I spent some time in the last week giving advice to a friend on setting up her website in preparation for the release of her novel. This is part 3/3, focusing on some of my personal recommendations on a path forward. If you missed the other parts in this series:
A few other things I personally recommend that you try to include:
- Support Mobile devices. This is critical. So many people find your site via social media and a lot of them will be on a tablet / phone. Google has also started penalizing sites that don’t support mobile versions. All websites natively allow a phone/tablet to view them, but not all respond to the size of the screen. This is a design thing and related to the template you pick for the look/feel.
- Use Analytics. Google provides them for free, so do other services. Analytics will help you understand how much traffic you have coming to your website, and will give you more data than you’ll ever be able to read. Still, it will help understand things like…
- Do most people visit my site after I post a new blog entry, or do I have consistent traffic?
- Are people using a particular feature on my site?
- What types of devices are people using to browse my site?
- If you blog, have an RSS feed so that people can subscribe (and make it obvious so they can). I never read blogs just to read blogs. I do subscribe to them via Feedly though and read articles that sound interesting
- If you blog, setup integration with your social media so you can broadcast new posts. My blog automatically posts my new articles to both Facebook and Twitter.
- If you have a store, make absolutely certain that all payments are collected via a secure connection (look for the HTTPS in the URL). Often this means that your redirects the user to the PayPal / Authorize.net site to handle the transaction. Without this, credit card numbers being input into your website will be unsecure! (This is a big one)
- If you can’t afford a web designer to help you with the look/feel of your site (that’s ok), look into a premium template for your site. Depending on your technology (e.g. Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, Tumblr) there are many many options for this and they are affordable. You may not have a super fancy site, but you don’t necessarily want it to look like a high schooler built it (even if you are a high schooler). A person’s impression of your website may have a direct impact on your business. Don’t be the Space Jam website. That isn’t helping anyone.
- Make sure your technology supports exporting content. The web is a dynamic, ever changing place, and what you are doing today may not be what you are doing in the future. Your domain can move with you! Just make sure your content can easily move too.
Finally, remember that a website is something you can spend 40 hours a week working on. My day job is a being a web developer, and it’s definitely a field that you always have new things to learn. Your main concern is being a writer. If you spend all your time blogging and tinkering on your website, then you aren’t building the platform that your website is supposed to be pushing. Find a solution that makes it as easy/quick as possible for you to maintain your web presence without infringing on your actual writing time.
Oh. And have fun with it. It’s supposed to be fun!