|This website launching Spring 1998!|
Building a website is one of those things that I always knew I should be doing, like exercising regularly and eating my veggies. But for whatever reason, it always ended at the bottom of my To Do list.
Then a few weeks ago, my crit partner told me she was contacted by an agent who visited her website and wanted to know more about her.
"Hmm..." I thought, as "Build a Website" moved a few notches higher on the list.
A couple of weeks after that, she gets another email from another agent, asking to see more of her work after visiting her website. And that was it, I finally lit a fire under my butt and decided to start the strange and sometimes daunting process of getting my own website.
First, some website basics for the truly uninitiated (knowledgeable people, feel free to correct me in the comments). To have your very own website with YourName.com, you need two things: someone to register your domain name (that's the "YourName.com") and someone to host your files (getting the actual content from your computer to the Internet).
Step 1: Research
There are loads of different domain registrars and hosting companies out there, and they all offer different levels of service, accessibility, and value. Some hosting companies will also register domains, usually for free. Some will give you email accounts (so your email would be "firstname.lastname@example.org").
This is the part that can be really overwhelming, because there are so many different options but the average person just wants something that looks nice and isn't too expensive. I checked out two Lifehacker posts, The Five Best Domain Name Registrars and The Five Best Web Hosting Companies, for some guidance.
I also solicited opinions from friends on Facebook. This led my awesome techie friend Doug to write me a whole epic poem of suggestions, the first of which I found extremely helpful: once you decide on a name to register, don't use any online tools to check if it's available until you plan on buying it. Doug says it's not uncommon for those names to disappear after people check them.
Step 2: More Research
Take some time to consider what your skills are and how much time you want to put into building your site. Do you take beautiful photos? Do you know html? Do you like design? Or do you want a company that offers gorgeous templates that you can plug into?
Also think about how you'd like the website to function. Will it just show your bio and query samples for your manuscripts? Do you want to include a blog? Will this be a personal or professional website?
Once you figure out what you want from a hosting company, it becomes much easier to narrow down which do and don't have the functions you're looking for. It can be tempting to just go with the cheapest or the easiest host, but make sure that the package you buy has all the features you'd like (as well as great customer service and good customer ratings).
Step 3: Decide
After lots of research, I decided to go with Squarespace to build my site. I heard about it on one of my favorite design blogs (good sign!) and several people had recommended it to me. When I checked them out, I was floored by their goooooorgeous templates. They had a smart, simple video that showed how their service worked--basically, they provide a template that you can customize to your heart's content--and I liked that they offered a two-week free trial and unparallelled customer service. I will say they are on the pricier end: $8/month for their cheapest plan (includes free domain registration), but I knew that the price included great service if I was unhappy with anything, something I found few hosting companies could match.*
Step 4: What goes into the website
For me, I knew I wanted a bio, summaries of the manuscripts I'd completed, contact information, and a link to this blog. Since it was also my website, I wanted to include miscellaneous projects I've done in the past that aren't quite related to writing but still things I enjoy (like my Christmas murals project or my senior thesis**).
I organized everything on a navigation bar that would be seen at the top of every page:
I love my beautiful old typewriter, so I decided to take some photos of the inner workings and use them to decorate my site. Here's my logo, which is also at the top of every page:
I'm definitely not a professional designer, but I do have a middling interest in design. I tried to keep my page as simple as possible, with the home page featuring short descriptions of the things I most wanted to highlight: my bio, my manuscripts, and the blog (each also got its own fancy typewriter image).
I wrote up all the content, giving each of my manuscripts its own separate page, and hit the publish button. There's not a lot on the website--mostly it just shows off my work--but the nice thing is Squarespace makes it easy to grow as I have more information to share. And in the end? I totally love it, and it's completely worth the investment to have a beautiful, professional, well-maintained website.
I hope this was a helpful push to getting your own website up and running! If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll try to help. And if you want to take a closer look at my website, you can check it out at http://www.KendallKulper.com.
*I "tested out" their 24/7 customer service when I "couldn't figure out" how to "edit the page." I went with the instant chat offering and got quick, funny, helpful service--A+ all around.
**A look a confession as a more accurate historical archive in chronicling the social and cultural reaction to the rise of AIDS in the 80s and 90s, drawing on anonymous, taped confessionals culled by a telephone art project/hotline known as The Apology Line.