A recent meeting with my webmaster cemented what I already suspected; my website needed some work. The biggest issue was that the pages receiving the most traffic were not promoting my books. In fact, the only page where a viewer could find information about my books was on the static home page. Yikes! It was time for a strategic redesign.

With almost two hundred posts, it’s not surprising that my blog draws a lot of traffic. For almost two years, I’ve posted weekly on a variety of topics including parenting, success coaching, and what it means to be indie.

For me, being indie means I’m learning as I go. It means that, in addition to writing and publishing, I’m working hard to understand the meaning of search engine optimization and content distribution and why leveraging these key aspects are important for my website and branding.

With the primary goal for my site redesign focused on creating visibility for my books on every single page, my webmaster went to work. Achieving this goal is especially important with six new books coming out in the next few months. It’s important that every visitor sees I am also an author, no matter what page they land on.

The Before

You can see from the screenshot of my previous homepage how much better organized my new site is. In the redesign, my blog, which draws the most traffic, is my home page and my books are in the sidebar on each page. Brilliant!

Sheila Callaham_Author_2012

My programmer and webmaster has been with me from the beginning of my indie adventure which started more than three years ago. Not only has he designed several websites for me, he also manages my server and formats my books for Kindle and print. I may be the writer, but he’s like the Wiz behind the curtain making all the miracles happen. As such, I thought it would be fun to pull back the curtain and reveal “Nate.” In particular, I thought sharing Nate’s perspective might be valuable for other indie authors who, like me, are making their way step-by-step.

Interview with a Techie

Sheila: You’ve been doing my indie author platform for several years. What is the most important advice you can give other indie authors in terms of website management?

Nate: Be willing to spend the money on web services because the value of “free” doesn’t get you too far. With your site, you started at roughly $20 per month for content distribution and server hosting by Rackspace. That worked until you outgrew the plan so, in this new update you now pay around $30 per month. There was a lot of work that went into this most recent update but now, not only do you have the capacity to handle more traffic but also your site is five times faster which is phenomenal! Not everyone has a dedicated programmer but, if money is not an issue, Rackspace provides access to geeks like me in their “managed” level plans. If you don’t have the money for a managed plan and you’re not related to a savvy tech guy, do not fear because WordPress (the most popular blogging platform on the web) provides premium hosted blogs for around $100 per year.

Sheila: In my case, I wanted to ensure book visibility on each and every page. You made that happen with a special feature you created. Talk more about that.

Nate: I created a sidebar widget for your books. I was inspired by the book display used by indie author Hugh Howey. The driving factor was making a tool for you to manage the content without the need of a programmer.

Sheila: The site redesign appeals to my appreciation for simplification and freshness. Where did you get your inspiration for this theme?

Nate: I was inspired by Apple’s iOS7 in the design of the background image. I really liked the look of “Control Center” which is the control area you can access by flicking up from the bottom of the screen. Control Center overlays a blurred view of what’s underneath; it’s very pretty. I found the image for the background on flickr. In the advanced flickr search you can look for images licensed under creative commons, which you can use freely as long as you attribute the author (you’ll see that attribution at the bottom of every page on your site). Whenever I think about design, I look at it from the viewer’s perspective. I want to give them the option to do everything from one page but it all has to be in the right place. There is always a battle between displaying more or less information; ultimately, it’s finding something in between that makes it just right for the viewer.

Sheila: I’m guessing that most indie authors are like me and don’t really understand everything going on behind WordPress. If you could encourage authors to become educated on one aspect of web management, what would that be?

Nate: There are so many levels to how your website is served, but here is my recommendation. If someone has some knowledge of html and has an interest in being more active in their website management, I encourage them to go to a website like Codecademy and take a free programming course in php, for example, which WordPress runs on. It’s more like a game than a textbook and that makes learning fun. Understanding more about how your website works is a great way to become better at managing your own site.

Sheila: Any other recommendations for indies?

Nate: The best way to build a following is to create and publish content. Write every day and post on a blog at least weekly. The more content you publish the more hits you will receive. That’s been true with your website and as long as people are publishing quality work and keeping their website fast and fresh, it will be true for them too.

Are you an indie author or blogger with a web question for Nate? If so, just post your question in the comment section below for a response.

Next week I’ll share a great blogging tip that will speed up your website! 

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