Writer How To: my writer website part ii

Dear Internet,

On Sunday I talked about what authors should (and shouldn’t) have on their websites, yesterday I broke down the branding, design, and infrastructure of my own author website, and today I am going to discuss main navigation and why I set it up this way, child pages, what’s left to do on my author site, and base plugins you should use for your own WordPress site.

Here is the landing page of my author site again:

lisarabeycomlandingpage

Let’s take a look at the main navigation, homebiofictionother writingblog, and contact. Each of these links are to the minimum pages an author should have as I mentioned on Sunday.

Home will bring you back to the main page.

ProTip: If you include an image header on your page, make it a clickable link back to your main page. This way if people get lost in your site, they have an easy way to get back to the beginning.

Bio will contain the short and extended about me along with a headshot of some kind. 

Fiction will contain all the fiction work (short stories, novels, novellas, etc) with links to purchase or to read.

Other writing will link to mainly non-fiction and academic works. 

Blog will take you directly to EPbaB.

Contact will take you to a contact form.

ProTip: I’ve heard both sides of the story on whether or not to keep a contact form. One argument is that it creates a barrier with your readers, can get confusing, and you’re not entirely sure if the form was sent or not. My personal experience, having managed websites other than my own with contact forms, is you’re more apt to get people writing in using the form rather than if you provide a simple email link. I will more than likely include an email link on the form itself to give people the option.

ProTip 2: Interestingly, the sites I looked at for Sunday’s piece had a lot of the writer’s putting their reps as the contacts but no way to directly contact the writers themselves. “For foreign rights, email joeschmoe@you.com. For media inquiries email yourmom@thejeez.com.” I thought that was interesting.

Let’s take a look at one of the child pages.

childpage copy

I’ve clicked on other writing. We know the link we’ve clicked on takes us to the right page by a few clues. The first clue is the word other writing in the navigation bar is now white instead of grey. Second clue is the breadcrumb shows us where we are, and thirdly, we have a header that tells us on what page we’re on.

As far as design goes, all the child pages will look identical to this one. We have our main navigation at the top so we can bounce around. Our header image from the landing page has been resized to fit comfortably and allow content without (much) scrolling. The right hand sidebar has the same content as the landing page sidebar. The main content box is easy to read and links are easy to find. Header text  is obvious and tells us what the page will contain. Lastly, we have a sharing bar that allows us to share the content across various social networks.

ProTip: I debated on having a share option on these pages since they will remain mostly static, but thought it might be useful if I write a trillion short stories and someone wants a printable version or share it with their BFFs across the social sphere. This is another plugin within Jetpack that allows you to cherry pick social networks you can share across. Plus I get annoyed when I find a page that does not have sharing enabled, so better turned on then turned off.

Now that we’ve got the main infrastructure in place and a design we like, let’s sum it up:

  • We have (potentially) cohesive design that works with my other sites
  • Each site is clearly identifiable of what it is and links to its brethren
  • The design and structure are responsive and mobilized
  • The layout and navigation clear and easy to use
  • Pages are well marked
  • Typography is pleasing easy on the eyes, link colors are bold

Over the course of a week I’ve put about five to six hours of work in with a couple more hours left to go. Since most of the work was design and infrastructure, the least bit is content which should take less time but in my case, I’m importing all the writing works over from EPbaB to the author site for consistency, so that’s taking a bit longer.

What’s left for me to do:

  • Fill out content of child pages
  • Flesh out widgets in right hand sidebar
  • Check for grammar and spelling errors as well as verb consistency
  • Tweak accessibility
  • Export over to live site

Now that we’ve got the site in place, content sorted, let’s talk about the base plugins we can use to make the site even better.

