Over the last five years, I've picked up a slew of information about websites and spent a summer studying essentials of website design. While I've personally designed several websites using point-and-click type software, a code master I am not! But I believe writers CAN maintain a professional web home-base by including fourteen essentials.
Why are the following fourteen details important?
Often I'll see writers commenting on blogs, and I'll click through their profile to check out their blog/website, leave a comment, or e-mail them. I add them to my social networks too.
That's why I'm surprised when I see very basic "musts" (in my humble opinion, at least) overlooked. You'd be shocked at how many writers don't include an e-mail address anywhere on their site. Agents and editors DO occasionally contact authors from websites. I contact writers from their websites. No e-mail? Missed opportunity. With the countless free e-mail services out there, I don't understand why a writer would omit this.
What about failing to engage readers? I've wanted to respond to blogs where comments were either turned off or only allowed by team members. Again, this doesn't make sense to me. If you want readers to connect with you, you have to provide them ways to do this.
Another problem? No spelled out reason for me to be on the site. If you're a writer and you're trying to build a platform, you need to be bold and tell everyone you're a writer and what you write. Don't make them guess!
Here are my fourteen blog/website essentials for writers:
1. A header with your author name and what you write (ex: Pen Name: Author of Historical Fiction)
2. If you blog regularly, a way to subscribe to your RSS feed AND a way to subscribe via e-mail (Thanks, Edie Melson, for reminding me of this in the comments--so true!!)
3. An e-mail address for readers to contact you
4. A short biography including your name (readers want to connect with an author and they can't connect with a nameless entity)
5. Links to your social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads, YouTube, etc...)
6. If you blog regularly, allow people to comment.
8. An author photo (should reflect who you are in an appropriate, flattering manner)
7. Visual appeal--include bright photographs to draw the reader's eye in
8. Content relevant to your product (should make people want to buy your books or, if you're not published, come back to your site until you are published)
9. Easy to read fonts, preferably with dark text against a pale background
10. Relevant color scheme (ex: avoid pastels if you write thrillers)
11. Easy, clear navigation between pages
12. A call to action on your home page (ex: "Subscribe to My Newsletter" linked to a sign-up form, or "Purchase Title Here" with the cover, back-cover copy, and links to purchase your latest book)
13. Personable content geared toward readers. Writers need to engage with our audience and we won't do that if we're talking at them, coming across as superior, or boring them with stiff, formal writing.
14. Search engine priority. You want your website/blog to show up on the first page of results in search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing. Ways to accomplish this? Blog regularly, update your website often with new photos and content, pay for web-hosting and purchase your author domain name, etc...)
I could go on and on. If you have ANY questions about starting a blog, creating a better blog, do-it-yourself websites, web-hosting, social media links, and so forth, please ask. I don't have all the answers, but I've learned a lot over the years and I'm happy to share my opinion.
What do you consider essential for a writers' blog/website?
Have a terrific weekend!