How To Create An Impressive Writing Website
Welcome to my workshop for writers creating websites!
Are you a writer planning to create a professional writing website? If so, this page was created for you. Writers need websites to let people know about their writing whether it is published or not.
Creating a writing website is not as hard as you might think. There are many options.
On this page I tell you how to create a great website even if you are a web design beginner, and even if you can't spend much money on it.
Images by Linda Jo Martin
Note: I originally created this page as preliminary information for writers participating in my workshop at the 2008 Muse Online Writers Conference.
You can connect with me on Google Plus.
I'm also on Goodreads.
I use Scrivener to keep my writing wits about me. It is a fantastic writing software that organizes a novel, ebook, or screenplay efficiently while I write and revise.
Website Design for Writers - Workshop Topics
This page covers the following topics:
- How to get started.
- Blogging versus static sites - which is best for you?
- Free sites versus paid-for sites - what are your options?
- Qualities and characteristics of a professional-looking website design.
- What belongs in a writer's website, and what doesn't.
- How to create great graphics for your website.
- How to get website visitors from search engine queries (SEO).
Planning Your Website
Before you jump into a website project, develop a plan to create a website that will meet your needs and the needs of your website visitors.
How To Get Started with Website Design for Writers
...making important decisions about your website.
You want to present yourself as a competent professional writer on the web. The best way is to write. What else shows off your writing ability so clearly?
Before you write your website content you need to have an organized plan for what you intend to put on your site. And to do that, you need to know who your site is for.
Who are you trying to impress?
Write descriptions of your ideal website visitors. You might write a description of a reader of your work looking for more information about you. Then write a description of an editor or agent looking for more information about you. Next try writing a description of a writer who is looking for information about how you write, and how you made it big as a writer. Use your imagination and get to know these people well. You might even want to interview them.
Once you know who your website visitors are, you can plan your content. You'll know what these people are looking for and how to give it to them.
Next it is time to write. Until you get some content ready for the web, there's not much sense in having a site.
Always remember the most important thing you can put on your website is text. Photos are marvelous, but they don't count for anything when a search engine scans your site. The more text, the better, so don't be afraid to write voluminously. At the same time remember you're going to have web visitors who want just the facts in a concise format, so plan some helpful content for them too.
Once you get your writing in gear and have a collection of articles to post, you can select photos to go with them. Eye-candy is always welcome.
I used to be a professional web designer. One of the most frustrating things about the job was working with clients who wanted a site but who had no text or photos to post. Whether you design your own site, or go to a web designer for help, you'll appreciate having a lot of writing and images ready to use.
Website Planning and Content Writing Links - ...writing your content ahead of time takes the pressure off later
- Web Design Inspiration Sites
Links to fantastic websites that collect screenshots of creative web designs - a great resource directory for web designers in need of inspiration.
- How To Build A Writer's Website: Tips To Showcase Your Writing
How To Build A Writer's Website: Tips To Effectively Showcase Your Writing - by Ruby Bayan - Freelance Writer
- Planning Your Website
This is one of several on-line tutorials offered by the Center for the Advancment of Teaching.
- Planning your Web site design
A tutorial at the Dreamweaver site.
- Planning a usable website: A three-step guide
Your website should be focused around your users' needs - find out how.
- Website Planning
Make your own website. Save time and money. Be in complete control.
- Planning and Managing Web Sites
Website project planning and management.
Blogs vs. Websites
How often do you want to update your content? Are you up to writing new articles constantly? Be aware of the pros and cons of blogging before you decide to make your writing website into a blog.
Blogging versus static sites - which is best for you?
...to blog or not to blog - that is the question.
Blogging isn't for everyone but it is a great way to get started on a website fast, free, and easy. A lot of people take the blogging path without totally understanding what it means to have a site that requires continual writing for months and years to come. Your fans will expect frequent updates, so it will become a project that lives on forever.
