The past two weeks I’ve described how to determine your author name, purchasing your domain name, finding an internet service provider, determining who will host your site, and what web-site building software you will use.
You may recall I strongly recommended WordPress to build your site. One of the reasons I like WordPress for author sites is because it IS possible to Do-It-Yourself with their excellent tutorials and online forums.
Even if you have never built a website before, WordPress provides a novice with the tools to create a professional site. If your goal is to keep your expenses low, then the DIY option is best though it is a trade-off between your time and the bottom line. If you would prefer help building your website, most designers today are familiar with WordPress and can quickly set up a site that will be easy for you to administer and manage yourself.
Now let’s 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.
Find at least three examples of author sites you like and make notes to yourself about what you like about them and why. Find a couple examples of sites you dislike and note why.
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.
It is important for you to know that the “theme” or template you select for your site in WordPress should be based on functionality instead of the visual appearance of the basic template. All of the WordPress templates can be customized in their appearance, but not all templates perform the same functions or have the same features, such as a vertical navigation bar or social media buttons.
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 where features like social media buttons are located on a page.
This research isn’t just an opportunity to window shop for your electronic home furnishings, but a chance to socialize on the blogosphere 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.
Leave a comment on the blogs you like. Tell the blogger why you liked a post or website. 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. 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!
Here are some design questions to consider before you begin to build your site:
Do you like horizontal or vertical navigation? (Page tabs at the top of the header or running down the side)
Do you like graphic/visual banners at the top of the website or do you prefer simple text banners?
Are you overwhelmed when there are too many photos or graphics on a single page? Or, the reverse, when there is too much text on a page?
Do you prefer single-page spreads (full-page content) or column-based spreads (content organized visually into distinct sections like a newspaper)?
Do you like to be able to search on a site? See related posts? Do you want visitors to be able to sign up for email delivery of your blog or newsletter on your site?
Do you want visitors to be able to connect from your website to your social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.)? If so, then you will need to gather the URLs for your profiles on these platforms.
What colors would you like to use on your website? One or two colors which will be used primarily and an accent color.
Do you want a solid colored background or a design-based background (images, symbols, or patterns)? I always recommend a white or light background to any site where you want the visitor to read text. No black backgrounds with white text.
Which font do you prefer? Keep in mind on a screen the sans serif fonts are easier to read than serif.
Do you have photographs you plan to include in your site? You should have at least a good headshot.
Do you have a specific look in mind for your website?
Next time I will focus on what specific pages you will need on your site and what you will need to prepare before you begin to work with a website designer or DIY.