“……Much of 2007 was taken up in reflecting on a challenging topic: should I become more computer literate – a writer with a website – or sink slowly to the bottom of an ageing and increasingly befuddled slime of computer-refusing baby-boomers? Befuddled slime did not appeal……”
To the website! Chapter One
(c/f July 08 archive) described the process of acquiring a new AppleMac laptop and getting on the Net via mobile broadband – both accomplished during April 2008.
Now read on!
“ Still can’t quite believe this….it is September 2008 and I am now a writer with a website!.To inspire and encourage other writers in the same direction, the first thing to say is this: the process of moving from dinosaur to cyber-babe has been great fun, very creative, and not that difficult. For this, much credit goes to my web person, Susan Elena. Her winning combination of geekiness (does this word exist? It does now….), efficiency and reliability, clear teaching and patient good humour set a context where I could relax and have a laugh – mostly at myself, with plenty of input from Susan! – as well as learn a whole range of new skills.
I was also fortunate in benefiting from the very considerable computer expertise of my friend Willie Miller, who runs a successful urban design practice here in Glasgow, Scotland, UK and uses both Macs and PCs. An initial discussion with him, after I had drafted and showed him the Home Page and categories within which I wished to locate articles, proved very useful in focusing the research I did prior to beginning to work with Susan.
There being innumerable Net articles on Writers Websites, it felt very lucky right at the outset to come upon just what was needed to get going. Check out “http://www.sky-bolt.com“ , the site of Sky Bolt Enterprises which specialises in ‘….effective business websites….’ and a very practical article by Ginny Stibolt called “You Don’t Have to be a Technical Wizard or Rich to Have an Effective Writer’s Website”. It fitted my starting level of comprehension, ie at the bottom of the cyber-literacy food chain. Read it for yourself. Before you start, you need to know why you want a website and what you want it to do. You should then be able to compose a clear, brief and if possible entertaining mission statement for visitors to your Home Page. As Ginny Stibolt observes: “….you have less than 10 seconds to capture their attention. You must state or imply your message instantly.”
I checked out quite a few writers’ sites, and decided that the one whose form I liked best was Bryan Appleyard‘s. I am a fan of his writing so this may have caused some bias! But the clear, unfussy, simple way it is laid out appealed to me – easy to navigate and easy to read.
Following my meeting with Willie and subsequent research, I drafted a preliminary list of ten key website requirements to give Susan a clear idea of what our aims were. Here are four which you might find useful as starting points for thinking about setting up your own site:
1. Purchase a domain name and arrange hosting. Set this up with your name on it, not your web person’s – thereby retaining your independent status.
2. Set up the website as a blog with archives and some fixed pages: eg for Biography, CV (if you decide to put this up, bear in mind the risk of identity theft), Clips, and several writing themes. Thus when you want to put up new articles, the additions can initially be posted on the weblog, then transferred to archives under appropriate headings.
3. Create simplicity of use, so that you can transfer words and images from desktop into website without intermediary help or having to learn eg HTML. This is where a blog format really works.
4. In sum – create structured, categorized, designed web space into which you can then cut and paste your own material at your own pace. Aim to make your web person redundant rather than establishing an (expensive!) ongoing dependency.
Willie suggested WordPress, who provide a wide range of FREE templates, as a good option for a flexible blog package. This was also Susan’s recommendation. I have found my WordPress template very easy to use, with lots of clever and ingenious features – eg Blogstats. This supplies details of visits to your site in addictive and easy to read graphs for day, week and month, enabling you to monitor your fame rippling across the Web!
(Considering my avowed intention right back at the beginning to lurk quietly in an unpromoted corner of cyberspace whilst putting everything together, I am truly amazed at how many visitors the site has had already. Thank you and keep visiting! )
With Susan’s help, I also arranged to be hosted by WordPress. This is very easy to accomplish, at a very modest cost.
We met for nine 1.5 hour sessions from 8th May until 21st July 2008. Essentially, Susan showed me what to do, and I went ahead and did it. Within a couple of sessions, I was happily pasting already prepared articles into the fixed pages we set up on the site, each page presenting one of my writing themes as well as Biog, Clips, Favourite Quotes and Cartoons.
I learned very quickly how to add interest to the text with colour – deciding to stay mainly with black and green for an uncluttered, professional look. Some images were uploaded next. Although it is a writers’ site, I didn’t want it to look too ‘wordy’. Following this came learning how to insert links into articles, then the Blogroll facility which enabled me to post a few key links – relating to each of my writing themes – on the bottom right of the Home Page.
At the start of our process, Susan said “ What do you want to call your site?” I hadn’t a clue. Playing around with a few phrases relating to my writing themes proved unproductive – so I just used my own name. Then, early in August, the title came through. “Writing from the Twelfth House”. This feels right, for reasons which are revealed in Evoking the Twelfth House.
Willie Miller, a speedy kind of person, couldn’t believe that I intended to take the whole summer setting up the website. However, in an article called “Learning to do slow”, you will see why. It has felt very good to do so – taking time gives the creative process opportunities to let ideas ripen and take shape. A website is, of course, a work in progress like any other creative venture. But I am reasonably happy with it as it stands. It will develop as my web and computer skills progress – do return from time to time to see how we are both getting along!
……To the website! Chapter Three…… will appear in a few weeks, to give you some ideas and tips on the very important ongoing task of publicising your site. Watch this space……
1200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2008
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page