Tag: Website

Free Website Builder + Free CRM + Free Live Chat = Bitrix24

(This is a sponsored post.)

You may know Bitrix24 as the world’s most popular free CRM and sales management system, used by over 6 million businesses. But the free website builder available inside Bitrix24 is worthy of your attention, too.

Why do I need another free website/landing page builder?

There are many ways to create free websites — Wix, Squarepage, WordPress, etc. And if you need a blog — Medium, Tumblr and others are at your disposal. Bitrix24 is geared toward businesses that need websites to generate leads, sell online, issue invoices or accept payments. And there’s a world of difference between regular website builders and the ones that are designed with specific business needs in mind.

What does a good business website builder do? First, it creates websites that engage visitors so that they start interacting. This is done with the help of tools like website live chat, contact form or a call back request widget. Second, it comes with a landing page designer, because business websites are all about conversion rates, and increasing conversion rates requires endless tweaking and repeated testing. Third, integration between a website and a CRM system is crucial. It’s difficult to attract traffic to websites and advertising expensive. So, it makes sense that every prospect from the website as logged into CRM automatically and that you sell your goods and services to clients not only once but on a regular basis. This is why Bitrix24 comes with email and SMS marketing and advertising ROI calculator.

Another critical requirement for many business websites is ability to accept payments online and function as an ecommerce store, with order processing and inventory management. Bitrix24 does that too. Importantly, unlike other ecommerce platforms, Bitrix24 doesn’t charge any transaction fees or come with sales volume limits.

What else does Bitrix24 offer free of charge?

The only practical limit of the free plan is 12 users inside the account. You can use your own domain free of charge, the bandwidth is free and unlimited and there’s only a technical limit on the number of free pages allowed (around 100) in order to prevent misusing Bitrix24 for SEO-spam pages. In addition to offering free cloud service, Bitrix24 has on-premise editions with open source code access that can be purchased. This means that you can migrate your cloud Bitrix24 account to your own server at any moment, if necessary.

To register your free Bitrix24 account, simply click here. And if you have a public Facebook or Twitter profile and share this post, you’ll be automatically entered into a contest, in which the winner gets a 24-month subscription for the Bitrix24 Professional plan ($ 3,336 value).

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“All these things are quite easy to do, they just need somebody to sit down and just go through the website”

I saw a video posted on Twitter from Channel 5 News in the UK (I have no idea what the credibility of them is, it’s an ocean away from me) with anchor Claudia Liza asking Glen Turner and Kristina Barrick questions about website accessibility.

Apparently, they often post videos with captions, but this particular video doesn’t (ironically). So, I’ve transcribed it here as I found them pretty well-spoken.

[Claudia Liza]: … you do have a visual impairment. How does that make it difficult for you to shop online?

[Glen Turner]: Well, I use various special features on my devices to shop online to make it easier. So, I enlarge the text, I’ll invert the colors to make the background dark so that I don’t have glare. I will zoom in on pictures, I will use speech to read things to me because it’s too difficult sometimes. But sometimes websites and apps aren’t designed in a way that is compatible with that. So sometimes the text will be poorly contrasted so you’ll have things like brown on black, or red on black, or yellow on white, something like that. Or the menu system won’t be very easy to navigate, or images won’t have descriptions for the visually impaired because images can have descriptions embedded that a speech reader will read back to them. So all these various factors make it difficult or impossible to shop on certain websites.

[Claudia Liza]: What do you need retailers to do? How do they need to change their technology on their websites and apps to make it easier?

It’s quite easy to do a lot of these things, really. Check the colors on your website. Make sure you’ve got light against dark and there is a very clear distinctive contrast. Make sure there are descriptions for the visually impaired. Make sure there are captions on videos for the hearing impaired. Make sure your menus are easy to navigate and make it easy to get around. All these things are quite easy to do, they just need somebody to sit down and just go through the website and check that it’s all right and consult disabled people as well. Ideally, you’ve got disabled people in your organization you employ, but consult the wider disabled community as well. There is loads of us online there is loads of us spread all over the country. There is 14 million of us you can talk to, so come and talk to us and say, “You know, is our website accessible for you? What can we do to improve it?” Then act on it when we give you our advice.

