An American Editor

April 8, 2020

Questions to ask when refreshing your editor website

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 10:26 am

By Nate Hoffelder, The Digital Reader

Contributing Columnist

A few weeks back, An American Editor owner Ruth Thaler-Carter published a post that discussed what editors and authors should have on their websites. It was a great post, but it got me thinking about how we could help those of you who already have websites. If you already have a site, you don’t have to know what to add to it; you want to know how to identify the parts that have to be fixed. I can help you with that.

With all public events canceled for the duration, your website is a dozen times more important as a marketing tool now than it was last month. You can no longer count on meeting new clients at local mixers and at writing conferences; now you have to recruit them online — and that includes on your website.

If you haven’t touched your site in a while, now would be a good time to fix any errors, update the content and refresh the design so it looks inviting.

I spend a fair amount of time on helping clients fix up their sites, and I’d like to share a few of the things that I look for when updating a site, then explain how you might go about the process of refreshing yours.

It starts with knowing what you should look for.


  1. Do you list all of your services on your site? Are the prices or rates correct? Have you removed any services you no longer want to offer?
  2. Does your bio mention your most-recent high-profile project or client? Does the photo make you look good?
  3. Is your event calendar current? Have you removed the canceled in-person events, and added your livestream events? (Now might be a good time to add a calendar if you don’t have one.)
  4. When was the last time you added a testimonial from a satisfied client?
  5. Are there any typos in your blog posts? (When was the last time you published one?)
  6. Do you have a subscribe box in the sidebar so visitors can follow your blog?


  1. Are there any broken links in the menu? Does the menu include all of your important pages?
  2. How fast do the pages load?
  3. Do all the links work on your home page? What about your other pages?
  4. If a prospective client fills out your contact form, will the message be sent or will the site eat it?
  5. Do you have share buttons on all blog posts?
  6. Does your mailing list form work? If you put in a name and email address, will the subscriber info be added to your subscriber list? (Do you have a mailing list?)


  1. Can someone look at your site and tell what editorial services you offer?
  2. Does your home page have a clear message for visitors?
  3. Do you encourage visitors to engage in some way? (This could include sending you a message, signing up for your mailing list, etc.)
  4. Are your background images so busy that they distract from your site’s content, or do they stay in the background where they belong?
  5. Does your site look cluttered, or does it have lots of blank space?
  6. Is the text legible, or does it tend to blend into the background? Is it too small to read easily?

These are tough questions, I know. The average person has trouble spotting errors in their own work, and that can make it difficult to check the content of your own site. Furthermore, few have both the experience to answer the design questions and the skills to answer the tech questions.. And frankly, this is quite the long list of questions (even for me).

This is why I think you should assemble a team to help you evaluate your site. You can think of this team like an author’s beta readers, and if you know any beta readers, that would be a good place to start. I would then ask your author friends to join your team (they bring a client’s eye to the project), and if you are good friends with a graphic designer, you might ask them for their opinion. (Obviously you shouldn’t ask them to work for free, but perhaps you could find a way to trade favors.) You might also ask a techie friend to help by answering the tech questions.

Once you have assembled a roster of 12 to 20 volunteers, break them up into smaller teams and assign each team specific questions to answer. Ask each team to look at specific pages on your site, and report back. You want to be thorough, so if possible, have at least three people answer each question and check each page.

The reason you want to assign tasks to each team is so all pages get checked, and all questions will be answered. If you just let your helpers look at whatever they want, you will find that some pages will be checked by everyone while other pages won’t be checked at all. The only way to make sure that all of any issues on your entire site have been found is to give specific assignments.

When the answers start coming in, compile them into a list. Triage the list to identify which issues are important and which ones aren’t actually problems. Then sort the list into two parts: one for things you can fix yourself and another for things that you need someone else to fix for you.

Will your budget stretch to hiring an expert? If not, could you work out a trade or maybe learn how to do the work yourself?

A lack of money and time has killed more projects than I would like to admit, so don’t beat yourself up too badly if you have to leave some problems unresolved. Instead, add this project to your to-do list so you can remember to get back to it one day.

Are there any other aspects of your website that could use work?

Nate Hoffelder has been building and running WordPress websites since 2010. He blogs about indie publishing and helps authors connect with readers by customizing websites to suit each author’s voice. You may have heard his site, the Digital Reader (, mentioned on news sites such as the NYTimes, Forbes, BoingBoing, Techcrunch, Engadget, Gizmodo or Ars Technica. He is scheduled to speak about websites at the 2020 Communication Central/NAIWE/An American Editor “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference. The Digital Reader was a sponsor of the 2019 conference.


1 Comment »

  1. This is a really helpful (and timely!) post, as I’ve been overhauling my site over the past few weeks. I’ve asked some family members to (candidly) review my site, but the next step is to reach out to target readers and a graphic designer colleagues. Glad to see Nate approves of this approach!



    On Wed, Apr 8, 2020 at 10:26 AM An American Editor wrote:

    > An American Editor posted: “By Nate Hoffelder, The Digital Reader > Contributing Columnist A few weeks back, An American Editor owner Ruth > Thaler-Carter published a post that discussed what editors and authors > should have on their websites. It was a great post, but it got me thinkin” >


    Comment by adammrosen — April 30, 2020 @ 10:00 am | Reply

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