Does Your Website Look Like A Ransom Note?

Does Your Website Look Like A Ransom Note?

by Dharma Kelleher

You’ve seen those TV shows and movies where villains paste letters cut from a magazine onto a piece of paper to create an untraceable ransom note. That combination of random typefaces and colors might work to send a threatening message, but it doesn’t work so well on a professional website.

And yet I often see authors’ websites that feature a random selection of font colors, sizes, and typefaces. There is no consistent pattern to tell visitors how the information is organized. It looks sloppy and confusing.

ransom noteWhy does this matter? Because readers DO judge books by their covers. They will also judge authors by their websites. If your website is disorganized and sloppy, the reader may assume your writing will be the same. Who wants to ready a story that is sloppy and disorganized?

So what are your options? Here are a few.

Hire a Professional Designer or Developer

Just as it is important for authors (especially self-published authors) to hire professional freelance editors, book cover artists, and ebook formatters, it’s a good idea to hire a professional to build your website. This will insure that your site reflects the level of professionalism you give to your writing.

Just as with editors, artists, and other designers, hiring a web professional isn’t inexpensive, but it can be a big boost to your online marketing efforts.

Start with a Pre-Designed Template

If hiring a professional web designer isn’t in your budget, then your next best option is to use a pre-designed template. is the most popular web platform in the world. An estimated one-third of all independent sites use it. It’s powerful, agile, and doesn’t have too steep a learning curve.

WordPress uses themes to control how information on a page or blog post is displayed, including fonts, colors, and text size. Many thousands of free themes are available, as well and thousands of more professional, yet affordable premium themes. Some themes allow for customizing of colors and fonts. Others don’t. Switching from one theme to another is easy, as well.

Drupal and Joomla also use themes/templates, although the learning curve for these content management systems is a bit steeper.

Learn the Basics of Design and Web Coding

If you can’t afford a professional and you can’t find a pre-designed theme you like, you can always go the do-it-yourself route. But if you do, it’s best to take some time and really learn the basics of both design principles and web coding (primarily HTML and CSS).

One of the best books on graphic design is The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams (the graphic designer, not the late comedian). In her book, Ms. Williams explains the basics of creating a visual hierarchy by using contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity.

One of the best resources I’ve found to learn HTML and CSS is Membership is affordable and gives you access to easy-to-follow training videos on a wide range of topics. You learn by doing, which is one of the best ways to acquire new skills.

Be Professional Always

Don’t give readers a reason not to buy your book. One way to do that is to make sure your website isn’t scaring them away by looking like a ransom note. Either use a professional, use a template or learn to do it right yourself.

Dharma KelleherDharma Kelleher writes gritty, engaging fiction about gay, trans* and queer-identified characters. She works as a professional web developer for ZenPunk Web Works. Her hobbies include riding motorcycles, making snarky comments on Facebook, and shocking people with her latest haircut. Learn more about her and her writing at

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One Response to Does Your Website Look Like A Ransom Note?

  1. Beth Kozan says:

    Good advice, Dharma! I’m working on my website now!


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