You’re a writer, not a computer geek.
And now you’re expected to launch an author website and a blog and you get on the Internet and come across a publishing or design expert who will do it all for you for the “bargain” price of $3,500 (or more).
Stop right there.
Too many authors spend way too much money on hiring designers and computer experts to create their websites. That’s not to say these experts aren’t worth every dime (some are and some aren’t) just that many authors don’t realize they can have their own websites for as low as a few dollars per month. But more troubling to me is that authors often end up in the position where they have to rely on these experts to make even the smallest changes to their websites, resulting in ongoing expenses of hundreds of dollars per month.
So my first bit of advice for any author in need of a website is to get past this notion that you need someone else to help you build and manage a website.
True, the Internet and all its buzzwords can be very intimidating — but there are website services out there that are actually pretty easy to use. If you can figure out Facebook or Gmail, you can probably figure out how to use these services. And, best of all, you can try them out for free, which I recommend you do before anything else.
Here are three web services that offer individual website designs for a low fee (or even free):
Wix offers author templates that you can test out for free. Click here to see what’s available. Here’s one author template:
You’ll note that this template also includes a built-in blog, so you not only have an author website but also the means to add regular blog posts, which is very important in terms of getting readers engaged with you and your work.
You first need to create an account to get started, but it’s free. It’s free because they run ads on your website; you eventually may want to pay $12/month to remove the ads and get additional features.
SquareSpace also offers a range of website templates. Here is one template that I think can work as an author website. You can start a free trial with no credit card.
WordPress is known for its blog software, and most of its templates look very much like blogs. But if you do some searching through all the templates they offer, you’re likely to find a design that looks more like an author website that happens to have a blog built in.
Begin your test drives!
I recommend trying out all three of these web services to get familiar with how they work and which feel most comfortable. Even if you choose none of them, you’ll start to get familiar with how this type of software works, which is important if you want to maintain your own website and blog yourself, which I think is important to do.
What if you hate all those pre-existing design templates?
Using a design template that other authors are also using can feel a bit like wearing the same outfit as others as the same party. I get that.
But keep in mind that even if two authors use the same design template, they may use different artwork and color schemes so that the two websites do not appear similar at all.
But let’s say you still want to create your own web design. Should you then call up that expert and write a big check? Perhaps. But if you do so, here are some tips.
If you do hire someone to create your website…
Here are some questions to keep in mind before you hire a web designer:
- What’s the total fee? Make sure the price includes everything you’ll need to get the website launched.
- Who pays for web hosting? Every website needs to be hosted somewhere, and this requires a monthly fee. I’d recommend that the author have the hosting account so the author has full control over the website down the road. I’ve witnessed examples of the designer not giving login info unless certain fees were paid. You always want to have access to your own site.
- Who owns your URL? Your domain name, such as “JohnYunker.com” should be owned by you and you alone. Your consultant can help you purchase it, but you should have it in writing that you own the rights to it. Your domain name is your little bit of real estate on the Internet. Like any real estate, you want to have a “deed” in writing.
- How will you make changes to the design? What will the designer charge per change?
- How will you make text changes to the website? Ideally, the person you hire will train you so you can do this sort of thing yourself. If not, you’ll want to know what you’ll have to pay.
- Does the design include a blog? If so, can it be set up so you can have full access to it? I mention this because if you have access to the blog you can then create content anytime without incurring expenses.
- Do you have permission to use the art on your website? Make sure the designer you hire has secured legal rights to whatever artwork is being used.
- Is the design search-engine friendly? What I mean is: Will someone who enters your name in Google find this website quickly? To ensure this happens, you want your web design to be mostly text based, which means that text isn’t embedded within visual elements. The more text you have on your website, the more “findable” it will be to Google and other search engines.
- Is the design “lightweight?” I’ve seen some web design so loaded with big images and videos that the home page takes seemingly forever to load. This is a big mistake. You don’t want readers to give up on your website before they’ve even loaded page one. So keep performance in mind at all times. Use images sparingly, and avoid having any videos on your home page.
- If you do use videos, first load them into YouTube or Vimeo and then embed them into your web pages. This ensures that the videos will work well and your web pages will load quickly.
So there you have it. Just a few questions to keep in mind.
If you have further questions, let us know!