The best author website design is different for every author. That’s a tricky way to open this blog post, right? But even if each author’s webpage design should be tailored to their project & their audience, there are a handful of things that should be kept in mind for ALL author websites.
HERE ARE 5 CRITICAL ELEMENTS:
1. Navigation should be easy. While that should be simple to implement, it can be deceptively complicated in practice. You want to make sure people have an easy time finding what they’re interested in on your website, but those people might be new potential readers, journalists, your existing audience, and more. To figure out what “easy” navigation is for all of those people, put yourself in their shoes, and make sure they can quickly find what they’re looking for.
If you’re a fantasy author, for example, sure, it might be cute to call your bio page “The Saga,” but it’s unlikely someone would click on it if they’re looking for a quick way to learn more about you. How do I know this? For more than a decade, I’ve been analyzing the analytics from author websites, and pages that are clearly labeled by topic perform better than those that aren’t. People are in a hurry all the time, for better or worse, so do your best to make their lives easier and name your page, “About the Author” (or something similar). A good experience on your site is what you want visitors walking away remembering, not frustration.
Also, there’s no need to reinvent standard website navigation practices. If your goal is to sell more books and grow your audience, focus on that rather than trying to change the way that people use the internet. It all goes back to people being in a hurry and not having to really think to use your site (That becomes even more critical when things are super-condensed on a phone), not to mention that complicated navigation designs will also be more complicated to update, should you want to change your site pages in the future.
Here’s a side-by-side example of what I’m talking about. The bottom unnecessarily reinvents the wheel and makes you have to stop & think, while the top keeps things simple & usable:
2. Make your calls-to-action super clear. What does that mean? Any time you’re asking a site visitor to do something, like sign up for a mailing list, subscribe to your blog, or buy your book, that’s a “call-to-action.” Each page should have a primary (ie: most important) call-to-action, and if your page has multiple sections, each section should have its own, secondary, one. For example, if the Home page of your site features your book right up-front, then the primary call-to-action might be to purchase the book, or learn more about it. If you have a smaller section further down on the Home page about you as the author, that might have a secondary call-to-action to learn more about you or to connect on Facebook.
Any time you’re asking someone to do something on the internet, you want not only to call people’s attention to it, but also to make it really easy. You want to use stronger colors and images, and compelling language, but not in a way that gets in the way of the goal. Here’s an example: Let’s say you want someone to sign up for your mailing list because that’s the primary way you engage with your audience, which of the examples below do you find more compelling?:
3. Be noticeable. Many people think that, to get noticed, you need to throw everything — including the kitchen sink — into a website design. They use strong colors, large text, and lots of images, and the end result is a confusing design without focus. You don’t have to sacrifice clean, simple design to get noticed. You can use color, typography, photography, or illustrations strategically to leave an impression in someone’s mind. Whatever design or style you use, however, make sure it fits with your brand. If you’re super outgoing and have a writing style to match, make sure that shows in your visual design choices. If you’re an introvert who wants people to never feel overwhelmed when they visit your site, then factor that into your design choices.
Both of the following author website designs were created to leave a lasting impression and extend the author’s brand in a clean way, but with very different styles:
4. Connect the cover of your latest book visually to the overall site design. You don’t need to redesign your entire website each time you release a new book unless you really want to. With the right design, maybe you could just change a few settings and the buttons throughout your site change color, or your headline font changes to coordinate with the new cover. Not only will this create a more cohesive design without having to start again, but it establishes that you’re engaged with your website enough to keep it as up-to-date as your books.
Here’s an example of a relatively simple overall design, but with elements that echo the most recently released book which are updated for each new release:
5 . Enough content, but not too much. You want your website, all pages of it, to have enough content to attract search engines (which means 300+ words per page), but not so much that people are overwhelmed. It’s a fine line sometimes, and it’s different for each genre (each project, even) for which you’re designing. Some genres lend themselves better to text-based-content than others. There are lovely sites out there that use a photo landing page with little to no text on it. They can be super gorgeous, and help you achieve point #3 above (“Be noticeable”), but they often work better for someone who doesn’t have to worry so much about searchability, because they already have a huge following. The idea behind that kind of design can still be used without ignoring your word count, of course; maybe you have an intro section on a page of your site that’s a prominent photo with only a little text over it, and then there’s more content down below. It gives the same level of visual impact, but doesn’t sacrifice your ability to be found via search engines.
Here’s an example of how you might fit it into an author webpage:
Here’s hoping these five lessons are helpful! If you’re looking for specific suggestions of what you might include in your author website, I’ve written a posts on What Content to Include in an Author Website, What Pages to Include in an Author Website, and What the Best Author Websites Have in Common as well.