Web Design Dos and Don’ts for Authors

You want people to enjoy your website. You want them to share it. As authors, it’s often up to us to design our sites. We don’t always have the funds or the connections to have someone else do it. Fortunately, sites like GoDaddy, WordPress and Squarespace do most of the work for you. But, authors are serial offenders when it comes to poor web design. Here are a few design tips to get readers to stick around and tell their friends about your site.
Avoid light text on dark background
This seems to be the number one design choice for authors of dark fiction. I fell into this trap too. When I first started blogging, I figure I’d attract more readers if my site looked all horror-y, meaning have a black background with white or bright blue text.
When I started studying other site designs, I noticed most had a white or light background with black/dark text. I didn’t know the reason at the time but I wanted my blog to look professional so I dumped the black background and instead used images and font to convey “dark.”
Readers’ eyes get tired faster if they’re looking at a page with light text on a dark background.
You know when you’ve been inside all day, you walk outside and you’re blinded by the bright sun? That’s what reading on a dark background feels like.
If you want to have a dark background on your site:

Or, have less text on the site.

The Dos and Don’ts of Dark Web Design

Light vs. Dark Web Design

White Space
Negative space is your friend. It gives your site a cleaner, more professional feel. Don’t try to put everything on one page. I far too often come across author websites where their home page is just cluttered. You don’t want people to get overwhelmed. You want them to have a relaxing time while they explore your site. When a page is too cluttered, important things get buried.

Use fancy fonts sparingly
I used to come across this more often. Not so much anymore. You can give your page headers interesting font but please keep your body text at a nice safe font like Times New Roman or Georgia. Don’t go happy with the italics.

Make social media follow links easy to find
When I share a posts on Twitter, I like mentioning the person/site I got the post from. There have been a few times where I couldn’t find the site’s social media links. Usually, I give up and don’t mention the person. 
You might be thinking the site’s not on social media. 
There are certain times where the author intrigues me enough that I want to find them on Twitter or Facebook. I do a search on those social networks. Guess what? I find the brand. Most of the time, the person is on social media but it’s difficult to find their follow button/link/widget on their site. 
Please have your follow buttons some place people can easily find them.

They’re usually at the top of the page or in the sidebar. My blog has a floating social follow bar. It follows you as you scroll down the page.

Sidebars aren’t always mobile friendly 
If you’ve spent some time online, which you’ve probably have, you might’ve noticed many websites don’t have sidebars. That’s because sidebars aren’t mobile friendly. In some cases, like with blogger, you can’t help but have a one.
Try opening this blog on your phone. 
No sidebar. 
If you open this blog on a tablet or smartphone with a large screen, you may see the sidebar but the text will be too small.

Ditch the Sidebar on Your Website and Increase Conversion Rates by 26%

This is something to keep in mind. Don’t put too much stock into your sidebar content. There’s a chance many of your readers won’t see it. If it’s important, put it on another page. 
Blogger has actually up’ed their game when it comes to website templates. I haven’t changed my site design because I like having that big header. Many of the templates I like don’t have a large header space.

On the other hand, sidebars can work for sites that aren’t text heavy. It’s mostly used for navigation. I don’t see many sites putting a lot of content in the sidebar.
20 Examples of Outstanding Website Sidebars for Inspiration
15 Amazing Websites with Modern Sidebar Menu Layout

If you want to see how your site looks on different devices:
In Chrome:

  1. Right click your webpage
  2. Select Inspect 
On this page, you can select different devices and Chrome will show you how your site looks on those devices.
Optimize images for slow internet speeds
Yes, we live in the age of high speed internet but there are still some people, me, who can’t afford fast internet. Generally, internet speeds in places like trains and parks are slow because some many people are logged on. It’s best to make sure your site loads fast for everyone so readers won’t give up and leave.
Reduce the size of your images. 
As a blog tour host, I get book cover images usually at 1000px in width. That file is way too big to put online. It would slow the site’s load time. I shrink the image to around 800px in width. This size gets that nice big preview image when you share it on Facebook.

Most website hosts let you edit your image, including reducing the size. 

10 Must Know Image Optimization Tips

Don’t be color happy
You many have three favorite colors. Doesn’t mean those three colors work together. Website templates come with themes. Most of the time there’s no need to change the colors. If you have to change them, find some that work well together. I’ve been using Adobe’s Color Wheel to find complementary colors.

10 Tips for a Successful Author Website