Thursday, February 28, 2013

Start at the Beginning...

Website Design for Writers on a Budget, part 2

You've decided it's time to create a website, or perhaps you want to update the site you already have. Good for you! The natural inclination is to want to jump right in and start making changes — maybe you have new graphics you think you want to use, or you're tired of the colors on your site — or to start customizing that template you found online.

Whoa! Hold up, Skippy!

Take a deep breath and step away from your editor. You've missed a few crucial steps and jumped right to the end of the story. Before you ever look at a line of code — heck, before we can even talk about color palettes and graphics and all that good stuff — you need to start at the beginning. Because, you see, a website isn't just a pretty face.

What's the purpose of a writer's website?

Unfortunately, there isn't one answer to that question. The purpose may change depending on where you are in your career. If you're pre-published — i.e. a writer who hasn't sold or self-published your work yet — then your website may have a slightly different purpose than the website of an established author.

Just remember, a good website will look professional, will be easy to navigate, and will convey its information in a clear, easy to understand manner. Before you start building your website, you need to decide what information you want your site to convey. Don't worry about HOW the site will look, just make a list of WHAT will be on it.

Here are some of the things a writer's website might do.

Your website will be an invitation to readers:

  • A place to find reliable information about your books (including your backlist, if you have one)
  • An easy place to find links to buy your books
  • A place where you blog (regularly!)
  • A place where you post your twitter feed
  • A place where you post news about books releases, book signings, conferences, etc.
  • A place where you talk about your current work-in-progress
  • A place to sign up for your newsletter (if you have one) and/or contact you via a form

Your website will be a professional platform:

  • Expect Agents (business associates) and Editors (business partners) to visit your site
  • A place for publicity stills (if you have them) and professional contact information
  • A place for a short biography

Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Don't let it overwhelm you. Many of those things overlap, and not all of them are a requirement for every writer. Think about it. Make your list. Don't be afraid to add things that aren't listed above and don't be afraid to cross things off that don't apply to you.

Pro Tip: Knowing what information you want your site to convey is a crucial first step, even if you ultimately decide to hire a professional web designer. With this knowledge in hand, you'll be able to communicate your needs clearly and succinctly.

Next time, I'll talk a bit about taking your list and starting to create the blueprint for your website. I'll use the list I made for my website as an example. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions!


Head First Web Design: A solid, if quirky, take on web design that's worth checking out.

Deborah Wright
Twitter: @DeborahBWright
Facebook: Deborah.Wright.Author



Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

Whine, whine, but I just want it to look "pretty." LOL!

Love your check list of what should be on a Web site. I know mine is missing some things I need to add at the next update. Thank you!

Meggan McQuaid said...

I'm so glad you are doing this! Before I make my website! Great ideas. I will make my, have to put that on my to-do list.