Monday, June 27, 2011

Magazine Layouts and Your Blog/Website

Websites and magazines have a lot in common. Both lure readers in and attempt to keep their attention as long as possible. Both aim to have the reader come back for more, and both provide interesting content.

Photo by hectoralejandro

Since I'm in the process of redesigning my website, I've been studying website design manuals and blogs by designers, and I've spent hours evaluating other author sites (mainly in the genre I write) to get a feel for colors, themes, appropriate pages, and content.

I came to the conclusion that our websites and/or blogs should emulate magazine layouts. They should be colorful and pleasing to the eye. The feature story (blog or note from author) should be placed prominently, and the reader shouldn't have to flip ahead (or click through links) to finish the entire piece.

Break Up the Text

It's also a good idea to include white space, or a buffer zone around the elements. Readers can't handle boxes and boxes of information crammed together with little separation. Make it easy on them--allow ample space between the elements.

Use headers and different colors to train the eye to various sections. Pictures add to the overall tone of the site--use them to set the mood. And, naturally, be specific about the tone you're setting. Authors of light romances should shy away from goth-looking sites with red accents, skull pictures, or lightning bolts. Help the reader match their expectations.

Make It Easy To Find Your Content

The navigation bar is similar to the table of contents--keep it prominent, consistent across all pages, and make it easy to understand.

To keep readers coming back, update your content. If you have a blog, post regularly. If you have a website, update it in a timely manner and make sure the updates either appear on your home page or are referenced there. It won't do you much good if you're adding a new article on your Articles page each week but you're not announcing it on your blog or home page. Most people head straight to your home page and if the content remains the same from January to June (or your last blog post was six months ago), they assume you aren't updating the rest of your site either.

Glossy Paper/High Performance

The quality of paper counts, and your operating system does too. Are you using a basic template for your blog? I recommend it. These often are optimized for quick loading times and for SEO performance. Is your website sized for popular browsers? Does each page have keywords and descriptions for search engines and readers to find your site?

Stay Current
My favorite magazines often add new features and tweak the overall look on an annual basis. Freshen your site every six to twelve months by cleaning up your side bar or tweaking your theme.

Subscriptions and Sharing
Those postcard subscription inserts in magazines? Think of them as your social media buttons. Feature a button to subscribe to your blog through an RSS feed, by e-mail, or through Google Friend Connect. Also, you want people to be able to be able to find you wherever you are online. Prominently display links to your Twitter page, your Facebook page, your Goodreads page, or anywhere you network. And the same way magazines encourage people to give gift subscriptions, simplify your blog's sharing process by including a "retweet" button and 'Facebook Like" button.

How Magazines and Websites Differ
On the flip side, I read a fantastic article by Thomas Umstattd Jr., CEO of Umstattd Media, on the differences between print design and web design. "Why Print Designers Fail at Web Design" is linked and worth a read. In fact, I recommend his entire site, Author Tech Tips, for any writer.

What did I miss? How can a blog or website benefit from magazine layouts?

Enjoy your Monday!


  1. These are great tips, Jill! I'm seriously so impressed that you design your own site. Oh - and check out my blog today. I did the linking thing right! You rock, girl!

  2. I always love your amazing knowledge when it comes to author websites. Good for you for learning and studying it on your own. These are great tips!

  3. Good morning!

    Katie: My current site is very basic, and I want to take it up a level on overall look and content. I really enjoy playing around with colors and looking through stock photos, so taking the time to play with new software is worth it to me! And I'm hopping over to your blog in a few... :)

    Heather: Thank you! DIY website design isn't for everyone, but I think many people would be surprised at how easy some programs are to use. I wish I would have had the software I just purchased two years ago!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. Great advice here, Jill. I'm in the process of redesigning my web site, too, pretty much for the same reasons you are. It definitely makes you think about your intent as you plan it. Another issue to consider in the design is branding, which is so big these days, and to have the site reflect that in some way.

  5. This is helpful information, Jill. I'm tempted to make some changes here soon and believe me, I take notes on stuff like this.

    ~ Wendy

  6. I don't think you missed anything, Jill. Thanks for the great tips.

    You're the pro, no doubt.
    I can't wait to see your newly designed website.

  7. I created my website using the iWeb software on my Mac. I made my own header and background paper in Photoshop. Before I created it, I looked at the sites I admired and tried to pull in some of those features. As I sell more books, I may hire someone to create a new site for me. For now, the site meets my needs.

  8. Joanne: Branding, content, and overall look and usability are vital for a website. Anyone clicking to our site should know immediately they are at an author website and what genre we write.

    Wendy: Thank you! I get guilty of over-thinking websites at times. It really boils down to having a clean, usable site and updated content.