  • Jetpack for WordPress has over 30 plugins in one beautiful package. I use the following: contact form, custom CSS, enhanced distribution, extra sidebar widgets, JSON API, mobile theme, monitor, notifications, omnisearch, publicize, sharing, shortcode embeds, site verification, spelling and grammar, subscriptions, wp.me shortlinks, widget visibility, and wordpress.com stats. A lot of these plugins have variations available individually on WordPress’s site, but I like knowing that Jetpack is constantly updated, added to, and guaranteed to work with the latest versions of WordPress itself.
  • All In One SEO Pack Search Engine Optimization is how web crawlers find you, index you, and then report back when people are searching for you. While the metrics and math can get complex, you can significantly increase your traffic by following a few simple SEO rules. This plugin does the work for you. Here is why you should use it: a few months ago I was wondering what other writer’s sites looked like, so I did some basic keyword searching and found — nothing. Well, almost nothing. Today while thinking about the same search, I wondered if there would be a difference if I swapped out the term “writer” for “author” and the answer turned out be a surprising fuck yes. I also duplicated near same results in Bing.
    This tells me a lot. One, it tells me how Google (and Bing) are indexing content. Two, it tells me even if a writer type person doesn’t use the word “author” anywhere on their website, or metadata, to be indexed, Google and Bing still sort them out as “authors” and list them under that search term  but not under “writer.” The search engine derivatives of “writer” seemingly refer to magazines, goods, and services. So if you prefer the term writer to author, this could hurt you in terms of SEO. Now most people interchange author/writer, but there is apparently a difference with the gist referring to a writer as someone who technically writes whatever (just as a baker bakes) while an author is someone who comes up with the ideas and plans to execute the writing. Someone can apparently be both. Another argument is a writer is someone who is unpaid while an author is a paid professional.
    Whatever you believe or agree with, the bottom line is if you want to make sure you’re getting properly indexed, you need to use SEO to make sure all of your bases are covered so use author/writer in your SEO markup even if you use only one term in your content.
  • Breadcrumb NavXT The easiest and most complete way to set up breadcrumbs on your site.
  • Broken Link Checker Nothing more annoying than going to a site, clicking on a link and discovering it was dead. This plugin actively scans your links (internal and external) and reports back which links are broken and with what kind of errors. Super handy to use and makes your site look a million times more profesh since you can clean up errors and change links from across the site in a single page .
  • Google XML Sitemaps One way to make your site easily indexed by any search engine, on top of SEO, is by having a XML sitemap on the ready. This plugin generates a new XML sitemap based upon your specifications, which can get pretty in-depth. It automatically notifies Google and Bing of any updates.
  • Analytics How are people finding you? How many page views are you getting a day? How many visitors have you had? Jetpack comes bundled with its own analytics, but you may want to use another one or two more as not all analytics software are created equal. I use Google Analytics (which is part of Google Webmaster Tools) and StatCounter.

This has been a quick and dirty walk through on getting a simple author website up and running that is not only informative but eye catching as well. There is a lot more (isn’t there always?), but this should give you a good understanding of why things are done a certain way and access to tools that can accomplish your goals.

Cheers!

xoxo,
Lisa

This Day in Lisa-Universe:  2010

Writer How To: my writer website part i

Dear Internet,

It seemed only fair after I doled out all that advice yesterday, I should show you the money. I’m going to throw down my author’s website, software and apps I use, as well as design thoughts and more.

As I mentioned yesterday, TheHusband suggested I keep my author site separate from Exit, Pursued by a Bear (where you’re located at now) and my librarian site. I agreed. However, since I am going to have three sites to maintain, they all need to be consistent and relate to each other in some fashion.

A couple of years ago, I designed business cards using the image of three year old me holding a phone as the main graphic, which was also the main header image at EPbaB for a long time. The cards were a huge success when I handed them out and people easily remembered who I was later on. Since it was time to make new cards, I expanded on that idea and decided to use the same concept across my sites.

(If you click on the images, it will open up a new tab with a larger image for greater detail.)

Exit, Pursued by a Bear – Online Journal (Theme: Mon Cahier child)

EPbaBlanding

Cunning Tales From A Systems Librarian – Librarian Site (Theme: Elucidate)

profeshlibrariansite

Lisa Rabey – Writer (Theme: Arcade Basic)

lisarabeycomlandingpage

The only site I’m not 100% happy with is my librarian site, which I will futz more with later. There are also couple of other things I can do to make all three sites more cohesive, but the idea is there and I like where this is going. The Lisa Rabey Empire is coming to fruition!

Now that I know how I’m branding the author site, I played with the freely available themes at WordPress until I found one that would work for my needs and required as little hacking as possible.

ProTip: I exported a  year’s worth of entries from EPbaB and imported them into the test site to see how the theme handled a wide variety of posts and formating.

I looked for a theme that allowed: Custom header, adding breadcrumbs easily, two column so I could have a sidebar, and top navigation bar that wouldn’t get lost when you scrolled. I like white backgrounds with no textures, and I wanted something that was eye popping. It also had to work mobilized via the Jetpack for WordPress plugin. I settled on Arcade Basic.

ProTip: As someone who likes things quick and to the point, Jetpack for WordPress is one of the best plugins you could install and make your life insanely easy. I know a lot of my more advanced WordPress/coding friends are not a fan of this plugin for a variety of reasons, but as someone who wants no fuss, no muss and ease to use? This thing is a godsend.

When you land at my author’s site, you see a young Lisa with her pops as the landing graphic. There is a top navigation bar for home, bio, fiction, other writing, blog, and contact. Here is all the basic information I mentioned yesterday clearly listed and easy to find.

