The Process

Setting up a brand new website is no trivial matter. You need more than a simple WordPress install; and no web developer will do 100% of the job for you, because a complete web site includes a lot more than development and design. What will the content be? What images will dress it up, and where will the images come from? How will the site effectively market your books? What url should you get, and where should you host it? The sooner we work together, the more confident you will be that you answered all of those questions effectively. I’ve created this page to give you a break down on everything you might want to consider when building a new site. Those on a budget (and, hey, who isn’t?) can use this list to DIY as much of the process of starting a new blog or website on their own. Bring me in to tighten up the details or have me set up the whole site from start to finish.

Before you hire a web designer, developer or WordPress consultant for a fixed fee, you may want to ask them how many of the things on this list are included. Many authors think they’ve found a great deal, but are shocked to find all their contract doesn’t include.

Web Development

  • Choosing a reliable web host. Here are the web hosts I recommend, in a guest post I wrote for Learn HTML with Song.
  • Choosing and buying a domain name. (This is the best time to do your SEO research!)
  • Installing WordPress, setting up the Apache database and name server
  • Creating the menus/navigation for your site (not deciding what those menus should be—that’s web design! This is just setting them up)
  • Choosing a stylish, reliable WordPress theme that:
    • is responsive, and built for mobile devices
    • has a great support forum
    • is smartly-coded to best be discovered by search engines SEO (see below)
    • has plenty of back-end customization possibilities

This is 90% of what you get when you buy a fixed-price website project. The other ten percent is usually: copying into pages the website content you’ve sent them, adding social follow buttons, and installing a few plugins. Of course, the particulars vary greatly, so be sure to understand exactly what your contract includes.

Web Design

  • How wide will the columns be? How many columns? What is the ideal width for your content?
  • What is the site’s color scheme? How will those colors be used in a pleasing and balanced way, considering the book covers you are presenting?
  • What fonts will be used throughout the site? It’s important to choose fonts that:
    • are easy to read
    • look professional and aesthetically pleasing
    • match the fonts used on your book covers (most web designers won’t even think of this)
  • How will we draw attention to the most important content on the site, like your latest book? Common options include:
    • slideshows
    • billboard style parallax home page sections (the homepage of this site is an example)
    • sidebar content
  • What content will go on the homepage? Will the blog posts be on the home page? What proportion of text will there be to images?
  • You’ll need to decide the look and feel of the header image for your site. This is the small banner that declares the title of most blogs or websites. This is a good spot to use a customized, eye-catching image.
  • Images are what grab people’s attention. What images will your site use to play up your content? Where will those images come from? You will likely want a number of images on the homepage, and those images need to combine on the page in an aesthetically pleasing way. You’ll also likely want at least one image on most of your other site’s pages.
  • How will Featured Images be used on the site, and what are the ideal thumbnail sizes for your content? This is the kind of small detail that many fixed-price projects neglect, causing ugly blog posts for hapless authors who have no idea this setting even exists. And yet it takes less than ten minutes to do!
  • Embedding videos, as with book trailers. I will also embed audio content like podcasts or interviews you’ve done, either using HTML5 or an external service like SoundCloud.
  • Creating image galleries to effectively show off collections of photos
  • You’ll need a favicon, the little image at the top of the browser tab

Content

  • What will be the pages of your site? The actual names of the pages, and their hierarchy.
  • How will people navigate to your site’s pages?
  • What text will fill those pages? …and what images will best draw attention to that content? I have images listed here and above in web design, because images are an important part of conveying your brand. Writers have a knack for relying on their skill with the written word, so many authors don’t contemplate how they can bring images into their site’s design.
  • Breaking the content up with headers, so it is easier to read and more search-engine friendly.
  • Editing the pages for grammar, punctuation and style.
  • What will be your categories, and how should you organize them? Many web developers fail to set up categories, and many don’t have any ideas about what their categories should be, nor any notion that they even need to determine this. So blogs end up with no navigation, or a confusing mishmash of unhelpful categories. Don’t let this happen to you.

SEO

NOTE: many web developers will say things like “SEO-ready theme” to indicate that their work will play nice with search engines. This is not disingenuous, as it is an important consideration for the purchase and installation of any theme. However, it’s not the same as doing SEO work. SEO work is never included in a simple fixed-price web development project, because it is a separate service all together, which requires a different skill set. When you see SEO mentioned in promotion of a web design project, always ask what that entails. 999/1,000, it doesn’t include any of the following things.

  • Keyword research to determine the most effective keywords to use in marketing your site. THIS IS ESSENTIAL to any SEO work. If you hire any person to do SEO anything for you, and they don’t do this first, none of the other stuff on this list will matter. You have to know what keywords are going to be most effective for you, and research is the only way to do that.
  • Uploading images with SEO-smart names, based on your keywords
  • Using alt tags and titles for your images that reflect your chosen keywords
  • Editing the content to effectively promote your keywords
  • Organizing the site’s structure, setting up a sitemap
  • Set up Google Analytics
  • A site audit of the internal links used throughout the site

Social Media and Marketing

  • Creating buttons for people to follow you on your favorite social media platforms
  • Making sure all your favored social media follow buttons are there, including making customized buttons for lesser-known sites
  • Adding sharing buttons to posts. This is different than “Follow Me” buttons. The former are your profiles on Twitter/Facebook/etc., these buttons are on the blog posts, to encourage people to share those individual posts. You certainly want both!
  • Configuring plugins that will automatically send your most recent post to social networks
  • Setting up and customizing contact forms
  • Giving people the ability to subscribe to your mailing list (I prefer Mailchimp for this)
  • Creating an automated newsletter that converts your recent posts into an email for your subscribers
  • Want to give away a freebie, in exchange for signing up for your mailing list? Not only can I set this up for you, I can help you determine what free content will pull in the most subscribers
  • Calls to action on every page and promo boxes in the sidebar, to make sure every page is set up to increase subscribers and book sales
  • Links to buy your book on Amazon. I can create tracking links which will allow you to find out exactly what part of the website people went to buy your book. This is a great way to test what parts of your site are effectively driving book sales.
  • For more information on social media and marketing, please see my publicity site, karmabennett.com.

Maintenance & Consulting


Do you know how to use WordPress? I consult with clients regularly to teach them not only the basics of WordPress, but how to be a blog marketing rock star. After your website is ready, you may enjoy the following services.

  • Updating plugins, themes and the WordPress core
  • Adding pages to your site, or training you to make your own changes
  • Changing the navigation of your site (frequently, this is adding the pages for the latest book to the navigation)
  • Creating book promo widgets to announce your latest book on every page of your blog
  • Adding new features as they occur to you (see something you love on another site? I can look at the site and give you an estimate of how much time it would take me to implement it for you. You may be surprised how quickly many elements can be built into WordPress!)
  • Training you to blog effectively with WordPress
  • Having someone to call with occasional WordPress head-scratchers and frustrations