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Thread: Websites

  1. #1

    Websites

    With eight stories due to be published in the next few months I am considering now might be the time to finally enter the website game.

    Questions...

    - Is this too early? My main reason for websites is not because I want one (I don't) but because as my stories are in many different channels I would like a place I can advertise that will bring a reader to my other work.

    - I like Wix but I hate their prices. I really just want a simple, functional website - bio, links to places to buy the work, maybe a couple of sample bits. No videos or any of that stuff. Want a .com or a .net. Wix wants like $17 a month for their most basic hosting package w/domain which seems expensive and includes stuff I don't want like video hosting, etc. All I really want to pay for beyond the hosting of these couple of pages is the domain. I checked and the domain I can buy for three years for like $30 (through Wix) which means most of this money is going on Wix's hosting. Is there a better option?

    - What are some examples of good author websites? Any general tips for design? I'm not much of a designer but I know the basics, just unsure as to what the usual look of website for a writer with only a few publishing credits should be beyond the essentials (biography, contact page, links to work, etc)
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  2. #2
    As a former IT professional I ought to be able to advise you but can't because I decided to leave website design to the next generation, my work having been confined to internal corporate networks. Also as a technician I take a do-it-yourself approach to my two websites instead of using the services that make website creation easy for everyone. I see that Wix rates highly in the website creation service comparisons. The features that you say you don't want don't actually add much to the running costs of the service, so it doesn't matter that you won't use them. One of the underlying costs that may not be so apparent is the cost of the server's operating system. The two options are the Microsoft server package and Linux. Microsoft naturally charge the companies for using their software but Linux systems are free, so some service providers reflect that in their prices and offer both Microsoft and Linux server services, the Linux service being cheaper. If you only want the basics then a Linux server service is likely to be adequate. This is the type that I use. As the software is free Linux servers are widely used within the internet except where the specialised services of a Microsoft server are particularly needed. The bundle of facilities that a service provider offers will depend on which type of server they are using.

    If you are using your site for commercial purposes, i.e. earning money, then the rules about registering a domain may be slightly different. Even if you just provide links to another site that actually handles the sales that may be regarded as a commercial operation. Any site that indulges in commercial activity must have a way for customers to raise issues and find the owner, so you can't operate it anonymously in the way that a purely personal site can be. On my website my novel was available for free download, so no commercial activity was involved and my address is not publicly accessible in the domain registration. That is how the .UK domain register works but the US domains may be handled differently. I have a .UK domain because it is cheaper than a US one, not just because I live here, by the way.

    Domain suffixes are no indication of the physical location of the owner. This is something that Internet users don't always appreciate. The popular suffix .TV is actually the national one for Tuvalu and Tuvalu gains a considerable proportion of its finances from licensing it out around the world. That was clearly a clever bit of forward planning when the national suffixes were allocated. The fee for the domain name itself is only a small proportion of a website's running costs though and I have three domain names at present which are all "parked", to use the technical term, on the same server service, although doing this takes some code juggling if your provider hasn't actually provided multiple domain support as part of the service.

    This may all sound too technical for your purposes, but I just wanted to point out that there are some basic elements to the running costs that genuinely do affect them. However, the sexy looking add-ons aren't really part of them. What actually matters are things like the amount of space provided on the server for storage and the amount of channel use by people accessing the site. My provider gives a basic allowance, which I never exceed anyway, and then charges extra for anything over that. So, things like video services don't cost anything in themselves but the channel usage by the video stream to each user does, so a service that offers video streaming is likely to provide a vast amount of channel time that you can use for simpler things like text downloads.

