Notice Any Changes? Here’s Why:

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.

Photo by Sean MacEntee
Photo by Sean MacEntee

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.

WordPress Free vs. Self-hosted Site | A Comparison and Review

As most of you are aware, I recently moved my blog from a free WordPress.com site to a self-hosted WordPress.org site. I have never reconsidered my decision to move from Blogger to WordPress a few years back, and so far I see no need to reconsider this most recent move either.

WordPress decision, free or self-hosted?
WordPress decision, free or self-hosted?

Many of you asked me to share how I reached my decision and about the benefits of one versus the other. I spent several days, maybe two weeks or more, researching and vetting the issues.

Today I’m sharing with you what I learned in the process and why I moved.

The most logical place to begin vetting blog moving issues was with WordPress support. On WordPress.com I found a helpful article setting out a chart listing the differences between the two platforms. This proved helpful to me in understanding not only the differences but how much I wanted to invest in time and money.

Here WordPress sums it all up pretty well:

WordPress is a publishing platform that makes it easy for anyone to publish online, and proudly powers millions of websites. It comes in two flavors: the fully hosted WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version available at WordPress.org.

A second article in my search is a post found at WP Beginner in the form of an infographic. The infographic summed up the WordPress article beautifully and in fewer words plus added a column for available upgrades for WordPress.com and each cost.

Despite the information found in these articles, the question I wanted answered was “Why should I pick one over the other?” I found this answer at Kimberley Grabas’s blog,  Your Writer Platform. Kimberley writes:

One of the biggest disadvantages of free-hosted sites is that you don’t really own your site; the provider does.  You could spend years building up your site, creating a great resource and substantial platform, but never fully own or control it.  With that much investment at the whim of the provider, “free” no longer seems like good value.

And there was my answer. The concept of ownership is important to me. To work hard day in and day out writing and posting on a blog, maintaining a site such as so many do, only to have someone else with the ability to exercise final control over it made no logical sense to me.

So, I decided to make the move to WordPress.org.

Next step was hiring a host. Thinking I knew what I was doing (never fall victim to this!), I contacted the host who maintains our small business site and has for several years. What I didn’t do was question fully the host’s knowledge and ability to work with the WordPress.org platform. Result = mess! Parts didn’t work, “we don’t do that” responses, and more confirmed my poor business sense.

Off to Bluehost, a WordPress.org, and an organization deserving of compliments on their support staff who are very responsive. However, remember the site mentioned earlier, WP Beginner? At the time I made my move, WP Beginner was offering free installation and transfer of files if I linked from its site to Bluehost to make my Bluehost purchase, and then emailed a copy of my receipt as proof of purchase. WP Beginner’s staff was priceless!

Not to lead you astray, there is some work to do on your part once your host has completed its work. Things like deciding which, if any, plugins you’d like to add to your site. For example, some widgets that come with WordPress.com are not standard with WordPress.org. But don’t distress! The number and availability of plugins is unbelievable, including colors, fonts, use of Java script, Disqus comment format, Yoast SEO, Tweet This, Akismet, Jetpack, and more. Installation of any of these is a snap.

There was only one bump in the road that has yet resolve itself. To migrate my list of followers from the WordPress.com site to WordPress.org, I was told to use Jetpack’s services. And it worked beautifully when it came to migrating followers who signed up to receive posts via email. Followers who had signed up on Facebook, Twitter, or other means would not migrate. Those followers must sign up to follow again, here on this site. This was the only thing I found a bit unpleasant in the process but I’m continuing to attempt to get the word out to my followers.

Now you know what I know. Like many decisions in life, this is one no one else can make for you. You have to decide!

Via Google Images
Via Google Images