How to Build an Author Website: Getting Started Guide


I strongly advocate all authors start and maintain a website as part of their long-term marketing efforts and ongoing platform development. But it’s an intimidating project because so few authors have been in a position to create, manage, or oversee websites. Where do you even begin?

With this guide, I hope to answer all the most frequently asked questions and make the process a manageable one.

First, decide on your website building tools and what services you’ll use (either free or paid).

When you choose your tools, consider these three factors.

  1. Cost. Unpublished authors or those not earning much money should probably start with the free options.
  2. Ease of use. Less tech savvy people appreciate platforms that take the guesswork out of website design and building. Unfortunately, the easy-to-use platforms often have drawbacks or eventually cost you money and frustration.
  3. Portability and longevity. Not all platforms will stand the test of time, which is especially true of proprietary systems. (Remember Geocities? Or Apple iWeb?) Open-source platforms tend to benefit you over the long term because you’re not locked into any one service provider or hosting company. But they may be more difficult for you to learn.

My quick recommendations

  • If you want a free option that has already stood the test of time, try to start. It’s open source and powers about 1 in 5 websites in the world. It’s not going anywhere. Later on, if you need more features, you can upgrade your account to a paid plan, or easily move to self-hosting. I comment more on the self-hosting question here.
  • If you want an option that’s easier to learn or use—and you have the money to spend—try SquareSpace. However, it’s hard to transition away from SquareSpace; it’s a proprietary system.
  • A new open-source platform that may be easy for you to learn is Ghost. It will cost you a monthly fee unless you’re advanced enough to set it up on your own host/server.
  • I’m not a fan of Weebly or Wix because they are proprietary systems where you ultimately have to pay to get full website functionality. If you’re going to pay for a proprietary platform, I’d learn toward SquareSpace instead. I think it’ll be around longer.

I admit to favoring WordPress—I’ve used it for site building since 2006. My 15 years of experience has made me very comfortable using it, but I am not a coder. I have never taken a coding class, and my coding knowledge primarily involves basic HTML and CSS, all self-taught.

I recognize that few authors are as comfortable as I am when it comes to WordPress. Still, I think it can be a very cost-effective option that becomes more powerful for your online presence, over time, if you’re willing to commit to learning it.

Buy your own domain

The domain is the URL where your site lives, and it should be based on the name you publish under, not your book title. Your author name is your brand that will span decades and every single book you publish. If you can’t get, then try for,, or If that fails, consider something other than .com (like .net or .me).

Carefully research and select a website theme or design template.

Whether you’re using WordPress or not, one of the keys to a good experience is your choice of theme. Think of a theme or design template as a skin for your website. It dictates the aesthetics—the colors, the layout, the fonts, the styles, and more. Some themes (especially WordPress themes) come with some rather incredible customizations and additional functionality, whereas very simple themes might have little or no additional functionality at all. This is why your choice is so important—it affects your overall site design but also some of your capabilities to customize your website or push it further without knowing code.

Important factors in choosing a WordPress theme

WordPress themes can be created by anyone, anywhere and made available with very little testing. Always check the ratings and reviews for each theme at WordPress, as well as if it has been recently updated or developed. You can also see how many people have downloaded the theme—and popularity works in your favor. The more people who use it, the more likely the bugs have been worked out. Fewer conflicts will exist with other third-party stuff you might use. It’s also helpful if the theme has a support community where you can ask questions. Very new themes should generally be avoided by beginners unless it’s from a developer who has many other respected themes.

For users, you’ll be limited in your choice of theme—for good reason. You’ll be presented with well-tested and robust themes that are free or premium (premium themes cost you money).

If you’re running a self-hosted WordPress site, then you can choose any theme you’re able to find in the WordPress universe, which can sometimes be paralyzing. I recommend researching as many author websites as you can, and when you find one you like, look for information about what theme they’re using. You can tell by looking at the source code. (In Chrome, go to View > Developer > View Source.) Look for the URL that indicates the theme name. For example, here’s a snippet of the source code for Bella Andre’s site:

Bella Andre website source code

This tells us that the WordPress theme is Divi.

Collect the following assets for your author website.

