Download: MP3 (33 MB)
This week’s episode is all about how to setup a website for your podcast. There are some great benefits to having a website, and I think learning the basics of web design is a great investment if you want to grow an audience. There’s nothing that feels as good as building your own place on the internet, and thanks to options like WordPress and Squarespace, it’s never been easier to build your own website.
In this episode, I’m going to introduce you to the best online services for creating a website for your podcast, regardless of your budget or experience level. If you’re brand new to web design, there are going to be a lot of things you’ll need to learn, but you can do it. I believe in you.
Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins
- Web design is a skill that will be valuable for the rest of your life. It’s a great investment of your time.
- A website is a great place to link to your show in iTunes, ask for iTunes reviews, host your show notes, and give your audience a chance to learn more about you and get in touch.
- Email newsletters are the best way to speak directly to your hardcore fans.
- Choose a domain name for your site that is easy to spell and easy to remember.
- There’s beauty in simplicity. Strive to keep your site as simple and clean as possible.
- 1:23 Back in 2009, when I was 24 years old, I decided that I would learn how to make websites and do graphic design so I could have a job I could tour with a band (I was an aspiring professional drummer at the time). I took a class at my local college called Introduction to Web Design, which covered the basics – planning a site, HTML/CSS, and graphic design. I finished the class and setup a blog on a wordpress.com site, and eventually moved over to a self-hosted WordPress site.
- 2:26 Shortly after that, I got my first client; someone asked me to build a small WordPress site for their business. It was really challenging, but I learned a lot from that experience. I kept learning and making sites for myself and a few other small businesses, and eventually I learned enough to get a job as a jr. front-end web developer at a web design agency in Fort Worth, TX.
- 3:06 I was listening to podcasts to learn more about web design (shows like Shoptalk and Let’s Make Mistakes). Eventually I transitioned to editing podcasts as a freelancer because it fit my goals for working remotely and I loved helping people make shows, but I’m still really glad I invested the time to learn how to make websites. If I hadn’t have learned how to make a website for myself, I don’t think my podcast editing business would have been successful enough to support me full-time (I got a ton of new clients after my site became #1 on Google search results for “podcast editor”).
Web design is a skill that will be valuable for the rest of your life. It’s a great investment of your time.
Why You Need a Website for Your Podcast
- 4:14 Technically, you don’t need a website to publish a podcast. You could create a RSS feed, host your MP3 files somewhere, and submit the RSS feed address to iTunes, but updating that RSS feed will be more trouble than it’s worth, and there are some other benefits to having your own website.
- 5:12 A website is like a home for your podcast. It’s a place people can visit to see the new episodes and learn more about you and get in touch if they have feedback or questions. Making personal connections is critical for building a dedicated audience. Social media is great, but you can (and should) have an email newsletter signup form on your site which will allow you to reach your listeners directly every week or whenever you have new content to share.
Email newsletters are the best way to speak directly to your hardcore fans.
- 5:45 Sean and I talked about email lists in the previous episode. Email auto-responders are a great way to ask your audience what they’re struggling with, which can be a great source of possible topics for your show. Mailchimp is a great service if you want to start an email list, it’s free for your first 2000 subscribers and has lots of tutorials to help you get started.
- 6:41 If you’re going to be interviewing people on your podcast, having a website you can send them to gives them a chance to learn more about you, and they’ll see that you take podcasting seriously, which can help sway them to say yes to investing time in coming on your show.
A website is a great place to link to your show in iTunes, ask for iTunes reviews, host your show notes, and give your audience a chance to learn more about you and get in touch.
How to Buy a Domain Name for Your Website
- 7:20 If you’re going to create a website, you’ll need to buy a domain name for it. For example, you visited thepodcastdude.com to see these show notes; I bought this domain name from Hover a few years ago. There are a lot of places you can buy domain names (Hover, EasyDNS, Dreamhost, and Namecheap), but I’ve found Hover to be the best experience, and they have great customer support. You’ll also need to learn about DNS (Domain Name System), which I’m not going to go into here, but here’s a video tutorial for you to check out.
