Author Platform: 4 Considerations When Planning Your Website

In the last post, Author Platform: Why Do I Need a Website?, I discussed the reasons why you should consider having a website for your author business, and how important having a website is. Today, we will look at the four main things to consider when you begin to plan your brand-new, shiny website.

#1 Domain

The first thing you need to think about is what your website name will be. This obviously needs to be unique, as no two websites can have the same address (url). There are two parts to consider here:

(i) Name

For writers, this will usually be your name (real or pen). If, however, you have chosen to have a business name (a quick, off the top of my head example being, ‘Ruth Tuffnell Writes’), then you may consider using your business name instead. Remember that the address will all be in lowercase and all of the words will be joined together, so sometimes it’s important to consider how that looks. You can check the availability of domain names by using the online services such as 123-Reg.

Other considerations would be using your name with additional words, for example, “RuthTuffnellWriter” or “RuthTuffnellsWords”. Alternatively, you could use the title of your book, but this would mean you’d need a separate website for each book. Therefore, if you plan on writing more than a couple, I’d recommend not going down this route. It’s difficult to link several websites together and you’d really still need one ‘umbrella’ site for you as a writer from which you could then link to each separate subdomain.

(ii) Extension

The extension is the part of the address after the ‘dot’ – commonly, .com, .net, or .co.uk.

For some people, they will be adamant from the off that they want a particular extension; some people might be limited by what options remain unclaimed and therefore available; and some simply will not know (or even care). The ‘dot com’ address is seen as the ultimate, as it symbolises a global brand but that does not make other extensions any less desirable. Consider what extension ‘goes with’ your name, where you consider your ‘market’ to be and what flows nicely off the tongue when you say it out loud.

We’ll look at searching for and purchasing a domain name, together with website hosting in future posts.

#2 Platform

Every website is built on a foundation called a platform. I won’t get into the technicalities of the platform here but you need to decide which you will build your site on.

As I work in the business, I would always recommend (and build my own sites) on WordPress (there are two different types of WP platforms [.org and .com] with the difference coming down to how they’re hosted, which I’ll discuss in more detail in a later post).

There are however, lots of other platforms you can build on, and quite often it comes down to personal preference, how much you want to pay, hosting, and whether or not you have a web developer creating your site for you or if you’re going the DIY route. The majority of developers will use WordPress but there are others available and your developer would talk this through with you.

For the DIY route, you can look at platforms such as Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, Hostgator etc. There are a lot to choose from and you should do your research to work out which is the best (and most cost-effective) for your unique build.

If you’re considering selling anything (books, eBooks, courses etc.) through your site, do take into account the fact that you will need an eCommerce platform when making your choice of platform! And if you’re considering having some sort of membership subscription service where members log into your site to get content, you will also need a platform that is capable of handling that well.

#3 Theme (Design)

The theme is the template on which you build out your design to create the perfect website for your unique brand. The options available will depend on which platform you choose as every platform has a unique set of templates as a basis for your design.

You need to consider a few things when choosing your design:

  • is it aesthetically pleasing and does it match your brand?
  • is it flexible, so you can customise the site in the way you want?
  • is it responsive, so the site looks equally fabulous on desktop, tablet and on mobile? It’s interesting to note that more than 50% of website traffic is now on mobile as opposed to desktop. (You can see some interesting statistics here if you like that kind of thing).
  • is it easy to update, so your site always looks fresh?
  • is it SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) friendly? (We’ll look at SEO in later posts).

Do take your time choosing a theme! It is possible to change after you’ve started building (like I did), but it adds extra work and extra time, so that’s a big consideration if you’re using a developer, or you’re in a rush to get your site up and running.

#4 Layout

I would highly recommend planning the basic layout of your site early on, as this helps enormously when choosing a theme. I’m not suggesting writing out every detail, but a basic site plan will help you think about how the site will look once it’s built and therefore what kind of template and theme might be best suited. Don’t just think what pages and navigation items you’ll have on the site at the beginning, but also what you might add in the not-too-distant future. It’s much easier to consider the whole picture now rather than come six months down the line and think ‘I wish I’d considered this at the start’.

Summary

There are lots of things to take into account when starting to plan your website with the address, platform, theme and layout being the main ones before you start. Once those decisions have been made you can take giant strides into getting yourself online and in the public domain.

Have you already built your author website? What were your experiences of making the decisions about these considerations? What would your #TopTips be for other writers just starting out on their author platform journey? Or are you a new writer looking at starting your author platform? Do you have questions on this topic? If so, drop a comment below or contact me and I’ll do my best to help.

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