WordPress offers lots of cool looking templates but I found that the dashboard for many of the free ones usually does not include search engine optimization options for the meta tags Google searches for, meaning the developer must be creative in writing the blog so that search engines like Google find the important search terms relating to your business. I am always surprised when visiting an artists’ website and the title bar to their page says, “Home” or “Index” – unless your name is “Home”, there is little chance Google will find you. Many artists get their own name as their domain name, which is better than a clever made up name but then customers have to already know your name in order to find you on the Internet. If you sell abstract expressionist oil paintings in Philadelphia, then the title tag, description meta tag and the written content has to spell it out, described in words for Google and the lesser search engines to find your site. The Copyright Meta Tag is missing on many artists websites as well, this simple code helps protect your rights even if you forget to say it in writing on your website. Tip: Option G on your keyboard = ©. The free WordPress templates may not have these important search engine optimization options or even eCommerce capability but Thesis, a template that costs $87 for individuals at DIYThemes.com, includes superior seo capability even if your website does have a distinct WYSIWYG look that all the customization in the world won’t disguise. The WP eStore plug-in costs extra.
WordPress Thesis with WP eStore is offered as a DIY option to having a professional designer create your web site, there’s even a paid membership how-to web site called Build Your Own Business Website with an extensive series of step by step videos teaching how to build a business eCommerce website using the Thesis template from the ground up. BYOWebsite claims you can have a website up and running in 8 hours. And you can, if you are organized and ready to go with your product inventory broken into categories, individual products identified and named, written descriptions of each of your products, shipping and taxes determined, web ready images of your products prepared, thumbnail images for teasers designed, sizes, customization and options determined, search engine description exquisitely crafted, the all important pricing decided, return policy and guarantees written out, disclaimers and thank you page composed, and (ugh) your bio and resume up to date. Don’t forget the logo, Thesis has the option to put whatever you want at the top of the page, the first thing your visitor will see, as Tim Gunn says, “Make it work!”
In my opinion the Thesis template and WP eStore plug-in is not a web design solution for beginners, the developer needs to understand how to produce images for the web with Photoshop or equivalent, understand page hierarchy and site mapping, be well versed writing seo code assuring important search terms are prominent to search engines and be open to learning how to change CSS, use Firefox Firebug and edit HTML fixes. Even the BYOWebsite tutorials present Thesis with WP eStore as an intermediate project for designers with some experience. But if you follow the step by step videos you will learn how to develop your product categories and descriptions, how to layout your navigation, design product posts and pages and build an efficient shopping cart system that says to your visitor, “Art for sale!” and click here to Buy Now.
DoN Brewer, Contributing Writer, Philly.SideArts