[Claudia Liza]: It makes sense doesn’t it, Glen? It sounds so simple. But Christina, it is a bit tricky for retailers. Why is that? What do other people with disabilities tell you?

So, we hear about content on websites being confusing in the way it’s written. There’s lots of information online about how to make an accessible website. There’s a global minimum legal standard called WCAG and there’s lot of resources online. Scope has their own which has loads of information on how to make your website accessible.

I think the problem really is generally lack of awareness. It doesn’t get spoken about a lot. I think that disabled consumers – there’s not a lot of places to complain. Sometimes they’ll go on a website and there isn’t even a way to contact that business to tell them that their website isn’t accessible. So what Scope is trying to do is raise the voices of disabled people. We have crowdsourced a lot of people’s feedback on where they experience inaccessible websites. We’re raising that profile and trying to get businesses to change.

[Claudia Liza]: So is it legal when retails aren’t making their websites accessible?

Yeah, so, under the Equality Act 2010, it’s not legal to create an inaccessible website, but what we’ve found is that government isn’t generally enforcing that as a law.

[Claudia Liza]: Glenn, do you feel confident that one day you’ll be able to buy whatever you want online?

I would certainly like to think that would be the case. As I say, you raise enough awareness and get the message out there and alert business to the fact that there is a huge consumer market among the disabled community, and we’ve got a 274 billion pound expenditure a year that we can give to them. Then if they are aware of that, then yeah, hopefully they will open their doors to us and let us spend our money with them.

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Why every website wants you to accept its cookies

I’m probably in the minority on this, but I’ve never ever built one of those “This site uses cookies, here’s some kind of explanation of why, and please click this OK button to accept that” bars that feels like they are on half of the internet.

Emily Stewart:

Most of us just tediously click “yes” and move on. If you reject the cookie tracking, sometimes, the website won’t work. But most of the time, you can just keep browsing. They’re not too different from the annoying pop-up ads we all ignore when we’re online.

I’m extra-ignorant in that don’t even really get why they exist, despite being a professional web site builder.

Emily does a good job of rounding up the answer. It’s probably about what you think it is: a better safe than sorry play. Better annoy some users than get sued out of existence.

It’s also interesting that it’s not just one particular regulation that has people doing this. GDPR is a big one (despite being fairly light on mentions of cookies at all), but it’s really a couple of different regulations, including likely-upcoming ones, that have people implementing these obnoxious pop-ups.

I’m probably the weirdo that would rather get sued than show a fricking cookie banner.

Speaking of cookies though, and things that I’m ignorant about, I asked this question not long ago:

My brain didn’t have an answer at the time. If I was pressed on it, I’d probably answer that it’s just snake oil, and that those checkboxes don’t actually do anything.

From the thread, the answer seems to be that most sites use cookies to store your logged-in user session. Cookies have expiration dates. The “Remember me?” option makes the cookie have a longer expiration date than if you didn’t check it.

The whole thread there is pretty fun. Lots of useful things and lots more jokes. I’m on board with the idea that anytime you check that box, some server, somewhere, plays this.

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The New Klim Type Website is Impossibly Lovely

I’ve spent the last hour hunched over the new Klim Type foundry website with my arms outstretched as if it was a fire in a very dark cave. Klim Type makes and sells wondrous fonts — like Tiempos, and National 2 or Pitch — and this fresh redesign now showcases them in all their glory. Here’s an example of the type specimen from the Calibre typeface:

There’s a shocking amount of beautiful design in this little website and I particularly like the blog where Kris Sowersby recently wrote a wonderful essay about the design of their latest type release, Söhne, which looks into the design of the New York subway signage, too:

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Get the Best Domain Name for your New Website

(This is a sponsored post.)

