Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Revamping Your Website

I finally paid a professional to create a website for me.

My previous website was my own Frankenstein creation. And much like the monster, it was large, unwieldy, and unpleasant to look at.

I liked the content, but the presentation was lacking. I used html, which has since been replaced by better design languages. My site had different looks on different browsers, some better than others. I had a lot of unneeded, sloppy code that caused errors.

So I hired a designer to drag me into the 21st century.

My take on websites may be a bit peculiar. I don't like busy-looking web pages, or graphic-intensive sites that have Flash intros--I always skip the intro, and get impatient when a site takes a while to load.

I wanted something simple, easy to navigate, that I could maintain and update myself. I also wanted to remove some obsolete text content and add pictures and videos and a few other bells and whistles.

What I've lost:
  • My writing tips pages, which were redundant because the tips are now collected in my Newbie's Guide to Publishing e-book.
  • Free stories, which were redundant because they've been collected in my 55 Proof e-book.
  • Some reviews and old news.
  • Three pages of pictures.
What I've gained:
  • A simple, easy to navigate page.
  • Three times as many pictures, using
  • A guestbook.
  • Several new videos and movies.
  • A new store.
  • A site for my pen name, Jack Kilborn.
  • A message board, with chat.
In other words, a lot of extra content in a smaller, easier to access amount of space. I went from having over 25 pages to about 10.

When you're looking to redo (or create) a website, here are some things to keep in mind.
  1. Understand what your site it for. It isn't a 24 hour advertisement. It's more like a 24 hour hotel, where people can visit and have a pleasant stay. Websites are all about information and entertainment, not commercials.

  2. Decide what you want. Do this by looking at other websites and dissecting the reasons you like them (or don't like them.) What makes a site appealing? What makes it sticky? What makes you come back time and again?

  3. Set a price. Websites can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Figure out what pages you need and what you want on them, and a designer should be able to give you an estimate.

  4. Find a designer. I used Jack Passarella, at Jack happens to be an author, so he has a good take on what an author website should do. I liked his style, and I enjoyed working with him. It took several weeks for him to fit me into his queue (good designers usually have a waiting list), but once he did he completed the site in just a few days. He has an easy-going yet professional manner and is reasonably priced.

  5. Learn how to do some things for yourself. Having a working knowledge of domains, ftp, html, css, and php can only help you as an author. Being able to fix, tweak, and update your own site saves a ton of money, and is often quicker than working with a webmaster.
If you want to see the difference between new and old, here's your chance.

Let me know what you think...