There is a lot of advice out there about how to build an effective writer’s web site or blog. The one piece of advice that’s hardest to argue is that you need one.
As publishing changes in ways that give writers more control over how their content is sold and distributed, that control comes at a cost. A traditional publisher or agent may handle much of the promotion of your books, but you’re in charge of your personal brand, and your web site is a big part of that.
I am a full-time senior online marketing consultant, working with Fortune 500 companies, but before I turned to the marketing “dark side,” I was a web developer. I started doing professional web design and programming in 1994. At one point, it was difficult to build web sites, but it’s not that challenging now, if you have some idea of how to start.
How to Get Started – Choose Your Style
My recommendation is to select a pre-built template from a site like www.templatemonster.com and then have a designer customize it. They have templates for both standard web sites as well as WordPress templates. A good template will cost around $100 and you should be able to get it customized for a few hundred dollars more. Using a prebuilt template can save a lot on the design cost and you can browse many designs before deciding on the one you like.
Even if you decide to have a designer build your site from scratch, you can save a lot of time and expense by exploring designs on Template Monster, then using them to show your designer which aspects of each you like and what you don’t.
Learn the Basics of Content Creation
Making frequent changes to your web site can make its upkeep far more expensive over the long run than the initial cost of creating it in the first place. Unless you have a bottomless budget, I would suggest learning to create much of your own web content.
A blog is one way to create content without a lot of knowledge of web development, but it has limitations.
If you decide to go with a standard web site, you can pick Dreamweaver up for about $400. There are plenty of tutorials on how to do basic content changes or you can get a little help from anyone who has used Dreamweaver before. If you have a teenager, chances are great that they or one of their friends can show you the fundamentals.
If you have a template from which to work, it’s not hard to build new pages or modify existing ones. Dreamweaver has its own templates from which to build pages. Certain areas of the page can be made editable, while the layout, navigation, and other common areas can be locked, protecting you from messing things up.
Without some ability to do your own changes, you’ll always be at the mercy of either your budget or the availability of someone who works on the cheap. Dreamweaver isn’t much more difficult than formatting content in Word, once you use it a bit.
If you know someone with even a basic level of understanding of Dreamweaver, they’ll be able to shorten your learning curve enough that you should be able to pick up the basics in a few hours.
Web hosting with a service like bluehost.com costs between $5 and $10 per month, with more features than you’re likely to ever use, including one-click install of WordPress.
Do It Yourself When You Can
Leave the programming and major design changes to professional web developers, but you should be able to make most updates yourself with a little training and practice.