by Abigail Carter
A whole bunch of writers out there know they need to “build their platform” and know that a key component of that is what’s known as “the author website,” but many are completely intimidated by setting up a website and avoid it because they don’t know where to begin.
This is quite a learning curve, but there are tons of videos out there to show you step-by-step instructions of every tiny detail when you get stuck. This is my attempt at helping you to get going, even if it’s only a very simple website.
There are several options when it comes to choosing which system you are going to use. Here is a great chart that shows them all very concisely, but you may not fully understand the differences, so here is my quick run-down of the most popular types.
WordPress is far and away the most versatile platform you can find. The best part about using WordPress is that with all the plugins that are available for it, you can do almost anything. This means that WordPress is the best suited to growing with you as your needs change, and trust me, they will change. You can add and remove plugins that allow you to do a zillion things like rotate your book covers in the sidebar with links to purchase them, get stats on your visitors, set up your site for mobile viewing to name a few. This is the web platform I usually recommend. The downside is that it is not very intuitive and can take a while to learn how to use it. But once you do, it’s a snap.
WordPress is also a little tricky in that there is WordPress.com and WordPress.org. WordPress.com is sort of the “easy” version that is quick to set up, but only comes with a limited number of plugins, so just when you hear of a great new plugin that would be perfect for your site, you discover you have no way to install it. That is when most people learn the hard way that there are really two WordPress’. WordPress.org is a little trickier to set up initially, but is much more scalable in the long run. You will have to be prepared to pay for hosting your WordPress.org site but the cost is nominal ($50-80 per year). I will go over hosting sites in the next installment.
Tumblr, Blogger, Wix, TypePad, Moveable Type
It’s actually possible to bundle all the other platforms together. These platforms are all very easy to use and set up and most have beautiful, clean templates, but the templates are limited, so your site often winds up looking like a whole lot of other sites out there. The other problem is that they don’t have the versatility of plugins that allow you to add features, so they are limited in terms of customization.
The good news with these sites however, is that there are no hosting costs and they are free to use. The payoff is that a custom URL (ie. iamamazing.com) is often not possible. You will be stuck with a URL like iamamazing.blogger.com. Also, because your site is being hosted within these platforms, they may place restrictions on your content and can even delete your blog without warning.
In short, WordPress is like going to an ice cream sundae bar full of a zillion toppings and choices that you get to choose from and sprinkle on top yourself and the rest of the platforms are like a MacDonald’s sundae. You know exactly what you are going to get every time.
Yup, I just compared WordPress to an ice cream sundae. I’m THAT good! Crushed Oreos anyone?
Here are the other posts in this series: