Since I make the effort to link back to both the author’s main website and a direct link to the book when I’m writing a review, I see a whole lot of websites and, shockingly, a lot that are just not well designed at all.
As an artist, aesthetics are something that I tend to notice. It may not stick out as much to me if the site is nice and clean (which is really the goal, you want visitors to remember you for your content not the layout or design), but it sticks out like a sore thumb if the design looks bad or is difficult to navigate. It is also pretty bad in my opinion if the site isn’t kept up to date with the newest releases or, even worse, a website doesn’t exist at all.
There are so many options available to create a decent looking website so I don’t think there is much of an excuse to not have at least something. You don’t even have to be particularly computer literate to create one, nor does it even really have to cost you as there are tons of free options out there. I’m not talking Twitter or Facebook either as you don’t have options there to provide easy to access book lists for published works.
Navigation is a huge peeve of mine. No website should be difficult to find your way around. Simple, easy to use and find, logical menus should be a priority on any site. Not one person that goes to an author’s website wants to spend hours clicking every single link on their page to get the information they went there for in the first place.
From a design standpoint, since it is an author website, the focus should be on the author and their works not on flashy eye catching graphics and tons of wild fonts. That is kind of another peeve of mine anyway, but I feel it is unprofessional and amateurish to have a whole bunch of stuff that is really unrelated and detracts from the focus of the website. This is a technique that seems to pop up more on what I’d guess were self designed sites where the creative talent needs to remain with the writing rather than the graphics. Again, with so many options out there, there is no excuse to have a super low quality design that makes the author look fly by night rather than professional and accomplished. The image you portray with your website reflects on you and your abilities as it is part how you present yourself to the world as an author. If your website is cheesy then I’m going to question the quality of your writing.
This is a huge point for me. The majority of the time I visit an author’s website, I want to know what books they have written, if the book I’m looking at reading is part of a series and if so, where it falls in the reading order. It drives me bat shit crazy when this is missing or worse, not clear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a book thinking it is the first in the series based on what I’ve seen on the author’s website only to find out it isn’t because they have some whacked out way of listing their books.
There are a couple of simple solutions to a book list and reading order, so I have never been able to understand why this is so difficult. Easiest is to list the books in reading order first to last, top to bottom or left to right and grouped by series (if there is one) or genre if you write in several areas. Basic, right? It should be so basic it doesn’t even warrant a mention, but you’d be amazed. Another is to simply put the order number somewhere in your listing. Ideally it would be both a reading order list that has the number listed as sometimes there are novellas in there and noting a .5 or something to the order makes that pretty clear.
I honestly hate it when an author only lists books in published order, especially when they write multiple series. I don’t want to have to run through two dozen books to find the one book I’m looking for. It is even harder when they don’t bother even noting the series a book is in when putting that list together. Sometimes offering up a couple of different lists and orders works best when there are lots of series or interconnected series as different people are looking for different things.
Having a poorly designed, hard to navigate site that isn’t kept up to date can lose an author readers. I have actually not picked up a book after going to an author site and not been able to determine important information like series order. The same goes for sites that aren’t kept up to date. Yes it is a little bit of work, especially if you publish quite a few books, but it is an essential selling tool that is not being utilized if you don’t take that little bit of time.
It doesn’t matter if you have one book or 20 to your name. Having a website is really important. Making it comfortable for your readers is just as important since they are the ones that count.