Building an Amazing Author Website on the Cheap

If you’re serious about making a living as an author, you must have a site that is appealing and professional in appearance.

Although some authors pay hundreds of dollars to web designers to acquire a professional theme for their site, you can actually do quite a bit on your own to make your own site more appealing without spending extra money.  WordPress makes this very easy 🙂 but here are a few high level thoughts.

First, consider what you “don’t” need for your site.  Many webmasters try to “have it all” leaving their site cluttered and unattractive.  Choose a few simple topics to feature on your home page and keep your navigational buttons to a minimum.  Don’t have hundreds of categories on your home page. The categories I would suggest for an author would be: “About me,” Books, News (like book releases, new cover photos, etc.), Events (like book signings or speaking events), and a contact me page (could be combined with About me).  I’d suggest thinking a lot about it before adding more than those main categories. You can always organize your content under major categories leading to smaller categories if necessary.  Too many choices can overwhelm your visitors and again make your site look cluttered.

Less can often mean more when constructing your site’s layout. Keep some white space here and there to avoid the impression of being overcrowded.  Put your most important information above the fold (the top part that your visitors sees before scrolling downward). Also try to keep outbound links and advertiser links to a minimum. Place them below the fold if possible in order give your visitors time to see what your site has to offer before clicking on a link that will lead them away from your site.

To keep a professional appearance, take off any flashing graphics and keep graphics to a minimum. (Too many graphics will slow down the loading time of your site.) As an author, you should ignore what I’ve done on this site and keep your theme colors pleasing to the eye and the text dark. Avoid bright and blinding colors that make it hard to read and difficult to focus on the content of your site.  Another consideration is making sure that those who are color blind can view your site without difficulty. You can use http://colorfilter.wickline.org to test out your site to see how a color-blinded user might view your site.

Converting your site to WordPress can give you a world of choices as far as free themes that are available (just Google “free WordPress themes”). There are numerous themes that are professional in appearance at no cost whatsoever.  You can hire someone to change your theme if time is not available, but overall, installing a theme requires very little skills.  Check out YouTube.com for some quick tutorials on installing WordPress themes. Note: I actually bought the theme for this site from here for $35, not a lot of money for getting a look just the way you want it.

For those who aren’t necessarily using WordPress, you can check out oswd.org for some free website templates or do a further search on Google for “free website templates”.  You’ll be surprised at some of the nice, professional ones that you’ll find with enough diligence of searching. Some WordPress theme and template sites will also allow you to pay a very small fee (or simply ask for a small donation) to remove the author’s link in the footer if this is distracting.

As you can see, giving your site a more professional appearance without spending a dime is very possible.  A quick overview:

  1. Use a simple, clean layout design.
  2. Use pleasing colors that are easy on the eyes.
  3. Don’t overcrowd your site.
  4. Keep your content organized.
  5. Use easy navigational and search features.
  6. Keep banners and graphics to a minimum.
  7. Look for an updated template for your site if necessary.

Take time browsing other sites and take note of what looks appealing to you and what doesn’t.  Jot down any ideas that you really like.  Also take note of what seems annoying to you.  Finally, don’t depend solely on your own taste in design.  Ask for feedback from others in your social network. Opinions may vary, but take note on what the majority likes or doesn’t like.

If you design your site to be pleasing to your readers, they’ll enter your site with a positive feeling, which can mean more leads and sales of your books.

Posted in Marketing.

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