In the middle of the landing page is a box that says See More. When you click on it, it jumps down to the second half of the landing page where there is additional content (there is also a scroll bar in the right hand side if you want to use that instead).

ProTip: I’m not crazy about the wording of “see more” so I may just change it to something else, which will be easy enough.

lisarabeylandingpage2

Excuse my rudimentary Photoshop.

The navigation bar stayed in place when we hopped down the page, which is why even though I know a lot of people hate these giant graphic landing pages, I loved this one because you don’t lose your navigation.

The main content box is a quick about me / this site. There is also a search box, social media links, and a news feed.

ProTip: Having learned my lesson trying to maintain blogs across variety of sites, I found a work around that allows me to keep this site looking like it’s constantly updated without stress by using the Appearance->Widgets->RSS widget within WordPress. Every category and tag in WordPress has its own RSS feed, so I can pull a specific feeds to show up in this particular widget box. There is no limit to the number of RSS widgets you can use. For the news widget, I mark all my writing stuff under the “writing” category  on EPbaB and the feed is pushed on the author site. I do the same thing on the my librarian site, under recent posts in the sidebar, which has its own category for the very same reason.

To recap: I write everything on EPbaB and the RSS feed for a specific category are fed to specific sites based on feed name. If people are interested in the whole shebang of the blog, they can click on blog in the top navigation.

I wanted two columns because I need the ability to add/remove things as necessary for whatever reason without losing the main content box or forcing people to scroll to the bottom. When I get a newsletter up and running, books to buy, or whatever, it will go in the right hand side bar. Additionally, Jetpack has a feature that allows you to show certain widgets on certain types of pages for more customization.

Tomorrow we’re going to look at the main navigation and why I set it up this way, child pages, what’s left to do on my author site, and base plugins you should use for your WordPress site.

xoxo,
Lisa

P.S. As my author site is not live quite yet, but I do link to it, so if you find a broken link, that’s why.

This day in Lisa-Universe:

anatomy of a website: part ii

Lisa, circa 1973 or 1974.
Lisa phone hacking, circa 1973 or 1974.

Dear Internet,

Yesterday I started out putting together an entry on the process and design of the site, only it turned into nearly 3100 wordy behemoth. I’ve split the entries into half, the first half concentrating on the backend, landing page and design thought, with the second half below getting more into the nitty gritty, process, and promotions.

Individual Entry Pages

For the individual entry pages, all of the previous design for the landing page is true plus with the added following:

  • Breadcrumbs – Located above the title and are crucial! I will not design a site without them and it is also good SEO and information architecture practices. I use Breadcrumb NavXT.
  • “Estimated reading time” in the byline metadata. General consensus of the internets said they liked this feature because it gives them time to pause to continue reading now or come back later. Plus I can be wooordy and days like today, you need to know how much time to invest. The plugin I use is Post Reading Time, which is customizable.
  • Share the love – I use unobtrusive small icons, no text, of print, email, and top social sharing sites via the Jetpack plugin. I also turned on the “follow me via Google+” option available in the same plugin. I also only selected social sites I personally use, hence why there is no LinkedIn.
  • Below the footer metadata are named links to previous post and after post
  • Next is the comments section, which I use Disqus plugin to handle that feature. Additionally, in the landing page version, comments are located at the top by the byline entry so readers can comment on the landing page instead of clicking to the full entry itself to do so.
    • I currently do not turn off comments on any of the content, so if you wanted to comment on an entry from 10 years ago, you could.

Individual Page pages
Since these are rarely updated and are static, the styling is a bit less structured:

  • I’ve turned off commenting and direct people to my contact page
  • Each page is either a top level page as a landing page for a project or a child page
  • SEO is also applied to all pages as I now create them
  • Breadcrumbs are also used on pages
  • The sidebar remains the same

Process and Promotion

  • Currently I write the day before it’s due and I almost never know ahead of time what I’m going to write. It literally is, some days, begins with a sentence and I’ll end up with 900 words an hour later.
  • I can write a 750 word entry, complete with formatting and editing, in about an hour.
  • I schedule the entries to post mid-morning ET the following day. I will also set up a tweet mid-afternoon with the same information
    • The initial posting format is: [blog] TITLE OF ENTRY short link EXPLANATION
    • Further promotion on Twitter will contain a slightly reworded version of the original to prevent going to Twitter jail
  • Promotion of the entry is done in the following
  • On the rare occasion, I’ll post a link to the entry more than twice in the same day
  • It is utterly important to me that I am available, findable, and read in a variety of mediums, hence the cross-promotion to major sites as well as some not so major ones in addition to the RSS and email feeds.
  • SEO is applied to all entries with descriptions and proper keywords to enhance findability

