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How do we create an author website that not only looks pretty, but is effective too? Too many times either one or the other is achieved but not both.

First and foremost, we must think about what the goal of the website is, and what exactly it needs to be effective at doing. Then we can consider design with these goals in mind.

Effective at…? Ideas for you

– Sending visitors to Amazon to make a purchase
– Sending people to my social networks to get more followers
– Signing up to my newsletter
– Subscribing to my blog
– Commenting on my blog
– Getting media/ press attention
– Establishing myself as an expert/ professional speaker in the field

All of these are valid goals, and you might aim for one or all of the above for your site. Brainstorming and using them as a starting point is crucial.

Incorporating Design into Your Goals

Once you’ve figured this out, you can then build a nice-looking site around these goals by consciously “manipulating” the way a visitor uses and navigates your site. If you want people to head to Amazon, Amazon buy buttons should feature prominently on every page and at the end of blogposts. Users will then click here more often. The same can be said for social network links, your newsletter subscribe form and so on. Good use of color, questions and incentives can make these links stand out against the rest of the page.

If your goal is to get media attention, you might include ‘As Seen On’ logos from your press clippings to date (no matter how small) and examples of ‘news hooks’ that you are qualified to talk about on your homepage. You would encourage media to get in touch by displaying your contact info or that of your publicist in as many places as possible.

If the goal of your site is to establish yourself as an expert in the field, you would mention your achievements in the first paragraph of your site, along with photos of you giving a keynote or talk to prove that you really can walk the walk.

Making the Site Pretty

Obviously design is a subjective matter and you’ll never please everyone’s tastes. However according to behavioral analysis of the way people use and navigate websites, there are some basic principles that should be adhered to when designing your author website in order for it to look nice AND be user-friendly.

1. Keep it Simple: Clean white or black space not only looks good, it is great for the digestion of information. Don’t overcrowd your site with banners, ads, or logos; just stick to the basics and avoid flashing graphics at all costs!
2. Keep it Intuitive: Don’t make people think about HOW to use your website, ‘cos guess what – they don’t want to think too much! Most Internet users prefer an F-shaped website – that is where the most important information (navigation menu included) in the left side-bar or top menu.
Stick to norms, and ask yourself, if this page was translated into Japanese, would a non-Japanese reader still be able to navigate their way around the basics?
3. Colors: Choose two or three and use them on a plain background. Make sure the colors compliment each other (I like to use for color palette inspiration) and don’t clash.
Please please please, if you are using a dark background, make sure that I can read your font without squinting and hurting my eyes. Sites should be easy on the eyes otherwise you’ll lose visitors faster than you can say ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.
4. Make it Scannable: The number 1 problem I see with author websites is huge long blocks of text. Writers love to write (duh) but web copy is very different to print, and about pages and bios should be short and sweet to make sure they are actually read.
Break up long paragraphs with bullet points, numbered points, short sentences and images. Make good use of headings, which not only make text easier to digest, but are great for search engine optimization too.
5. Make it a Reflection of You: It is all about you after all! Do you write thrillers, children’s books or business how-tos? Visitors to your site may not have read your writing yet but they are looking for visual clues as to what your books and writing might be like. Give them a hint with a site that matches you and your writing, and to really grab your target readers’ attention from the get-go, give them a tagline that sums up your writing in your header.

7 things you can do right now to improve your author website

About the Author:
Laura Pepper Wu is a writer and the co-founder of 30 Day Books: a book studio. She successfully marketed 30 Day GMAT Success to become the number 1 selling GMAT guide on the Amazon kindle, top 10 in print, as well as in the top 3 of all study guides on the Kindle. Her own books Wow! Glowing Bride in 30 Days and 51 Ways to Save Money & Still Have a Chic & Fabulous Wedding are also Kindle best-sellers. Laura works with authors, both fiction & non-fiction to rock their book marketing plans and promotions! She also runs Ladies Who Critique, a critique-partner finding site she founded in 2011. When she’s not working at the studio, you can find her walking her dog, practicing yoga or “testing” out coffee shops in Seattle. Connect with her onTwitter.



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