Monday, May 4, 2009

Website Week: Things to Consider Before Starting a Website

This week I'm tackling a topic I've long wanted to cover: websites. I've written a lengthy article titled "5 Things to Consider Before You Design Your Website" and have broken it down into smaller chunks for this week's posts. Enjoy!

5 Things to Consider Before You Design Your Website
Does the word “website” terrify you? Does the thought of researching website designers make you cringe? Does the thought of designing your own website seem laughable—impossible even?

You’ve come to the right place. As a pre-published author, I knew a website could help my career, but I wasn’t sure how, considering I didn’t have a book to promote. Plus, every time I thought of websites, nausea would bubble up, and I’d slam the door shut to the anxiety-producing thoughts whirling around in my head.

But it bothered me that I didn’t have a website when so many pre-published authors had terrific ones. I decided it was time to swallow my fears, grab a barf bag, and make some decisions. I knew I wanted my site to work for the long-term. I asked myself what I wanted it to accomplish. The answer? I wanted my site to promote me as a writer and, eventually, promote the books I write.

After following my own advice and studying the five areas below, I decided to design my own website. The process both terrified and excited me. It’s not for everyone, but if you have average computer skills and are willing to update your own site, you should consider it.

If you’re wondering what is involved with starting a website, here are a few things to consider before making any decisions.


A website can range anywhere from free (yes, there are ways to get a free website) to several thousand dollars. One free option is to use WordPress (a blog tool) to create your site. A quick search on the Internet will bring up a slew of articles on the subject. One drawback: your url will not include www, thus making it less easy for people to find your site when typing it into a search engine. There may be ways to get around this. Again, an Internet search would provide the answer.

Another no-expense option is to use a free web-hosting service. An Internet search will bring up plenty of companies offering free service. Research them and pay attention to the following. Will your domain name be an extension of the web-hosting company’s? For example:(www.webcompany/ Will your site display ads from the web-hosting company? Do the features include e-mail? Are the file-types restricted?

You want to have a professional-looking site, and you want visitors to find you. Both will be difficult if your domain name includes another company in it, and you don't want ads selling diapers on your site for obvious reasons.

Are you writing under a pen name? Register the domain name and design your website to reflect it. Make sure your domain name is structured like this: ( This isn't the time to register a cute or vague name like ( or ( After all, how do readers find their favorite authors? By typing the author’s name into a search engine.

***A note on domain names. The most desirable domain name includes www. When you have www in front of your name, search engines will be more likely to find you.

Also, don't waste your time setting up a site that will have to be completely gutted when you're published. Set it up correctly now to save time later.

A mildly expensive option is to design your own site using a web-hosting service such as Yahoo! GeoCities, GoDaddy, etc… They offer similar plans in terms of expense and features, so it’s really a personal preference on what service to use. Expect to pay between $75/year and $150/year. For this expense, you will get a domain name (, a WYSIWYG design program, 24 hour customer support, more e-mail addresses and storage than you’ll probably ever need, statistic tools to track your visitors, and a nifty button to submit your site to the top search engines on a daily basis.

I would not recommend trying to design your site using only html code unless you're a master at it. WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get, meaning you just point and click, and these programs take the pain out of design.

A more expensive way to go is to purchase a WYSIWYG design program such as DreamWeaver, design the site yourself, and pay a minimal fee for your domain name. Drawback? These programs aren't cheap. The latest version of DreamWeaver lists for $399. Also, check the requirements needed to publish your site. Will you need to pay for a web-hosting service in addition to the domain name and program?

If you hire someone to design your site, the expense varies. If you know someone, you may be able to get a fabulous deal on a site design. A college student might be interested in setting up your site for very little money. However, if you hire a professional designer, expect to pay anywhere between $500 and several thousand dollars.

There are things to consider if you go this route. Do you want to update your own site or do you want to pay someone to update it for you? Keep in mind--you’ll still have to get the information to them. Will there be additional charges if you decide to add pages later? What will happen if you decide to terminate your service with them? Research several companies to determine what each offers, and ask your friends for recommendations.

