Choices? Choose Wisely

Website Design Basics: Part 2

Glad you stopped in for Part 2 of Website Design Basics. I'm not a professional website designer who's going to tell you how to use CSS and HTML to build a web page. I just wear my freelance writer hat quite often and have had to do tons of research into what makes a website successful and have subsequently written about what I've learned.

This series is a commonsense guide to making the right choices for your website because, as a writer, you've heeded the rallying cry: Get a website. I've given few specific examples below so how can you find companies that provide the services I discuss below? Easy. Just type the phrase into any search engine. The Big G is my favorite, but there are many search engines you can use, including some new ones on the block which I'll be writing about later.

First Decision: Website Or Blog

If you're just starting out, you may want to create your web presence with a really good blog. It's not as intimidating, nor as expensive, and it will help you get comfortable with working the Internet (and I mean that in the sense of "working a room").

There are many free blog services with great design templates and the ability to add just about anything you want in the form of bells and whistles, or widgets in computer-ese. You can get into the Internet with no or little expense and create a highly-regarded blog using the tools the blog domain offers its subscribers. Best of all? It's free. Next best thing? Very user friendly.

Whether you choose website or blog or both, the next issues are crucial and apply to websites and blogs because you can pay big bucks for both. It all depends on your choices and how deep your pockets are.


Should you pay to have a website or blog hosted, sign up with an organization that offers hosting for a small fee, or sign up for free hosting?

I'm not going to be cavalier and say go for your own domain, hosted on its own server. That's the ideal, but there are many levels between that and free hosting. Budget will govern this decision. If you can't afford the most expensive option, then choices are: sign up with a professional organization that offers web hosting to its members, or join a group that offers either low-cost or free hosting. My site is hosted by Authors Guild. They have 3 levels of service. I've got the middle level.

If you have published, then you can join Authors Guild. Otherwise, check out some of the other groups that offer its members hosting. Remember about the bandwidth issue (from part 1) and make sure the bandwidth offered is sufficient for fast loading.

Free hosting is offered by just about all ISPs (Internet Service Providers) so whoever provides your Internet service has reserved so many megs or gigs for a free website for you. They usually offer free software that helps you upload your site also, but it's easy to download that kind of software, called FTP, from the Internet or buy a package at your favorite office supply store. It's everywhere. Again, check the bandwidth and any other issues that might affect speed or size of the proposed website.

Design: DIY Or Pay

Sure, we'd all like to have a snazzy site, artistically rendered, with all the bells and whistles. The reality is that your budget will rule this choice also. If you can afford an actual designer, go for it. If not, here are your options.

Templates created by designers that you can upload either for free or for a small fee. You'll have to be able to follow the directions on how to replace an existing template with the new one, but this is a way to get a custom look for a low price.

Joining an organization and using their preexisting templates as is or personalizing them. Again, I use Authors Guild which has 12 layouts, more than a dozen themes, and different color palates. I take that and personalize it with my own original graphics, etc. Lots of groups offer this.

Lowest-priced option is a free site via Freewebs or something similar. Freewebs is where I host my mom's website. They have a lot of good-looking templates and lots of widgets (all those neat bells and whistles). They can be used as is, and you get a good-looking product or you can personalize them.

My blog is from Blogspot, just one of their templates that I've tweaked a bit. I'm getting ready to have a designer create something just for me based on artwork I'm creating. The free blogging platforms are super easy to use.

If you choose a free website, be sure and surf around and look at many of them. Some have really obnoxious advertisements. You know, those blinking, strobe-like popups that nearly give you a seizure just looking at them.

What's In A Name

Word involve the most crucial choice. What are you going to call your site or blog? How will you go about branding it? Tune in next week for Part 3 in this series.

Takeaway Truth

Even if you can afford to pay for the best of everything, you should know what constitutes that best so you'll know if you're getting your money's worth.

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