Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Super-Easy Author Website or Pimp Your Blog With

This post is a love letter to my new favorite site:

Why do I love it? Because it helped me create a web portal. A web portal is a truncated web page. It's a web page with links. Instead of going straight to the blog, a visitor will be able to go to the pretty portal and click on the blog link. A web portal is a virtual foyer for all my platforms.

Basically, it's a cure for website envy.

I've been blogging for a while. I started in Livejournal several years ago and then moved to Blogger. I've also been active in Twitter, Goodreads, Tumblr, and Pinterest for about a year.  Blogger is a good platform for all of this activity because you can use the blog as the landing site and add links to the other platforms to my sidebar. Livejournal didn't let me do that.

I like Blogger very much. It's very, very easy to use. I like that I get to play around with the format and make my own banners and such. Even though I'm technically challenged, I get to control my own site.

I've still longed for a website, though. Having a visitor go straight to the blog is a bit like having the front door of a house go straight to the living room. It's okay, but I still feel the need for a pretty foyer. I'd like to have a proper a web page with a proper domain names and links to my platforms, including my Blogger blog.

I could do this through Wordpress, but I don't want a make a platform change. Wordpress looks complicated and I like things simple. Wordpress lets you customize everything, but, let's face it, I'm not going to use most of the Wordpress features. I just want a website with links and pretty pictures.

I tried to create one through Google Sites but I couldn't figure out how to work with the platform. I think it's supposed to be simpler than Wordpress, but I really couldn't do anything with it. I'm not kidding about the technically-challenged bit.

Luckily, Twitter came to my rescue. Lifehacker tweeted two posts on make-you-own web portals. I didn't even know what a portal was. It's basically a web page with links. It's much simpler than a website, but it gives you a pretty landing page. It's like an elegant foyer for your blog.

Lifehacker recommended two portal sites: and

They both give you nice-looking portals and they are both easy to use. I chose because it allows you to purchase your own domain. doesn't do that yet, although it sounds like they plan to offer the service. I think the templates are prettier, but the domain name was more important to me so won .

Making the page was very easy. Like Blogger, these platforms are aimed at the technical dummies like me. You don't have to code anything.

This simplicity, however, does have its disadvantages. and have a limited number of formats and features and they don't let you change much. You only get to put up pictures and text. That's good for me because I suck at coding, but I like playing with pictures and fonts. gives me just the right amount of artistic flexibility. I do wish it had more fonts, though.

This is what offers:

Basically, you sign up, choose a template, upload some pictures and links and that's it.

Here's what I ended up with:

My domain name is I'm very happy with the portal. I get to put up a picture on the right side and all my information (including links to all my platforms) are listed on the left. The picture on the right will someday be a picture of my book covers. I could also do an author photo on the left and a logo where my picture is now.

My passionflower picture was too small for the portal's format. So I got put up a photo from Morguefile instead.  Morguefile is a great image resource and the photos are free.  This is close to how I picture the small town in my books. When spring comes, I'll take my camera out to Middleburg, VA and take a better picture, but this one will do for now. I also used the picture for my Twitter, Tumblr, and Blogger banners to try to maintain a cohesive internet "personality." I made my banners with It makes great banner thought they do put up the website name on them.

I even got to make a Favicon. That's the little square to the left of the domain name. I always wanted one of those. I put my passionflower avatar in it. I love my Favicon.

I still have to fix my Facebook. It's the one site that I've had problems with. I do most of my interaction through Twitter and haven't really gotten excited about Facebook. I have to make a Facebook banner and put some pictures on my Facebook page. That's my next project.

But now it's time to get back to writing.

Do you have any social media tips you'd like to share?