I’m all over the web. Really. I have a CafePress store. I have not one but four websites. I have an Amazon author page. I have five, count’em, five, blogs. I’m on Facebook. I’m on Twitter. I’m on MySpace. I used to be on Match.com As I said, I’m all over. And nobody knows I’m here. I want to change that.
I recently joined a couple discussion groups for writers. One of the frequent topics of conversation is building a positive, regular web presence. So I built another blog. (See it? It’s right here.) But building a blog doesn’t solve the central problem: My web presence is so fragmented that it’s virtually impossible to find without written directions and MapQuest.
So today I called, or rather, I emailed, The Author Shop, run by Alexis Masters. Alexis specializes in building websites for writers. I first heard about her when my friend and editor, Barbara Ardinger, was having her website re-designed.
“It’s really clean,” Barbara told me. “And I’ll be able to update it myself. And I’ll have a blog. And I won’t need to use special software to do any of it.” But she said it more clearly, articulately, and wittily, because that is what Barbara does. In due time (about the time she finished editing my first novel, Redeeming Stanley) her new site went up. I knew this because I got a spate of emails asking me, as a friend and customer, to verify that various functions were, well, functioning.
And that’s how I got my first look at Alexis Masters’ work. I was impressed. It was clean. It was logical. Elements were elegant, and didn’t overwhelm the copy. When I went to The Author Shop I discovered Masters can do bright and patterned, too. I love the Author Shop’s charm and quirkiness, but Barbara’s clean, sophisticated site will probably work better for my online home, drat it.
And that’s the first lesson I’ve learned, before we even have started working on the site. Personal taste is important, but I have to be thinking in terms of what I need my site to do. And what I need a site to do is a tall order, because I do a lot of things, and I need my website to reflect my various areas of expertise without causing visitors to throw up their hands in confusion and hurry to a less diverse website.
1. I need a site that allows me to showcase new work, and then instantly and easily routes visitors into the area they wish to visit.
2. I need a site that invites and indeed demands regular return visits. For that, I need a blog.
3. I need a site that allows me to link to the “order” functions on Amazon, CreateSpace, and CafePress, the three areas where I currently have wares for sale.
4. I need two updatable portfolio sections for my design work and my fine art.
5. I need to have an updatable suite of pages for each new book I publish: a general page; an overview page (about the book, about the author); an excerpt page; a reviews page, and a press materials section. This section must link seamlessly to a related page on my blog, where visitors can comment upon my books.
6. I need a store section, where I will upload images and templates for customers to purchase through PayPal and download.
All this diversity demands that my site be clean, visually simple, and a breeze to navigate. My current store is none of the three. And so, Alexis and I are going to be talking next week. I have my shopping list; I’m eager to hear what Alexis has to add.
For the moment, the Magic Dog must subsist in the hamster run of kennels I’ve cobbled together, but starting next week, Alexis and I will be pulling together the plans for a new, better doghouse. And you can watch us do it.