Designing Websites for Writers Part Two, Checklists

Interview With Professional Website Designer Linda Lee

checklistWelcome to the People Who Make Books Happen Interview Series. This month I’m again talking to Linda Lee, professional website designer and founder of AskMePC Webdesign. This is Part Two of a two-part interview with Linda about designing websites for writers.  Last month in Designing Websites For Writers Part One, Linda talked about why every serious writer needs a website and what should be on it. In this interview, she is going share additional information about designing websites for writers and give us a list of do’s and don’ts. 

Mary: Welcome back, Linda. Could you please begin by telling us what’s the most important thing for a writer to have on his or her website? In other words, what’s absolutely necessary?

Linda: I’d be happy to. Here is my personal checklist for author websites:

1. Great Biography/About Page. Get help if you cannot write it yourself.
2. Book Sales Pages for each book. Each book you have needs its own page.
3. Social media connections, and author centric things like connecting to your Amazon blog, Amazon Central Author Page, or any online publications your write for. Connecting with Goodreads, Redroom and writing groups or groups that you are in or support like California Writers Club, and Women’s National Book Association, Litquake, or the San Francisco Writers Conference.
4. Media section/page. All your interviews, radio, podcasts, TV, listed and linked.
5. Event calendar for speaking events, lectures, personal appearances, and book signings.
6. Email sign up list so you can develop a solid email list of your readers.
7. Contact page so people can get in touch with you.
8. In addition to all of the above, your website should feature clear, easy-to-use navigation and sidebars set up correctly.

People want to know about you and your books and/or your writing. They want to know how to contact you and where to buy your books. They should be able to go to your website and do all of that with ease.

Mary: What are some things that are good to have but not absolutely essential?

1. Adding a slideshow highlighting your books and interesting things you are working on is fun and eye-catching.
2. You should add a photo to every page and every post for visual interest.The internet is a visual medium and you need those pops of color.
3. Adding videos you  have created and or adding videos from other sources to your site is another good tactic.
4. You can add podcasts to your site using audio plugins.
5. You can add clips of you on TV or clips of interviews that have been filmed. You can also post links to the written interviews people have done with you as well as the full text of those interviews.
6. Testimonials and Reviews are most helpful once you start getting them.
7. Using plugins, you can conduct polls which will interest and engage your readers.
Those are just a few fun extras.

Mary: I know that you design sites so that the people who own them can update them without having to go through a webmaster every time they want to make a change. How hard it is to learn how to manage your own site?

Linda; Once I became the webmaster for clients, I found that the most tedious and not very fun part of the job was doing updates and minor changes on pages for these HTML websites. That is when I found out about WordPress and started learning how to design websites using WordPress. I wanted to be able to train my clients to do their own updates, so they could use their sites without having to email their webmaster, to change a word, or update a page or a photo or a paragraph. WordPress created software which you can use with the ease of a word-processing document. You can login, do updates, write new articles and make changes yourself. You do not need to learn code or HTML. Normal not web savvy people can learn how to run their own websites.

You could buy WordPress for Dummies, but that’s the hard way. When you’re learning how to update your own site, it’s easy to get so overwhelmed that you can’t even figure out what questions you should be asking. There are other options. Personally, I’ve found a direct student-teacher relationship works best, because you can ask your instructor to clarify things as you go along. I offer remote training classes via the internet and WordPress boot camps locally to help train my clients and others who are interested in learning to update their sites. I’ve found that most people can do the basics after my two hour training. It has been very satisfying to watch clients, many who are intimidated by the web, learn how to run their own websites.

Mary: Do you have any plans to expand this?

Linda: Yes, in the near future I plan to make it possible for people to subscribe to an online forum called WordPress Total Training which will provide them with ongoing support and training.  One of the great things about WordPress is that over 200 million websites use it. Depending on what you want, a lot of free help or paid help is available.

Mary: What are the worst mistakes people make when they create sites?

Linda: Worrying too much about the design or colors and taking years sometimes to get a site up and running.
Get the site up! You can make changes along the way.  Another major mistake is building the site and then never using it.  I’d say this is the number one mistake. I see so many websites that are launched, and the person is excited and ready to go gangbusters, and then they abandon their site.They lose interest or they get overwhelmed. There is no new content, no new blog posts or articles. You click and find out that everything is two years old and out of date.

If this happens to you, get some help. Take a refresher course.  Ask people for suggestions. Get your excitement back.
When you are active with your site, it can be fun. You will have readers and comments and you will want to be there.
You need to stay active with your website.  You need to post at least once a month and stay connected to your site.

Mary: Could you please leave us with a general list of the do’s and don’ts of website design.

Linda: The Don’ts:
1. Don’t make it complicated. You have 5-10 seconds to keep a reader on your site. If they cannot find what they are looking for, they will bounce.
2. Huge graphics and photos that take up the entire page are a trend right now. I’ve found that most people do not enjoy this. They want to find what they came to your site for.
3. Don’t use too many colors in a web site. Keep to a simple color scheme
4. Do not have videos or audios or music that starts automatically. People hate that.

5. Do not make people have to sign up or click something to get to your main site.Why would you want to put roadblocks up for your readers?
6. Do not put a bunch of ads on your website that are intrusive and overwhelm the site.

The Do’s

1. Clean,  simple layout and navigation. Make it easy for your reader to find what they are looking for.
2. A clear menu bar.
3. A clear message for your website.
4. Social media badges for easy access and connecting.
5. A Blog section
6. Add new content at least once a month. Once a week is ideal.
7. Make sure your links are easy to notice and are underlined.
8. Use lots of images and graphics for visual pop.
9. Keep it to 3 key colors for design.

Mary: Before you leave us, what’s the most important advice you can offer a writer who is in the process of designing and managing his or her own website?

Linda: Stay realistic about your website. Good websites take time to build. If you want the best results out of your site, be patient. By adding new content, and staying attentive to your website will build your page rank in Google and gain followers over time. It is not an instant process.

Mary: Thank you Linda. You’ve given us a lot of very useful information. Just a reminder: My previous interview with Linda Lee can be found at Designing Websites For Writers Part One.

Dear Readers: Join this conversation about People Who Make Books Happen. You are warmly invited to ask Linda Lee questions or leave a comment. See the other interviews in this series for information about How To Get An Agent, How To Design A Book Cover That Sells Books,  Helping Independent Bookstores Survive and Thrive, Three Great Reasons To Still Print On Paper, and more. This is where the experts hang out.

And remember to come back next month to read another interview.




  1. Mary Mackey says

    Hi, Mary Ellen,

    I have a Twitter account, but don’t use it much. However I have plans to do so in the future. If you’d
    like to follow me it’s @Mary_Mackey

    All best,


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