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.
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?
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!