How to Build a Website (For Authors)

Table of Contents

  1. Why do you need a website?
  2. How do you start?
    1. A domain
    2. Domain privacy
    3. Hosting
  3. Don’t use GoDaddy
  4. Designing your site
  5. Adding content

Quick sum-up for folks with little time:

  1. Best host: Liquidweb.
  2. Best framework: WordPress.
  3. Best theme: GeneratePress.

And now for the long-form stuff!

Why

People will look you up online. They look you up for three things:

  • Information about you
  • Information about your book(s)
  • And (if they like you) your social media so they can observe your life

How

There are four aspects to this: a domain, hosting, design, and content.

A Domain

I wish I could tell you how to do this completely free, but unfortunately, you must have your own domain, and that carries a small cost. This means you.weebly.com or you.wordpress.com won’t cut it. You MUST have a domain with your own name, or you risk looking unprofessional.

  • A domain is a once-a-year cost.
  • Don’t spend more than $15.00 on the domain itself. If you’re paying more than that, you’re being bilked.

Domain Privacy

  • Purchase “domain privacy,” which averages $10.00 a year. THIS IS IMPORTANT. If you don’t, people can look up your domain and learn where you live.
  • REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: My address showed up before domain privacy, but After domain privacy, it doesn’t:
My personal info was out there for anybody to see.
Look at that! Info hidden.

Hosting

I suggest you buy your domain through your webhost. This makes it much easier to set up email and install WordPress.

Don’t use GoDaddy. I will explain this down below.

  • Choose a host with 24/7 help, via chat, if possible. If you’re looking at Monday through Friday business hours support, you will spend many a weekend up crap creek.
  • Watch for restrictions on space (the stuff you upload) and bandwidth (how often that stuff is viewed). Some hosts will nab you for going over their “limits.” (From experience: check the FAQ. “Unlimited” really might mean “5GBs.”)

Don’t Use GoDaddy

I Repeat: do not purchase at GoDaddy This advice comes from years as a professional web desiger.

GoDaddy is incredibly clunky behind the scenes, and its weird restrictions make it INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT to build your site compared to other hosts.

Also, their security is dreadful. They’ve been hacked even recently, exposing customer data to the world.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Is GoDaddy Really Bad for Website Hosting?

GoDaddy: Possibly the Worst Web Hosting Company Available?

Why I Don’t Use GoDaddy (And You Shouldn’t Either)

Quick Answer: Why Is GoDaddy Bad?

4 Reasons Why You Should Avoid GoDaddy

Anyway.

  • If you need FREE hosting, go with wordpress.com. While they will limit you very slightly with themes and such, they’re secure, fast, and utterly reliable.
  • If you can afford a little, go for Midphase. My amazing experience moving to them is here (and I only moved away because I ran out of space since I host multiple friends and family).
  • If you can afford a little more, go for Siteground. They’re solid, and have really good support.
  • If you want the BEST deal I know of, go with Liquidweb. That’s where I currently am hosted, and they are INCREDIBLE. They’re also the most robust in this list, which is good if you think you’re going to get a lot of traffic.

Framework

There are a lot of options out there, but only one king.

I highly suggest using WordPress. It’s usually a one-button install on most hosts, and has been around long enough that you can find help all over the web.

Also, it’s great for any level of site creator, from beginner to PHP coder.

It gives you beautiful control over your pages (the things in your menu) and your posts (your blog), as well as security, the ability to connect with readers, and more.

Design

So you have your domain, you have your host, and you installed WordPress. Now what? Time for design!

Theme-wise, you have a lot of good choices, and you’ll be tempted to do lots of  crazy and “quirky” things. Don’t.

The goal for your website design:

  1. Easy to navigate. Menu must be obvious and easy to find.
  2. Speed. If your site doesn’t load fast, people will leave.
  3. Design that works on all devices (“responsive” means it changes size according to the screen it’s on). When you click “add themes,” search for the word “responsive.” That will ensure you choose a theme that works on phone and laptop and tablet.
  4. These pages:
    • Your Bio
    • Your Books
    • Your contact Information
  • You do not need a fancy image banner. Large text with your name is fine.
  • I’d suggest you choose a theme in either white or black. Avoid crazy colors, even if you love them, because the majority of your audience won’t – and crazy colors/images/fonts will distract your reader from the information they came there to find.

A note on site speed: this comes down to how well your theme is coded, the speed of your web host, and whether you use properly-sized images. Ideally, the images you put on your page – book covers, your face, whatever else – will be sized exactly (example: 800×600 pixels) rather than enormous, and fake-resized in your browser (example: a 4000×1500 pixel photo that only LOOKS 800×600).

This article talks about the importance of resizing. As to how to resize, if you simply Google “resize image free,” a plethora of pages will appear which allow you to upload your image, specify a size, and download the result.

You can also use GIMP, which is a free editing software that works really well.

STARTER THEMES THAT LOOK GREAT RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX:

I cannot recommend GeneratePress enough. I’m currently using it for my site and every other site I design for fellow authors. It’s not only easy to learn, but their support forum is fantastic, ensuring you can get help the whole way while you try to customize your look.

It’s also wicked fast.

NOTE: Divi is popular, but I don’t suggest it for one huge reason: it will leave your site filled with shortcodes that cannot be used in another theme. It’s a real mess if you ever try to change away from Divi, so I’d advise staying away from it.

This image is from here, though it’s exactly what my site looked like when I switched away from Divi. THAT took a minute to fix.

Content

  • Focus on content! Readers came there to see information, not your love of Papyrus font.
  • Bio: a little about you. Keep it in third person, and this is where you get to throw in all your quirky personality. If you’re not sure how to write one, go look up your favorite authors’ bios and use them as a template. (Examples: Jim Butcher; Sarah Rees Brennan; Guy Kawasaki; Me.) If you have social media info, this is a great place to put it. (Note: it’s also wise to list them somewhere else, like your header or footer, depending on your theme.)
  • You’ll need a photo of yourself, but ONLY if it’s high-quality. Do not post anything grainy, weirdly colored, or old (yes, people can tell if that photo is 20 years out of date).
  • Books: cover(s), an interesting summary no longer than two paragraphs (like what you see on Amazon), and where-to-buy links. If you have good reviews, include a few of those in blockquotes.
  • Contact Information: DO NOT POST YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. You’re just asking to get spammed. There are tons of plugins that will give you the ability to use a form instead, often with spam-prevention (like CAPTCHA). On the contact page, include your email form and your social media profiles.

That’s It.

It may seem like a lot, but I promise, it’s not. If you do these things, you can set up a professional-looking site for the cost of your domain, and possibly hosting.

If you have questions, contact me. I love to help out other creatives, and I will answer your questions and give you a hand.

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