I love working on children’s book author websites — often there are beautiful illustrations, a sense of humor, and great colors to work with. And while many aspects of creating a website for children’s books are similar to any author or book website, (like providing information about the book & authors, letting people purchase it easily, and introducing the authors) there’s another level at play…
Consider who you’re designing for.
The important thing to consider with children’s books, like with any book, is that you have to understand the target audience. And it’s not really kids. As an example: kids themselves aren’t going to do a Google search for, “great children’s books,” but you know who will? People like educators, parents, librarians, publishers and retailers.
So while lots of thought goes into the design of the book itself to appeal to kids, a different kind of thought needs to go into the design of the corresponding website so that it gets into the right kids’ hands & appeals to a broader audience.
Don’t overegg the pudding.
Websites for children’s books take their visual cues from the books themselves, and often there are great images to work with. Sometimes some subtle animation can work really well to bring that to life, but I’d advise against things like music that plays automatically upon opening the page or using “baby language” or other attempts to set a child-like tone. Rather than enhancing the experience of, say, the librarian who is visiting your website, that kind of thing will just muddy the message, and get in the way of any helpful content you want them to take away to bring your book to more children.
If you have extras to offer, like quizzes or short stories or videos, those will likely appeal to kids & you should absolutely include them, but remember they’ll most often get into the hands of kids via an adult in their life.
Set yourself up for site visits.
If you want to do school or library visits, make it really easy for people to find out how to engage you. Make it easy to contact you (or the appropriate party), provide information about where you’re willing to go, and what (if anything) you’ll need when you get there. You’ll also want to include information about what you can speak about, and the value of your work.
So don’t throw the rules of good design out the window just because you’re designing a website for a children’s author, just figure out how to adapt the rules so that you’re positioning children’s books in the best light possible for the right people.
And remember, a 3-year-old child is very different than a 9-year-old child — so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. You need to tailor the visual & content experience to the audience you’re trying to reach. Make sure to enumerate the developmental benefits of your work, and how much fun it is to read. A parent or educator will want to know why your book is different. Or, if it follows in the footsteps of old favorites, why it will tick those same boxes.
And above all else, even with the focus on the audience and message, have fun. Nobody wants a website for a children’s book to be a downer. This doesn’t mean you have to forego elegance & clean design, but immersing yourself in fun is what children’s books are all about, and you want the websites that support them to provide that experience too.