Podcast Episode

393 – How Building a Website is a Lot Like Building a House

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Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

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WPA Clean Updates is a plugin that blocks WordPress from installing new default themes.

How Building a Website is a Lot Like Building a House

  • Step 1: Time for an upgrade
  • Step 2: Hire the expert(s)
  • Step 3: Plan the foundation
  • Step 4: Draw the plans
  • Step 5: Design / decorate
  • Step 6: Begin construction
  • Step 7: Inspect and fix
  • Step 8: Project complete!

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Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

In today’s episode, we are going to look at how building a website is like building a house, right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast, Episode No. 393.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler. I’m excited to be with you tonight because we’re talking WordPress and we’re going to talk about houses. And if you’ve been following me for any length of time over the last couple of months, I’m dropping hints that my wife and I are building a new house here in the Dayton area, and the construction actually started today. Well, not construction per se, but they’ve dug out the hole for the basement, and the foundation is going to get worked on this week, and what not. And so, I thought this would be a great opportunity to just share some of the things I’m learning about building a house and what that’s kind of like to building a website. And there’s, of course, a lot of similarities but then there’s also a lot of differences, as well. But we’ll talk about the similarities here in just a couple minutes.

I have two announcements and a plugin to share with you. I’ll start off with the announcement that WordCamp Europe is happening this weekend, it’s June 14th through 16th. It’s going to be in Serbia. But the announcement here is other than the WordCamp is happening, there is actually a brand-new app that you can use, and it helps you navigate through the schedule, and what’s coming up, and all that good jazz. And so, if you’ve ever been to a WordCamp and you’re flustered over looking at the schedule, and what’s up next, and what should I go to, I recommend checking out this app if you are heading to the Europe WordCamp. There’s going to be hundreds and hundreds and even thousands of people there this weekend, and so this might be a good way to navigate and make sure that you get to the sessions that you want to learn most from live, while you’re there. 

So, there’s a link in the show notes for Episode No. 393 on how you can get this app, or you can find it on the WordCamp Europe website. The other piece of news that is kind of an interesting thing that I wanted to share today was about Plugin-a-Palooza. This was happening at WordCamp Orange County. It was a small event that wrapped around the time of WordCamp Orange County, which was June 9th and 10th. Basically, up to a team of three people could build a plugin. They had to upload the plugin by May 18th. So, it was kind of a little bit of a project, and you could upload it by May 18th. By this weekend, they were going to judge and see who could build the best plugin in that amount of time. It was a two-to-three-person team, like I said. You could earn a prize up to $3,000.00 cash, and a secured business VIP license.

They announced this week that the winner was; it’s a plugin called Plugin Detective, and it’s written by Nathan Tyler and Natalie MacLees. It is a plugin that helps you in the troubleshooting process of WordPress trying to figure out and quickly identify what may be going wrong with your website. Once it’s installed, it adds troubleshooting quick links, it’s added to the WordPress toolbar, and then you can open or continue a case. Once a case is open, a bot named Detective Otto asks the users how to navigate to a page where the problem’s occurring, and then they kind of work through the process of figuring out what’s going on with your site. It’s a cool little plugin and, of course, it’s on the WordPress Repository; you can find it. It’s inspired by the software from the ‘90s called Conflict Catcher.

It was a way that, back in the day, you could figure out what was going on and what was breaking in your code and what not. So, this does the same thing on WordPress installations. So, if you are struggling with trying to figure out what may be going wrong with your website, I definitely recommend installing this plugin. Again, it is called The Plugin Detective, and you could find that in the show notes for Episode 393. Or you can find it on the WordPress Repository if you just search there. Now speaking of the Plugin of the Week, I do have another one that I want to share with you today. This this one is called WPA Clean Updates, and it is an ultralight cleaning plugin.

So, with every update of WordPress, WordPress software pushes new versions of their default themes to your server. Even though most of those default themes are relatively safe, it’s just a pain when they automatically add. So, this plugin will add some code to your website which will basically limit that and not let, you know, when you upgrade to 5.0, it’s not going to put a brand-new theme on to your site. It’s a very simple plugin. It’s literally just a couple lines of code. It won’t slow your WordPress site down. But if you have those extra themes constantly added to your site, and then updated, and loaded, and it just can take time and we just don’t want to have extra themes loading there on our website. If you are interested in keeping these extra updates out of your life, then I recommended checking WPA Clean Updates. And that is in the WordPress Repository.

