Writers ask this question all of the time, but what if that’s the wrong question to ask?
How long does it take to build a writers website?
For me, if I have everything gathered together, I can build a simple author website in a day. That’s everything from setting up hosting, installing WordPress, customizing a theme and adding content. But that’s born of years of experience.
If you’re an author DIY-ing your website, it will be different for you. So what can you expect? Here are the questions to ask yourself before you get started.
Have you done your homework?
This means you’ve made all of the decisions that need to be made before you start. This includes things like hosting, domain, theme, newsletter provider. Are you going to blog? If so, what are your categories. How are your book pages going to be organized? By series, genre or fiction/non-fiction or something else? Did you decide on a color scheme and the fonts you’ll use to make your site?
Have you gathered all the content?
You can’t build pages without content. That’s like building a brick wall without any bricks. Your content includes all of the text, images and even videos you’ll use on your site. First decide what pages your site will have. Then break down the content of your pages, you’ll need a headline/title then additional headings for each one.
How are your tech skills?
If you’re comfortable with the technical side of things, it will go faster. If you’re learning the platform while trying to build your site, it’s a recipe for frustration and depending on your tolerance, it will take longer. If you’re just getting started and are a visual learner, YouTube will be your friend. Most platforms have video tutorials on how to do most things and a quick Google search can help you find what you need to know if you get stuck.
What time can you give?
How much time can you spend in a session to get things done? You might be working 30 minutes at a time, so it will take you longer to finish. Or maybe you spend a weekend on it. You can use a Coming Soon plugin while you work, so your site stays private while you complete everything. Take your time and don’t feel like you have to rush.
Web Design Mistakes
Before you start building out your pages, let’s talk about common mistakes with web design.
Failing to Plan
Failing to plan before beginning to build out your pages. This one can cause you to spend more time than you planned on your site and keep you from launching. But that’s why you’re here, reading this book. Taking the time to sit down to plan out what you need and why will make the process go more smoothly and help you launch your site faster.
Working against the technology.
The web is a fluid and responsive medium, so don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s like a brochure or magazine when it comes to layout. It’s not and trying to make it so is a headache that will add hours of time to your project.
In the early days, designers came from a print background. Precise placement ruled because that’s how print media works. Everyone viewed websites on a desktop computer with a small monitor.
How we access websites today has changed.
Over 50% of website visitors are using a mobile device today.
You can’t depend on your visitor having a huge desktop screen. They’re just as likely to be using a phone. A page no longer equals a piece of paper.
Today’s websites are responsive, this means they flow and adjust to fit the device’s screen size.
If you forced the same static layout for everyone, for people on phones the image and text would be too tiny to see or read, the button too small to click. It’s not a good look and it won’t help you connect with your readers. Defeats the purpose, right?
You’ll have several different breakpoints for your layouts, think of them as different views: a desktop version, a tablet version and a mobile version. Each size is a breakpoint where your site will flow and size the content to fit. But don’t worry, the site builders these days can accommodate each of these and most provide preview tools so you can see how things will look and adjust accordingly.
For example, the Divi builder (for self-hosted WordPress) will let you adjust styling for just the mobile view, separate from the desktop view. This means you get a nice experience on both.
Squarespace has responsive design built-in. You can use their device view tool to preview your site’s layout. It is available to you when you’re logged in to work on your site.
Doing it in public.
Building in public is all the rage but it’s not how you want to build your website. Make sure you can do it behind a password or in a private development location before you publish it and make it live.
Think of your website building process like the first draft of your book, it’s messy at first until you get things in place then spend time filling in and editing and polishing. Your website is no different, keep it behind the scenes until you’re ready.
Many hosts offer a staging site that’s perfect for this. On self-hosted WordPress you can use a coming soon plugin, if your host doesn’t provide a staging site. For Squarespace you can choose your site availability: Public, Private or Password Protected. For Wix, your site won’t be live until you publish it.
What to do if you get stuck building your website
It’s your website and it is supposed to serve you. So let it be easy.
I saw someone getting freaked out because one tool didn’t integrate with their website builder. But that tool was one that a guru had recommended so they were hell bent on using it. And they admitted in a post that they’d spent hours trying to solve that problem, rather than choosing something that served them and their situation, they got stuck trying to make something fit.
See the website for what it is, it’s a tool to serve you.
And then consider the tool’s part in the process. More than likely there is more than one tool to get that job done. And it’s possible that it will be easier for you to use.
I see a lot of authors who take a look at a popular author’s platform then try to duplicate their set up. And end up getting frustrated. Because they bit off more than they could chew. And didn’t think that the example they’re trying to follow didn’t start out with the full blown web site machine.
You don’t have to either. Start with the basics and do what serves you and your goals.
Even with what I’ve told you here. If you’re not ready for a newsletter, then by all means wait. Or if you know of a tool that I didn’t mention that you want to use, go use it. The main thing is that you consider your goals and what you need right now then get moving.
You’ve started building your website but then you. just. got. stuck.
How do you get back on track with your website? Well, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your website will be a work in progress, too. Nothing is set in stone, you can change it. The main thing is to begin with something.
Permission to Suck, (as Long as You Do Something)
Give yourself permission to do one tiny thing, even if it’s not that great, even if it isn’t perfect, just do one small thing on your site then if you still want to Netflix afterwards, go ahead. Like this: I will create my about page and publish it.
Take Immediate Action
It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, something tiny that moves you in the right direction is enough. Update one section of your home page, you don’t have to update everything on the site. Work in increments.
Still Feeling Resistance?
Tell yourself, “This is just what we do. Come on let’s gets started.” and smile because the way forward is through and resistance is no match for you.
Set It Aside and Move
Get up and leave the website and your computer behind. Take a break, really. Go for a walk outside. Sometimes we need a change of scenery so we can return to the work.
Back to the original question, “how long does it take to build a website”, the answer is “It depends.” because it’s different for everyone. It depends on your answers to the questions above. It might be a weekend, or a week, or months, depending your skills and abilities. Do it your way.