The internet has changed a lot in the last ten years. Well, even in the last two. Maybe even in the last week. Ok, so it’s ever-changing. New languages are being developed and perfected all the time, and the rise of apps plus innovative web design means users expect a different browsing experience. With more people than ever before buying and browsing books online, publishers have a real opportunity to go head to head with other retailers (should they so wish) by investing a massive amount in their web presence. And no, I’m not talking about setting up a Twitter account that auto-Tweets links to Amazon.
A great website is the key to a good online presence. It’s the bread in your digital sandwich; the egg in your online omelette; the binding agent in other food-based metaphors. You can have the best social media presence in the world, or the biggest database of email addresses, but unless you have somewhere to send those people when they want to make a purchase, you are probably in trouble. A blog is not enough.
So what does a good website look like? It’s content rich (tick, publishers, you have content coming out of your ears, so repurpose it effectively for web), it’s engaging (personally to readers, not just overflowing with press releases), it has a great search engine, and it guides you. It should recommend you continue looking into further parts of the website. And at every point, the visitor should be given (this is important, now) the option to purchase.
The article on web design that resonated the most with me was a piece espousing the idea that every page on your website should be a homepage. Or rather, you should realise that every page might be an entry page. If you’ve done a good job of SEO, visitors should be coming in the side doors just as much as by the front.
Equally, you can’t cram all your information onto one section of the site, and expect users to continually navigate back there. You have to provide enough information and links on the basic pages, ones that are both relevant to and enhance their browsing experience, to encourage a visitor to stay.
A good test for whether or not your page is a decent entry page is to imagine it without any static navigation. Is the content you’ve got on there enough to keep someone clicking through? Or are you relying on them defaulting to the main header elements to find their way to the next piece of content?
And here are a couple of things you can do to help yourself out: ditch Internet Explorer. Not just as a personal preference, but as a business. You need a browser that supports what you’re doing, not one that stops you with error messages about page scripts every time you load Twitter. Don’t feed the trolls. Have a conversation, not a pitch.
Most importantly: put the effort in. It’s not a terrible idea to buy into new social media assets when they are demonstrably engaging your target audience, but if you think about it, these properties are sort of like caravans. Your website is your home, and should always command both the majority of your time and the majority of your investment.