Through my Book Promotion 101 work and as a program organizer for the Virginia Festival of the Book, I look at an awful lot of authors' websites. And too many of them are indeed awful--amateurish, poorly organized, with vital information hard to find or nonexistent.
Here is what every website should have:
1) An experienced designer! You get what you pay for (but don't overpay either). A good designer can set up your site so that you can edit the content yourself. Your website is your public face to the world. Make it crisp, sharp and professional-looking. As a friend of mine in ad sales once told me, "Presentation is everything."
2) A good proofreader & copy editor! (Not you. The more eyes checking it, the better.)
3) URL should be [yourname.com]
4) An image of your current book on the first screen of the home page with title, publisher, publication date, purchasing information & blurbs.
5) Separate pages for Author Bio, Press/Reviews, Events, Contact, Book Excerpt, Other Works.
6) MAKE IT EASY TO REACH YOU! Contact page must have your email address (you can encrypt it and/or set up a separate Yahoo/Hotmail/Gmail/etc account just for website mail); contact info for your publicist (her name, title, email & phone #).
7) Bio page should have a good, clear, recognizable picture of you, with a high-resolution (at least 300dpi) PROFESSIONAL headshot that journalists & event organizers can download. This means: No blurry snapshots on vacation or in front of a bookcase. No pix of you with pets/kids/spouse/partner.
8) Meta tags on (at least) your home page with your name, book title & key words. For example: Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, orphan, orphans, orphanage, pickpockets, gangs, Fagin, London, 19th century.
9) No flash animation on home page (takes too long to download & watch). But if you must have animation, have a "Skip flash" button.
10) No automatic sound (annoying/embarrassing for office workers). Offer sound as an option (for example: see website for Becky Motew, author of the upcoming COUPON GIRL.)
Here is a nearly perfect author website:
LOVE WALKED IN by Marisa de los Santos. My only quibbles are that she doesn't have a URL for her name & no meta tags, so a Google search for her name didn't lead to the site.