Posted in Business Side of Writing, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Hiring Someone to Build Your Website

You’ve decided to hire someone. Now what?

First, read this article about costs: “How Much Does an Author Website Cost in 2022?” It will give you an idea of what fees you may expect. (Note: article written by a website designer.)

If hiring an individual, I’m presuming you’ve decided on a website builder and a host. If not, see this post.

How to Find a Designer

  • Ask Around
    • Ask authors (illustrators) you know, “Who designed your website? Did you like them? Would you work with them again?”
    • Ask on list serves, Facebook groups, or in writing groups for recommendations.
  • Find a Web Designer Company (who understands the needs of creators)
    • Websy Daisy – I found this company by asking the above questions. They create  custom WordPress websites for authors, artists, and creators. The sampling of sites they’ve created look fantastic. No price is listed. You have to fill out the form and then they’ll get back to you. They do not fix or maintain sites they did not create. I noticed on one author’s site that there was a favicon (the image you see in a website browser like the Facebook icon).
  • Join the Author’s Guild and use their website service. Annual dues vary. You can start with a free website. Plus there are other benefits of membership.

Thoughts to Consider

  • Make sure the person/company understands author or illustrator website needs.
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for references or to check reviews.
  • Talk with them over the phone or via Zoom to see if you click.
  • Do they build custom sites or use templates?
  • How much control you’ll have.
  • Will your website have a “website designed by” or “website by” notice that shares the company/or individual designer’s name? (Free WordPress themes include a notification “xxx theme powered by WordPress.”)
  • How many web pages they include, if it’s a set fee. And what additional pages will cost.
  • Will they continue to do maintenance on your site and how much will that cost?
  • Or, will they train you to update the site yourself? Do they provide tutorials? Or is it individual training? Is this included in the fee or separate?
  • Can you afford their fees?

Questions to Ask an Individual Designer

In addition to the maintenance and training questions above, ask:

  • Do you have familiarity with WordPress (or whatever builder you want to use) sites?
  • Have you used this host?
  • Will you do the initial set up of the site?
  • Will you give me advice on themes? (Choosing a theme can be overwhelming. And you may find it helpful if someone is willing to give you some choices to start with and/or give you feedback on themes you’ve chosen.)
  • Can you make custom changes with html or CSS? (Themes often have limited choices, but this is additional coding for further choices.)
  • What are your fees? (It could be a flat fee, an hourly fee, a page fee, etc.) What does that include? (5 pages or ?) Or, I have a budget of $xxx—what can I get for that?
  • Will you give me an itemized invoice?
  • How and when do you want payment? (If you don’t personally know this person, they will probably want some money upfront.)
  • How do you want me to send you the text, images, and URLs for my site? (Or you can have them find images and URLs, but that will increase your cost.)
  • What’s your time schedule for delivery of the website?
  • After your initial design, can I still request changes before the website is final? (You may not like placement of images, font size/color, etc.)

Some of these questions may be appropriate for a company as well, but usually they’ll have information laid out for you ahead of time.

Getting Started with an Individual Designer

  1. Agree on fees and what that includes.
  2. Sign up for your host. You can share your login and password with your designer or create a new login and password for them to use. The latter is the safest method.
  3. Register your domain name with your host or transfer control to your host if you already have a domain name.

What Information Should I Expect from an Individual Designer?

  • Login and password to the website builder, e.g. WordPress.
  • A statement or invoice for use on your taxes.
  • Contact information.

What Additional Information Should You Request?

  • Guidance as we plan the website together. (For example, on one website I built, I suggested the author send me additional images to accompany text.)
  • If they customize your free or purchased theme, I personally would want the html codes for the colors they use. For example, on my site the yellow of my name is #ffd859 and the green of my background is #377a46. Why would I want to know this? To create borders, new headers, or icons, etc. with the exact same colors or if I want to change the color scheme or find a color that compliments.

Whether you choose an individual designer or a company, going in with knowledge ahead of time will be very helpful. And don’t be afraid to ask questions! Especially if you don’t understand something.

Posted in Business Side of Writing, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Choosing a Platform and Host for Your Website

First, you don’t have to know html to build a website. There are many website builders that create the html for you.

