Website Design: The Basics by Cassiel Knight

I know I need to give you all a new post on Platform and I will but next week. I coordinated the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition’s conference that went off this past weekend wonderfully and it took all the time and energy I’ve had these past two weeks. Whew! Great conference but was I exhausted. I’m going to give a special shout out to my terrific friend, a guest poster here, Jessie Smith who did a lot of keep me energized and got my back on quite a few times. Love ya, gal!

design_graphic11I thought, since I’ve been talking about promo and marketing, I’d give you this little bit on website design. This workshop was written and provided to our authors at Champagne Book Group and is really a basic, quick class. I hope you find something of use. Please note that I do not endorse any of these sites unless I specifically note that. They are provided merely for education and/or a suggested place to review.

First, let’s talk about why an author should have a website.

Studies have shown that having a website is the number one way readers find and stay with you. By website, I don’t necessarily mean blog but they can be the same.

The two key things to keep in mind are discoverability and content.

According to Kelly Gallagher from, a survey of 3,000 book buyers found that women, ages 30 – 44, (a coveted key demographic) discover new books in this order: 1)( In-person friend referral 2) In-person retail store display 3) Visit author website 4) Review bestseller lists

1) How discoverable are you? New marketing buzzword meaning how do you get readers to discover you and your books?
     — Competition is fierce right now – market is flooded with books. How do you stand out?
     — Klout score – measures your influence – your ability to drive action on social networks, your discoverability in essence.untitled
     — Your site’s Alexa rating – metrics, tools and analysis to increase web traffic – where do you rate?

2) Content is king
     — Frequently updated
     — Engaging
     — Interesting and useful
     — What readers want – content specifically targeted to your reader base. Do you know who they are?
     — There’s a really great article on this here.

If you can keep these things in mind, you’ll have the nuts and bolts of promo and marketing.

So, the why of having a website is that it’s your online business card. An article in Writer’s Digest says: A writer’s website..shows editors and publishers you can do the job, nets potential readers and makes you accessible to anyone who might want you for a book or article assignment.

What you choose to use is up to you. It’s not necessary to buy an expensive site but you can. My first site was homegrown then WordPress and finally, while it’s still on WordPress because it’s easy to use, I had a designer do mine. The goal is to have something up, something professional that gives a place to readers to discover you and your books.

The steps to get started are easy:
1) Reserve your domain name – reserve your author name, your world if you want to use that later, etc. Determine what you might want to use and reserve them ASAP. You can reserve via Go Daddy, Yahoo, etc. It’s sometimes easier to reserve at the same time you set up your host but do check to make sure it’s available.

2) Determine your site host. Here are some places you can use. There are many more and the best advice I can give you is to research before you leap. We’ll talk below about considerations to selecting the site. The ones I’m listing are the most common ones and I’ve used several. I warrant none of these. If you have any experience with any of these, feel free to share.
    — WordPress ( is the free, easy to use site; is the more complicated, bells and whistles site but you need to know basic coding)
    — Blogger
    — 1&1
    — Go Daddy
    — Quicken
    — Tripod
    — Yahoo
    — iPage
    — bluehost
    — hub
    — FatCow
    — GreenGreeks
    — Host Gator
    — Weebly

3) Most free sites requires you to have their sponsor ads on your site. It’s up to you as to whether you want that or how intrusive they are.

4) Some of these sites actually have wizards that will help you create a basic site. Their ease of use ranges so check that out before you decide.

5) More things to think about:
    — Bandwidth (data transfer – more traffic, more data, higher bandwidth is needed)
    –File storage (size of your website)
    — Email boxes (if you want)
    — Sub-domains (additional domains attached to main site)
    — Reliability and speed of access (uptime 99% or higher – meaning less down time for site)
    — Control Panel (you do the work from here or someone makes the changes for you

In picking your host, ask yourself:
• Is this site credible?
• Is it trustworthy?
• Is this a professional?
• Does this site make me feel welcome?
• Am I in the right place?
• Is this site easy to use?

By the same token, those questions you ask about your host will also be thought of by visitors when they arrive at your site so keep them in mind. With your website, the key point is that your site is less about YOU than your visitor. Keep your visitors in mind, always. Know what your targeted site visitor will be looking for: Books, Contests, Contact. Maybe a blog. You may want all the bells and whistles but your visitors want somethin that has great content, is updated regularly, and is easy to use. If the bells and whistles keep that in mind, then have them. If they clutter your pages, take forever to load or don’t have a purpose, then get rid of them.

A recent study found that a website’s design is more important than credibility indicators such as having a privacy policy, awards or certificates. Now, for readers, that might be a little different but I submit not so much. How many of you decide to pick up a book because of awards? I mean as a sole or major consideration. I don’t.