If you’re on CSS-Tricks, we can probably bet that you’re in the process of building a really cool website. You’ve spent your time creating content, applying appropriate UX design techniques, coding it to perfection, and now you’re about ready to launch it to the world.

A great website deserves a domain name that represents all that you’ve built. With Hover, you have the flexibility to choose a domain name that truly reflects that. We offer not only the go-to domain name extensions, like .com and .org, or the familiar country code domain extensions, like .uk or .us, or .ca, but also the more niche extensions. We have .dev for developers, .design for designers, and .dog for your dog (yes, really!).

We have hundreds of domain names to choose from and all eligible domains come with free Whois privacy protection. We’re proud of the modern UX/UI and fabulous customer service we offer our customers. Find your next domain name with Hover!

Get Started

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A Beginner’s Journey to Launching a Website

In September 2018, I was just a few months into my journey of learning web development. As I’m sure is the case with many new developers, it was a big task for me to learn not only the basic skills required, but also keeping current with the fast-moving industry. Just as I was getting to the level where it felt as though I could build a simple website, I started to realize that it was only the first step.

Opening up a few HTML pages stored locally on my laptop felt like a million miles away from being able to say to someone, “Hey, check out my website, live on the actual internet!”

But I did it! And the best part is that it wasn’t as scary, difficult or expensive as it first felt like it’d be.

It all started with me sending Chris an email, which he used to write an awesome article explaining everything in plain English.

At this point, I didn’t have a fully coded website — just an idea for a basic site that I was using to teach myself as I went along. I used the ongoing progress of my site as a push to learn how to get a live website quicker. But I’m sure you could do the whole thing with an HTML document that just says “Hello, world!”

I built my site using Gatsby, a static site generator powered by React. Building a website with these tools in a modular way felt really natural to me. The concept of reusable parts is something I’m familiar with in my career as a physical product designer and mechanical design engineer. It means that you can build in stages, like Lego, brick-by-brick, until you eventually have a life-sized castle you can invite your friends to visit!

This isn’t a guide. It’s my personal experience in the process of getting a website from my laptop to being live on the internet. Hopefully it’ll give you some hope that it’s possible and achievable, even by someone who has no formal training in web development and who has only been doing it for 12 months!

Domain registrars

Before I ever bought a domain, it seemed like a pretty serious thing to do. Owning a domain means being responsible for it. People will go to that address and eventually see content that you’ve put there.

I don’t know if everyone has the same experience, but I spent weeks deciding on a domain name before going for it. It almost became an obsession of mine for a while, searching online for acronym generators to try and be clever, spending hours on dictionary.com trying to find synonyms that were cool. In the end, I settled for my name and what I do: joshlong.design. I still smile a little when I see my name in the address bar.

Since reading Chris’ article, I’ve actually bought two domains from two different providers: a .com and a .design. I realize that I went against Chris’ advice of consolidating domain names at a single registrar, but I needed to shop around a bit to get a good deal on my .design domain. I only own two domain names — and one of them I don’t actually have any plans for just yet — so keeping on top of where I bought them isn’t a task. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I needed to login and manage the domain I use on a daily basis!

Buying a domain name was as simple as any other online shopping transaction. Nothing really huge or scary about it. I bought my .com through Namecheap, and my .design through Google Domains, and the process was pretty similar for both. All they needed was my name, address and payment details. Pretty standard stuff!

I don’t remember Google trying to sell me a load of extra packages. They seemed happy with me just buying a domain, though they did offer me free WHOIS protection which I snapped up because I didn’t want my contact details freely available for anyone who’s feeling nosey. However, as Chris warned might happen, the other registrar I went through tried really hard to sell me some extras like hosting, email, a VPN (whatever that is!) and SSL certificates.

Google Domains checkout is happy just to sell the domain name.
Namecheap tries to sell you all the additional services they offer before getting to the checkout.