  • Your professional bio. If you don’t already have one, write a 100-300 word professional bio in third person that would be appropriate if used to introduce you at a reading or event. Optional but encouraged: a first-person bio that’s much longer.
  • Book cover images. For every book you’ve published, obtain the highest resolution image you can find. While you’ll be using lower resolution images for most of your site (to ensure fast loading time), it’s helpful to make the high resolution version available for download or as part of a media/press kit.
  • Brief descriptions of each book. Your book’s Amazon page probably has a brief description of your book that you can start with. If not, develop a 25-100 word description.
  • Long descriptions of each book. This would be the back cover copy or flap copy for your book. It’s probably around 200-300 words, or the full-length Amazon description.
  • Links to all major online retailers where your book can be purchased. At minimum, you’ll want to link to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. Consider adding Apple, Google Play, and Kobo as well. Get links for print, ebook, audiobook, large-print, and foreign language editions.
  • Contact information for your agent or publicist, if you have them. Or whomever else fields requests on your behalf.
  • Links to your public social media profiles. If you have an official Facebook author page, or accounts with Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc., collect all of the direct links. Don’t bother with accounts where you’re not open to being friended/followed by the general public.
  • Your best blurbs or reviews. Collect any praise that appeared on the front or back cover of your book, or official (positive) reviews your book received from the media.

Create the critical informational pages for your author website.

We’ll get to the homepage next, but aside from the homepage, you’ll want the following:

  • About page. Add your professional bio. Also include a professional headshot if you have one; if not, a casual shot will do fine. Your about page can have several sections if you like—mine does.
  • A page dedicated to each of your book titles. Always show the cover image, but keep the resolution low (e.g., less than 500 pixels across) for basic display on your site. If you like, make the high-resolution version available for download or as part of a media kit. Add a brief description of your book; layer in blurbs, quotes, or praise that help indicate it’s a great book; and add buy buttons leading to all the major retailers. If you want, add the long description, too, and/or include a link to an excerpt—usually the introduction or chapter one. If there are any ancillary materials related to your book (book club guides, FAQs, etc), make sure those are readily available and linked to from the book page.
  • A page dedicated to each book series (if applicable). Make it easy for readers to see the order of books in the series and figure out which ones they’ve read. Plain chronological order (the order of release) typically works best.
  • Contact form. Unless you’re super famous and trying to avoid new opportunities, make it clear how you can be contacted. I recommend a contact form. If appropriate, add your agent or publicist’s contact info as well—or anyone who might handle communication or requests on your behalf.

Craft your homepage.

What appears on your homepage will be highly dependent (at least at first) on the template or theme that you choose. A simple homepage design will have the following elements:

  • A clear identity or header. This boils down to your name, tagline (“New York Times bestselling thriller novelist”), and possibly a headshot. This header will likely appear on every page of your site, depending on your theme. Ideally the visuals tie into the work you publish (e.g., book cover designs, themes in your work, any official branding you use). Multi-genre authors, or authors who have multiple types of audiences, usually face difficult choices about what to prioritize and what messaging to use. Your homepage will typically be more effective if you focus on appealing to the audience that you want to grow or if you focus on the type of work that you want to be known for. Other types of work may have to take a backseat, at least as far as the homepage is concerned.
  • The cover of your most recent book (or even all your books). Visitors should see or be introduced to your most recent book (or the book most important to you) on the homepage, without having to scroll or click around to find it. Ideally, visitors can click straight to their favored retail site to make a purchase. Alain de Botton’s homepage manages to encompass the author’s many different books and interests at a glance. Andrew Shaffer puts several book covers on the homepage. However, don’t assume people will scroll down a long homepage. Make sure you have a “Books” tab in your menu/navigation so people can quickly jump to or scan all your titles without scrolling.
  • Links to social media sites where you’re active. If you have an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere, include clear icons somewhere in the header, footer, or sidebar of the page where they can be found quickly. It’s OK to link to just one site if that’s the place where you prefer readers engage with you. Avoid linking to social media sites where you have an account, but don’t engage or actively post.
  • An email newsletter signup. The most important part of your sign-up is the language you use when asking people to subscribe. Avoid a generic call to action, such as “Sign up for my free email newsletter.” Instead, craft the copy in such a way that no other author could use the same language. Make it unique to you and what you send. See James Clear’s site for an example of how to do this in an elegant manner.
  • Social proof. This can be as simple as a brief quote from a brilliant book review. Or let’s say one of your books was an Oprah selection—that would go front and center. Some authors just stick with “New York Times bestseller” (assuming it’s true).
  • (Optional) A super brief description of who you are. Here’s the description on author Scott Berkun’s site: “Scott Berkun is the bestselling author of seven books on culture, leadership and how ideas work. You can hire him to speak, ask him a question or follow him on email, Twitter and Facebook.”

