I have a Web site!!!

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I’ve been putting off getting my Website up, mostly because from previous experience setting up my old one, I know how time-consuming (we’re talking days of working on it for 6-8 hours on end) it can be for someone without a lot of programming experience. Even a super-easy template like FrontPage (not recommended, by the way) can be daunting, especially if you’ve no familiarity with it. My previous Website was so dinky that I gave up on it soon thereafter. Better to have no presence on the Web than to have one that distracts from the professional image I want to convey.

Enter VistaPrint. I’ve ordered most of my personal and business stationery (business cards, letterhead, envelopes, address labels, even postcards) from them for years, both for my writing biz and for my and B.’s old wedding photography biz. They’ve been super-easy to work with, have great rates for small businesses, and a ton of free graphics for you to choose from so that you don’t have to worry about uploading your own. (Although you can certainly do that for a minimal fee. B. and I did that for most of our wedding photography stuff, since that would obviously allow us to advertise the work we do on our business cards and postcards.)

I hadn’t logged on to their site in months, though, so when I did just that this morning to order another round of business cards, I was surprised to find that they now offer Web hosting services. Plus, you can even use the same graphics you already use for your stationery, allowing you to maintain a consistent image for your business.

I was already thinking of changing the design of my business card: an image of a sailboat drifting across a blue-green sea, with a lush, green island serving as the backdrop. I thought, You know, do I really want to look as if I’m all about slacking in the Caribbean? Then I realized just how important that image is to me, how it speaks to the part of me that loves the ocean, sailing, endless blue sky. It doesn’t mean I’m lazy — anyone who knows me will be familiar with my workaholic ways — but rather that the ocean is my talisman. Nothing wrong with that.

Anyhoo, I found the perfect Website template on VistaPrint to match my cards. No sailboat here, just a graceful palm tree and that ever-present blue sky. You get a free, 30-day trial, although you have to provide your credit card info when you sign up. The Site Builder allows you to customize your site using a few templates as a guide. I was able to set mine up in about two hours. It would’ve taken me even less time, except I’m kinda picky about font and things like that, so I played around with it to see what size and style font would look best. That time frame also include the time I spent writing my bio, Contact Me, and Portfolio pages, plus the Home page itself.

All in all, I daresay it was a fun experience. Definitely beats the week or so I spent putting together the Website for our now-defunct wedding photography business. (Although in all fairness, that was very heavy on graphics and included photo galleries, which can be tricky.) Since I really only need a basic Website that will highlight my published clips, I just wanted a simple, clean, attractive, and easy-to-read-and-navigate format. No Flash, Flickr pages (although I may include that sometime), or anything else fancy.

I highly, highly recommend checking this out if you haven’t already. Like many writers, I’ve been relying too heavily on my blog to claim my share of Internet real estate, but that’s very limited in terms of what I can offer potential clients. Plus, unless you’re highly skilled in HTML programming, you’re very likely not going to be able to add very many additional options to your blog if you’re just using one of the many templates out there (e.g., Blogger, WordPress, etc.).

If you do decide to opt for the free, 30-day trial, make sure that you post a reminder somewhere in your calendar of the date on which to cancel your subscription if you ultimately decide to discontinue it. Otherwise, they’ll start charging you for your monthly dues. I opted for the Professional package, which offers an unlimited number of pages and 500MB of disk space for $14.97/month. The Standard package gives you 5 pages and 100MB of disk space for $9.98/month. The Basic package gives you 3 pages and 25MB of disk space for $4.99/month.

Right now I only have 5 pages, but 5 I expect to expand that soon with other options. At about $15/month, that’s a bargain. I paid about that much for my previous Web host, but I had to pay for the entire year upfront and design it myself. This was super-easy, plus I could just use the same designs I use for my stationery. Win-win.

I’ll give it the full 30 days to see how I like it. At the moment my prediction is that I will love it, but I still have a month to really decide. In the meantime, if you want to check out the initial layout (I’m waiting for my Domain Name Registrar to begin pointing my URL — www.marjorieasturias.com — to the new site, which should take about 24-48 hours.), knock yourself out. I’d love your honest-to-goodness, no-holds-barred feedback!

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