Friday, May 8, 2009

Website Week: Visuals and Professionalism

Earlier this week, I posted the first two sections of my article titled "5 Things to Consider Before Starting a Website." Today, we'll look at the final installment, including items 4 and 5: Visuals and Professionalism.


What colors are you drawn to? What colors represent your writing? When you look at other author’s sites, do the colors please you? Try to come up with a palette of several complementary colors, or, if you prefer to stay with one or two, find several shades and depths. Look at home magazines for ideas. They often give suggestions of what colors go well together.

What theme represents you as a writer? Do you have a brand? Do you know what genre of books you write? Spend time analyzing what elements are always present in your books (even if you write more than one genre) and play with these to come up with a brand. If coming up with a brand is beyond you at this point, simply describe the books you write. “Sally Susy writes contemporary women’s fiction.”

What about visuals? Do you want a picture or your head shot in your header? Do you like sites that have buttons for links or just words for links? Do you like the navigation bars at the top, bottom, or one of the sides? Look at other websites to narrow down the layouts you like. Model your site after the one you like best. I’m not saying to copy it; analyze what you like about the site and incorporate those features into yours.

A website is a key promotional tool for you as an author whether you’re published or not. When you have a website as a pre-published author, you can include your domain name in your contact information when you’re querying agents and editors. They may look at your site; they may not; either way they know you have a website.

Let’s say they do look at your site. You want them to be impressed. If you decide to update regularly, follow through. Also, you might want to put a small line at the bottom of the page that tells when you update the site. Design the site to be easy to navigate. Be honest with yourself and ask for input from friends: does it look as if it were slapped together by a third grader? Edit before you update to insure there are no grammatical errors. Verify every link works (it only takes one wrong character to have a broken link).

A website can impress an editor or agent--or it can underwhelm. A good website doesn't have to be fancy. It does have to be clear, well-done, and professional looking.

In conclusion, a website doesn't have to cost a fortune to do the job right. If you don't want to update it very often, you can put up a basic information page. If you do update it regularly, you'll attract more visitors. The website should clearly state who you are, what you write, and your writing background. The visuals should reflect who you are as a writer. If you write thrillers, an editor will be confused if the website is mint green and pink with flowers spattered everywhere. Above all, strive to make the site as professional as possible. This means no broken links, no confusing content, no grammatical errors.

I hope this helps anyone who dreads the thought of putting together a website. Yes, it’s a lot of work whether you design it yourself or hire it out, but publishers expect authors to have websites as soon as they’re published. Do you really want to deal with the stress of starting a website when you’re knee-deep in contracts, edits, and art department forms? I don’t think so!

The bulk of the work involved with a website takes place in the design stage. Once your site is up and running, it requires much less time and effort. And what an accomplishment to see your own website on the Internet!

What are you waiting for? Start designing your website!

Enjoy your weekend!

The entire article is posted on my website. Click HERE if you'd like to read the article in its entirety.


  1. All your suggestions are excellent. I like the updating bar at the bottom as I find that I do check for that when I look at a company's website.

  2. I wanted a website that was bright and fun. Considering I did it myself, it came out "okay".

    Eventually, I will pay for a website design. Once I figure out who I am and what I'm writing. LOL!

  3. You've provided me with some of the best advice about creating a website! Thank you. I am really into visuals, too. Just wish I could find that headshot I feel comfortable with...:D

    ~ Wendy

  4. I like the part about visuals. I really think colors or the design of a website or blog can tells us about a person. It helps that you're breaking all this down into smaller sections. If I try to think of a website on a larger level, it's very overwhelming.

  5. I agree -visuals count. I also like the idea of really asking yourself what image you would like to present before putting the website together. Good ideas!

  6. What an excellent job on this article, Jill! I needed that nudge to get going on one now. What a great way to let editors and agents know we're serious about our writing. And you're right, we don't want the worry about designing a website when we're in the midst of all the other new published author things! Thank you for all of your help! I'm sure I'll be referring back to your article many times in the weeks to come!!

  7. Thank you very much for all of the posts, Jill! I really appreciate them. I'll be coming back to them often as I actually start working on my site.

  8. Thank you all for the great feedback--I was a bit nervous about putting this article up. I'm so glad it's helped.

    Terri: If you're updating your site regularly, it's nice for readers to know how often and when to expect the next update. That's just my personal opinion.

    Jennifer: I'll check your site out. I've talked to writers who decided to pay a professional and some have since admitted they wished they would have designed it themselves.

    Wendy: I hear you on the headshot! I'm going to get a professional shot taken this summer and be done with it.

    Cindy: Overwhelming--oh yeah! It terrified me! But I'm living proof that it doesn't have to be a nightmare.

    Tess: Since many writers write in more than one genre, it can be difficult to decide which one to focus on in regards to the website. I think the best thing to do is to design the site for broad appeal, so whichever genre book you sell first, the website will work.

    Jody: I didn't know how a website could help me as a pre-pubbed author until I saw how many others had sites up. No, it's not selling books, but it is selling me as a writer.

    Davin: What a nice thing to say--I'm glad I could help.

    Melissa: Love your new thumbnail picture! Adorable!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. This is an excellent post. Thank you for doing this series. It's been a lot of help!


I love to hear from you!