How To Get A (Mostly) Free Web Presence For The Tech-Illiterate Writer (And Everyone Else Too)
"You can find more about me at http://facebook.com..."
NEVER. There's no excuse anymore for you not to have a basic, low-maintenance web presence. I'm going to show you how in a few easy steps. This should take approximately one hour at most.
1. Get a good picture of yourself. Higher resolution the better.
2. Get a nice background picture or texture. I prefer simple; YMMV.
3. Have a rough idea what social media networks you want people to know about. Your Facebook page? Twitter? LinkedIn? Blog? Instagram? Are some of those more "personal" than others?
4. Have a short bio written up. 150 - 200 words.
GET A STANDALONE NAMEPLATE PAGE
A nameplate page is a page you control that isn't directly associated with a social media account. Typically, they have links to multiple other pages or projects you do. This can be a replacement for having a website (you can usually point a domain name at one) or can be in addition to your main website.
Think of it as a big digital business card that can be read on the internet.
I use about.me, but there are several others. I like about.me's flexibility in both design and what you put on there. Lifehacker has a list of free ones here: http://lifehacker.com/5886188/five-best-professional-nameplate-sites . About.me is absurdly fast to set up and easy to get going, which is why I recommend it.
It's a great way to start your web presence - and to control what Google says about you - without spending any web hosting money or worrying about upkeep. And it can link to your existing social media presence so you don't have to start doing (or maintaining) much of anything else.
At this point, you've done most of the work. Pat yourself on the back and move forward!
I HAVE MY OWN WEBSITE!
No worries. I think your main page of your website should have the same kinds of information on it - but of course, you can "roll your own". See below for details.
GET YOUR OWN DOMAIN NAME
Here's where we finish it off: I also recommend you buy your name as a domain. For example, I own stevensaus.com and stevesaus.com - if for no other reason than to keep someone else from getting it. Check out this article for some more tips for those of you with common names that are already taken.
Domain names are about $10 a year or so, and this step should take about 15-20 minutes to do. It may take a while to point it to your new nameplate page and update - so be patient there.
I've used Namecheap for years and have been quite happy: http://www.namecheap.com/?aff=41387
There are plenty other domain name registrars out there, and Lifehacker again has a great list of some others: http://lifehacker.com/5943452/five-best-domain-name-registrars.
This should finish up your hour; even if you're still waiting for mynewdomain.com to point to your nameplate page, that's the smallest part of this whole thing.
I WANT A FULL WEBSITE (OR ALREADY HAVE ONE)
As I mentioned above, I recommend doing this in addition to your main website. Still, there's some principles here that your website should also follow. All the immediate need-to-know info should be on the front page, such as your bio (and contact info if you want).
If you take a look at mine - stevensaus.com - you'll see that's exactly what I've done. Bio and picture. Social media sites. Contact info. Upcoming appearances. Done.
I hand-rolled mine starting out with some other templates, but there are more and more tech-easy ways to host (and design) a good-looking website without spending a ton of money or being tech-literate. Cynthia K. Marshall (@WritingCyn) has set hers up at SquareSpace, follows the same principles as outlined above, and says it is as easy as the commercials make it sound.