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 I used html, which has since been replaced by better design languages.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...


Todd Thorne said...

At a glance, I'd say you got your money's worth on the new design, Joe. It's sleek, cleaner, organized to let the eye flow over the content without jumping around, and feels less like you're driving down a Vegas boulevard chock full of attention grabbers. Nicely done. I expect you should score some good reviews.

Dru said...

I like the new site much better. It was definitely worth the money to get a professional to revamp your site.

I like the space and how it looks to the eye.

Anonymous said...

By replacing pages of tips in plain ol' HTML with your tips e-book, you may lose a bunch of search engine hits that you'd otherwise get.

I originally found you (years ago) because of a search hit on one of those pages.

Unknown said...

I found my way over from I'm enjoying reading your blog.

The old site wasn't too bad, but the new site is much cleaner and straight-foward.

Anonymous said...

I like the new layout a lot. I'd read all of the old pages (took a while!) but I am enjoying the new, cleaner layout. I think it will be nice for someone who's in a hurry, and that's everyone these days. Congratulations and best wishes to you!

PS - learned of this from your newsletter, which I also like a lot.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks for the comments, folks.

The old site is still live, still Googleable. I'm leaving it up because it still gets hits.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Huge improvement.


Anonymous said...


I kinda like the old one better.

Stacey Cochran said...

Hey JA, the new site looks much "cleaner" than the old one. I like it.

In other news, I know you've voiced dislike for Google AdSense banners on your blog. I started one earlier this summer on the website, having no idea what would happen.

Today, I checked my balance and I have earned sixty bucks in two months, simply by having a banner on the bottom of my website. At this rate, I'll earn somewhere around $350 this year. My web traffic is only about 30,000/year, and Google AdSense pays per visit to your blog (or site).

I'm sure you get a hell of a lot more traffic here at Newbie's Guide and could probably be earning a couple thousand bucks per year, simply by having a banner at the bottom of your blog.

At any rate, because I've just gotten the first figures on the two-month run, I thought I'd pass along the info.

Anonymous said...

Joe, I like the clean look and easy way to run through it. The old Site is you, but this is nice.

Steve in Germany

JA Konrath said...

I'm finally finished housekeeping (fixing my blog, site, myspace, facebook, etc.) and will start posting about publishing again next week.

Looking forward to getting back to normal. Thanks all for bearing with me these last 2 weeks...

Suzanne Brandyn Author said...

Must say the new site is fresher, although I thought your old site reasonably presented.


Anonymous said...

There was a certain ramshackle charm to your old site, a style that suited your public persona and writing. I’ll miss that, but this new site is absolutely stunning. Sophisticated, even. (No offense.) It’s like seeing Herb in a tux eating caviar instead of donuts. But you’re not fooling anyone; those who know you from your speaking engagements know that beneath the veneer of wackiness is a core of hard-earned solid writing advice and wisdom. And the Newbie Guide is brilliant. (I'll post about it on the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction site.) The new site should bring you all the respect that Rodney Dangerfield never got.

Maria Zannini said...

VERY nice.

I'm a graphic designer in my other life, and I'd say your web master did right by you.

Me like.

Joyce Mason said...

Mixed emotions, here. I loved the funky, chaotic, colorful "so Joe" old web site, but I have to admit, the new one is sleek and easier on the eye. I'm glad you're keeping the old one available for those of us who might have a bit of withdrawal. Hope you'll still do contests and all the other fun 'n' games now that your site looks so pro--and thanks for sharing such practical tips on hiring help for a website. I'll be doing one soon and appreciate your great advice.

Anonymous said...

I must be missing something on the page. I don't have Quicktime installed on my work computer, and the new site is mostly gray and black, with white behind the body text.

For me, it looks a bit dull and I preferred the old one. Quirky, just like the novels :-)

Helen said...

New site loads faster (for me -- I'm on DSL). And it's cleaner, so it's easier to focus. The old had so much stuff going on at once that it distracted the eye.

I like the new site. (Not that I didn't like the old, mind you.) Good job.

JA Konrath said...

Black, white, and gray is what I wanted, Jack.

We learn to read in black and white, and I've found it to be easier on my eyes than many of the colored fonts and backgrounds gracing many other websites.

Besides, a tux is black and white. :)

Unknown said...

A proper web designer? Oh hey, I've been thinking about one of them. I've also been considering getting Dreamweaver - it's supposed to be the best design softer.

However, the site looks a treat, Joe - money well spent.

Katie Alender said...

Definitely easier to navigate than the older site, Joe.

How does your blog traffic compare to your main site traffic? Do you feel that you have two totally different segments of visitors? I'm curious (because my blog is on my main page... then again I only have one book at the moment).

Danette Haworth said...

Very nice! Well done. I like the old website, too, but I think the new one is a good fit for the author of a crime/suspense series.

evepaludan said...

Excellent makeover!

JA Konrath said...

Thanks for the comments, all.

Katie, my blog and website have a lot of crossover traffic, but my blog gets about 10% more hits.

Since this blog is more of a teaching tool for writers, and my website is more of a way to inform and entertain mystery fans, I find keeping them separate makes sense.

Anonymous said...

The new site is functional, and nice enough. It's a little generic though -- could use a touch more personality.

Unknown said...

you are good, i'm motivated by your writing...sorry if my english not so good :)

Unknown said...