On the other hand there are great search engine optimization advantages to having a site frequently updated. As a blog owner you might be the kind of person who writes voluminously and needs an outlet. You might be a person who likes the give and take interactive networking that blogs provide.
If you're determined to have a blog, I've got suggestions for you. The first is not to use Blogger.Com. I know dozens of writers are already using Blogger.Com for blogging, and I myself had quite a few blogs there. I've still got one or two. But it isn't a perfect blog platform - the main reason being that there are other blogs with better search engine optimization (SEO) capacity. You'll need better SEO if you want people using search engines to find your blog. I get 90% of the readership of my blogs from search engines, so I consider this vitally important... and I believe you should too.
Another drawback to Blogger.Com is that the comment interface is clunky. A lot of people don't bother leaving comments on Blogger.Com blogs. I confess I'm one of them, because I find it difficult, time consuming, and at times, frustrating. The only things I find Blogger.Com useful for are having blogs that contain links to my other web projects, and secondly, Blogger.Com blogs are truly great for beginners using them for informal personal ranting, story-telling, or fact-gathering places. Blogger.Com helped me immensely through my first years of blogging and I'll be forever grateful.
However if you're sure you want to be a professional blogger, my recommendation is to try out a WordPress blog... they are beautiful, professional quality, easy to use and very configurable. You can add a huge variety of plugins to increase the functionality.
Fortunately you can try WordPress for free at http://www.wordpress.com. If you decide you like it you can later switch to a hosted site using your own domain name... but this free site will get you started and show you what the blogging platform is like.
Blog Like A Professional Writer - Blog as an authority, not as a nobody.
I have some very helpful books to recommend to you! I consider these essential to my work in content writing and blogging.
First, there's the Copywriting Scorecard for Bloggers, an e-book that provides step-by-step instructions with an actual scorecard for each post, to ensure it will be as effective as possible. The book is currently over 50 pages in length, well-written, easy to understand, and packed with information bloggers need to know in today's web environment. Highly recommended!!!
There's a companion e-book:
. . . 31 Days to Build a Better Blog
. . . Copywriting Scorecard for Bloggers
I cannot praise these two e-books enough - the writer is one of the most successful bloggers on the web.
He also wrote the hardcopy book below, along with blogger Chris Garrett.
The two men who wrote this book are blogging heroes of the web, worth paying attention to if you're planning to blog. If you don't know Darren Rowse at Problogger.Com you really should. And his co-author for this book, Chris Garrett, is one of my favorite bloggers and web-mentors of all time. Chris' forum, Authority Blogger, is a valuable resource.
Which is better for SEO: WordPress or Blogger? - Get the facts from Google spokesperson, Matt Cutts.
Excellent Blogs for Helping Writers Create Professional Blogs - ...my choices of writing blogs, pro-blogging blogs, and more.
Not all these blogs are about writing, but they all showcase excellent writing skills used in making a blog outstanding.
Copywriting tips for online marketing success.
- Men with Pens
Professional web content writers for premium-quality web content, blogging, articles and copywriting customized to your needs to engage your readers and boost your traffic and revenues!
- Personal Development for Smart People - Steve Pavlina
Steve Pavlina: Personal development for smart people.
- Write to Done | Unmissable articles on writing
Unmissable articles about writing.
Web Design Issues
A lot of people like to save money by doing things themselves - but for some people, it isn't worth the effort. The decision is yours.
Free sites versus paid-for sites - what are your options?
...what are the costs, and where to get free website opportunities.
Almost everyone likes the idea of being thrifty. There's certainly nothing wrong with creating a website yourself on a free site, and if you choose that route you're sure to pick up a lot of valuable website building skills.
On the other hand, if you want someone else to do the web work for you, there's no harm in that. So long as you're prepared with your articles and graphics, this should take a lot of pressure off you.
Whichever way you go with this, remember, there's no stigma attached.
