On most writers’ blogs when the word “reveal” is used, it’s to share your soon-to-be-published book cover. Not quite ready for that yet.
But, we–husband Bob and me–are almost ready to “reveal” The Writing Studio in its finished state. I first shared images of my studio in this post. It’s been a long process, and I’m so grateful to my designer/builder Bob for the fantastic job he has done.
From the initial planning stages, Bob’s hand has been in the design, placement in our backyard, and materials. These are the things he knows how to do and does well. I’m so certain of his skills and abilities I sit back and wait until he’s finished.
Occasionally, someone (yes, Marian!) would ask about when images would be posted. I would hem and haw and give some silly excuse. But it was just taking time what with doctors’ appointments, medical tests, injuries, physical therapy appointments (both of us!), and more. And until my health began to improve, I wasn’t going to be able to work in the studio much.
I’m happy to say we’re almost there…only a few things remain to be done.
You’ll only have to wait two weeks!
Yes, we’re that close! Can you believe it?
Pictures will be posted of the finished Studio right here on the blog two weeks from today. Yesterday I hung a few items on the walls, looked at what needed to be done inside before the photo shoot (like I’m some kind of professional photographer–not!).
Maybe I’ll even get brave and do the tour in video format. You’ll never know if you don’t come back in a couple of weeks to see for yourself.
Decisions are never easy, and decision making is not one of my favorite things. Likely most of us would rather avoid making choices or decisions.
After thoughtful consideration, a review of finances and costs, and use of time, I spent about three weeks hands-on determining whether to stay with WordPress or move to Squarespace.
In the end, Squarespace won out for a variety of reasons. The following is based on my experience using WordPress, both free and self-hosted versions. I believe each of these platforms is structured to the unique needs of the individual or business owner making the choice between the two.
WordPress.com is free. Its self-hosted version, WordPress.org, is not. You have hosting fees, domain protections and registration, not all themes are free, and not all plugins are free. When you add all that up, Squarespace came out ahead.
It won’t cost me much more to work with Squarespace than it did with WordPress. Plus I don’t have to hire a web master or a host to keep me up and running. Squarespace takes care of that within my annual fee.
My biggest complaint with WordPress related most often to support. There were online forums where you could post your problem, and then hope for days someone would respond.
If you’re not into coding or don’t have funds to hire someone to maintain your site, Squarespace is your best option. Whenever I have needed support, the response time is usually within the work day, if not sooner. Not only are they responsive, the staff is knowledgeable, courteous, and extremely helpful.
Security probably should have been placed in the top spot. You may remember my post relating to my experience with hackers a few months ago. Someone else’s fun hacking into my site created not only stress for me but a financial outlay I’d rather not have had to make.
With Squarespace, security is uppermost in the minds of its owners and technical staff. With your site, you have, at no charge to you, two SSL-related layers of protection. Squarespace also provides you free backup of your site content. However, this doesn’t mean we as owners of our sites shouldn’t take extra precautions to keep those files backed up as well.
Unless you’re willing and able to pay a web designer, WordPress can cost you hours each month checking for updates to plugins and themes, watching for and resolving alerts for hacking and/or viruses, and sometimes just downtime. Downtime is generally based on the host you are using.
Since moving to Squarespace, I find that I have regained some of the hours spent with WordPress allowing me to write more and to have time to do other things I enjoy. And it’s costing me nothing financially.
EASE OF USE IN BLOGGING
Preparing and editing a blog post is as simple as drag-and-drop. Having used the Elementor plugin in WordPress, I can say I find this much easier to use to create my posts and pages. If I have an idea or question about something I’d like to incorporate that isn’t readily available or clear to me, a quick email or chat with support will help me get it done. (Support is available 24/7).
Moving from WordPress to Squarespace was next to seamless. A simple export process on the WordPress end to an import process at the Squarespace end, and everything except a bit of cleanup was done.
A word on the comment set up. I have not incorporated Disqus comments here for one reason and one reason only. When using Disqus on Squarespace, for some reason still unclear, I was unable to capture all the comments left for me on previous posts. Many of these were treasured comments for a variety of reasons. I realize that the necessity to login here and/or create another “account” may be bothersome for you. However, please note that you can leave a comment as a guest without creating an “account.” If this becomes an insurmountable problem for many of you, I will reconsider my decision to not incorporate Disqus and determine a way to save those comments from the past, if I can.
I hope something here has been helpful to you, or at least explanatory in nature as it relates to my move. Please bring any inconveniences or errors you encounter to my attention. It is true two sets of eyes are better than one.
Before I begin my cautionary tale, I must warn you it is lengthy but it’s a story I feel strongly I must share. Also, in my story I mention my site host, BlueHost, for whom I am an affiliate. If you should use the link provided below and decide to buy a hosting service from BlueHost, I will receive a percentage of the sales price but it in no way impacts the price you pay.
