Thursday, March 24, 2011

Homepage versus blog: titanic grudge match

The past few days, I've been reading up and refreshing my knowledge on web-design and content management. I've realized there are several basic principles that my website is, we might say, "violating." Principally, I've used this blog as a personal tool to express my thoughts and feelings about writing, rather than as a business tool to represent my fiction writing professionally. The cost of this direction is that my website doesn't easily provide information about myself and my work to potential readers/customers/etc. So, the question is: how to reverse this trend, and, is it worth it?

Because of this little program of study, I'm starting to wonder if I ought to create more of a "homepage" for myself as a professional writer rather than a loosely collected set of articles that collectively form a "weblog." As I start to sell more of my fiction, make more contacts in the publishing industry, and - perhaps most importantly - as I prepare to delve into electronic publishing, there are good reasons to ensure that my blog is more focused, direct, and functional.

But at the same time, I don't want to be complete nerd-ball. Part of the reason I enjoy blogging is because it's fun. It gives me a place to relieve the stress of writing and trying to get published, as well as a chance to write in a sort of essay/memoir style that, due to its informality, allows me to express my own sense of humour and irony (something I cannot do as readily in fiction).

Nonetheless, I've decided that in the coming weeks, I'll be reformatting the look and feel of the website to make it more functional, as well as being slightly more choosy about the content I include and how I present it. Hopefully, this won't, you know... ruin the fun.

The key things I'll be focusing on are:

1. Simplicity and language

I love to make clever titles and fill my posts with witty language. This is enjoyable to me. But since most of this wit and cleverness is devoted to what are essentially inside-jokes with myself, it's not quite clear whether this humour translates to my readers.

Furthermore, if I want to provide content that people are actually interested in reading, I have to make sure that I make clear what my various post topics are. I recently switched to a blog format that displays only a sample of each post on the main blog page, so that readers who aren't regularly reading all my posts have the opportunity to choose what they read; after all, some of my posts equate to "hurpadurp," which is not exactly what everyone is looking for on the Internet. But, generally speaking, this "Read more" format works better if I have clear, simple, and communicable topics and headlines. Thusly, I will strive for post titles like the one above, which is a compromise between "serviceable" and "massive jokesterism."

2. Layout and menus

At the moment, I've got a bunch of random sidebars, links, and menus, that I created with a view to providing more stuff generally rather than providing functional, useful content. By distributing my "extras" over several sidebars - i.e., two side menus and one main "page" bar at the top of the site - readers can better guide themselves to information about myself that is pertinent, or find links they might find useful.

Nonetheless, I'll probably discard that idea. Two sidebars is one too many. But I'll definitely be expanding the "Pages" section of my blog to include more static information about myself.

3. Message and direction

Who is this blog aimed at? Until now, it's basically been... well, me. Going into the future, I hope to draw in more readers who are fellow writers, readers who are interested editors, and - as I start to work with e-books - readers are potential customers. By creating content that is specifically interesting to specific groups of people, I can:

a. lighten my workload by discarding trivial post topics, and

b. maximize reader interest and commitment to the blog.

By making sure that the direction and purpose of the blog is clear and concise, I won't draw in readers who were actually looking for some other kind of information, and I'll retain readers who have a broad interest in the general topics I'm covering.

What this doesn't mean...

The last thing I want to accomplish with this kind of redesign is to lose the "personal" touch that has so far imbued this blog. Although the structure of my website might be considerably different, and although certain aspects of the content - namely language, titles, headers, and links - might appear, on the face of it, more "formal," I fully intend to keep this blog relevant to me as an individual: funny, light-hearted, and personable. Blogging is fun at the moment, and I want to keep it that way.

Comments? Suggestions? Concerns?

Feel free to drop a note in the comments below, or send me a message at beniliusbob@gmail.com. Of course, I absolutely have no real desire to hear from you, and my seemingly personable offer is in fact only a facade. Ah, the vagaries of public relations...

-bn

6 comments:

  1. A few of things.

    First: John Scalzi ONLY has a personal blog, so don't worry too much about having a personal blog.

    Second: If you want to create an "author site," then I'd use WordPress, which allows you to have a static homepage. You can then create pages for your fiction and what have you, and you can also push your blog to a separate page so it's not the focus of your site. Look at other author sites to get a feel for how you might do this.

    Third: If you have any desire to epublish seriously, I'd STRONGLY suggest setting up a second site with your publishing name. This was my big mistake I made when I started Dark Elms Press -- joining my personal blog to it -- and it's why I eventually separated the two. I'm not too thrilled with blogger, however, but I'm sticking with it for the rest of 2011. My next big move (if I make one) will be to get a "Jeff Ambrose" domain and set up a real author site like the one I mentioned above.

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  2. Thanks for your comments, Jeff. I've thought long and hard about a static homepage, but I prefer the blog-front or a newsfeed of sorts - for all webpages. I feel that this makes websites look fresh, vital, and "updated," whereas static sites look "old" - "pre" social-Internet, as it were.

    Also, I've already got my "indie publisher" planned out. I'm looking forward to unveiling it!

    -bn

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  3. I think you're overthinking it, but there's no harm in that. Don't pummel your blog with a tsunami of planning.

    I've been looking into Wordpress, though, for when I finally get around to setting up an H2NH Publishing site (probably when I have a few more collections ready). It's got some useful features for static sites, although I still prefer Blogger simplicity for blog sites.

    My main recommendation is to get a "professional" e-mail address in your writer name and your publisher name. That'll help organization-wise.

    Oh, and if your publisher name is "Beefitude" or "The Simile Hatcher In Tights", I've called those.

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  4. I was going to suggest "pages," but you know that, so....

    Good luck! Remember that some authors don't even have websites or let others run them exclusively--though that's probably suicide for new authors wanting to do e-pubbing BUT... it remains a fact that not everybody has one, so, as Jeff said, don't sweat it too much.

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  5. Figure out what makes you interesting and highlight that. :) Whatever you do, you know your writing buddies will be there to cheer you on. good luck!

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  6. Thanks for the comments and support, everyone. David: I actually have a "professional" e-mail, but since I use it for "real" "professional" occasions also - like job applications - I reserve it for editors and don't publish it. The less spam, the better. That's not to say I don't consider the general reader to be valuable enough to receive my "professional" e-mail address, but it really keeps things much simpler for me.

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