Last week Sofia Samatar tweeted that authors should have good clean websites, and K. Tempest Bradford has been signal boosting and expanding on that idea. I’ve had a website since 2007, but seeing all these tweets about the importance of a *good* website made me realize that I was long overdue for a website overhaul.
Before I started building my site, I looked at lots of examples. A few author websites that I found particularly helpful in getting ideas for content and layout were Mary Robinette Kowal, Cat Rambo, and Ken Liu. When I was looking at these sites, I thought about what information I found useful as a reader, and also about what kinds of content I have available to include on my site.
Most of the sites I looked at had a few basic categories of content:
- About the Author. Various pages included author bios, interviews, and press kits. Authors who do more events often have a page listing upcoming appearances.
- Fiction. What does the author have out, and where can readers find it? Lists of short fiction, novels, podcasts, translations, etc. Something I saw on Ken Liu’s website that I really liked (and stole for my own site) was a list of his personal favorite stories, which gives the reader some ideas on where to start.
- Blog. One of the many reasons I wanted to re-do my site was so that I could have a blog on my website, instead of a separate blogging platform elsewhere.
- Some personal non-writing thing. Mary Robinette Kowal’s site has a page for puppetry. Ken Liu’s site has a page for software. For my site, I did a page on photography.
- Contact information. Email, links to social media, etc.
(Looking at this list, I notice that there is a lot of overlap with K. Tempest Bradford’s 6 Elements of a Good Author Website. Great minds think alike.)
Once I had a good idea of what content I wanted to include on my site, I was ready to pick a layout. I decided to go with wordpress because (a) it can do all the things I need my website to do, (b) lots of people use it, (c) it’s affordable, and (d) it’s easy to learn.
(Side note for people with existing websites: I didn’t want to take my old site down until after I built the new one, so I installed/built my wordpress site in a subdirectory (carolineyoachim.com/wordpress), and then moved it to my root directory (carolineyoachim.com) when it was finished. There are settings in the wordpress dashboard that make this relatively straightforward, and I was able to find step-by-step instructions by searching on google.)
After I had wordpress installed, I picked a theme. This was one of the most time consuming parts of the process because I’m picky and there are a ton of themes out there. I installed several different themes, played with them, and then discarded them. Part of the problem, for me, was that I couldn’t tell whether I liked a theme or not until after I had customized it in various ways–many themes let you change the colors, the header options, the layout, etc.
Next I started adding pages for the various categories of content I wanted to include. When the framework was there, I put in the content. This mostly involved moving content over from my old website/blog, but I edited things that were outdated as I brought them over, and also added things that were missing (e.g., lists of podcasts and translations).
Last I put in widgets to let people search the site, see my latest blog posts, find me on Twitter, etc.
So that was my process for building a website! The whole thing took me about three days to do, and I’m pretty happy with how it came out :)