Building Websites for Writers Part I of IV: Getting Caught in the Web
by Nicki Salcedo
Here’s a little secret about me that you don’t know. I used to have my tongue pierced. I didn’t do it in high school or even during college. I did it during my post-college rebellion stage. Why? To freak out my parents and upset my dentist? No. To make my then boyfriend (now husband) happy? No. Because everyone was doing it? No. I honestly thought it would be less permanent than a tattoo. So I got pierced, and I wore a tongue ring for about three years until the morning of my wedding day. I took it out and never put it back in.
What does this have to do with building a Web site? Everything. You may be thinking about creating a Web site. Why? Because everyone’s doing it? I hope not. Or maybe you already have a Web site but it’s not doing anything for you. Was it worth it? I hope so. The Web is a good media source like newspapers and the radio, but it is a media that should be entered into carefully, much like my tongue piercing.
Here are a few basic things to consider before you get caught in the Web.
It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To: Defining Your Web site Objectives
What kind of site you build is dependent on you and how much time you have to dedicate to your site. The easiest is a “Billboard” site. This promotes your name, bio, writing projects and how to contact you. Another kind is a “Functional” site and this may allow you to collect names for a database of readers or fans. This may have a blog with the ability to post comments or a forum for community. A “Commerce” site allows you to sell a product (such as books) to generate a small commission from an affiliate (like a bookstore).
You are Elle? Web Domain Names
Elle is my daughter, so you are not Elle. But a URL is a Uniform Resource Locator or the syntax you use to get to a Web site. An example (shameless plug) of a URL is:
http:// www.8headedhydra.com /me.html
Protocol Domain Path or page
I’m not a technical person, so please bear with my simplified definitions. If you need more detailed or official definitions go to your local library or (ha, ha) the Web.
The “Protocol” is one of the following:
http: Hypertext Transfer Protocol
https: HTTP interaction with security
ftp: File Transfer Protocol is the protocol to transfer data from one computer to another over the Internet, or through a network. Once you create web pages this is how you transferred files from your design program to the server.
The “Domain Name” is a word, letters, numbers or a combination of both followed by .com, .net, .org, .biz, etc to signify your web address. I opted not to use my name (although I did buy the domain), but you might choose the name of your book, your real name or your pen name. The possibilities are endless, so do what feels right for you.
The “Path” is the location of the pages on the Web site.
The “Pages” are the specific pages you create in addition to your home page.
Space – the Final Frontier: Web Hosting Plans
Once you buy your domain name, this is when things get interesting. You also need to buy server space or a hosting plan. This is when you and Captain Kirk get to fly off into cyberspace! You can go to Yahoo! Geocities or GoDaddy and many others for hosting options. The simplest way to explain it is to say that you are paying for the ability to upload your files to a server, and then have people access them via the World Wide Web.
Parlez-Vous Web Français: Web Development Programs, Templates, Languages
Okay, you have a domain and a hosting plan. Now you need to create pages. Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir? You don’t parlez ? This means now is the time to hire your nephew or niece, learn some HTML (Hypertext Markup Language or the basic language for creating Web pages), or buy a nice programming package like Dreamweaver or Frontpage. I like to get my hands dirty and my nieces are only six years old, so I learned a little HTML with the help of the web, a few good books, and a friend who is infinitely more knowledgeable about Web stuff than me.
So never mind that I have a full-time job, two writing projects in progress, one completed project in revision, two children under the age of three, a cat, a husband, and I’m eight months pregnant. Oh, I’m also writing this article. I don’t sleep, and I thought learning a little HTML would be fun. If I can do it, so can you.
War, War, What is It Good For: Web Analytics and Usage Statistic
War. War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Same goes with owning a Web site if you don’t know if your objectives are being met. I love numbers. I love reports and spreadsheets. I love statistics. Part of what I love about having a Web site is knowing who visits, why, and for how long. Okay, I might not know that it is exactly you, but I will know you’re from Concord, California, and if you like my Top Ten Romantic Heroes Page. Depending on your Web analytics program you may get specific reports on these types of things:
Visitors: How many people came to your site?
Visits: How many times was your site accessed?
Content: What pages your visitors saw? How much time they spent on each page?
Source/Referrer: How did they get to your site? Maybe search engines such as Google or Yahoo! or MSN or directly typing in the URL or accessing a Web link (Thank you Georgia Romance Writers).
Those are the basics. Make friends with Captain Kirk and boldly go where you haven’t gone before. Coming next month, Building Websites for Writers Part II of IV: Unplug from the Matrix or Why Not To Web. Oh, dear. I’ve just convinced you to have a Web site and now I’m going to convince you why you should not to have one…
© Nicki Salcedo. All rights reserved. Article first appeared in The Galley, a publication of Georgia Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. For a printable version