Web design is one of those things I never could completely wrap my head around. I’m decent at print design, bordering on good when the right inspiration strikes, but I suck at web design. Which is kind of odd since I’ve been a graphic designer and I am a programmer. You’d think that mesh of skills would work, but whenever I start designing website, I fall back to the mid 90s and start throwing animated gifs at the screen until it looks like Homer’s site.
Fortunately for me, there are skilled and qualified folks out there who create site templates and sell them. Then, I can leverage my programming skills to modify the raw code until it’s more to my liking. Add in a purchased URL and an AWS S3 bucket and I’m good to go.
In case you’re wondering, my author website is here: http://ericlahti.com
Why no www? Because I hate www, that’s why. If the world wide web consortium had been on the ball, they would have standardized on web instead of www. One syllable instead of nine. Talk about a cost savings. Also, the www isn’t technically necessary. www is supposed to indicate a website in a DNS name, just like mail indicates incoming mail, either POP3 or IMAP and smtp indicates outgoing mail. See what kinds of interesting but useless bits of trivia you learn when you hang out here?
Like I said, I’m crap at designing them. I’d much rather be lurking in the back-end of the server space setting up databases and service code. But the fact of the matter is, any author should have a website. Fortunately, it’s a hell of lot easier to get one up and running than it used to be. About ten years ago, all sites were custom-coded html and css hosted on a fly-by-night hosting service run out of some backwater. Hosting was expensive and painful to set up. So much so, that I finally got frustrated at one point and set up my own server and hosted my site straight out of my house.
Nowadays, you’ve got AWS, Azure, and whole host of cheap, effective hosting systems that are easy to set up and maintain and don’t require you to build a server and do a whole lot of port forwarding on your local router.
Or, you can go the easier route and use a company like Wix or WordPress that not only have slick interfaces for building your site, but will host it for you, too. Often for free. Don’t worry, they get their money by putting ads up on your site, so they’re not going to go hungry.
If we break down the pros and cons of each type, you’ll find there is no clear answer. Wix and WordPress are free and have snazzy tools for design, but you’re limited by what they make available. AWS and a custom site aren’t free and take more time to implement, but you can do exactly what you want to do. The choice is yours.
But all this stuff begs a question: What the hell is an author website and why do you need one? We’ve got Twitter and Facebook and blogs and Instagram and all these other places that you can get information out to people with. Why a website?
Aside from the simple fact that you can put whatever you feel like on your website without worrying about character counts or getting lost in the maelstrom, your author website is your home. It’s likely going to be the first thing people come across when they look for their new favorite author. (What’s that website address again? That’s right: http://ericlahti.com. So much awesome.) It allows you to brand yourself, display your wares, drop the occasional free short story, set up mailing lists, list all your social media, market yourself, tell the media how to contact you, and is a perfect place to drop that dancing Jesus gif.
Ingram Spark, who knows a lot about these things, put together a nice list of what to include on your author page. Check it out here: https://www.ingramspark.com/blog/what-should-i-put-on-my-author-website. Then go check out what other authors are doing. Kinda feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but…http://ericlahti.com is a nice place to check out with lots of cool images and very few pictures of Lahti himself.
I reached out to the writing community on Twitter to get some samples of sites to check out. You’ll soon find out there is no standard template of what to do or how to do it, but there are some good ideas to
pilfer borrow for your own site. Just remember to set aside some time. An author site requires a lot of work to set up and should have the same level of polish as your latest novel.
Casey Kimberly’s blog: https://caseykimberly.wordpress.com/
R.A. McCandless’s site: https://www.ramccandless.com/
Rowena Tisdale’s site: http://rowenatisdale.com/
Damyanti Biswas’s site: https://www.damyantiwrites.com/
DK Marie’s site: https://dkmarie.com/
Ryen Lesli’s site: https://ryenlesli.com/
Robert People’s site: https://robertpeople.com/
Peggy Sue Perry’s site: https://dragons4me3.com/
Nancy E. Dunne’s site: https://nancyedunne.com/
Eric Lewis’s site: https://ericlewis.ink/
In researching this, I found there’s a lot of technical elements to setting up an author presence. Getting hosting, buying domain names, stuff like that. Over the coming weeks, this blog will be taking a deep dive into the technical abyss to better explain what things like DNS, SEO, AWS, and so on are. Don’t worry, I’m a professional; it won’t be overly confusing or boring, and you might just get some useful information out of it.