Join me on Wednesday, when we'll look at 2. Updates and 3. Content. The final installment of the article will be posted on Friday.


Get Motivated! It's Monday!

The entire article is posted on my website. Click HERE if you'd like to read the article in its entirety.


  1. Very informative! I don't have a website. Not sure about getting one up and running either. We'll see though. :)

  2. Jill,
    This is an EXCELLENT article. You should consider trying to get this published in a writer's magazine. Seriously. This is so informative and I'm sure there are just tons of new writers like me who need this step by step help in getting a website up and going.

    You've inspired me to get a website going. I think I will try it this summer when I have a little more time (especially after I finish my WIP). So thank you for all of your ideas!

    BTW, I mentioned you today in my blog post and provided a link to your blog!

    Have a great Monday!

  3. Hi, Jill: I'm looking forward to reading your next post. I did create one using GoDaddy. I'm okay with the content I have, but a little fuzzy on the graphics of mine. Some day I hope to have one professionally designed. But for now I wanted to hold my site name and thought I should have at least something relatively descent up there.

  4. I totally agree with Jody. You need to get this article into a writers magazine, Jill. It's vital information and clearly written. Go for it!

  5. This is a great topic! Thanks so much for writing about it and sharing. I look forward to learning more!

  6. Thanks everyone! I really appreciate the nice feedback.

    I'm going to post a basic how-to guide on designing a website through Yahoo! GeoCities on my website sometime this summer for anyone interested in designing their own site.

    Katie: It took me a year of writing semi-full-time before I could even think about it without breaking out in hives! You'll do it when you're ready.

    Jody: Thanks! I'll check out your blog ASAP (like I wasn't going to anyhow--heh! heh!). I had the same thought as you and I designed mine last summer. I didn't rush it either. I played around for weeks before publishing it.

    Eileen: I'll take a look at your site! You might be able to tweak things yourself and be thrilled with your site.

    Jan: You inspired me to write this, you know. Thanks so much for always encouraging me!

    Windsong: I hope you get a chance to read the rest of the article! Thanks so much!

    Thanks for stopping by and have a fabulous day!

  7. Your website looks great! I've been designing one for my family's business. It's been a bit of a headache. Thanks for the great info!

  8. What a fantastic post - I'll be tuning in later this week for more info! It's all going in a file for whenever I finally get that contract. That's when I think I'll take that next step.

    Happy Monday!

  9. Lady Glamis: I think the design portion of the process is the most difficult. Once it's set up, it's usually pretty straightforward. However, business sites bring more headaches automatically! Good luck!

    Tess: My files are bulging! I constantly print out informative articles. And, consider putting up a site before you get that contract. One less thing to deal with...

    Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Jill,
    I'm so grateful for your post! I've been thinking of starting a website for years, but just never knew how to begin approaching it. This gave me a lot of great information. I knew some of it, but it always felt vague to me. Seeing your post has made things much clearer, and I'm looking forward to the rest of it!

  11. Jill,
    I'm so thankful to have read this. I've been contemplated the whole website thing for months now and know I'll refer to this blog in the coming weeks!

    Thank you!
    ~ Wendy

  12. I meant to write contemplating. My head is a little fuzzy today.


  13. are awesome! this is just the type information i need if i'm going to ever do this. thanks for website week! :)

  14. Davin: I think there's just so much information out there, it's difficult to narrow down the options. I believe anyone who has successfully put up a blog and who updates the blog regularly will be able to design and maintain their own website. Good luck!

    Wendy: I'm here to take the pain out of the process! I'm not sure why the word "website" could cause a sane gal like me to tremble in fear, but I know I'm not alone.
    (Oh, and I'm thinking about starting a game called "catch Jill's mistakes in the comments" after spelling "where" instead of "wear" last week! Doggone comments!)

    Jeannie: Thanks! I'm glad it helped!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  15. Good information! I set one up for my husband's business using Yahoo business and it was sooo easy:)
    Thank you for your prayers for us!


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