Wow. I have a new found respect for people who create and maintain functioning websites. As detailed in the About section, I've decided to create a website for people to find good travel-related books. Having done that, I put my feet up thinking, the hard part is done, I've come up with a good idea and the rest will just fall into place.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, after a well earned break from my creative musings, and I turned my attention to the mechanics of creating a website. Never mind that I have no experience whatsoever in website design. This shouldn't be too hard, I thought. I'm a reasonably smart and resourceful guy and if I can navigate the Indian train timetable without too much hassle (partly true), then surely I can put together a half decent website.
Well, another two weeks on from that and I've realised the following:
- There are quite a few of web design software applications out there. Wix, Weebly, Yola, Strinkingly..... the list goes on and on. In the end, I did what any normal person does to begin with and choose the one I'd heard of, Squarespace. So far, I've had a pretty positive experience, although I'm sure I'm in that space where what I don't know is mostly responsible for this.
- There's a fair amount of material required to populate a website. I won't bore you with how I get all the information for this website but, suffice to say, that simply writing a two paragraph synopsis of a book takes somewhere close to 15 minutes. Multiply that by 50 books for the Boovie list and you get a feel for how many hours is required just simply getting this content.
- Like with everything that you ever begin, you have to earn your stripes first. Creating my first page (the Landing Page as we website developers like to call it), took me longer than it ever should of. Mostly because I had no real idea of how the website was going to look. Consequently, I went back to basics and did something I thought I'd never do and actually mapped out a rough outline of what I thought the website should look like before working on the actual content. That done, I found with the more time I spent working on the website, the quicker I got at doing things. Funny that.
- Building a website isn't the same as working in Microsoft Office. Although I wouldn't exactly characterise myself as a cubicle slave, I have spent far too much time than is good for anyone during their life working with Microsoft Office. Through pure repetition I've actually got pretty good at knowing my way around this piece of software and a lot of this can be used when setting up a website (e.g. Ctrl + B to bold etc). Unfortunately, there's a whole heap that also doesn't translate across and the only way to learn is by immersing oneself into the website building experience. Mostly this relates to layout and built in restrictions around what is possible within certain templates. That said, Squarespace is reasonably easy to use and its been quite fun learning some new skills.
- Coming up with a domain name can be quite tricky. It wasn't until I'd progressed a fair way through designing the website that I even started thinking about what to call it. Of course, what I wanted to call it, or more accurately, the suffix I wanted to use wasn't available for immediate purchase via Squarespace. Hence, I had to go down the pathway of seeing whether or not I could buy this via another means. As you can probably guess by the suffix which I have used, the more popular .com version was going to cost a bomb. I'm talking thousands of dollars here, which explains the reason why I'm running with .net, which costs a much more reasonable $20 a year.
- Social media is something I might need to pay some attention to. This only became apparent when I saw a line of symbols at the bottom of each page. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were all built in social links at the bottom of this Blog page. A bit like that internet-webby thingy, I'm not sure whether these will catch on but I'll keep an eye on these things in case they ever become useful at some point.
- Panoramic pictures serve a purpose. I've never bothered taking panoramic pictures but now realise that they are almost essential for banner images on web pages. Something to remember when next taking out my handy camera.
- At some point you've got to push the publish button. We're conditioned to think that everything has to be perfect. People live false lives through Facebook etc only ever posting those pictures which are showing how wonderful their lives are which creates a never ending cycle of keeping up with the Jonses. Likewise, with this website, I was reluctant to go live simply because I thought it wasn't anywhere near good enough. Then I realised that the two people who are going to visit the website (my Mum and my wife) probably don't care. Having realised this and the fact that my free trial of Squarespace was coming to an end, I took the plunge and officially went live. Even though I still didn't have a top 25 travel books page which the whole website is supposed to hang off! I'll fix that small issue another day.
I've written this opening blog as a record to keep myself honest. The real aim of this website is to hopefully provide people with some useful information on travel related books, the reading of which is a passion of mine.
What I'm also hoping for is some interaction and recommendations back from other like minded people that will guide my future reading. I think I'm going to call this a Travel Related Active Virtuous Evaluation Loop. I think I'll trademark that acronym.
You'll also notice a lot of Amazon-related links. I've included these mostly because they break up the page and they make the website look a lot nicer. That said, at some point, I'm likely to sign up as an Amazon affiliate so may generate some future income when people click through. As this won't cost anyone any money, I figure this shouldn't be an issue and the 34 cents my financial projections estimate I'll make through this revenue stream will partly offset the hosting costs.
Ideally, I'd like to blog every couple of weeks. The blogs will mostly be related to travel-related books but will also cover some of my own travels. I feel committing to anything more than one every two weeks might distract from the fun of running this website. We'll see about that.
There's something cathartic about having a creative outlet that this website and blog provide. I plan on making a ton of mistakes but so long as I keep enjoying myself I'll keep at.
So, there we go. Blog number 1 in the can. I wonder if I'll ever receive any replies.....