We’ve all seen them – sites that make us cringe. There are websites out there that actually make me squirm just looking at them, and last weekend I visited a few that drove me nearly mad.
This started with business cards. Yes, how on earth did I manage to forget until the end of June that I hadn’t ordered business cards yet? I have my engraved business card holder, I fully intended to have cards done in time for Harrogate Crime Festival. But somehow, in between all the other things going on, it slipped my mind.
Until I was rearranging things in my office and looked at my collection of cards I received last year at Harrogate.
Well, how hard can it be? I thought. I do desktop publishing – I used to work in that. I could make my own cards if need be, although Kevin was adamant that I not.
As he said, having a card with bumpy edges because you printed off a sheet of perforated cards and handing them out says cheap.
Now, I don’t think about stuff like that, because I don’t often exchange business cards. In Mr. Business Analyst and Software Developer’s world, they think about stuff like that. I think more about card stock and design – he thinks overall appearance of quality.
So, I decided to try looking at some designs online. I had a design I’d worked out on my computer, but I didn’t know if it would be feasible.
What did I discover? That, in order to have the privilege of shopping for business cards online through the retailers here, I had to register as a customer. I had to give them personal information.
I won’t give you “my right to privacy, part 2” but this was part of what got me about our government’s planned internet surveillance bill. I’m loathe to completely knock it and be 100,000% against it until I actually see the bill. Why so level-headed, so unusually restrained, Sandra? It’s simple. I also know the media can make a zit into a brain tumor. And our media have an anti-conservative bias, which means you can’t always take what they report at face value. I went through classes on covering politics, I know the subtle ways media manipulate readers to sway political favour. So, when it comes to stuff like this, I bear that in mind.
That said, I will not give out personal information in order to just look at a product online. It’s an absolute rule for me. And in cases like this, I’m tempted to write a company a letter and tell them how bad it looks, that a potential customer can’t even look at business card designs on the website in order to decide if they might take their business there. What, exactly, is the point of the website then?
Incidentally, if you go into the stores I’m referring to, they have a book on their print center counter with all their design choices. I’m not even asking for something that doesn’t exist, but there is no point having a website where people can shop from if you don’t let people browse through your products.
They lost a sale over those websites.
Instead, I went to a place in Calgary that designs on site, and yes, it was a bit of a headache for me. I had to drive in and place the order in person. Then, the next day, I had to drive back and approve the proof.
Now I have to drive back to Calgary and pick up my cards. And believe me, three trips to the city, 45 minutes each way, give or take, depending on traffic? I can think of better ways to spend my time, not to mention the gas money.
But that’s how strongly I feel about it.
What I really wish is that people who have websites, especially business websites, would realize how ridiculous they look sometimes. I debated on whether or not to pick on some sites, and figured I may as well. I’ve got to say that if you’re selling something, you should have an indication of your product on the site, preferably the front page. I don’t have a book cover myself yet, but that’s why my front page talks about my writing. Not perfect, but it’ll do for now.
This website is one of my least favourite publisher websites. The front page officially puts the site as being about nothing. Even worse, look at how they do the author listing page.
Do you see why it bugs me? You have to go a few clicks in to even start seeing book covers that way. I have no idea what this press is about from their website.
This of it this way. You have a very limited amount of time to persuade someone to look further and be interested in your site. If I was looking to buy a book, I'd be very frustrated by this site. I don't even know what kind of books they sell.
Crap, people, remember consumers fly by and if all they see is children's books, they'll think children's books. If all they see is mysteries... get it? If you publish a variety, indicate that right off the top. I look at the author listing and book listing pages and think, "I'd have to know somebody to be looking for their book here." That is NOT a site that appeals to consumers.
On the other hand, look at Crème de la Crime. Book covers, as well as a “who we are’ right on the front page. This is much better. It actually shows me that they publish books, and I can see the quality there of the designs. I’m far more interested in going deeper and looking around at titles on a site like this.
Another site that’s not doing itself any favours. Bland front page. No graphics.
Okay, I don’t want to see cheesy graphics and artwork that has nothing to do with books on a publisher’s site either. But is this a real press or what? Then show me a book cover!
This is one of the best. Crisp, clean, easy to navigate. Looks professional. Scroll down for recently reviewed and upcoming events, getting front page prominence. That tells me they’re paying attention to what happens with the books they put out and their authors.
Here are my basic rules for websites:
Show what you’re about. There is only one flaw to this otherwise perfect site, and I bet you don’t know what it is. It has nothing to do with site design, other than search engine optimization. Otherwise, this is a great author site. Atmospheric. Crisp and clean, easy to navigate. Easy to read.
If you want people to treat you like a serious business, act and present yourself like one. Here’s one I’ll give mixed reviews. I’m not sure I care what the outside of the store looks like. The cat is the mascot, otherwise I’d be wondering wth – and 2 pictures? But I suppose if you’re physically looking for the store, an external picture would help. Still, the link list is small, the titles are long, and it doesn’t put itself off as a place to shop right away.
Don’t run ads for other businesses, especially across the top of a page. If you’re going to do it, put it down the side or something. The top of the page is what grabs the eye first, and when I have to sort through ads for someone else, I’m put off. Here’s a good example of an ezine with sponsors, placing them at the bottom of the page. It doesn’t detract from the issue or what the ezine is about.
Less is more. Don’t overcrowd your site. The site I referenced above as doing ads well? It doesn’t do text so well. It’s too small, the colours I find visually distracting.
Simply put, you can’t be all things to everyone. But know what you’re about, and design your site to reflect that. Cornelia’s site is simple, understated and very effective. The uncluttered feel allows me to focus right in on who she is, what she’s about. She doesn’t have to say “author” because she has her book cover right there.
Yeah, I know, this is reading like Sandra’s rules of web design. Something to think about, though. I had a hard time designing my website at first, because I originally designed it before I had a book deal. Then I changed the whole design in a hurry.
I’ve been thinking about redoing it for a while now. I’m still thinking. And going around to some sites that drove me nuts on the weekend has made me think even more about my website.
In fact, I might know what I’m doing instead of sleeping next week.
Okay guys, I’m sure I’m not alone. Share your website pet peeves with me!