I am thrilled to interview Alannah Moore, who designed my website and has just published a book called Create Your Own Website Using WordPress in a Weekend. Originally from London, Alannah has lived in Paris since 1995 and designing websites since 2001. Alannah was a joy to work with and I love how she used the cover of my novel, in particular the architecture of Odessa, as her inspiration for the design of my site. I am so pleased that she has a new book out as well as two more on the way and that she is now giving workshops in London and Paris to help people create their own sites. If you look at her gallery, you’ll see how each site she develops is completely unique. Her clients range from museums to fashion designers to hoteliers, and Alannah helps each find the perfect images, fonts, and designs to bring their work to life online.
What brought you to Paris?
I came to Paris eighteen years ago, not imagining for one moment that I’d still be here so many years later. I thought I’d like to be an insider in Paris, even if for a short time – I had an idea that every civilised person should have a knowledge of Paris. Then, of course, I put down roots, and found it had become my normal life.
What keeps you here?
The same mystique as brought me here. It tickles me to be an insider in Paris; the place that people come to and marvel at, is my life’s regular backdrop. I love that. And of course, my son is at school here. Not that it’s easy here – work, of course, is the great problem for those of us who haven’t been through the French education system, and while I work for myself which to a large extent eliminates that problem, the burden of admin and taxes nearly finish me off each year. But, I’m not going anywhere.
What is your background? How did you start creating blogs and websites?
I don’t have a technical background at all. I studied literature, and have done a range of different jobs ranging from working in a press agency in the Far East, to teaching English in Turkey, to running my own business selling modern furniture, which I used to drive from France to galleries in the UK myself in a transit van. So I was anything but a geek, until I stumbled upon the world of websites. This occurred around the time of the millennium when I became fascinated by the internet and decided to learn all about it. It wasn’t long before I started designing websites, an occupation which suited me very well as I so much prefer working independently to being employed by a company. I didn’t imagine I would spend the next decade, and more, doing it, and move into writing books about it.
Part of the appeal is that I meet a huge variety of different people through my work, most of them small-scale entrepreneurs or interesting creative individuals, and my aim is to demystify the task of creating a website, which can often seem intimidating at the outset. (This is one of the reasons I like WordPress. It enables people to take charge of their website themselves without the need for any special technical knowledge.)
What is the best advice in your book for someone looking to create a website or blog?
My best bits of advice are these. Don’t try and do everything for free. Buying a premium template, for example, if you’re using WordPress, will make your website look so much slicker than using a free one, with a one-off cost that’s little more than a meal out in a restaurant. Along the same lines, do buy your own domain name, even if you’re writing a blog on a hosted service such as WordPress or Typepad, rather than launching a proper business site. For a mere $10 a year, it makes the world of difference in terms of looking professional.
Another piece of advice that could save you loads of time and elbow-grease is to have the needs of your website very clearly in mind right from the outset. Don’t choose a template simply because you think it looks beautiful and then try to make it work to suit your needs. Far better to choose something that fits your purpose right out of the box; there are designs and layouts created especially for pretty much any kind of website you could dream up.
Make sure you use an email address protector to safeguard your email address from spammers – and do make sure you show your real email address on the site rather than just relying on a form – people do like to see how they can contact you. Finally, do use an email address you check regularly when you register your domain, and note the date your domain expires in your diary, or set a reminder. So many people accidentally let their domains expire and cause themselves a panic that could easily be avoided.
What are some of your favorite spots in Paris?
I live in the 5th, near the Seine, and I love it. It’s so exciting, still, to step out of my building and find Paris in full swing all around me. One of the most picturesque spots in the area is a little triangular “place” with blue flowering jacaranda trees at the junction of Rue de la Bûcherie and Rue du Haut Pavé. There’s another really picturesque place at the top of Rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève with a cluster of little restaurants and bars, near Saint Etienne du Mont – the old medieval church now completely dwarfed by the vast Pantheon sitting right next to it. The steps of this church appeared in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris and I could hardly keep quiet in the cinema with excitement to see so many spots I knew well – even the local laundrette – in the film. Over the river there’s another medieval church I like, Saint Gervais et Saint Protais, with Gothic buttresses on the back, and a completely incongruous Baroque façade stuck on the front, and a wonderful sloping cobbled street behind it. I like the papeteries and Japanese shops in Rue du Pont-Louis-Philippe, I love the Japanese district around Rue Sainte Anne near Opéra, and I’m also very fond of Place Contrescarpe and the Rue Mouffetard market; my son went to the “halte-garderie” up there, and I’ll always remember with nostalgia our picnic lunches every day nearby.
What books are on your nightstand?
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, NW by Zadie Smith, The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple.
I’ve actually just finished a second book, The Creative Person’s Website Builder, which will be out later this year, and I’m in the middle of writing a third, which will be about selling online… My website business is growing, and I’m personally now concentrating on running workshops that show people how to set up their website using WordPress over the course of a day. I’m doing this in London as well as in Paris now, as friends and contacts expressed an interest and it’s kind of grown…