February 19, 2012

Meet Donna Farrell - Interview With Children's Author/Illustrator Website And Blog Designer

It's time for our monthly interview, and today I'm delighted to introduce Donna Farrell!

As you know, these interviews are usually of authors, illustrators, or author/illustrators, but I'm making an exception today because Donna has some uniquely applicable expertise that I think you'll find interesting and helpful.

As the world (of publishing and in general) has changed, we as authors and illustrators have been encouraged to have a presence on the web.  We're supposed to have websites, blogs, Face Book pages, twitter accounts etc, and yet many of us have no real knowledge of how to go about these things.  How do we design a site that will draw readers?  What should it look like?  What should it offer?  And how can we fit design and maintenance into our already busy schedules?

Enter Donna!  (Who, in case you didn't know, designed my website and blog! :))
Donna Farrell

SLH:  Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Donna!  I'd like to start by asking, what exactly do you do?

DF:  My creative umbrella covers- illustration, web design and graphic design.

Although they may all seem different, it really is all visual story telling. 
As a designer, I take information and present it in a logical way. I understand the need for whitespace and a balanced composition. 

The majority of my web designs have been for children's authors (20+).  I didn't start out targeting this niche.  My involvement in the field of children's publishing and my own pursuit of publication came first. Along the way a business has been born.  I bring a unique perspective to the table.  An understanding of what is needed on an authors site.  What visitors are expecting to find and how to present that information.   I also act as a consultant, giving advice about content.  Visitors often visit the site to get "extras". Information that isn't in the book itself or available elsewhere.   I can help make suggestions about those things, design activity sheets that tie in to the authors books etc.


Screen shot of site designed
by Donna
SLH:  Do you think it's absolutely necessary to hire a designer?

DF:  No.  But when attempting to develop a site on your own, please ask yourself the following:

1. Can I create a professional looking site?
Be sure your site reflects you as a professional.  Publishing is a business, you want to be taken seriously.  
2. Do I know what needs to be on my author site?
Design is important but content is essential.  Have a good understanding of what visitors are looking  for dictates content.  
3. Do I have the technical knowledge needed?
You can purchase a program to develop a website, but if you don't have the know how, you have just wasted your money. The site will not design itself.
4. Do I know who my site is for?
Knowing your audience is very important. Pre-publication your site might focused on editors, agents and other writers but, publication will mean that your focus will shift to your "fans".  Those who are investing in you as an author and your books.  You need to be prepared to give them something.
5. Do I have the the time?
Creating and maintaining a site takes time, time that will cut into your writing time.  
Screen shot of site
designed by Donna

If you answered YES to all the above, you are probably a good candidate to try it yourself.  But, just like a manuscript that needs critiquing before submissions, I strongly recommend having a set or several sets of eyes look at the site your going to publish to be sure it is easy to navigate and doesn't have any major design flaws that send visitors screaming from your site before you launch it into cyberspace for literally all the world to see.  

If you answered NO to some or most of these, it might be a good idea to have someone with experience help you out, that's where I would come in.

Looking at the same questions above, here is what I can offer:
1. Can I create a professional looking site?
Yes.  I create professional, yet personal sites.  Each site I create is unique to the client.  It is important that it reflects them and their writing.  
2. Do I know what needs to be on an author site?
Yes.  Because of my experience and research I have a good understanding of what is expected.
3. Do I have the technical knowledge needed?
Yes.  I don't sell myself as a techie.  Foremost, I'm a designer, but I do have the knowledge required to create and publish a site.  At this moment technologies are changing so quickly that I would never say I'm an expert, but I do my best to stay current.
4. Do I know who your site is for?
Yes.  I can look at the site from a visitor perspective and make recommendations.
5. Do I have the time?
Yes.  Let me free up more writing time by taking the worry out of some of this for you!
SLH:  What are some tips for authors to think about as they design their site?

DF:  CONTENT!

Screen shot of site
designed by Donna

My Top 5 Suggestions to authors regarding content:
1. Have at least one good photo of yourself.
2. Have links to purchase your titles.
3. Have a strong "About" page. (Statistics show this is the most visited page on an author site.)
4. Have contact information available.
5. Have exclusive content, freebies, downloads, extras.
SLH:  Thank you again for joining us today, Donna.  We really appreciate you sharing your expertise!  If readers have questions, I'm hoping you won't mind answering :)

For anyone interested in learning more about Donna's work, please visit her website!   You can also follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.
Reactions:

45 comments:

  1. Wow, Susanna your blog is haven of usefulness! This is awesome, now I know where to come when I want to do a website. Thanks a lot Donna!

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  2. I'm so glad you think so, Catherine! You may be the only person who has read this post :)

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  3. Thanks for the great tips!

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  4. Thanks so much, Julie. This is exactly the type of post many writers and illustrators need...Donna provided great info and advice...I know my author website needs help...my blog site is not too bad. :)

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  5. I'm so glad you found it useful, Vivian!!! If you have any questions, feel free to fire away :)

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  6. Those are really helpful tips..i have come across a lot of truly awful author sites, which makes one less interested in them, to be honest. Great tips, Donna!

