Guest blogger: Scott Chambers' entertaining overview of the workshop.
On the glorious Sunday afternoon that SCBWI-goers recently enjoyed at The Hughenden, the wonderfully talented Sarah Davis treated a sizeable crowd of us to an informative Web Design session. This is the, somewhat less colourful and entertaining, blog version.
Well, I say “us”, but it was really aimed at all those authors and illustrators who want to create and maintain an amazing web site but haven’t got the time; whereas we, on the other hand, are all supremely organised, efficient, and network savvy but figured Sarah needed the moral support ;-)
So, on the off chance you might happen to know someone who is a little short of time, or maybe tired of being slave to a costly, Gen-Y web-page administrator, turns out there are actually quite a few programs out there for this very purpose that are fairly easy to use. So long as you’re prepared to devote a couple of hours finding your way around them. Sounds like a worthwhile investment of time to me though, given how easy Sarah made it look to prepare a web and blog page on the spot.
It would also give you total control – but you have to learn to say that without wringing your hands together deviously and squinting as you reel of a maniacal laugh.
For those of you who trust my failing eyesight and dodgy hearing, the options we have to choose from include: Squarespace, Moonfruit, Wix and Weedly. Wordpress, I believe, was also mentioned at some point, although it seemed like you needed a degree (or perhaps just a diploma) in Nerdology to drive this in comparison to the others (unless I’ve got my packages mixed up and have just said something completely unfair and inappropriate).
Sarah was all over Squarespace though like moss on a big-granitic-lump-in-the-shade; apparently it is quite a common backend for many-a-professional, or at least, professional-looking, web site. Once you’re safely inside you are free to simply use one of the many available page templates, or exercise the full power of your own creativity – as your time and levels of inspiration allow. Things like whipping up a portfolio picture gallery, creating a file storage page or blog (journal) page could hardly seem easier.
Just by pressing ‘Escape’ from within the main page enables you to edit your creation. Giving you full control over the content and aesthetics – even down to choosing some very cool, non-standard, Google fonts, to prevent your page from becoming – and I believe this is a technical term – “butt ugly”. You can just type text in directly and upload or link images.
If memory serves, Squarespace is platform independent (which has less to do with the kind of shoes you are wearing than the type of computer you choose to swear at), there’s an architecture menu to help with the page building, an overview menu for those keen on keeping track of number-of-hits, comments, who’s referring etc., and all this for only $8 per month (for the basic deal, or $12 for the premium)! Apparently there is also a 2-week free trial period – which can be somewhat flexible given on how desperate and pathetic you can make your plea when you realise that your 2 weeks is in fact up and you haven’t actually started anything yet.
The Squarespace “Help & Support Centre” are reputedly very fast and indeed helpful – not an assumption easily made by veterans of Microsoft’s many “Help” features. They also seem to be good at mirroring page content across a number of sites/servers and claim that any site you create with them will never go down (and here I’ll pass up the opportunity of making a cheap and entirely inappropriate wisecrack). The clever little makers of Squarespace have also done some jiggery-pokery that helps get your site to near the top of the list on search engines. I just tested this theory with Sarah’s page, and it worked very well indeed!
Sarah did say something quite knowledgeable about buying domain names, and in my notebook I have written something about Register.com, but I can’t actually read the next four words. Several lines later though I see a note about free Domain names now being available somehow (through the Squarespace people? God I hate my writing) – but to be safe I’d double-check that bit with Sarah if I were you.
Those of you who already have domain names can apparently contact the people you got them through and have them pointed to your Squarespace site if you so desire.
Now, Sarah was just saying something about how you could easily create links to your books that might be on Amazon when Jill (Corcoran) mentioned something about Barnes and Noble doing something-or-other (it sounded important): I implore anybody who was sitting closer than I was to fill in the blanks here.
Well that, I think, about sums up Sarah’s informative and enjoyable Web Design chat; all in all, I think most of us could do a lot worse than spend a couple of hours of our lives (that we might have otherwise squandered on Facebook), looking a little more deeply into the wonders of Squarespace, or similar such programs.