Saturday, September 24, 2016

Keeping Up Appearances

Keeping Up Appearances is the title of a well-loved television sitcom featuring that determined social climber Hyacinth Bucket--"pronounced Bouquet"--and her long-suffering family.

But keeping up appearances is something we must all learn to do as writers, too, no matter how annoying it is to spend time away from our first love--the writing.

When you dedicate yourself to the writing life, how often do you consider how much else is involved?  So much that it may well distract us from writing altogether.

There’s all the social media, the website, the blog, the building of reader goes on and on. So much so that it can erode the joy of your own writing creativity.
Thanks to Geralt at Pixabay

Sara Humphreys on Buzzfeed at the weekend posted a heartfelt article listing her reasons for giving up not writing but the whole writing business.

It’s hard keeping up with everything we need to do. And keeping up with the Joneses is often a step too far.

Is Your Website Ready for 2017?

Sadly with so many developments in software and design techniques, there’s nothing that dates as quickly as a website.

Do you remember when websites were gaudy and packed full of bells and whistles? The pages bounced about with fireworks and animated gifs (and yes, there are still some examples in the Buzzfeed article above--aargh). We loved avatars that spoke to us as soon as the site loaded or the ever-present muzak.

The latest must-haves are sliders showcasing bookcovers or photos--you get the picture. (Pun intended.)

Good news is that modern website appearance is now tending toward the simple.Black type on a white background is so much in favour that most websites seem the same. So how can you make yours stand out?

An effective website is a successful blend of content and design where the one complements the other.

Answer the Right Questions

To get your content right, ask yourself two questions. What is my website for? Who is my website for?

What is my content for? To sell my books? To publicize my books? To attract new readers? To publicize me? Brainstorm ten possible answers then choose the one that resonates with you.

Who is my content for? No, you can’t be all things to all people. Choose an age range (e.g.30-40), a lifestyle (perhaps a stay-at-home mom), an aspiration (could be looking to start her own business). Narrow it down until you can clearly see your reader.

If you have someone in mind when you write your books, he or she may also be the target of your website. But if you are trying to attract new readers, you may aim at a different demographic.

The New Look Website

Now think about taking a new look at your website. Focus. What is going to keep the interest of your readers. What’s in it for them?

Your home page must include a CTA, a call to action, an offer that will appeal to your readers. It’s no longer enough to say “Please sign up for my newsletter.” Invite website visitors to join your street team, to be the first to get news of your new books, to review your books on publication.

Offer writing tips, show how to get published. Free books and giveaways are all popular and will help grow your subscriber list. Remember, it’s all about them.
And of course, show off your books. Make sure that you optimize the size of your cover pix to load quickly on the web. I don’t wait long for a website to load. Too many other things I could be doing, too many other websites to check out. And I’m not alone in that.

Run your website through Google Tools speedchecker. Easy. You just type in your site's URL and hit the blue button marked analyze.

See how well it loads.

I work to simplify and speed up my website. My results when viewed on a desktop were dire. Just over 50% when summarized. And worse --under 50% on a mobile friendly result. Duh!

Seven or eight items needed fixing. Suggestions included enabling compression, reducing server response time, optimizing images. The last was a real blow. I thought I'd mastered that.

But for every failure, there was a link to help me fix the problem and improve my loading time.

I've downloaded the zip file of all the resources Google wants speeded up and thinking of it as an early Christmas present as I doubt if I shall manage to do my makeover much before then.

Website checklists

Many marketers are providing helpful checklists if you're looking to see how your pages and content match up.

A quick do-it-yourself website creation checklist hit my email box from Christina Hills this week. It is simplistic, and you will need to adapt it, but it will help your focus on essentials. Your products page will be your books page. Your services would be any other training you offer.

More Must-Do Tips

To ensure your site continues to appear in search engine results next year, follow Google's new guidelines.

Year on year, more and more readers use a mobile device to access the web. To check that your website is mobile friendly, it’s back to Google and do read the linked blog post.

Another thing to do while you’re using the Webmaster Tools is find and correct broken links. These are anathema to Google and can not only drop your pages down the listings but can cause them to stop showing in the search engine at all.

The need to have a mobile friendly website also means streamlining your design. Three column—even two column websites—look squashed on a hand-held device. Single columns show up well, hence the growing number of simple text sites with the images inserted into the one column.

The new look for now and into 2017 is for doodled images—see the cutting edge designs at and yes, there are three bs.

The Better Novel Project  is fun and a great learning site that deconstructs best-selling novels scene by scene, one doodle at a time. Well worth looking at. Good for ideas and plot development. Tackles everything from Star Wars to JK Rowling. And yes, there is also a free book on offer.

If you want to do further research, another useful and helpful article on the changing face of web design can be found here .

What’s on the way?

Over half the world’s population will supposedly be online by 2017, and the enormous influx of new users will mean an incredible amount of digital newbies, including more and more elderly.,

By 2017, think of building more age-specific help  into the latest websites.
Designers are aiming to create Navigation Menus that will expand and contract depending on the ability of users; those with difficulty will see simple interfaces to make it easier for them.

As in e-readers, font-sizes and spacing will be able to increase to accommodate the eyesight of the elderly. Color schemes will change; more saturated colors for the young, more muted hues for those of us who are older.

 If you like doodling, incorporate your designs into your articles.  White space, my favourite, continues to play a big role in the future.  A simple site with clear and consistent color choices ages much better than a shouty, busy one.

And when it comes to clutter, ditch the pop-ups and all the social media buttons that irritate by hiding your content. Google hates them too. Choose maybe two social media sites for sharing. Too many buttons and readers click off your site instead of sharing anywhere.

To keep yourself up to date, simplify. Less is more. Enjoy your website and have fun.

Bit of a long article this time. But what are you doing to manage all the extras in your writing life? Any plans for updating blogs and websites? Let me know in the comments below. :-)

Anne Duguid
Anne Duguid Knol

A local and national journalist in the U.K., Anne Knol is now a fiction editor for award-winning American and Canadian publishers. As a new author, she shares writing tips and insights at Author Support : .

Her Halloween novella, ShriekWeek is published by The Wild Rose Press as e-book and in print  included in the Hauntings in the Garden anthology. (Volume Two)

Her column on writing a cozy mystery appears monthly in The Working Writer's Club .


Kathleen Moulton said...

Anne, I didn't know about the Google Tools Speed Checker.

Thanks for this great article!

Karen Cioffi said...

Anne, great post. It's so true that keeping up with marketing trends can put a damper on writing time. Thanks for sharing theses website design tips and links!

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