I have been helping quite a few authors with their websites recently, and have been making updates to my own. Today I would like to share some lessons and advice that I’ve been thinking about in this process. If you are a writer or creator who wants to establish or improve your website, this may be helpful.
Let’s dig in…
Focus Your Reader
Don’t make your website a mile wide and an inch deep. Too many websites offer a too many links, a crowded website navigation, and unclear direction. Yet when you do arrive on a specific page, they are all really short.
Do the opposite.
Have a clear sense of who your ideal readers is, consider why the are there, and how you can lead them. Whenever possible, have the fewest links you can in your navigation bar. Every time you ask your reader to choose, you are giving them a problem.
For instance, if your “Books” link in the navigation goes to a dropdown listing 4 book titles; well, now the reader has to try to figure out which book to choose. Is the first one in the list the most recent? Are they all in the same genre? Then, they have to click back and forth to go into one page, then back out of it and into the next.
Instead, give them one link — Books — and a page that lead them into what you write and information on each book.
Why do writers create too many links in their website? Their intentions are good. Often, they are hoping to appeal to the widest possible audience, and worry that someone will come looking for something that is hidden. So they crowd the website navigation and give all of the options.
For years, I have been trying to reduce the number of links on my own website at wegrowmedia.com. I recently removed a huge section of my website in order to get the navigation down to four links:
- Work with Me
- Blog & Podcast
To get to this point has required me to make tough choices about who my reader is likely to be, and how I can best help them.I could easily feel justified in expanding the navigation:
- Work with Me
- Start here
Every single one of those options would be filled with meaningful things I have created over the years. But I’m guessing that when people arrive on my site, they don’t want a table of contents of my entire life. It is my job in building the website to lead them to the best resources I have, and to make it easier for them to see who I am and what I do.
For your website, consider what are the three things you would most like a new reader to know about you. Can you focus only on that?
Go Deep With What You Share
For what you do choose to share, go deep. Don’t just share the bare minimum about what you write or why. If someone has come to your website, they want to know more.
Make your About page long. Yes, you can have a short third person bio at the top, because that is what some people want. But then, say “If you would like to know more, keep reading…” and share a deeper look at your writing, your inspiration, your background — all written in first person.
For your Book page, don’t just share a short description if you also have a wonderful backstory about the book too. If you want an example of an amazing Book page, check out Jasmin Darznik’s website and the page for her new book, The Bohemians. She and I worked together recently, and it was amazing to see how she kept making this page better and better.
Your website is how you present your writing to the world. Don’t hide it. This is the place to go deep and open people up to your creative vision.
Review Every Word, Every Link, Once a Year
Several months ago I shared how I have been going through a creative reset. I do this the last quarter of every year, but sometimes the work that comes out of it takes months to complete. I am still working through a long list of changes that are the result of that work. One of those is to update my website.
I’ve had a website for 15 years, and my company site is now 10 years old. Yet, I’m always having to update it, going through it again with a fine-tooth comb. I’m surprised at how I missed some obvious updates that need to happen. If you have a website, regularly go through it and reread every word, check every link, go to every page. Consider what is outdated, what need to be updated, and what is missing entirely.
For my own site, I realized that my homepage was promoting a program I no longer offer. That my newsletter sign up box barely mentioned the newsletter itself. That there were dated photos that I could easily update.
I’m also looking at the site with fresh eyes. At the top of the homepage, I mention Human-Centered Marketing, yet I never fully explain it. So now I’m building out a new section to give people a proper introduction to it. I’ve also been creating new sections for core aspects of my work that were previously hidden, such as my Clarity Cards process, the Creative Success Pyramid, and more.
On an author website, you may be surprised how often links to buy an author’s books books are missing, or the homepage has language such as “Pre-order my new book now — coming in September 2017!” But there are likely smaller updates you can make about what you write, why, and how the reader can engage with you.
This is a work in progress, which is why I recommend you review your website once a year.
And I need to follow my own advice! The page on my website for my book has to be updated. It is way too ‘thin’ given how much has happened with the book in the past three years. So I’m adding that to the list of things to update.
Show Up as a Person
On so many websites, I can’t see the person behind html. They don’t really share much on what they write, why, or what drives them as a creator. Consider the lessons social media has taught us. Instead of worrying about your website being “professional,” which sometimes translates to something cold and distant, instead focus on making a meaningful connection with the reader. You can do this by showing up as who you are.
Write in first person, address the reader directly. If you are comfortable with it, share photos of yourself on your About page. On your contact page, provide an actual email address, don’t use a contact form.
Here are three other recent posts I’ve shared that may be useful:
- Two ways to create an effective author website
- What Makes a Great Author Website
- Conduct an audit of your author platform