Web Design Hell

This post was originally written for and posted on the Fictorians. You can find it here in all it’s original glory.

Okay, all you writer-types out there I want you to take a deep breath. We’re about to get into some heavy stuff: Websites. I you aren’t familiar with the Oatmeal’s commentary on web design; I suggest you go look at that now. It’ll come in handy later.

This post will run you through the pros and cons of having a writer’s website for yourself and your work, as well as taking a look at how best to approach the strange beast that is a ‘successful website’, even if you’ve never written a line of code in your life.

How do I download an Internet?

But first…

‘Why should I have my own website?’

A personal website lets you raise your hits by having a direct address to point people to, and also by increasing the number of references to you that a search engine will pick up on. It’s not just fans who will be looking for your website but editors, and agents too.

New Internet Kid

That sounds awesome! But…

‘What should I put on it?’

Good question. Each writer is different and so are their needs. For example I’m just starting out with one story published, whereas GRRM is one of the most prominent writers there is right now. What our websites do, and what they have on it will be different.

My needs are: simple navigation, who I am, what I write, and status updates about important news.

George R.R. Martin‘s needs are: consistent branding with his novels, merchandising space and a blog for his fans to keep up with his thoughts and upcoming releases.

So take a moment and list the things you want to get from your website. If you’re not sure what you need, the list below covers the basics, and you can always add or remove things later.

  • Who you are
  • What you write
  • Where to find your work
  • Where else the user can find you

‘Now what?’

Now we have our list of what we need on our site, it’s time to go and actually set up a site. There are two main options you can follow: Pay to have someone else do it, (like GRRM) or do it yourself.

I’ve made a table below to help figure out which option is best for you.

  Paid professional DIY
Cost $500 – $3000 free* – 100$
Custom look and feel Unique to your brand, completely customizable. You get what you pay for in quality. Some customization, unless coding the site from scratch.Reliable navigation with preset templates.
Scope Limited only by what you are willing to pay. Limited by the effort you are willing to put in.
I was a Romance writer but now I write Horror. I need to change my website! That’ll be another couple hundred dollars. Your site has time if you do! You can swap to a new template, or if you coded by hand… it’ll be a while.

 

‘So Building my own…’

There’s a whole bunch of different options from Wix to Weebly, Blogger to WordPress. For today, let’s look at two of the most common website builders that offer free accounts: Weebly and WordPress.

Basically it breaks down to how you want to use your website. Are you comfortable with formatting in a text box (like word document) environment? Then use WordPress.

Or would you rather drag and drop items in and move them around until you’re happy? Then use Weebly. There are some further differences, so I made another table for you, comparing the two below. Keep in mind this is only the currently available information, and plans change year to year.

  Weebly WordPress
Cost Basic: Free
Starter: $48/yr
Pro: $96/yr
Basic: Free
Pro: $99/yr
Storage Space Basic: < 500 MB
Starter: 500MB
Pro: 2GB
Basic: 3 GB
Pro: 13 GB
Templates 100+ (unclear if they’re all free, or some are premium) Basic: 144
Pro: individually priced, $60-$80
Third party: individually priced,
Ease of use Very Easy: drag and drop Easy: Very similar to word processor
Customizability High, Allows for HTML High, Allows for HTML
Domain alice.weebly.com
alice.com for $
alice.wordpress.com
alice.com for $18, able to be added to a basic account
Statistics Basic: number of hits
Starter: referrers, which pages are seen and how often in last 30 days
Basic: Referrers, Number of users vs number of views hourly and then daily
Mobile app Yes Yes
Ads No Basic: Maybe
Pro: No

 

‘Okay I have an account on Weebly/Wordpress’

Great! We’re getting there. But before us lies the path of Design which many an unwary author has fallen into. Remember that Oatmeal comic? Good. Now is when you sit down in front of your screen and take a good hard look at your design skills. Unless you are legitimately comfortable using photoshop and/or familiar with the tenets of good design, use a free template/theme. Most let you customize the headers and backgrounds.