    Loree: What a nice compliment! I am definitely NOT a pro, but I enjoy it as a hobby!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. Lisa: Your site is very pretty, with everything an author needs! You did a beautiful job!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. Excellent tips. I look forward to seeing your redesign.

  11. I feel like I need to spend a month reading and trying to implement everything at Author Tech Tips.

    If only I had a month to spare. Sigh.

  12. Very good suggestions! I already do some of it, but need to incorporate other stuff. Thanks for such an educational blog post!

  13. I only strictly use high glossy paper when I publish a blog post ;)

    Jody Hedlund has a great layout. She increases font size and bolds her main points - so if you're in a hurry it's easy to skim and still get the gist of it! :)

  14. Thanks for the blog design tips. I learned new things today that I never would have considered before. Breaking up the text is a very good idea.

    For future reference, do you know where I can find templates that work for blogger, but are a no-brainer to implement? Thanks again, Jill!

  15. I find building my blog/website using html to be a lot of fun. The plainer the template the better, because I can do more w/ it. As a reader, I would like to emphasize that bloggers should make their articles easy to read. Black backgrounds are utterly hideous on the eyes. Hodge-podge and clutter are also turn-offs for me. Great article!

  16. Very helpful information here, Jill. My focus right now has to be on writing rather than re-design but I do so look forward to a new design. I like yours and I look forward to the changes you are resourcefully planning.

  17. Great tips, Jill. I'm hoping to design a website in the near-future. Thanks!

  18. Linda: Thanks! I'm looking forward to it too!

    Erica: *sigh* Me too. So much to learn... I try not to be too hard on myself about having the "perfect site."

    Catie: Thanks! I feel the same. I'm always learning something new about social media in general!

    Jaime: I know you only use glossy paper!! :) And yes, Jody's site is beautiful. Well laid-out, easy to read, and tons of great content!

    Brandi: I played around with the template designer in Blogger. You can pick a basic design, and tweak it to use a different background and header with little difference to the loading time. E-mail me if you have any questions, okay?

    Jill: I agree! And I'm impressed with your html abilities! I only know basic code!

    Lynn: Smart, Lynn. I've been wanting to redesign for about six months, but I knew writing projects would be my main focus so I scheduled time now and in late August. You're really smart to focus on your writing.

    Paul: I like freshening up my sites as new features become available--I'm sure you're the same! Have fun when you find the time!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  19. You always have such helpful posts, Jill!

    As with the Twitter posts, could you include some how-to's? A lot of times I know what I should be doing, but am clueless as to how to make it happen.

    Susan :)

  20. The number one space on a blog is the top 3 inches on your sidebar. Even if no one scrolls down they will see that spot. :O)

  21. Awesome info! I love it when the overall look of a site gives off the same feel of an author's books. So for a suspense novelist, it might be black and red...For a lighthearted novelist like me, I tried to keep my look light and airy (not saying I'M "airy", mind you). :)

  22. Thanks for the links and the post, Jill. The differences between formatting for print vs electronic is something I'm researching right now. :)

  23. Great tips. I especially like "break up the Text". Very important.

  24. Susan JR: Don't feel bad! I have to research everything when it comes to adding things to my blog!

    Diane: Great piece of info!! If we want to get our "brand" or "reason we're online" across--it should be in the top 3 inches of our sidebar. I'm so glad you mentioned this!

    Sarah: I agree. Colors and pictures set a mood and I don't want to set the wrong one!

    Danyelle: You can't go wrong scrolling through Author Tech Tips. I could have read through the site for an hour!

    Lynda: It is, and so often I forget! I'm trying to be more purposeful. :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  25. Your incredible site always has more helpful ideas than Jiffy Pop has popcorn! Thanks!

  26. Magazine layouts...that's a great way of looking at it Jill. Not too dissimilar from how we professionally develop and design websites for SEO. No page is more than 2 clicks away from the homepage and every page should have unique content arranged in a very digestible fashion. Some of the new things to consider are load times and of course who your audience is. As Kristen Lamb says, 'most authors assume people want to know about them when in-fact your readers just want interesting content usually associated with what you write.' All very good things to keep in mind. Exceptional post.

  27. Wow! What a great tips. It is very incredible and fantastic and I am impressed with your post. Thanks for sharing.


  28. Thank you, Jill! I just got a custom banner made for my blog, and it's made a world of difference in setting me apart and helping define my brand. And, like you said, white space is so important. I try to start every post with a picture or insert one in between. It breaks up the tedium of text on a lit screen.


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  30. Very inspiring post you have shared! The main goal of the magazine is to communicate information to the audience, and it is something that must take precedence.Thanks
    website design


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