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Author Websites—What Annoys You?

What irritates you most—and what do you think really cool?

These days, just about everybody has a website. The only thing that varies is the quality.

I recently came across an excellent article by Thomas Umstattd Jr on Author Media about how author websites can irritate readers. It makes illuminating reading.

Thomas lists in his piece the eight points that are likely to most annoy visitors to your website. As he explains, if you’ve ever tried to find something on a website that’s not intuitive to use, you don’t tend to write to the webmaster with advice, but instead you go to the next competitor on the list and buy from them instead.

An author’s shop window
So, the importance of a well-designed, easy-to-navigate site is really important. It’s an author’s shop window, after all, and you can’t expect to gain customers if they can’t find what they’re looking for.

First up is if people can’t find an easy way to buy your latest book. Visitors are used to being able to click on a book cover and go straight to a sales page or sales website. Occasionally, clicking on a book cover simply produces a larger version of the image.

Thomas suggests that if your book is available only on Amazon, that you link directly to the book’s page on that site, with a smart link to take them to the store in the correct territory. But, if your book is available from a selection of outlets, then provide suitable sales links for those who are Amazon adverse.

Second is if people can’t find the status of your work-in-progress. He suggests using a plugin that will add a progress bar to the website, according to how far through the project you are. This sounds terrifying to me. I think I’d rather stick to the occasional blog post about how the latest book is coming along.

Number three on the list is if readers can’t easily contact you. I confess that if I’m deep in a book it can take me a while to respond to messages, but I do try to get to all of them. Thomas suggests several methods of contact, including a PO Box mailing address, a contact form on the website, social media profiles, and even a phone number. I was surprised to see this last one, and I would not willingly give out my phone number on the internet.

At the same time, he advises turning off notifications from social media and your email program, to give you the headspace to write.

The fourth irritation is if people can’t find your website on Google. Getting the site optimised for search engines is vital. If you don’t have the skills in SEO yourself, then hire a professional. Thomas points out that each book should have an individual page, and anything written on the home page of your website should be in third person, so it mentions your name rather than ‘I’. The same goes for your author biography. It’s very exasperating, if you’re doing a piece on an author, to have to go through their biog, changing every first-person mention to third.

Books in your series
Not being able to browse your backlist is at number five on the list, and particularly if people can’t look up the previous books in your series and work out what order they should be read. It’s also a good idea to have a printable list of your backlist books, in order.

Number six on the irritation list is if visitors to your site can’t find a good quality image of you, your book covers, or any maps that form a part of your story. Particularly relevant for novels set in a specific location—real or imaginary. As Thomas reminds us, people often read or listen on their phones, where it would be difficult to see the detail of a map on the screen.

He advises putting a large resolution image of any maps on the book page of your website, so readers can study them more easily, or including the maps related to a particular book in a blog post. And, of course, having hi-res author photos available for press or PR use.

Seven is pop-ups. They can be great and serve a useful purpose if you want to grow your email list. But, it’s the timing of pop-ups that is usually the problem. They appear before you’ve had a chance to read much of anything, and before you’ve decided that yes, you would like to sign up, then are never around later when you want them. Thomas reckons corner pop-ups are less irksome than centre ones, and delaying their arrival tends to work better.

Responsive design
Lastly, these days many people will be visiting author websites on their phones rather than via a desktop or laptop, so making sure the website has responsive design that will alter to display to best advantage on a mobile screen is really important.

What irritates YOU the most about author websites you’ve visited—or any other websites, for that matter—and what features did you think were really cool? I’d love to know.

Meanwhile, if you want to read the full article by Thomas Umstattd Jr, go to Author Media.

This week’s Word of the Week is bibliosmia, meaning to smell a book for pleasure, or the aroma of a good book.

You can read the fully illustrated version of this blog, and comment on it, over on Murder Is Everywhere.