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The techno-challenged person’s 5-step guide to building a website

It’s hard to keep a grip on serenity when you’re techno-challenged like me.  In the 1980s and 90s, the technically inept often flung their computers out the windows of their cars in fits of rage. Such computer graveyards are harder to spot today because of the proliferation of low-profile laptops and tablets, but they still exist. When I began building my website, I knew that there existed a fine line between me and those angry techno-challenged masses. I had to own the fact that I am without a doubt a techno-challenged individual, but at the same time avoid contributing to the unsustainable and eco-horrible trend of mass computer graveyards.

The first thing I did to avert crisis was to begin meditating each morning. I started with a modest 10-minute-a-day habit. I also make a concerted effort to practice mindfulness. I visualize a goddess statue’s face and try to arrange my own features in a similarly serene expression. This is especially helpful when I feel a shriek of exasperation or a volcano of baffled tears coming on.images-1

It has been about two weeks now since I began building my website, and I am proud to say I’m about halfway done. I could have hired someone to do this for me in about 1/10th the time. But there are so many other expenses related to publishing a novel that I had to prioritize. I did build a website once before, for my now defunct site armchairadventurista.com, so I knew I was theoretically capable of it.

It would be fantastic if what I’ve learned can help other techno-challenged people in their own journeys to website nirvana. Here are 4 key takeaways:

  1. Find the right hosting company for you. I use a WordPress site hosted by Dreamhost because that’s what I used for armchairadventurista.com. It seems a bit more biased toward techno-savvy people than some of the other hosting services. But I must say the Dreamhost people have been super helpful and great about my frequent inane questions. Live chatting with technical support people who don’t make fun of me? Priceless. But definitely shop around to find the right fit for you. I’ve heard Bluehost is good for techno-challenged types. Why WordPress? Again, I used it before so I was already comfortable with it. Also, WordPress is hugely popular and has a big support community. Even though I’m often flummoxed by my technical ineptitude, there is always an answer out there and people willing to help me figure out my issues. Having said that, if I were new to this I would definitely check out Squarespace and some of the other website services. I like the look of Squarespace sites and have heard they’re user friendly and don’t involve as much scary customization stuff as WordPress.
  2. BUT. And that’s a big but. You need to find a theme (a design for your site) that is easy to use, preferably one with tons of video tutorials available to take you through the set-up process step by step. There is a lot of this available online if you’re willing to pay for it. A whole industry has sprung up around WordPress and the steep learning curve involved in using customizable themes. If you want a free or cheap theme and you want to minimize costs, go with one that is used by many others and has solid documentation around it. I went down a few frustrating paths trying out various themes that other authors used. No matter how cool a theme looks on someone else’s website, if it takes you ages to set up the most basic functions on it then save yourself the pain and get rid of it. Through trial and error, I picked the Vantage theme and upgraded to Premium. Vantage looks great, has excellent video tutorials and support, and there are free videos on YouTube by people who will walk you through the entire set up process. I especially like the videos by Greg Naroyan. I am not done with this part of the game yet but I’m confident that I can do it all by myself.
  3. The buzz out there for indie authors is that you must have an email list of subscribers in order to build a fan base and market your books. I purchased Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10K Authors author training and marketing course last fall and it’s been hugely helpful in many ways. Nick takes you through the steps to set up a landing page on your website (with OptimizePress, which is not free, but saved me a lot of hassle) and use an email marketing service. I use MailChimp, which is free for your first 2,000 subscribers. And wouldn’t we all love to have the problem of surpassing 2,000 subscribers to our newsletters? The user group on Facebook connected to Nick’s course is a source of fantastic advice and support from other indie authors.Blue_tang_(Paracanthurus_hepatus)_02
  4. Try to set up your website in one solid chunk of time. I sent my manuscript out to beta readers for the month of February and turned my attention to the website and other publishing tasks for this month. I find that if I agonize over figuring out some techno thing and then go away from it for a few days, I am exactly like Dory in Finding Nemo—any tasks I learned a few days ago are scrubbed from my brain and I have to relearn them. Doing this stuff every day makes it gel in my mind a bit.

You can do it. Remember these tips:

  • Find the right web hosting services for you.
  • Use a theme that’s easy to set up and comes with excellent support and video tutorials galore.
  • Set up an email subscriber list.
  • Allot time every day, even if it’s just a small chunk, to work on your website until it’s done.

Best of luck to you—and don’t forget to breathe!

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Amy Maroney

I'm a writer living in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and daughters. It took 4 years to write and publish my first novel, The Girl from Oto. Before that I was a writer and editor of nonfiction. This blog charts my progress as an independent author navigating the fog-shrouded switchbacks of "authorpreneurship." Come along for the ride...I hope what I've learned along the way can help you, too!

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