Homepage design tends to be very subjective. The most important thing is that the type of author you are—and the type of work you produce—be recognizable quickly. You don’t want visitors guessing at who you are; you have about 3 to 7 seconds to convey a message before they leave. So don’t get too clever or cutesy with how you state your identity.

Make the navigation or menu system absolutely clear—which usually means having a clear path for people to find out more information about who you are (“About”), how to contact you (“Contact”), and what books you’ve authored (“Books”).

If you blog

Some authors who blog will put their blog front and center on their homepage—or it will end up there by default! This can be a mistake unless your blog is current, popular, and compelling. For most authors I work with, it’s far better to have links to their most recent blog posts apparent on the homepage, and use the homepage to more prominently focus on books. If you decide to have your blog take up most of your homepage, I recommend that you not show the full text of each post. Instead, show an image + excerpt and make people click through to read, so you have room to feature a range of latest posts (without making people scroll forever).

If needed, to change your homepage settings on WordPress (to avoid it showing a default archive of blog posts), go to Appearance > Customize > Homepage Settings.

Customize and personalize your site.

You might not have the resources to do this right away, but it’s helpful to hire a designer to create a custom header image, or otherwise create a custom look that fits your personality and books. This post by Simone Collins offers insight into what this means.

Continue improving your site over time.

Nearly all website building systems make it easy to update your site as you have new ideas or new ways of communicating what you do. Don’t expect to get it perfect the first time; expect that you’ll improve the site incrementally the longer you live with it. You’ll visit other authors’ sites and begin to pick up on subtle details you never noticed before; you’ll want to incorporate their bag of tricks into your own site.

For instance, many authors incorporate “social proof” into their header images—you see the logos of major media outlets that have featured their work. You might not really take notice of this until you have your own site, and realize you want to reflect the same kind of “social proof” that your work has earned.

This is so important I’ll state it again: improve incrementally. Your website is never finished. It is always a work in progress. You’ll improve it, tweak it, experiment with it, and hopefully take pride in how it showcases your work.

If you’re unpublished

All the same principles apply, except you might have a more stripped down version of your site than outlined here. Instead of dedicated pages to your published books, you might have a page devoted to projects in progress, or you could list shorter works that have appeared online or in print. It’s better to get your site started now, while you’re unpublished, so you own your domain early on, learn how to use the tools, and begin the journey of expressing who you are within digital media environments.

Here’s more advice for unpublished writer websites.