I didn’t go for any of those extras. I already had a hosting plan, and you can use an alias through Gmail to “fake” having a me@mycoolsite.com email address. I honestly have no idea why I’d need a VPN, and the hosting I was going to go for gave me a free SSL certificate through Let’s Encrypt. So just the domain name, please!

Hosting

As Chris suggested it would be, choosing a host was a tad trickier than choosing and buying a domain name. But in the end, the web technology I used to build my site kind of guided me in a particular direction.

My site is built with Gatsby, which means it outputs straight-up static assets, basically as HTML and JavaScript files. That means that I didn’t need a host that offered a server (in my most super smart authoritative voice), especially for WordPress with a MySQL database and Apache server, 6 cores @ 3.6 Ghz, 4GB RAM, 5TB bandwidth, 5 IP Addresses and 500GB SSD Storage, etc.

All that jargon goes straight over my head. All I wanted to do was upload my files to the internet and go to my domain to see them all compiled and shiny. Should be easy, right?

Well it turns out that it actually was that easy. As there’s been so much hype around it recently, I thought I’d take a look at Netlify.

Netlify is recommended by Gatsby. They have really good documentation, and for my uses I felt as though I could comfortably stay within the free tier that they offer. In fact, at the moment I’m using 0.08% a month of the total bandwidth the free tier offers. Winning! Although maybe that means I’m not doing enough to get people to my site…

A quick aside about GitHub: I’m no expert at it and I don’t really know any of the etiquette it entails. All I did was sign up, create a new repository and follow the instructions that they give you. After that, every time I made a change to my site, I used the buttons in my code editor (VS Code) to commit and push my changes. It works, but I have no idea if it’s the correct or best practice way of doing it! I’m starting now, though, to understand how to use Git through the command line. I had no idea at all how to do it when I started, but I still muddled through it — and you can too!

Back to Netlify.

I signed up for an account (no credit card details required) and added a new site to Netlify by telling it about the GitHub repository where it was stored. When you’ve connected your repository, you can watch Netlify doing its thing deploying your site.

Part of the Netlify’s deploy process is that it shows your website going live in real time. That’s useful for debugging if something goes wrong, or just to watch and get excited like an impatient puppy waiting for a biscuit.
You also get a deploy summary to quickly see what files were uploaded during deployment.

After my site was deployed to the randomly generated URL Netlify gives you, I followed their instructions for adding a domain I had registered elsewhere. They make it so easy!

I assume the instructions will be different for different hosts, but basically, Netlify gave me some server addresses which I then had to go back to my domain registrar to enter them in. These addresses are referred to as nameservers, so look out for that word!

Netlify gives you your nameserver addresses and super easy to understand documentation to set them up with your domain registrar

Once I entered my Netlify nameservers into Google Domains, Google knew where to look to send people who type my domain name into their browser’s address bar. All I had to do after that was wait for some internet magics to happen in the background. That took around three hours for me but can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 24 hours from what I hear.

After that was done, I could type my shiny new domain name into the address bar and — just like that — I’m looking at my own site, hosted live on the internet!

Content Management Systems

The world of Content Management Systems (CMS) is vast, and confusing, but it can also be completely irrelevant to you if you want it to be. I felt so liberated when I realized you don’t have to worry about it. It was one less thing in my list of things to do.

My Gatsby site posts and pages (my content) was just a directory of markdown files and my CMS was my text editor. Chris and Dave talked about the idea of this in a recent episode of ShopTalk Show.

My website content is managed right in my text editor, VS Code.

Because I wanted to have a standard structure for different types of posts and pages, I eventually started using NetlifyCMS which is an open-source CMS which can be included in your site real fast. (Chris also did a video recently about NetlifyCMS for his confer-reference site… see what I did there?!) Now I can create blog posts and drafts from anywhere in the world, straight from my website, as long as I have an internet connection!

The same content managed through NetlifyCMS, which offers a great UI and GitHub integration

Asset Hosting (CDNs)

A Content Delivery Network (CDN), as Chris explained in his article, is basically somewhere on the internet where you store the files you need for your website to run, HTML, CSS, images, etc. When your website needs them, it goes to the CDN and grabs the files for your site to use.

