How I built a new, author website

Up until a couple of months ago I had severe website shame. My author website was a shambles. It was out of date. It was clunky. It was a technical nightmare, built around grids and tables, unwieldy fecking boxes that made me wail every time I tried to tinker with them.

Because I couldn’t access it myself, I couldn’t update it or tweak it as things occurred to me. I was dependent on an IT guy (yeah, okay, that would be Himself aka Geek Duck) to do even the smallest updates. And we’re both busy. We’ve been particularly busy building girl and duck. So, while all our energy and creativity went into girl and duck, my author website kept sliding further into the mire.

Geek duck

Eventually, when I realised the NEWS page hadn’t been updated since Christmas 2015, I lost it. ‘Shut that shit down!’ I cried.

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We closed jenstorer.com and hammered a redirection sign on it.

I still had a web presence via girl and duck, I just didn’t have an official author website.

For a while I wondered if I needed one. Could girl and duck serve both purposes?

After much hand wringing I decided it couldn’t. I still needed an author website. It speaks to a different audience: readers, parents, teachers, publishers, book sellers. girl and duck, on the other hand, is for aspiring authors and illustrators, colleagues, industry peeps and creative  types.

People needed to be able to find me quickly and easily, too. And over the years we’d built up a valuable cache in terms of SEO (search engine optimisation). It would be foolish to abandon jenstorer.com just because I’d had a hissy fit.

So.

All along I knew I wouldn’t be able to ‘see’ the new website until I had some images. I love working from images. I find them inspiring. They give me clarity and expand my imagination.

I went off and had professional photos taken. I found Samara Clifford through mutual acquaintances in an online business course. Samara had a studio just up the road from me. We hit it off straight away (man, she’s funny!) and the photo shoot was hilarious, exhilarating, exhausting. We ended up with hundreds of images. Hundreds.

Ever looked at yourself that many times?

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I was in despair. All my visibility issues arced up. For a while I wanted to run for the hills. Buy a lavender farm or something…

My friend and girl & duck colleague/designer/illustrator, Zoe Collins, held a paper bag while I breathed into it. There, there. There, there…

Once the carbon dioxide stabilised, we got busy and whittled down the image file to a manageable ninety.

The following day I chose five favourites, decided on the headings I wanted and created a mock-up.

I gathered hi-res images of all my book covers, too. (Yeah, I harassed the peeps at HarperCollins for this. They were quick and gracious.)

I also chose a couple of images (from that original ninety) for publicity purposes. I would include them on the ABOUT page. Hi-res, ‘authorly’ pics that would easily convert to black and white for print media.

I gathered all the misc, (links, awards, all the text heavy stuff that’s necessary on an author’s website but doesn’t look so pretty) and popped that under the menu heading, EXTRAS.

Then.

Himself and I carved out a weekend, bought a bag of Cherry Ripes and jar of Moccona, and set about building a new website.

By then I had a clear vision.

It had to be clean, simple, easy to manage (for me), easy to navigate (for users).

For these reasons we chose the Veni template from WordPress.

I decided to write all the copy in third person. First person would take too long. First person is more demanding, it takes more effort to achieve consistency. Take your eye of first person and it wobbles. And, sure, while first person adds warmth and charm I decided to let the visuals do that.

All the while, as Himself got on with the techy stuff, I kept repeating my mantra, ‘clean and simple,  clean and simple’.

Every time I had a bright idea about what else I could throw at jenstorer.com, I came back to the mantra.

I remembered how freeing it was declutter. I recommitted to simplicity.

I got my Zen on.

And we finally built a website I’m happy with.

Jen Signature_web