Let’s talk about the basic anatomy of a writer’s website. You can have more or less depending on what you feel adds value to your readers. For those of you just wanting a basic one, here’s what you need as a minimum:
• All about you
• Your contact information
• A picture of you
• A press page
• Testimonials
• Samples of your work
• Buying information
• Showcases your personality, your platform

Now, for those of you who already have a website, how does it fit in with the below?

1) Is your website and assault on the eye? Meaning is it made with garish colors, hard to read fonts and flashing graphics? You do want to have a website that catches the eye but that doesn’t mean it is filled with flashing things, bright colors and slow loading pictures.

2) Does your website take a long time to load? If I click on a website and it takes more than a second or two to load, I’m gone. Most of us don’t have time to wait for a site to load and I have a fast connection. If I was dial-up, you’d lose me that much faster. Don’t give readers a reason to click away.

3) Do you have annoying music playing in the background? Honestly, people just don’t like that but I’m continually shocked at how often people still do this. Don’t play music unless you are a musician.

4) Do you have a bio reflective of you and your writing? How to Write instruction on folders

5) Does your website reflect your brand, your tag? Romance with Kick-Assitude!

6) Are all your available books listed? If you don’t have a book out yet, do you have a Coming Soon page? Do you have active buy links and ISBNs?

7) Have you listed all the places online you can be found especially – Twitter, Facebook and other Social Media?

8) How about a FAQ page? You can put answers to questions you’ve been asked. Most of us have something we’ve been asked we can share with readers.

9) This is one I found interesting and never thought about. Maybe you haven’t either. Take a few minutes and think about why this might be good – Do your links open into new windows? Most readers, like me, prefer a new window to open so that I can leave that page but not risk leaving the site and never returning, which happens. Oddly enough, the preference is to new window over using back.

10) Do you have a contact page? How would readers get a hold of you? I’ve seen this time and time again. I want to contact an author but there’s no readily available way to do that. I don’t have time to track down an author I want to chat. Nor does your reader so don’t make it hard for them to contact you. Who knows, you could miss out on something important.

11) Here’s a way to help your fellow authors. Do you have links to favorite sites or fellow authors? In an attempt to connect with the author, readers will likely click through to pages and authors you link to. And it’s a good way to help each other out. Don’t go overboard – but have some interesting links.

12) Do you have a new section that highlights exciting things happening with you and your books as well as telling readers where they might meet you (local events, conferences, etc.)

13) Do you have a Home page? Is it clutter free, easy to read and a good jumping off place to other interesting parts of your website? Don’t fill it with too much information and try to get it in a window view. Visitors might miss things because they see the first stuff that’s loaded and don’t scroll down. Make it easy for your readers to find more. The purpose is to provide a place to get out the most important news quickly. You have seconds to draw in your readers and most will call it quits rather than read a page full of info.

14) Is it clear to readers what you write? If you write mystery, is your site light and breezy with a forest scene? That wouldn’t say mystery.

15) Do you refresh your content at least three times a week? You see, there’s no need to refresh daily and I know some authors only refresh once a week and that’s fine. The key is to refresh regularly.

Struggling with what to put in your website? I have heard, many times, new authors say they don’t know what to put in their website. Here are some content ideas:
–An interesting author bio
–Available books
–Coming Soon books – blurbs, covers, etc. Don’t have some of this yet? You still have enough to post something about your book and can give readers an idea of when it will come out and from whom.
–Links – to your books, other authors, research sites, fun sites
–Inside information about your books, the worlds within and the characters. Highlight some interesting research you found in creating your stories.
–Have you written any articles on writing or otherwise? Share those too
–Free content – short stories, free stories, recipes if you write a book with cooking elements, gardening tips, etc. For example, I love Shih Tzus and when my site is back up, I intend to talk about my two dogs and Shih Tzus in general. This falls in perfectly ‘cause Shih Tzus have kick-assitude. 
–Reviews of your books. If you don’t have any, surely you have comments from friends. Take a sentence or two and post them. Then replace when you get official reviews. One of my friends had a published author beta read her book then posted the authors comments. It was enough to get attention.
–Work in Progress – give your readers a blurb or except of something you are currently working on. It’s a fun way to engage interest and is easy content. Do make sure it is edited – don’t put up something riddled with errors.
–A media kit. It’s not too early to work on one. We can talk about what those should look like later but the basics are press releases, nice author photo, short description of your book, long description of your book, information about previous books or publishing credits, bio, reviews and services you offer (speaker at workshops, write articles, training, etc.)

Hope you enjoyed this overview of website design. Got any tips or tricks? Please feel free to share.


Posted on March 20, 2013, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on web development courses.



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