I’ve owned a personalized domain name (patrick-ross.com) for about fifteen years, but have done little with it during that time. For the past four years I have focused on this free WordPress site instead. But with Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road publishing this October, I knew it was time to do something with that personal domain.
Now I have. My new author site, www.patrick-ross.com, debuted yesterday. I’d love for you to check it out and let me know what you think. (For some reason it formats well in Firefox and Chrome; not as well in IE. Need to figure that out.) Below I’ll walk through some of the questions I asked in approaching a project like this that you might want to answer as well.
- What is the real purpose of my website? Just like an artist needs to know her audience, so does a website creator. In my case, my primary mission is to promote Committed, so “author” is the first tagline under my name in the banner, and the home page is dominated by a slide-show spinner promoting the book. I also have some information on the site about my teaching, but I’m not really using this site to land new teaching gigs or boost enrollment in existing ones, so that isn’t played up as much.
- Along those lines, what should I be putting on my home page? Many blogging experts would tell you, “not much.” We spend so much time online nowadays that we get fatigued easily by websites with lots of text, boxes and tabs. I’m struck by a move in the direction of sites that are mostly white space (something Google pioneered with its search engine page years ago). I considered going that route, but ultimately I decided that I could help promote a road-trip book with, well, photos from the road-trip. However, there is very little text on my page (I almost didn’t include a LATEST NEWS box, and I may remove it at some point) and I limited the tab bar to “Home” and four other tabs.
- Okay. But what about the rest of the content? For example, to what extent should I highlight my “day job” if it’s not central to the artistic platform I’m building? I spent a lot of time on this question. The reason I’ve had my own domain name the last few years was in part to promote my “day job” work as a professional writer and communications professional. Ultimately I envision my “day job” life summed up in a resume, and my creative writing life summed up with a curriculum vitae. So my new site has links to that curriculum vitae and I’m letting my public LinkedIn account serve as my resume.
Do I hire somebody or do I try to do it myself? I am a big fan of paying professionals to do good work, particularly freelancers. As it happened, I solicited a bid from a loyal Artist’s Road reader and was very impressed with her proposed design and her price. What I realized, however, was that I’d still need to do a lot of work in terms of curating images and crafting prose. I have a bit of experience in web design. I built my first website in 1994 by learning rudimentary HTML but largely just copying code I found on websites I liked. I’ve overseen the construction of websites in my day-job work, and I decided to build this one myself using a “free” service that doesn’t require you to know HTML. (NOTE: It’s free to construct, but there are costs involved if you want a unique domain and email accounts attached to it.)
- But what about my blog? Should that move to the site as well? My answer to that would be “Yes,” but I have not done that myself. I would like to at some point; the straightforward approach would be to convert this free WordPress.com blog to a .org and embed it in my site. I don’t know how to do that, however, and for now I’ve decided to link to this blog from the site. I also have stripped from this blog out most of the content related to my writing and teaching to encourage people to come here only for the posts.
- If I’m already blogging, couldn’t I just use my blog as my main site? You certainly can. If I didn’t already own patrick-ross.com, I might have used The Artist’s Road blog as my website. Or I could have pointed that domain here. I decided, however, that the free WordPress.com software is fairly limiting in what you can do aesthetically.
There are so many creatives who have built spectacular online presences for themselves. If you’ve experimented along these lines, I’d love to hear what you’ve done. Be sure to include a link to your site in your comment!