DIY WEBSITE, FOR NOT-SO-NERDY BEGINNERS
I built my own author website - and I am totally not nerdy!
I did the impossible for a major technophobe. I had never built a website before, the only code I knew was the pin code to my front door. Yet here it is. My author website, built entirely by me!
So how did I do it?
Basically with a bit of research, a few cups of coffee, only one block of Lindt Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate and Squarespace.
It really was very easy. If you have the skills to find and read this blog post, then you have the skills to do it too! Below is a more detailed list of the steps I took.
Look at other similar websites
List the pages you would like to include
Collect and write content
Watch a tutorial
Browse Squarespace templates
Start a free 14 day trial
1. Look at other similar websites
Find some websites you feel are doing what you would like to do, and doing it well. Take note of how many pages they have and what information they give. Look at the overall layout and style. Keep a notebook handy and write down anything you particularly like. Try to get a feel for whether you want your content to be quite factual and informative or more fun and playful. Take note of what you think isn’t working too.
2. List the pages you would like to include
As you study other websites you will get an idea of what pages you might need.
My list included: Home, About Me, My Books, Gallery, Teacher’s Notes, Speaking / Author Visits, Blog. I then listed anything else I might like to include: Instagram, Twitter and Facebook links, contact details etc. I also wanted my website to work well on a mobile phone.
3. Collect and write content
This was the most time consuming part for me. I began collecting pre-written content e.g. my author bio and book blurbs, and pasted the text into a word document. Next I listed each website page I wanted to include, and began writing text for each. Then I collected any images I might use into a folder on my computer. Pics of me at school visits and events, my book covers, painting with my kids and illustrations for my gallery etc.
4. Watch a tutorial
I needed to do the previous three steps regardless of whether I was going to build a website myself, or hire someone else to do it. When I mentioned to a friend that I was considering learning how to build a website, they said ‘just use Squarespace, it’s so easy.’ A quick google revealed that although Squarespace and Wordpress were both great platforms, the learning curve for Wordpress is steeper, particularly if you are a beginner. Squarespace is very user friendly, easy for total beginners and there is no need to know anything about coding. Perfect!
To see if it really did seem possible for a total beginner, I watched this tutorial
In less than an hour, they built an entire website. And it looked so simple! Of course all his images and text were set and ready to go, but still, less than an hour!
‘I can do this,’ I thought. So I made myself a coffee, turned up my get-pumped music (Eye of the Tiger,) snapped off another row of chocolate and decided to give it a crack.
5. Browse Squarespace templates
I went to www.squarespace.com to browse though their templates. (Just click ‘Get Started’ then ‘Create A Site.’) I knew basically that I wanted the list of pages (navigation) to be at the top, and my website to have a nice clean feel. I also wanted a grid style gallery for my illustration images. You can live preview each template and also see how it will look on a mobile phone. You can narrow your choices by looking at their recommendations, such as business, restaurants, stores and portfolios. I looked through the portfolio options which are designed for creatives. It was difficult for me to choose a template as they all seemed quite modern, corporate and photographic, so I couldn’t quite picture how my more illustrative website would look. But then I discovered you can change templates down the track, and also play with the fonts and styling within each too. So I just chose one (Rally) and ran with it.
6. Start a free 14 day trial
As Squarespace offers a free 14 day trial, (no credit card details needed) there is really no reason not to give it a go. Once you select a template, there will be a signup form. You just need to enter your name and email address then a password. That’s it!
7. Start building!
I jumped right in and started creating pages and adding text and images. In no time, my website started coming together right before my eyes. When you sign up, Squarespace sends you an email with a ‘Getting Started’ video. Everything you need to know along the way is covered by simple videos and step by step instructions on their help page.
In less than a day I had built three pages of my new author website. And it was actually looking like a proper website and (in my opinion) not at all like a beginner had built it! I was amazed. I opened my site on my phone every so often to check it was all working well on there too.
The free trial does has a few restrictions, eg a limit on how many pages you can build. As I was so happy with how it was all going and looking, the next day I upgraded to their paid service. My site was now public and I could finish building it. I could also register my free domain name. www.kyliehowarth.com
And that is it! Easy-peasy
All up it took me two weeks from beginning to research other websites, collecting content, to having my new author website ready to launch. And that wasn’t working at it full time either, as I am a full-time stay at home Mum. I got it all done on the weekend (in between Christmas shopping trips) and in the evenings once the kids had gone to bed.
One of the best tips I got from the tutorial by Tyler Moore was to click on the clipboard icon when adding text to remove any unwanted formatting.
Being a designer and illustrator I do know Adobe Photoshop. This did help when designing my site and sizing images. Basically you need to make all images rgb and 2500 pixels wide. If you don’t know what this means, Squarespace has a help page to explain this here.
Before you launch - Be sure to have someone test your new website. Check spelling, links and usability (thanks Mum.)
I hope this inspires you to have a go at creating your own website too. If you found this post useful I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
And please share!