A couple of days ago, I posted a set of 9 questions you should ask yourself before you even start designing your web site. These 9 questions help define your “requirements” for your site, and any decent web designer will ask questions similar to these before they start working for you. So sooner or later, you’ll need to face these questions.
Yesterday, I discussed Question #1 in more detail. Today, we’ll talk about #2 and #3, which deal with content.
First, though, I’ll answer a couple of questions:
“Attracting traffic means that your web site needs to be about MORE than just your books.”
And this is where having a blog would come in, right? Or give aways, teaching, author interviews, etc
Randy sez: Yes, a blog, articles, interviews, are typical types of content you can have on your site that are NOT about your books (but are related to them).
Many of us shy away from the selling part simply because it looks daunting (arranging credit card payments, secure sites, instant downloads, etc.) How difficult is all that to set up–and how expensive?
Randy sez: It’s not that hard, especially with PayPal. There are ways to earn money on your site without having anything to sell. More on that later, but not today. And there are ways to sell products without having to deal with the money transaction stuff at all. Again, we’ll talk about that later.
Now let’s look at Questions #2 and #3 that define your requirements. I’ll look at some typical answers, and talk about what kind of site will meet your needs.
2) How many pages do you want to have on your web site?
Answer a) Just one “home page”
Randy sez: A site built using one of those web-based tools that creates a simple site for you might be just the ticket. Or you might have just a single professionally-designed sales page — this is commonly done by internet marketers who can buy traffic.
Answer b) Just one page with a blog on it
Randy sez: This can be a very good choice, if the design is clean and appealing. See Chip MacGregor’s blog site at www.ChipMacgregor.com or James Brausch’s blog site at www.JamesBrausch.org. This isn’t expensive and can do a good job of presenting who you are and what you have to sell the world.
Answer c) Between one and ten pages
Randy sez: This is a pretty typical author’s “brochure site.” Without a blog, it will be pretty limited in content. If one of the pages is a blog, then it can have quite a lot of content on it, and can still provide info about each of your books (if you have them) or it can have a few good articles that will draw traffic. Note that you don’t have to have zillions of articles to pull in traffic, if one of them is a “superarticle.” (See my e-book on SuperArticles for details on what kind of punch a good SuperArticle can bring in if it’s well-done.) Depending on how fancy you want your site to be, you can pay a lot or a little for a site like this, or you can do it yourself.
Answer d) Between ten and a hundred pages
Randy sez: My comments are similar to Answer (c) above. With this many pages, it starts getting expensive to pay a webmaster, so you probably will want a site that allows you to add content yourself. If you tell your webmaster you want to be able to add pages, they can create a “template” page for you that lets you just fill in the content. There are smart ways to do this and dumb ways to do it. (A smart way lets you later easily change the layout and the graphics on the page. A dumb way forces you to do lots of work whenever you want to make changes.) Tell your webmaster you want a smart way to do this. If they don’t know the smart way to do it, then they are the wrong webmaster for you. The smart way typically involves words like “CSS,” “PHP,” or “SHTML” or something similar.
Answer e) Between 100 and 1000 pages
Randy sez: With this many pages, you need an extremely smart way to manage your content. Tell your webmaster in advance if this is your goal.
Answer f) More than 1000 pages
Randy sez: If you are doing this many pages, you need a really professional solution and you’re going to pay a lot for it, or you’ll need to program it yourself.
3) How often do you want to add content to your web site?
Answer a) Several times per day
Randy sez: You need a blog or some similar “content-management system” or you need to be good at writing HTML yourself, because otherwise you’ll go broke paying your webmaster to do it for you. Make sure that you have enough things to say, because adding content several times a day can be onerous if you don’t have a lot to talk about.
Answer b) Every day
Randy sez: Ditto my comments for (a).
Answer c) Several times per week
Randy sez: Once again, ditto. You simply can’t be calling your webmaster several times per week asking them to make changes. They can’t respond that fast, and they’ll buy a very nice yacht with the fees you pay them.
Answer d) About once per week
Randy sez: Then you may not want a blog, because a blog should be updated several times per week. You should still be willing to do a lot of the work yourself, because weekly changes will be fairly pricey if you pay someone to do it.
Answer e) About once per month
Randy sez: In principle, you could pay your webmaster to do this. I still suspect you’re better off learning how to update your site yourself. There are inexpensive programs that let you do this, such as FrontPage (Windows only) or many others.
Answer f) Hardly ever
Randy sez: You can probably get away with just having a webmaster do your site. It may not be worth your time to learn how to make changes if you’re hardly ever going to make them.
Answer g) Never; I want it to be unchanged forever
Randy sez: Ditto my response for (f).
We’ll pick up this discussion on Monday. See ya then!
How complicated is updating a blog on a website compared to one on Blogger? Doing it myself is not an option, and since I’m not independently wealthy, neither is hiring a webmaster to add a new post every few days.
Kristi Holl says
Thanks for being willing to discuss this stuff and share your expertise. I’ll be eager to hear about the simple solutions to selling things on your site–when you hit that topic.
Bob Younce says
Just a quick note to let you know what I’m really enjoying this series! You really break things down into their component pieces in an easily digestible way. I’m guessing this comes from your training in Physics, but regardless of the reason, I’m glad for it.