June 14, 2011

Building a Web Presence

Last week, I went over the first aspect of my marketing journey--creating a marketing budget. This week, I want to cover some ideas for creating a web presence. *Taken from a series of marketing articles on the CAN Marketing Blog.
Years ago I used a blog as my author site, and for the most part, was quite happy with it. I'd created a reader base, so it had served me well. When I received my contract from Zondervan in 2008, I found I wanted more. After much deliberation, I decided to design an author website to go along with an updated blog--and so I charged up the giant hill with full steam.
I began visiting author sites and kept track of those I liked best, paying attention to colors, layout schemes, page descriptions, and author photos. When I had my list narrowed to four or five, I chugged harder, studying web designer sites and their client portfolios.
For learning purposes, some of my favorite designer sites were: pulsepointdesign.com - eagle-designs.com -novelwebsitedesign.com - authorsontheweb.com - xuni.com -authorbytes.com - waxcreative.com
From there, I requested price quotes. And that's when my little engine started spinning its wheels. Some of the designers were charging over two-thousand dollars--and I'm sure worth every penny, as their client pages were gorgeous! To add to my dilemma, I'd heard it said that your website must look professional--an outward reflection of who you are as an author (or in other words, not cheap & dowdy). Well that's great, if you have the money . . . but this little engine didn't have that kind of money to spend. After all, I had a budget I needed to stay within.
"Oh, little engine. That hill looks mighty tall. How will I ever make it up that mountain?"
With a deep sigh, I began searching for less expensive alternatives. I considered using an updated blog. Blogs are free, and I already knew how to manage them. But a part of me really wanted a new look. So I set my chin, determined to figure out a way to make it work.
That's when I discovered a host design program called Homestead. Several of my author friends used the program and were quite happy with it. I began studying the tutorial and realized that I could indeed create an author site with nearly all the functions I'd requested of the designers--and for a smidgeon of the price.
Of course, I would have to design the pages myself--which would take time and challenge my creativity. Fortunately, Homestead's design program has an easy learning curve, and it turned out to be quite fun. Plus, I had the added advantage of being able to update my site whenever I wanted--an option I might not have had if I'd paid for a design. The company also offers a free trial period, which I took advantage of to make sure it was the right fit for my needs. After about 2 weeks, I'd designed a Web site that was a reflection of who I am as an author.
So, I went into this venture desiring the best, settling for less, and being quite satisfied with the end result.
Now, I know, many of you may not be interested in doing this work yourself, but for those who enjoy the creative aspects of web design (and who are working with a limited budget) this option may be a nice fit for you, too. 
Next week, we'll move on to the next challenge--publicity photos. Until then, enjoy the moments AND keep chugging up those hills  . . .
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