Keeping Up With the Joneses in the Design and Development of Your New Website and Blog

Over the last three Saturdays, we have outlined preliminary steps for building an author website and blog. Today we talk about design. But before picking out tiles and swatches for your new electronic home, look at your neighbors’ houses. Do some window shopping. Compare yourself to the Joneses by scouting out other authors’ websites. And get to know your author-neighbors.

First, make a list of the authors who have written books in your subject area or genre. Add to this list some authors whose work you enjoy. Then search online for their websites and click through every page. Look; read; browse. Pay attention to where your eyes wander.  Each author has a unique style, voice and signature as part of her or his “brand.” What do you like about particular sites? And just as important, what don’t you like about certain websites? What features or design elements would you like to appear in yours?  Take notes so that when you search in WordPress for a “theme” or template, you will have an idea of how you want your pages to look.

As you study the websites and blogs of authors, keep track of URLs for their websites and links to the author’s Facebook Page, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Notice not only where they are located on a page, but which platforms are used.

This market research isn’t just an opportunity to window shop for your electronic home furnishings, but a chance to socialize on the blogosphere as a reader before you begin promoting your website. You may want to subscribe to the blogs you visit if you appreciate the writer’s posts and want to read more. When you subscribe, be sure to use your new email address so the blogger can find you later. And leave a comment on the blogs you like and appreciate; tell the blogger why you liked a post or website. Again, use your author e-mail so that you create linking pages that lead others back to you online. Some of these websites may go into your “blogroll” (a list of links for your blog readers) and others may become your Friends, Tweeps, or Connections. As you expand your audience, you want to include – and tap into – these audiences.  

Making a few virtual author-friends is also good for morale, giving you an opportunity to network and develop a support system. It will be hard to attract visitors to your website if you are the only one promoting it. It’ll be even tougher if you are a meek salesman. Build relationships now so that when it’s time for your book to come out, you have a devoted group of virtual friends to cheer you on and spread the word.

Knowing what will work best for you as an author and blogger is important as you design YOUR website and blog. Look at the competition, borrow ideas from other blogs, and build from the success of others’ so that you get your website up and running smoothly. Get to know the Joneses, and keep up with them!

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