    The chances are that for simple purposes any of the services will be completely adequate. If you have your own domain name then you can always move it to another service provider later if you feel the need. This is why it is only regarded as being "parked" with the current one, because it is mobile.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  3. #3
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    I have 2 businesses in the UK and I've found there are always local guys who's prices are much lower than the mainstream website builders but they vary wildly in ability. Check the local business pages and see if you can find someone you like and then see how easy it is to find their pages online. If you are struggling, they aren't any good.
    I know you say you're not that bothered about a website but if you are going to have one, it's completely useless unless people can actually find the thing. Find someone who is an expert in googles algorithms. The only thing worse than paying $15-$30 a month for a website, is paying $15-$30 a month for a website no one can see or find.
    Hope that helps a little.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by L2me View Post
    I know you say you're not that bothered about a website but if you are going to have one, it's completely useless unless people can actually find the thing. Find someone who is an expert in googles algorithms. The only thing worse than paying $15-$30 a month for a website, is paying $15-$30 a month for a website no one can see or find.
    Hope that helps a little.
    I agree that promotion of your work is a separate issue from publishing it, but there are plenty of suggestions around about that side of things. Google are paid to promote particular sites and they continually adapt their algorithms to suppress direct attempts to manipulate them to gain free promotion. Whatever anyone knows about loopholes in Google's algorithms is also known by Google, so any such loopholes don't last long. An old trick was to incorporate hidden text on web pages that repeated certain words many times just to get a high score against them, but Google soon spotted that ploy and stopped it. In fact they may actually downrate sites that they think have abnormal characteristics intended to influence their algorithms.

    Some server service providers also offer templates for common types of websites that you can easily customise for your own purposes without employing an additional web mastering service. I have a friend who used to run such a web mastering company, so know a little about what goes on.

    Apart from the plus side of owning your own site there is also the minus side of it possibly getting hacked, especially if you are using the convenient stock packages that most people do, as the hackers know the weaknesses of these and try to exploit them. My sites detect attempts by robots to hack them almost daily, often using access points for common packages like the Wordpress content management system, which is one that I don't use. In fact my sites are so primitive that all the hacking attempts just bounce off because the very basic website technology is relatively secure. As a general rule the more feature rich a site is the more likely there is to be a security loophole in it somewhere. It's the perpetual use/abuse problem, that the more useful a system is the more abusable it becomes.

    Hackers aren't interested in the contents of your site, just in getting control of it so that they can use it as a zombie relay service for their own purposes. They want ways to stay anonymous and not pay for channel capacity, so need to be able to route their own traffic through your site so that the blame and running costs all land on you. If your site gets blacklisted because of this type of activity then you'll get very little exposure of your work on the Internet. This is where a web mastering service may be useful, in ensuring that your site is secure.

    When deciding how to market your work you need to realise that the fully integrated services specialising in that actually cover all these technicalities for you as part of the package, so don't just look for what appears to be the cheapest approach but rather the best one that you can afford. How good do you really think your work is and how much do you feel you can invest in its promotion and publication?

    As I said, I am probably not an average website owner, or indeed an average anything, so hopefully someone with more average experience of the subject will pitch in with advice.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    - Is this too early? My main reason for websites is not because I want one (I don't) but because as my stories are in many different channels I would like a place I can advertise that will bring a reader to my other work.
    I don't think it's too early - but i'm just guessing because i've not done this yet, so i'm interested to see how this works (hopefully well) for you. I plan to start an author website well before publications, my reasoning being it will take time to build the website, establish a base and contacts etc... I'd put up blog posts, podcasts etc. in the meantime.

    Are you going all out on social media too?

    Quote Originally Posted by JustRob View Post
    As a former IT professional I ought to be able to advise you but can't because I decided to leave website design to the next generation, my work having been confined to internal corporate networks. Also as a technician I take a do-it-yourself approach to my two websites instead of using the services that make website creation easy for everyone...
    I was wondering whether to build my own website or go for something like wix. I'm already OK with python for the backend, and HTML/CSS don't look too hard. But my biggest worry would be security - might be worth going with wix just for peace of mind. What are your thoughts?

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    With eight stories due to be published in the next few months I am considering now might be the time to finally enter the website game.

    Questions...

    - Is this too early? My main reason for websites is not because I want one (I don't) but because as my stories are in many different channels I would like a place I can advertise that will bring a reader to my other work.

    - I like Wix but I hate their prices. I really just want a simple, functional website - bio, links to places to buy the work, maybe a couple of sample bits. No videos or any of that stuff. Want a .com or a .net. Wix wants like $17 a month for their most basic hosting package w/domain which seems expensive and includes stuff I don't want like video hosting, etc. All I really want to pay for beyond the hosting of these couple of pages is the domain. I checked and the domain I can buy for three years for like $30 (through Wix) which means most of this money is going on Wix's hosting. Is there a better option?

    - What are some examples of good author websites? Any general tips for design? I'm not much of a designer but I know the basics, just unsure as to what the usual look of website for a writer with only a few publishing credits should be beyond the essentials (biography, contact page, links to work, etc)
    Websites are a great tool but how will you get people too the site - why will they come and there is a ton of stuff around this.

