I’m on the Web, Therefore I Am

pc.jpgAn Internet presence is one of the most important steps that an author can take, and it doesn’t require a big financial investment. The problem many authors face is deciding what kind of web presence they wish to have since there are so many types of websites and each has different benefits and burdens.

I hope this Tuesday Tip provides you with some basic information about establishing a presence on the worldwide web and the different ways you can accomplish that.

The most common way of getting a presence on the web is through a traditional website, such as the one that I have at www.caridad.com or THE CALLING site at www.thecallingvampirenovels.com. Websites such as these generally require the following:

1. Registration of the domain name (for example, www.caridad.com).
2. A server to host the site (in laymen’s terms, a computer which will hold
the computer files for the website).
3. An FTP (or file transfer protocol) program to copy/upload the files to the
4. Coding of the website.
5. Maintenance of the website.

If you’re not tech literate, you may require someone who can do the above steps for you. Companies such as Stone Creek, Moonglade Designs, Crocos Designs, Noveltalk, Writerspace, Coffee Time Romance, Romance Designs, and others will provide packages that can do all or part of the above.

One advantage of going with such a package is that you can choose for your website to be listed with other websites in the company’s “community.” Belonging to such communities may result in increased traffic to your site and added benefits, such as the ability to chat with readers who visit the community, or inclusion in a monthly newsletter. Most of these packages include maintenance as part of the services offered.

Another option is to register the domain name on your own and then have a programmer do the remaining steps or a combination of same. For example, I registered my own domain, engaged a hosting service (siteocity.com or bananahosting.com are ones I would recommend) and had the programmer do steps 3 and 4. I do maintenance and upgrades on my own.

This has the benefit of allowing me to control the website and do unlimited updates whenever I want. The down side to this is that I had to learn some HTML coding in order to update my site. A great site for information on HTML codes is HTML Code Tutorial at http://www.htmlcodetutorial.com/. The other down side is that doing the web coding will take time away from other things. However, if cost and control are factors, this is a nice mix.

If you’re not tech literate, you can reduce the need to learn a lot of code by going with a platform such as WordPress for your website. WordPress is a free program that has quite a number of additions (plugins) that make it relatively easy to maintain the site or even add features such as video trailers, flash, etc.

WordPress also has a number of free themes (themes are the look of the site). You can choose from a wide variety of themes or hire a programmer to create a unique theme for your site.

If you are not familiar with hosting, FTP, or coding, you will likely need a programmer if you are going to install the WordPress site on your own, but if cost is an issue, there is the alternative to create the website right at the main WordPress site at www.wordpress.org. This will avoid installation, hosting, and FTP issues.

One nice feature of WordPress is that it is basically a blogging program, so you can create a site that has traditional website features (pull-down menus, etc.) as well as a blog. There are a number of other free blogging programs, but I am going to save that discussion for a future article.

Once you’ve decided whether you are going to go with a hosted website in a community or a website you will manage in whole or in part on your own, what do you need to do next?

Research, research, research. You want your website to reflect your unique style, and the programmer (or you if you decide to do it on your own) will need to make basic decisions about the following:

1. Colors and fonts
2. Kinds of pages you want (For example biography, booklist, contest)
3. Menu Styles (Will you want them to drop down, or will they be links on the page? Will they be on the side or along the top?)
4. Flash or no-flash (Those animated intros that so many sites have)
5. Blog
6. Getting listed on the Search Engines
7. Joining a community

For the first four, take your time searching the web for sites that you like. Make a list of the sites and what you liked about each particular site. Check the site to see who designed it if you’ve decided to go with hiring an individual programmer rather than going with one of the packages. For fonts, one good site to visit is cooltext.com which lists a number of different fonts grouped by style—for example, horror or gothic fonts.

Whether you are going with the package, individual programmer, or on your own, make a list of all the things you wish to see immediately on the website. The price of the site is oftentimes linked to the number of pages you wish to have.

Then, make a wish list of those things you would eventually like to do, but can’t do right now. For example, those flash intro pages can be quite eye-catching, but sometimes slow to load when using dial-up lines. They can also be rather expensive, ranging anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars for a small header flash to thousands for larger and more complex flash elements. Let the programmers know what you would like to add eventually so that they can create the flexibility in what they are programming to allow for change.

Good programmers should show you a mock-up or two of a possible site based on the information you have provided them. This way you can fine tune the general look of the site before developing all the pages.

Some other things to remember:

1. Make sure your name or the name of the site is clear and prominent. The purpose of the site is to build your brand.
2. The site should reflect your writing style or theme. Again, this will help to build your brand visually.
3. If you are going to add a blog, Myspace, or other page, try to keep the above two items in mind and create a unified brand across all of your web presences.
4. Have key information on the main page and keep it current. There is nothing worse than visiting a site that has outdated information.
5. Give your visitors information about yourself, and give them some fun things to do while they are visiting. Fun things can include: video trailers, recipes, photo galleries, excerpts, contests.
6. Ask the programmer to include some kind of site meter so you can see how many hits you are getting and from where. Google has some wonderful site tracking software that is free for sites below a certain volume of hits.

If you do not have a web presence, I hope the above will help you in establishing one. If you do have a presence, maybe this information has provided you with some new ideas.

Copyright 2007 Caridad Pineiro Scordato www.caridad.com