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Building a Good Author Web Site - Introduction and Contents

by David Dvorkin

(Or, if you prefer the newer usage, "Building a Good Author Website".)

I'll start with a disclaimer. I'm not a Web designer. I don't even have a particularly good visual design sense. Rather, I should say that I have a fairly bad visual design sense. Professionally, I've been a software developer and Web developer and technical writer for a vast number of years, but the only Web site I've ever designed is this one.

So how can I have the audacity to put a page like this out on the Web? Ah, well, that's the first important lesson in the nature of the W4 (the Wonderful World Wide Web). Anyone can put any page he wants to out on the Web, barring the obvious exceptions (e.g., copyright infringement, libel).

More to the point, this isn't a page about Web design in the usual sense. In my real life, I've also been an author for a vast number of years, published since the mid-70s, and I've had my own author Web site - this one - since the mid-90s, which possibly makes me one of the first authors in the biz with his own site. Also to the point, fans and friends and strangers have been praising this site for years for its content, attractiveness, and ease of use.

So not only do I feel that I have a right to my strong opinions in this area, I also think I have some advice that other authors might find useful.

Well, I could be wrong. If you disagree, a Google's worth of other pages about Web design are only a few clicks away. That's the second important lesson in the nature of the Web.

I shouldn't have to point out that the third important lesson in the nature etc. is that you don't want people to click away from your page. You want them to linger in your site and explore all of it. You want them to like you. You want them to buy your books.

What Do We Call Those People

The people who visit your site, that is. Visitors? Viewers? Standard technical documentation refers to them as "users", but that doesn't really fit in the case of visitors to a personal site. "Users" is hallowed by techie tradition, though, so I find myself using that word without being aware of it. When I remember, in these pages, I'll try to call them viewers or visitors. As a result, I'll probably switch around randomly.

What Do We Call This Place?

Is it a Web site or a website? Do people send you e-mail or email? Contemporary usage seems to be moving rapidly toward "website" and "email". That's a common evolution in English. A phrase starts out as two words regularly used together. Later, a hyphen appears between the words, connecting them. Finally, the words merge into one word. Internet time is faster than time in the physical world, and I suppose that explains why the merging into "website" and "email" has happened so quickly. Well, that's fine, and it makes our modern high-tech usages part of the glorious march of the stupendously magnificent English language, but both "website" and "email" are distasteful to me, so I won't use them. But you probably should.

Which might prompt you to ask why I have a sentence at the beginning of this page referring to this as "Building a Good Author Website." That's because I want this page to show up in Google and other search engines. If I restricted myself to what I consider the proper spelling, "Web site," then people searching for "good author website" - the way most people do indeed spell it - would never see this page. Because the title now appears at the top of this page with both spellings, it now shows up in Google whichever way you spell it. And that's lesson number four.


Making it easy for people to get
around your site.
The Ugly Corporate Look
Businesses love it.
Normal people hate it.
Your Own URL
Making it easy for people to get
to your site.
Directory Structure
Organizing your site for your convenience.
Dead Files Never Die
People may be looking for files you've deleted.
How (and why) to accommodate them.
It's Not Just about Your Books
Your Web site is the window to your soul.
Spread It Around
Don't hide the light of your site under a bushel.
Accommodating Browsers
Be nice to people who haven't upgraded in a while.
Fixing the Navigation Bar with CSS
One way to keep the links in view while the rest of
the page scrolls. But you really shouldn't do this.

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