Your Author Website, Part Three: Things to Avoid

Hello, you! Welcome back! Today marks the last post in my Your Author Website Series.

See the previous posts here:

Part 1: Must Haves
Part 2: Suggested Pages

Now that you have a good idea of what content to put on your website, let’s talk about things to please for the love of all that is good and holy not include.


Image by Zendritic on Flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.

Note: These are just my opinion. But you can trust me—don’t do these things.

  • Use of auto-play music
  • Use of fonts and/or design elements that make your page difficult to read
  • Loading up your page with lots of badges and buttons
  • Creating content that doesn’t match your brand
  • Using a captcha in your comment form

Use of auto-play music

You might think it’s a great idea to have your novel’s playlist automatically start when users go to your website. And I might be really interested to hear those songs, but I want a choice. If you want to include a playlist, make sure I am the one that chooses to press play. Because if I am checking out your webpage while I’m supposed to be working, or with a sleeping baby puppy on my lap, and your music blares unexpectedly, I promise that I won’t thank you for it.

Use of fonts and/or design elements that make your page difficult to read

Save the fancy script for your header. Don’t use a light text on a dark background. No matter how cool you think those things look, they are really difficult to read. Don’t make me work too hard to read your content.

A clean and uncluttered page design keeps the focus right where you want it: on your content.

Loading up your page with lots of badges and buttons

I get it. You want to advertise your friends’ sites, and they all have such cute buttons, ready to install on your sidebar. Another blogger gave you an award and it also came with an adorable button. Before long your blog is covered in more pieces of flare than a server at Chotchkie’s.

But all those badges and buttons slow down your page loading time, leading to user frustration. They also don’t lend a professional look to your page. If you want to promote friends’ websites, might I suggest limiting it to 3 – 5 at most? Or better yet, a text-based blogroll? As for the award badges, just leave those off entirely.

Creating content that doesn’t match your brand

I know, talking about yourself—even thinking about yourself—as a brand can feel kind of…squicky. At least it does for me. But the fact of the matter is: your online content contributes to how readers will view you and your books. If your books are humorous, inject that humor into your website. If your books tackle tough issues, maybe you could share more about why those issues resonate with you. That’s not to say that a humor writer can never write a serious post, and vice versa, but just think about the overall tone of your website and how it relates to your body of work.

Additionally, if you are a middle grade writer like me, it might be a good idea to keep most of your content in the PG rage. If you write both middle grade and YA with more mature content, you may have a fine line to walk. I would suggest at least thinking about creating content at a level that could be enjoyed by your entire audience.

Using a captcha in your comment form

Please don’t do this. Please. I beg you. You can turn it off in your comment settings. If spam is a real problem for you, perhaps you could consider moderated comments. But captchas are really, really annoying for your reader and many will choose not to comment at all, rather than typing in the mystery word.

Those are my biggest website no-nos. What would you add to my list?

Heidi Schulz is a writer, reader, and giraffe suspicioner. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, HOOK’S REVENGE, will be published by Disney•Hyperion on September 16, 2014, followed by her picture book debut, GIRAFFES RUIN EVERYTHING, by Bloomsbury Kids, in 2016. She lives in Oregon with her husband, their teen daughter, a terrible little dog, and five irascible chickens. Connect with her on her websiteTwitter, or Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Your Author Website, Part Three: Things to Avoid

  1. I so hear you on the captchas. I recently had to turn them on for my blog, because I was getting dozens of spam comments an hour. I’m hoping I can turn them back off after a little while. I’ve considered migrating to wordspress, too, but blogger is free….although you get what you pay for, right? 🙂

  2. Great post. I think I will turn off the captcha thingy. Didn’t know I could. I’ll have to look into it.

    I have to agree that the main offender for me is music or some kind of crazy flash animation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s