Chose a domain name for your site that is easy to spell and easy to remember.
Important Things to Learn if You Want to Make a Website
- 8:31 Before I became a podcast editor, I taught myself how to make websites. I won’t lie and tell you it’s easy (it’s not). It is something anyone can learn, and there are so many tools that make it easier to get a good looking, functional site up and running with a little effort. Time invested in learning how to make a website is time well spent. Basic web design skills are essential for any kind of business or creative pursuit. Here are the things you should focus on if you have no previous experience with making a website:
- 9:01 1. Learn HTML and CSS. HTML is short for Hyper Text Markup Language. That may sound scary at first, but it’s simply a language for describing the elements that make up web pages using ordinary text. HTML is not a complex programming language. Every web page is actually a HTML file, which is really just a plain text file with a .html file extension. HTML tags tell a web browser if text should be a normal text or a headline, bold or italics, or if it should be a link. You can also use certain tags to display images on your site or identify different sections of your site (headers, main content areas, footers, sidebars, etc).
- 9:33 CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. It’s code that tells the web browser how the content on your website is supposed to look (fonts, colors, layout, etc). If you setup a site using WordPress or Squarespace, you probably won’t need to write much CSS code, but it’s still a good idea to learn how it works so you can control how your site looks if you really want to dig in and customize a pre-made template. Here’s a link to a great free introduction to HTML/CSS and web design course from Codecademy, it’ll take a couple hours to complete and it’s a great introduction to the basics.
- 10:19 2. Learn the basics of graphic design. For most people, learning how to put text on top of a picture will get you 90% of the way there. There are some free or cheap options for graphic design programs; do a Google search for “free graphic software for mac or windows” and you’ll see some options. I started with a $30 Mac program called Pixelmator. If you just need to put some text on top of a photo, it’s perfect.
- 11:06 If you’ve never designed any graphics, there are a couple things you should focus on learning. The most important things are typography, white space and layout, contrast, and color theory. Since I don’t consider myself a great designer, I’m not going to go into too much depth here, but I’ve included links to tutorials because design is important. Invest some time in learning the basics, or hire a professional designer to work with you if you can afford it.
The Best Options For a Podcast Website
- 11:22 There are some great companies that provide easy to setup solutions that will save you from having to code your own website from scratch. The best option for you will depend on a few things; your budget, your experience level, and how much customization you want to do.
- 12:34 I love Squarespace, and it’s incredibly easy to setup and get started. At $96/year or $10/month, it’s a little more expensive than some of the other options, but the ease of use makes it a great value for anyone who wants a beautiful, responsive website but doesn’t want to spend time writing code or messing with maintenance or hosting. Here’s a tutorial for setting up a podcast on a Squarespace site.
- 16:45 I need to mention here that whatever website or template that you use needs to be responsive. Responsive Web Design is a phrase coined by Ethan Marcotte in May of 2010, and it completely changed how people make websites. Back in the day, most web developers coded websites in a static width (600, 800, or 1024 pixels wide were common sizes). When iPhones and other smart phones became popular, they had screens that were much narrower, which meant that users had to pinch and zoom while viewing a site on a mobile device, and the text was often too small to read comfortably. Responses sites are coded to look great on any size screen or device, which is really important because people use mobile phones and tablets as much (or more) than desktops these days. Using a non-responsive site on a mobile device is not a nice experience for your users, so make sure that any website template you use is responsive. Also, Google recently started penalizing non-responsive sites, so if your site isn’t responsive, it won’t show up as high in Google search results.
- 15:40 Soundcloud recently open up their podcasting features to the public. I took a look at it yesterday, and it looks like Soundcloud is the best free option for hosting your podcast, although you won’t get a website you can customize. Since their free plan only allows you to upload three hours of audio per month, you’ll need to upgrade to their paid plan ($6/month for 6 hours, or $15/month for unlimited uploads) if you plan on producing more than 3 hours of audio content per month. It’s the simplest way to get started and get your show into iTunes, and you can always create a site later and embed the episodes on your site by copying player code provided by Soundcloud.
