It’s been about fifteen months since I last unveiled an updated version of mattselznick.com, but it didn’t take that long to realize the site I created fell short. For the last five months, working in fits and starts between client work and creative work, I’ve been tinkering on a new website that better represents my work as it is and as I want it to be.
And now, at last, the new website is, as they say in some circles, a minimally viable product. It’s time to share it with you and get on with things.
A New Focus
At the beginning of 2014, I wrote:
I’m abandoning all personal projects that don’t have anything directly to do with making things with words, music, pictures and people. I’ll also be ruthlessly blocking myself from starting projects that won’t add to either my community or my bottom line.
That’s a pretty clear statement of intent. I should post it on my wall next to my computer. In fact, I just did.
What does it mean for this new website?
It means my website—which I really do consider both my home on the web and also a sort of extension / amplifier of my self—ought to “serve the mission,” as we used to say in the book retail business.
The mission is on the three by five card I just stuck on the wall to my immediate right. It’s simple, but demanding.
Everything I do should be in some way connected to making something… while at the same time, everything I do must either build community or put money in my pocket.
So the new website is much more strongly focused on building my mailing list (community) and on selling my creative works (the bottom line / making things). Soon, the community, making things, and selling things will meet in a patronage system.
A New Look
This site is both leaner and, dare I say it, sexier, than the version that came before.
The Home Page
Rather than a home page that serves many masters (latest blog post, links to buy books and short stories and stuff, right-hand sidebar stuffed with everything under the sun), the new home page does three things:
- Tells you who I am and what I do in just six words
- Asks you to join the community (you’ll get a free e-book sampler!)
- Presents a perpetual parade of products to purchase (yay, alliteration!)
Every link on the home page not having to do with the mailing list takes you to my shop. When it comes to serving the mission to build community and add to the bottom line, this home page doesn’t mess around.
The interior pages are intended to be clean, bright, and easy on the eyes. The header, single sidebar, content area, and footer all float over the persistent and always-changing full-screen backplate featuring art from my various works.
The top navigation menu serves the mission: links to join the community and buy things come first, followed by information about patronage opportunities (more on that very, very soon, gang). Links to an about page, the blog, and contact information come only after the mission-critical stuff is presented.
There are no sub-menus on this new website. I’m going to do my best to keep sub-menus to a minimum. I might try to get away with not using them at all.
The sidebar serves the mission by presenting the shopping cart and a call to action for the mailing list first, followed by a search box. There’s more to come in that space, especially once the patronage system is launched, but for now… that’s it. Sure, it makes for a short sidebar, but I don’t want to fill that space just because it’s empty.
Finally, the footer offers up a secondary menu—I hope you’ll check out the Credits page if you’re interested in some of the plugins and services the site depends upon—and a few select social networking links for folks who might be looking to connect in that way.
Does it seem strange that social networking links are relegated to the very bottom of each page? Aren’t social networks part of the community-building effort?
Here’s the thing: I want to encourage people to be part of my community via my mailing list and, soon, my patronage system. Facebook, Twitter, and the rest are all well and good to a certain, ever-changing, sometimes diminishing degree, but nothing—nothing—beats a mailing list subscriber when it comes to loyalty, dedication, evangelism, and sales conversion.
I hope where I’ve placed those social media icons sends a signal when compared to the number of prompts to join the mailing list community. It’s intentional.
In the main menu, I refer to the blog as “News & Views” because I intend to limit blog posts to those two things: news about my creative endeavors and career as an author and creator, and views on related topics. I’ll post when there’s something to post about. The blog is, as I’ve written above, no longer the focal point of this site.
By the way, if you’re interested in more personal essays, those will appear semi-regularly as exclusive content for my mailing list community members. I envision that content to include in-depth explorations of creative influences, the creative process, observations on the creative life from an emotional perspective, and similar topics.
You should subscribe if you haven’t already done so.
The Shopping Cart
Not only does this offer me a lot more flexibility in how I present the things I sell, it’s built to tie in directly with membership and affiliate systems from the same software house.
And yes, that’s a little hint at things to come.
The shopping cart depends on PayPal to handle processing… and no, you don’t have to have a PayPal account to use it. All major credit cards (and debit cards) are accepted.
Please Test The New Website!
I’ve designed the new website to look great and work great in all modern browsers. Rather than attempt to make it universally compatible with every version of every browser at every possible screen resolution, I’ve focused on the configurations my analytics tells me are the most common for my visitors.
I know as well as anyone that stuff that works in development sometimes falls short in the real world. So, if you notice anything odd, missing, or just plain broken, I hope you’ll take a moment to let me know. A comment on this post is fine, but if you have the time, an e-mail is better… and either way, please let me know as much information as possible regarding your browsing environment (operating system and version, browser and version, screen resolution, and so on…)
Thanks for checking out the new website. If you’re reading this via RSS, please click through and take a look at this post in its natural habitat!
And in case I haven’t mentioned it enough: please join the free community mailing list! I’ll send you a free e-book sampler with over 20,000 words excerpted from my novels, short stories, and non-fiction works. And while I hope it goes without saying, I will not sell, rent, lease, or otherwise share your information with anyone else.
Finally: for the authors, poets, musicians, and other creative types reading this: does your website serve your mission? If not… how can you fix that? I’d love to talk about it in the comments!
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