blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Have you been regularly testing the website waters to make sure your author website is doing its job well?
We’re not talking Google Analytics or SEO or meta-data and keywords for this round of testing. Instead, we’re taking a thoughtful look at ease of navigation, user-friendly information, and the vitally important concept of connection.
If you’ve been limping along with a clunky website, it might be time to stimulate the economy with a website redesign. Or you may find that a simple tweak or two will have newcomers dipping their toes with a satisfied, “The water’s fine.”
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Does my website reflect who I am as a writer? Is it easy for a newcomer to identify the kind of books I write by the look and feel of the website colors, brightness (or darkness), theme, design elements?
- Does my website seem ambiguous or does it clearly communicate its purpose?
- Is it so complex that it’s hard to navigate? A crowded landing page? An excess of tabs or pull-down menus? A design that seemed interesting when you started it, but now just seems “busy” and a little “extra”?
- How long will a newcomer need to spend on my website to find the information they’re likely looking for?
- Where is my newsletter sign-up info? Website experts recommend that the best places for a subscribe sign-up are upper left, upper right, or somewhere on your landing page that the reader will notice without having to scroll past other information…in other words, above the fold. At the bottom of your landing page, especially if that first page is a long chunk of text (which it shouldn’t be anyway), is one of the least beneficial options for placement of a subscriber box. Another unfortunate placement is in a crowded margin of other information. This most important feature gets lost in the word woods. If a reader likes an author’s work and wants to sign up for his or her newsletter, the goal is for the reader to quickly find that spot to get connected.
- Is my website (and my newsletter) mobile-friendly?
Tips to Try
Open every page on your website and practice accessing information you might want if you were an editor, an agent, or a reader. You can test the website waters by putting yourself in the position of someone who knows little or nothing about you. How hard is it to locate specific information about you (like your speaking itinerary, your backlist of books, your tagline or theme, how they can contact you…)?
- Time how long it takes to read your landing page text aloud. If it’s longer than 30 seconds or a minute, consider trimming that narrative to keep the readers’ attention.
- Even if the font is large enough for easy reading (the recommendation, believe it or not, is 16 point font for most font options), how is the spacing? Try incorporating more white space in your web pages. The days are long gone when text would stretch from margin to margin and tight line spacing made it a chore to read. Today’s website viewer doesn’t need more contributions to tired eye syndrome.
- Speaking of fonts, are more than three fonts used? Web and newsletter designers recommend no more than three at the most.
- Break up blocks of text with visuals. We’re living in a visually-oriented era. Choose visuals that help tell your story.
- Consider: What questions does my website answer? What reader needs does it meet?
Reasons to Celebrate after Testing the Website Waters
- If you have examined your website recently, you’re allowed a pat on the back. Far too many get their website set up and then ignore it unless it has major problems. But major problems can also mean major lost opportunities. So if you’re regularly checking out the look and feel of your website, whether included links are working, double- and triple-checking spelling and grammar, you’re helping present a professional image and catching small glitches before they turn into big ones.
- Tips you’re learning as you make improvements to your website will also help as you create your newsletter.
For more insights about website layout, design, and temperature-taking, see articles like this and this. Visit other author’s websites to see what you find especially compelling and what makes a good first impression. Oh, and then locate their sign-up form and subscribe!