Other considerations

  • To add e-commerce functionality to your site, you won’t be able to remain on free website plans. If you plan to accept payments directly through your site (known as e-commerce functionality), that’s when you should consider investing in an upgraded account or a self-hosted website. (SquareSpace sites have e-commerce functionality baked right in.)  WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin-in that facilitates e-commerce on your site. As for me, I use Gravity Forms + Stripe because my needs are very simple. Keep in mind that, if you do accept payments directly, you need a secure site. Check with your site hosting company about how to do this.
  • Cheap hosting is OK for low-traffic sites, but outages may be common, and support not so supportive. Years ago, I started out my website on a very cheap hosting plan from GoDaddy. It worked fine and did the job for less than $100/year, but eventually I bought a better hosting plan from SiteGround with additional functionality, such as site staging (so you can easily build a site without it being live), automated nightly backups, and improved caching to improve my site speed. I now pay $1500/year, a cost that’s mostly determined by my site traffic. With cheap (or cheaper) hosting, you might not find your site uptime as reliable, and the support might be lacking. With managed hosting plans—which tend to emphasize their service and support for site owners who aren’t techies or experienced web developers—the added expense can be worth it for peace of mind. WPEngine is a good example of WordPress managed hosting.
  • WordPress users: only use plugins that you really need. Plugins are bits of functionality that you add to your site. They may be extremely simple, such as a widget that shows the most popular blog posts at your site, or they can be very complex, such as message boards and forum systems—or WooCommerce, which adds e-commerce functionality. Whatever functionality you’d like to add to your site, you can bet there’s a plugin that does it—probably a dozen plugins! And therein lies the challenge. It’s up to you to figure out which one might look best or work best on your site. Plugins may or may not work well with your theme, or they may cause your other plugins to be disrupted. You rarely know what the outcome will be until you try. That’s why it’s important to research your plugins just as you do your themes. Especially if you’re a beginner to site building, choose plugins that are popular and regularly updated, and preferably offer some form of support.
  • If you’re self-hosting your site, install Google Analytics and use Google Search Console. Google Analytics tracks and reports your website traffic. The tool is free and only requires that you have a Google account in order to get started. It’s best to install it from the very beginning even if you don’t see a need for it; Google Analytics starts tracking on the day it’s installed and can’t be applied retroactively. Most authors, once they’re a couple years in, want and can benefit from the data that Google Analytics offers. Something not done as often, but that’s also valuable, is registering/claiming your site through Google Search Console. You can connect Google Search Console and Google Analytics for improved reporting. While Google Search Console is more advanced than what most authors will be able to understand, it still offers functionality you’ll want over the long term. In the short term, use it to send you alerts when Google has problems properly indexing/accessing your site for search purposes.
  • If you encounter roadblocks or problems, Google it first. This is my No. 1 secret web development tip. I solve about 90% of my website problems or frustrations by searching for error codes, error phrases, or simplistic explanations of the problem I’m having, along with the keyword “WordPress.” More often than not, I find someone else who has encountered the same problem and solved it. If that doesn’t work, I resort to the support community provided by my WordPress theme developer.

For more on author websites

Posted in Digital Media and tagged , , , .

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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Lynne Connolly

Most of this is good advice. But – high resolutions of images makes for very slow loading times, especially on low bandwidths. People will not wait for a page to load. If they’re on mobile, it makes the conversion to mobile very slow, too. I used to have a page for each book, but since I’ve written over 70 books, that made for a huge, unwieldy site. Some pages got a hit a year, and eventually I realised that most people are just reading the excerpts on the distributor site. So maybe – don’t follow the advice slavishly, but adapt… Read more »

Steve MC

About being consistent on each page, that should include one’s fonts and their size. I recently checked some favorite authors’ sites, and most use Arial for text, with Georgia for titles of sections and also for text. All sized between 12 and 16 points.

And thanks for this checklist. I’ve just started into WordPress, and the learning curve is steep, but I’m getting there.


Helpful article, Jane. Lays a solid foundation for what an author should include within their website.

I would add that it’s also helpful for authors to think through their objectives with their website. The average reader online will only spend seconds on someone’s website when first visiting. Website design needs to keep this reality in mind and strive to make the objectives of the site plainly obvious. This will help the average reader online to quickly understand what the author and their site is all about.


You bet, Jane. But thank you for a helpful post.


Regarding the point above on fonts–Comic Sans, FTW!

Seriously, we just switched to a WordPress site at work and it is very, very nice. It’s very easy to work with and it looks good. Thanks for the good advice!

[…] The super-smart Jane Friedman takes us through key author website components. […]

Great advice for new writers and very direct and to the point. I can’t overstate just how important this information is for me authors and I’ll begin the transition To WordPress immediately.
Thank you!

Bob Rapoza

[…] Advice on building an author website. […]

[…] The Basic Components of an Author Website by @JaneFriedman […]

Emma Leigh

Thank you for this. I am querying now, and I happened to see this post the day I set aside to create a website. I found out it takes more than a day, but I have been and will be using this as a guide. Again, thank you.

