Want a Website? Here’s How in a Nutshell!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The powers that be tell us we, as authors, need to be “hooked up” to the available social networks. But how to do that is confusing to many. Building a website is particularly difficult.  My new website www.sandrawarren.com launched a few weeks ago. So, while it’s all still fresh in my mind, I’m going to attempt to break down the process in simple terms, sharing what I wished someone had shared with me.

What comes first? It’s the old chicken or the egg thing.  So, I’ll begin with the homework you need to do first and then move on to the technical side of it all. Your journey may start differently.

A website is a rather permanent site on which you present yourself as a writer. How you want to do that is totally up to you. And that’s the hard part.

To build a website, you’ll need the following:
  1) A web master and/or web building software and the 
      knowledge to do it yourself.
  2) A clear vision of what you want; your goals included.
  3) A hosting company on which to park your website.

Let’s begin with number one - A web master.

To build a website, you'll need a web master (person who builds websites) or website building software.  A computer savvy writer may consider building one themselves, but most will use a web master, who might just be the teenager down the street, to do it for them. If you feel up to the challenge of doing it yourself, check local community colleges for classes, online instruction, or find a web master willing to teach you. I was fortunate to meet a web master who was willing to train me to do it myself. In order to do that, I had to purchase the website building software.

Web masters can charge anywhere from $100 on up for a website. Most are in the $500 range. Some charge by the website, some by the hour and some by the page (each button takes you to a different page). Be sure to ask if the price will include X number of changes after the website is launched. I can guarantee that you’ll want to make changes once it’s up and running. Also, ask how long it will take. And as usual, buyer beware: ask to see other websites, go to them and contact the owners and ask how the web master was to work with; was the website built in a timely fashion; where there hidden charges; did the web master do what you asked him/her to do?

One of my goals was to be able to manage my website and make changes myself, so I wouldn’t have to rely on someone else and pay additional for changes. My previous website was managed by a web master. I found it to be a constant frustration and vowed that when I revised it, I would maintain control. Within the first two days of launching www.sandrawarren.com, I uploaded changes five times!

Two web masters I know, both claim they can create a website in two hours for anyone, IF, and that’s a big IF, they are given all the information the person wants on their site.

The second thing you need to build a website is a clear vision of what you want your website to look like; what you want it to do for you.

Check out other author’s websites and note the buttons/pages they have. What do you like/dislike? How easy is it to navigate the site—go from one button/page to the next? One author’s website I visited had a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page that I found interesting. I added a FAQ page to my website because of it.

Here are some additional things to consider to help with your vision of what you want:

    a) The Home page: Do you want text or photos or both? This is YOUR chance for a first impression. It’s what folks will see when they come to your site. What is it you want them to learn about you right off? This page will have the buttons on it linked to your other pages.

    b) Number of additional pages/buttons you want. A page is not like a normal written page. It can be quite lengthy. It would include everything you want under a particular topic heading, or button, i.e., Home, About, Contact, Books, FAQ’s, etc.  Within a given page, you might have two or more additional pages. Go to my new website, www.sandrawarren.com and click on the button that says, “Books.” Under Books, you have three choices; Children’s Books, Adult Books, Educational Books. The Book button links you to three (3) additional pages. You may not need anything like this. It’s all up to you. 

    c) All the text you want to appear on each page. (This is the hardest and most time consuming part.) Every word you want on your site should be saved and ready for easy download per page. Type it out first, use spell check and have others edit it before you give it to your web master. Your web master is not necessarily going to want to edit anything you give him. Make sure each page says what you want it to say.

    d) Any photos – saved as .jpg files and located for easy download, along with instructions as to where and on what pages you want the photo/or photos placed.

    e) A list of KEYWORDS to imbed in your website. Think of as many words or combinations of words folks might use to find you. For example, let’s say that you write books about alligators. Keywords might be: alligators, gators, stuffed alligators, alligators in Florida, Florida gators, swamp creatures, alligator logos, alligator farms, alligator hunter, alligator stories, alligator book, books about alligators, writer, nonfiction writer, children’s writer, etc. etc.

    f) Do you need a shopping cart from which to sell books? Or will you link your books to your publisher’s website? Your web master will need to know this. If you want to list your books, he will need book descriptions, as well as cover photos and purchase information.

    g) All website building software comes with multiple templates or patterns, on which to input your information. Once you choose a template, you can then change colors, add or remove graphics, photos, shapes of boxes where you input text, etc. So if a particular author’s website impresses you, present it to your web master as a sample of what you have in mind.

    h) It is acceptable to copy other’s web site templates/or patterns. It's like making cookies with a cookie cutter. You might cut out the same shape but the decorations will be uniquely yours.

The third thing you need to consider when building a website is who will host it?

Building a website is like making a Garage Sale sign. No one will know you are having a sale much less come to it, if the sign stays in your basement. You have to find a yard to put it in so people can find your sale. The same is true for a website. You can build it but then you need a yard, a HOSTING COMPANY, who will send it out to the world.

    a) If you are working with a web master, he will recommend a hosting company. The price you pay will depend on how many features your website needs. Mine, with the shopping cart and ability to sell books, is still considered a basic site. I do not pay extra for hosting. The hosting fee is an additional charge over and above the website building charge, one you will have to pay monthly or yearly. Many companies offer hosting packages for less than $10/month. The company I’m using charges $6.95/month. Hosting packages are usually paid for by the year with offers of additional savings if you purchase more up front.

    b) You’ll also need a DOMAIN NAME. Your domain name is unique only to you and is the name someone will type in to get into your website. The domain name you choose may already be taken so have in mind additional names folks might think of to find you. There can only be one name for every .com or .biz or .org. However, more than one domain name can be hooked up to your website. I have two; www.sandrawarren.com and www.arliebooks.com. I’ve owned both names for over ten years. Click on either and you’ll go directly to my website. There is usually an additional charge for domain names although some hosting companies now offer them as part of their hosting package.

Now you know what to do or at least how to get started, so get busy. Build that website. And, I do hope your journey into the process has been made a little easier because of this post.

This post is comprised of things I had to think through to create my own website. It is not meant to be a lesson in website building but rather a pattern for discerning things to consider when creating your own. Your path may be different, but many of the things I needed to consider, you will also.

Watch for my next post: A Website for the Unpublished! Don’t have a book published yet? Wondering what you could possibly put on a website. Stay tuned.


Mary Ryan said...

Looking good! I just put up my web site, but I'm not excited about it. Have to go through your post to see what I can do to fix it. Need to read your blog on school visits, too. Thanks for letting me know--and good luck!

Sandra Warren said...

Thanks for your kind words. I'll have to check out your website. I'm sorry you're not that excited about it. It's such an emotional thing to do you just have to love it. The good news is websites can be changed. Hopefully, you can discover what you feel is missing and make the changes that will make you proud of it.

Good to hear from you.
Sandra :-)

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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