Planning your site
You're ready for a web site. You've just gotten a contract from a publisher, your first book will soon be published, or you're searching for a publisher and want to show you're serious about building a career as an author.
Or you're a small business, and people ask for your web site URL when they ask for your business card. How do you start?
First, you have to make a couple of decisions. Are you going to do it yourself, or are you going to hire someone to do it for you? If you plan to hire someone, I hope you're considering me. Even if you're not, though, read on for some information you'll need no matter what you decide to do.
If you decide to try your hand at creating your own site, you can find the information you need to start working on your site on my Resources page.
Either way, though, there are a few things you need to think about. You'll need to have at least an idea of what you want your site to look like.
Comments? Contact me here.
1. Your Web site is a marketing tool.
- Every item that appears on your site is a business decision; each word and every graphic, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, must serve your purpose.
- The organization and design should be carefully thought out and planned out before you start the actual building process.
- You have to keep in mind who you're trying to reach, what they will be looking for when they come to your site, and what you want them to do when they get there.
2. You have very little time and very little space to capture a viewer's attention, so you have to make it count.
- Many viewers judge the value to them of a web site based on what they initially see on the screen.
- You have only the area of that screen to convince the viewer to stay and explore your site further.
- Therefore, you need to make sure the things that are most important for a viewer to see are up front and at the top.
- You can't afford to waste that space.
- Forget splash screens unless there's a really good reason for them.
- Limit graphics to those that tell something important.
- Make sure it loads quickly. If it takes more than 30 seconds, your time's up and your potential customer has moved on to another site.
3. Your Web site needs a hook, just as a book does.
- What do you offer that's interesting to a potential viewer?
- Why should a viewer go deeper into your site?
4. Graphics are fun, but they take up space and can draw attention away from your message.
- Include graphics but make sure they serve to reinforce your message.
- Provide interesting text for people to read while they wait for the graphics to load.
- Make sure it isn't a long wait.
5. Your Web site is how potential customers get to know you.
- It should reflect your personal style and your writing style. If you're writing is light and humorous, your Web site should be, too.
- Do you want dark and mysterious? Cheerful? Outdoorsy? Elegant? Sensual? Romantic?
- Consider where you are taking your reader.
6. You need to make sure you do the things that will help potential customers find your site.
- Learn how to submit your site to search engines or ask your web designer whether she will do it for you.
- If you're designing your own site, you need to learn a bit about META tags. They need to be set up properly to be sure search engine spiders can index your site.
- Especially if you're using a WYSIWYG editor like Frontpage or Dreamweaver, you need to be aware that they don't default to setting up the META tags the way you'll want them, and it won't be obvious to you that they haven't.
- Get your name and link out there on as many other sites as you can, paying special attention to sites frequented by the people you want to attract.
7. You need to engage the viewer.
- Offer your guests some reward for sticking around.
- Offer them a gift or a freebie -- a story they can view; promotional items they can request; or a contest they can enter.
8. Most of the principles of good design are true for Web design.
- Consider your palette: use a limited number of complementary colors.
- Limit fonts to no more than three and consider carefully where and how you use them. Better to vary your fonts by size and careful use of bold and italics.
- Give the viewer's eye a path through the site.
- Graphics should enhance rather than overwhelm.
9. It's not easy to design a site that works across all platforms!
- Web site layout is not the same as print layout. You cannot assume that what you see in your browser window or the design software's window is what every other visitor to your site will see.
- Keep in mind the different platforms and hardware arrangements people have and build for the most commonly used ones.
- Check your site across as many different hardware/software platforms, browsers, and screen resolution settings as you can.
- At a minimum, check your site in as many versions of Internet Explorer as you can find, as well as in Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera.
10. It's YOUR site.
- Even if you're not doing the design yourself, it still has YOUR name on it.
- Don't let a designer who wants to experiment with the latest technologies or try out adventurous new graphics sell you on a site that's not yours.
Comments? Contact me here.
1. Loading your site down with graphics and nesting your tables eighteen levels deep so the viewer has time to get that cup of coffee they've been wanting while it loads.
2. Making sure that when it does load, your site has so many pretty pictures, your visitor won't want to bother reading the text. Then again, who needs text anyway?
3. Assuming the viewer wants a multimedia experience, including music, lots of animated gifs and every other novelty you can find. They'll not only draw the attention of the people in the surrounding cubicles at work or wake the people sleeping in the next room, and slow down load times, they'll keep your viewers so occupied installing plug-ins and media players, they'll be sure to describe your site to others as "an interesting experience." They won't be coming back for more, however.
4. Offering the viewer a challenge by using light text on a light background, dark text on a dark background, or any text on a busy background. The viewer's eyes will get some much-needed exercise as she struggles to read your wonderful words.
5. Giving them frames--everybody loves frames; they really love them when the link they click on opens in that teensy frame.
6. Using a cheap or free site, so you can be sure the viewer will be bombarded with lots of interesting popup boxes, distracting banners, etc.
7. Hiding the good stuff. Burying all your links in the text or putting them at the bottom of a twenty-inch scroll. Everybody likes a treasure hunt.
8. Making the viewer drill down five screens before you tell them what they want to know. The harder you have to work to get the information you want, the more valuable it is, right?
9. Sparing the public the necessity of contacting you by providing no way to do it.
10. Letting your viewer feel superior by making sure you include a few grammar errors or spelling mistakes for them to find. It's guaranteed to let them know you they can trust you to tell a story they're going to want to read!