Writers' websites: easy platforms and good examples?
June 4, 2014 12:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for platforms for professional writers to build their own websites--like 4ormat, just not as image-focused--and working examples of such.

I'm a professional nonfiction writer looking to redo my website, if possible by myself this time around.

I recently came across the 4ormat platform, which looks pretty slick, but is geared more toward visual artists & photographers.

Are there similar idiot-proof platforms that could be useful to writers? Especially ones who work in multiple media types (books, articles, digital, plus some images).

I know, I could just suck it up and learn Wordpress, which my current site was created with. Maybe even CSS. But I've tried before and the initial learning curve is daunting, and this kind of simplified platform is very appealing. Ease of use & clarity are key.

And while we're at it, any particular examples of good writers' websites?
posted by gottabefunky to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if you don't want to worry about self hosting, there's always wordpress.com. You can get the design and custom URL upgrades. There are a ton of free themes and a bunch of paid ones. I'm sure you would be able to find one that works well for writing (there's actually one called writr (which I'm using for a recipe blog, link in my profile). I'd say set up an account, import some content from your current site and play around with themes. You can preview any theme without paying for a paid one. HTH.
posted by kathrynm at 12:24 PM on June 4, 2014

Have you checked out Weebly? I'm not a writer, I'm an editor, and I used it to make my website. It was ridiculously easy.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:38 PM on June 4, 2014

I'm a huge fan of Wordpress. I use it for everything. I recommend it for everything.

But I've also heard from people that Squarespace is the new business, but I haven't tried it well enough to know.
posted by General Malaise at 12:46 PM on June 4, 2014

I came across contently a while ago. It looks quite nice and contemporary. And I guess it is easy to set up. While you'd get your individual url, it is not like having your own website. But maybe it is along the lines what you had in mind anyway.
Otherwise just type in "writer's portfolio website" into the search engine of your choice, there will be other, similar services/sites.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:00 PM on June 4, 2014

Response by poster: I should have added: I want to be able to use the same www.[myname].com URL I'm using now, if that makes any difference.
posted by gottabefunky at 1:08 PM on June 4, 2014

You can use your domain with WordPress.com with a $13/year upgrade:

posted by foxfirefey at 1:50 PM on June 4, 2014

Best answer: Wordpress.com or self-hosted is my default answer to this kind of question. They're very good platforms for writing on, and have lots of well designed theme designed to showcase writing.

I've also heard a lot of good things about Squarespace - they've certainly got a lot of good technology down. There are definitely other niche products, but I haven't seen one as slick as theirs. I've not been a fan of Weebly in the past, but perhaps they've improved.

I'd just recommend a touch of caution about self-design platforms - you're losing the benefit of professional designers creating quality experiences for your visitors.
posted by Magnakai at 3:30 PM on June 4, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers. Call me a doofus but--what's the difference between Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org?
posted by gottabefunky at 4:54 PM on June 4, 2014

wordpress.com is hosted for you. You get the wordpress software for your own server (if you can't one click install it) at wordpress.org plus the support forums.
posted by kathrynm at 6:01 PM on June 4, 2014

The practical differences are:

Wordpress.com is a service run by Automattic (Wordpress creators), who handle all the hosting, upgrading, caching, security, and plugin and theme compatibility. The downside is that you can't self-install plugins and themes. That downside has it's own upside in protecting less tech-savvy users from malicious or badly coded themes and plugins.

Wordpress.org is where you can download the Wordpress software for hosting on your own server. It also contains all the documentation about development of themes and plugins. The advantages and disadvantages are basically inverted from the previous paragraph. You're responsible for hosting, upgrading, caching, security, backups, and any compatibility issues that arise. But you can also install your own software, creating your own themes and doing all kinds of crazy customisations that you can't do on Wordpress.com. For instance, I've built music libraries, map-based event systems and email template systems on top of Wordpress.

In reality, the advantages of customisation and custom code for most users are fairly low. Unless you or someone you're paying has web development knowledge, you're going to be tramping through a mire of confusing over-promising themes and plugins, and spending a lot of time trying things out. It's a learning process that isn't everyone's cup of tea, and which can be mostly sidestepped by going for a hosted service like Wordpress.com with it's curated features and themes. That's why I recommend it for most people.
posted by Magnakai at 2:19 AM on June 5, 2014

Tumblr is free, has lots of themes to pick from, and is incredibly easy to point at a custom domain. I've found it to be the idiot-proof-iest way to set up a decent-looking site. Roxane Gay is a good example of a writer who uses it very effectively both as a blog and a homepage showcasing all her recent publications.
posted by torridly at 9:47 AM on June 5, 2014

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