Sometimes people ask me what should an author's website should look like and what its content should be. There are several functions an author's website can serve:
* to tell about the author - you could have a general, interesting bio for readers who are curious, and a more comprehensive media page with a downloadable photo, some interviews with you (even if you have to make them up yourself), press clippings if you have any, an extended bio (with emphasis on anything unusual reporters can use as a hook), your availability for interviews or events, any positive reviews, and of course contact information.
* to whet readers' appetite for a forthcoming book. You could include relevant images (e.g., if you did research somewhere and took photos), some character bios, an intriguing paragraph or two about the plot, etc.)
* to provide an experience to supplement the reading of the book. This might include character biographies, "deleted scenes" from your novel, articles about how and why you chose to write this story, an audio or video interview with you, games, puzzles, contests, etc.
An excellent--but not cheap--example of a site that does this is http://www.finishingschoolbooks.com/
It's the site for a new series of books with the umbrella title "Finishing School," aimed at a Young Adult audience. Here's a a screen shot of part of the home page:
As you'll see if you go to the site, it took some skill and expense to create. My guess is the publisher was willing to foot the bill because this site will service a series of books, not just one, and the author, Gail Carriger, is already well established. Here is her whimsical bio from the site:
New York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She survived her early years by reading most of her local library and memorizing Greek battles. Eventually, she escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. In pursuit of further finishing, Ms. Carriger traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported from London.
This is a good example of a bio that has the same tone as the books the site promotes. Matching the style of your book (funny bio if your book is amusing, for instance) creates a more enjoyable experience for the visitor.
Unless you have a fair amount of money at your disposal, probably you won't be able to come up with a site with this many bells and whistles. However, it can still serve as a good model for a light-hearted approach. If you can find a student interested in practicing his or her After Effects skills, even the limited animations on this site wouldn't be difficult to emulate.
Take a close look at the sites of a variety of authors so you can discover for yourself what works, what doesn't, and what you can take them them in order to construct your own. If you're curious about how they achieved a particular effect, don't be afraid to write to them; most authors are glad to help.
(Do you need ideas for how to market your book? You'll find chapters on both traditional and guerrilla marketing for writers in my book, "Your Writing Coach." It's published by Nicholas Brealey and available from Amazon or your other favorite book seller.)