Posts

Why 80% of Websites Are The Same

1. Yelp is Just a “Blog” with Ratings and a Map

  • The posts are the same.
  • The descriptions are the same.
  • The avatar image is the same.
  • Yelp adds ratings and map functionality!

Similarities: The skeleton of both of these sites starts the same: Medium is a list of blog posts, Yelp is a list of restaurants.

Differences: Yelp then adds ratings, and maps.

2. Airbnb is like Yelp With Payment Processing

  • The posts are the same.
  • The Google Map API functionality is the same.
  • The concept of search is the same.
  • Showing a logged in user on the top right-hand corner is the same.
  • Airbnb let’s you put in a credit card and make payments.

Similarities: Yelp is a site that categorizes restaurants, Airbnb is a site that categorizes vacation homes.

Differences: Airbnb allows you to send money via credit card to the person who created the listing.

3. Twitter is just Public Facebook

  • The posts are the same. Note that Facebook calls their posts “Posts”, Twitter calls their posts “Tweets.” But it’s basically the same stuff.
  • Both sites are two column sites.
  • This concept of user pages is the same.
  • Twitter just allows functionality to make the posts public. Whereas Facebook is private.

Similarities: Both Twitter and Facebook allows users to make posts.

Differences: Facebook is a private version of Twitter, and has some differences on how two people connect: On Twitter you click to “follow” a user, on Facebook you “add friend” and you’ll need a confirmation from the other person.

4. WordPress is just WordPress

Millions of websites that you see around the web use WordPress: they’re just post-based layouts with differences in styling.

  • The posts are the same.
  • Almost everything is the same.
  • The big change here is the layout (ie. the HTML & CSS Layout)

Similarities: Most WordPress sites are the 80% the same.

Differences: The HTML, CSS and PHP (ie. the site layout) changes slightly for each new theme. In addition to that, each site may have differences in plug-ins that the developer chose.

The Two Most Common Types of Sites:

When you look across all these examples, most websites can either be understood one of two sites: a Blog or a Web App.

1. The Blog (80% of all websites):

  • One-to-many: one person writes blog posts, and many people are reading them.
  • Only admin users can sign in and create new content.
  • Examples: WordPress sites, Squarespace, About.me sites, simple landing pages.

2. The Web App

  • Many-to-Many: many people are writing posts, and many people are reading them.
  • Anyone can sign up and create new content.
  • Examples: Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter, Ebay, etc

Beyond Themes

If it’s all so simple, what are web developers doing all day!?

The last 20% is the tricky part. That’s why it’s free to get an 80% WordPress blog, and it’s $4000 to add your company’s face to the header, SEO lead tracking, and a customized payment page. Because as soon as you want some weird customizations, you need to hire someone.

Luckily, each coding framework comes with a library of plug-ins to make life easier. (FYI — Plug-ins are free code that you can use to install specific features to your existing project) For each type of website framework, you have a corresponding set of plug-in tools:

  • Ruby on Rails: Gems
  • Python: Packages
  • WordPress: Plug-ins

Did you just create a “Yelp”-like site, and now you want to take payments? There’s a plug-in for that.

Take a Look at These Patterns

In the new One Month Python class Eric Neuman (the teacher) and myself (producer) put some thought into how you can learn these common Website patterns.

In the class, we convert a static page to a landing page, and a Blog into a Web App. We also deploy some customizations like the Google Map API, and ratings.

Check out the projects. What patterns can you notice?

I’m Oversimplifying — Don’t Freak Out

I’m sure some developers on Hacker News are reading this saying “Facebook is SO MUCH MORE complex than Twitter! It’s impossible to compare the two.”

Yep, I get it.

Comparing the two is not very different from saying, “The Beatle’s Let it Be is only four chords.” It’s a true statement, but admittedly the art is in how you play those chords.

You can play Beatles songs with just four chords, but to become The Beatles, it might take a lifetime. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t master the basic chords and begin to play — everyone should learn the basic chords. And who knows? You might become the next Big Thing.


Ready to start learning? Check out these courses:
One Month Ruby | One Month Python

5 Of The Best Blogging Platforms

Are you ready to kickoff your content marketing strategy, but confused about which platform to choose to start your blog? If so, then you’re in luck. In this post, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of each option so that you can get a clear idea of the best blogging platform for you. A strong blogging strategy can help elevate your personal brand or business as an authority within your space.

WordPress

WordPress, a popular CMS (content management system), is the most widely-used on the internet today and one of the best blogging platforms available. Technology profiler BuiltWith has identified that 15.8 million websites currently use it, compared to the next most popular CMS system Joomla, used by under 2.7 million websites. Web Technology Surveys found that of websites using content management systems, 58.7% are using WordPress.

