Author Websites: What Are the Options?

Where can a person start in making one?

On Thursday, we talked about when it’s good for a newer writer to have a website, and what to put on it when you’re first starting out. But where does a writer start in actually making a website?

There are a fair number of options, but probably more than 90 percent of writers I know use the same three. The best choice among those depends on the amount of money you have to spend, your tech savvy, and how much customization you want. Note that for each of these you will also want your own domain — but some of them provide an easy way to do that.

Let’s go through the choices one by one.

1. Squarespace

Squarespace is a very popular all-inclusive service. It provides clean, minimalist, professional templates, and it tries to make setting up a website reasonably easy for lay people. It’s pretty much all-in-one, but also more expensive than other options.

Squarespace is good for people who:

  • Don’t want to deal with too much futzing and/or aren’t tech savvy

  • Want to put minimal thought into a clean and professional design

  • Want something all-in-one, including domain registration

  • Don’t care about customizing too deeply

  • Have a little more money to spend

Squarespace is not good for people who:

  • Would not be happy without being able to do deep amounts of customization (this is why it would be a terrible fit for me!)

  • Enjoy getting their hands into the design aspects or want the flexibility of being on their own hosting

  • Don’t like the look of Squarespace (it has a particular aesthetic) or happen to find the UI frustrating

  • Want a cheaper option.

2. Wordpress.com

If I had to take a guess, I think Wordpress.com is probably the one most of my author friends have gone with. Wordpress.com is reasonably easy to set up and maintain, and is a solid system on solid hosting. It has fairly limited options; however, it has a free version and its paid versions are quite inexpensive. (You do need at least the cheapest paid version to use your own domain name — i.e., to have your website at “authorname.com” instead of “authorname.wordpress.com,” which is what the free version gives you.)

Wordpress.com is good for people for who:

  • Want a free or cheap option that’s still clean and professional

  • Aren’t looking for extensive customization / flexibility

  • Want easy domain registration (doesn’t come with the free plan; does come with cheap plans)

  • Would like to learn to use Wordpress, which is much more versatile/transferable, rather than a more specialized/proprietary system like Squarespace (or who know Wordpress already)

  • Either aren’t that tech savvy or don’t want the effort of setting up Wordpress.org

Wordpress.com is not good for people who:

  • Want to be able to customize more extensively (see below)

  • Want the flexibility and assurance of being on their own hosting (see below)

  • Would rather have the look and/or user interface of Squarespace (see above).

3. Wordpress.org

What’s the difference between Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org? Wordpress.com is a bundled service — Wordpress.com is both providing the Wordpress software and also hosting your website. Wordpress.org, on the other hand, is when you install the Wordpress software on your own hosting.

This gives you a LOT more flexibility and customization. It also requires a level up in tech savvy, although not ridiculous levels — there are tons of tutorials online, and if you’re reasonably good at figuring out day-to-day tech stuff in general, it’s figure-out-able. In other words, if you don’t know how it’s not like you’d need a degree in Wordpress before you could do it — it’s more that you need determination and the willingness to peck away at a tech problem for a while. The first time you do it, though, it probably will take a good amount of time.

Also, because this is self-hosted, Wordpress.org is just the software. Instead of it being an all-in-one solution, you will also have to find and pay for your own hosting and your own domain name registration. Now, this has an advantage, in that it can be a really good idea to have control over your own domain/hosting/data all on your own services. But it does take more work.

Wordpress.org is what I do. Though the Wordpress.org software is free, I pay for hosting and my domain name, and I also paid for a professional-level theme to install in Wordpress.

Wordpress.org is good for people who:

  • Don’t mind (or are excited to do) the extra work involved in setting it up

  • Want more control over every aspect of the website, including hosting and domain

  • Want full control over the design or deep levels of customization

Wordpress.org is not good for people who:

  • Want a simpler solution

  • Want a cheaper solution

  • Aren’t tech savvy

  • Have limited time and/or interest in setting up the website.

I know writers who strongly prefer one of these three over the other two — but it’s often a different one for different writers! For example, I can’t imagine doing anything but Wordpress.org, because it would drive me up the wall not to be able to customize my site to the extent I want to. But I also know people who adore Squarespace, and futzing with Wordpress.org would be their nightmare. And a TON of writers choose Wordpress.com — especially when just starting out — for the marriage of reasonably cheap (or free) and reasonably easy for getting their professional profile on the web.

It depends on you, how tech savvy you are, and what kind of website you want!