Building an Author Website with WordPress

Every writer needs a website.

You might want to have a portfolio of your writing, feature short pieces on a blog, or connect with your fans.

In this post we will take a look at how you can build a simple author website using DevPress themes. In this particular example, we’re going to focus on the Luminate theme, but any of the other DevPress themes that feature at least one sidebar will work just as well.

Here’s an example of a simple author site using Luminate:

screenshot of sample site

Let’s look at how to put it together!

Layout

The first question you need to ask when building a website is what kind of content will you have, and how do you want to display it? Many websites have a static front page with content that encourages visitors to click through to read more.

Authors generally find that having their blog as the home page works best. Some authors use their blog as a way to share ideas and interact with their fans through posting snippets from upcoming books, talking about research and travel, or asking for reader feedback. Many authors also use their blog to post updates on conventions or signing events, book reviews, and other information relevant to their audience.

How to do this:

When you set up your WordPress site using a DevPress (or any other) theme, go to your Dashboard and under Settings > Reading, choose Front Page Displays: Your latest posts.

display latest posts option

Navigation

When you’re building a site, you’ll want to make sure your visitors can find the important content easily. For an author site, we recommend that at minimum you include the following pages:

  • Information about your books, including covers and blurbs about each one
  • Your bio, including a photo, awards and any other relevant credentials
  • Information on how to buy your books, ideally with direct links to Amazon and other online retailers that take a visitor directly to your book page
  • A contact form so people can get in touch with you if they wish.

How to do this:

You will need to create separate pages for each of these items or link to the content elsewhere using a custom menu item.

To add these to your menu, you will need to create a Custom Menu by going to Appearance > Menus.

custom menu screenshot

In addition to your top menu, to make the most of a site like this, a sidebar will allow you to point your visitors to additional content. In this case, we’ve included a search box, a gallery of books, a mailing list signup form, and ways to find previous posts.

How to do this:

You can add these items as well as other navigational or informational content by adding Widgets under Appearance > Widgets:

widget screenshot

Functionality

After you set up your WordPress site and install the Luminate theme, there will be a few plugins that you’ll want to add to your site to provide additional functionality. For an author website, we recommend the following plugins:

Other than the two paid backup services listed above, all of the plugins listed are free. You can set up a mailing list on Mailchimp for free, and when your list grows or you need more features, they have upgrade options. The same goes for SumoMe, which gives you both mailing list sign up options that can connect to Mailchimp or other mailing list providers as well as other features like heatmaps to see where your visitors are spending most of their time on your site.

How to do this:

To add plugins, you have two options. If they are on WordPress.org, you can go to your Plugins option in your Dashboard, search for them, and then install and activate them directly through your WordPress site.

You can also download the plugin files from a separate third-party website and then upload them in your Plugins area of WordPress.

Be sure to activate them in order to see their functionality show up in your Customizer, Widgets or elsewhere as appropriate.

Design

DevPress themes allow for quite a bit of customization. Let’s take a look at what the Luminate theme has to offer.

Below are the Customizer options for Luminate:

customizer screenshot

As you can see, you have a number of different options that will allow you to modify the design to fit your specific needs.

For our sample site, we first added a logo (the typewriter image) and a custom tagline under the site title. We also added a top navigation menu with social media links above the custom menu, as seen below:

screenshot of menus
We added a background image, modified widgets, and changed the colors for the links, as seen in the post titles and sidebar links.

How to do this:

  • You can upload your own logo, as well as set the site title and tagline in the Customizer under Site Title, Tagline and Logo (easy enough!)
  • For the social media icons, you will need to create a new menu under the Navigation option. Call it something like social menu, and add custom links for each of the services you want to use. Then under Navigation > Menu Items, choose your new ‘soclal’ menu for the Top Menu.
  • You can upload a background image under the Background Image option. Choose something that isn’t too busy and that either fills a large screen or that will tile well. You have choices for scrolling, meaning the background will move as you scroll down, or fixed, meaning the background stays in place as you scroll. Play around with the tiling and background position options to see what works best.
  • For the sidebar, go to the Widgets option and choose the items you would like in your sidebar. We used a search box, a Jetpack gallery, a Mailchimp signup box, and a few other widgets, as shown below:

widgets screenshot

And that’s it!

With DevPress themes, you get to make a lot of different design choices. While we didn’t choose to do so for this website, you can use special showcase layouts for your home page. You can also change the position of the sidebar (or remove it entirely).

Need more ideas?

Your author site should reflect both your own personality and the primary genre in which you publish. A non-fiction author will likely want a streamlined website that highlights their experience and credentials. A science fiction author, on the other hand, may want a site that’s a bit more creative, with original artwork in the header or background.

For ideas, take a look at what similar authors have done on their website, and consider following their example.

Track your WordPress Site Visits with Google Analytics

Whether you’re a small business or a blogger, once you build a website you’ll want to know how much traffic you’re getting. This can help you better plan your marketing strategy, determine which of your web copy and call to action items are most successful, or convince companies to advertise on your site.

Even if you don’t know how you might use this data in the future, it’s a good idea to start tracking your site visits immediately upon building a website, or as soon as you can afterwards. That way you can start monitoring changes over time and see how much your site traffic grows along with your business.

Although there are lots of services that will allow you to track some of your site data, we at DevPress think the best, and most comprehensive, solution for the average website will be Google Analytics, a free data collection tool from Google. It can be modified to track pretty much any activity on a site, including page clicks, button clicks, and time spent on a page, and the great thing is, once you’ve set it up, it’s completely invisible to your visitors. Continue reading

Introducing Summit

screenshot

Summit is a simple one-column WordPress theme, perfect for blogging and small business. It features large header images and a number of customizable display options. Social icons can be added to the header. A customizable widget area is available in the footer. Summit is also responsive and looks great on desktop and mobile devices. I encourage you to check out the demo to see how it looks. Continue reading

DevPress Announcement

Around four years ago, DevPress.com started with four founders. Due to a case of too many Chiefs and not enough Indians, the team didn’t mesh well and the site never got traction. For a short time, DevPress was dying and members were left hanging so I offered to take over. On my own with DevPress, I found some success here and there. There were high times (like DevPress’s partnership with AlienWP.com), but also low times. Through thick and thin I stuck by until recently I had to let go.

Last weekend, I held an auction to sell DevPress due to my wife’s mounting medical bills and lack of time to manage DevPress properly for the last few months. After posting the auction online, I reached out to a few individuals in the WordPress community to seek help finding a buyer. Within 24 hours, someone made a bid to end the auction.

I jumped at accepting the bid because I instantly recognized who it was from and is familiar with his work. More bids and offers came in as news of the auction started spreading, but I honored the first accepted bid because I felt it would be the perfect fit for DevPress going forward. Continue reading

Learning to Move in the Right Direction

gazeti

Suggested by a reader through email months ago, I agreed to create a magazine theme based on some of the links sent to me. After completing the front page preview you see above and even designs for sub pages, I left this theme concept on the shelf for two months and have decided to throw it away to work on a different theme to release in August. Why? It’s just not in line with what’s coming for DevPress.com.

I was researching and working on DevPress hosting platform in June and recently restructured the site in July to cater to my own needs. Everything on DevPress is moving towards solving my own problems and problems of the individual, not group needs. A magazine theme is more useful to a team of writers or editors and that’s not the audience DevPress will cater to.

While future DevPress products might be useful to groups, they will always solve problems of the individual first. I’ve also decided not to create and support things I don’t use. Solving my own needs lead me to creating cool stuff like the DP Dashboard plugin. The difference in quality shows when I’m solving my own problems instead of just focusing on turning out new products to increase profit.

So moving forward, I’m just going to focus on creating things I’m interested in and sharing them with you.

Design Guide for Plugin Developers

Plugin developers, you’re doing too much with your plugin setting pages — colors, layouts, and tables inconsistent with WordPress, inline CSS, !important, just too much. The WordPress admin is a complicated system. If you don’t test for the majority of scenarios — large screens, tablet view, phone view, no Javascript — then create setting pages that are generic as possible. Ugly setting pages with misaligned items and broken layouts (due to updates to the WordPress admin CSS) lead to trust issues on the user’s end.

If you’re a great developer, don’t make people think you’re not by having custom, but ugly plugin setting pages. Continue reading