Thursday, April 27, 2023

Building Your Website: Expert Advice for Every Stage

I think you’ll agree when I say:

Creating a website is a daunting task.

Or is it?

It turns out, you can dramatically increase your enjoyment and success of the project by doing one simple thing…

…something so simple that you probably do it before you embark on your important writing and illustration projects already.

And in today’s post, I’m going to show you what the simple this is…and exactly how you can easily incorporate it when you’re ready to revamp or make your very first website.


So what’s this simplistic way to website success? 

It’s making a game plan before you start. 

And this isn’t just any game plan, it’s one that takes into consideration your mindset, your technical needs, and the support available to you at each stage of the website creation process - before starting, during the creation, and after publication.

After all, the more you know, the less you fear. And I would add, the more excited you get once you know what the next steps are and how to tackle them.

Before Creating an Author or Illustrator Website

Mindset Needs

To start, understand that goals are your friends. What do you want to achieve with your website? Do you want to increase book sales, connect with your readers, or build your brand? Knowing your goals will help you make the right decisions during the design and creation process. Need a tool to get your goal-setting locked in? Here you go.

It's also important to come to the process with the feeling of wanting to further serve your readers. To do that, you must understand who they are and what they want to see on your website. Knowing your audience will help you create a website that speaks directly to them.

Lastly, designing and creating a website takes time, so it's essential to be patient with the process and take the time to do it right. Three months is a good benchmark.

Technical Needs

The technical needs to consider before creating your website include choosing a domain name, selecting a web hosting provider, choosing a Content Management System (CMS) that suits your needs and technical abilities, and designing the website layout.

  • When selecting a domain name, ensure it is unique, easy to remember, and related to your brand or book. 
  • The CMS platform should be mobile-friendly, user-friendly, and align with your goals and technical abilities. 
  • For web hosting providers, it's also important to consider factors like transparency of pricing, server speed, uptime, and customer support when selecting.
  • Before designing your website layout, take the time to gather content, such as book descriptions, author bios, and photos. This will ensure that you know what needs to be included, if not quite exactly where it needs to go. That will come later.

Optional Support to Help You Succeed

Remember that you don't have to do this alone. If you're unsure of what you want your website to look like or what content you should include, hiring a website planner or marketing strategist can help. They can work with you to create a clear plan for your website, including the structure, design, and content. 

Hiring a professional graphic designer or branding expert now can also help you think through and define your unique voice, writing style, and themes that recur in your work and how that can translate to the elements, imagery, fonts, and tone of your website copy.

During the Website Creation Process

Mindset Needs

During the website creation process, it's important to be open-minded and flexible. Be open to new ideas and suggestions from the design and technical professionals you may be working with as well as when you receive feedback from others like friends and family as you progress. When you're in the weeds, it's hard to see the big picture. Others' opinions of ease of use, navigation, colors, etc. can be very helpful and lead to a better end product.

An understanding that this project requires organization is also key. You will need to keep track of all the content, images, and other assets you need for the website. This can help avoid delays and ensure everything is in place when needed. 

Lastly, not only will you need to be open to feedback, but your voice in the process is very crucial so even though you might not know everything, speaking and asking questions is important. If you hire professionals, provide specific feedback to them throughout the creation process. If you are designing the website yourself, don't be afraid to join forums and ask questions and get advice or workarounds for something that isn't quite working the way you'd like during the creation process.

Technical Needs

During the website creation process, you'll need to focus on website structure, content specifications, search engine optimization (SEO), website security, and testing and debugging.

The website's layout and design should be aesthetically pleasing, easy to navigate, and align with your brand or books. Correctly sized images and clear descriptions help the visitor to view and understand the content.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is also essential to increase the visibility of your website in search engine results pages (SERPs). This involves using relevant keywords on your pages, optimizing your images and videos, and ensuring your website is mobile-friendly.

