Much like fashion and the publishing industry itself, the world of Web development is awash with trends that are constantly changing. While you’re not expected to change the design or structure of your author website every time someone comes up with a new mode du jour, it’s important to make sure that your website isn’t so far behind the times that it’s off-putting.
If you’re not sure if you’ve been marketing your brand with an outdated author website or not, here are 5 red flags that show a website is in desperate need of modernization.
1. You still don’t own your domain name.
Building one’s website on a free site builder or blogging platform may work well for writers on a budget, as well as those just starting out. But once you’ve begun to establish yourself as a writer to be reckoned with, it might start to look a bit silly to have “wordpress” or “blogspot” stuck in the middle of your site’s address.
If you’re planning to take your writing career to the next level, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to secure a domain name that is yours. The price is relatively low if your name is not in high demand, but it might not be there forever, so it’s best to snatch the URL up as quickly as possible. Not only will a personal domain name help in terms of branding, but it looks much more professional.
2. Your site has large, flashy ads.
Gone are the days when it was okay to stick ads in every available corner of your site. Remember Geocities? Or Angelfire? Yikes! The Web has come a long way since then.
Site visitors simply don’t have the time or patience to wade through a bunch of things vying for their attention. Not to mention that if you’re still on an old, free Web hosting site, the ads will probably be completely unrelated to your genre of writing (or writing at all!).
If you want to generate your own ad revenue once you own your site, Google AdSense is a good way to include simple ads that are both related to your interests and separate from your content.
3. Your site doesn’t work on all the major Internet browsers.
As the Internet evolves, new versions of popular Web browsers like Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari are becoming available every few months—and they’re starting to change the way they read and display certain types of code. As new programming languages become the norm, sites built using outdated forms of code may display incorrectly.
Redesigning your site occasionally or, if you use a content management system like WordPress, making sure your software and plugins are always up to date is a great way to ensure that your site won’t break down or look defunct.
Bonus: Sites that always have the latest version of WordPress are more secure, as new security fixes are almost always included with each update.
4. Your site is not mobile-friendly.
More and more people are browsing the Internet on their smart phones or tablets these days. As of mid-2013, mobile browsers account for more than 13% of all unique site visits across the Web. This is great in terms of your ability to always remain connected to your readers, but bad news if your site is not mobile-friendly.
A recent (and, may we say, awesome) trend in Web design is responsive design, which means that the site’s structure adapts to the size of the screen on which it’s being viewed. A lot of WordPress themes being released are responsive, and there are ways to incorporate the same design principles on your site if you’ve built it from scratch.
A site that is mobile-friendly doesn’t require Flash or any other visual elements that might not be compatible with certain types of phones. Furthermore, the structure adapts to the screen’s resolution—content and images don’t overlap each other, nor does the text appear illegibly small when the user is zoomed out all of the way. Not many people have the patience for zooming and scrolling just to read a few paragraphs or stanzas.
5. Your site doesn’t connect to social networks.
Social media is the driving force of your marketing campaign, and giving visitors easy access to your various social media outlets can result in an increase in awareness.
You want to keep visitors plugged into your platform. Make it easy for them to travel between your social media profiles and your author website seamlessly—if they get stuck outside of the circle, they might not come back. Keep your social media networks regularly updated with links back to your author platform to draw traffic as frequently as possible.
The website you made five years ago might just need a little fine-tuning to get it in shape for the new age of social media marketing and browser compatibility. Or perhaps your online author platform needs a whole head-to-toe makeover. Whatever the case may be, make sure there aren’t any figurative tumbleweeds rolling through your site. Visitors are more likely to return to a site that looks like it’s updated regularly, so get ready to tighten up those laces!
Question: How long has it been since you’ve updated YOUR author website?