Author/editor Jeri Walker has a great post for writers with a complete checklist of what your blog/website should have to make it most efficient for readers to navigate.
In the search for potential editing clients, I visit a lot of websites. That effort has culminated as an author website checklist. It never ceases to amaze me how many authors don’t provide a way to get in touch, whether via a contact form or an email address. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. In this day and age, an appealing and user-friendly website is a must. As an author, you might not be a tech guru, but that’s not an excuse for a lackluster website. I am by no means an expert in web design, but the information provided here can serve to light a fire toward whipping your website into shape.
An Author Website Checklist
This post serves as an author website checklist with helpful links added where appropriate. The five main categories progress from the macro to the micro level to reflect how users typically engage with content. This is not a how-to list. Rather, this list can help pinpoint areas you may need to improve on your author website, whether by learning how to do it yourself or by hiring a webmaster to do it for you. Many pressing issues can be alleviated by starting with a professionally designed theme. Word Bank has used the Nexus theme from Elegant Themes for a couple of years now, and I have been pleased.
At first glance, the visual appeal of the blog appears to complement its intended message. A new visitor can quickly surmise the site’s main focus. This author website checklist for visual presentation includes:
First Impression: How inviting does the site appear? Does it seem too bland or too busy? Does the design fit the your primary genre?
Dates: Is the content consistently dated or undated? Formatted for target country?
Mobile-Friendly: Is the site optimized for viewing on SmartPhone and tablets?
Pop-Ups: If an automatic opt-in box comes up, how distracting is it? Does it appear right away? In what location?
Colors: Are the colors used purposely? Do they complement each other or seem jarring?
Blog Name: What is the blog’s name? Is it different from the URL? Does it feature the author’s name?
Tagline: Does the tagline sufficiently hint at the purpose of the blog and its niche? Is the author’s genre alluded to?
Logo: How memorable is the site’s logo image? Does it have one?
Font Size and Type: Is the typeface large enough and dark enough to easily read? In general, black text on a light background is best for readability.
Theme Width: Is the main post area fairly wide, or is it too narrow?
Background: If an image, is it distracting in any way? Is it solid or transparent?
Landing Page: Does the choice of a dynamic or a static landing page seem appropriate? Is the author’s book(s) featured in a prominent spot?
Sidebar Widgets: Purposeful or distracting? Does the size seem right?
Ads and Affiliate Links: If present, are they relevant? Easy to read? Placed logically?
Organization and Ease of Navigation
The content is laid out in a logical way that anticipates the user’s needs. If appropriate, information can be accessed from more than one location. This author website checklist for organization and ease of navigation includes:
Overall: Does the organization fit reader expectations? Does the content fit the structure? Could plug-ins, widgets, and images be bogging your site down?
Menus: Readable, clickable, brief text? Appropriate location? Top? Bottom? Sidebar?
Most Recent Post: Is it featured so the reader can easily identify it? If not, could readers get discouraged by trying to locate it from various categories?
Pages: Does each have a clear purpose and complete info? Could any be condensed? As an author website, there should be a page for books, about, contact, and appearances and publications.
Excerpts: Do posts on the main page appear by excerpt only with a “read more” link? Otherwise, a new reader has to scroll through too much information in order to quickly surmise the site.
Follow Buttons: Are social media buttons displayed? Do they open in a new window?
Search Box: Present an accessible? Do searches go quickly or does the site slow down?
Sign-Up Forms: Are email subscription forms in place and in easy to see locations?
Contact Form: Is the form present in the sidebar or a separate page? Does it work?
Sharing Buttons: Is it easy to share the page? Does the author’s Twitter handle show when the user opts to tweet the post or page?
Commenting Ease: How user-friendly is the comment process? Does the user have to sign up for a commenting services, or can comments be made in a commenting section native to the website in question?
Subscribe to Comments: Can commenters receive email notifications to follow the discussion? Is a box automatically checked to subscribe to new blogs posts? Please be aware it’s better practice to let potential new readers check that box rather than setting it to be pre-checked. Continue reading . . .