If you choose to purchase hosting, expect to pay less than $10 per month. If you're paying more for your web host you're most likely being ripped off. For a simple writing site, especially a new site without a lot of hits, you don't need anything elaborate, cost-wise, for hosting.
Besides hosting there's the cost of the domain name. Expect to pay about $10 annually for that. I buy all my domain names through GoDaddy.Com. I recommend that if you use GoDaddy, buy the domain name only; during the checkout process they will ask you to buy a lot of additional services - to which I always say no.
We all know not everyone needs a professional designer, but it is a reasonable choice for some people. Whether you do or don't hire a professional depends on your confidence in your ability to learn new skills, and your budget.
If you decide to hire a web designer, first have a good idea of how many pages you want and what they'll have on them. Write down a description of exactly what you want. Choose a few pages from the web that are similar to how you want your site to look. No good designer will copy another page exactly (that's a copyright violation) but it is helpful to have an idea of what type website you're hoping for.
Once you decide what you want your site to look like, ask a few different designers for proposals. Look at their online portfolios to make sure they're capable of the quality of work you're looking for.
How to Build a Website - ...learn HTML, CSS, and XHTML.
For you who aspire to doing it yourself, here are links you should find helpful in your quest to become a web designing author.
- W3Schools Online Web Tutorials
- Jakob Nielsen on Usability and Web Design
Web usability, usability engineering, and Jakob's minimalist approach to Web design.
- A List Apart
Very helpful web periodical for designers.
- HTML Playground, html, css reference by example
HTML, XHTML and CSS tutorials, references, code examples. Play with the code, try it out to see how it works.
- HTML: An Interactive Tutorial - Dave's HTML Code Guide - Learn to code HTML with our free HTML help
Free HTML tutorial. Use our HTML tutorial to help learn HTML code tags. This HTML code tutorial and HTML guide is easy, interactive, and guided by example! Learn HTML code (tags) topics spanning from writing code to uploading pages. Also get HTML hel
- HTML Tutorial
HTML tutorial. You might like this one.
- HTML Goodies
- HTML Dog - HTML and CSS Tutorials, References, and Articles
A web designer's resource for everything HTML and CSS, the most common technologies used in making web pages.
- Scripts, sounds, art and more
These tutorials may help.
- HTMLSource: HTML Tutorials
HTML tutorials and well-researched links on all aspects of web design, equally suited to beginners and advanced webmasters.
- Tizag Tutorials
- HTML Code Tutorial
Free resource guide for help with HTML Tags Including forms, frames, tables, and more!
Learn HTML, CSS, and XHTML to create an outstanding, gorgeous site.
Where To Find FREE Sites - ...for those who aren't ready to spend money on this project.
There are quite a few freebie sites out there. Here, I'll be making a list of them. I will add to this whenever I locate a new one.
A BIG word of caution. If you sign on with a "free" hosting site read the small print so you know what they expect in return. Comparison shopping, even for a freebie, is essential!
- Google Page Creator
This is my current favorite free site. The page creator is SO easy to use - you'll have a site started immediately. Right now I'm building a site there to feature links to my many web projects.
Beginner's blogging paradise.
A more professional blogging solution, though if you really want to go totally professional you will probably want to get your own domain and hosting.
Thingamablog is a free, open source standalone CMS/website/blog publishing package that makes it simple to author and publish content for the Internet. Unlike most CMS applications, Thingamablog does not require a cgi/php-enabled webserver or a MySQL
A free blogging site.
- Weebly - Create a free website and a free blog
Create a free website or blog in minutes by using a simple drag and drop interface. No ads. One of Time's 50 best websites of the year.
- Wix Free Website Builder | Wix.com
Create a free website with Wix.com. Customize with Wix' free website builder, no coding skills needed. Choose a design, begin customizing and be online today!
If you want to make a good first impression, it is important to have a site that looks clean and organized.
What makes a site look good?
...consider these suggestions...
The most important quality of a professional web design is that it is uncluttered and clean looking. This is most often achieved using a white background rather than a colored background or a graphic background.
