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Basics of Web Design for Authors by Imogene Nix

Thanks to Savvy Authors for hosting me here today. My background is quite diverse, but one of the things I’ve been doing for many years is web-based development, particularly in the actual building and design of sites.

Currently, I’m not only an author, but I’m also a Digital Content Manager for an Australian publisher and I offer my services to the local municipal authority as their website helper/technical advisor, so I have a fair bit of experience in this field. I also have had extensive design experience with ecommerce software and design and maintenance of them.

Okay, so lets get down to tin tacks. Web Design. With the vast array of web building software on the market, anyone can be a web designer – or at least so I get told regularly.

aWell, yes and no.

One of the things I see regularly is poorly designed and poorly implemented web design which authors have built their websites themselves. Maybe it’s because they want to save money, or because they have a design in mind that they want to implement. Huh, I can hear you say. What do you mean? Give us examples.

People use cute images, busy backgrounds, loud and clashing colours or load their site with music because they find it soothing and such like. Only, they don’t understand that their website is an important part of their brand.

We all talk about our Facebook and Twitter branding, about the look of our covers, but many a time I’ve seen authors take short cuts with their websites. But think for a moment.

Which websites have you visited lately that were poorly maintained or created, yet you’ve still spent your hard earned money?

BI’d lay London to a brick, that when you see a site like that, you wouldn’t spend a penny. Well the same applies to an authors website.

If it’s poorly put together it reflects on you, your writing, your work.

Now to go back for a moment and think about cute jumping bunnies and cats blowing kisses… I can see the appeal but this is where you need to stop and take a deep long breath. (Just don’t turn blue in the face, okay?)

Web design, just like writing, has rules.

What are they? Well, there are a number of varying numbers out there, but for me there are only 5.

  • Crisp Clean Design
  • Quick Loading
  • Quick Glance Information
  • Informative
  • Bio & Contact

So what do each of these things mean? Okay, let me break it down…

Crisp Clean Design means it’s easy to navigate and use – without a range of conflicting ideas/images vying for your attention. Have the important stuff on the front page but don’t overdo it.

Don’t be afraid to instigate a menu though – people will click through… But they are more likely to do so if the link is an image.

Quick Loading is exactly that. Remember the days of dial up? Yeah, that now sounds like the Stone Age, but those rules we adhered to then? We should still be adhering to them. People do actually still have dial up and the speeds? Well, think turtle. So if you have a graphically heavy, music laden site it’s going to take ages to upload.

When it takes that long to upload (and remember the average person will only wait up to 30 seconds) people will leave your site. This is not the desired outcome. You want them to come, explore and bookmark it!

Quick Glance Information is also easy to understand. A visitor to your site will be able to find the information they are looking for as quickly as possible. That means ensuring that it’s easy to understand and follow. So you wouldn’t put your most important information at the bottom of the page would you?

Include things like graphical links (that is where your picture is the actual link.)

Informative is fairly self explanatory – people come to your website to learn more about you and your writing.

Give them things to bring them back – snippets, your latest cover art, links to where they can buy your books…  Just be cautious to make it fresh (and by that I mean keep adding to your site.) New content is as important as  keeping what you already have up to date and above all, remember to check your links regularly. Broken links = lost sales.

Bio and Contact – you’d think everyone knows that you need that, but you’d be wrong. I am always amazed at how many authors don’t list an email link…

If you are going to list your email address though (and I never think that’s a good idea) then make sure to break it up with spaces between letters and symbols. It’s much better though, to employ a contact form with Captcha… Yes it’s the bane of my life too, but it will save you issues down the track with spammers. The last thing you want is your host to delete your site and all your hard work because someone is using your site to send spam mail.

Here are some excellent examples of good web design:

Okay, in a nutshell, now you know what should and shouldn’t be on your website.  Some other things to remember –

  • Some readers will have visibility issues – if you are going to use bright and glare friendly colours, make sure the writing can be easily read (and I always suggest getting someone else to look and check.)I like dark tones, so I take great pains to use whites and light greys on my own site. It may also pay to consider using a larger font, to make it easy to use and navigate.
  • Check that whatever design you use is now Ipad and Iphone friendly… (remember Ipad and Iphone will make design issues stand out!)
  • Choose graphics that reflect what you are writing… Hard Core Erotic writing is not really Disney friendly the same as inspirational may not work so well with Vampires/Covens/Demons.  Remember, you are looking to create your brand. Keep it sympathetic to your genre!
  • What goes on the web stays on the web. If you look up Internet Time Machines you’ll be surprised how far back you can browse your history on the internet. If you aren’t happy for it to be up there for life, then don’t post it.
  • Links – Google+, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Blog… Graphical (Picture) links make it easier for people to work out they are links so they can follow you. Use them. Just make sure you check that they aren’t copyrighted! Make sure they are linked to the page you want them to go to. Make it easy for readers and visitors to use your site!

C D E

  • Lastly if you are using images, including cover art make sure they are good quality graphics, high-resolution images. Don’t “blow up pictures” or “reduce them” in paint – they lose quality, become grainy and hard to read.  There are a huge number of sites that can reduce picture size (I like picresize.com myself) but a quick search of the internet will help you find one that suits your needs. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a way to increase the size of a graphic without losing focus. For my money, either buy a larger image or leave it alone.

FG

Image on the left is the original – image on the right is actually “up sized” in paint… see how the edges are blurring and boxy? That’s called pixellation.

When building your site, make sure you are comfortable with how to maintain it, add and change information. For all it’s faults WordPress is still an excellent basis for a website – giving you all the options you need to make it into something special.

There is so much more to making your website stand out from the crowd, but if you follow these principles, you are well on the way.

Good luck!

bioImogene is a mother of two, compulsive reader and bookstore owner. She lives in regional Queensland, Australia with her husband, two daughters, dog, cat and chooks. She has a particular fondness for vampires, star ship captains and things that go bump in the night (especially vampire types!)

Imogene has tried many varied roles in her working life including kindergarten assistance, teacher and childcare director, but rates owning a bookstore and writing her own novels as a highlight.

In her mother and wife alter ego, she has travelled widely and lived in some very unique places including Far Western Queensland, Cape York and even Tasmania. She loves to travel and rates China and Hong Kong among her favourite destinations.

She blames Star Trek Voyager, Firefly and the works of Alexander Kent for her interest in naval and space fleet interests.

You can find Imogene on Facebook , Twitter and her website Website.

book coverWhen life has thrown everything at you, how can you bounce back? That is where David is after the death of his beloved daughter, the loss of all his material goods, and attending the wedding of his ex-lover. Until he sees Genie.

Genie feels jealousy toward Karin, the woman marrying the love of her life. Until a man with cat-green eyes saves her from falling. Now, the falling includes love. But his past could be the biggest barrier of all. Can they overcome it all? Only time will tell.

Buy a copy of ‘Tomorrows Promise’ at Evernight Publishing .

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