Just a Website

What Makes a Website Trusted?

You wouldn’t design your letterhead without your name, address and phone numbers, so it’s surprising how many business web pages don’t even include the company name, logo (if any) and contact information. Business or site identity and contact information should be included on every page. In addition, you may wish to include phone numbers and the company address, if you are attempting to reach customers in your immediate area.

Every business should also consider some sort of tagline that can help identify your industry and target market. According toSteve Krug in his bookDon’t Make Me Think, “A tagline is a pithy phrase that characterizes the whole enterprise, summing up what it is and what makes it great.” Krug discusses taglines in some detail, but he emphasizes that a good tagline is clear, informative, conveys a disctinction and benefit to the customer and is “just long enough” (roughly 6-8 words) — this should sound like familiar advice by now.

Other essential information is your navigation. As much as possible navigation should remain consistent throughout the site. It’s possible to have a different navigation system on your home page, but your interior pages should be the same — the same navigation in the same place and distinct from the general text or graphics. Plus you should include a text-only based navigation method on all interior pages. The visitor should always be able to find home and, on sites of more than 10 pages, some form of help or site map.

And last, but hardly least, I consider a call to action an essential piece of information on a business site. Make it clear to the visitor what action you want him or her to take after viewing the page. It doesn’t have to be big or dominant, but it should be present.

How to Build an Online Community

Last week, we looked at designing pages to promote an individual book or a series. One of the most effective ways to promote a series, and the author, is by building an onlne community around the series, the author or the subject area.

Community Building Enhancements

Like any other business, writers, particularly series or genre writers, are creating a relationship with their customers (their readers). An online community is the best way to enhance that relationship, not only between yourself and your audience but among the audience members themselves. But like any relationship, it requires some kind of commitment.If you are extremely busy, you might be able to draft a supportive family member or friend to help in the maintenance.

A community also requires interaction. It is not a one-way street.

Chat Rooms, Bulletins or Messages Boards, Email Lists

The Internet is essentially a communications media and people love to communicate, hence the success and popularity of chats, boards and lists. But with the growing use comes saturation, abuse and banality.The more unique the focus of the board and more closely tied to an author’s identity or series theme, the better. In addition, public postings must be monitored regularly and you must decide how much control you plan to place on postings. Chats, boards and list consume a great deal of time to be effective (which is why I haven’t put one on this site — yet!), but they are key in building an online community. Just be sure you are willing to support the relationship between you and your community.

Blogs, Weblogs, News, Op-Ed, Rumor or Gossip

According to Blogger (www.blogger.com), the mothership of blogs, a blog (or weblog) is a web page made up of usually short, frequently updated posts that are arranged chronologically — like a what’s new page or a journal. Weblogs like the Open Source stalwart Slashdot, post information and news and then allow site visitors to add their comments and discuss the issue.

There are communities built around opinion, rumor and gossip sites on specific topics such as Apple Computer Co., car designs, and celebrities. The difference between a community-building information page and a standard information (or opinion, rumor and gossip page) is the ability for the community to interact and provide visible feedback. Otherwise, what you’ve got is a following, instead of a community.

And yes, Elements will be adding community-building features very soon. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with your questions, comments or suggestions.

This was longer than I expected and we’ve only scratched the surface. Look for more features on each of these points down road. Next week, we’re look at using your web site for “Promoting a Writer’s Work to Publishers & Agents.”


An Essential Reference for Webmasters

Webmaster in a NutShell by Stephan Spainhour & Robert Eckstein answers all those geeky questions like server configuration settings, all the valid attributes of an HTML tag, configuring Apache for server side includes and so on. Even if you aren’t planning to actually deal with these arcane issues, it can be handy to know what exactly all of those 505 hits really mean in your web stat report. Or to be able to ask pertinent questions of the hosting services your considering to make certain they know what they’re doing.

This is not a “how-to” book for beginners. It doesn’t tell you how to use the <td> tag, but what are all of the valid attributes. It doesn’t tell you how to apply css styles, but it will tell you that font-variant style your web designer wants to use, isn’t supported by non-Internet Explorer 4+ browsers. It can help have an intelleigent conversation on improving server performance — or at least scaring your techs enough to keep them from feeding you too much BS.

Webmaster in a NutShell is organized in 8 parts:


Covering an overview, HTML reference, instructions on using frames, tables and forms, a listing of all of the character entities (the correct code for things like the copyright symbol © or the ampersand &) and all about color names and values on the web.


An introduction to cascading style sheets, style syntax, properties and a CSS quick reference.


A basic introduction to the next standard for passing business data, XML terminology, a reference, definitions of document types, using an XML Extensible Stylesheet Language, and more.


Everything from a Javascript reference to the details of syntax, Javascript in HTML, forms and the rest of the language use and formating.

CGI and Perl

There’s an excellent overview of how CGI works, details on using server side includes including the pros and cons, the intracacies of the CGI.pm Perl Module and web server programming with mod_perl (common on Apache servers to improve performance).


A comprehensive reference and overview of using PHP. PHP is a popular, low cost solution to creating dynamic web pages particularly when using a low-level SQL database to handle information and transactions.


An excellent look at what is actually happening and what the web server reports are actually reporting for client requests, server responses, status codes, HTTP headers, cookies and media types.

(Apache) Server Configuration

If you are running an Apache web server in-house or using one at your remote hosting service, this sectin can be handy when you need know what exactly is and isn’t supported on your system.

Server Performance

This chapter provides a thorough grounding in what can be done to improve your web response from the server end. Before your site’s code is tight, the images limited and optimized, and you’ve ensured the best Internet pipe accces possible, you need to make certain your server is running lean and mean.

If you are having someone else host and maintain your site, this book is unnecessary, but if you are handling the maintenance in-house or are having meetings about dynamic options and e-commerce on Apache servers, you would do well to add Webmaster in a NutShell by Stephan Spainhour & Robert Eckstein to your essential web reference shelf.