Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Website: Decide What It's For

Before you decide how you want to build your website, you need to decide what you want your website to do.

There is a lot of advice out there on what every good author website "needs." You'll notice a lot of it doesn't agree. I think a big reason for that is the fact that different people want their websites to do different things.

Do you want to use your website as a marketing tool? As a way to connect with your readers? As a go-to place for all things you? Not that a website can't do all of those things, but if you primarily want your website to be a blog and forum where you can interact with your fans, you will probably want to set it up differently and use a different web-building application than if you just want a place to point people to when they want to find your work.

Even if you're planning on starting small, choose a platform that will accommodate your future plans.

In my case, I wanted a fairly simple website. I wanted to have a place where people could go to find links to my work, as well as to reviews and interviews and other stuff about me. It's also a place I can collect the little freebies I've done so far, as well as talk about my stories individually, sharing alternate drafts or anecdotes about what inspired a particular piece. The blog is for interaction; the website is for information.

Therefore I decided to not worry about forums or flash or anything really fancy, but I did want something I could maintain and update myself whenever I felt like it and organize basically any way I wanted, as opposed to being stuck with some "author template."

Is my website all it could be? No. Does it do what I wanted it to do? Yes. (Thank the gods for static pages.) I'll get around to figuring out pictures one of these days, but in the meantime, if you want a complete and exhaustive list of everything I've ever published, or links to reviews of my work, www.mercyloomis.com is the best place to look.

(I also have to admit that I picked my website-building tool, Joomla!, by calling my brother-in-law and asking what he uses. Why? Because I suck at programming and I wanted someone I could call when I needed help. I also bought a book on it. I recommend this strategy highly.)

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