AP8: The Web Site
Ever hear of a business from a friend and you google them up and can’t find anything? I have. Everybody who spent at least half of their life in the twenty first century expects it. Almost as bad is they find a link, click on it, and it leads to klforslund.geocities.com or some other antiquated free hosting with ads. Getting your own domain name and web site is the most inexpensive parts of owning a business, let alone being an author. Let’s get started on that.
Master of your Domain
A few chapters ago, I told you how to get a domain name. I had you do that before you needed it so nobody would buy it to sell it to you for a higher price. Click the link if you didn’t do that, then come back here.
Read the Instructions First
I try not to get too technical, but a lot of decisions depend on earlier decisions. Read this whole article. Know what you’ll be doing before you get ahead of yourself (like picking a template that doesn’t have the stuff I want it to have).
Disclaiming the Usual
There are no kickbacks for who I recommend. I primarily recommend what I use. Getting that out of the way, because I want you to know I’m here to help. Spiritually, and through these articles. Not tech support. Sorry.
Find a Web Host
Go to Wix.com, that’s who I use. Start the free website, don’t worry you can upgrade it later when you’re ready. Pick through the templates (try searching for “Author” or “Writer”). You might even find the one I chose. I look for one that has a spot for my face, my name, a background, and a menu bar of choices that might include Contact Me, About, My Books and Blog. You’re not looking for exact names, everything is renamable, addable and removable. The more it has, the less you have to do.
Plug the Assets In
Change their art out for yours. Remember that head shot and banner I had you make? Not so dumb getting them made. Change the name and pasting in the bio where it makes sense. Congratulations, you just moved in. Click Save.
What an Author Site Needs
Look around at your favorite authors and their web pages. They have a page for their bio, maybe a blog. Certainly a page listing all their books. There’s a page to send an email and join their mailing list. You’ll probably see buttons to connect to their social media. Notice that home page. A well designed on isn’t too busy. It promotes their latest book, directs you to their blog and maybe says something funny.
Keep in mind what stage you’re at. At the time of this writing, I have no books out. A few short stories or poems published. On day one, my blog occupied my home page because that’s what I had to offer. Two years in, book’s not ready, but I’ve got a free novella I release chapters of and a few blog series people might follow. Time to reorg my home page to focus on that. In a few more years, I’ll have one or more books out (optimistic) and I’ll change what that landing looks like again. That applies to the authors web pages you look at. Try an established writer and a debut writer. Consider what makes sense for your level.
What’s on the Menu?
The menu, or navbar or tabs even is how every site organizes the content by subject. They mean the same thing to most people. The most common menu entries I see are: Home, About, Contact, Books, Bio, Blog. The names might vary, but the concepts remain the same. If your template has menu options with different names, you can change them if you like. If you don’t need a certain tab, you can set it to be hidden. I don’t recommend removing pages until you are more than done with site building. You never know what you might want later and it’s easier to re-purpose something than it is to delete and decide to make it from scratch. Next I’ll cover what I would do on each tab.
This template page is the most complex to make from scratch. Don’t delete it, it’s hard to remake. Trust me. Decide if you want to do a blog or not. I found it is a way to keep my site content fresh, because I’m a new writer with no books. I need an audience to check me out and keep coming back. A blog helps with that.
The biography page is where you paste in that long form about yourself. Once done, you look like a pro.
If you are published anywhere, you need this tab. For each book, get a thumbnail image of the cover, the link to buy it, the correct title and blurb for it. Make sure the title and thumbnail are hyperlinked to buy it. People expect to click on those. Put a Buy button on there if you want.
For other appearances, like guest blogs, etc, make a section for those with the page title hyperlinked to the article. Links to and from other sites are valuable for SEO, which I’ll explain later.
This page lets people send you an email from the website without knowing your email; It’s like screening your calls for email. Many times, you’ll see other sites where this page also include a section to join a mailing list. I set mine up with MailChimp.com and that site includes the HTML snippet I needed to add to this page for that part of the form. Get a techno-friend to help if that sounds daunting.
This is the page where everybody comes first. A rule of thumb for web layout is that I should not have to scroll to see everything you want me to focus on. So it’s OK if your books page scrolls, I expect that because its a list of books and it looks like a list of books. When I hit your home page, there’s a smorgasbord of different content and if it doesn’t fit, I might not scroll to discover it. The navbar helps with that. It’s obvious what those options will hold.
The main body of the page, is your chance to make me laugh, learn about your latest article and see your newest book. Imagine a grid in that space with as many boxes as you have signs you want to wave at me. More boxes means smaller space. Be picky. I’d suggest a 2x2 grid of zones you want to present four topics (ex. Welcome, my latest blog, my new books is out, come to my signing). The home page and your blog are the two screens that should have new content and changes.
Wix includes a button to test what it looks like on a phone. That’s handy. Also, save and publish the page to (to the free URL for now). Load up that URL on your phone and click around. If anything isn’t working right, fix it. When most people hear of a new thing, they look it up on their phone because they are out and about or talking to a friend. Mobile matters.
Time for Testing
My first job out of college involved software testing. Not my original plan, but it paid well and what I learned influenced my programming, crafting and even writing. This is what I look for when I review a website.
Is it clear who the author is and that this is their website?
Are the fonts contrasting well with the background?
Is the page slow to load (check image sizes and quantity)?
Is the navbar placed prominently?
Are the social media links visible but unobtrusive?
Does the layout look cluttered?
Do all the links on each page work?
Pay the Piper
When your site layout is looking good, it’s time to convert from free to paid. For now, I pay at the $5/month level, which puts a little “hosted by Wix” widget on my page. I’m not making money yet, nor trying to sell books. This level suits me. Later, when my book comes out, I’ll switch to the $10/month level which allows higher bandwidth and removes the signage from Wix.
Once your site is a paid version (and this is true of all web hosts), click through the site admin menu (outside of editing the pages) to connect your domain name to your site. With this in place, you can tell people to visit MYNAMEHERE.com and put it on your business card (that chapter is coming).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
After you turn your site into a paid one and connected the domain, it is time to enable the SEO feature. Wix has a menu outside of the main editor for that. Also enable Google Analytics. SEO is going to improve the chances that when somebody searches for Technomage, they find my book. When they search for my name, they find my site. Google Analytics tracks how often people visit and how long they stay on my site. It tells me which pages and articles drew the most views. That advises me on what content is working.
Other Web Host Options
Remember when I told you to read the whole article? I looked at other options before I settled on Wix. These weren’t right for me, but they weren’t terrible or evil. These companies may give you a free site, but you need a paid version in order to connect a domain name to it properly. These companies offer that.
By this point, you’ve planted your flag on the internet. This doesn’t mean people will come flocking. What you have is a place to guide people to. I write a fair amount of writer helpful articles (like this series). On writer forums, when a question comes up that I’ve got an article for, I post a link as the answer. I helped, I get a shot at more readers. If an article of mine is posted on another blog, part of the ritual is to include a link to the author’s website. Again, bringing traffic to my web. I don’t have to be blatant about it. I can be helpful me and link drop when somebody asks for it.
For more on Author Platform building go to https://www.klforslund.com/authorplatform