- 17:21 WordPress.org (which is not the same as the free wordpress.com sites) is web software you can use to create a website or blog, and WordPress sites are the cheapest option for a completely customizable website. A downside is that it may be difficult to setup and frustrating to use or customize for anyone brand new to setting up a website. You don’t have to pay to use WordPress and you can get many great pre-made, customizable website templates for free, but you do have to pay for hosting (usually less than $60/year). Most website hosting companies have what’s called 1-click WordPress install, which just means that they’ll do the complicated setup process for installing WordPress on one of their servers and then give you access credentials to login to your new WordPress site. Some of the hosting companies I’ve used (and recommend) are Bluehost, Host Gator, and WP Engine. If you want to learn more, check out this tutorial about getting started with a self-hosted WordPress site.
- 19:33 You’ll need a WordPress plugin called Powerpress to create and maintain a RSS feed for your podcast.
- 20:03 I’ve started recommending Simplecast to new podcasters just because of how easy it is to setup and publish a podcast using Simplecast. For $12/month, you’ll get an easy to use web interface to create a podcast and you’ll get a website that you can use a custom domain name with. As of right now, you can’t add an email signup form to a Simplecast site, but I spoke with their developer today and he promises that feature is coming soon. It’s really easy to add new episodes, and Simplecast has a great stats system so you can see how many people have downloaded your shows, what devices they’re using, number of listens per week, top ten episodes, and more. Another feature I love is multiple admins, so you can give other people access to your podcast which is great if you are going to work with a podcast editor, producer or show note writer.
- 22:32 Depending on the service you end up choosing to build your website with, you might need to host your MP3 files on a separate server. For example, many WordPress hosting companies set a monthly limit on the bandwidth your site can use, and if you host your podcast files on the same server as your WordPress site and you get a large number of downloads every week, you could hit that bandwidth limit and face additional costs or termination of service. If you decide to use Squarespace, Soundcloud, or Simplecast, you can skip this section as they all offer unlimited bandwidth for podcast downloads.
- 23:03 Libsyn. Libsyn is a file hosting service that can also generate an RSS feed for you. Prices start at $5/month for 50mb of space, but you’ll need to spend $15/month or more if you plan on podcasting weekly unless your shows are usually less than 15 minutes long. Libsyn also offers stats and fast file delivery, so that’s one reason to host your MP3 files on Libsyn instead of your website hosting server.
- 24:04 Amazon S3. For the very first podcast I ever setup, I created a page on my existing WordPress site, hosted the MP3 files on Amazon S3, and used the Power Press plugin for the RSS feed. I used Amazon S3 for file hosting because my hosting company had a monthly bandwidth limit that I didn’t want to hit, and because I learned that the MP3 files would download faster from Amazon S3. Amazon charges a very small amount for bandwidth (just a couple pennies for each gigabyte), and they even offer a free tier for new customers (up to 5gb per month). It’s fairly complicated to setup, so I wouldn’t recommend hosting on Amazon S3 unless you consider yourself fairly tech savvy. Here’s a tutorial for you brave folks.
Designing a Look for Your Website
- 25:34 If you have no experience with designing a look for your website, keep it simple. Pick one or two colors for accents and stick with them. Go with a simple light or dark background and use light text for a dark background or dark text for a light background. Don’t use a lot of flashy or complicated pictures or graphics on your site.
- 26:38 There’s a famous German designer, Dieter Rams, who is world renown and considered one of the best designers alive. His work inspired Apple’s best designer, Jony Ive, and many of Apple’s products are very similar to Deiter’s designs. Dieter wrote a great list of design principles which he calls the The Ten Commandments of Design. It’s a great list, so I highly recommend reading it. The tenth item on the list is, “Good design is as little design as possible.” The main idea here is less is more. Focus on what matters; the content.
There’s beauty in simplicity. Strive to keep your site as simple and clean as possible.
More Resources for Learning Web Design: