Building a Successful Website (pt. 1 of 3)

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We’ve discussed Social Media, but how about your website?  Is it just there solely for the purpose of being there? To hold links to a bazillion places your masterpiece can be found? Is it just one big advertisement, being ignored by you while you try to perfect your #hashtag skills?  A digital business card? Or is it a living breathing extension of you?

If it’s not the latter, it needs to be.

Your website is your office. The “big brain” between you and your readers.  Social media, well…they’re the employees.

If the brain is working smoothly, then the employees have all the tools necessary to do their job.

An active website (interactive meaning more than just www.acnbooks.com taking you somewhere; it means there is updated content on that site) visit can translate directly into books sales.

Even if you are on social media or diligently promoting your work in person through venues and signings, everything you do will be in vain without a website. Why invest so much of yourself in writing your book, publishing it, and bragging about it if it’s a dead end?  No central office guiding the masses. Today, websites are bigger than any Target or Barnes and Nobel’s, it is a huge drawback if your readers can’t easily locate you with a few quick key strokes.

Remember* you cannot be everywhere, but your website (that extension of yourself) can!

Designing a website requires skills – skills I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t have (unless it’s guiding myself through a purchase on Amazon I don’t speak computer; not one single syllable of HTML or TEXT coding).

Hence our ACNBooks “geeks” who I can’t give enough credit to.

Not to say you need a squad of tech lovers at your fingertips; they assure me that building a website is extremely user friendly (if that user isn’t M.K.F.).  And where you may get lost, website hosts – such as ours here at WordPress – are extremely helpful in guiding you to your vision.

The “geeks”, as they call themselves because no one here at ACN will refer to them by their preferred name Overlords, did however compile a list of website do’s and don’ts.  I use it as faithfully as I can, though there are times that I play the “Creator” card!

Over the next couple of weeks, we will review the geeks list and give some do’s and don’ts when it comes to your website.

 

 First Impressions Mean Everything

You’ve all heard of the phrase “never judge a book by its cover”? No one follows it. First impressions matter. They will judge you by is your website.  It is tempting to just get something up quickly, that requires little/no cost, but don’t.  Don’t just toss something up there I mean, cost wise…cost is always a factor, so let’s get that out of the way first.

Shop your site.  Ours here at ACNBooks runs about $100.00 a year. Which was nice, in the beginning.  Today though we are finding it limiting. We’re no longer a toddler; we are learning how to walk, so we need to upgrade to a business level.  But as an author, you don’t need the 10,000 options. So shop around for what is going to best fit your goals.  Don’t necessarily pick the most popular name (the number one in a Google search engine).

Geeks rule #1 in First Impressions is: Your website is how people are going to see you!  It shows off WHO you are and WHAT you represent.  If it’s tossed together, last minute from your cell phone while waiting in line at Dunkin Donuts for your mocha peppermint latte to finish steaming. It’s going to look that way to anyone who clicks on it.

Geek rule #2: Yes you are the brand, however your website shouldn’t be for you…it’s for your readers, meaning that within moments of a blog or updated entry people will see it.  Think of these simple questions provided by www.yourwriterplatform.com before you click the go live button:

  • Will people know what I write within seconds?
  • Does the voice, tone, attitude and mood of the site resonate with my ideal reader?
  • Will they understand the page they are on and what it’s about?
  • Will they know what to do next?
  • Does the site appear credible?
  • Is it clear why they should buy my book or subscribe to free updates?
  • What does the site provide the reader?

Most importantly Geeks rule #3: BETA test/read, ask someone to look over your work.  Not so much for spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but to make sure it flows or is perceived as you meant it to (I do this a lot….as I have ‘resting bitch face’ when typing, I didn’t think that was a thing, but I’ve been told several times that for as happy as I am in person, my entries read as if I am sarcastically slapping someone.)

Other website suggestions www.yourwriterplatform.com:

  • Don’t be scared of white or blank space.  Filling every single nook and cranny will do nothing but remind people they need to clean out their closets.
  • Make sure your site is polished, legible (go for clear, not clever) and spell checked, a reader doesn’t want to spend the afternoon trying to decipher the meaning behind the Shakespeare you wrote.
  • Keep navigation easy and clear, so your readers can find the important stuff.
  • Use color wisely.  All too often I have gone to author sites to be blinded by the light-the neon colored backgrounds, and yellow writing in front of it.  I have also gone to sites and found my eyes straining after 3 seconds trying to read black text over grey backdrops.  Stick to two or three different shades, simple, ones that are easily seen (grey over white seems to be our M.O.)
  • Avoid anything unnecessary like Flash, animated backgrounds, or music. If your site takes a long time to load, or doesn’t work on a mobile device, you will lose a large number of visitors to your site.
  • Keep elements consistent from page to page.
  • Is your site branded for the long haul? Or is it book/genre specific? Currently we are bragging about A Charming Nightmare as our featured book, but I’m still writing, after the ACN series is out in completion my next adventure with Lilith is the complete opposite of the science-fiction based ACN.  And that’s OK, my site is ready for any genre I write.

Next week we will further step into your website.  Break it down. I will be looking to you for guidance, as I’m still learning web words and their meanings.

Until next time!

-M-

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