In the last couple of weeks, I have launched the website for OK English, my girlfriend Joanna’s Online English Language School focussed on Polish students, that want to learn English or improve their conversational skills to become both more fluent and confident.
The website runs on WordPress and is built with the Genesis Framework by Studiopress. Genesis allows me to skip most of the HTML templating process and start with the styling right away. I have found that – as long as the design doesn’t move too far away from the “standard” website formula – this can speed up the development process a lot. Although I must admit, that sometimes I’d love to have a bit more control over the HTML.
This post will showcase a couple of features that were realised for OK English.
Web Design & Photography
Originally, I was thinking about using a pre-made theme for this website, since we wanted to launch it quickly and without too much work. However, after looking around the Online English School website landscape, I thought putting just a little bit more effort into the looks of the website could go a long way and make OK English stand out a bit.
I also took a couple of nicely lit photographs of Joanna and masked them to later put them on some blurry backgrounds of bright interiors. Using original photography instead of stock photos, makes the website look much more authentic and professional than most of the competition.
Online Payments with Ninja Forms
One thing I always wanted to do is set up online payments with WordPress. I had done a simple payment form before but had to shelf it again because of the unnecessary VAT laws on digital goods inside the EU. As a small business owner – especially if you’re just launching your products – it’s just not worth dealing with registering for VAT. It’s a pain in the ass. So instead, I moved all digital goods over to Gumroad, which takes care of VAT for you for a 10% fee or so. Fair enough.
With this website, the product is a digital good but a service, so I could finally dive into online payments again. First, I designed the form in Sketch and then set it up in WordPress with Ninja Forms and the PayPal Express Payment Gateway. I haven’t tried other solutions, yet – and Ninja Forms is definitely far from perfect – but for a small form like I needed it worked pretty well.
In my form, the user can select one of three packages as well as their method of payment (PayPal, bank transfer) before they proceed. Depending on what they chose they will either get either a confirmation of purchase or the account details to make their bank transfer. If you want to buy online English lessons, it can’t get much simpler than that.
Since Joanna already runs the pretty successful blog The Blond Travels, she knew that having a business website alone is not gonna make her climb up the Google ladder. That’s why I also designed a blog template to go along with the main pages. It’s pretty noninvasive and the focus here lays primarily on the text. No distracting sidebars etc. The blog is supposed to make her website more visible in the Google search results and maybe bring in some affiliate money later on.
If you want your business to skyrocket on Google, it’s important to keep in mind that the best-looking website won’t help you, if you don’t have the right content. With OK English, we took a content first approach and set up all the sites ahead of finishing the design in the standard WordPress theme. This way, Google was already crawling the site a week ahead of its launch.
That also means that the website is far from finished. As I said before, we wanted to launch the site as quickly as possible. That’s why I had to take a few shortcuts here and there. For example: When the site launched, we didn’t have any blog articles prepared. So we launched without the final blog article design. Only when the first post was about to be published, I started to finish the design.
The current website is definitely an MVP and far from being finished. As the business and its reader/customer base grows, I will have to add a couple more things like a CTA to sign up for Online English Lessons inside the blog posts or a shop system for online courses.