These days most writers know that they need an author website. What they often don’t know is where to start. Whether you’re DIYing your website or getting help from a web designer like me, choosing a website builder that meets your needs is a good place to start.
The website builder you choose impacts most of the later decisions you’ll have to make as you build your website. Take a little time to consider your options, so you can choose a website builder that will serve you well in the long term.
What is a Website Builder
Today, most websites are built with website builders – software programs that you can use to create a website. It can also be called a platform.
Platform has two definitions that are related to author websites.
Platform in marketing:
“a means or opportunity to communicate ideas or information to a group of people”
- Includes your website, social media, and other online ways you connect with people
Platform in software:
“an application or website that serves as a base from which a service is provided”
- Includes websites builders and programs
We will use both website builder and website platform.
Key Features to Look for in a Website Builder
Being an author isn’t usually a one-and-done thing, so your author website shouldn’t be either. Choose a website builder that will serve your current needs and can expand as your needs grow.
Nine things to consider when deciding on a website builder.
You’ll want to consider:
- User-friendliness: All of the platforms I list below are easy to learn. None require code, all have themes to jumpstart the process, and all use a drag-and-drop editor.
- Growth potential: Will this platform support your website needs both now and in the future?
- Mobile responsiveness: over 50% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. So having a website that works just as well on mobile as on computer is important!
- Customization: You don’t want your website to look like a cookie-cutter. So being able to tweak the colors, fonts, and design is important.
- Newsletter Integration: email marketing is the best way to market and build an audience, so make sure you have a website platform that will support this!
- Blogging: Blogs can be used for a lot more than long-form weblogs! You can use it for announcements, news, sharing events, and a lot more.
- SEO features: search engine optimization is not something most beginners will dive into (but check out these easy tips!), but it’s very important for discoverability.
- E-Commerce: if you’re planning to sell anything on your website, make sure you select a website platform that supports that.
- Ongoing cost: It costs money to have a website on the internet. The cost can vary depending on a number of factors, including how much maintenance work you are doing yourself vs. paying for, whether it includes a security certificate, hidden charges, etc.. When you compare costs, compare what is included!
Can Authors use free website options?
I don’t recommend a free website for a few reasons:
- Domain names matter and the free ones don’t pass muster. Free website plans tack part onto your URL address – so instead of YourNameHere.com, it ends up being YourNameHere.Platform.com. That matters more than you might think. That little addition will make it harder for people to find you in a Google search and looks less professional.
- Limited features. Most of the free options also greatly limit the features of your website so you may not have access to the basic features and functions you need for your author website. Like a newsletter.
A final note on user-friendliness.
Which website builder is the easiest? It’s a hard question to answer. If you ask any group, you’ll get many different answers. That’s because few people actually try more than one, they tend to pick one and stick with it.
I’ve noticed that when people do try out more than one website builder, 99% of the time they will say that the first one they used was the easiest despite having no comparison. My take: the popular ones are all fairly equal in ease. Once you’re used to doing things one way, though, it can be hard to switch.
The better questions is: which website builder will support me long term?
If they’re all fairly easy to learn as a beginner, set yourself up for success by choosing a website builder that will be able to cover your needs now and in the future. (That also means you never have to re-learn on a whole new platform!)
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Review of the most common Website Builders for Authors
Self-hosted* WordPress – Best for Growth Potential – My choice!
WordPress is the most versatile and widely used website builder, which makes it the winner for best growth potential for author websites. It runs simple websites all the way up to complex websites for memberships and large web stores.
Why choose Self-hosted* WordPress:
- Available themes to get you started
- Highly customizable
- Tons of plugins, integrate just about anything
- Less expensive if you do website maintenance yourself
* Note – WordPress has three different definitions which can get confusing. Here I’m talking about self-hosted WordPress with hosting bought through a hosting company instead of WordPress.com
SquareSpace – Best for Clean Design
SquareSpace is a fast-growing platform, known for clean designs. It can be a good choice for a portfolio website.
Why choose SquareSpace:
- Themes are sleek and clean
- Plugins and features for the features authors usually need
Website Builder Comparison Chart for Authors
Now let’s dive into the detailed comparison. I’ve rated each platform on nine different categories based on the list of features to consider above. Each platform is rated on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest possible rating.
(43% of all websites!)
(2% of all websites)
(2% of all websites)
|Best for…||Growth potential|
|Clean Design||Simple Websites|
Will this platform allow your website to grow as your career grows?
WordPress is powerful and versatile
Limited integrations and advanced features may limit you in the future.
Wix doesn’t have as many advanced features. If you need them later, moving from Wix is very (very) hard.
How many features does this platform support?
Just about anything you could want!
Missing some integrations and advanced features
Missing some integrations and advanced features
|Ease of Use|
How easy is it for a beginner to learn to use?
Themes, templates, and drag and drop editor for design
Themes, templates and drag and drop builder for design
Templates and drag and drop editor for design.
How well does this platform support blogging?
Best for blogging!
Missing some features
Good features, you may run into storage limits if you have a lot of content.
How well does this platform support visual portfolios?
Great for sharing a portfolio
Great for Sharing a portfolio
If you have a lot of media to share, you may run into storage limits!
How easy is it to add a newsletter sign-up to a website?
All newsletter platforms can be added to a WordPress Site
Harder to setup and Mailchimp is the only directly supported option
Make it hard to use anything but their system, which costs more, has fewer features, and won’t migrate if you leave the platform
How much will the website cost?
Options range, but usually the most economical
After your website is built, how much time will it take to keep it in good running order?
|Either do yourself or pay for a website care plan.||Included||Included|
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website so it is more visible on Google searches. That impacts how easy it is for people to find you. If you’re looking to improve your site later, this is the a great place to start.
Has full SEO abilities
Has most SEO abilities
Basic SEO abilities
My pick: Self-hosted WordPress
I’ve used all of these platforms, but WordPress is still my favorite! It’s not just me – WordPress is the most used website platform in the world with a whopping 45% of all websites. (That’s 10x higher than the next platform.)
Here’s why I think WordPress is a good choice for beginners
Building a website and learning a website platform is an investment in time. The growth potential, features, and customizability of WordPress means that you aren’t having to start over in a few years when you’ve outgrown another platform. Plus, if you want to bring on a web designer later to add advanced features or rebuild the site, myself and many others work in WordPress.
Need help with your Website?
Whether your building an author website from scratch or redesigning to meet your changing needs, we’re happy to help.