In developing layouts for new websites and blogs, I am often asked for recommendations of how pages, menus, sidebars should be arranged. There is no set answer to this question because each website is as unique and different as each author it represents.
Yes, there are the standard pages like your ‘About Page’, ‘Contact Page, ‘Blog Section’, etc but beyond that, each website is as unique from all others, or at least, it should be because you are unique from all others and your website or blog should reflect that.
It all starts with your passion. It’s passion that fuels your writing. That topic or concept that you have a strong opinion about it, or, if you find a topic or concept increasingly interesting to you to the point where you spend hours researching or engaging others about it, that’s your passion. Center your website on your passion and you will never exhaust material to write about.
When I start a new web design project, the first thing I ask is “What is your vision?” or “What are you passionate about?” The answers to these questions shape the entire web design project.
If you haven’t developed a Mission Statement or have a firm grasp on the purpose of your website/blog, carve out some time to develop 2-3 things you want your reader to remember about you when they visit your site. Write these things down. Post them near where you write and make a point to check your content to be sure it lines up with your purpose and goals.
Why does the layout of your website or blog matter? Think of your website as your virtual home on the web. Visitors to your home observe and make assessments about you based on the condition of your home, what you choose to display or feature, and like it or not, the cleanliness of your home. The same is true for your website or blog. It should reflect what you are passionate about.
As a Christian author, writer, publisher, or media group, what you want to do is arrange your website or blog to make it welcoming and feature your work (your writing, your books, your speaking engagements, etc) in the best possible light. Everything on your site should point to your Mission Statement. The fuel for the content comes from your passion.
Essential Elements for your Website/Blog
Look and feel
Be careful when selecting a template for your website or blog. There is no formula for choosing a template but remember that the template you choose does convey your personality. Make it appealing. Let it convey your personality by use of colors, fonts, etc.
Your home page is your first (and sometimes only) shot at catching the attention of the reader. Make sure that navigation is easy, that your passion (your mission statement, your header, your tagline) is prominent and your sidebar includes a photo and short bio. Readers want a face to go with the text they are reading.
Your About Me page
About pages are the most visited pages on your website/blog. Readers impressed by your latest blog post may want to know more about you. Make sure you include a personal and/or professional bio that accurately reflects who you are and what you are about. Be careful not to brag. There is a way to relate who you are without sounding like you are tooting your own horn.
Connect or Contact page
Respect your reader by thanking them for inquiring about you. Take the opportunity to list all the reasons someone would be contacting you and, whenever possible, list internal links to other pages on your site they may interest them. Be sure to include links to your social network profiles so that readers can connect with your there.
There are several other components to an interactive website/blog. These are unique to the individual. Authors will predominantly display their book descriptions, reviews, videos and book signings. Speakers will prominently list topics they speak on, speaking engagements, media (audio or video) and testimonials. Publishers will feature their new releases, reviews, authors and how to purchase their books.
Cookie cutter web designs or formula based models for success might work in a different industries but writers are unique and their web designs should reflect that. This is why your layout is so important. If the focus of your design is what you are passionate about, you will connect with others who have the same passions.