Your Checklist For Creating A New Website
If you are in the market to upgrade your site, or even launch a brand new site, here is a checklist that will help you gather the content you need to make things go smoothly - whether you plan on doing it yourself or hiring someone like me to do it for you:
1) Login links, usernames and passwords
You'll need them for your domain registration, current hosting service, website CMS (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Squarespace, etc.), and social media accounts. Create a text (or Evernote) file with all of your login information and keep it in at least one safe place. Writing them on a piece of paper that will eventually be misplaced is not a good idea.
If you are launching a shiny new site, we recommend Hover.com to register a new domain.
2) Logo and product image files
We're talking about your book cover artwork and the like. The highest resolution available is ideal, preferably in EPS, PDF, or PSD file format with transparent background. Your graphic designer will know what those mean. If you have the original design files that include separate layers for each component of the image, that would be the best so you can hide or extract different elements for different uses on your website and social media. More on this in a future post...
3) Text copy
You can start with your CURRENT bio text for the About page (no more than 750 words - the more succinct the better, while not excluding too many interesting/pertinent details). Don't forget to update it if it's a year old or more!
Other copy for the website would include product/project synopses, blog post ideas, "call to action" text ideas for the home page, details for your event listings page, etc. If you already have a website and are looking to upgrade say from Blogger to Squarespace, you will want to migrate that content over. Many services have automated tools that help with this, but I highly recommend exporting your content from your current website if possible. Google your system name with export to find instructions.
Testimonials are a huge way to help new people buy into what you have to say. Use Amazon, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and good ol' email requests to collect good short recommendations from people - especially those names that the general public may recognize.
Again, the higher the resolution the better - no smaller than 800x600 pixels. You're looking for JPG or PNG format here. You'll need images for your blog posts, for each page to accompany/compliment the text content, and a nice "headshot" image for your About page (quality candid photos work well too). Creative quality photos of your work environment including pets and landscapes can help draw people in and give insight into you as an author. If you're an Instagram user or hobbyist photographer (like myself), collect some of your best images to feature in a gallery page.
If you don't have any images, get started either snapping photos with your iPhone, or use a service like Shutterstock.com to purchase some great images to spice up your site. There's nothing wrong for a writer to have a website mainly using text, but keep in mind that A) images are the best means to grab people's attention on an LCD screen, and B) you have to have REALLY great text content to offset lack of image content.
If you have video content (interviews, book trailers, or original creative content), use either YouTube or Vimeo (or both) to host the files, and then use their embed code to display them on your website. It never hurts to have a short quality compelling video on your home page about you or your latest project. Hearing your voice and seeing you convey your ideas is an important part of connecting with your audience - even if you're not comfortable on camera or speaking publicly.
6) Contact information
How will people get a hold of you if they want to book you to speak or for an in-store signing? Do you have an email address for your custom domain? If not, you should. For me, nothing says "amateur" like getting business email communication from email@example.com. If your website hosting service doesn't come with email included, you can use a free service like Zoho.com to get a firstname.lastname@example.org email account.
You'll want to use a web form on your website as opposed to just posting your address on your contact page. That will keep spammers from harvesting your address, or keeping the general public from having your contact information.
If you sell your own products on your website you'll need to post an address. If you're not comfortable showing your home address, get a P.O. Box and include it on the contact page.
Offering a phone number can also be helpful, but for many is not a requirement. We use Google Voice's free service for our business number so we don't share our personal cell phone numbers online. They offer great iPhone and Android apps to help you receive and screen calls, or check voicemail.
7) Email list setup
A critical part of your strategy to engage with your audience is an email list for newsletter and promotions. We recommend both MailChimp and Emma. Once you've signed up they, offer some HTML code for you to copy and paste onto your web page, or plugins to integrate their forms into your website automatically with a few clicks.
A good business keeps a database of clients and interested customers. Have something exclusive ready that you can offer in exchange for people's contact information, like a discount code or a free PDF sample. More on this will be coming in a future post...
I'm not going to lie to you, it takes a considerable amount of effort to gather the necessary information to set up a good website for your business. But keeping your content organized and having a good plan of attack will help make it as painless as possible - especially if you're paying someone else to build your website for you.
If you have any further questions (chances are good that you do), please post them in the comments section so we can all learn together, or feel free to use our contact page to send us an email or phone call. We can set up a time to consult with you on your new or current website. And if you need someone to build a new website for you, we'll be happy to help!
If you'd like to receive our tips in your inbox, use the signup form in the sidebar to join our newsletter, and stay tuned for more posts with technical tips on building an maintaining a good website.