Here are a couple of things I learned in the wake of my brand new website that I wish I had known before I began.
1. Spend hours and hours surfing the web with a focus on writers websites to see what you like and what you absolutely don't like. Look for places like Poets and Writers where there are lots of links to writers web pages.
2. The current look in websites is to simplify everything (no more music or crazy fonts) so that they are easy to navigate and handle as easily as a new sports car.
3. If you decide to have someone design your site, meet with them face to face so that you can work together on design. This will save a great deal of time (and money). Your designer needs to learn your likes and dislikes as soon as possible so that they create a site that you love.
4. Beg, borrow, and steal what you like from other people's sites. I focused on "borrowing" from four different sites. I let the people know that I loved their sites and the great majority (3 out of 4) told me to take whatever I wanted. They were flattered.
5. Make sure that you can easily update information on your site. People I know that have to rely on someone else for every little update end up with a static site. Daniel built my site but then connected it to wordpress where making changes is simple - even for a Luddite like me.
6. Think of your site as a 21st century calling card. When I write to literary festivals or colleges about giving a reading or a workshop, I know one of the first things a conference director will do is look at my site. I want things to look professional and up-to-date.
7. Work in stages. When I had the site almost where I wanted it, I sent it to a group of writer friends for their comments and suggestions. Their ideas helped me build a stronger site.
8. Be strategic. I actually took several things off this site so that it would not appear too cluttered. Instead of having a separate tab for every little thing, I combined my books and the reviews of the books, my poems and my recordings of the readings.
9. Work on a theme that says something about your work. All the photographs on my site are by Pacific Northwest women photographers. One of the women, Myra Albert Wiggins, is a woman who I've written about extensively. I love having these photographers on the site as they represent (for me) the region where I live and the strong innovation of women who have lived here before me.
10. Know when to stop. There are some other things I want to add to the site, but I don't want it to look as cluttered as my office. I may still add a spot for people to purchase my books directly from me or another review of my work, but not yet. For now, I want it to look as lean and fast as a runway model, as sleek as the black cat on my lap.