Lastly, you should ensure website security by taking steps to secure your website against hackers and malware. This involves installing security plugins or software, creating strong passwords, and keeping your website's software up to date. Thorough testing and debugging will ensure that the website is functioning correctly and free of errors.

Optional Support to Help You Succeed

At this stage, content creation can be challenging. You may have the skills to weave an amazing story, but writing persuasive and engaging website copy is a slightly different skill set. If you need help writing content for your website, hiring a copywriter can be a good investment. A professional copywriter can help you create engaging and informative content that speaks directly to your audience and aligns with your brand. 

Similarly, if you lack the technical skills to build a website, hiring a web developer can be a great help. A web developer can assist you with website structure, coding, and website functionality, allowing you to focus on collecting and creating content that fits your brand. 

Additionally, as you work on your website, you may encounter technical issues that you are not sure how to solve. Choosing a hosting provider that is known for its technical help is crucial so that you can get issues resolved quickly and efficiently, saving you time and frustration. Don't hesitate to use the chatbox or call the help number that's provided. Most times, these success departments don't just tell you what's wrong, they will fix it for you.

After the website is published

Mindset Needs

Once your website is published, it's important to know your work is not done. The world needs to know your website exists and that there is a reason to check your website often. So adopting a mindset of sharing is important. Respond to comments, messages, and emails in a timely and professional manner to show your readers that you value their engagement. 

Consistency is also key. Just as you must be consistent with your craft, that can also translate to doing your work justice by consistently keeping your website updated with fresh content, images, and other media. Regular updates, and sharing that those updates are happening, will keep your audience engaged and returning to your website. 

Finally, it's important to celebrate your achievement. Launching a website is a significant accomplishment! Allow yourself to take time to appreciate the hard work you put into it and share it with others.

Technical Needs

Once your website is published, it's time to monitor, connect, and tweak it so that it's meeting your goals.

  • Website analytics tools can help you track website performance, such as website traffic, click-through rates, bounce rates, and conversions. This can help you understand your audience better and make informed decisions about future website updates. 
  • Regular website maintenance is also crucial, including updates to the CMS, themes, plugins, and backups. This can help prevent security breaches and ensure that your website is functioning correctly.
  • The connecting of the social media profiles to your website happens in the design phase, but now it's time to ensure your social media profiles link back to your website to increase traffic.

Optional Support to help you succeed

With the more technical aspects of monitoring, maintenance, and the sometimes tedious need to create content and make sure everything is updated and connected on social media, post-website publication is a time where I see many authors and illustrators take a back seat. But you've done all this work! Don't let it fade into the background.

If you know the maintenance things scares you, outsourcing website maintenance to a professional can save time and ensure that your website remains functional and secure.

Similarly with tracking your web analytics and updating your SEO. If you have an assistant, this is something they can do. But if not, free programs like SEMRush and Google Analytics make it easier to see what's working and adjust accordingly.

And finally, if you're updating your website consistently, there are plugins and services out there like MissingLettr or Jetpack that will automatically create tweets or Facebook posts when new content is uploaded. Never miss an opportunity to share your news, updates, and exciting information.


Creating an author or illustrator website may seem overwhelming at first, but with a solid plan and the right support, it can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Remember to consider your mindset, technical needs, and support options before, during, and after the website creation process. With these in mind, you can create a website that aligns with your brand, speaks directly to your audience, and helps you achieve your goals.

Ayanna Coleman is a high-level marketing and creative concept strategist. As founder of Quill Shift, a boutique marketing agency, she helps thought leaders, experts, and creative thinkers expand on, clarify, and crystalize their next big ideas for programs, movements, or life-changing experiences so they (and their team) can make them a reality. Trained as a youth services librarian, she started her career at Hachette Book Group in digital marketing, moved into the nonprofit space and led programming and diversity initiatives at the Children’s Book Council, and over the last eight years has partnered with and led marketing initiatives on behalf of publishers, distributors, literary agencies, and startups across three continents. Snag a helpful author website checklist and gain access to more of Ayanna’s marketing tips and tutorials here.

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