It’s true that having a dynamic, easy to navigate website is a non negotiable must for authors. But before you start browsing website builder platforms, themes, and images you need to spend some time to decide why you want a website and what you want it to do for you. Some authors use their site as a combo business card and bookmark; it provides information about the author and their books. While for others their website is a key sales channel for their books. I would suggest you visit at least 10 other author sites to get an idea of what they do. Here are a few pointers to help you think about your site.
- Make a list of the navigation tabs other sites use. Do similar tabs make sense for you? Remember you can always expand your site later so don’t worry if you’re pre-published and don’t have anything to post in a “books” section just yet. You will and you can add it later.
- Make a pros and cons list of each of the 10 sites. What do you like and dislike about each? Try to think about as many aspects as possible: does it look professional, is the color palette coordinated, can you find your way around easily, is it too busy, is it empty/dull, does it have a nice balance of words and images, is there a “call to action” on every page, which brings me to…
- Site outline: You can do this on a piece of paper. Across the top, list the main navigation buttons you’ve decided on (home, bio, books, news & events, contact, ect.). These are your page titles/parent pages. Write a brief description of each page and a goal, meaning in a perfect scenario what action do you want visitors to take on each page? Do you want them to click a link to sign up for your newsletter? Visit your books page? Buy a book? Having 1 or 2 (at the most) goals for each page is a critical strategy decision that should drive the design of every page. For example, let’s say I’m a librarian during the day and a pre-published author at night. My Author Posse group has told me one of the most powerful things I can do to get a jump on marketing my future book is to build an email list (this is true by the way). This means the goal of my homepage (and maybe every page of my website at this point in my career) is to encourage visitors to sign up for my newsletter. Other webpage goals to consider might be: buy a book, schedule a school visit, encourage fan mail, future book signings, sign up for a newsletter, share a blog post on SM, comment on a blog post. Lastly, once your site has been up for a while you need to go back and see if each page is achieving its goal. If not you may want to tweak it a bit for better results.
- Target Market: This addresses the question of who do you want to attract to your site? Readers? Educators? Parents? Fellow authors and illustrators? Knowing your target market(s) will drive the content of your site. You’re going to want to have lots of content (blog posts, resources, ect.) for each of your target markets.
Now that you have an idea of your goals for your overall site and each page, you are ready to begin the design process. If you’ve never built a website before please visit the Start Here post for more tips and pointers. As always, thanks for stopping by, it was great hanging out with you!