– Establishing a website that’s right for you and your budget by Gary Carter
Whether you specialize in biographies on history’s most successful basket weavers or in novels featuring criminal basket cases, you’ve probably considered a website to connect with your readers, expand your potential market, or publicize your accomplishments. The easiest method to create a home in cyberspace is to set up a Myspace.com account, followed closely by setting up a personal webpage with your Internet service provider (Comcast or BellSouth). But there is no need to settle for such rudimentary options when you could register an Internet domain name and publish your own content. It’s not as difficult or as costly as you might fear.
If you don’t consider yourself a technological sophisticate, you may be understandably intimidated by the mere thought of creating and publishing website content yourself. But once you get used to the technical jargon like “domain name” (the .com or .net name people use to find your website) and “web host” (the third party computer that makes your website content available to others), you begin to realize that publishing a website is really nothing more than creating a collection of documents and placing them in a location where they can be viewed by others.
The method you’ll employ to create your website depends a great deal on the content you plan to post. My original goal was to create a professional website for the consulting business I started last year. My first professional quote came in at $12,000 – the second was even more. My revised goal was simply to avoid embarrassment. So I reluctantly checked into the do-it-yourself options and found there were dozens of plans available for less than $150 per year. I focused on the two most popular web hosting options: Yahoo and GoDaddy. Both offered plans starting under $10 a month with no setup fees and no commitment. And neither will greet your visitors with pop ups or banner advertisements – a turn off to be certain. In their $10 per month plans, both Yahoo and GoDaddy offer at least:
Five gigabytes of web server space. The more space you have the more content you can post.
200 gigabytes of monthly data transfer. This shouldn’t present a problem unless you post downloadable content and have a large number of visitors. For example, a one megabyte file downloaded by 1,000 people is only one gigabyte of data transfer. As you can see, the standard 200 gigabytes is quite generous.
200 e-mail addresses featuring your domain name (JohnBoy@JohnGrisham.com).
Both Yahoo and GoDaddy provide free webpage creation software applications. Yahoo includes a website backup service in their monthly fee and a third more templates in their webpage creation software, so I opted for Yahoo. At least I was under budget! I next set out to avoid embarrassment.
Yahoo offers several choices for website design as part of their $8.96 per month package. First, and most importantly, you get the domain name (http://www.arkprofessionalservices.com/ and http://www.thegrimjeeper.com/ for me). Then, you can choose from a basic web log (the popular term is “Blog”) that allows you to post comments and permits viewers to post responses. In the typical Blog, there may be a photo or two, but it’s not terribly interactive. And because it’s not terribly interactive, it’s very easy to set up. You can check out my site http://www.thegrimjeeper.com/ for a Blog example that took less than 15 minutes to publish. For more robust websites, Yahoo offers three site design wizards – applications that you download and install on your computer (free of charge) to design the site that’s right for you:
“Yahoo Wizards” offers 39 templates and the flexibility to build a single home page or a simple multi-page site and support for photo album builders.
The next step up is the “Yahoo PageBuilder”, which offers more than 100 templates for more publishing power than “Wizards”.
For advanced flexibility and creativity, “Yahoo SiteBuilder” is the tool. More than 330 fully customizable templates are available in a variety of business-specific and hobby-specific categories. “SiteBuilder” supports an unlimited number of pages and offers several e-commerce options. Check out my site http://www.arkprofessionalservices.com/ for an example using “SiteBuilder”. It’s not my writing website, but it’s a good example of what you can do for about $10 per month.
Mac owners fear not! Apple bundled iWeb into iLife ’06 and offers exceptional integration with iTunes, iMovie, and iPhoto. In the span of about 90 minutes I created a website that I’m very happy with at http://web.mac.com/garycarterfiction except for one minor issue: the domain name. I purchased a .Mac account for a one year $69 fee, which is about half the price of Yahoo. However, I had to use the Apple webserver which left me with an unacceptably long domain name. Since I’m unhappy with the domain name provided by Apple, I registered http://www.garypaulcarter.com/ through Yahoo for future use. It cost me $2.99 for a one year registration. Now no one else can use http://www.garypaulcarter.com/. I wish I would have registered http://www.garycarter.com/ a few years back. It’s already taken. In fact, according to http://www.domaintools.com/, over 74 million domain names are already gone. And over 630 thousand names were taken the day this article was written. It won’t be long before your name or the name of your future bestseller (like http://www.thegrimjeeper.com/) will be gone. So, I strongly recommend you at least consider registering a domain name even if you choose not to publish your own website.
For the sake of simplicity (and brevity), I’ve only discussed the two methods I have actually used to create and manage websites. Neither of these overviews is meant to be an endorsement of any kind. Spend an afternoon investigating the available options and you’ll find a multitude of competitively priced plans with comparative feature sets.
Start small. Don’t expect your first website to look like you paid $12,000 for it. But your first article on undiscovered basket weavers probably wasn’t a masterpiece. Set the bar low: avoid embarrassment! It only costs $10 or so to give it a try. Just as you became more adept at the craft of writing, you will become more competent with the craft of website publishing. At least you can make procrastination more productive by improving your web site’s content and polishing its professional appearance when you should be writing that next best seller.
Gary Carter is a Certified Public Accountant and former Vice President of Internal Audit at one of the world’s largest insurance brokers. In 2005 he started ARK Professional Services which provides Sarbanes-Oxley compliance services, internal audit outsourcing, and fraud investigation services to companies large and small, public and private. His fiction has appeared in a variety of print and online publications. Most recently, his short story “Writer’s Block” was the featured short story for the March 2006 installment of New Mystery Reader. You can read Gary’s short story about a sophomore novelist who wrote about what he knew in his first book but finds himself in uncharted literary territory when his sophomore novel’s plot includes a murder at http://www.newmysteryreader.com/writer's_block.htm.