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?

4 comments :

  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.

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  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!

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

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  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.

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