All right, moving right along today, I want to talk about how building a house is like building a website. And how those two are the same, and how they’re different and just kind of talk through the process a little bit. Because my wife and I have been going through this process. So, we decided back in March that we were going to build a house. Today, which is June 12, 2018, as I’m recording this, is the day that they finally started. So, we’re talking about, we signed on the dotted line that “Yes, we’re going to build a house and we’ll start customizing and configuring.” I believe that was about May 12th, or March 12th, excuse me. It was around that time period. It was right around that window. It has been March, April, May, June. It’s been three months since we actually said, “Yes, we’re going to build a house,” until they actually got started.

And so, I think sometimes we run into these types of things when we’re developing a web project. It takes a little bit to figure out all of the foundation work, who the experts are going to be, and all this kind of stuff. So, I want to talk through this as we think about our next web design project and think of how they’re similar and how they are like building a house. So, the first thing is you want to, the step one or the realization that you may come to or the client may come to, that it’s time for an upgrade. That could be because if you’re thinking about a house, if it’s time to upgrade a house, maybe it’s too crowded or it’s too small. Maybe it’s outdated, maybe there’s a lot of work that needs done, maybe there’s some sort of foundation issues that it’s not structurally sound, and you want to get rid of it before you have some sort of catastrophe.

So that’s on the house side, that’s maybe one reason you want to upgrade your house. But on the website side, maybe it’s cluttered, maybe it’s outdated, maybe it’s disorganized. Maybe you’re not getting the returns that you want on your website, people aren’t coming and purchasing things through your website. So, there are lots of different reasons that you want to upgrade either a house or a website. That’s kind of the first step of the process. We went through this as part of building a new house. It wasn’t too crowded or too small, it just wasn’t in the right location for us. We wanted to be a little bit closer to all the things that we do in the Dayton area. That’s one of the reasons that we went on this house search. So, we decided it was time for an upgrade.

The next part of this process, I guess, is you have to hire an expert. For our house, we needed a contractor or an architect. Actually, we went with a building company and they handle all the pieces of the puzzle. So, it’s like on a website, instead of hiring a web director, and a creative director, and a content director, you hired one person and they’re kind of managing and overseeing all the pieces of the puzzle. Our builder or our contractor, they are the ones who are calling in the subs. They’re calling in the people who are digging out the foundation, or pouring the foundation, or adding the basement walls, or any of those types of things.

So, you’ve got to figure out who you’re going to go with and whether that’s going to be you figure like out like, I’m going to work with an interior designer, if you’re on a house. But on a website you’re thinking, am I going to work with a marketing company, and a graphic design company, and a developer? Or am I going to work with one person and they’re going to be the ones that do all of the work and what not? So, that’s the second step. Hire the experts or figure what type of experts you want to hire. The next part is plan the foundation. So, this is pretty easy when you come to thinking about a house. For a house, you need to determine the goal for your home. Do you want a big kitchen, do you want a place to entertain, do you want a basement or no basement, a ranch, a two-story?

What kind of foundation are you going to build? Is that going to be like, again, a basement, is it going to be a block wall, is it going to be poured concrete, is it going to be twigs, you know what are you going to build this house out of? Then then you want to figure out how you’re going to make sure that house has a really strong foundation. On the website side, we’re going to talk about determining a goal for the new site, analyzing the current site, and the pages like analyzing that current thing that you have, creating a new organized structure, approving the site structure, just planning that foundation. The other thing that kind of goes with this, the foundation part, is you want to decide your hosting. In a house project, your foundation, that’s kind of like the plot of land. You’re talking about this is where you’re going to live. This is the foundation, this is the place.

Well, with a website it’s your hosting company. Where are you going to host? What kind of foundation are you going to put your website on? Is it going to be a dedicated WordPress host? Is it going to be a virtual private host that specializes in WordPress? What type of thing do you need to think about? That’s the next piece of the puzzle when it’s coming to preparing for this project, whether it be a website or a house. I think also in this, plan the foundation, is also figure out that platform, or that CMS, or that theme framework. What are going to be the base pieces that you’re going to build this website on? Obviously, you’re listening to a WordPress podcast, so the CMS question should be pretty easy; we’re going to talk about WordPress.

But what about are you going to use Genesis or are you going to use the Divi theme, or the Flatsome theme, or Storefront or what foundational theme are you going to start with? Are you going to start one from scratch? Those are some things that you need to think about as you’re planning the foundation of your website. Next up, once we have all those other pieces, those first three pieces ready to go, the fourth step is to draw the architectural plans. So, what this means on a house, this is something that I didn’t do, but it’s something that the folks at the builder company did. They drew all the rooms in the house in relation to each other. which means they drew basically the house, and we could see how all the different spaces interacted with each other.

