Authors: Repetition Is Okay!

I can’t tell you how many times I get comments from authors about wanting to remove the repetition on their website’s homepage. But why? In some cases, repetition is a good thing.

Here’s an example: we might have a picture of the book cover on the homepage with a link next to it that says something like “Read more about the book.” We may also have an element in the navigation that says something like “About the book.” On numerous occasions, I’ve had authors tell me to ditch the link by the book cover – it’s repetitive.

Here’s why that’s a mistake…

Authors are used to writing for print. In a book, you don’t want to have repetition. That’s because people generally read a book from cover to cover. If they come across something that they’ve read before, it feels repetitive to them.

People don’t “read” websites, though. They peruse websites. In fact, research shows that your average visitor will only spend a few seconds on a site’s homepage before leaving. What will they see in those few seconds? Certainly not everything on the homepage. No, what they will see is what catches their attention. It might be the book cover. It might be the author photo. Maybe it’s a graphic they like. Whatever it is, you want to make sure you encourage readers to DO something during those few seconds that you have their attention. Don’t make them scan the page to find something … bring it to them, even if you do so in a multitude of ways.

To further the point that repetition is okay, let’s talk about the difference between website navigation and content. The navigation of an author site (or any site, really) should be the primary way of getting around. Everything that’s on the website should be summarized in that nav, and anyone who glances at the navigation should be able to get a sense of what they can find on the site and where to find it.

That navigation is a resource — sort of like an index — that appears on every page of the website. But you shouldn’t mistake that index for anything except a resource for someone to glance at when they’re looking for something.

The content on your homepage is the bread and butter of your site. It’s completely different from the nav; it’s what YOU want your readers to see, not necessarily what they’re looking for. So even if you have links to buy the book or read an excerpt in the nav, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the content of the homepage to tantalize people into doing the same.

Think about it…. When you visit a website, what do you first look at? Chances are, it’s not the navigation. No, that’s what you glance at when you’re looking for something specific, or if you want to get a sense of the kind of content that the site encompasses. Your true attention goes to the body of the page. You want to see the headlines, read the copy, and look at the pictures. If it’s compelling enough, you might decide to take the plunge and click through to the links that are included in that content, enter your email address, or purchase the book.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you should eliminate calls to action on your homepage because the same links exist in your navigation. Repetition is okay. Your content and your nav are like apples and oranges: all they have in common is that they’re both a type of fruit. If you want to call that repetition, so be it.