There are two versions of WordPress. There is the hosted version, WordPress.com, which allows you to create a blog without the need for a domain, web hosting, or technical hassle. While this is the easiest and least expensive of options, it’s not as flexible as using the WordPress software on your own hosted domain.

Using the WordPress software on your own hosted domain allows you to have full control of the design, functionality, and content on your website. Thanks to its popularity, you can find thousands of themes (templates / designs) to get just the look you want for your website. You can also find thousands of designers who can create something custom or customize a theme that you like into something unique.

You can also find thousands of plugins to enhance the functionality of your website. This means that you can do pretty much anything on your WordPress website, from customizing the search engine optimization settings to adding contact or email opt-in forms to your blog sidebar. You could even start your website as a blog and expand it to include anything you want, including an ecommerce website, forum, membership site, or social network.

As far as content goes, you have the ability to backup your content on a daily basis through the use of plugins, services, and hosting companies. Unlike people who only post to their Facebook page or other social profiles, you never have to worry about waking up one day to having lost your entire profile and thus, all of your content.

In short, there is very little you can’t do with WordPress software on your own hosted domain. This makes it the most scalable platform for your personal brand or business. You won’t have to worry about hitting a limitation that would lead you to having to move all of your content to another platform.

For those who do not like the idea of dealing with the technology-aspect of WordPress, there are plenty of options. You can choose WordPress-specific hosting companies like WP Engine or Synthesis, both of which cater only to WordPress websites and include security, backups, and superior WordPress software support.

This means that you can have the full benefits and features of WordPress with little technology hassle. You can learn more about using the WordPress software on your own domain at WordPress.org, as well as see a showcase of some of the top sites using WordPress.

WordPress.com

While we mentioned that WordPress.com is not going to be as flexible as using the WordPress software on your own hosted website, it is the next best bet if WordPress sounds good to you, but you are just not ready to deal with web hosting and seeking out themes and plugins for your website. And it’s a good one for people who want to have the option of easily moving their content from a hosted platform to the WordPress software down the road.

Here’s what you need to know about using WordPress.com:

  • There are 374 themes to choose from, 194 of which are free.
  • Certain features, such as using your own domain name (you.com versus you.wordpress.com) or having an ad-free website, will require you to upgrade to paid plans starting at $99 per year.
  • You can’t install plugins designed for websites using the WordPress software on WordPress.com websites, which will limit your options for things like custom opt-in forms, custom search optimization, and more.

One of the biggest challenges for those who intend to eventually move from WordPress.com to the WordPress software on their own domain are the links. WordPress.com uses a specific link structure (you.wordpress.com/date/post-name/ or you.com/date/post-name/). If you can’t use the same URLs when you move from WordPress.com to your own domain, you will lose the links you have received to your content and the social sharing counts (social proof) for your content.

In short, if your goal is to simply get your content going on a platform that would be easy to transfer to WordPress software down the road, WordPress.com is your second best bet to just using the WordPress software from the start.

WordPress.com does offer an export of your content, should there be any need to do so. With any hosted platform, it’s best to get a backup of your content regularly, in case you should lose your account or the platform should go out of service.

Medium

Medium is a hosted platform that has taken off in the last year and quickly become a top blogging platform. It’s beautiful and minimalistic design allows you to focus on what matters most in your content marketing strategy: your content. There are no themes to pick, plugins to install, or features to toggle. You simply write your content.

Signing up for Medium is easy to — you can use your Twitter or Facebook account and get the added bonus of automatically building an audience based on the people you are connected with on those accounts. As new people join, if they are connected with you on Twitter or Facebook, they will also be connected with you on Medium.

Depending on their settings, anyone connected to you on Medium will be alerted to new posts you write and posts you recommend on Medium. This means that if someone recommends your post, their audience will be notified about it. Hence, you’re getting built-in content promotion.

With that said, there are no customization options for your Medium blog. You can’t add opt-in forms to a sidebar that doesn’t exist. You can’t add your own social sharing buttons. You can’t customize the SEO fields. It’s simply a place to create and consume content.

While that’s not a bad thing, especially for those who are looking to simply build exposure for their personal brand, it may not be the best thing for businesses. Especially those looking to convert readers into customers, as the best you can do is link back to your main website.

Medium does offer an export of your content, should there be any need to do so. With any hosted platform, it’s best to get a backup of your content regularly, in case you should lose your account or the platform should go out of service.

