Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.
I think Tolkien could not have done better summing up my feelings about the Internet. If there is one thing I can tell you about website design is that it is never stagnant, it never ever stays the same day to day. There is always some new trick that is more secure or some new function that is better and that fact should be reflected in any online customer oriented website.
So that is why I get paid to support all these constant development and creation cycles year after year at my bank. Not always for some new website functionality though, which happens frequently enough, but also to upgrade and evolve old website functionality that may have been in place for at least 10 years. That is ancient days in Internet terms. On one application I support I was hired on wave 2 of the product and we are now on wave 26 of the product. That is 26 changes to that single website function. How many changes as an ePublisher have you done to tune your website to your customers use?
I find personally I am very conservative in my website design approach, being in a bank and all. I tend to be more about simple well thought out function, not flash. I mean YouTube videos and customer comments and interaction is fun and all web 2.0 like that but I would much rather make something more useful for the sight impaired or to perfect a users shopping experience with the website I currently run.
That does not mean this Blog is perfect in any way. Far from it, but it goes in the direction I want for the time I have to put into a freebie website that gabs about ePublishing, and frankly makes absolutely no money and actually costs me money.
Questions I use to define “What makes a good ePublisher website?”
Is the website functional for the sight impaired?
This is fast becoming more and more important as it should be just like making a brick and mortar store handicap accessible. It is also the main reason why you should stay away from Flash and lots of Java tricks and stick close to things presented simply in HTML. The rule of KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) applies here.
Are all cover pictures clearly text and alt labeled for sight impaired and also hyper-linked to the book’s sales page?
Did you know even Amazon fails at this? As I said, this is becoming a big thing and should be part of your companies presentation in a professional manner. I find the most dedicated eBook customers are those who are sight impaired. Catch the clue and ride the wave.
Do all the latest releases show up on time, right on the front page, of the ePublisher website?
Now here is a simple one to start off with and it is also one of the major focuses of any ePublisher. Promotion! What have you got to sell me that is new? There is at least one website that has three different pages you have to click on to find out what they have new in stock. Confusing, especially if you do not have a significant amount of new eBooks to sell. I feel the company is wrongly promoting itself or what it wants the customers to think about it not what books the customers can buy. If they do not like the fact you sell Gay Romance they are gonna hate you anyway, on the front page or on the back page.
Are all the author names hyper-linked to their own BIO page and listing of books?
Now see, this is so easy but not enough sites leverage the hyper-link appropriately. Every time you use an authors name you should be promoting their books to me. Just like every time you mention a book title it should show me where you sell that eBook.
Does the author BIO page show all their eBooks and series from that ePublisher or do I have to click around the site to get series information, single titles, author information etc etc etc just to find the author’s other books?
Website organization is key! Always think about how you can present all the most important information on a single page to me in order to keep my limited attention span and inform me of new products. Especially if I (a fool) have taken a interest in one of your authors and want to buy (part with my money) every eBook they published! Encourage the parting of the money damn it!
Is there a “coming soon” page? Does it show cover art, author, series information, blurb and link to Author’s page which also mentions this new book “coming soon”?
You would not believe how much time I spend on reviewing updates on your particular website and I still am surprised by what is showing up week to week. How am I supposed to promote a new book “coming soon” from an author if you are not?
Are the ePublisher’s categories uniformly based on industry standard definitions and easily understood?
I think you all know who brought this question to my mind but they did fix it. A little bit. The point is cutesy names and fancy branding tricks should be saved for people who are already your customers not used on me as a potential customer who is trying to browse on your confusing cutesy website for a Paranormal Romance with Werewolves that you decided should be in the cutesy wootsey “Shadow Rose” category.
Are the books with options to purchase “in print” shown on the same page as eBook format offerings?
Again, quit making me figure this out over on some other webpage. I should be able to see this information and buy this book “in print” from the same page I bought it in eBook format. That is also probably the same page I linked to in my review. You are not helping matters here.
Does the website constantly change the url/uri to the eBook while promoting it?
One website does this with their “coming soon” page. What if I already announced it and made a link to that eBook? On the date the customer can get the dang book you purposefully break all the frigging damn links people have made to it. BAD BAD BAD!
Can you buy the eBook directly from the same information page it is listed and described?
Yes, having a website only to provide the author and eBook information and a separate website to sell the eBook is bad. Making me click through all that mess just to buy the damn book is an obstacle to you making a sale and me then adding another eBook to the pile. I went through so much just to buy the one eBook I don’t want to go back and do it again!
Is it easy for me to buy specific eBooks for another person as a gift?
Would you believe several ePublishers make this entirely impossible for me to do easily? How are you attracting new customers if I (A loyal and devoted customer.) can’t buy them a eBook?
Is the ePublisher packaging the books together in specials and are they attempting to sell a whole series for one low price?
Why not? This is retail packaging 101. I might even buy the same dang eBook all over again if the whole series is offered at one low price. How about a single purchase of all books published that month in one big package?
Does the ePublisher ensure they are selling eBooks in all the formats that customers are buying?
I am not saying do they “attempt” to tell the customer how to convert eBooks they just bought. Are they selling the eBooks in those formats without requiring this headache of the customers? Simple question. Come on people, this is the publishers job to package the eBook in Adobe/PDF or Sony/BBeB or HTML or Kindle/AZW or eBookWise or Microsoft/Lit or frigging pink with red stripes! If they can not at least do that then they really are not paying attention to the market are they?
Does the ePublisher website have me sign up so they can track who I am and my contact information for newsletters and what I have bought and offer me new books based on previous purchases and offer me the ability to download the same book again in a respectful period of time if I lose it due to a hard disk crash or even download it in a different format if I purchase a new eReader?
There is only one retail website that I know of doing this but they probably treasure EACH AND EVERY CUSTOMER and want to show it and continue to provide service for a long time to come and they probably track sales at a granular level and do a lot of neat and useful things with that information so they can provide better service and more eBooks. Smart website and smart retailer and smart customers.
Last hint from an old webserver guru.
If you update your website often with new functionality, even if you are happy with it “as is”, customers might think you are there and paying attention and you might actually work for a living.