By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
What would the modern world be without websites? Web designers are the new construction workers, the builders of the virtual world which occasions nearly all of our behavior in 2018.
Unfortunately, many people and companies end up paying thousands of dollars to get set up on the web, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As behavior analysts, a web presence is critical if we are to grow our companies and disseminate the science to the larger world. That’s what Skinner’s vision was all about.
Luckily, in 2018, its easier than ever to get started, and you don’t have to shell out your life savings either. In my own company, at bSci21.org, my team and I have operated within the WordPress environment literally every day for several years. In the process, I’ve learned some things, and have a few tips for behavior analysts wishing to get a website via WordPress.
WordPress claims to power a quarter of the Internet, and for good reason – it is a powerful platform that utilizes a database of thousands of plugins that will allow your website to do nearly anything you can imagine…and it does so without requiring much in the way of programming skills. In fact, when we build sites for behavior analysts, a short video overview of the back end of their new site is all it takes to get clients running the site on their own.
Technically, WordPress comes in two varieties – WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The latter is also known as “self-hosted” WordPress. You can read about all of the differences between the two here, but in essence self-hosted WordPress gives you unlimited flexibility for your site. If you are serious at all about having a professional and functional website, consider self-hosted WordPress.
Below are three simple things you should do to get a website for your ABA company.
Your website needs a place to live.
Before you start building your website, it needs a place to live on the Internet. This is called a “host.” A variety of hosting options exist, which you can check out here. bSci21.org is hosted through GoDaddy Managed WordPress, which has a variety of plans based on your specific needs.
When you purchase a hosting plan, you will often have the option to purchase a domain name at the same time. A domain name is simply the name of your website. “bSci21.org” is our domain name, for example. After you purchase your plan, you are then able to login to the back end of your new WordPress site. Your site will have a domain name made up of random letters and numbers so the public can’t find it until you’re ready to “go live.”
Your website needs a basic structure.
Once your site has a place to live (i.e., a host), it needs a basic structure or a “theme.” You can think of a theme as analogous to the frame of a house – it gives the site a basic appearance and functionality within which many other parameters can be tweaked, according to your personal tastes.
A great place to check out themes is at WordPress.org. You will immediately notice that you can go two directions on themes – free themes or commercially supported themes. If you are at all serious about having a good looking and customizable site that comes with an abundance of support, consider purchasing a commercially supported theme. The style of theme will differ depending on your type of business and your branding. Most themes come with a blog feature that you can turn on or off. The style of theme at bSci21.org is known as a “magazine” theme, which is useful for media outlets.
Your website needs functionality.
So now your site has a house, and a frame, and now it needs furniture and appliances. Enter “plugins” – the feature of self-hosted WordPress from which its power derives. The enormous database of over 50,000 plugins is searchable to the public here, and you will have a similar interface through the back end of your site.
I like to summarize the power of plugins with the cheesy voicemail line from Jimmy MacElroy in the Will Ferrell movie Blades of Glory – “If you can dream it you can do it.” Opportunity for customization abounds with plugins, from Search Engine Optimization, creating your own social network, memberships and content restriction, embedded contact forms, eCommerce, and much, much more.
Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world, bSci21.org. bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series. Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar. He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues. Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas. Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org