Second, a disclaimer. If the information below feels overwhelming, either hire someone to help you build a site and teach you how to maintain it, or hire someone who will build and maintain your site. In either of those cases, I strongly recommend WordPress.org as your platform because you’ll be able to find many others to help if your original person can no longer assist. (More on this later.)

Third, definitions. The platform is the software that runs the website—the website builder. For example, WordPress sites (the software that builds the site) do not have to be hosted on WordPress.com. The host is usually where your site live—it’s also called a CMS—content management system. They probably hold your domain name renewal as well, though someone one else can do that (a domain registrar). Hosting sites may have their own software, but it won’t be as easy to transfer to another host. Many of these will let you play around with a trial site for free.

This article, “How to Choose the Best Website Builder in 2023” is a good place to start. But you may also want to talk to friends about their experiences. I personally have used various WordPress sites on various hosts, and Weebly and Wix, each on a different site. I looked at Godaddy’s builder on a friend’s site and could not see an option to add a link to a box or image.

Let me add my comments on their feedback in the above article.

  1. WordPress.org – many people know how to use this software and it’s very flexible.
  2. Web.com – blogging functionality being limited would be a “no” for me.
  3. Wix – fairly easy to use; complicated to move your site to another software system.
  4. HubSpot – good for simple site, but does have WordPress plugin option.
  5. WooCommerce – is aimed at selling—not usually what an author or illustrator is primarily doing on their website.
  6. Gator – no free trial.
  7. Hostinger – not easy to change templates; can’t schedule blog posts.
  8. Domain.com – no free website builder; does not migrate well to another site.
  9. BigCommerce – again aimed at selling; more expensive.
  10. Shopify – a third aimed at selling; requires their own payment platform.
  11. WordPress.com – more limited than using WordPress.org elsewhere.
  12. Squarespace – a fourth aimed at selling.
  13. Weebly (now owned by Squarespace, so I found difficulty getting help) – again limited to what it offers.
  14. DreamHost – uses WordPress, but will require hosting elsewhere, so what is it they do?
  15. GoDaddy – limited set of features.

The article’s conclusion, and my own, is WordPress.org. If you just want a one or two page website where a lot doesn’t change, any of the non-commerce sites would probably be adequate.

So next up is choosing a host, which is where a monthly or annual cost is charged.

PCmag recommends Bluehost and WP Engine, “The Best Web Hosting Services for 2023.” Forbes has a list of ten, “10 Best Web Hosting Services (February 2023).” This site shares nine, “The Top 9 Best Web Hosting Providers.” Bluehost is mentioned in all three articles. WP engine in the first and the last. SiteGround, which I use, is mentioned in the last. (It was top-rated when I found it last year.)

I personally would compare prices and make sure they each support a WordPress website builder. Some will provide your domain for free, although there will still probably be an annual renewal fee. (Your domain is your url. Mine is susanuhlig.com.)

See what you think of the host’s website and how easy it appears to get support. Many offer searchable knowledge bases, online support, support chats, demos, a help desk, etc. If you can’t find this kind of information easily, that’s not a good sign.

Do they have any free WordPress tutorials? If so, that will be a helpful resource. My host does, and I’ve used them to lead me step-by-step through setting up a new site and migrating an existing site.

Looking at reviews, cost, and support should help you come to a decision on which host to use.

Posted in Business Side of Writing, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Writing Life

Prepping Your Website Content

Prepare Content

  • Write your content into a document(s)and save. Revise, proof, get feedback, or at least run a grammar or editor checker. These files will make pasting into your new website easy. And if you’re hiring someone, they’ll need this information.
  • Gather book information. It’s perfectly acceptable to use the blurb about your book from your publisher. It’s easy to copy this information from the publisher’s website. Reviews could come from the same place or booksellers or fan or thank you letters you’ve received. Paste the gathered info into a document. You may want to add the backstory—what prompted you to write the book. Or titles of books for further reading on your topic.
  • Gather urls. Think about what you’ll link to. A review on Kirkus, a buy link, your publisher, your agent, your favorite writing organizations, your favorite blogs, a class, other author or illustrator websites, etc. I like saving them as a hyperlink in the actual text, but you can also paste them in at the end of your document.
  • For picture books… make sure you include information about your illustrator. You may want to link to their site as well.
  • Create or modify activities… to be shared on your site, if you desire. They could be in a blog post–which you link to from your Book page—a pdf, a separate page, a video.