Why the Cautionary Tale?
Like most of you, I function using a self-hosted WordPress site. What this means in lay terms is:
I want ownership of my site and its content.
I want the flexibility of design choices.
I want to depend on a site host to help me when troubles arise.
You see I’m tech savvy to a degree, but not savvy enough to handle everything related to keeping my site running. That’s where I need a site host, and I chose BlueHost.
My relationship with BlueHost has never faltered, and it continues as a solid foundation for me.
What Happened to Make Me Cautious?
I strive to keep my site safe by using backups, plugins , WordPress and BlueHost advice about security, and general suggestions to protect my site.
A few months ago BlueHost notified its users of the inclusion, at no charge, of site protection against spam, hackers, and other thefts. I was grateful for what seemed an extra layer of protection for free. At the same time, WordPress highlighted a security plugin which also protected against hacks, spam and similar threats, also free.
With both free features in place, how could I go wrong? Obviously this is an area in which I lack the knowledge to understand what features will do exactly what to protect my site and me.
My Cautionary Tale
Here is what happened first
In early May, the WordPress plugin representatives began notifying me of potential malware problems. I contacted them for instructions about what I should do. Their instructions were to send these emails to them and they would sort things out.
A little over a week ago I received an email from the company BlueHost had contracted with to give security. A scan had resulted in this service finding malware on my site. I did what any conscientious owner would do and contacted them.
Immediately, I found myself talking with a sales representative. He, of course, was intent on selling a higher level of protection. And he didn’t start with the least expensive of his software packages. His sales pitch was high pressure.
I decided to give myself at least 24 hours to think about what he had to offer. In the meantime, I decided to contact BlueHost directly.
Imagine my surprise when I filled out the topic on my inquiry with words “malware” and “security” and immediately someone answered the phone from the security company BlueHost had graciously supplied to its subscribers.
It took a couple of chats to actually get to someone at BlueHost who was able to explain the problem to me. He also apologized for the sales pitches, which he indicated BlueHost was troubled by.
The worst happened. I attempted to get access to my site only to learn BlueHost had shut my site down. It’s hard to put into words how I felt.
Did I make a mistake in calling BlueHost? Likely the answer is no. An email had also arrived while I was talking with their customer representative. So, this would likely have happened whether I had been in contact with BlueHost or not.
What to do next? I called right back to BlueHost. I certainly felt my site was being held hostage for something I didn’t do and would never do.
This time I spoke with a Terms of Service agent who explained what had been found–what is a pharma hack. That’s where someone hacks your site and then proceeds to attach ads for drugs. How was I to know?
Remember those items I contacted WordFence about? I probably should have dug a bit deeper. Likely one or more of those security breaches messed up my responsibility in complying with BlueHost’s Terms of Service Agreement. That was why my site was shut down–failure to remove the hacks.
Fortunately, the agent I talked with knew of an affordable security plan I could buy from the seller of the free security program BlueHost provides. Purchasing this program means scans are performed daily and when something is found, it is immediately removed. As my dad always said, “You get what you pay for.”
Several things I’d like to point out from my rambling cautionary tale.
First of all, it is important you understand what your security protection is, who is responsible for finding threats, hacks, or security breaches and seeing they are removed, and what responsibility you have in all this.
If you have a web design company managing your site for you, this may not apply to you. But it would be good to check to make sure your understanding of your site’s security.
If you have a self-hosted site, which means you own your domain and registered it through someone like BlueHost, the onus is on you to be sure you know what is going on behind the scenes with respect to security.
Determine for yourself what your role is in your site’s security.
Be aware of getting caught like I did and being shut down as penalty for not doing the above.
Whether you are responsible for the hacking, you are responsible for knowing what’s happening on your site and taking care to see that it is cleaned of any damaging materials.
Always make sure any security plugins you use on your site are up-to-date. Also make certain the platform you use (i.e. WordPress, Blogger, etc.) is running its most current version.
Always, always, always make sure to keep up a schedule of backups for your site. You want assurance you are able, if necessary to restore your site. For WordPress, I use a plugin which not only prepares backups but provides recovery.
For reasons only you will know, these security issues should make you think twice about what you have on your site that you wouldn’t want to lose. The first thing that came to my mind were excerpts from drafts of my memoir. Would they be recovered? Yes, they were, but what if they hadn’t and it was something I needed.
The last thing I want to share with you is a post I came across in my search to better understand what I can do myself with respect to any other situations like the one I’ve described. Himanshu Sharma, founder of Optimize Smart, wrote the post, Malware Removal Checklist for WordPress–DIY Security. Sharma lays out in a clear format a checklist for use immediately on becoming aware of malware on your site.
