Finding a blog & website designer and going self-hosted.

I took this snapshot of a meadow being mowed near Aspen, Colorado, in June 2013, from the window of my sister’s car.

[Meadow near Aspen, Colorado, June 2013; taken from my sister’s moving car.] 

As my blog enters its sixth year—July 17th is its anniversary—regular readers will notice a new look. I’ve left my WordPress host and am on my own, self hosted, as they say. Feels kind of scary. My motive is flexibility in page layout because my book, Shepherd: A Memoir, will be published on May 1, 2014. Hosting one’s own blog and author site isn’t necessary, but experts advise it because it gives a margin of control. You do give up some great hosted connectivity in the blogging world, and possibly some nifty services. I’ll see.

Having decided on a makeover I sought a freelance designer. There are website design companies that specialize in author websites, of course, but some of their sites looked too slick to me. And I wanted a one-on-one relationship with an individual. Plus—and this was the deal-breaker for me—the companies I looked at really want to host their clients’ sites. I understand their desire and its benefits, but I’ve been steering this little ship for five years and want to continue to guide it. No middlemen. For one thing, I feared it would be harder to move my site if I wanted to. For better or worse, this is mine.

So I checked out a talented young designer, Josh McCall, who’s also a fine fiction writer and essayist. I noticed he’d designed the web site for my friend Dinty W. Moore. And for self-hosted sites Josh uses WordPress.org software, which makes importing content from a WordPress.com blog easier. He mentioned some hosting options, and I picked A Small Orange, which seems user-friendly. And though I’ll have to upgrade soon, it’s cheap, only $35 a year for its “Tiny” plan that I’m starting with.

Josh also transferred the custom url I’ve been paying WordPress a little extra for. Most readers should transfer seamlessly without having to do anything. If you bookmarked my first WordPress url, richardgilbert.wordpress.com, which had continued to function with this url, you will have to make a new bookmark. I’m not yet sure about this transfer’s impact on subscribers—I had two addresses in play before and either one worked. Now they are separate.

Despite potential problems, I’m rejoicing because Josh was able to import my blog’s entire five years of content, including photos. I’ve heard tales of massive content losses in such a switch, but so far so good.

[Next: Mistakes made and lessons learned in half a decade on this digital frontier.]

15 Comments

  • I love that you hired someone. It makes me happy when people pay for artists—even if it is just other artists. xo

    • Richard says:

      Yep, and Josh is a good ‘un! Check out his own site and Dinty’s and you’ll see.

      Hey, you are the first commenter on the new site! Thanks, Leslie.

  • David Owen says:

    Welcome to your own new world, Richard,

  • Beth says:

    This is exhilarating, Richard. So many author sites wind up looking tacky, I guess because they are force-fitting into a “slick” template like you mentioned. You and Josh have done a beautiful job. This is a clean, well-lighted place, welcoming to your readers. I especially like the red accents. The entire effect is soothing, but not boring — quietly alert. Bravo!

  • To play a riff on David Owens’s (and Shakespeare’s) remarks, “Oh brave new world, that hath such blogsites in it!” Seriously, very nice, Richard, and I hope you will be happy at your new site address. Keep those posts coming, now that you’ve taken a major initiative, we all expect great things, which I’m sure you’re capable of, since your book coming out is proof positive.

  • Susan Bauer says:

    What a pretty new space, Richard. You have made a good choice.

  • The new post was in my inbox as usual, so I’m thrilled about that. And it is bright and easy on my old eyeballs. Kudos to Josh. And a fine choice, Richard.

  • P.S. Just noticed when I tweeted your post, it no longer adds the via @richardsgilbert, which means I now have to add it. Not a problem because I know your Twitter handle, but it would make it easier for everyone to share. Wonder if Josh could somehow add that.

  • Josh says:

    Thanks Richard! It’s been great building this site with you. I work with a lot of authors, but not many with such a rich and extensive blog, and it’s been fun learning some new tricks.

  • Sarah says:

    Oh yeah. The move can be very traumatic. I remember when I moved from Blogger to Bluehost. I searched the Internet and found very helpful posts about migrating, found plugins that kept the old feeds feeding through, and generally spent more time doing website stuff than writing for about a month–a bit like moving houses– but I’m glad I did it, and Bluehost has been fabulous in their support. Glad it all worked out for you. Your blog looks great, by the way, nice and big and clean. Welcome to the world of self-hosting blogs!

  • shirleyhs says:

    I love seeing you evolve, always making quality decisions, always inspiring. Can’t wait until May 1. Let us know when we can pre-order.

  • Laura Joseph says:

    Looking good, Richard.

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