As I’m sure you can imagine, I spend lots of time looking at current website design. What’s currently desirable is a blend of modern aesthetic preferences, what’s possible with current technology, and the kind of platforms on which people are browsing the web (eg: mobile devices). And when I’m working on a website for an author or a book, I look at other, modern author and book websites as research so I know what the site visitor might be expecting, but more often than not I spend more time looking at other kinds of websites across all types of genres.
And for fiction authors in particular, movie websites can be a great source for ideas of how to create a beautiful, immersive experience on the web. Granted, they have lots of visual material to work with, but if you, as an author, think creatively about your book, you can create a website with compelling visuals too.
Here are some things movie websites do really well that could easily be translated to book websites:
They use video. This is a gimmie, but it’s SO EASY to make videos these days — use your phone (or borrow one from a friend). So even if you don’t have a movie studio budget, you can create (or hire a creative person to create) a video that gives people a taste of what it’ll be like to read your book. It might be an interview with you as the author talking about the book, or a montage of images that reference the content of the book, or an animated short, or a video of you (or someone) reading an excerpt of the book. With minimal production effort you can have a great visual marketing tool.
They encourage you to explore and share. We all know that you need to have at least one “call to action” on your website — this is where you tell people what you want to do when they arrive at your website (eg: explore further, contact you, buy your book, etc..) — but you can encourage people to explore your website further by giving people enough information up front to get them interested and then providing a link to learn more. You can also provide an easy way for people to share your website or the content on it so that there’s no barrier to doing so. And if you’re partial to a particular platform (like Facebook) for your project’s social media use, then emphasize those sharing options the most.
They tell you the nice things people say about them. Anyone who produces anything should be stockpiling quotes from people who use their products/services and like them. You don’t need to fill your site with them, but featuring the best ones on the pages on which they make the most sense (eg: one that talks about your writing on your bio page and one that talks about the book on the book page) is a great way to build confidence & fidelity in your site visitors.
They are truly immersive. This is a really important one. You don’t need to reinvent the way people use the web (or sacrifice your ability to easily update your site yourself) to create an immersive experience, but making people feel like they’ve arrived at a destination when they reach your website is critical to making it stand out. This can be done whether you decide to use a website template by customizing things like the background image, fonts and graphics, or to every extent if you have a fully custom website built.
Dynamic effects. This is much easier this days with modern browsers supporting simple dynamic effects for things like images appearing or mouseover effect without adding loads of code or relying on technology like Flash. Adding subtle dynamic effects to your site can help with the immersive feeling it creates. You can use them to lighten the mood or add layers of mystery.
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