And finally (for now):

Commandments of [Writer] Web Design

  1. Comic Sans is the joke of the typography world, don’t use it.
  2. Limit yourself to two fonts per page: 1 for headers, 1 for text. Using a third font for your Site title/logo is also OK.
  3. You can use Serif or Sans Serif fonts for headers, but use sans-serif for bodies of text.
  4. Dark text on a light background or light text on a dark background. Pick one that fits your genre.
  5. For text over a textured background, be sure that the text is readable. Step back a couple feet and see if you can still see the letters clearly.
  6. Don’t use images that you aren’t licensed to use. It’s the same as a website putting your story up without asking, and not linking or crediting you.
  7. For the love of all that’s holy in the internet, please do not put music on your website. At least music that automatically starts when the page loads. Very little can make a user click ‘back’ as fast as the blare of music into our earbuds.
  8. Test and Preview the design before going ‘live’ (which means the world can see it).
  9. Links away from your page should ALWAYS open in a new window, otherwise you’re directing traffic away from your site instead of supplementing it.
  10. Update, Update, Update! There is nothing more frustrating for users than an out of date website.
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Nano-Nuggets

Hello fine people! Who’s participating in Nanowrimo this year? Great! We can be writing buddies. Although I have to warn you, this year I’m going to be a cheater.

A dirty, dirty cheater. Why? Because I’m using Nano to re-write my novel:

The God Artifact

Working title that doesn’t quite fit.  Also, photoshop is AWESOME.

And while this will be a topic for another post: COVERS MATTER GUYS. Not for Nano, but y’know, selling.

Now I’m no pro (see Newbie Guide) but I have managed to win Nanowrimo last year while working full time.

Nano winner

Proof! Also add me plskthnx

But I’ve learned that winning Nano is kind of arbitrary and doesn’t actually help much with writing a novel.  It serves more as the spring thaw to get those creative juices flowing so you can hammer a spigot into your head and pour out all the stuff in there onto a page.

Which is why this year I’m cheating.

How to Nanowrimo for Newbies

Also known as OHGODWHY.

1. Consider it practice

What you write in Nano is in no way, shape, or form, ready to be published. Unless you’re a god of writing, but hey, we’re all humble mortals here right? *squints at you* RIGHT?

Anyways, some people say to consider it Draft 0. The ‘shit’ draft. While the programmer in me appreciates the proper count increment, Draft 0 sounds like it’s utterly worthless. And it’s not, it’s just a mess and full of useless paragraphs describing things that don’t need to be described because HEY WORDCOUNT.
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Nuggets of Knowledge

*Takes a deep breath from surfacing from work and plotting and writing*

Happy Friday everyone!

Over the last year I’ve emerged from my hermit-hole of writing and met hundreds of writers (not even exagerrating), gone to 3 literary cons, won nano, sold a story and have a handful of others floating around.

I’ve learned a lot.

Over the last couple of days I’ve seen some posts/emails made me realise how much I had learned and made me realise that the little nuggets I’ve gathered should be shared! *throws nuggets of knowledge everywhere* careful, they stain.

But seriously, ch-ch-check it out:

How To Be A Better Newbie Writer

New Internet Kid

I’m a writer!

1. Be Gracious

No one likes a new kid on the block who walks in like they own the place. Many of the professionals you’ll meet have been writing for years, decades and have a lot more experience than you. Be nice, and they’re more likely to want to share information and introduce you around.
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Waffle-facing into Nano-vember

With Con-tober over, I have roughly a week and a bit before November and Nano kick off.

I thought I was smart.

I thought I was ready.

I thought ‘YEAAAAH let’s DO this!’

I was wrong.

Panic cat

So wrong.

Angry Robot’s holding its open doors submission period again, up until Dec 31st. This throws a metaphorical wrench in my mental gears because I had been planning on setting aside the Spy-SciFi story I’m working on for the Steampunk Ghost story. But I really want to get in the open door, even if its just for experience.

So you’ll have to wait, o dear Steamy ghosts, my sci-fi spies are back until I bash my face on the keyboard and enough words come out to end the story. Then, THEN WE EDIT.

*sharpens Machete of +3 Clarity, cackling madly*

-Alice

Contober – K.O.

Cross-posted from my other Blog, Cosplay Calamity. Normally I like to keep the two subjects separate, but I feel that my experiences with the Geek Market are worth sharing with writers in the Ottawa-Montreal area who might be thinking of getting a table.

OH THANK GOD IT’S OVER.

