The images you put on your website are not only an important choice, but can help bring in traffic. You do this by tagging and how you name your images. For instance, in my press release post, I changed the name of one of the images I used from 103839560.jpg to Press Realease.jpg. Now when someone does an image search for Press Release, the picture and link to my post comes up (fairly high) in the search results and does in fact bring traffic to my blog. It’s a quick, easy way to get a little boost in exposure.
Images or photos should also pertain to the content on the page. I’ve been to several websites where I spend more time trying to figure out what the image has to do with any of the content, than I do reading the actual content. And try to keep images minimal. Have you ever been to an authors page that’s overloaded with images, so much so that you feel like you’re looking at a poorly made flyer? I bet you only went back if you had to. And as always, remember to keep them somewhat professional. More personal picture should be left for your blog, because your website is basically your online business card or storefront.
If you’re a DIYer like me and creating your website yourself, there are several websites to get royalty free images. http://www.sxc.hu/ is one of my favorites, because it has high quality, free images. http://www.flickr.com/ is another one, as well as www.istockphoto.com/ and http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
The best author websites look professional, are easy to navigate, and offer relevant content. Some are simple in design but pleasing to the eye none the less, and you won’t get a headache trying to find what you’re looking for, or hitting the back button 18 times to get there. A few, quick examples are Nora Roberts, Emily Griffin, Tali Roland, Beth McMullen, Beth Harbison, and Sarah Bird But being neat and professional doesn’t have to mean boring. Keep the look true to your taste/genre. A good idea to help you decide what you like, and what you don’t, is to browse websites of authors you admire, are well known, or write in the same genre as you. Keep a notepad handy to jot down what comes to your attention as you browse. Do you find dropdown menus more convenient? Or do you prefer tab navigation? Do you hate the bright colored backgrounds?
Along with the overall look or theme of your website, there are a few other things to consider that help pull together the look you want. Here are just a few to get you started:
- Navigation – dropdown menu vs. tab navigation, top navigation vs. side navigation. And do you want them to remain set on the page, or to scroll back up to the top of the page? Here is a decent, free app to play with to get an idea which menu style you prefer http://www.dhtml-menu-builder.com/product/dhtmlmenu/ This one was referred by a friend, although I have not tested it yet, http://www.affordable-website-design.me.uk/graphic_navbar.html
- Buttons & logos – will you be creating this yourself, hiring it out, or using stock options through your hosting service? If you’re creating this yourself, there are several options available to you. http://cooltext.com/ has customizable options (both buttons and logos) free of charge. http://www.flamingtext.com/ is another logo creator. http://www.aaa-buttons.com/html/1-8.shtml is another free service that I used when creating our wedding website. http://www.buttongenerator.com/ offers some free, and some paid options. And lastly http://www.thefreewebstuff.com/index.html is another site with free button options. Another thing to keep in mind with buttons, is they don’t have to be traditional buttons. Have a cute image you love? Open up a photo editing program, write the text on it you want, and simply link the photo. Then you have a cute, unique button.
- Backgrounds – here is one of the fun, easier parts (I think anyway). Do you want a patterned background? Is the background image to be at the foreground or background (as I have here for example)? If it’s to be the only background, make sure it’s easy on the eyes and doesn’t make your text difficult to read. Personally, I get really annoyed when I have to squint and get a headache trying to read text over busy backgrounds. http://www.desktopnexus.com/ has many backgrounds to choose from, but be sure to read the creators notes (or contact them for permission) if they do not allow use on promotional websites. http://patterns.ava7.com/ is another website, a bit finicky to use I think but has many pretty, customizable options. http://www.grsites.com/archive/textures/ is another site I have used in the past. And http://webdesignledger.com/freebies/100-seamless-patterns-great-for-creating-website-backgrounds has many pretty options for us ladies out there. As well as http://www.backgroundlabs.com/
- Frames – to frame or not to frame, that is the question. What is a frame? Basically, it’s keeping one or several sections of the webpage a constant, like your tab navigation for example. So when you move throughout the website only certain portions of the page reload instead of the entire page reloading. o Forms – will you have a ‘contact me’ form? Guestbook? Comments and questions? http://www.jotform.com/ is a free (and comes highly recommended) web application to create just those things. http://www.phpform.org/ offers simplified, less customizable options. http://www.formsite.com/ also comes recommended, although I have not used it and I’m unsure if all options are completely free. Customize – and don’t forget if you’re creating the buttons, logos, etc yourself, there are additional ways to customize these. http://picasa.google.com/ is an easy to use program for quick, simple changes. Paint.net is a free, downloadable application with many more options to customize your background, logo and button images. And Gimp is about the closest, free, downloadable application you will get to Photoshop.
- Blog – if you blog, will you switch to using your website as your blogging source? How do you plan to get your current blog readers to make the switch? Or on the flipside, how will you get your current blog readers to go to your website at all?
- Auto responder – do you want to use that service to save yourself the time of personally responding to every notification that someone has signed up for your newsletter?
- Name – What will your website name be? The best is simply your name, but if you have something else in mind be sure to check availability of that name, or check to see if that name is up for auction. Also, don’t name it the name of your current book. Otherwise, what will you do for your next book, create another website? It’s best to have all work found on one site only.
Getting readers to come back: In a previous post, I listed several ways on how to increase traffic to your website. So let’s move on a bit to how to get them to come back. With the exception of blogs, most people need a reason to come back to a website, a little reminder of “Hey, you like it here, come read me again!” The best way to be able to do that is to get their email or physical address. The reason you need this is not only to have continual traffic to your website, but to build your contact list. The more people on your list who might buy your next book, the better!
The most common method to get addresses is through newsletters and updates sign up forms, because it works. Just think about how many of those emails you signed up for, a lot probably. As you’re building your fan base, an easy way to get them to fork over their email is to offer them something, because most people these days won’t sign up for anything without getting something in return. Offer them the first page (or even chapter) to your upcoming novel if they sign up for your monthly newsletter, a chance to win a free copy of your book, discount codes, your unpublished poems or short stories. There are quite a few easy things you can offer to entice them to sign up. The idea might make you feel a bit sneaky, but don’t worry about it. They’re people you already know are interested in you (because they’re there, aren’t they), and getting their email address is the best way to keep in contact with your readers.
Once you’ve gotten them to sign up and have added them to your contact list, that’s your ticket to get them to come back. Send monthly emails with teaser lines and a link to your website with the full information. This can be recent interviews, reviews, news about upcoming events, information about your upcoming books, monthly poems or short stories only people on the newsletter list receive, or even your blog posts. If you blog, send a weekly letter with links to your posts. Or send monthly letters with teasers and links. Don’t bombard them with emails, they’ll unsubscribe, give them just enough to stay interested, feel included, and coming back.
Paid or free:
There are numerous websites offering free webhosting, with built-in website builders. The best way to decide what is best for you is to do a little research. Purchasing a domain is a great option, but comes with it are additional costs to keep in mind; web hosting, if you want more than one email address, etc. If you choose to go the free route, make a list of your top five picks and do a search for reviews.
Resources for building your website:
- Auto-responder, Email, and Website Services:
- Domain Name Auction Site:
- Website Tracking, Statistics and Traffic: