By Stacy Melanie Jerger (@ApoideaEdits)
I thought it would be perfect to blog about my new online space on the day I started officially blogging one year ago, March 27, 2013. Yup, it’s a very blogiversary day!
Don’t mind if I pour myself a glass of champagne and play my favorite party music. :)
Today I’m sharing how I recently changed things up for my website and blog. I switched from a free Wordpress site to Squarespace.
What defines a successful website anyway?
For me it’s one that informs visitors, is easy to navigate, looks nice, and helps visitors connect with me.
And for some of us, websites are our only storefronts, so it’s paramount that we present ourselves as best as we can with a website that looks nice and functions properly. I wanted a flexible site with a lot of functions and options so I could help authors learn more about developmental editing and who I am.
The process of redesigning my site (with the help of my most excellent husband) got me thinking about all the variables involved in making a successful website. It’s not just about cute buttons and background colors, but other things like function and user experience.
So here’s what I did to improve user experience for authors.
1. I organized my information into “pockets” of text.
What happens if we throw a ton of information at someone upfront? The person could get confused or overwhelmed. And if they have to sift through a pile of unorganized text to find what they’re looking for, they could become irritated too.
We’ve heard the rule in fiction writing to give readers background information only on an as-needed basis so it’s easier to digest. I arranged my information with this rule in mind.
With a short and sweet main message I give authors a chance to understand what I offer at first glance. After that “bite” they could delve further into more detailed information on other pages if they wanted.
This type of organization is like a perfectly timed five-course meal instead of an overwhelming table of food at once.
Developmental editing is complex because storytelling is complex. Authors looking for an editor may already feel anxious, so I wanted them to feel good about learning of developmental editing and to consider the process in their journey to publication.
2. I created a natural flow of site navigation.
When I had my information beautifully organized and timed well, my priority focused on making sure authors knew what to do at the end of each page. I didn’t want anyone to get stuck at a dead end or finish reading a paragraph and feel confused or unsure about what to do next.
To help me arrange the flow of items on each page, I did mock-ups on a site called Balsamiq, using their free demo. It’s a site that allowed me to easily play with pretend features and placement before I spent my energy on my actual website.
This tool worked for me because I’m a planner.
I had to consider how a newly informed author was going to get from Point A to Point B. And I made sure new information was only a click away.
This consideration is for someone going through each page. But not everyone navigates the same way, so my main menu at the top also allows someone to jump around if they wish.
3. I was able to provide authors with a nifty contact form.
Have you ever filled out a contact form and weren’t sure what to include?
My form supplies hint text to help authors know what to include when they contact me.
I have a lot of freedom with forms on my new site in which I can add Google forms, contact forms, subscription forms—and place them anywhere I’d like. Perhaps I'm behind the times, but I'm geektastically excited about this.
More flexibility on my end helps me give authors greater access to staying in touch with me. And I love staying in touch with folks. :)
4. I could get more creative with glorious imagery.
If you’re an author, you probably showcase your books more than yourself. In my line of work as a story editor, showing myself is really important.
I like for authors to get an immediate visual introduction of who I am because my work isn’t only about working on a MS Word document, but collaborating closely with authors and building those relationships.
I also love the ability to have a different header photo on each page. I find that it really sets the tone for every topic and allows authors to see various sides of me, that I’m a real person and I’m excited to meet them.
Aside from my photos, I finally have an image that shows how developmental editing fits among other levels of editing, putting developmental editing into context with someone’s writing and editing journey. It even educates authors that there are different types of editing, which helps them determine if they actually need my services or if they were looking for something else.
5. I can still blog to my heart’s content.
By moving my blog here, I gained and lost a few features.
I can blog regularly in a simple format and all of my website features carry over to my blog space. Plus, I still have liking, commenting, and sharing functions. (Liking my posts feels like warm towels on my heart, just so you know. *wink*)
However, I did lose the Wordpress follow function, and those followers. So in a sense I feel like I’ve broken off from a blogging community and floated on my own in the endless Internet.
Still, I like having my website and blog connected in the same space instead of having separate websites. I’m hoping my previous followers will follow me here using the RSS function or newsletter sign-up.
In the end, I know switching to this space was the right decision for me. And I know it’ll help authors get to know me and developmental editing better.
So what do you think about my reasons? Do you have a website makeover experience to share? I’d love to hear!