Planning Ahead - The Website

Those of you who weighed in with your two cents yesterday regarding 'The Blog', THANK YOU! If you didn't comment and would like to, feel free. I'm reading and taking into consideration everything that comes in.

Today I'd like to get your feedback on websites. Authors' websites. I've been surfing the Net and there are some great ones out there. To get the 'look' I really want, I'd have to hire a professional web designer or bone up more on my own goober skills. Considering my current budget, sharpening goober skills it is. A man checked out some really interesting looking books on web design yesterday at the library. Duh. Why didn't I think of that?

Anyhoo, I'm in the process of doing a complete website overhaul. Here's how you can help. Share with us one or two of your favorite author websites, and tell us what you like most about it. I learn best by example. *g* Plus, I'm sure there are others like me who'd like to get an idea of what's hot and what's not. Let's swap faves. I'll start.

I like a lot of websites, but I'll just pick two that recently caught my eye.

Sandra Brown
What I like:

*The colors. The blue and white really pop.
*The picture of Sandra on the opening page. Actually, I love all of her pictures. Reminds me that I HAVE to get new photos done professionally, and soon.
*The 'Book' page. She broke down her list into sub-genres. If an author writes in several sub-genres, but a reader only likes one of those, they should be able to see what's what.
*The overall look. Which is basically pretty simple. To me it's visually appealing, easy to navigate, and covers the basics.

Linda Lael Miller
What I like:
*The colors. Airy, bright. Easy on the eye.
*The theme. The banner at the top represents both her historical westerns and contemporary romantic suspense. Two simple images combined. Awesome.
*The overall look. Not a lot of bells and whistles here. Just basic info on her books and a peek into her busy life. Her blog is a welcome addition as it is 'personal'.

Okay. Those are two faves of mine. You're up!


Cynthia said…
I don't have any ready examples, but I love websites that are clean and easy to navigate. I also love when the naviagtion is on every page. I've seen some author sites where the main navigation disappears the further into the site you go.

I like your examples though.

A couple things that bug me about sites? Navigation that's too clever. I went to a writer's site recently, a writer new to me, and couldn't figure out the navigation because I didn't know the books.

Another problem I have is that I'm on dial-up. I'm not saying everyone should dumb down their sites for slower internet speeds, but making a site so graphic heavy that it never loads on dial-up is frustrating.

The biggest problem I have is sounders and music on sites. Especially if I can't turn it off. The only cd player I have is my computer and I'm often listening to music while surfing the web.
Gabriele C. said…
learning how to create a nice website can be fun. I've got a really big book that has all the fun things like XHTML, CSS, PHP and Java. I'm working my way through it. Though I have the advantage that I've encoded websites since 1996 and am pretty good with the HTML-based stuff. What I want to tackle next is templates (I've already played around with my blog template a lot). My website is not very sophisticated so far, but the advantage is that it didn't take me long to put it up. :)

Have fun!

The blue in your second example is a bit intense on my screen and doesn't have enough contrast to the script.

*Gabriele wants new eyes - or her old eyes back* ;)

Btw, did you borrow Scott Oden's verification words? hdhrsduz sound really Aegyptian
Beth Ciotta said…
Cynthia, thanks for sharing. Those are some really great points. I also prefer easy navigation. Regarding heavy graphics, music and such, I think those of us who have high speed Internet tend to forget what it was like when with dial up. Now that you mention it, I can remember getting frustrated while waiting for a site to load, and giving up. Thank you for the reminder!
Beth Ciotta said…
I love the theme and color of your website, Gabriele. Nice font size too. Easy navigation. Very nice! What's the name of that 'big book'? LOL

I hear ya about eye sight. Oh to have 20/20 again! Regarding those word verifications, they're killing me! Sometimes I've had to retype three times because I can't read it and keep getting it wrong!

vlosqdiv -- Russian for "What gives?"
Gabriele C. said…
Thanks for the compliments, Beth. The book is in German, unfortunately. ;)

bqugw - must be Klingon
Tori Lennox said…
I'm Cynthia on less graphics. I'm still on dial-up, too, so when I have to wait and wait and wait (ad nauseum) to see a site, I give up and go elsewhere.