LinkedIn Publisher

LinkedIn has been allowing industry experts to blog on their network for a while, and recently, the option has been expanded to most LinkedIn members. To use LinkedIn’s blogging feature, you will just need to find the Publish a post button on your personal profile news feed. It will be right next to the buttons to share an update or photo on LinkedIn.

This brings to light the first major limitation of LinkedIn Publisher — you can’t use it with company pages. With Medium, you can simply sign up using your company’s Twitter profile. But on LinkedIn, you have to use your personal profile.

While that limits you from creating a blog for your business using LinkedIn, it does allow you to tap into your personal profile connections in a unique way. LinkedIn sends a notification to all of your first-degree connections (people you have connected with on LinkedIn) when you publish a post on your personal profile.

Your connections don’t have to opt-in to this, and the only way to opt-out is to unsubscribe from the notifications dropdown itself. This makes your first post on LinkedIn special in the sense that everyone will get notified about your first publication. After that, it will depend on whether you have left enough of an impression for your connections to stay subscribed to your notifications.

So be sure to make your first post on LinkedIn count so that people will want to hear about your next one.

Similar to Medium, you have no real customization options for your LinkedIn blog. You can add images and text to each piece of content, but there are no themes to choose from or sidebars to build. Again, the only call to action you would be able to include would be a link back to your website.

Another downside to using the LinkedIn platform is the fact that you have no real control over your content. If LinkedIn decided to kill off their blogging platform, downloading your content and importing it to another platform would not be very seamless.

Facebook Notes

Facebook offers a feature called Notes for profiles and pages to use to share long-form content. The key difference at the moment is that Notes for profiles has been upgraded to a Medium-like format. Notes for pages is still using the format that existed years ago, which is clunky at best.

This means that you can blog using Notes on your personal profile or business page. While notes tend to get a little better visibility in the Facebook news feed, it isn’t much and your connections are not notified of a new note publication unless they have explicitly signed up for notifications from you.

For those looking to build up their reputation specifically on Facebook, Notes are a good way to go. You even get a little content promotion from the Notes page, where people can see notes published by their connections.

Similarly to Medium and LinkedIn, there are no customization options for your Facebook Notes, other than adding images and text to each of your posts. Calls to action can only be made with a link back to your website.

Also, exporting your content must be done through a full export of your entire account history. If Facebook decides to kill off Notes, you will have to export all of your notes and re-enter them on a new platform.

Using All of the Platforms for Distribution

There is an alternative to choosing one platform over the other, and that is to choose them all. While it might sound a little overwhelming at first, the goal isn’t to create unique content for each of these platforms. Instead, you will create one unique piece of content on your main platform and distributing that content on the other platforms mentioned above (Medium, LinkedIn Publisher, and Facebook).

Here’s why you would want to do this. You are going to have fans that prefer discovering content on Medium. You are going to have people who are connected to you on LinkedIn, but not anywhere else. You are going to have people who scroll down your Facebook profile page looking for more info about you.

Distributing content from your main blogging platform to other platforms allow you to get more reach for your content. All you have to do is find a way to summarize the main post and link back to it in posts on the other platforms.

You can expand this strategy to include some of the other best blog platforms too including Tumblr, Blogspot, Quora, and pretty much any other platform that allows you to share long-form content. In addition to reaching your audiences on those networks, you will be building links that Google search can follow back to your main piece of content to index it.

So instead of considering an all or nothing strategy, consider an all strategy instead. The more you distribute and promote, the better your overall content marketing results will be.

What is WordPress?

Key Takeaways

WordPress makes it easy to create websites.

How easy? That depends on your skill level.

  • At its core, WordPress is really just an easy way for you to make updates to your website. You can update text and images, and create new pages without touching a line of code.
  • WordPress is actually two things: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
  • WordPress.com is for non-developers. It’s where you go to launch a cat blog or a portfolio site. You can’t do much customization over there.
  • WordPress.org is for developers. With WordPress.org, you’ll get complete customization over your site. WordPress.com is currently being used by CNN, Time, TED, and millions of other people.

Your Assignment

Decide if you want to learn WordPress.com or WordPress.org. Spend 10 minutes browsing the two sites to learn more.

If you want to learn WordPress.com, start your first site for free today by registering at WordPress.com. If you’d like to learn WordPress.org, check out the resources below.

Additional Resources to Learn WordPress Today

Digging Into WordPress is a great book for getting started with WordPress.org

WordPress Step-by-Step is a free guide for building your first WordPress.com theme. Just click on the titles to get started with each lesson. Chris Castiglione made this (that’s me).