Angie Dixon

Jane, thank you. This is perfect. I’ve had discussions with a few people about websites recently, and I’m working on a project for indie authors that could benefit from information on websites. I’ll gladly point them to this post rather than try to explain it myself. You captured everything. I especially like how well you articulated why WordPress., Thank you again. Great post.

Smile! You’re one of last week’s Write Kids’ Books Best of the Best in Children’s Writing (even kids’ writers need websites!). Thanks for sharing this.

[…] “The Basic Components of an Author Website” via Jane Friedman […]

[…] The Basic Components of an Author Website | Jane Friedman […]

Lori Henriksen

Thank you for great information. I set up a website after an online class with you. I am unpublished. The site is dedicated to information about my debut novel and my bio. I want to start a blog. Should I add a blog page or develop a new site. The blog will not be about my book. It seems obvious that the two should be separate, but then I guess I need a new domain name. I was lucky enough to purchase my own name.

Lori Henriksen

I will follow your advice. The instructions on your link are thorough and easy to follow. Thank you.


Nice advice here. Very helpful to a new writer like me :-). I guess I would have liked more varied examples of stuff like the appearance of email newsletter sign ups and author bios and such, as the samples you provided were a little bit too much one-note for me. I’m the kind of person who prefers more subtle ways of marketing. I normally am put off by a huge font email newsletter sign up that appears smack in front of my eyes when I am on a homepage. I respond more to email sign ups that are in the… Read more »

[…] The basic components of an author website. […]

Lisa V

Thanks for the post. I’m curious about your opinion. I’m currently unpublished, and started my first blog as a chapter by chapter blog of a novella (I’ve since taken down). My question is this: when I was blogging my novella I generated more traffic and more followers than on my new blog, where I am not receiving the traffic or the followers like before. So I’m wondering, as I query agents and publishers, am I really shooting myself in the foot by keeping up my current (low traffic) blog? Do agents and publishers look at your blog content or the… Read more »

Lisa V

Thanks for the advice, Jane. Much appreciated.
Lisa V


Thanks, Jane. You are both informative and inspirational. I’m a non-fiction author and publisher, founder of Backpacker magazine. I’ve been retired for twenty years and writing daily about my less salable interests . My agent has not been able to place more than two of the many manuscripts I’ve sent to her. She got lots of interest from traditional publishers, but no sales. I’m now going the self-publishing ebook route. Having virtually no Internet skills, I’ve been floundering, checking out site builders and what I need to do. I’m loading up my books on Smashwords, but no to marketing. It’s… Read more »


Yep, right on the spot, I am going now over to buy the “publishing 101” book, one more thing I would like to add Jane, I think an author logo is also important to have, but of course depends a bit on the niche.


Hey! I’m a little late to the blog, but I love your author logo idea. How do you make one??

[…], and many of them seem to have similar suggestions. I’ve even found a helpful checklist of everything a writer needs to have on their writer’s […]

[…] Here, from Jane Friedman, is The Basic Components of an Author Website. […]

[…] The Basic Components of an Author Website […]

[…] of posts on “10 things your author website needs to include”, right? If you haven’t, read The Basic Components of an Author Website by Jane Friedman, it’s probably the best […]

[…] yet, now is the best time to set up  your author website, even if it is just a simple landing page. Jane Friedman tells you what you need. You will want a reliable host. By that I mean someone you can call when […]

[…] As I’ve written repeatedly in the past, an author website is a long-term investment in your publishing career. It should be something you own and control, and that grows with you from title to title. To accomplish that, here are three ways to avoid long-term pain and suffering if you’re preparing to establish your first author website. […]

Sarah Flores

Great ideas for laying the foundation. I especially agree, WordPress is the way to go. You can change it anytime, unlike other, more rigid platforms.

[…] Jane Friedman recommended a separate page for each title. A lot of Jane’s tips are in her post “The Basic Components of an Author Website.” The page of books that I had created was ungainly, cluttered, and disorganized. Having a […]

[…] been working and writing as usual…and I’ve been thinking very hard about this article by Jane Friedman.  I’ve explored the rest of her site a bit, but it all comes back to that […]

Amy Maroney

Hi Jane, thanks so much for this value-packed article about building an author website. I just listened to Joanna Penn’s podcast interview with you and your closing remarks about updating websites propelled me here. I am going to build my site soon and will use your advice — big time! Already a WordPress user for my blog so at least that learning curve is behind me. 🙂 Thanks again for the great content.