Some day I have hopes to move into the 21st century, but it would be a lot easier if I didn't live in the Back of Beyond. :)
Tori Lennox said…
Er, that should have been I'm WITH Cynthia, etc. I hate it when I leave words out.
Cynthia said…
Another thing that I have trouble with, even with very good eye sight, is websites where the text is color on black. I don't know about any one else, but that just makes my eyes burn if I have much to read. I've seen sites with florescent text on black and I wonder if they really want people to linger on the site at all.

One author, who in the past has had some wonderful websites, is David Baldacci. He usually does a site overhaul with every new book release - which means we're due for a new one. I should see if I can find the archive of one of the older sites - it was beautiful.
Cynthia said…
Okay, I hope this works. I managed to find a web archive copy of Baldacci's site.

This was the version I was most impressed with.
Beth Ciotta said…
Tori, I bet there are a lot of people still on dial up. Question: Is it just the front/home page that slows you down? What about once you're loaded? If you go to a book shelf page or photo gallery, doea that take forever too?
Beth Ciotta said…
Cynthia, I know a lot of people who don't like color on black. You're not alone. Oh, and THANKS for the link to Baldacci's old site. It was fab and it gave me an idea! :)

Gabriele, um, German? Although I am part German, I can't read or peak a lick of it. My loss. :(

nveok -- My cat sneezing
Cynthia said…
If there's a "skip intro" feature on the front page, to allow us on dial-up to get to the guts of the site, then I don't have a problem with a real graphic/flash animated heavy front page. I might even, on those moments when I don't have 5 or 6 or 8 windows open, wait for the whole thing to load and enjoy. It's just when I'm not given an option that it's frustrating.
Anna Lucia said…
Beth, one note of caution.

You've already said that you don't have enough time to do writing and promotion (not in so many words, but the inference is clear!) and now you want to add web design to that list?

Whenever we decide whether we can afford something, we HAVE to factor in a value for our time. It's one of the first principles of time management! Your time is valuable! For your writing, promotion, library job and entertainment jobs.

Sometimes it's too easy to say, "I couldn't possibly afford that," when we're only looking at the cash cost.

(And I'm speaking as someone who is currently trying to find someone to service a car on credit, so boy, do I know what cash flow problems can be like!!!)

And, I'm really, really sorry to all the amateurs out there, but the brutal truth is that you can spot a professionally designed site a mile off.

For a comfortable halfway house, I do like some of the sites based on a Wordpress template, which the owner then updates his/herself. That way you're only paying for initial set up, and since that's a template rather than starting from scratch, it's not too much.

As an example of the above, I like Julie Cohen's site, and Suzanne McMinn's is good, too.
Beth Ciotta said…
Hi, Anna, thank you for your thoughts. You're right. Time is valuable and I have thought about the word pres thing. I use Front Page, and there are some basic templates, but you can also purchase soem really elaborate ones for a reasonable price. Thanks for the reminder. I'll look into this. Right now I'm just feeling things out. Good luck on your budget balancing!!
Tori Lennox said…
Re the books page, etc. It depends on the graphics. If the page is really graphics intensively, I get tired of waiting and will either hit "stop" (so all the graphics come up as little empty boxes) or just give up and go elsewhere. There are times when my dial-up connection is REALLY slow. Drives me insane.

All that said, even though I usually get tired of waiting, when I do wait for a Flash intro (or whatever) to load, they're usually very cool. :)
Stacie said…
I love Meg Cabot's site ( easy navigation with drop down menus, coordinating colors, it just all goes together well.

Ever thought of doing book cover slideshows? They're super-easy to do and look great!
Olga said…
I like Brenda Novak's and Allison Brennan's websites. Very professional, easy to navigate, lots of useful information and links but not overdone.
Beth Ciotta said…
Thanks for your thoughts and all of the web site reccomendations, ladies. I'm heading over to heck them out!
Roni Denholtz said…
Julia Quinn has a great website too. Since I don't have the time to learn how to do a website, IO pay someone and try to update it several times a year. I knew exactly what I wanted, though, before I contacted her.
Beth Ciotta said…
Hi, Roni. Just checked out Julia Quinn's website. You're right. Very nice. You're website looks great as well. I'm tinkering with the idea of hiring someone as well. As Anna noted earlier, sure ould be a time saver. :)

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