*falls onto face with a groan*

With the end of Geek Market, Contober’s complete. 3 Con/Con-like events in three weeks. Sweet Jesus Murphy I’m tired.

naps

Geek Market Recap

Oh my god, so not worth it for me. I really wish the Charities the best, and hope that it was a worthwhile fundraiser for them. Kudrel, Mirror and I ended up doing two turns at the green screen photo booth to raise money, with Sunday being more successful.

However.

I won’t be back next year

Due to miscommunication, double standards, and chain-headaches in arranging everything, it’s just not worth it. Especially after setting aside writing and other events to do this.

Besides, I’m pretty sure I’m blacklisted anyhow. Somehow asking why I was the only cosplay guest to be charged for the table (out of 6 who were also all selling items, two of which where NOT volunteering) seems to warrant being told “[I] can hate” the organizer if I want.

Hate? No. Disgruntled? Very. I never made it personal, I just wanted to be on equal footing with everyone else. Apparently the other jewelry vendors ‘flipped out’ when they heard another jewelry maker was coming in.

OH HEY, HOW DID THEY HEAR THAT? So apparently the ‘curation process’ is curated by other vendors. Now you know.

So! I won’t be back, even as a customer, but I do wish the event well. It’s a great idea, but there’s some big obstacles in the way of it becoming truly successful:

  • No ATMs in the show floor. No signs to the nearest ATM
  • Paid parking + Paid Entry
  • Announcing there will be discounts on Sunday, before Saturday has even happened
  • handing out coupons but not warning the vendors more than an hour in advance.
  • Lack of Attendance
    • The estimation was to have 5 000 attendees, the generous estimate of what we had was maybe half that.
  • Poor communication.
    • The contract we signed offered us two 10 x 10 booths.
    • Then we were told we would have an end artist table, with 2 4ft tables and 2 8ft tables
    • then I had to pay 50$ for said artist table and change what I was selling. (no one else did. Sub point: questionable curation process?)
    • When we arrived there were 2 6ft tables. We had to ask for the extra two 4ft tables and then for enough chairs.
    • Receiving angry phone calls for packing up early Saturday, and being told that it was in our contract (The one that promised two booths for free) that we couldn’t. It wasn’t.
    • No offer for the money spent on the table when I brought up the double-standard issue. Instead, I was told that it was Mirror’s fault and I could hate the organizer or accept the apology. There wasn’t actually an apology, and I was there for one of the phone conversations Mirror had with the organizer and was forwarded the emails discussing the issues. It wasn’t Mirror’s fault.

I hope the other vendors had a better experience, because the idea is worthwhile and the charities can really use the extra funding. You can find links to them below.

Distress Centre: Crisis response and support, as well as training to help people get back on their feet.

Jer’s Vision: an initiative to eliminate transphobia, homophobia and encourage diversity in youth.

Kid’s Help Phone: Sometimes kids and teens need someone to talk to. This gives them someone safe who wont’ judge them. Think of the kids.

Also, please, PLEASE check out the charity below. It’s near and dear to my heart and often falls into the shadow of it’s bigger, Pinker, cousin.

Ovarian Cancer Canada

Totally belated Flash Friday

Meant initially for Chuck Wendig’s Flash contest, I’ve been way too busy getting ready for the Geek Market to be able to polish it up and post it in time.

Theme

 

Vows

by Alice Black

“Until death do us part,” I said on a warm September day, my hands safe in his.

*

“Until death do us part,” he snarled and the gun went off before he could hit me again.

*

“Until forever,” he whispers with winter breath on the back of my neck, hollow fingers closing around my throat.

Monday Madness

Hello all you fine people. As this is a Post-con Monday, I’m going to leave you with a link and plug for a guest post I wrote on The Fictorians blog.

It’s all about websites: why writers should have one, and how to go about setting one up for non coders.

Here’s a quick blurb below, but for web-enlightenment, check out the full article.

Okay, all you writer-types out there, I want you to take a deep breath. We’re about to get into some heavy stuff: Websites. If you aren’t familiar with the Oatmeal’s commentary on web design I suggest you go look at that now. It’ll come in handy later.

This post will run you through the pros and cons of having a writer’s website for yourself and your work, as well as taking a look at how best to approach the strange beast that is a ‘successful website’, even if you’ve never written a line of code in your life.