We’ve all encountered a bad author website or two—clashing color schemes, outdated clip art, miles of tiny text. But what seems so obviously jarring to visitors isn’t always obvious to the website owner, so it’s important to take a hard, objective look at your author website before making it live.

How can you prevent your author website from driving away potential fans? Avoid the following practices:

The Awkward Headshot

When preparing images for your author website, keep your audience in mind. Consider how your photo might influence your branding.

Are you writing a thriller? You probably don’t want your author portrait to be taken in a field of happy sunflowers. And if you’re hoping to evoke the image of being a writer who is open and friendly, you won’t want to display a picture of yourself scowling with your arms crossed.

And even though it’s convenient to take a quick photo of yourself in the mirror and upload it, we recommend you take it to the next level by working with a professional photographer.

Walls of Text

There’s a common expression for this in Internet communities: tl;dr (too long; didn’t read). You may have brilliant things to say, but if you don’t break up your text into bite-size chunks, you’re tempting your audience to get bored and overwhelmed.

People tend to have different expectations for text appearing online than they do for text in books. If you clutter your website with unbroken walls of text, visitors won’t stay long enough to find out what you’re actually saying.

Read more here: How to Write Copy For Your Author Website.

Adhering to Fads

Online trends come and go even faster than literary fads. It’s important to differentiate between keeping your website current and updating your style every other week to keep up with the newest popular wave.

For instance, many years ago, it was trendy to use glittering, blinking, or moving text on personal websites. But such methods have gone the way of the avacado-colored refrigerator in terms of design aesthetic. If you’ve still got a moving, blinking, rainbow-striped header on your website, you should probably seek out a more contemporary look. You don’t want a dated design to imply that your ideas are staid.

A good author website will walk the line between being current and timeless. Browse author websites to key into design elements that you love; and rely on professionals (like those at Web Design Relief) or trusted and qualified friends and family to help you avoid trends that will “time out” too quickly.

Ad Overload

Some writers like the pocket change that comes from having Adsense in their sidebar. That’s marginally okay on some sites…but some Web designers go overboard. Did you know that embedding too many ads on your site can actually net you a penalty in search rankings?

It’s problematic when people can’t distinguish your writing from the advertisements on your author website. Visitors will flee your page in search of a friendlier, ad-free haven.

So what’s a design-challenged writer to do?

The good news is, there are lots of resources out there for authors who are not innately talented in the Web design field. Even if you’re guilty of including some of the unpopular design elements we listed, there’s still hope! If you lack the budget to have a custom author website professionally created, but are willing to put in some elbow grease to create it yourself, there are some free website builders that have fairly professional-looking templates. And if you have even a small budget (quality author websites don’t cost as much as you think!) to work with a website designer, you’ll be able to leave those tricky design questions to experts.

As a fun exercise, you can learn more about what not to do by running a search on “bad websites” (and, yes, you will see some author websites on the Internet’s most popular lists of poorly designed websites). Not only will you find real-life visual examples of what not to do, but often, designers will offer valuable commentary (so that you never see YOUR site on those lists).

QUESTION: What author website design styles do you find really effective?

Photo by Kate Sumbler


  1. Bautista

    This is actually a really good post. I was once handed a business that I immediately threw out because it had an awkward faded head shot on the back of it.

  2. Mandy Eve-Barnett

    Food for thought – thank you. I don’t have blinking or ever changing headers or ad’s so at least I’m fairly alright in that aspect. I keep my text short, sharp and to the point and don’t overload with pictures or photos. However, I can revisit some elements. Thank you

    • Web Design Relief

      Glad you found this helpful, Mandy!

  3. Ray Beltrami

    Many advocate for selfmade website. Reading your article made me realised that it is not the way to go.

    A website is how you present yourself to others and in particular people who dont know you. You have to give a good first impression. You have to dress for the occation. Whould you dress in your self made suit for a job interview, at some presentation, a conference, in a courtroom?

    • Web Design Relief

      Exactly, Ray! Making sure your author website is well-made is really an investment in your writing career.


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