So, You Want to Start a Website
If you were to ask me a year ago if I ever thought I’d be overseeing a website like The Marist Poll’s, honestly, I would have laughed in your face. You see, my feet were firmly planted in traditional broadcast news (whatever that means anymore), and although I would often talk about changing careers, I knew where my heart was. I had no real plans to make a move. Perhaps, I should have listened to John Lennon’s prophetic words, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Please, don’t misunderstand me! I love Pebbles and Pundits. It allows me to flex my editorial muscle, and that was the challenge. My background is more editorial than technical. But, we, at The Marist Poll had a message to get out, and it was my job to figure out how to do so.
Now, if you’re one of the 82% of Americans who The Marist Poll discovered does not have a personal website, my guess is it’s not due to a lack of ideas or messages. My money is on a fear to broach the digital divide. But, fear not. If I could spearhead a project like Pebbles and Pundits, you certainly can launch a website of your very own!
Don’t believe me? Well, here’s some advice that I hope will help. First, don’t go it alone. You’re intimidated, and that’s ok. Admit your limitations and get past them. The best way to do that — research. We chose WordPress as our publishing platform. WordPress is free and user-friendly. It also has a ton of widgets to help you add to your site as well as a community of users! I’m also not too proud to admit that I turned to WordPress for Dummies for advice. Now, this isn’t a commercial for WordPress. There are many other platforms out there and tons of books on the market to assist you in building a website. In fact, I typed the search string, “Creating a website,” into BarnesandNoble.com and discovered 712 books on the topic. When I did the same search on Amazon.com, I found 2,163 books. If you don’t want to invest the money in buying a book, there are online resources you can check out. Your local public library is also a good place to start. And, while you are researching, don’t forget. You will need a hosting platform. Explore all of your options. There are inexpensive ones out there.
Plus, keep an eye on the latest tech news. There are websites that often review companies’ services (many of which are free). Those sites can be extremely useful in your project. I, personally, like TechCrunch. It offers an RSS feed that helps keep you up to date even if you forget to go to the website!
Friends and family can also prove to be valuable sources of untapped knowledge. Maybe, your best friend’s uncle is a computer guru. Ask if you can shoot him an email with your questions or pick his brain over a cup of coffee. It couldn’t hurt. Surrounding yourself with good, intelligent people is a great strategy. Not only can they help you get your website up and running, but they’ll also be there when you need to troubleshoot problems which will inevitably arise. And, ask, for comments and feedback on your site. It’s the most honest way to find out what needs fixing. Nothing is ever perfect, and there is a learning curve. Look at obstacles as learning experiences which will ultimately make your website even better!
Most importantly, though, have fun with the process especially if your website is a personal project and not one for your company or organization. In either case, remember to be realistic in your goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and my gut tells me that if you’re a novice, neither will your website. Maybe, you want to market your content to a certain audience but the comments your visitors are leaving show that’s not who you’re attracting. That’s ok. The greatest thing about having your own site is that you can change it whenever you want.
The internet, to a certain extent, has made formal publishers obsolete. It allows every person, young and old, to be his or her own publisher. The resources to assist you are available. So, don’t let your fear prevent you from communicating your message to the digital world.