    My company builds websites for a living so we go through these discussions with a ton of clients (We don't do authors sites though). We do commercial ones. Have a good long look at others and see where you want your one to be. Then, and this is the biggest issue - keep it up to date.

    Most don't and there in start the problems.

    Is it a point of reference, a marketing tool or what is the point of it. Just look around and get some ideas.

    It will need - home, about, contact but beyond this, the world is your oyster.

  7. #7
    Media Manager sigmadog's Avatar
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    For the level of commitment you seem to be expressing, I think a Wordpress-based site would be smart in the long run. That is, if you are willing to put in a little time to learn the basics and keep it current and active.

    My recommendation for Wordpress is based on the following:
    • Wordpress is free. You need to purchase a domain name and a hosting package, but the Wordpress content management system is a free download. In fact, most hosting sites will likely have it all ready to go for you to install, sometimes with a couple clicks.
    • Wordpress is relatively simple. You can generally get up and running in a few minutes, and learning the basics is pretty easy and (mostly) intuitive. I'd recommend searching out some tutorials, but it's not rocket science.
    • Wordpress is everywhere. Lots of small sites use Wordpress. Big sites use Wordpress as well. Because it's so popular, there are many free plug-ins that add capabilities (contact forms, shopping carts, Paypal, galleries, etc.).
    • Lots of support. Because Wordpress is so ubiquitous, there is a lot of help available out there to get you up and running, from YouTube videos, to forums, to blogs devoted to the CMS. There is a world of users out there ready to help, who have likely been exactly where you are right now.
    • Wordpress is mobile-friendly. Since the majority of users interact on the web via their smartphones, it's important for every web site to be responsive, that is, capable of re-sizing it's screen to the viewer's format. Responsiveness is built into Wordpress.
    • Wordpress is flexible. There are thousands of free Wordpress themes (a theme is a backend structure that controls the look and feel of a Wordpress site) to give you a consistent, professional design. There are also paid themes (from $20 - $150 or so U.S. dollars) which you can purchase for a fully custom look.
    • Wordpress is SEO friendly. If Google can't find you there's no point in having a website. Wordpress is very Search Engine Optimization (SEO) friendly. With a couple free plug-ins (I recommend Yoast SEO, for starters) and a bit of research, you'll soon learn the basics of getting a good Google ranking.


    The whole SEO thing is both mysterious and simple. No one knows exactly what Google looks for, but there are some basic principles that seem to work well. You would do well to learn about this topic if you are serious about operating a web site. Personally, I put it off for many years and am only now educating myself on good white-hat SEO practices because my new business will live or die based on online conversions; and without traffic, there can be no conversions; and without SEO there will likely be no traffic.

    To summarize my recommendation:


    1. Purchase a domain (something.com is the best bet)
    2. Purchase a hosting package with a host that is Wordpress friendly
    3. Load Wordpress and learn the basics (lots of books, forums, YT videos, and blogs on the subject)
    4. Add content to your site.
    5. Learn basic white-hat SEO practices (again, lots of books, forums, videos, and blogs devoted to the subject)
    6. Commit to adding to your web site on a regular basis to keep it active and current. I try to post something once a week: it's a goal I try to honor but don't beat myself up about if I fail once in a while.


    It's fun having a web site (I've got two) even though it's work. Knowing what works best to make a successful site will save you a lot of wasted energy.

    -Cheers.


    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    Graphic Design. Illustration. Happy Dogs.
    Hidden Content
    Love your pet forever. Hidden Content

  8. #8
    Thanks for the responses!

    Honestly right now the goal here isn't about being visible on search engines or marketing, etc. I'm not self-publishing and have no intention of self-publishing, so there's no real entrepreneurial need for promotion, SEO, etc.

    The goal here is to (1) Check the obligatory box for a professional writer to have a website and (2) Use the website as part of my bio so if somebody reads one of my stories in an anthology or whatever there's a place that they can visit as a kind of directory for my other work.

    I realize Amazon, Goodreads etc fulfill somewhat of this purpose but I still think an independent 'official' platform which I directly control is probably necessary (?) All of the places that are due to publish my work have asked if I have a website hence this has become something of an ongoing annoyance and it seems like it's fairly standard practice to adopt at some point (?)

