I just got off a website that had so many things going on with it that I could barely find the content I was looking for. I’m getting increasingly frustrated with websites and blogs that seem like a maze. I understand that people are adding flashy gimmicks to their sites because it looks awesome, but it’s gotten to the point where I am overwhelmed by almost half of the sites I ever go to anymore. I am starting to unsubscribe now from these sites because I don’t have the patience to keep sorting through everything to get to what I want.
(And just to clarify, these aren’t just author sites I’m talking about. These things are covered by a wide variety of consumer products like insurance, financial planning, and shoes. My point is this: it seems to be everywhere.)
Just like in writing a story, I think simple is best. When you complicate things, you make the reader (or potential reader) work harder to figure out what is going on. Also, we’re in a global community now with a wide range of people checking out our content. Some people may not be as “hip” to technology as we are. Or English could be their second language, and it’s hard for them to sort through all the lingo we take for granted. I like to think of a website or a blog is a place to say, “Welcome! Thank you for stopping by. Relax. Take a look around. Browse at your leisure.” The best way to do that, in my opinion, is by keeping things simple.
So here are my recommendations for keeping your site simple and easy to navigate:
1. Watch the text color and the background color.
White letters on a black background does look neat, but it’s hard on the eyes. Also, keep in mind that someone might want to print out a post you write if this is on your blog. I heard of a blog post that had red lettering on a green background. This would be a nightmare to print out. Sure, the person can select “black and white” print, but will they think to do it (or even know how?).
2. Font size and type.
You want something that’s both easy to read and neat. Bigger font size is good for introducing a division in the topic on the post. For example, “2. Font size and type” above can be larger. It can also have a fancier kind of font if you want. But for the regular text like what you’re reading here, I think it’s best to go with the default font size and type.
3. De-clutter the page.
On your website, your newest book should be the focal point, so this should be where the eyes first go to when someone stops by. Past books should be on other pages.
Or you can point to other pages in your site somewhere in a menu bar. Stephannie Beman has her pages listed on a menu at the bottom of the header on her website, and Rami Ungar has his menu at the very top of his blog.
Any other things you want to point out (such as social media links) in your home page should be unobtrusive and to the side of the content that’s being featured.
On your blog, your main focal point is the text of your blog post. If you want to add a picture, feel free. I wouldn’t do too many in case it take someone with an older computer or slow internet longer to download the page, though. Not everyone has the newest computer nor does everyone have the fastest internet available to them. The more pictures you have, the longer it can take for them to access your post, and some may not be patient enough to stick around.
4. Make it easy to comment.
I’m guessing you want people to comment on your blog post. If not, turn off comments. If you do want people to comment, then make it as easy for them to comment as possible. I have seen some blogs that require you to pretty much verify you’re an actual human being each and every time you want to leave a comment on the blog. Some then proceed to make me manually subscribe to future comments via my inbox. So not only do I click on the “notify me of future comments” box, but I then have to go to my inbox and verify that I want to be notified if there are future comments. Another person had a pop-up menu asking me to sign-up for their newsletter before I could even leave a comment.
I don’t know if these techniques really work for the people using them, but I am not inclined to bother leaving comments anymore on those blogs. (Unless the person is a friend. I will only go through that kind of headache for a friend. And this person has to be a really good friend. If I was just a regular reader, I would not do it.)
5. I’m on the fence about the pop-up box asking people to sign up for a newsletter.
It seems like almost every blog or website I go to lately has this pop-up box asking me to sign up for a newsletter. This isn’t just authors. It’s on a variety of products, and I think it’s the frequency of this method that has caused me to be annoyed with it. I didn’t mind it so much when it happened once in a while, but now it seems to be all over the place.
Now, I almost didn’t add the “pop-up box” in this list because I know it’ll ruffle some feathers. I know people who do this, and I understand why they do it. I’ve even heard this method is effective. But then I thought, “This is something that does annoy me as a potential consumer. I have actually decided not to buy hats or software because of one of these pop-up boxes.
Personally, I would rather find the sign-up form for a newsletter somewhere else on the site. Like to the side of the main page or on a separate page entirely. This way, it doesn’t interfere with what I’m trying to read. I realize all I have to do it “click out” of the box, but that’s an extra step that I don’t always have the patience for, especially when I need something quick and the kids won’t leave me alone.
After conducting an informal survey of readers’ preferences on Facebook, I learned most of them don’t like the pop-up ads. Some are okay as long as you can “X” out of the box. But for those who browse blogs and websites on their mobile phones, they said they did not have the open to “X” out of the pop-up box. I don’t surf the internet with my iPhone. I use the computer for that. I’m taking their word for it.
Again, I understand why authors do this, and I won’t stop coming to your blog or website because of it. When an author is looking to build their list, this is one of the methods open for them to do. But there are other ways to gain subscribers to your email list. You can leave an option for people to sign up for your newsletter at the end of your books (which has worked for me). You can run a giveaway or a free book in return for people signing up for your newsletter (which I heard is also effective, though there seems to be a high unsubscribe rate afterwards). Or, as I mentioned above, you can have it to the side of the main page or on a separate page on your site.
But like I said, I’m not going to avoid your site because of it.
6. Automatic videos or audio.
I’m not a fan. It can be slow in loading if you don’t have fast internet. It can also be distracting. Sometimes I’m already listening to something while I’m browsing the internet. To have something auto-play during that time is jarring. Also, there have been a couple of times when I have the volume on my computer turned all the way up because of a low quality video on You Tube, and if there is something that auto-plays (the news is really bad for this), it’s jarring to have something loud suddenly play at you without expecting it.
I think when it doubt, keep things simple. What tips do you have for keeping things simple on a blog or website?