It is my experience that web site design should be left to those who know what they’re doing. It’s all too easy to buy a user-friendly program such as Front Page and whip together a site with all manner of bells and whistles (much to the annoyance of the visitor). Or, somewhat better but no less unprofessional, is to buy a package deal from your web host that includes some kind of basic web design program.
Why am I being hard on writers who try to cobble together a site? Because I am one of those writers who used to design web sites and I am by no means a professional. Unless you’re a natural who understands both html and css (and whatever other web standards that crop up) putting together an eye-catching, user-friendly site can be difficult at best. At worst it can be a complete disaster. If you don’t believe me, check out Web Pages That Suck 2.0.
So what’s an Independent Author to do? We all know it’s almost career suicide not to have a web site. My suggestion is to make friends in the web design industry. Find a starving student willing to design your site for a big discount (or free for the practice 😉 ). Or, if you can afford it, spend the money on a professional who will design and maintain your site. (Maintenance is crucial for sales.)
Barring all that, go ahead and design your own site, but keep it simple. A clean look says professional more than all the “really cool” stuff combined. When in doubt, check out Web Pages That Suck 2.0 to make sure you don’t fall into any traps.
With a little money and some effort you can have a great web site that stands like a clear road sign pointing to your work on The Road to Writing.