Plugins

What’s currently powering my site:

  • Akismet – Spam blocker. Between this and Disqus, there has been almost no comment spam on this site.
  • All in One SEO – One of the definitive SEO plugins, easy to use and pretty customizable.
  • Breadcrumb NavXT – One of the better breadcrumb plugins, also easy to use and customize.
  • Broken Link Checker – The best client I found to scan the entire site, check links and report back errors. Especially useful as I add in the old content.
  • Disqus – I’ve been a long user of this commenting system for a number of reasons: It allows people to comment by logging in via any number of existing OAuth systems such as Facebook and Twitter without having to create an account at EPbaB. I also liked that you can consolidate all of your sites into one admin account.
  • Google Analytics for WordPress One of the three analytics software I use, highly robust and full of rich features
  • Google XML Sitemaps If you are not practicing SEO, you should have a site map of your site for search engines to index. I really like this one.
  • iframe Plugin to allow the use of iframe HTML because sometimes old tags don’t go away, they just continue to be used.
  • Jetpack This plugin is produced by the makers of WordPress and contains some of the top features they implement on the wordpress.com site and made them available for self-hosted users. Frankly, this is by far the best plugin I use and while I know some despise it for a variety of reasons, as someone who just wants shit to work, it’s brilliant. Here are the features I use (and be mindful this is not ALL the features available):
    • Notifications – notifies of activity from wordpress.com users and sites on your site
    • Stats – One of the three analytics plugins I use
    • Publicize – The social arm of the plugin, it auto publishes to selected sites when you publish your entry as well as is the configuration for the Share the Love social sharing
    • Subscriptions – Subscribe by email
    • Sharing – See Publicize
    • Spelling and Grammar – Yes to the first, meh to the second. The grammar function is often wrong
    • Omnisearch – Search Every. Single. Page on your site, deeply, from within the dashboard
    • Contact form – So you say you have a message from your people to my people? This is where you go
    • Widget visibility – Control what pages / posts your widgets are on
    • Wp.me short links – Yep
    • Google+ Profile – See Publicize
    • Tiled galleries – If I ever feel the need, it is here
    • Shortcode embeds – Always important
    • Custom CSS – Sometimes designers do NOT know best. Also a lot of theme designers sell their “premium” themes based on the fact you can customize the CSS. Why bother to pay for something you can do for free?
    • Mobile theme – I know a lot of people don’t like this version, but I don’t see a problem with how it renders or allows navigation on my site. Works great!
    • Extra sidebar widgets – Always a necessity
    • WordPress.com Connect – Allows you to login to your sites using your WordPress.com login – which is more secure than just a username/password!
    • Enhanced distribution – There is no clear description to what this does exactly, but what the hell. It’s turned on.
    • Jason API – Also needed
  • List category posts – Another favorite! Allows you to post links to entries on any page/widget from specific categories or tags – automatically! Example of it being used, multiple times, on the To:Be Project page. Each section is its own tag getting updated automatically when I post with that tag appended.
  • LiveJournal Crossposter – Some sites do not die, they just become LiveJournal.
  • Organize Series – A neat plugin that allows you to easily set up posts of the same subject to be easily read together without searching through the archives.
  • Post Reading Time – Displays the amount of time to read the entry, at 200 words a minute average.
  • Redirection – I currently have two or three domains, in addition to exitpursuedbyabear.net, that point to the this domain. In order to clean up old links from journals gone by, Redirection will take a link from biblyotheke.net/nameofentry and point it to the correct entry here without the use knowing!
  • Simple Social Plugins – Sidebar widget using pure CSS to display stylized social media links
  • Smart Archives Reloaded – Plugin behind my archives page, was the easiest way to generate the page in a simple to read format without getting overly complicated.
  • TablePress – Plugin to generate complicated tables, but I’m finding it easier to create them via pure HTML and CSS so I might ditch this at some point.
  • Word Stats – Secretly I’m a stats nerd and things like this get me wet. I disagree with some of its assessment on reading levels but I do like some of the other features like breaking down words per entry, or per month, or entire lifetime.

Other design tweaks, such as color schemes and CSS options tend to be in the muted areas, with a shocking color for contrast. I like my fonts to be readable, and I can spend hours on the right font combination, and easy to print. I haven’t yet found the perfect font yet, but I’m always looking.

This holiday season, since I have nearly a month off, I’m going to be setting up a home server version of the site and start building, I hope, a new and improved site layout and design to correct the little things I cannot get sorted in using child themes. Ideally, I’d like to build off an existing theme, but I’m thinking at this rate I’ll probably end up starting from the ground up and building my own.

If you have any plugin or theme suggestions, let me know! I’m always up for getting my website dirty!

x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2009