When I was offered the chance to take over the Sarah Graves web address that Random House had been using, I grabbed it even though it came with a little baggage — namely, I had to build a new website to go with it. But how hard could it be, right? After all, I had already done one of them, long ago when the only way to do it was to buy a book called Web Sites for Dummies and follow the instructions. That project took a whole summer, but on the plus side, the book was written just for me — it said so right in the title — and for the simple nuts and bolts of HTML (hypertext markup language, that is) I still look back fondly (well, sort of fondly, with a few notable exceptions) on the volume.
This time, however, was different: after a little bit of on-line research and a test drive of some website-building software called SiteSpinner, I decided not to try reinventing the wheel yet again. So I downloaded the software and began, and at first things went well. I roughed out a page about Sarah Graves, placed some photographs on it, wrote a few cheery words about the Home Repair is Homicide series, and added a mailbox. Done and dusted — except it wasn’t, not quite.
When I began showing it around, I learned that a website needs more: a way for people to buy the books, for instance. That meant uploading, resizing, and positioning all fourteen covers. A short blurb about each book. A line of review praise, maybe? Definitely. And then…well, we wouldn’t want to be showing any favoritism, which meant four buy buttons for each book: Amazon, BAM, IndieBound, and Barnes&Noble, each linked to the appropriate page at the online bookstore. Fifty-six of those little buttons, fifty-six links, and yes, you do have to test each one.
Next came the social networking links. For me, this blog’s link of course came first, and it was an easy one: make the word ‘Blog’ in the home page’s header a link to this site. Okay…but after that came Twitter. To make a live-feed Twitter box, you find the code (on the Twitter site) that puts your Twitter feed on your site, copy it, paste it into the ‘edit code’ box on your work page, save it, test it, and then tear each and every one of your armpit hairs out trying figure out why it doesn’t work, followed by a lengthy Google search for why it doesn’t work. Finally if you’re lucky you learn that it does work — just not in preview mode, which is where I had been trying to make it work.
After all that, getting Facebook stuff onto the web page would be easy…right? Heck, you already know the answer to that one: wrong. To do anything beyond simple posting on Facebook, you have to get into the Developer portion of the program, which apparently means you have to be able to speak French in pig Latin while crossing your eyes, chewing gum, tapping yourself on the head, and standing in a pail of water with a live electrical cord stuck in your ear. All of which I could probably manage after enough practice, but I draw the line at the live wire; as a result, so far all I’ve been able to achieve is the ‘like’ button, and ‘follow me on Facebook’ is still beyond me. That’s okay, though, since my author Facebook page is also still, to put it kindly, vestigial.
Next up: the biography page! Those of you who know me will understand how well I liked this part. Tell stuff about yourself! And I did, sort of! (Something about web pages brings out the exclamation points in me.) It’s…well, it’s a bit haiku-ish, but it’s there, and however untraditional an author bio it may be, I think I can truthfully say that it gets to the heart of the matter. Not the heart of the heart of the matter, but hey, I’m just trying to make friends with the people who visit my web page, not marry them, you know?
And that’s it: home page, books page, bio page. I put a mailbox and a hit counter on it, added links to this blog and to Eastport, twiddled with every teensy detail on every page for about fourteen thousand hours, hooked up with a web hosting service, re-registered the domain name, uploaded the whole shebang, and voila!
Or “viola!” as a friend of mine likes to say. Looking back on it, the whole thing was kind of fun: messing around with shapes and colors, solving puzzles and getting rewarded for correct solutions. (If in fact they are “correct.” For a real web designer’s likely take on what my website looks like, click here: www.theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell .)
In fact, now that I’ve done it I recommend you try building a website for yourself. You didn’t really need all those armpit hairs anyway, did you?
You can find Sarah Graves’ website at www.sarahgraves.net She’s SarahGraves2011 on Facebook and Twitter.