It's the same with reading books. The more you read, the more you know what you like and don't like. I'm a picture book addict and quite choosy about which books I label as my favorites. There are a lot of picture books I absolutely adore. And then there are a good number about which I am left asking, "And this got published because why?" or "Cute, but who's going to buy it?" I know, I know, picky, picky, picky...
The point is that when you get yourself a website, it needs to be good. If you are a writer who is more or less just starting out (i.e. "pre-published"), then you could make your own website for kicks and for practice (like I did), but don't keep it once you're published! Get a professional site and quick! (Note for future: I'll be offering professional author web design in about a year - much better than my current site.)
Anyway, here are the qualifications that make up a great professional author site:
- Beautiful. Visually appealing. Professional-looking images. Not choppy, too small, or too big.
- Voice. It's gotta BE YOU! This can by a style, a theme, or even just the color scheme.
- Informative. The best sites have most (but not all) of these tabs:
- Home (but don't put the home tab on the home page, or at least don't have it be an active link since you're already on that page)
- Blog (if you have one)
- School Visits (if you do them)
- Resources (for writers, parents, teachers, educators, or kids)
- Activity pages or Fun & Games (usually for kid resources)
- ...There could be others, but those are the basics and they can be organized (and "titled") in different ways, too. The point is, be creative, informative, and have fun, but most of all professional and efficient.
- Efficient. This one's a biggy for me. The information presented should be easily accessible, look sleek, and run smoothly. Navigating from page to page should be seamless, enjoyable, and not take any extra brain power.
SOME GOOD ONES, though all very different:
Some elements of sub-par home-made sites:
- no header or banner
- no prominent display of author's name (adding a GOOD author photo is also a good idea)
- no images (or only displaying clip-art style images - okay for a blog though)
- everything in sharp squares (old-style html)
- images and/or text doesn't line up
- strange lines running where there shouldn't be any
- large text
- lots of bold text
- every page a different color
- no home tab
- book page not including the following...
- current books
- links to buy books (indie bound, amazon, B&N)
- images of book covers
- ISBN numbers, publisher, date, summary of book
- no contact info!
- difficult navigation (tabs not displayed on every page)
- tabs at the bottom of the site (instead of at the top or to either side)
- every page is a giant image (including the text)
- no links
- too many animated images
- a site map
- long lists with no images
- links that say click here
- too many fonts and colors for text on the same page
- INCONSISTENT from page to page
- inconsistencies within a single page
- distracting and/or busy backgrounds
- a site that is actually a blog (okay for beginners maybe, but can be tricky when adding more depth or more pages because of the side bars that aren't editable)
- Okay, I'm sure there are more, but you get the idea!
Keep on keepin' on...