.

Once I got my hosting set up with StableHost and my site started with WordPress.org software, I went about finding the perfect theme or template as the foundation for my site. This actually took many, many weeks, and hours of time, browsing, testing, seeing a template’s limitations and so on.

Eventually, I decided on the Blu Chic theme called Beverly.

Once the framework was in place, and I loaded up my website header and background that I was still developing, I had a basic functioning blog. My goal was to write one makeup brush blog item or post a week until launch. This would also enable me to do some intelligence on how makeup brushes are manufactured, the major players in this very specific business area and the market: beauty lovers who use and love makeup brushes.

Along the way, I would learn about WordPress plugins to dress my site up a bit and make it more functional. I also learned some HTML coding.

Did I mention that I absolutely did not want this technical knowledge?

Other things I did not want to know about: SQL files, rasterizing, compressing PNGs, limit coding for responsive designs … So many things I didn’t want to know.

At work, when something goes glitchy on our website, I call somebody else to fix it. That’s because it usually requires oodles of time and patience–which is easily my biggest area of weakness.

To get this website looking the way it does, I have actually modified some pages of this website hundreds of times … Modify, preview, modify, preview … Oh yeah, then find a little problem and start modifying and previewing over and over again …

By the time my website was near completion, it’s safe to say I was exhausted and my patience was beat, absolutely beat. I was officially resigned …

Blogging

And once MyBrushBetty.com was live, I officially had a blog to keep fresh.

My husband sort of teased me about how much there could possibly be to write about makeup brushes. But in all honesty, I learned, there was actually quite a lot to write about. Makeup brushes are a HU-UGE business and there was real news and innovations and a lot of fun videos to cull.

I actually had a lot of fun writing the blog posts once I got started. It turned out to be the perfect release valve from my day job of writing about advanced manufacturing in the aerospace, defense and motorized vehicle world.

A Tool to Collect Data

Doing the blog in advance of the product launch also ended up being very insightful from a business intelligence point of view.

I was able to see where my traffic was coming from around the globe, drilling down to states and cities. (This would later help me do some planning in terms of potential shipping costs). I could also see how effective my budding social media tools were in driving traffic. I was able to consider the popularity of different postings over others–to help me understand my audience.

nars-ita-kabuki-brushI also learned that I need to send Nars Cosmetics a big ol’ thank-you note. A blog post that I wrote about the Nars Ita brush being out of stock, repeatedly, ended up driving a huge spike to my website.

Within nine months of launching, I had more than 47,000 unique page views on my site — almost half of which had come from people looking for information about the Nars Ita makeup brush, a high-priced artsy contouring brush. Once that traffic found me, thanks to Nars, it also never really trailed off. By the summer of 2014, I was getting about 6,000 visitors a month to my brush blog. Which I thought was pretty decent given the limited amount of effort I was giving it as a precursor to launching a product.

In the end, I’m sorta, kinda glad I built my own website. It’s been a huge time and patience drain, trying to learn a bunch of new things on top of all my other obligations. Now I know how to do them, of course, which is cool, but I would have preferred to have hired somebody to do it.

But with my engineering, legal and graphics bills, I just didn’t have the extra money for it. So it was a luxury I really couldn’t afford.

So, if you find something glitchy or imperfect on this website, I am completely 100% to blame. If you write to complain, which I wholeheartedly encourage you to do, it would also be most awesome if you knew how to fix it. 🙂


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By Sarah A. Webster
Founder
My Brush Betty