Thursday, April 10, 2008

How a quality web site can help build your business or career

Yesterday, we learned a little about tips and tricks for getting an affordable web site up and running. Today, we’re going to talk about how to take that web site and make it stand out to others.

A web site is a must for anyone in the writing industry, no matter where you work. And if you’re already published, you need to make sure your site is functioning at the optimum level. When you are sure this is where God called you to be, make plans to start your web site. Your site informs visitors and readers of what’s available and what’s coming soon. Even before your first book is published, you can establish a connection with site visitors and readers by sharing personal stories, tidbits/samples of your writing, photos, links, posting to a blog or journal, etc.

A web site can also mean the difference between a contract and a rejection. If an editor, agent or publisher is considering you and another author for similar projects, the first thing he/she will do is browse the Internet to see if you are “online.” If you do not have a web site, and the other person does, you will most likely get the rejection and the other author will get the contract.

Gone are the days when you sell a book and the publisher does all the work. Today, publishers are looking for authors who can market themselves successfully and work with their marketing team rather than sit back and want someone else to do the work for them. Even if your site is only 1 page, it’s a site. And it gives you an edge over those who don’t have one.

We have already discussed getting a domain and finding a host for your site. Now, let’s talk about the design and content.

1. Determine how many pages there will be to your site and decide on an overall scope.

You might also want to determine who your target audience will be and cater your site to them. Don’t try to please everyone. Find your niche and what works for you. Then, expand as the needs arise.

Pages every site is recommended to contain:

• Main/Introductory page
• Resume or Work samples
• Contact page/Guestbook

Pages recommended as additional:

• Writing samples/book excerpts
• Bookstore and book cover graphics/descriptions (if books available online)
• Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) or Discussion Questions for your book(s)
• Appearance schedule; book signings; speaking engagements
• Personal photos from events or places visited; online journal; blog
• Page of links and other favorite sites

Now, you can combine those first 3 pages into one if necessary. You can have an introductory paragraph followed by the resume and/or samples and use the sidebar of your site for the contact form. However, it’s smoother and cleaner when you can expand this out to 3 pages. The additional pages are recommended for when you’re up and running or if you have the content at the onset to fill them.

2. Decide on a color scheme and graphics.

This is where you get to unleash your creativity and let it soar! You’ll want a site that reflects you while also reflecting what you write. You want it to be eye-catching, but not an eyesore. You want it to give your visitors a heads up, not a headache.

Here are some tips:

• Keep it simple
• Browse other sites to get ideas
• Provide navigation on every page; make sure it is in the same place on every page for easy access
• Jazz up your home page to make it stand out, but don’t overdo it
• Determine the overall feel you wish to convey and utilize color shades to change the emotion for individual pages

3. Determine what will go on which page.

Once you have your graphics and color scheme, you need to plan out the content of the pages you’ve designed or had designed. Stick with themes and related subject matter on one page. Don’t try to cram everything onto one page unless you’re starting simple. It could be a nightmare for your visitors to find things, and if they’re frustrated, they’re more likely to quit and leave. You don’t want that.

Here are some more tips:

• Keep it simple; don’t clutter the pages with too much
• Use space to create a clean look
• Maintain uniformity in layout and design; creates overall cohesiveness
• Make sure your images load quickly; if a page takes longer than 10-15 seconds to load, visitors will more than likely leave
• Include “extras” or “goodies” such as a favorite quote, weather, jokes, etc. that changes periodically (make sure you stay consistent with this)
• Step up your navigation; when you reference a link within the content of your page to something else, link it right there
• Use templates or “include” files on every page to eliminate the need to update every page when you make changes to the navigation; minimal HTML (HyperText Markup Language) needed
• Make your site interactive; provide a guestbook, ways for visitors to get involved, surveys/polls, message board, etc.

Whatever you decide, stick with it. Make sure it’s a site that you’re proud to share with others and honored to call your own.

Overall, the best advice is to do your research. Talk to others. Visit other sites. Make a plan for your site. Remember, you only have a few seconds to make a good impression and grab your visitors’ attention. It’s a competitive world out there, and you want to be on the leading edge.

Get ready for the increased exposure and to be actively involved in the promotion, updates and marketing. If you build it; they will come…but they won’t stay…unless you give them a reason to return.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about meta tags, keywords and ways to jump your site higher in the ranking of search engines.

Thanks for coming today.

Tiffany Stockton
Eagle Designs

No comments: