So, you’re an emerging writer and it’s time you launched yourself into cyberspace? That’s great. I’m going to share with you some steps to getting started with a simple website that you can build yourself on a modest non-existent budget. Just one thing though, and sorry to be a nag, but you did do your homework from last time, didn’t you? If so, you can have a virtual pat on the back and a seasonal mince pie for your efforts. If you’re new to this site then I’d advise you to go through the checklist in Part 1 and decide which of the success ingredients you’re going to need to put together in your website. Trust me, it’ll make the process much easier in the long run.
1. Decide what you want your website to be called, i.e. your domain name. Many new writers keep it simple with something like www.firstnamelastname.com. If you have a specific product or project to promote then you can also (or instead) register the domain name for that, like www.noveltitle.com.
2. Now check whether your choice of domain name is available. To do this you need to go to one of the domain names registers, here, for example. If you can’t get .com or .co.uk (for UK writers) then check out other suffixes like .org, .info, .net, and .org.uk. However, they start getting a bit bizarre after a while, like uk.com, .tel or .biz!
3. Then you need a hosting company, aka an Internet Service Provider (ISP), to give you webspace and host your website. There are zillions of companies out there that offer web hosting services, and usually include the registration of your domain name. For this website I used eukhosts as it’s relatively cheap (less than a hundred pounds for two years hosting), and I’ve had great customer service from them.
4. Another decision you need to make is whether you’ll be making very regular updates, like news, features or articles, and inviting comments from your readers – in which case you need the functionality of a blog – or whether you’re happy to start with fairly static pages without much interaction.
Yes, but how do I actually build a website?
Back in ye olde days of the internet you needed some knowledge of html or would’ve had to hire a web designer. But now there are some amazingly easy-to-use software systems that require very little technical expertise.
Option 1. You can download free and paid-for website templates, which you then fill with your own words. Open Source Web Design has a vast collection of templates on offer, although you may need a bit of hand-holding from someone who’s tech savvy. By the way, your hosting company may also offer a free website builder.
Option 2. Probably a better alternative is what I call a ‘blog-style’ system. These were originally designed for people who wanted to keep blogs but they’ve become really popular and are almost the default option for those starting a website for the first time.
The two most popular ones are Blogger and WordPress (the latter of which I used to build this site). Others include Squarespace and the free Weebly, both of which are very simple for the non-techie person to use. With these you can add all types of content, i.e. text, images, audio, video, and update the content easily and within a specific template.
N.B. You can create a basic blog right away for free, but unless you choose a paid-for option that includes your own domain (and web hosting) then your website will be www.firstnamelastname.blogger.com or www.firstnamelastname.wordpress.com.
Me? I prefer to pay the extra to have my own domain name, as I think it looks more professional, but it depends on your budget.
Next time I visit this topic I’ll be talking about design, and getting the right look for your website. In the meantime if you have any questions or comments please post them below. I’d also love to hear from new/emerging writers who already have a website. How easy/hard did you find it to get yourself online?