White space makes a page look professional because it makes the words most legible. Compare your reading experience on a page that uses a black background with white letters, or any other odd combination. Also check out pages using background graphics under the lettering. Then look at a plain white background with black letters. Most people prefer black letters on a white background it as it is easiest on the eyes.
Your most important goal with your website is to get people to read it. If their eyes suffer when reading your site, you're not achieving the prime objective.
If you are attached to a background graphic there are ways of superimposing a white text area on top of the graphic area so you can have legible text plus a decorative graphic on the sides.
Pages That Match
Many website owners like to create new pages with different background images, or different colors. That may be fine for a personal homepage, but when you do a professional site, all the pages should match. There may be different photographs used, and different words, but for the most part the format of every page should be exactly the same so that people know what to expect where, and so that all the pages look like they belong together.
Navigation refers to the internal links of a website that will show your readers every page you have available.
This is related to the last point (pages that match) in that people like to know where to find new pages. If you have different navigation systems on various pages it will be confusing for your readers.
A good way to set up a system of navigation for your site is to have a set of links near the top and another near the bottom. Professional web designers often set up the navigation links near the top of the page as part of the web design. They also include a set of plain text links at the bottom of the page. Here's an example: Lost In The Fog.
What makes a site look unprofessional?
...think about it...
Most sites start looking cluttered after a while, especially if you're changing things around constantly like I am. It is important to redesign, reevaluate and reconsider what you want on your site from time to time.
What are the most important elements of your site? What do you most want people to see? Keep those things and get rid of the excess. Let eyes be drawn to the places they should go to.
Animated Gifs and Other Distractions
Along with those decorations, I highly recommend you not use any animated gifs. Many people find them annoying. I'm one of those people. An animated gif (or ad banner) is very distracting when you're trying to read an article. And when you have the attention of a reader, you should want them to read that article rather than have their eyes wandering toward the cute little kitten running across the page, or the pretty twirling dancing girl, or whatever it is that amused you enough to want to use it on a web page.
Bad Web Design - ...avoid design elements that others find annoying.
There are many pages that list design elements that people find annoying. Here are a few of them.
- How to make an Annoying Web Page
Learn what makes bad web design annoying and see how to avoid it.
- Annoying Website Design
Have you ever considered that your website may be annoying? When it comes to website design, knowing what visitors hate most is a must, unless you don't want them to visit you again. This article describes what you should exclude from your website.
- Top 10 Most Annoying Website Features
Here are a list of our top 10 Most Annoying Website Features.
- What makes an annoying website?
What makes an annoying website? I ask this question because I think very few people intentionally design or develop annoying websites. We end up having an annoying website sometimes when we just think about our preferences instead of thinking about m
- My Top Ten List Of Extremely Annoying Web Page Design Elements!
Does your website keep people captivated, or does it send them fleeing as soon as they get to the first page?
Brainstorming Session - ...what do you think good (or bad) websites look like?
What kinds of things do you like or not like about other peoples' pages?
Impressive Writing Websites - ...websites that impressed me favorably.
My choices are subjective... these are the writing websites I've seen during the last few months that impressed me enough to want to include in this list.
- Holly Lisle
A full-time novelist on a mission to help others become writers. Holly has been doing her own webdesign for years, but what impresses me most about her site is the amount of helpful information she has on it.
- Dotti Enderle
Dotti Enderle's website is adorable - and it demonstrates how you can put a white space over the graphic background for a more professional look.
When you plan your content, it is helpful to know what readers expect. Also there are things that should never be put on the web.
What belongs in a writer's website, and what doesn't
...a few suggestions for what to include in your writing website...
Here are a few ideas for your website plan:
Who are you?
Your site visitors will want to know who you are, so I suggest either an "About" page or a "Bio" page.
How can we reach you?
What do you write?
You might want to include a page for each type of writing you do. For example, if you write news you could include a "Journalism" page. If you write fiction you could include a page about your novels or short stories.
