We’ve been talking about blogs for several days now. In recent days, I took a quick detour into the nuts and bolts of web sites, because I strongly believe that a blog should live on an author’s web site, not on one of the free sites that host your blog. Yesterday, I posted a long, long discussion of what goes into creating a web site. At the end of that process, either you or your web designer will have a bunch of HTML files that live on your computer (or your web designer’s).
What happens next?
Remember that a web site isn’t visible to anyone until it’s “hosted” on a server somewhere. People can then point their browser to that server and see what’s on your site.
But how does it get to the server in the first place?
The answer is that you have to upload them to the server, using “FTP” software. (“FTP” means “file transfer protocol” and you don’t have to know very much at all in order to use this software.)
Most web development software has “FTP” software built right in. DreamWeaver, FrontPage, Freeway, and even the free NVu package all have it. Typically, you have a folder on your computer that has all your HTML files. You want that to go to a similar folder on your server. So you point your software to the source folder on your computer and to the destination folder on your server and tell it to transfer the files. The FTP software does everything else. Of course, if you have a webmaster doing your site, they’ll handle that.
Once you’ve transferred your files to your server, there’s nothing more to do. Your web site is live and anyone in the world can see it.
If that sounds too simple, it’s because this part of the process really is quite simple. The only tricky part is getting the exact folder on your server. Different hosting services use slightly different naming conventions, so you just have to ask your hosting service to tell you how to do it. One reason I like GoDaddy is that they have a 24/7 help service that you can call to get things straightened out. I’ve sometimes had to wait on the phone for a bit, but they’ve generally been extremely polite and helpful.
I’d now like to respond to some of the comments that folks have posted here in the last few days.
Domain name, check.
Site design, not even sure how.
Content, not ready yet.
Oh Randy, I hope you’re right about this.
Randy sez: Carrie, I’m right. Listen, you can do this. You’ll need help along the way, but there are millions of people who’ve made web sites, so how hard can it really be? There is somebody, somewhere who knows how to do anything you can imagine. (I am not that someone, by the way. People sometimes email me to ask if I’ll design their web site. I tell them that I’m too expensive. A typical web designer charges $50 to $75 per hour. My hourly rate is unfortunately a lot higher than that, and I’m not any good at graphics, so it would be crazy to hire me.)
My question is, what if you have a website and provide a link to your blog but your blog isn’t actually “on” the site? Would that be OK for us starving artists just starting out? Blogger is so easy to use. I also have blogs other places, and blogger seems to be the most user-friendly. (Homeschoolblogger.com is, too. But that limits your audience pretty much to homeschoolers.)
And what should go on our website? I think you’ve written about this in the past. I know that I should have a place for people to sign up for a monthly newsletter (or weekly, however you want to do it). I know it should include a short bio, market your books, and have the blog. Anything else?
Randy sez: Yes, it’s perfectly OK to host your blog on Blogger and just link to it from your site. You will be giving up some traffic, but it’s not a crime. You can do anything you want, as long as it suits your purposes. As for what should go on your web site, you should decide early on what you want your web site to be about. It can be a small “brochure site” that is all about you. That won’t be very useful for marketing, but it will be the moral equivalent of a business card, and will give people a place to find out more about you, if they already know your name. Alternatively, if you have expertise in some particular topic, you can post some free information on your site, and it will act as a magnet to bring in people who never heard of you. This latter approach is a far more powerful marketing tool, but it’s also more work. You have to decide what’s right for you.
I have a website and a separate blog through WordPress. How difficult is it to host my blog with my website w/ a consistant design like your site?
Randy sez: Hosting your blog is not difficult. You just need to get some appropriate blogging software (we’ll discuss this soon). Then you need to change the look and feel of your blog so it matches your site. You can either pay a web designer to do this or do it yourself if you have the skills. (For my WordPress blog, I had to make some minor revisions to the WordPress PHP code and the CSS files. “PHP” is a programming language that creates HTML codes. “CSS” means “Cascading style sheets” and makes it easy to style your web site. Both of these take some serious work to learn, which is why it may be useful to hire somebody to do these revisions for you.) It took me about an hour to revise the WordPress files to look very similar to the rest of my site.
What would a moderately priced web site cost?
The problem with answering it is that “moderately priced” is completely relative. You can spend anywhere from $100 to $10,000 and it would be considered moderately priced depending on the client. If you’d like to tell us what you want in a site, I can tell you approximately how much *I* would charge for designing it for you. I base my fees completely off the time I’ll spend on your site and that is generally $50 – $75 an hour depending on what kind of work it is; HTML encoding, actual server-side or client-side scripting or graphic design.
Randy sez: I would agree with Andrew that those prices are typical. A good web designer will ask you a series of questions up front to make sure they’re creating the kind of site you want and need. Questions like this:
1) What is the purpose of your site?
2) How much content do you want to put on it?
3) How often do you want to change the content?
4) Are you technically able to make changes yourself?
5) Do you want to do ecommerce on your site?
6) Do you want a simple design or something fancy and pretty?
7) Does your content need to be searchable, or is it OK to just be beautiful?
And many more . . .
For a site similar in scope to mine, prepare to spend between 3,000–6,000 bucks. It’s expensive, but well worth the cost in terms of looking professional.
Randy sez: Mary is a professional writer with a number of books published. For a writer at her level, this is a reasonable price for the beautiful site she’s got, along with the built-in ability to change content herself (she has a lot of Content Management System features on her site.) By the way, the link Mary gave in her comment didn’t work because it had a comma in it. The correct link is www.MaryDemuth.com. Check it out!)
Pamela wrote a word of warning:
I hired someone to do my web site (www.carouselcommunications.com), as I liked her company’s own site. I told her what I wanted, in the way of a new logo, color scheme, and pages. I wrote the content. She showed me a great design after one of her designers spent hours on it, gave me more than I expected, and I went with it. However, she did not tell me she was using Flash to create the site. She did this at her own choosing, which I didn’t know until after the site was finished.
I was unfamiliar with that program and didn’t know until after I gave the OK that Flash doesn’t allow for making easy changes and other things I wanted done. It was too late to go back and start over, so I kept what she’d designed. I now feel like my hands are tied with making changes (I have to pay her to do it), and she also says that “she” owns the web site, that I don’t. All information I didn’t know up front. I am hoping we can eventually come to some agreement, as I want to take over control of the site.
So BEWARE in hiring others to do your web site. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying, ask a lot of questions and be clear about everything you want and expect, up front.
Randy sez: This makes me ANGRY when I hear this. A web designer should ask questions before they build a site. Pamela has a gorgeous site. Check it out! But she can’t make changes to it. It’s written in Flash, and by the way, my understanding is that Flash is not searchable by search engines. That makes it almost useless to a writer. You want the search engines to be able to read the content on your site. Otherwise, they’ll never send anyone to your site, because they won’t know what’s on it. I just did a search on Google for “Pamela Cosel” and didn’t see her site in the first three pages of results. (I did see several pages on MY web site that mention her, because she comments on this blog sometimes.)
I have no idea what kind of recourse Pamela has, but this kind of thing happens quite often. I have no idea what the web designer means when she says she “owns” Pamela’s site, but I can’t imagine that she owns the domain. Pamela should own that. The web designer might own the presentation of the content, but that’s probably the extent of it. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know for sure.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about that pesky blogging software. There are several options, but I’m not terribly familiar with any of them except WordPress. So I’ll be interested to hear from those of you who use other software. You can post a comment here to tell us what you’re using.