Cris GD

Wanted just to leave a note of thanks. I’ve been working on making my own site and this has been such a great help. This is some very good advice and resources. So just wanted to thank you Jane, I was feeling overwhelmed and you helped me realize I ca totally do this. Great blog!

[…] what is always true is that the web site is the one piece of digital real estate the author can actually own, which is not subject to some change in rules or process that will affect its discovery in search […]

[…] If your website platform does not support blogging, then it may be time to switch platforms. I talk about the basics of author websites here. […]

[…] page on our websites for each of our books: I’ve heard this from everyone from Tim Grahl to Jane Friedman.  To be honest, I never quite caught the why with this, but after repeatedly hearing this advice […]

Kathy Downs

Jane – thank you for an excellent article. I’m about to rebuild our website. Your step-by-step comments are excellent and a good outline for me to follow. I am curious about why you chose WordPress instead of a site-building tool like Adobe Muse?

Kathy Downs

Thank you. I do use Adobe tools, however your advise about the 3rd party services and add-ons is interesting. I’ll reinvestigate Word Press. Kathy

Pamela Strange

I have now self published ten books and am now trying to interest a publisher as marketing is difficult on line -the best way to mix with movers and shakers of the publishing world is to join writing groups such as romantic novelists association and go to the conferences.
I did win the over fifty plus magazine true story competition last year and it was interesting to watch people read my story whilst waiting for other events.

[…] what is always true is that the website is the one piece of digital real estate the author can actually own, which is not subject to some change in rules or process that will affect its discovery in search […]

[…] page on our websites for each of our books: I’ve heard this from everyone from Tim Grahl to Jane Friedman.  To be honest, I never quite caught the why with this, but after repeatedly hearing this […]

[…] Notes – – I found an interesting article about the Basic Components of an Author Website (plus links to other resources) – – Apparently, there’s a market for a perfume […]

Steven Humphreys

Jane Friedman- Thank you for your work on your website. I have visited here on many occasions reading your blog articles. They have been very informative and helpful. Thanks, I appreciate it. I gave you a like on Facebook.


Jane. While I agree with you that an author’s website is very important I am finding that Facebook is becoming more and more significant for some of my clients. With all the specialist pages and groups on Facebook an aspiring writer now needs a presence. Fortunately, WordPress easily enables a writer to write a post on their website and it can automatically be sent to Facebook. The simplest way is to use the free WordPress plugin, Jetpack, with its setting Publicize. This allows the author to automatically send the article to their Facebook author’s page, a link to the post… Read more »

[…] Consider creating an author and/or book web page […]

Alex Lyttle

Very helpful post – thanks Jane! Except you forgot to mention the part where you set up your website through wordpress… then decide you want to make it a little better… so you download a few widgets thinking it will be easy… only to discover after you’ve installed them that they require an understanding of HTML programming… but you don’t know HTML programming… and in the meantime you’ve ruined the site you previously made… so you get frustrated and debate throwing your computer out the window but instead decide to hire someone else to make your website… other than that,… Read more »

[…] This is my own informal review of what materials you need to prepare to have a professional author website. Many unpublished writers ask me what belongs on their site, and I try to address that as well. Read my post on author websites. […]

[…] Let’s start with how to put together your website. That’s the easy part if you use WordPress. Keep in mind that you’re going to want to keep things simple and obvious so people don’t have to think twice about how to navigate it. For more information about the basic components of author websites, check out Jane Friedman’s excellent post. […]

[…] it’s because you already have a website. Maybe it’s because you hate the drama on Facebook and have sworn it off. Maybe it’s […]


I’m self-published and I have an author website that I wonder if I should have a site for my imprint as well. It’s called something different than my name and it is printed on my business cards. Does it matter? Thanks you for your guidance!

Paul Williams

Also – as per previous post, thank you for more valuable advice.

[…] One of the best ways to add legitimacy and authority to your author activities is to create a simple website. […]