Thursday, January 24, 2013

Website Design for Writers on a Budget: Introduction

A couple of years ago I gave a short presentation to my local RWA® chapter that I called Website Design for Authors on a Budget. The presentation was helpful to a point, but with only an hour and a half to speak, I couldn't really go into detail on any one aspect. I was hesitant (okay, down right reluctant) to expand the presentation for several reasons, but I've been persuaded that there might be other writers out there who would find this information useful.

Why reluctant? Mostly because I can't commit to teaching anyone html, xhtml, css, javascript, etc. And quite frankly, if you're going to create and maintain your own website, at some point you'll need to be familiar enough with one or more of those tools to be able to find your way around a website's source files. However, there are plenty of books and classes (online and in person) that will teach you these things.

Welcome to the Internet Age. "Every writer needs a website." We've all heard this statement at one time or another, but is it true? A few years ago, I would have answered yes, unequivocally. Now, I would change "website" to "web presence," because there are other options, such as having a Facebook page, that can substitute for a full blown website. However, in the long run I still believe a website is an important tool for a writer to have when it comes to promoting yourself and your work.

This series will be about creating a website on a budget. If there's one thing I would like you to take away from today's introduction, it's this: if you don't already own a domain name (i.e. your ".com" name) in the name you write under, please consider purchasing that domain name now. Almost all large web hosting company out there also sell domain names and will "park" the domain for you until you're ready to create your website.

In the upcoming months, I plan to discuss options for writers just starting out, choosing a website hosting service, website design considerations, pros and cons of "rolling your own" website, creative alternatives, and where to find inspiration, among other topics. I'll also provide a glossary and reference list at the end of each post, as appropriate.

Please feel free to ask questions and I'll do my best to provide an answer. And if there's something you'd like me to discuss, please suggest other topics. I'll be happy to work a topic into the series, if I can.

DISCLAIMERS!

I am not a professional website designer, nor am I a graphic designer/artist. I do consider myself an enthusiastic amateur, though.

I am not affiliated with any of the companies or books/writers that I will provide in my reference lists. I'll make sure to note if that happens to change in the future.

My credentials: I have a B.S. in Computer Science and I've worked for over 20 years in Information Technology for major Computer Hardware/Software companies. I started creating web pages back in the early days of the web--when Mosaic was bright and shiny and Netscape was a mere gleam in Marc Andreessen's eye. I've continued to learn and work with html, css, xhtml, javascript, etc., and I created and maintain my own site, but I've never created a website for hire (outside of the "day job").

Here's what I can't do in this series:

  • Teach you html/xhtml/css/flash/javascript, etc.
  • Teach you graphic design or mad photoshop skilz
  • Design your website for you

Now here's what I can do:

  • Give you tips to get you started
  • Show you examples -- of the bad, the okay, and the good (in my opinion, of course!)
  • Provide lists of resources and references
  • Inspire you (I hope!)

GLOSSARY


Domain Name: a domain name is an identification that represents an Internet Protocol (IP) resource, in this case a web site. For example, my domain name is Deborah-Wright.com

Domain Parking: refers to the registration of a domain name without creating a website. This is done in order to reserve the domain for future development.

Mosaic: the first web browser, developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)

WEB HOSTING / DOMAIN NAME RESOURCES

  1. HostMonster -- cheap and reliable web hosting and domain registrar (I currently use their service)
  2. Dreamhost -- a bit more expensive for web hosting than hostmonster, but very solid and reliable (I've used them in the past). They are also a domain registrar.
  3. PowWeb -- another cheap and reliable web hosting and domain registrar that I've used in the past.
  4. There are other web hosting companies out there. Just take the time to do some research and ask people you trust for recommendations.

These are companies I'm familiar with and feel comfortable listing. You might have noticed that I didn't list a famous web host/domain registrar that begins with a G and ends with a Y. That's because I won't recommend them to anyone who is a novice at this stuff (actually, I won't recommend them, period). I find their website confusing, their web tools ridiculously convoluted and difficult to use, and their practice of charging extra for useful addons makes them as-or-more expensive than the three companies I've listed above. It's just my opinion, but I've used all four companies and won't ever use G-----y again, if I can help it.

Deborah Wright
Website: www.Deborah-Wright.com
Twitter: @DeborahBWright
Facebook: Deborah.Wright.Author

 

4 comments:

Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

Debbie, I soooo glad you're going to do a series of articles on this topic! And I was hoping you were going to teach us HTML, CSS, javascript, etc. Guess I'll have to go searching for those skills elsewhere. :)

Looking forward to more of these posts! Thank you!

GigiViolette said...

Debbie,

Thanks! You rock! This is going to be great. *sponging up the info*

Meggan

Deborah Wright said...

Hi Genene! Hope you'll find the info useful. :-)

As for the disclaimer, well, I didn't want anyone to think they were going to learn full-fledged coding and be some sort of expert after reading this. It's almost inevitable that I'll be providing examples of code along the way, though.

Deborah Wright said...

Hi Meggan! Hopefully, it'll be useful. :-)

er...Gigi Violette?? Are you trying out a pseudonym?