Sunday, September 9, 2007

How NOT to build a website

I'm starting to put some serious thought into how I want my website to look. That's my first writing goal for next year. Buy a domain name, figure out my content and get it up there. This is where having a SIL who is very handy with HTML comes in REAL handy! I know it'll be heavy on tips for historical writers. I'm a historical writer who dabbles in contemporary, so my site needs to reflect that. It also needs to have purple in there somewhere and a bit of an old-world feel to it. It will also have to reflect my love of Russia. I am completely serious when I say every single thing I write has Russia in it somewhere. If Russia isn't the setting, there's at least one Russian character in there somewhere. I guess that's sort of my trademark. (ooh, maybe I can play off of that for branding myself...)

So far, all I have is a list of things I don't like. This is a really god place to start though, believe it or not. Knowing what you don't like will help you build a better site right from the start. So what do I not like?

#1: Music. I don't like music playing on a page. Particularly if there is no way to turn it off. This is why I don't do MySpace.

#2: Flashy intro pages. It's distracting to me, so I avoid sites that use them. That includes sites run by my favorite writers. I have Terri Blackstock's site linked in my sidebar, but have never been a regular visitor because it was too flashy and strobe-like. Thankfully that's changed and it's a lot calmer. That means I'll visit more often.

A good example of something that's too flashy for my tastes that you can actually see, is Elizabeth Ludwig's site. I know for a fact that Lisa is very proud of her intro page. And it is nicely done. To be perfectly honest, I hate it. 2 of the 3 times I have attempted to visit and see what she's up to, the intro page has frozen my browser. Completely frozen it to where I have to do the Three-Fingered Salute to close it. That's one of the WORST things that can happen to an author's site. If you can't get into it, you can't even drop the author a line to let him/her know that there's a problem. An author site is an essential tool for marketing. If it never loads, you might as well not have anything.

#3: Reliance on lots of graphics. I do have cable internet that's unbelievably fast, but I still don't like things that take forever to load. And the miniscule amount of people still on dial-up don't appreciate it either. Another surefire way to NOT build an audience of regular visitors.

#4: Sites that automatically and without my permission RESIZE my browser window. I have it set the way I want it and I don't want some site changing it, thank you very much. It's a sure fire way to make sure I never come back.

#5: Badly laid out. A good layout for the site that's easy to navigate is absolutely CRUCIAL to the success of a site. Even the most useful site in the world will never get visited if you can't get to what you're looking for. Example of my opinion of a bad layout would be Dee Henderson's site. There's lot of content there. But it's badly laid out. My favorite example of a well laid out author site is Susie Warren, and now I add Terri's site that list. (Terri's new site ROCKS, btw)

#6: Fonts that are hard to read. For example, white text on a black page. Or even worse, neon green on a black page, and yellow or red on a blue page. Yes, I've seen sites like this. We all know this is hard to read, and putting it on a computer screen just compounds the problem. Yet web designers continue to do it. To quote a great man whose name I don't know and who is often quoted by my father- Keep It Simple, Stupid.

There you have it. My few and simple tips on how NOT to build a website. So what are a few of your pet peeves about web sites?


  1. One thing you also may want to look into is making sure your site will be readable by the page-reader software for the visually impaired. I've only heard it mentioned in passing, so I don't really know much about it. But it was one of those little tidbits I tucked away for when I eventually have a real website.

  2. One of my website pet peeves is those little trailer things that follow the mouse arrow...hummingbirds, puppy paws, musical notes...I've seen them all and they are ANNOYING!

  3. I agree with Erica. I like a simple cursor. The pages that take forever to load kinda bug me too.

  4. Elizabeth Ludwig's site wouldn't even load for me--I got a black page playing choppy music and doing nothing else. :-/

    And I hate, hate, HATE sites that resize my browser window. I keep it this size for a reason. Grrrrr.