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, Lulu.com, 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.