The Three Biggest Trends in Author Websites

Like hem lengths and pop music, web design is trendy. And here's what we're seeing lately!

1. Landing pages

Everybody's talking about Landing Pages (aka Squeeze Pages) but not everyone agrees what they're for. Broadly speaking, a landing/squeeze page has only one action available on it. So the visitor who arrives there (usually by following a link) can either DO THE THING (sign up for a list or push a button) or leave.

If that sounds pushy, it is! The landing page cures visitor ADD. If your visitor doesn't have access to your main navigation, she can't suddenly say, "Ooh! a sparkly thing!" and dart away before you collect her email address. So a landing page is potentially useful. But I think it's bad manners to allow your main URL / domain to point to a landing page. It's like inviting a friend over for tea and then demanding they buy Girl Scout cookies before they step over the threshold. Besides--if you play your cards right, you might sell those Thin Mints, anyway.

2. Vertical, baby

It used to be that every site you visited had a navigation bar across the top, with predictable labels: About, Home, Contact.

Not anymore! The new trend is to require website visitors to scroll downward in a straight path through all your content. Like the landing page, it prevents user ADD by drawing your visitor down a long hallway by the hand.

I liken this trend to the way that wall cabinets fell out of favor in kitchen design. Trendy kitchens now look really sleek with all that tile showing on the walls. But suddenly there's nowhere to keep the coffee cups. And vertical websites look sort of corporate to me. It's a little chilly.

So when we design a site we try to have it both ways. It's nice to offer more content to the visitor who is willing to keep scrolling. However. I always put a handy main nav on every site I design. Because sometimes our readers arrive looking for something specific! And I don't want to frustrate my visitor. I'd rather she's able to find what she's looking for, and quickly.

3. The Pop Up. It's Back

It's deja vu all over again. The pop up is back. But the 2016 version of the pop up is sleeker and softer than the old kind. And it's (usually) not ads that spring up before our eyes like snowdrops in March. It's a newsletter sign-up.

Now, pop-ups are a little annoying. Or they can be if done poorly. But they're still something I'm willing to use. Why? They work. Studies have shown that conversion of visitors to newsletter subscribers is higher with a pop-up than without.

And you can program a pop-up to happen only as frequently as you set it. Instead of it appearing on every page, you can make it disappear forever once it's dismissed the first time.

Those are my three biggest trends. Do you notice others?