Monday, 22 February 2016

The Most Important Thing to Know before Designing Your Author Website

By Iola Goulton

Author websites. We know we have to have one, but how do you go about actually doing it? I’ve just finished building www.iolagoulton.com, and over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of what I’ve learned to help those of you who are considering designing (or redesigning) an author website.

In designing my site, I learned a few things. However, this first post is more confirming what I already knew was important . . .

Know your genre

Genre informs two important decisions: colour and font. Just like on a book cover, colour and font combine on your website to show visitors what you write (show, don’t tell. Remember that fiction rule?).

If you don’t know what genre you write, you’ve already got your future book marketing off to a bad start. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, genre is important in terms of defining and meeting reader expectations.

Genre is also important when it comes to selling books, because the major online retailers all require publishers to categorise books by genre, and it’s generally agreed that books have a better chance of succeeding (i.e. selling) if they are categorised in a precise and accurate genre.

For a quick background to genre, see the following posts:

Romance 
Mystery, Suspense and Thrillers 
Fantasy and Speculative

Your genre is part of your overall author brand, and your design choices need to be consistent with that brand. Let’s look at some examples (try to ignore any names you recognise, focus on the design elements, and see if they're representative of the genre).

What genres do these websites represent?



It shouldn't surprise you to realise that Inspy Romance is an inspirational romance blog. Even without the title and the tagline, you can probably tell from the pink theme, the floral motif, and the cursive logo font. 


This has a different feel. The chunky font, grey colouring, and bleak cityscape all point to something a little more gritty: thrillers.



This is a clean blog: black, white, and a touch of red (for the email signup button), with minimal styling and easy-to-read fonts. Yes, it's non-fiction—business advice and motivation. 


The combination of a script font, denim blue and brown, along with the wagon wheels give this one away: historical fiction set in the Old West. The cross in the top right is a subtle way of saying Christian historical fiction. The look is a little more old-fashioned than the contemporary romance (below) or the non-fiction and thriller above, but even that reflects the brand. 


Spring colours give this blog a touch of whimsy, as do the hearts sprinkled around, and the informal author photograph. The words are clever in that they reinforce the brand and give a subtle indication of genre: love (indicating romance), hope (representing Christian or inspirational fiction) and hilarity (more of a focus on humour than the darker side of life).




This one is a little harder. It's got a definite contemporary feel, while the blue is reminiscent of water, and the script font again suggests romance or perhaps women's fiction—it doesn't have the obvious romance branding of Inspy Romance or Melissa Tagg. As it happens, Carla's novels are romance, but more romance in the real world, with characters with real world histories and issues. She also writes fantasy as C E Laureano, but this website is definitely all about her contemporary novels.

You can see how the colour, font and style choices inform and reinforce both genre and author brand. The two major design choices are colour and font, and I’ll be back to discuss those in more detail next week.

Meanwhile, check out my new website at www.iolagoulton.com, then tell me what you think in the comments. My brand is clear (at least, I think it is). Does my site reflect that brand?

10 comments:

  1. Good post comparing the various websites and their genres, Iola. It's not something i had naturally thought a lot about making sure the "look and feel" of the site matched one's genre.

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    1. You might not have thought about it, but I think you've achieved it. Your site has a professional but slightly spooky feel which fits with the feel of Angelguard (at least to me!).

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  2. Interesting post Iola, thanks. Having the author website reflect genre almost seems a given. When I constructed my author website in 2013, I wanted a fantasy feel for mine that reflects the nature of the stories I write (intrigue, adventure with some romance) and added my own graphic that could be drawn from my novels http://jeanetteohagan.com/ Though I also wanted a theme that worked on mobiles.

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    1. Jeanette, your comment shows how fast the internet moves. It seems all the themes I looked at when putting iolagoulton.com together were mobile responsive, but it's still new - and it's a great point. A huge percentage of web traffic comes from mobile devices, so it's vital to have an appropriate theme.

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  3. Any tips for those of us who write in multiple genre? This is something I'm struggling with for my site at the moment!

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  4. Excellent post! For me (because I write in multiple genres (historical, mystery, romantic suspense, among others), as Melissa asked about above), I stick with my name as the brand and try not to veer too much in any one direction. But goodness knows I have had website design changes over the years! I'm not the savviest website designer but I finally have a great template I can work with, which is huge because I can't afford a big-time website designer. Thanks for sharing today, Iola! I love looking at cool author sites.

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    1. And in case anyone wanted to check mine out, I see my thumbnail links to my now-defunct Blogger blog. I'm now on Wordpress and you can check that out here: heatherdaygilbert.com.

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  5. Iola, excellent post! Thanks for including Inspy Romance :)

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