Friday, January 22, 2010

What Makes A Good Web Site?

My friend E.J. Copperman and I have been having an ongoing conversation.  E.J. needs a web site, and I need a refreshed web site.  We both have hired our designers, we both love their work, but there's just one problem, and E.J. said it best:  "I wish I knew what I wanted on the web site. I just know I want something ... else."

Pinning down that something else has proved problematical.

H.home When I first set up my web site, I was unpublished and pretty discouraged.  I wanted a neutral background.  I had no kind of logo in mind, so my web designer came up with a pretty simple, yet dignified web site that I have not been unhappy with.  (Don't you love that little drop of blood on the L?)  But now, with a new cozy mystery series on the horizon, I just want something ... else.  And I don't know what that else is.

I know I want to keep my photo gallery pages, which are mostly devoted to my pets--both past and present.  But I'm not sure what else to keep.  FAQs don't seem as important as they did eight or ten years ago.  They should probably go.  Colors?  I'm not sure.  I probably won't see my cover until July or August.

"Here's how I look at it," E.J. said to me.  "What would make me stop and open pages on an author's web site?  Should I anticipate who my readers will be (this is, after all, my first novel), or make something that pleases me and hope that will carry over?

"My good friend Jeff Cohen has an interesting web site, but it's very much tied to the subject matter of his series. Should it be more about the author? What will stand out?

"There seem to be a million crime fiction authors out there, and now I'm told that web sites aren't as important as social networking. Do readers care about web sites? How do they find out about your web site?
Night Living Deed "The cover for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED has been getting raves from everyone who's seen it. Should I emphasize that on the site? Should I include a lot of author information? Do readers CARE about author information, or are they just looking for a good book?

"It's a stumper, I'll tell you.

"I looked at a lot of web sites (including your excellent one, Lorna/Lorraine) to get ideas. But I don't want to have ideas that have already been used--that feels like cheating. I feel like the site should be a reflection of my personality and that of the books. Should it be more calculated, more geared toward an anticipated demographic? It's hard to know."

So, dear readers, what would YOU like to see on our web sites?