Posted by: mygentlecloud | September 17, 2007

Creating your website

One of the must-haves for an author is a website.  It is an online gallery to showcase your work.

Choosing the right service provider to host your website is important. Remember this. Your website address will be featured in the back inner cover of your book,  or at, or whatever  sites you haunt. This URL needs to be permanent enough to allow anyone who wants to reach you successfully. 

No doubt, social networking sites like Facebook are providing an avenue to interact with their readers, along with blogs. Some of my fave authors such as Diana Gabaldon, Roger Ellory etc have tapped on this new mode of online interaction successfully. Yet, even they have a website.

So, what are the key things to look out for in a good web service provider? I have experimented with three so far, namely, Bravenet, Tripod and Googlepages. And here are the things I noted are important:

1) find one that is easy to use and maintain

The creation of each webpage must be intuitive, allowing basic features such as text creation, addition of images and weblinks. There must be sufficient choices of layout to play around with in order to create that special mood and sublimal message you want projected on your website. It must allow changes easily, even for a novice. This will save you quite a bit in the long run, for believe me, you will make MANY changes as you go along. And you wouldn’t want to keep paying someone to make these changes.

2) it would be good to have great plug-ins or widgets

By this, I mean those web tools which allow you to do the little extras. These are far-ranging and include things like adding audio, viewership counters, date last updated, background music, templates for useful pages such as “Contact me” or “Place an order” with Paypal and other payment vehicles, online messaging functions, ‘Joke of the Day’, or ‘Today’s Bible verses” and so on. In this area, I find Tripod to be quite good whereas Googlepages is still in the process of ‘getting there’

3) If you’re serious about what you’re offering, get a ‘paid’ site.

A lot of these good web hosting sites have a free and a fee model. The free model has advertisements which are not within your control. And these ads can clash with the theme or mood of your website. So, having a paid website seems a fair thing to do to provide yourself with a professional looking homepage. As one friend had put it, it makes the viewer feel that you are serious about your writing when your website does not look cheap, i.e. flickering and popping with advertisements.

4) choose one that allow yearly subscription instead of only monthly subcription 

The few sites I’ve used charge in US$. Everytime you pay in US$, there is a flat service charge or conversion fee the credit card company will slap on your transaction, regardless of how large or small a transaction. Imagine paying, say, $5 service charge, over and above your transaction amount and you’ll see how much you save if you pay in lumpsum as opposed to instalments. In the case of Tripod, their one main inflexibility is the refusal to entertain yearly subscription. They charge a monthly fee of US$4.95 for the lowest plan without ads. It would cost me an additional $5 x 11 months to service the US$ monthly payment. So, lesson learnt: Choose a web service provider that accepts yearly subscription. It is a small point which a lot of people overlook until too late. Imagine trying to change your website address after thousands of copies of your book are published.

5) Finally, use a website name that is easy to remember

Gentlecloud as opposed to TanSuYin is self-explanatory. You would have thought that it is common sense to use an easily remembered name. Well, some have common sense and some don’t. *grin*  I was reminded of how easy to remember Gentle Cloud was when I went to collect my latest namecards. I told the girl at the service counter, “I’m here to collect my namecard. It’s Tan Su Yin.” She gave me a blank stare. Then, she exclaimed, “Oh, Gentle Cloud, right?”  Her sentence hit home. Gentle Cloud, yeah!

For Tripod, I built my site in roughly one work week of two hours each day. It is simple and powerful to use. Only problem is, when I wanted to pay for subscription, all they offer was monthly ones and did not heed a customer’s request to reconsider yearly subscription. How obtuse! They lost one customer in the process. Me.

As for Googlepages, only time will tell. They are still building their capabilities. It is very easy to use too but the widgets are not so refined, though they have some quite fun widgets such as tuning in to the radio, messaging and so on. And for now, the blessed thing is that it is free of advertisement, being still in the trial period. Let’s see what happens further down the road …

Su Yin


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