The best advice I can offer to self-hosted site owners is no matter what software you buy, which plugins you install, what security plans you have in place, and unless you have a professional site manager who works on your site daily and regularly maintains it, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE TO YOUR SITE’S HOST FOR MAKING SURE ANY THREATS OF SPAM, HACKS, OR FRAUD ARE REMOVED.
Nothing raises one’s spirits more than signs of spring. Blue skies, sunlight, colorful trees and flowers. Even a quick spring shower. These conditions are especially effective in healing the spirits of someone who has been more or less confined for the month of March.
But time wasn’t wasted. Some things are done effectively from the recliner with a laptop at hand. Most of the time, however, I slept and read, and took more pain meds and slept some more, and read. When I had my wits about me, I was spring cleaning the computer and my website.
Not all is back in order as you’ll notice on the site. I’m working with the theme designer to work out the kinks and hope to have everything running in tip-top shape soon. Or at least as soon as my pain management doctor says I’m good to go off the current regimen.
I’m so glad to be back among you, my writing friends, and hope to have plenty of reading material for you soon.
Tomorrow look for my review of Pamela Jane’s memoir, An Incredible Talent for Existing. Pamela is likely well-known to many of you as a regular on Women’s Memoirs.
Remember a few weeks ago I talked about the social media and website assessment I had done? If you missed it, here’s a link back to the post.
In the website part of her assessment, Frances Caballo of Social Media Just for Writers made several suggestions. Things I’d never thought of as needing help with my website. After studying them, I had to agree with Frances. These were necessary changes.
And here are the changes I’ve made since then:
Change text and placement of email widget. What I had in place before was an image of my free ebook above the email signup. Frances pointed out the number one focus on the home page is to collect email addresses. Therefore, I needed to move the email signup below the ebook image. Also, referring to a recent study, she noted website visitors aren’t overly fond of the word “subscribe.” I have removed it from any references to my newsletter, ebook, or blog follows. The benefit in signing up, i.e. my free ebook, is the incentive for signing up.
Alter focus of site.To date, I have shared many book reviews, resource reviews, and writing tips and tools. The concern here is whether readers might be confused as to the purpose of my site: (a) to attract writers or (b) to attract readers. Authors should want to create reader-centric websites.
⇒When I began this site, I was barely writing a book. I knew I might want to write a book…someday. In the meantime, maybe I could just get my name out there by meeting other writers. It worked!
⇒Now is the time to focus on people who will want to read, or maybe buy, my memoir. I’m slowly creeping toward that fine line from drafting and revising to editing and then on to publishing. Time to refocus the blog. Be on the lookout for new topics, new material, and more updates on the book.
Header image on site. Some time ago I circulated a survey. One respondent mentioned the “template look” of my header image. Frances didn’t see a clear connection between that image and writing memoir. So, out with the old and in with the new. I’m really enjoying the new look.
⇒The old image reminded me of a home that was warm and loving. As a girl, I always longed for that home, but that never happened. I suppose I chose the farmhouse image for that reason.
⇒The new image ties in with the theme of my ebook, Healing Benefits of Writing Your Story. The book cover and header share one thing in common: images of lavender, a natural healing and soothing agent. I also designed the header to include an image of writing tools and one of my mother and me (age 4 months) to connect my memoir to this site.
Sidebar and footer. I don’t know if you remember…my previous site not only had a sidebar and a dark footer filling almost the bottom half of the page. I had filled that footer with widgets of all kinds: Goodreads quotes, the books I was reading, information about Akismet, and on, and on, and on. Frances pointed out that the general consensus is websites are moving toward a simpler, cleaner template. I have also read that dark characters on a light background is better for readability. There are any number of articles to dispute or confirm this impression.
⇒I took a few days to study this suggestion. After all, my old look had become very comfortable. But the longer I looked, the darker it seemed. And crowded and like my house cluttered.
⇒It has taken a while, but I think I’ve landed with just what I want. Frances hasn’t seen this yet (at least I don’t think she has), and I’ll be interested to receive her comments.
⇒I have built this redesigned site so that on each page my visitors will find what I would like them to read, focus on, and act on.
Yes, it was time for changes.
I am closer to publishing my book than I was when I began this site. I should focus on gathering my current followers closer to me for support and encouragement while finding new followers who are readers and book lovers who will hopefully find my book worthy.
Somehow, before Frances I didn’t see this. I was too comfortable in that worn out pair of shoes, or a comfy chair, or a pair of yoga pants to see the next step in commanding a presence as an author with a book you or someone will want to read.
After Frances, the fog lifted and I understood–change was in the air!
What about you? Are you too comfortable where you are? Did you need to change something? The possibilities are endless in what we might want or need to change. Share with us, if you’re willing.