Prepare Images

  • Choose photos and images. Of course you’ll want a good headshot, book covers, and/or images of your workspace, your view from your home, etc. You might have pictures of objects that are featured in your books. A friend writes historical so she had images of the real people she writes about. You may want some stock photos or illustrations for headers or spot art on the site. (A favorite resource for me is pixabay, where I get most of the images for my blog posts.)
  • Put your photos and images where you’ll find them. Create a folder and copy them into it. If you think you might use it, throw it in.
  • Rename files. Each image should indicate what it is. For example, Sue at age 9, or Sue headshot, My Shadow cover, my cat Luna.
  • Crop. Cut out extraneous background so the focus of the picture is clear.
  • Resize. Depending on the purpose of each image, you’ll probably need to resize. Photos from your phone and/or camera can be huge file sizes (easily 3-6 MB). Using them so large affects SEO and speed of a site loading. This helpful article says: “Optimal file size: Large images or full-screen background images should be no more than 1 MB. Most other small web graphics can be 300 KB or less.” Here’s a post I did on the how-to of resizing pictures.

Again, you can use other sites for inspiration on the kinds of text and images that you might want to use. I did a Website Q&A post over ten years ago, but it still has some good information and links.

Next week, I’ll talk about choosing a platform for your website. (If you missed last week’s post, check it out here.)

Posted in Business Side of Writing, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Writing Life

Preparing to Build a Brand-New Author or Illustrator Website

Whether you are hiring a website built or are doing-it-yourself, do your prep work first.

Preparing to Setup Your Site

I’ve recently setup a website for a friend, and I asked her questions such as:

  • What pages do you want to include on your site and what do you want them called? Authors often have a number of the following: About Me, Books, Events, School Visits, Blog, Just for Kids, FAQs, Contacts. Or perhaps you want a page called Appearances with Events and School Visits as subpages. Press Kit could be an option on School Visits or Appearances or be on its own page. Illustrators in addition to the above might have a Portfolio and a Sketch page. Some people have a one-page website. Others have pages such as Writer’s Help or Favorite Links. Decide what works for you.
  • What are your favorite colors? Especially ones that work well together. Choose at least one dark and one light.
  • What backgrounds on websites appeal to you? Black, dark, white, tan, or some other color? Or do you like a colored border with a contrast color for the text? Or do you like a texture or image background? (Can be a border with a complementary color.) Do you like white text or black text? (If using a very dark background, white text is usually easiest to read. Black works well on light colors and white.)
  • What are some websites that appeal to you visually? Choose 4 or 5 and think about what you specifically like on each. Make notes.
  • Do you like simple, whimsical, serious, modern, retro, silly, or ? Here’s a great article analyzing 33 author websites.

Think about Content and Images.

  • Your Home page. What do you want to say? And where do you want to say it? Your Home page is your welcome mat—your invitation into your office. Text might include: a brief introduction or bio, why you write for children, a tag line, how to pronounce your name, and an image of you or book cover(s) or both. Other options include: a video, your recent blog posts a subscribe form or button, social media links, Twitter or Instagram or Goodreads feed, awards, etc. Often these are in a sidebar. If you can dream of it, it can probably be done.
  • Book page. Do you want all books on one page or do you want a main page with the covers and brief descriptions and subpages? What will you include: publisher, year published, awards, excerpts, reviews, buy link(s), background info, other photos or images (place, people, etc.), activities, etc.
  • About page. If you want lots of info here, I suggest you have a short bio first with more info following. Plan for at least one headshot of you. You may also want some photos of you as a child.

If you need ideas for your other pages, look at other websites for inspiration.

This is a lot of prework, but thinking about it first will help you as you go through the next steps.

Look for a new post on Prepping Your Website Content next week.