From what I’ve read, it’s good practice to use a CDN, and because of the hosting decision I made, it’s not something I have to worry about – it’s included by Netlify as standard, for free!

Netlify has it’s own CDN where all of the files for your website are stored. When someone goes to your website, Netlify goes to its CDN and grabs the files. It’s amazingly quick, and makes your site feel so much smoother to navigate.

It’s a long journey, but you can do it!

There was a point, before I set off on the journey of getting my website live, where I tried to convince myself that it’s fine to just have local websites, as my career isn’t in web development. The reason for that was because the path felt like it would be difficult, long and expensive.

In fact, it was none of those things! You could get a website live on the internet for £0.99 (~$ 1.25 for you Americans) or less if you find a deal on a domain name. The domain name was my only expense because for the path I took for hosting, asset management and content management.

At a super basic level, the path looks like this..

Code > Buy Domain > Find/Buy Hosting > Update Nameservers > Upload Code > Live!

If you happen to use the same vendor to buy your domain name and your hosting, you can skip the nameserver step. (Netlify sells domains too!)

It’s definitely possible for anyone to get their website live on the internet. There’s a process that you need to follow, but if you take your time, it can be relatively straightforward. It’s a really wonderful feeling, getting a thing you built in front of people, and it’s honestly something that I thought I’d never be able to do. But it’s certainly within everyone’s reach!

Something I’ve come to really admire over this process (and thousands of Google searches) is the willingness of everyone in the web community to collaborate and help, accepting me and my questions as I tried to learn what I was doing. It’s something that I wish was more common in my own industry.

I’d love to hear other people’s experiences getting their first website live. What were your pitfalls and triumphs? Was it as scary as it first seemed?

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A Website is a Car and Not a Book

I’ve been wondering for a good long while why it feels like web design and development isn’t respected as much as native app development= and why the front-end role in many organizations is seen as a nice-to-have rather than a vital part of the business. Why is it so hard to see that this gig we call “front-end development” is crucial for business and even the day-to-day lives of users?

Is it just me that feels this way?

We depend on front-end developers to help us file our taxes, buy our food and clothes, pay our bills, and entertain us. We find new music, we read stories and play games, and we fall in love… all on websites made up of nothing more than HTML, CSS, and JavaScript written by front-enders.

I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but you can see organizations everywhere that de-prioritize front-end development. There are slow websites! Ad-tech junk everywhere! Poor responsive interfaces! Divs used for buttons! Inaccessible forms! The problems on the web today are daunting and overwhelming to those who care about both good front-end development and the health of the web itself.

What’s the cause? Well, I certainly don’t believe that it’s malice. Nobody wants to make slow websites or broken interfaces and nobody (I think) is intentionally trying to break the web. So, why do we all end up doing things that go against what we know to be best practices? What is it about the complexities of web design that is so hard to grasp?

Again, I’m not being mean here – this is an honest question.

I got coffee with my pal Lindsay Grizzard the other day and we were talking about this stuff, asking each other these and other really tough questions related to our work. We both see problems in this industry and it drives us both a little mad to some extent.

Anyway, I asked Lindsay that question: what is it about web design that makes it so difficult to understand? She posited that the issue is that most people believe web design is like designing a book. Heck, we still call these things web pages. But Lindsay argued that building a modern website is nothing like designing a book; it’s more like designing a car.

Lindsay and I looked at the cars parked on the street next to us: they have to be mass produced and they have to be tested. Each has to be built up of perfectly identical components that need to fit together in a very specific format. There are technical issues – limitations of physics, money, and time – that require confronting on a daily basis. You can’t point at one part of the car and have an opinion about aesthetics because that one component changes the relationships of the others. You have to understand that you’re looking at an immensely complicated system of moving parts.

I love that comparison though, even if it’s not particularly helpful to give others insight into what we do: a website is a car and not a book.

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