In case you missed it, you can read part one over here. The last blog post addressed why you should have a blog incorporated with your author website. This blog post is going to address the design of your website. I have seen many indie authors use poor web design choices and use the excuse “I’m not a web designer and I can’t afford one!” Sorry, but I find it hard to believe that you can’t at least find a good free template for your Blogger or WordPress blog. There’s also the excuse that “I’d rather be writing than figuring out how to edit my website.” Sorry, but if you want to keep your readers interested you’re going to at least know how to change colors for your background and fonts. And really, that’s the main thing you need to know for a good, clean website.
I have a list on Twitter that’s labeled “Writers” and it’s reached Twitter’s limit on “members” I can add to it. So I randomly picked 10 people out of 500. My specifications: The person needed to have at least one book published. Out of the 10 I picked, only 1 person had a fantastic website. There were a couple who were close, but they had some flaws. So let’s go through their websites and keep everything anonymous, shall we? And as a note: You can click on the images to make them bigger to view.
At first glance you might think that this website is fine. What’s wrong with it? First: see that blue line I put in? When this author’s website loaded, that’s where the website stopped. I’m bombarded by a bunch of covers to books I’ve never heard of and if I was going to here to contact the author, I’d have to scroll down and hunt for contact information. And the initial page is just cluttered with links on every column making it kind of hard to find anything. Upon first visitation, I had to look twice to find this author’s email. The other pages are actually a bit more neat and organized, but your home page should not be cluttered. Always keep your home page nice and neat. I’m not a big fan of using all your book covers as a header either. Having a few featured on the side or in a scrolling format is better and neater and you’re not bombarding your visitor. If they want to learn more about your books, they’ll click on “The Books” to find out more. Trust me. And upon more investigation, I think most of those covers are for books to come. Might want to state that somewhere… Just saying. And this author’s blog is on a separate website to boot.
This is actually one of the authors that were really close to having a perfect website. I like how clean it is and upon first visitation you know this author writes science fiction. It’s really neat all the way through and doesn’t ever feel cluttered. If I were this author, I’d rethink the gradients for the links. It’s just a tad bit difficult to read the first half of some of those links. And I’d also rethink the background. I know this isn’t a huge issue, but you can see the boundary of where the image ends and it repeats. Professionally made websites don’t use background images where you can see the boundary and because you want to showcase that you are a professional writer (regardless of being indie) try to use the same techniques of professionals. Try to find a repeating star image where you won’t see the boundary if you feel the need to use images in the background.
This author has the right idea in mind, “Keep it simple!” But I cropped the screenshot so that you could see all that empty space on my screen. The author’s web page is only 700 pixels wide, give or take a few. My content area alone is close to that size (I think I use 650px for my content area, not counting my sidebar). We’re in 2012. Use at least 1000 pixels for the width of your page! Most people nowadays are using widescreens. Back in 2003, I’d understand wanting to keep your page at around 700 pixels or below for people who still had a standard monitor, but that’s not the case now. The wider your webpage, the more neater you can arrange your content. I also find it humorous that if you want a paperback you have to click where the arrow is pointing and the arrow is pointing at the author photo. And this author also has a blog on a separate website. If you’re going to have a blog on a separate website, make sure that “My Blog” takes you there and not to a page that says if you want to visit the blog, click here! People are lazy. Make it easy for us and just take us there.
I love this website. It’s absolutely fantastic and I had to zoom out many times so that you could see the entirety of this author’s home page. It’s clean and welcoming. The author has a slideshow that features the author’s many titles and has a latest releases section on the side to boot. If you wanted to contact the author, you don’t have to search everywhere. There’s plenty of options and ways to reach the author. Obviously not everyone would be able to do something like this (the slideshows and whatnot) but you could still create something just as clean and welcoming. Use the columns that you’re given to the max. Have a book or two on the side, maybe a message welcoming the visitor, and a clean navigational system. That’s all that you need! See how easy it is to go through this author’s website and easy it is to read everything? Aspire to have a website like this author. And actually, staring at the website makes me want to redesign my own. Maybe next year if we survive the apocalypse.
I’ve seen authors use Blogger effectively for their website, but this… Just no. On every single level. When I read on this author’s Twitter profile that they were an author of a book, I clicked on their website and then thought I was mistaken. I had to hunt for information on any book this author wrote. Every blog post this author writes is prefaced with their smiling face. There’s no contact information. There’s no page on information on their book. There’s really nothing except the author’s smiling face plastered everywhere and after a bit, it gets kind of creepy. Why is the author smiling? Does the author know something that we don’t know? Why does the visitor have to dig for information on the book the author wrote? None of this makes sense and this is actually the worst website I came across out of the 10 I randomly chose. Don’t have a website like this. This just has one too many flaws.
This is the end of this current post. I just realized how long this blog post was becoming so I’m going to cut this off here. I’ll write up 6-10 later today or Monday.