Feedback from You

Thank you my blogfriends for the feedback on what you want to experience on a website.

There weren’t terribly many respondents but those who did, gave good feedback.  To summarize:

  • I think we all agree we prefer calm layout to busy.
  • Ease of navigation is a big one
  • Of course there should not be bugs
  • It must load fast
  • It must be logical.

Some went quite a bit further with suggestions and questions.

Kvenna rad asks why I picked 5 sites from a wide variety of industries as examples, and not book sites in specific.  She also included further links; some extremely beautiful.

The answer to her question:

Of course I’m not Bank of England or Mercedes. The reason I picked such wildly divergent sites was to get a general idea of what appeals to people.  Only looking at book sites (Amazon, Goodreads,, Author’s Den, Epub Bud, Leisure Books, Scribd…. the list goes on) gives a very narrow view.  Book sites tend to have something in common, as do artist sites (such as she posted in her comment).

Here is what you’ll find on a standard bookshop site (think, e.g., Amazon):

  • a good search box
  • unbelievable clutter under, over and around the search box.  The clutter consists of links to the 1000 places on the site, and of “also read” suggestions.  The eye moves right past it and zooms in on the search box.  If the search box and the logo were the only things on the home page, it would still be enough, because most people arrive on the site looking for a specific book/product.
  • You do need the logo, because otherwise you can’t be sure you’ve really arrived at Amazon.

We already agree that we hate visual clutter.  A well-designed home page needs a focal point and a little bit of peripheral stuff; and of course the logo so that you know you’re on the right site.

Why is an artist-style layout not enough for P’kaboo?

It would be enough for our author pages (and those will get their overhaul, promise!  The whole concept is being revised.)  But P’kaboo has more than that.  An author page / artist page focuses on one artist’s work.  P’kaboo has multiple functions; so the layout will out of necessity have more links than an artist page.  (Ease of navigation.)

As for the 5 websites I showed:

  • Mercedes:  Love it to bits!  Classy, sleek, expensive look.  Calm and pleasing on the eye; yet enough image to keep it interesting.  

Mercedes, of course, has a completely different function from P’kaboo.  So I can “steal” certain ideas and elements, but the design as a whole would be a mismatch.

  • On the Dot:  Highly functional, organized.  Not as sleek as Mercedes, but the ease of navigation is amazing.  From here, I’ll steal navigational ease.
  • Bank of England: Banksy, boring.  At least it looks better than the ABSA site which is in link overkill and has design cramps.  Money, of course, should be regarded as a boring necessity (the banks would like us to see it that way!).  And a bank has nothing to prove online.  Can you exist without a bank?  Sure…  you can technically also exist without a dentist.
  • w3schools:  Here’s an example of function with practically no form.  The look deceives.  At first glance it looks cluttered; but once you look at the actual links, you realize that ease of navigation is outstanding.   The absence of graphics results in an extremely fast load (it’s usually graphics and fancy scripts that slow down a site while it is loading).  And the actual function of the page (tutorial with live examples) is super.  w3schools exists not to look good itself but to help you make your site look good, and they are absolutely brilliant at it. Ease of navigation is nearly at 100% on w3schools.
  • And then there is Coca-cola.  *SIGH*

Coca-cola is a huge, wealthy company.  It owns nearly all the non-nutritive beverages in the world.  The idea of putting chemicals in water and selling these in 2000 varying shapes, tastes and colours, was a profitable one.

Coca-cola was the company who once tried it out whether they could get away without advertising, seeing that everyone knew about them.  A clever thing to consider, because marketing is immensely expensive.  After a week, their sales had dropped so critically that they retook their advertising in full force.  Conclusion:   The company is 100% dependent on its marketing.

With this background, one would have expected something as appealing as Mercedes on their website.  Instead, it is jumbled, confusing and (to my taste) downright ugly.  What?  Can’t they afford designers?  I’m sure designers did this!  It makes it ever more puzzling which market they appeal to.

Sites like Bookseeker and Goodreads are really networking sites, not bookshops.  Their function is to bring people together, to make people stay on their sites longer and interact.  The people who frequent such sites are usually authors looking for agents, agents looking for authors, and reviewers looking for people to offer their services (though what I’ve seen so far of reviewers, they are flooded and don’t need additional networking).

Artist websites and author sites can be very sleek and beautiful; however they don’t tend to be very extensive or deep as the product they are showcasing, is usually a single limited portfolio.  If you are looking for a good illustrator, e.g., or a photographer, you’ll page through their photos, looking at each in detail; as opposed to a bookshop where you’ll visually scan the books and zoom in on the most eye-catching.  Slide shows and “flip-files” (slide shows that you can control with your mouse) are ideal for such showcase sites; we now have a slide show of only our 6 youngest releases on P’kaboo’s home page as the focal point.  (The bookshop is unaltered, as it isn’t that cluttered, the layout is logical and clean and the navigation takes precedence over the visual).

When I write about such things, I also clarify them in my own mind.  Thank you for all your input and discussions, and for the opportunity of exploring the topic.


15 thoughts on “Feedback from You

  1. I would have added my sixpenneth but then, I was once reminded never to interrupt someone who is busy doing ….er something …or some such like that?
    P’kaboo looks sooper dooper and posh, by the way.
    Glad the Happy New Year greeting is gone.
    I kept panicking and looking at my calender.

