I’ve been in the writing business for over twenty years and have always found steady and interesting work. Technology has changed the business and so finally earlier this year, I decided it was time to get a website. I turned to writer, website developer and my fellow Freelance Success member Ron Doyle, to help me put my website together. Today Ron guest blogs here to give writers advice on the importance of creating or updating your website. Thanks, Ron!
My dear fellow writers and writers-to-be, I have a message for you:
YOUR WEBSITE IS NOT ABOUT YOU.
It may showcase your proudest literary achievements, deeply personal blog posts, even photographs of you in diapers. It may even literally have an “About” page, but your website is not about you. Your website is about its users.
In 1995, Alan Cooper and Robert Reimann wrote the landmark book, About Face, The Essentials of Interaction Design. About Face focused on the concept of human goal-oriented, user-centered software design. User-centered software, whether it be on your desktop or in the cloud, makes educated assumptions about the circumstances of its use, about the needs of the user.
In their book, Copper and Reimann argued that here are two primary types of software (in this case, a website and software are interchangeable concepts).
Sovereign-Oriented websites dominate the screen. They’re complex, time-consuming, and demand deeper investigation to use them fully. YouTube is a great example. Look how much, well, STUFF is going on here:
Transient-orientedwebsites are non-dominant in their appearance, are used only on demand, perform limited functions, and can expect only a minimal time commitment from their users. It’s the pop-up notification on your computer, or the volume controls that you rarely use. Google’s search page is the classic web example:
The third type of website is called multimodal, a combination of the other two types—a site that serves differing audiences within one space.
Okay, in case all the software and brand management semantics aren’t sitting well with you, I have my own way of explaining these concepts, broken down into the most common types of websites for writers. Hopefully this is easier to digest: Writer’s websites are just like food.
1. A writer’s web portfolio is an appetizer.
Web portfolios are transient-oriented software specially designed for editors, agents, and prospective clients that have very little free time on their hands. It’s primary purpose is to give the visitor a taste of what’s to come. Flavors can be bold and bright, but they should not be overly complex. It is the ideal way to clearly define your brand’s points of parity and difference. A writer’s portfolio does not need to offer every flavor, but should always offer clips that suit the sweet or savory or healthy and light appetites of their prospective clients.
One way or another, all web portfolios serve the same purpose. If they were coded into Microsoft Windows, they would look something like this:
Okay, perhaps this is a little over the top. But, beneath all the flourish and pretense, this really is the true function of every professional writer’s portfolio.
2. A writer’s blog or a book platform for an unpublished book is an entree.
Blogs and book platforms are sovereign-oriented software. While individual posts should come in bite-sized portions, the website as a whole should contain enough to satiate a reader whose appetite extends beyond a single entry. If the blog or platform offers a menu of news or solid journalism, consistency of flavor and presentation will help garner return visits. If the blog is more personal, complex flavors in the form of nuanced language and literary arc are likely to bring readers back another day. As traffic grows, blogs help increase brand salience, can serve to define your personal niche, and often serve as useful avenues for cultivating positive feelings about your brand.
3. The platform of a published book or the blog of a columnist is a dessert.
Its design is likely multimodal, shifting according to your defined audience. This type of website is created for readers who’ve already had an appetizer, had an entree, and are still coming back for more, for another taste. For some visitors, this is a place to quickly seek updates to, for instance, a travel guide. For others, this is the online equivalent to the “Special Features” of a DVD, where visitors can delve far deeper into their fascination with your work.
In every case, these sites can be powerful tools for maintaining relationships with customers and monitoring their feelings about your brand.
And that’s why the site should be your own.
There is a growing trend among freelancers and other creative professionals—because they’re free, we throw our entire brand presence into other websites (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Etsy, Lulu, etc.) believing that these platforms are sufficient to support our careers.
When you use these sites, you are establishing an association between your brand and the brand of the social networking service. Don’t get me wrong, these platforms are extremely valuable tools for increasing brand salience, establishing and crafting brand points of parity and difference, and connecting with an audience in a way that encourages positive judments and feelings.
But, as any musician who threw their entire career onto MySpace five years ago will tell you today, this is dangerous business that carries potentially devastating consequences.
Your website, with its own domain, should serve as home base, with all of the favorite social networking flavors of the day serving as outposts.
You can enjoy those positive brand associations while they last, but when the flavor of the day loses its cachet, you will be able to return safely back to your home base.
So, do you have a website yet? If so, does it work for you? If you don’t, why not? Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear about your experience!