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  7. Enjoyed the interview. Good insight and lots of great tips. Don't have an author website, just a highly focuced blog. Will keep Julie in mind.

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  8. I will, thank you! BTW, sorry I originally wrote Julie...brain fog, I guess. :)

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  9. You never know when you might need a professional :)

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  10. How funny! I LOVE your website design Susanna. It is one of the best I have seen, so just a few days ago, I looked Donna up! She is GOOD! Someday, when I have things like books, etc :) I would love to work with her on the design of my own site. Great interview! I just love love your blog. Good stuff happens here. :)

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  11. Oh, you are so sweet to say so Elizabeth! You have perked up my day :) I'm glad you find useful interesting things here, and it's only a matter of time before you have actual books published - I know you're going to put that sense of humor to good use! :)

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  12. Thanks for this. I'm not at this stage yet, but found it very useful for thinking down the line a bit. (Sorry I didn't get a chance to read and comment yesterday.)

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  13. I'm so glad that several of you have found this information helpful. If you have additional questions please don't hesitate to ask!
    Warmly,
    Donna Farrell

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  14. Really great information. I hope someday to get to that place...you know, the "published" place...and need a professional to help with my website.
    I looked at more samples of your work on your website, Donna. Very nice :-)

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  15. I think you'll be there before you know it, Penny, and then you'll know just who to call.. or email as the case may be :)

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  16. Great interview, Susanna and Donna! My daughter is in school for graphic design. I think she'd enjoy this interview too. I'll be sending her the link.

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  17. Great, Ruth! I hope she likes it. I love having people who know what they're doing that I can ask how to do things I have no idea how to do :)

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  18. Very nice to meet you Donna!!! I love Susanna's website you are very talented.

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  19. I like Ma. Farrell's advice. I really like it when a book or an author has a cool website. It makes me want to visit it again and learn when other books are published.

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  20. This interview was a timely one. I just created my blog and the questions you listed are the some that I asked myself. It's only been about two weeks and I am still learning. However, after reading this, I am a bit more confident. Good interview, ladies!

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  21. Thanks for the interview Susanna and Donna. I've seen so many sites that Donna has designed, I love her work!

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  22. Glad if it gave you confidence you'd done everything right :)

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  23. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Donna! Your work is beautiful.

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  24. Good point, visitors come back because they like having the feeling of being "in the know"! That's why it is so important for authors to keep their websites updated!!

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  25. Congratulations on taking the big step, glad you found the information helpful!

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  26. Susanna, does a great job with her blog and promoting her books.

    I hope to work with you at some point Elizabeth!

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  27. I really like Susanna's site and the matching blog. It's an interesting dilemma for the unpublished writer. I want to be professional and understand the investment of a site, but still waffle about the expense. I've promised myself not to touch this issue (a real website) until after my memoir is finished this year. Of course, I still find myself talking about it. I'm bookmarking this page. Thanks Donna for sharing your time. I'm behind ... so it took me a few days to get here.

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  28. I loved that last part about content. Thanks Donna!

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  29. Susanna, I saw your comment to Catherine's comment. I feel SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO bad!
    Donna, thanks bunches for your insight. I love your work! And I can see I made plenty of mistakes with my site. Revamping soon. :-)

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  30. What a coincidence that you had this interview today Susanna. I just emailed Donna yesterday to talk about the possibility of designing a website for me. Small world, even on the Internet! :-)

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  31. Wow! That is a coincidence! I'm sure she'll come up with some great ideas!

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  32. Don't feel bad! Thanks for coming back and reading! Nobody can read everything all the time, and sometimes there's guesswork as to when people will have time... I'm not going to post interviews on weekends any more - I think we all need a break!

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  33. I'm going to school to become a web developer and designer myself. Feel free to shoot me the names of any authors who have terrible sites. I would love to have the chance in the future to revamp them!

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  34. I actually look at author websites all the time and am intrigued about who designs them. I found Donna's site and had it bookmarked by clicking on the link at the bottom of Susanna's site. I was excited to see the announcement last week that there would be an interview with Donna HERE!

    I'm enrolling in a program at East Carolina University to become a certified Web Designer. I hope there's plenty of authors to go around as I plan to specialize in author websites, too! I LOVE Donna's work! Hope my schooling will have me producing sites just as nice. Give me two years, though.

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  35. Good luck! :)














    Christie Wild wrote, in response to Julie Hedlund:

    I actually look at author websites all the time and am intrigued about who designs them. I found Donna's site and had it bookmarked by clicking on the link at the bottom of Susanna's site. I was excited to see the announcement last week that there would be an interview with Donna HERE!
    I'm enrolling in a program at East Carolina University to become a certified Web Designer. I hope there's plenty of authors to go around as I plan to specialize in author websites, too! I LOVE Donna's work! Hope my schooling will have me producing sites just as nice. Give me two years, though.

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  36. Great advice! I particularly love/agree with your top 5.

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