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Let's kick things up a notch and make your site a bit prettier. When I make a website, there's are three things I always do to give it that “extra something”.
- Add a custom logo
- Install a premium theme
- Install some premium plugins
These are not required, and you may or may not have the time and money to do these things at this point. But you've been a member of Wealthy Affiliate for 4 months now, and I'm guess that you've finished the training and have quite a few blog posts and pages already published. Hopefully you've created at least one social media account, and share your content with friends or people interested in your niche.
These design elements will make your site stand out as “professional”, and help you to start establishing your “brand”.
Add a Custom Logo
Many free themes allow for uploading of a custom logo to your website. This can be a text based logo or a graphic. The size of the logo needed will vary for each theme, and getting your logo to fit correctly may require you edit some code, or the size of the image. Play around with it and see what works for you.
How to make FREE text-based logos: This one is pretty easy to figure out, and though it's only text based stuff, it still fun to add shadows, colors, and experiment with different styles of writing. I've seen a lot of guys make some cool looking logos with this tool.
Creating Your Own Images in Gimp
Gimp is an awesome image editing tool. It's like a free version of Photoshop and you can get it here http://www.gimp.org/. If you don't know anything about Photoshop or image editing, you are probably thinking to yourself right now, “No way can I learn that!”.
But I didn't know how to do it either, and I was able to learn just by watching people on YouTube. This is a popular tool, so there's no shortage of videos and even written tutorials on how to make Gimp do what you want it to do.
My editing skills are very basic, and I can make some pretty cool images. In fact, I created a very beginner training on how to use Gimp here.
Those are the free versions. You can also have someone create a logo for you for just $5 on a website called Fiverr. You would be surprised at the high quality work you can get done on this website, but do your homework. Many times the good guys have a long line of people waiting for logos, and designers without a track record are always a risk.
Because it's only $5 the quality isn't super high, but usually it's good enough. Also, you might not get exactly what you were looking for because they generally limit the number of times you can ask for a redesign or edit.
If you really want to go all out and get a professional logo done, I suggest you hire someone from oDesk. There are thousands of designers that can do it for $50 – $100. They often offer several sizes and version of the logo, and let you ask for any amount of changes to ensure your satisfaction.
If you have never outsourced work before, it will probably be a bit scary and challenging to figure out how to do it. Here's a webinar to get you started. It may take more time to go this route, but the finished product will most likely be beautiful.
If you just want to use my logo guy, here's his website
http://www.elrondesigns.com/services/ The guy seems to have disappeared! I'll update when I find a new logo guy. You can also find your own logo guy on oDesk.com. You can get an awesome logo done for $100 or less.
Install a premium theme
I used free themes for about 2 years and never quite realized why someone would pay for a premium theme. But after I upgraded, I swore that I'd never use another free theme again.
The advantage of premium themes is clear. They have more features, more customization options, updates, and are often mobile responsive, meaning they automatically detect when a user is on a tablet or smartphone.
You have survived until now on a free theme, and that's OK. Many folks don't want to spend extra money on stuff until they start brining in some money first. That's exactly what my thinking was.
But if you've made a few sales and want to step up your game a bit, a premium WordPress theme should be one of the first things you look into.
I use a lot of themes from Elegant Themes. You get access to a whole basket of themes for one price, meaning you can pick and choose the ones you like without worrying about buyers remorse. It's a yearly fee, so if you want to continue to get updates you'll have to pay that fee each year, but it was totally worth it to me for the past couple years.
The main disadvantage of this service is that many of their themes are not mobile responsive. This means that you will either need to upgrade and install some other stuff on your site, or have a website that isn't mobile ready.
The regular package that gets you access to almost 100 themes for one price is $39 per year. The upgraded package with mobile plugin and other special features is $89 per year.
Check Out Elegant Themes (affiliate link)
Another place I have recently been buying themes from is StudioPress. They are quite a bit more expensive, but I actually like their themes better. Plus, all themes are mobile responsive as far as I can tell.
It'll cost you anywhere between $60-$100+ dollars per theme, but you can use it on any number of sites. And if you buy more than one theme as a returning customer, they give some pretty good discounts, charging around $30 per theme.
There are some special installation instructions you need to follow to get these to work, but it comes with a getting started guide to show you how.
http://www.studiopress.com/ (affiliate link)
Some other popular themes can be found on the following sites:
I haven't used these, so can't vouch for them, but know some guys that have been happy with their purchases there. Don't get lost in all the choices. If you are like me, you'll start looking for a new theme, and 3 hours later you'll have tunnel vision not knowing which theme is the “best”.
You can make anything work if you try hard enough, so don't stress about the theme. If you do buy, be sure to look at examples and read the instruction manual. There are so many cool features like extra footers, sliders, multiple menus, featured pages, and other things which are not available on most free themes.
Install Some Premium Plugins
This is totally optional, and to be honest, I don't have a lot of suggestions off the top of my head. I use some premium plugins, but they are more specific to what I need for my own sites. Most of the time, you can find a decent free version anyway. But it's worth mentioning that there are some pretty cool paid plugins out there that can add customization abilities to your website, without all the bugs of some of the free ones.
One that I really love is called Vimeography. It's a way to organize your videos into playlists from Vimeo. This is definitely an advanced plugin, and if you don't have any videos on Vimeo or don't plan to, you don't need it. But it's just one example of the awesome things paid plugins can do.
Another awesome plugin I discovered is called “Go” and it can help you build beautiful comparison charts for your “Top Product” pages. You can find it here:
Other Plugins I Use
Two other plugins I use form time to time are called Yet Another Related Posts Plugin and WordPress Popular Posts. They are both ways to get more of your content in front of the eyes of your visitors. These are not required, I don't necessarily “recommend” them. Remember, the more plugins you have, the slower your site will be.
But they can be a cool way to customize your website, and they are high-quality, free plugins.
Adding images to your sidebar can give your site more visual appeal. You can create your own image or have it made for you. It can be a link to an affiliate product, or a link to a post on your blog. Learn how to add images to the sidebar, footer, or other widgets with the training below.
But despite all this stuff, I want you to keep in mind that most often, simple is better! A plain website with a menu that is easy to navigate and text that is easy to read is going to perform and convert way better than a complicated, flashy, over-designed website. Our sales are driven by content, so do all you can to make your content easy to find, read, and understand!