Friday, January 3, 2014

Website Layout Tips

There are a lot of first-timers creating their own websites for talking about books or maybe an author page. I do the best I can with what I have, but years ago I used to code html and customize websites. I was around when blogging was the big thing. I also visit a lot of sites, and based on my personal experience, thought it might be helpful to list out some things that drive me nuts, and things that make me interested. Take it with a grain of salt because we all have our preferences; this is just my observation since the 90s when it all began. But since it's the New Year and a lot of us are making changes, this might help inspire you, or even help a new blogger trying to navigate through the world of web design.

The Good:
  • Easy to navigate menu located toward the top.
  • Fast-loading page that isn't heavy on graphics or java
  • An awesome header! I'm a sucker for a really great graphic header or design
  • Columns: I like to see them. A few sites just have a solid color across the page and the left and right columns blend in.
  • How to follow/contact you close to the top, if not on the menu.
  • A way for me to search your site
  • If you are book blogger, I love seeing links to your top favorite reads, recommends, and things like that. (lists). If you are an author, I like a link to your book page with all your titles and links to retailers.
  • A background that matches your theme. I get confused when I'm on a book website and the background is a picture of dogs running in a meadow. ;-)
  • Frequent posts! Doesn't have to be daily, but I've been referred to a website and saw their last post was a month ago. Chances are I won't be back or bookmark it.
  • A place to comment. I still scratch my head when I end up on a site that has comments disabled.
  • About you! I love either a bio page (esp. for authors) and I've seen some book bloggers do this as well. One site has cute little pictures of the bloggers on the sidebar with very short info on them. Not everyone might want their picture up or full name, but it's fun to know more about who operates that site.
  • Pictures used in blog posts. I'm a visual person.
  • Review lists: Book bloggers usually have a master list of the books they've reviewed. I love seeing the star-rating beside them. I'll click anything from 1-5 regardless, but it feels more complete this way.
  • Whatever is popular on your site should have a link on your menu bar. Whether it's reviews, new releases, upcoming book releases, works in progress, etc.

The Not So Good:

  • Sites that play music. I'm cool if you have a playlist you want to share, but I don't want to hear it. Also consider some people are at work and that might get them in trouble if it blares on their speakers.
  • Background scroll. I'm personally a fan of a fixed background that doesn't scroll with the content.
  • Too many graphics. I have a fast computer, but if it gets hung up loading content on your page and even freezes, I probably won't return. Usually this has to do with sidebar content. The more graphics, links, and java, the slower the loading time is. Consider creating separate pages for some of this content and a link to those pages in the menu.
  • No header. This is a sad day when I hop on a site and the header is in Times Roman. No graphics or even fancy font. I think there are sites that will create headers for you - free.
  • Too much content on left and right sidebars. I get dizzy when both sides go on and on, far past the blog content in the middle. Information overload. I try to keep mine to a minimum and on the left side, but I do find times that I'm trimming what I'm posting there.
  • Animated graphics. It shouldn't be snowing on your page.
  • Black backgrounds and white fonts. Try to make reading easy. If you have a dark theme, even upping it to a dark grey can make a huge difference.
  • Tiny fonts or a font type that isn't easy to read. Fonts should be clean, legible, and not in cursive (unless they are headers/footers)
  • Pop-up ads or videos that automatically play. I know we all have to pay our bills, but consider less obtrusive advertising that won't steer away visitors.
  • Highlighting portions of your text and changing the color. Be wary of doing this (just an FYI) because if you ever change the background color behind the text, then while most of the text will appear as you want it, those specific areas you highlighted months ago won't change because they were manually adjusted. So they become almost invisible. I'm semi-guilty of this now, but I will use blue or red because those are link colors and I always make sure my background is compatible with those.
  • Headers that change so frequently, I don't know where I am. It's good to stick to a brand because readers become familiar with the visual look of your site, including how you've branded yourself in font design or logo.
  • An "enter here" page. I'm still uncertain as to why these exist. I remember years ago seeing them on movie page websites, but it's like a portal entrance. 

Those are really the highlights for me. Blog sites have changed so much over the years where even a novice can have a professional-looking site. I'm always visiting pages to see what I love about it and if it's something I can incorporate into mine. Which also means I'm very open to change, and if there's something that is bugging my readers, I want to know about it. Or if there's something they want to see that's not there, send me a word on my Contact page.

I know many are like me and busy in their real life and can't spend too much time customizing their website or figuring out the right html code to tweak one of the templates. Some outsource others to do this for them.

Anyhow, hopefully some of those tips get you to thinking. Every so often, most of us need an overhaul to our site design, and sometimes it even takes a few outside opinions to help with that. (Can't see the forest for the trees) The best thing to do is consider the sites you love visiting, because aside from their actual content, I bet there is something aesthetically pleasing about that site that draws you in.

Now this makes me want to revamp my page (again), but I have to work on some editing and cover design before starting that endeavor. Happy Friday!


  1. A great tutorial and very helpful post. I really like it. baton rouge web design

  2. Those are points worth sharing. I particularly agree with sites having constantly updated posts. It doesn’t have to be daily, just as long as it’s regular enough to give visitors the impression that the owner is really interested in the topic the website is about. I also agree that pictures really help improve the overall quality of the website, just make sure the images are in good taste.

    Alice Reed

  3. I agree with almost all your points. I must point out that part about sites with music playing in the background. That is a real turnoff. I guess some people are just too eager to share their music preferences. If that’s the case, I suggest setting it in such a way that it wouldn’t play automatically when the page has loaded, and would instead allow the user to decide whether to play it or not. By the way, fixed backgrounds are also more preferable.

    Patrick Godknecht