They determined the size and the purpose of each room, the proportions. How does this work? Where is the bathroom going to go? Is that big enough for the shower and the toilet and the vanity and what not? So, that’s kind of what happens in a house project. You draw the architectural plans. On a website, you want to pretty much do the same thing. You want to talk about figuring out that focus and the message for the homepage. What do you really want to bring across? What’s the big idea when people are coming to your website? You want to draw a wireframe of all the homepage elements. So, kind of just draw out, okay what’s this homepage going to look like? Where will the call to action be? What is going to happen with each button? What’s going to happen when they click on those buttons?

Also, when you’re doing this layout, very much like a house, you want to make sure that you illustrate the size and proportions of all the elements that you’re working with inside your website. So, in a home drawing, it’s not going to be not to scale. They are going to make sure that everything is to scale in the drawing, so you want to do the same thing for your website. Step five, we’re in the design and decorating phase. With the house project, you’re figuring out the décor, what that looks like, the overall style and theme of your house. The color palette for painting, the furniture, the ambiance, the focal point for each room. You’re talking about what color of brick and stone and siding, and all those different pieces of the puzzle. That’s another piece that goes on before we even really start the construction process, which will be the next step.

On our website, we’re doing the same thing. We’re talking the style and theme and color palette. What kind of photos are we going to use? What’s the general theme? Is it going to be a flat theme, are we going to have a color palette? What are you looking at color and design-wise on your website? Then we want to make sure that we understand and figure out what that message and content priority is for each page on our site. So, that’s the design and decorating phase. This is a step that could take days or weeks even. Just trying to figure out what fonts and styles and pictures and images and all that kind of stuff. You’re getting a lot of details and kind of roping all the ideas in, and then we’re getting ready for that beginning construction phase.

So that is step six, that begin the construction phase. On the house project, we had to sign off on all of the plans. We had to make sure that yes, these blueprints are correct. This is exactly what we want you to build. The general contractor builds according to the plans. They start with the foundation, and then the footers, and then the concrete. They’re just working through the process. Part of it, during the inspection is even getting furniture installed, or islands installed, and staircases, and all that kind of stuff. All the work basically happens, it seems all the visible work happens on step six, but we’ve already had five steps’ worth of work before we get to the point where we’re actually starting to move hammers, and big, heavy equipment.

The same thing goes with a website. Once we’ve got that wireframe and we’ve got some ideas of images or colors, color palettes and what not, then we have to get the site approved. We’re getting the site structures approved, and the design concepts are approved. The development team starts building the plans. They’re starting to code and create that theme or create the layouts, and all the content is submitted, proofread, and placed. The developer starts doing some testing and trying to make sure that all the pieces of this new website are working perfectly. That’s the construction phase. Step seven is the inspection phase. So, with a house, the owners do a walkthrough. They make sure everything is up to code and up to their expectations. Then the owners will notify contractors of any fixes.

Did that staircase not get quite done or finished, or is that railing a little crooked or is it loose, or is the lightbulb not working? Then the contractor goes through and makes all of those fixes. That’s the last time, the last say that the homeowner gets before it’s ready to move in. With a website, it’s the same thing. The client completes that full-site inspection. They go and they look through every page on the site. They click on links. They make sure the contact forms are submitted. They make sure that all the fonts are the correct fonts, and all the sizes are right. They check to make sure if they are looking on a mobile device, it works just as well as it does on a desktop. They look through all of these things, just getting them perfect. Then any changes or any issues that come up, they contact the developers and the developer fixes all the things and the ends the inspection and fixes period or the section of this design.

Then lastly, the project is complete. If it’s a home project and everything goes good, then the homeowners get to move in. It’s their house and they get to start paying for the house over the next thirty years. If it’s a website, it’s approved and the site launches. Then you get paid as the developer, or the project lead or whatever. Everybody is happy and the project is done. So, that’s, in a nutshell, what our life has looked like in the last four months or so, leading up to this process today. I thought it was really interesting that it’s so closely related to how you build a website, that I wanted to share that in this episode. So, that’s what I wanted to talk about today and that’s the reason that we talked about building a house today on Your Website Engineer, instead of talking about how to build a website. But we did the same at the same time. So that’s what I wanted to share, take care and we’ll talk again next week. Bye.

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