Typically, building a new website is something that, at least initially, you can do yourself. At some point, you will probably need at least a little help, unless you do this for a living. In which case, good for you. You can skip this post.
But if you are an author or you just want to start a blog with your own domain name rather than a generic Blogspot or WordPress, or you have a small business and want to have a solid online presence, read further.
Probably the most important thing to have before you start to build your new website is to have a plan. The plan should involve a few simple things:
Your Name. Even if you don’t plan to build a website right away, you should snag your name as soon as possible, if it is available. What do I mean by your name? I mean firstnamelastname.com. If that is not available because you have a common name, you can add what you do, like troylambertwrites.com or add an underscore or your title to the end of your name, such as firstname_lastname.com.
It is the same if you are looking at the name of your business. Also, to protect your name, you may want to buy more than one domain, including the .org, .net, and other extensions, then redirect them to your primary site.
A Subject Matter. Your website needs to be about something. What do you write about, or will your site be about writing? What does your business do? Need ideas? Try this:
- What do the protagonists in your books do? What are their hobbies and what do they do for a living? Would your readers be interested in learning about those things?
- What hobbies do you have that might relate? You do things besides writing, right? What are they, and how can you make them interesting to your reader?
- What is your emotional biography? Not your normal bio, this is about you. How do you feel about life? Writing? Current events? (Avoid being too political or religious)
There are thousands of other things you can write about related to you or your work, even if you run a business. Attorney and dental websites can be full of rich content, but you need the next step to get there.
A Content Strategy. A strategy is just that, a road map. It describes where you are and where you want to go. Your content strategy is not just to sell books. That will be a byproduct of a good content strategy for a writer.
So what should your strategy be? That depends on what you want to write about and what you want your new website to do for you. Do you want to use it to connect with other writers? With readers? With both?
Do you want readers to get to know you and your characters? Do you want to use it to keep them up to date? What is your content going to inform them about?
Once you have a content strategy, plan out your blog posts for at least a few months. Plant titles and subjects. You don’t have to write them all at once, as long as you have a plan for what you will write. Your plan, of course, can be flexible. But having a target and a blog strategy will help you be consistent.
Choosing A Host
Once you have a content plan in place, you need to pick a host. You can do this at one of two times: you can do it when you buy your domain name, or you can do it now. Your host is the server or group of servers where your website lives. Think of it this way: the cloud is not really a cloud, it is someone else’s computer.
There are a number of host options, from small to large and expensive to cheap. Overall, you will probably spend close to the same no matter where you host your site, it will just depend on the special deals they are offering at the time how that cost will be broken down.
Speed and reliability are the most important things to look at besides customer service. Finding the best web hosting company for you just involves some shopping around and looking at features.
Picking A Website Builder
There are also a number of ways to construct your website and run your blog. My favorite is WordPress, even though it is actually a content management system (CMS) it is one of the more robust ways to build a website. It can be used by beginners and professionals alike, and some of the biggest and best sites you see are WordPress based.
There are other platforms that are equally as good. The more you know and research about what website builder you are comfortable using, the better. Even if you have someone else construct the site for you initially, you will have to do a lot of the work unless you are going to pay someone for everyday tasks like simple updates or posting blogs.
You can learn almost any website builder, but having one you are comfortable with from the beginning certainly helps.
Designing Graphics, Logos, and Banners
At first, stock photos and graphics will be okay, but to make your site look more professional, you will probably need to hire someone unless you are a designer yourself.
This means you need to select what your site would look like, using a theme. You can then work with the designer once you know the size of the banners you need and what you want your logo to look like.
Unless you have experience in this area, don’t do this yourself. Beware of deals on Fiverr and other such sites: often you get what you pay for. Reliable designers like EJR Digital Art are good to work with and priced reasonably.
Backing Up Everything
Once you have taken all the time to create a great looking website and a whole bunch of content, you need to protect it. Not only should you have good security but you should plug ins in place, but you need to have a data backup and recovery plan.
While most websites have backups of their own, if for some reason your host were to fail, you too should have a backup of your site. It should not only be stored on your hard drive, but stored in the cloud as well.
Do backups regularly. Any data, changes, or posts not in your backup will potentially be lost. Your writing may not be a large business, but time and effort put into recovering your website, not to mention the time it is off line will cost you.
Ready, Set, Go
Of course, all of these tips are general advice. There is a ton of material out there about the details of each step. But if you are a writer or a small business on the fence about creating a website, these are some ideas about how to get started.
Your presence and reputation on the internet is one of your most precious assets, and building a website it just the first of many steps in the process of developing it, growing in, and guarding it.