We’ve been discussing web sites and blogs for the last few weeks. Today, I’ll pick up where we left off on Friday. But first, there’s a student in the back of the class waving her hand wanting to ask a question:
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.
Randy sez: It’s just as easy either way. That’s the beauty of blogging — you set it up once, and then when you want to post, you log in to your site and type a blog entry, without having to ask your webmaster to do anything for you. (You have to log in because otherwise, ANYONE could post entries to your blog posing as you, and you don’t want that.) It is a bit more work to set up the blog on your own site to begin with, but the rewards are high.
Last week, I posted a list of 9 questions you should ask yourself (and answer) before you ever start designing a web site or blog. I’m discussing each of these in more detail now, because your answers determine what kind of site you’ll want to create, the technology you’ll use, and how much time, energy, and money you’ll have to expend.
Question #4 is going to generate some controversy, I’m sure. I’ll discuss some possible answers to this question:
4) How “pretty” do you want your site to be?
Answer a) Extremely beautiful and cutting edge, with lots of motion and graphics
Randy sez: If this is your answer, the next question you should ask yourself is “Why?” This kind of site is going to be expensive. It’ll be hard for you to change, unless your webmaster takes care to make it easy for you to change. (For example, if he installs a blog in the site, that part of it will be easy for you to add content to. But the rest of the site may be far beyond the skills of mortals.) If the webmaster does it in Flash, the site may not even be indexed by the search engines. Remember, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but search engines still think in terms of words. I have seen web sites in which all the text was actually a picture of text. Search engines won’t index that, because they can’t see it.
Answer b) Professional looking
Randy sez: Professional looking is good, as long as it doesn’t detract from your goals. It is not my job, of course, to tell you your goals. It may be that your goals are in line with a professional-looking web site. Be sure that they are before you pay for one, because again, it’s going to cost you money if it’s a full-blown site. You can of course get a beautiful looking blog at no cost, because all the blogging sites have great-looking templates.
Answer c) Nice looking
Randy sez: There’s actually a continuum from super-glitzy sites down to professional down to nice looking down to awful. The nicest looking ones generally cost the most. The key thing is to figure out just how “pretty” it needs to be to do the job. Which means you have to define what “the job” actually is.
Answer d) As long as it doesn’t look like the south end of a north-bound rhino, it’s fine
Randy sez: This kind of a site will cost you even less. This is the kind of site you usually do yourself, using FrontPage or DreamWeaver or whatever, including the graphics. Sites like this can look “OK” but they are going to make a statement about you. Be sure that the statement your site makes is the one you want it to make.
Answer e) I don’t care if it’s ugly as sin
Randy sez: We have all seen incredibly ugly sites. The possibilities are endless: Pink text on blue background. Flashing banners. Dancing text. Tiny text that is fixed at fifteen inches wide. Unreadable Olde English fonts (or a handwritten font in gold ink on a white background.)
The question is whether a great-looking site or a horrible monstrous site makes a difference.
Of course, that’s an impossible question to answer. “Makes a difference” in what way?
Let me point you to a few different web sites, all of whom belong to tremendously successful internet marketers.
Tom Antion’s site. This is a pretty primitive site, as Tom himself will tell you. He did it himself in FrontPage, and it looks like it. But Tom’s laughing all the way to the bank, earning millions of dollars from that site and others like it. Tom is one of the best internet marketers I know. He’s not a techie. He’s a marketer. I’ve learned a ton from him.
Alexandria Brown’s site. Ali Brown is the “E-zine Queen” and she does a great job of teaching how do an e-zine. I learned most of what I know about doing e-zines from her. Notice that her site is pretty basic. It’s one page. The movie at the top looks squashed in my browser, though it might look fine in other browsers, I haven’t checked. Ali makes a lot of money from her site also. Why? Because she gives away good solid info and she has a good line of products to sell.
James Brausch’s new blog. This site is just a blog. It’s got a clean, utilitarian design. There are no Flash intros or glitzy graphics. James is a leading expert in such things as traffic, copywriting, and product creation. And if you look at his blog, you’ll see he spells that out: “Traffic + Copywriting + Products = Successful Internet Business”. He also makes a ton of money, and he deserves it, because I don’t know of anyone better at some of the things he does.
Perry Marshall’s web site. This is another small site. Notice that it doesn’t look like Perry spent a ton of money on a webmaster. It looks like it could have been done in FrontPage. Perry, by the way, is one of the world’s leading authorities on using Google AdWords as an advertising service. If found Perry a couple years ago when I wanted to find out more about AdWords. So I checked to see whose ad on AdWords placed highest. I figured those people would be the experts. Perry was right up there among the top 2 or 3.
What’s the moral of the story here? You can have an immensely effective web site or blog without having a “pretty” site. Of course you can an immensely ineffective site or blog that isn’t pretty. From what I can see, there’s not a lot of correlation between “pretty” and effective, at least if you define “effective” to mean “earns money.”
I am sure that many people are now going to tell me that a web site or a blog for a novelist is “different” and that it’s more important for a novelist to have a “pretty” site than for a mere million-dollar earning business mogul. I would be interested to hear why that is so.