Where can we read what you write?
Do NOT post any writing you want to sell on the web. You might want to post writing you don't intend to try to sell, or writing that has been previously published.
Of course you can also post information about how readers can buy your books, find your articles, or read your short stories and poems online at other sites.
How can we learn to write like you?
Other writers would love to read articles about how you write. I suggest you write as much as possible for other writers because they will use your site as a resource for their own writing.
...prepare for the press!
I very much encourage you to set up a section of your website to make it easy for anyone wanting to write about you to get the facts about your life and career. Be sure to include a few publicity photographs.
Brainstorming Session - ...website content is of utmost importance to your website's success.
Please participate in this brainstorming session. Let us know your ideas about what should or shouldn't be on a writing website. What would you like to find on other writers' websites?
What belongs on a writing website?
Writing Great Content for the Web - ...sites that help you write for the web.
- Web Content Tutorials: Writing for the Web
How users read on the Web, how to write & prepare headlines, marketing copy & Web page content, tips on preparing content copy.
- A List Apart: Content Writing
A list of all the content writing articles that have been published on A List Apart, one of the best places on the web for web designers who want to improve their skills.
- Quality Web Content
A list of articles about web content writing.
- The Web Content Style Guide
An excerpt from The Web Content Style Guide.
- Web Content - How To Write Content For Searchers
Writing web content might be a bit different than what you're used to. Learn how to write your Web content to attract more searchers and more relevant search traffic.
- Redish & Associates, Inc.
Janice (Ginny) Redish has provided online copies of handouts from a few of her talks about usability, writing for the web, user-centered design, usability testing, interface design, technical communications, and accessibility.
- Writing for the Web
Developing content for a Web site will probably mean writing new materials.
- Writing for the Web: Table of Contents
Writing for the Web by Jakob Nielsen.
- Men with Pens
Professional web content writers for premium-quality web content, blogging, articles and copywriting customized to your needs to engage your readers and boost your traffic and revenues!
Most of us like to see pictures when we visit websites. Here are some suggestions for getting the right graphics and images for your site.
How to create great graphics for your website
...graphic images make a site beautiful.
I strongly suggest you choose a few photographs of yourself for your website. Your readers will want to know what you look like. Don't be shy! This site is all about self-promotion. Come out of your shell.
If you don't have a good graphics program, try a demo of the one I use: Paint Shop Pro. (Sorry Mac users - this is for PCs only.) You might get some good tips on using Paint Shop Pro by visiting the Paint Shop Pro Users Group. If you're unfamiliar with graphics programs, I suggest you get the demo (good for one month of free use) and experiment with it. If you like it and want to buy it, you'll see the price is considerably less than that of Microsoft Photoshop.
Graphic Links - ...links that will help you with website graphics.
Here I'm compiling links to stock photo sites and online tutorials for graphic programs like Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop.
FreeFoto.com is the largest collection of free photographs for non-commercial use on the Internet.
- GIMP - The GNU Image Manipulation Program
GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software of professional image-manipulation quality.
- Paint Shop Pro
An inexpensive professional quality image handling program.
Search Engine Optimization
After you get your site on the web, you then have to let people know about it. With proper search engine optimization (SEO) you can get many website visitors straight from Google and other search engines.
How to get website visitors from search engine queries (SEO)
...search engines can send lots of new people to your site
SEO is one of my favorite topics, so I'm looking forward to discussing it with you in October at the Muse Conference workshop.
The most important thing you need for good SEO is great content. What you write will be what the search engine spiders read and index. The more you write, the better it will be for your site's SEO.
I'm going to leave it at that for now as I want you to have plenty of time to plan your site and write articles to include on it. Bring me your SEO questions at the workshop in October and I'll share more of what I know about it then.
Learn More About SEO
This is a highly recommended book with plenty of information you can use. I read this book cover to cover, so will classify it as easily readable.
Let me know what you think.