6 Tips for Making a Great Author Website Fast (for the non-designer)
For anyone who doesn’t know, F. Nelson Smith—that’s Flee to her friends—is homebound, taking care of her husband, and is unable to dedicate the same amount of time to doing things like building her author platform and marketing.
Part of what attracted her to BHP in the first place was our promise to assist her in these areas in as many ways possible.
Recently, one of those ways has been redesigning her author website, fnelsonsmith.com (image).
Please check it out, and tell us what you think.
Now, I am by no means a web building expert (and thank goodness for Wix, or I would still be struggling my way through intro CSS with a mere heading to show for it), but I do know a thing or two about design and visual marketing.
And for those authors out there who don’t have a publisher/design team/marketing specialist the the ready to help them create their site, or for those like Flee who merely do not have the time to figure all this stuff out for themselves, I have put together the best quick (and dirty) time saving tips that I have found for getting it done simply and beautifully.
1. Design do? Don’t!
Not everyone is a designer, and it is a lot harder than it looks (as made obvious by the number of horrid author websites out there). So if you don’t think you have the skill, or just the time, than steal!
OK. don’t actually steal someone’s hard work, but do search other author’s websites and pick and choose elements you really love that you can add to your own. Get enough pieces, and you should have yourself a pretty little Frankenstein website ready to go.
Focus on placement of elements (like pictures, sales buttons, and blurbs).
I had only a few days to completely overhaul fnelsonsmith.com and this is essentially what I did. However with a little tweaking, the website resembles nothing even close to the ones I “copied.”
2. Simple is better.
Don’t over do anything. Don’t add to many pictures (but don’t leave them out altogether!), and keep the word count to a minimum. Your more likely to lose traffic with too many elements than with not enough.
So unless you are willing to diligently plan and design your web-pages, do not add to much content. Because making a busy page not look busy is a tough thing to do. Visitors are just fine with only a few great images, easy to read small blurbs of text, and straight forward navigation.
This is always a struggle with bearhillbooks.com because there is a lot of content and many different areas of the website. And we want people to be able to readily access as much of it as possible right from the get go. The homepage is image heavy, so we keep text to a minimum to balance it out, and carefully manage the balance of colour and elements from one side to the other as much as possible. (And the site took me forever to create, and still has me jumpin’.)
3. Colour theory is important.
This is the Colour Wheel.
You should all be familiar with it, however not all authors may be familiar with how to use it (or why they should).
Colour is something people take for granted. It can change our mood and even our attitude toward the people connected with the colour. It can make us uncomfortable or calm, excited or depressed.
So use this to your website’s advantage. Think hard on what your “colour” is, romance authors, maybe red or pink; fantasy, maybe green, or whatever matches the mood your work generally is.
Once you have that colour, head to the colour wheel and pick your complementary colours (this is not limited to your basic red/green type pairings either, check it out).
Limit these colour to about 3, and use only those colours (for when you use colour, see below). Do not stray from them. Don’t just colour randomly, they are called “complementary colours” for a reason, because they are appealing.
People will be far more likely to find your website, books, and even you as a person, more appealing if you stick to a strong and appropriate colour theme for your work and audience. The right colour theme is the number one strongest design technique you can use to make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time.
4. There are no grey areas in web design!
Not literally of course. But keep the bulk of your page the colour of no colour. That’s right. White!
Then keep your text black except for the snippets that you would like people to read….Does that sound weird, the snippets you want them to read?
You WANT them to read all of it, but believe me they won’t. Make headings and only the most important text stand out (this doesn’t even have to mean in colour) and assume no one will read the rest.
But you should still proofread it btw, because the one person who does read it will be the grammar police. And I have a few warrants out from them!
Colour other things smartly and minimally. Keep in mind that you will have images that will stand out brilliantly on all the white, too much colour elsewhere is going to make visitors feel web-claustrophobic. Result? They run!
Less images, then larger chunks of colour is fine.
Can you do the opposite? White text on black? Sure! Just make sure that your work is appropriate for it. Keep in mind that a fully black website is going to come off less professional as well. Sorry, it’s just the way it is.
5. Use the same page over….and over.
This one is simple. Take your first webpage. Copy it. Change key things like content and key images. Repeat till done. (Saves oodles and noodles an’ oodles of time).
6. Save your time for your SEO.
At least for me, SEO is the most lame and time consuming part of the whole author website building business. I like the design part, and the writing part, and editing the writing part. I hate the SEO part. But I have realized that I must indeed take the time to do it right. Get good keywords for your pages; write decent page descriptions and headings.
Having a great looking and functioning website is swell; it helps the people who find you stay and get to know you and hopefully buy your books. But it’s all for not if no one can find you.
This is the part that helps you get found.
There are a lot of other things involved in maintaining a great website. But hopefully this helps you get started quicker and get out there so you can share your work with the world!
Please comment and let me know if any of this helps or if you have better ideas. Like I said, I am no web developer or whatever you call them. I'm just an editor cum artist trying to figure out the internet like I think a lot of us are, and I'd love to learn more!