kitchen sinkEvery author & publisher wants a top author website.  That means they (understandably) want to stand out from the crowd, bring in a new audience, and enhance their brand.  And some people approach these goals by throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the website. Photos and graphics and animations? “Sure!” – Lots of text that isn’t designed to enhance your searchability or goals? “Absolutely!” – A blog without any idea of what you’re going to write about? “Why not?!” – Widgets of every size and description for your social media profiles because social media is important, right? “Of course!

You get the idea.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re going about things the wrong way around. First, you figure out the critical question of WHY.

I was recently asked what I thought was the #1 mistake people make when planning their new website, and my answer was that they are focused on the wrong thing. Thinking about the details of things like what kinds of illustrations to use and what fonts and colors you like best, while important, should never come before creating a strategy for your platform. And a strategy doesn’t start with what it looks like, a strategy starts with WHY.

When you’re strategizing your best author website you first start with the critical question of your brand — who are you targeting and what do those people want? Once you know that, it’ll help you determine what should go on your website because you’ll be able to answer the question of why each component you want to add will serve them. It’s similar to coming up with a mission statement — who do you serve, how do you help them, and why are you better than their other options?

Here’s an example… let’s say you’re an author who writes books about mindfulness. In addition to writing, you like to teach people how to meditate and do regular workshops. You already know that you’re targeting people who are either new to mindfulness and want to learn more about it, or already know about it but want to enhance their knowledge.

You therefore know that your site should complement your message and be serene & focused. It should explain the basics of mindfulness, using key phrases to draw in a new audience via search, and offer the book as a solution to their desire for guidance. Perhaps the site has a blog so that you can build a repository of searchable content over time on themes of mindfulness or tips. It advertises your workshops and public events and not only makes it easy for people to get in touch with you to book you for an event, but also to sign up for a mailing list to keep up-to-date on when you have new events.

Here’s what it doesn’t have: lots of moving images, various social media profile feeds that say pretty much the same thing, lots of high-contrast color, difficult-to-find ways to get in touch with you, huge amounts of very detailed text, complicated/unclear navigation, no clear path to buy the book, a lack of a clear list of benefits, a message board, ads, etc..

Even if you have an amazing WordPress theme, even if it’s a theme designed for WordPress author websites & author landing pages, you don’t need to use all the bells and whistles that come with it. Ideally, you figure out what your site needs to do — and why — before you even get to the point of choosing or designing a theme.

So, as you’re planning to create a new top author website, or revamping your existing site to become one, make sure you’re thinking strategically about what not to include. You might be tempted by some of the cool stuff you see out there on the internet, but don’t let it sway you — focus on the WHY as the path to success.