In this series on creating your children’s author website, so far, we’ve discussed why you need a website, even if you are pre-published.
Next, we covered what a domain name is. (Refresher: it’s the address of your website).
If you missed it, you can read about domain names in this blog post.
The next term we’ll cover is deciding on your website platform.
What Kind of Platform Are we Talking About?
You need to house the content of your website somewhere. All the stuff you write, pictures of you, your books, your dog, any other information—all that stuff is on your website.
Where you put it is your platform.
(Also, do not confuse a website platform with an author platform. The latter is a term referring to an author’s plan to develop a way to engage with readers and sell more books.)
There are two main choices to consider when deciding on a platform.
- WordPress – Going with WordPress means you will need a third-party hosting company. (To be clear, we are talking about WordPress.org, NOT WordPress.com)
- Website Builder – Create a website using tools designed to be user-friendly to those with little-to-no experience.
How do you decide which platform to use?
For many children’s book authors, the idea of creating an author website fills them with dread. It requires entering into a technology jungle, with dangers lurking in dark corners, ready to trip you up and make you want to throw your computer out the window.
Others are curious about what goes into creating a website. They feel confident about wading in, experimenting, and not worrying about making mistakes.
It’s like how buyers of Ikea furniture fall into two camps.
One group hates the process of constructing a Loggövsip console or a Gorp dresser (okay, I just made those names up). They would much prefer if it came fully constructed or asking their 12-year-old Lego-obsessed neighbor to build it for them.
If that’s you, then a website builder may be the way to go.
The other group relishes the challenge of figuring out which of the 628 screws is the correct one for attaching the inside shelf. They beat their chests in triumph when the last drawer glides smoothly into place.
If this is you, learning the steps toward piecing together a website with WordPress could be your jam.
Regardless of which route you take, I believe anyone who is willing to spend time in the trenches can create a nice-looking, finished product in a weekend. If you use a website builder, it may only take one day.
What It’s Like to Use WordPress
When I created my first website back in 2011, it was an exercise in frustration. Luckily, I purchased in inexpensive theme (more on that later) that came with tech support. After many failed attempts to figure out where to put words and images so they showed up where I wanted them to, I finally begged the support team for help.
I’m pretty sure the tech support guy got so fed up with me, he threw up his hands and decided to do it for me. He had me give him my log in information and the next day, ta da! My website was magically finished.
I’m happy to report that when I recently revamped my website (and created two more as well), it was a MUCH easier process.
The basic steps I recommend:
- Install WordPress on your web host site
- Choose a theme that comes with demo content
- Use a page builder (WordPress comes with Gutenberg which works fine)
- Create a home page
- Create a blog page
- Add more as needed
At this point, you will have the framework for your website completed.
What are the main advantages of using WordPress for your website?
- You have a lot more template design options. The sky’s the limit!
- It’s the most widely used platform (great community and support available)
- It can handle changing and growing with you
- Innovation is happening all the time
Bottom line: WordPress is best if you want the highest level of flexibility and future growth potential.
Check out this post on Setting Up Your New WordPress Author Website if you want to learn about the first steps to getting things up and running with WordPress.
Using a Website Builder
For purposes of full disclosure, I should mention that I have not personally used a website builder to create a website. I’ve played around with a few of them, so I have a feel for how they work. But my recommendations are mostly based on my research.
Most website builders allow you to try things out, with no obligation, so you can decide if it works for you.
Here is what you can expect with a website builder:
- Sign up with an email
- Some will ask basic questions about your website (e.g. what kind of business you have)
- Select a theme (how you want your site to look)
- Start editing
There are several options for website builders, but these three are most well-known and commonly used and recommended:
Wix is very popular for its ease of use and tons of design options. I think one of the biggest drawbacks to Wix is that once you pick a theme, you can’t change it later. (Well, you could, but you have to start over from ground zero).
Weebly is good for anyone who is also interested in using their website for a blog. It doesn’t have as many options for themes and customization as Wix. But some see this as a potential bonus as it is less overwhelming for those who want the keep the process as simple as possible.
Squarespace is usually recommended for anyone who plans on using their website to blog, build an audience, and try to sell products (for example: your book!). It is not as easy to use as Wix and Weebly, but the templates are of the highest quality.
It can be hard to choose between the three, as each has strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, if you stick with one of these three, you will probably be satisfied with your choice.
Here are some in-depth comparisons I found on the web:
Comparing Wix vs Weebly
Comparing Wix vs Squarespace
Comparing Weebly vs Squarespace
Comparing Wix vs Weebly vs Squarespace
What are my next steps?
If you want to explore setting up an author website with WordPress, I’ve created a step-by-step walk-through to getting a website framework started. You can check it out here.
If you think you would prefer to use a website builder, I would start by reading the comparisons I provided above. Or, you can simply try out each platform. Build a rudimentary website using the free option, and see which one appeals to you the most.
One final word: price. A website builder will cost you more up front. For example, hosting for one year with a reputable company can be found in the $3 – $5 a month range. Using a website builder (without ads, which is highly recommended) will set you back around $12 a month.
Once you’ve made your decision, you’ll be ready to dive into the next step. (See what I did there? “Dive in”—get it?)
You can read Part Three here: Picking a Web Host.