    Now, THIS place needs more colour. Maybe some reds or purples or a nice montage of Olde Worlde violinists…Stravinskyesque, perhaps?

    Or…Jimi Hendrix burning his Stratocaster at Monterey. 🙂

    How about a vintage pic. of books for the header?
    Or Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock?

    BTW, I notice Aunty Jane has activated her own site. You can spread the word if you fancy, especially to those folk who want a laugh.

    • 😉 Well since the happy new year happened, there was no touching of ground. I’d have blogged about it if I’d had the time… Glad you like the “new” look.

    • 🙂 Will check it out.

      Somehow I haven’t yet spent enough time hacking around the dashboard to figure out how to get my “bottom-bar” into a “side-bar” (stop grinning! This has nothing to do with ethanol). The theme is “Wu Wei” which I picked firstly because I like the layout but secondly because it means, “effortless action”. According to “The Tao of Pooh”. Of course they talk about the Pooh Way instead.

  2. 1. One more vote for Jimi. 🙂

    2. My reason for questioning your choice of exemplars was that they were so far away from your business milieu that they were almost irrelevant to your search for a good site format. The reason I sent you links to writers, artists, and one agent, was that they were closer; they were not meant to be precise exemplars for your site, just that little bit closer.

    3. I wouldn’t even consider sites such as Amazon or Goodreads for comparison, as their scope is far wider than yours. You’re a publishing house who also sells its own books, not a ‘standard bookshop’.

    4. The clean layout is everything. Well, almost.


    • Ah…the elusive Ms. Marshall, I presume?
      Plus, another Jimi Hendrix fan by the sounds of it.. (And you and I both know HIS middle name, do we not? lol)
      And the same publisher. So, two things in common.
      Pleased to meet you.


    • 🙂 Great that you two have met!
      Yes, I 100% understood your comment the way you elucidated now. Still I thought I might want to offer a valid explanation to readers (I might in fact have done without any previous comment). Also, trust me, you posting links to those beautiful author and artist sites is very much appreciated; not only for their aesthetic value but for the practical implication. I’m reconceptualizing our author, book and review pages. The artist sites yield immense inspiration.

      As for Amazon: But I am envisioning becoming that big. Book sales are the lifeblood of successful writers (and of course their publishers, and the whole industry attached). I’m currently selling our own books; I’m also agenting some other people’s packages which I still need to include on the website. Like we say here, “klein begin” (small beginnings). The website will have to grow and morph to accommodate our various functions. I’m only hoping that in 10 years’ time I can still keep the layout clean, calm and easy to navigate.

    • LOL M… 🙂 it starts with a vision. Like Terry Pratchett said, “Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler” had a gift. He knew how to have a vision of some business, draw a line from where he was to to that vision, and follow it. The only problem, of course, is that CMOT’s schemes are usually illegal.

      In the real world, big visions are an essential start… big capital behind them certainly helps. This is where I say, “klein begin”. Step by step the publishing is a positive equation, if I stick carefully with the principle of small runs until big runs. The big risk comes in when one deviates from the very careful profit equation. E.g. the “Sell-or-return” policy of large chains is a back-breaker for any publisher starting out. Significantly those chains don’t expect Penguin and Random House to swallow that nonsense.

  3. Wu Wei is Chinese for ‘Yuk’ . I just Google-Translated it.
    If you are having problem with your bottom bar then may I suggest you pop over to Aunty Jane’s and ask her for help?
    Keep the theme but jazz up the header and stuff. Bottom Bars notwithstanding, of course. I must tell you I am trying to type with a straight face and losing the battle.

    The Far King has an interesting post you might like.

    • 🙂 You misread that – it’s “Yak”, not “Yuk”. It refers to the calm and clean colour of the yak milk and the effortless action with which this is obtained. It is a martial art of course and totally inaccessible to Westerners.

      Will definitely need to make a plan with that skew face. Erosion is a bummer. I can give you the number of a good sculptor.

      I wonder if Auntie will be able to help me with the adjustments to my bottom bar. Worth a try though, she seems such a knowledgeable individual. I’ll pop over.

  4. Ah, now I see what you mean by a ‘bottom bar.’
    Your page looks lovely dear. I often enjoy looking at something quite bare and white. But a little colour does no harm now and then, does it?
    You are called the Red Ant yet it is blue.
    Maybe a bit of colour would help put a few Ants in the Pants of the visitors, perhaps?
    I am just an old busy body, so don’t mind me.
    Nice to meet you and thank you for popping over.
    Oh, and tell …Ark, is it? Well you tell him to mind his own perishing business.
    BFN Love Aunty Jane x

    • Hi Auntie. Thanks so much for visiting! Yes I suppose I might try to put a few more red ants in my … header, as there aren’t any at all currently.

      I tinkered around with the bottom bar and there is simply no side bar in this theme.

      Have been wondering for a while, if I do tell The Ark to mind his own business, which business that would be? I hear via the grapevine that he used to be a head gardener. That would then explain his interest in my bottom bar. But I tried to tell him it’s nothing to do with drink…

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