    I don't want to spend a whole lot of time on building this website, though. I have a bunch of deadlines (both self-imposed and for revisions) as well as other commitments and I don't want to start frittering away time on websites if I can avoid it. I have adjusted my expectations - I'm literally just looking for four pages (biography, maybe a few samples of stuff I am working on that is not contracted, then links to the various places my work is published) and I guess I probably could manage a WordPress site on that basis but last time I tried something like that it turned into a hell of HTML (which I am not great at) so I was hoping for something that's fairly low maintenance while also able to appear professional with a little effort.

    But that may, of course, be a case of Choosing Beggars, and I accept that if so. I mean, I guess if such a platform existed there would be not huge market for places like Wix. Seems when it comes to website building you either invest time and sweat in doing it yourself or you pay.
    Last edited by luckyscars; June 18th, 2019 at 07:01 AM.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  9. #9
    I agree with Sigmadog. Keep it simple for yourself. WordPress gives you everything you need, without having to work on the site itself. It's pretty easy to master, and you can focus on what you like to do most: writing.
    Hidden Content Hidden Content

    I am a clay potato in a strawberry field
    -Darren White, from "Clumsy"

  10. #10
    Regarding the amount of work involved, yes there is at the start but the point of the site, as you are clearly aware, is to provide a ready-built source of the information that people are most likely to want. Having assembled the core information on my two sites I haven't changed them for years because I too have other things that I want to do, but they are still paying back for the original effort that I put into them. When I write to someone about my computer project I simply include a link to my website and tell them that the explanation of it is there if they want to read it. That in itself saves a lot of repetitive typing and long emails. Also, as you have equally realised, the control that you have over your own site means that it says to visitors "This is me, nobody else," which is important when you are selling yourself even if you aren't that bothered about book sales.

    Apart from providing a website you also have the important benefit of space on an Internet server where you can make files, like your written works, available for private download. That means that you only have to send people links rather than the entire files. Yes, you can store those files on one of the free services somewhere but having your own site gives you complete control over them without having to read through ludicrous terms and conditions that may get changed as soon as you have. The data in your domain is yours -- end of.

    The most important aspect of having your own domain to my mind is that you aren't tied to any specific service provider. Although your domain is registered centrally by your current host service provider, which they pay for using the registration fee that you give them, it is possible to get the domain name transferred to another registrar at a later date. However, the support packages provided by the new host service may not be the same as on the original, so there is the chance that your site won't work if you've used anything unusual. In contrast to owned domains subdomains supplied by service providers for everyday use belong to that one company and moving to another involves telling people that your email addresses have changed. Bear in mind that having your own domain gives you entirely personalised email addresses as well as website facilities. In fact initially it is very easy to set up your new personal email addresses before thinking about creating your website.

    I think that rather than trying to work out exactly how you can get the best value for money out of a hosting service you should just consider whether you can afford to have one and then simply use it as much as you want to. I mean, does anyone feel that they have to drive a minimum number of miles each year to justify owning their car or do they just buy and maintain one as a convenience? I own a high performance car, a Honda Civic Type R, but in the thirteen years that I've owned it it's only done 18,000 miles, so maybe 1,400 miles a year. Given the running costs for the car even when I'm not using it, it's hardly economical, especially as I'm retired and my angel also owns a car. However, if one of them won't start on a cold morning we just get in the other one and our lives aren't disrupted by the inconvenience. It's all about what else you could do with the money if you weren't paying for something that you underuse.

    My angel and I don't have smartphones, just basic pay-as-you-go phones that we barely ever use. Virtually nobody knows their numbers either. Many people see such things as essential to their lives and feel obliged to pay regularly for a mobile phone service but we have little use for them. A hosted Internet domain is to my mind the same as a car or mobile phone service; either you consider having one a part of your life or you don't. If you visit either of my sites MensTemporum.org.UK or MensTemporum.UK you'll just be directed to the same single web page, all that's currently left of that website. The two domain names give an illusion of two sites but they are just alternative names for the same one. There was much more but as the page explains I decided to remove it all, at least for the time being. Even though there's barely anything there at present the UK domain name MensTemporum is the anchor point for everything to do with my novel writing and the location of my email accounts as a writer. It's worth more than a personalised number plate on one's car nowadays if it's affordable.

    Only do what you want to do and have time to do with your domain hosting service. It's just a service and it shouldn't rule your life.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

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