March 7th, 2016

Does Your Website’s First Impression Sell Books?

June Stevens Westerfield

JSW_ABOVETHEFOLDSay you’re a reader whose friend told you about an author they love, named “Great Author” (insert YOUR name here). So you, the reader, go to Google and you type in “Great Author”. Bam, there’s the authors website, they also have Facebook page, and there are some links to some books. You might click directly on the Amazon link to the book your friend recommended. But it is more likely that you will click on something with the author’s name. So you click on the author’s website.

First Impressions Matter

Have you ever looked for a product online, clicked on a store website, only to discover it looked amateurish and outdated, so you immediately closed that out and found somewhere else to purchase your item? If you have, why? Because you weren’t sure you would get a good product.
Well, your author website is the same. To instill confidence in the reader it should have a clean, updated look and should be properly branded. (You can read my post on WITS about branding here.)

What’s ‘Above the Fold’?

Let’s forget branding for a moment and just look at the basics.  We’re going to look at the “above the fold” information on the front page.  What does that mean?

Above the fold is whatever the visitor sees when the page first loads, without scrolling down.  It is your first chance to grab the visitor and potentially turn them into a reader.

It should go without saying that your author name should be somewhere near the top, clearly visible (preferably in the header as the “title” of the website) so the reader knows they have reached the right place.

Every item in the ‘above the fold’ view of your website should be appealing to look at, informative, and clickable.

What is Clickability?

It’s a word I made up.  It refers to how clickable your website is.  Clickable means there are plenty of appropriately labeled links or images linked to other places on your website or to external websites.  Why does that matter?  Well, for one, you can’t have all of the information you need on one page.  There has to be other pages, and your readers have to actually press their mouse (click) to get there.  Clickability is just how “appealing” something is to make the visitor want to click, in addition to whether or not they CAN click.

Clickable elements in the top your front page can (and should) include:

  • Clear menus with appropriately labeled pages and individual book pages (as a submenu).
  • Social Media Links – preferably as icons, not word links.
  • Search button or field. This encourages a visitor to search for a specific book page, or blog post on your site.
  • Newsletter subscribe form. Give visitors a way to get more information from you.

An eye catching image.  Whether it is book cover images or, my personal suggestion, an image slider with information about different books, or events. Whatever it is, it should click to a correlating page on your website.

Laura Drake was kind enough to let me assess her website in order to demonstrate  a great first impression, with good clickability above the fold.LAURADRAKE_ABOVETHEFOLD

In truth, I wish she’d had more areas for improvement for the purposes of this blog. She got a solid A+ for first impressions.  But she did get a B on clickability.  Why?

She has an eye catching slider with images that represent the two genres she writes.  That is great.  The not-so-great is that other than branding, the slider serves no real purpose.  It has zero clickability.  And it SHOULD HAVE.  As you see those images scroll through, your eye is drawn to them and you want to put your mouse over them and click to see what more you can find out.  The images should each link directly to the correlating pages on the website, Women’s Fiction, and Romance.

The Bottom Line of Clickability

Clickability sells books.  Because clickability means that your website was appealing enough to the reader that they wanted to learn more.  They’ll click for more information.  And if your book pages are also clickable, then they will click your purchase links and then, ultimately, BUY YOUR BOOK. (You can see my anatomy of a book page series on the Author Branding Essentials Website, HERE.)

There are many more elements that make your website’s front page informative, clickable, and ultimately, help you sell books.  But that is another blog post for another time.  You can follow the Author Branding Essentials Blog to be notified when that, and other informative posts, are available.

More Examples of Above the Fold Clickability

To wrap up, I’ve grabbed screenshots of three of my favorite authors’ websites to show how they each have a great first impression with good clickability above the fold, and they each do it in their own, unique way.






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Author Branding Essentials is dedicated to offering comprehensive author centric branding and design services at competitive prices.  As an Author, your name is your brand. Building your Author Brand is key to success. Many agents encourage authors to begin building that brand long before they are published. At Author Branding Essentials we understand the unique criteria it takes to build an author brand, versus another type of business.  We can help you decide on the best options for your author brand and help you implement them.

21 comments to Does Your Website’s First Impression Sell Books?

  • Excellent advice. I’m wondering if I need more ‘above the fold’ stuff on my site, but I wanted it simple when I had my web designer put it together.

    If I might leave a comment about your samples. I would immediately click away from Darynda’s and Ilona’s pages. Why? I can’t read the white print on the black background, and the busy background on Ilona’s on top of the contrast issue would make it hard to read. (I also wish those images were clickable so I could see the actual site with a simple click instead of a search)

  • These days, mobile matters too. I’m looking at your site on my iPhone. You might want to take a peek!

  • Actually, I just realized you are a guest author. I’m looking at this page via mobile.

  • Thank you to everyone at WITS for having me here today! This was a fun post to do, and special thanks to Laura for letting me pick her website apart!

  • Liz Goldsmith

    I agree with Terry. I the drop out type on the black background is unreadable. That said, the Ilona Andrew’s site is very good in other aspects. Although “above the fold” still applies, current preferences in web design are for “flat” sites that allow you to scroll down and find out most of what you need to know. That site is nicely done and the parallax is a nice touch. Very current for web design. The Laura Drake site is very clean and easy to read but would benefit from a scrolling design. Of course, it also depends on the age of your readers and what they expect from a website. Interesting topic!

    • Liz, I just had a similar conversation with a client. She hates scrolling sites, she wants everything to be clickable and above the fold. That’s not necessarily a good thing. I’ve tried to explain that she needs both. (I’ll actually be doing a further assessment of Laura’s page at a later date on the ABE blog, because you are right, she does need more information on the front page.)

  • June! Thank YOU for choosing my site to display! It’s completely homemade, So I’m amazed it did as well as it did!

    And, Terry, my face is red. Going to make those photos clickable to the websites right now. Duh.

  • Wonderful post! Off to make sure I’ve got clickability….

  • Sorry Terry, and everyone – the photos should be clickable now. I had the links in, but apparently, WP doesn’t like www. – it had to be http://

    June thank you for using my website – since it’s totally homemade, I’m proud it did so well! Off to fix that issue on MY site!

  • Great article, comments, examples, and interaction here! There’s so much to think about. I’ll be soon putting up a website, and I like clean, clear, clickable. Research is now in order for me to look again and analyze some of my fave authors’ websites and why I happen to like them. I’m so glad you all are here…

  • Are there certain website themes recommended to use? I’m working on changing my website and am looking for author-friendly themes. Thanks for all the above information!

    • Jill,
      It depends on a lot of factors: the look you want, the level of functionality you want, and your level of experience and comfort in customizing. I was previously in love it the “Nirvana” theme, but since many mandatory updates to make it compatible with the latest WP releases, it’s not as versatile as it once was. The main thing to look for is that it is “responsive”. Also, much of the functionality of ANY theme is done with plugins. I HEARTILY recommend the SiteOrigin Page Builder. It will allow you to use widgets to build appealing and functional pages. Also, the WordPress Jet Pack plugin is a MUST! It has many features that are essential, all packed into one plugin.

      • Thank you so much for all the helpful information, June! I have an IT guy who will help me build the website and also my publishing company has plug-ins to add to it, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I appreciate all of your useful information!

  • […] Does Your Website’s First Impression Sell Books? – June Stevens Westfield at Writers in the Storm with a very thought provoking post on web design. I’m a bit lumbered with WordPress’s limitations, but I must try and incorporate some of her ideas. […]

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