Sunday, August 20, 2006

Your Websites--the first batch

Here are the first of our website visits covering the first seven sites submitted. The comments are from me, and our guest web-design expert Liz. Thanks to all who volunteered--our comments are, of course, just our subjective opinions. I hope you will all take the time to look around these sites and see what some of our visitors are up to. I will keep doing these visits so long as people keep sending links. The top pick from each group will get a link from out POD People website. From this batch this will be the tied first place getters Hannah R Goodman and J M Snyder. (Links not posted yet—it will be in the next update).

It took me a little while to find the fiction page because the top navigation bar is in a tiny font but from there the books are well described with clear links to the point of sale. The informal tone and simple design make for a nice web experience. Bonus points for quoting our POD People review of ‘Another Worldly Device’. The background images are just a little distracting but the regularly updated content of the blog-style front page suggest that this is a site you could visit again and again.

Liz (#3)
Cons - the site is fixed-width (generally a negative to me), sits at the left rather than centering itself (which looks better if you're going with fixed-width) but the "you are not clones" banner is not fixed with the rest of the page, which just looks weird. I find the insects in the background make it hard to read the text. If you like the bug, make him a logo somewhere...

Pros: Content is well organized with the blog entries down the left and new reviews down the right. Navigation is clear if boring.

Consistent across browsers (though it doesn't work in older (4.x) browser versions, not that it's such a big deal).

Em (#2)
A smooth professional look from the first moment make this a standout website. There is also cover art and link to a point of sale in the top section of the page to maximize sales. A lot of high quality infromation is available giving a real feeling that you are learning more about the author. Attractive graphics and cover art combined with clear navigation make this a real stand out site.

Liz (#1)
Cons - the front page is a bit busy with the finer points of visual formatting inconsistent (or at least unclear: e.g. there are 2 items in yellow boxes with dotted borders - one a link to her blog, another for a download; then there's the unique box around the email list signup - it's not clear what warrants the yellow box or what gets its own unique style). The radio button in the google search for www (vs. her site only) is on a separate line from the www label - that should be easy enough to fix. And the navigation is inconsistent (click on books and sub-options appear for each book, as well as blurbs for each in the main content area; but click on short stories and they only appear in the main content area; etc.). The right side is mostly books and how to buy, but there's a "testimonial" quote at the end, on the left after the menu we get a pic with a factoid and some more quotes plus that PDF link.

Minor details all, but makes it a little "cluttered". Could easily be fixed by grouping, labeling and formatting content of similar categories and consistent functional behavior in the menus. Again, don't like the fixed width, but centering it makes it visually more appealing.

Pros: Other than the above, it's well organized, and regardless of the above, navigation is easy and its visually appealing.
Good use of color and mixing graphic and text content (though I could do without the webring pink at the bottom of the home page).

The header graphic/logo is nice. IMO, this is the best and most professional-looking of the sites. I see that it's hosted/designed by company which does this kind of thing commercially, which probably makes a difference. Good cross-browser support; better old-browser support than the last one (content is all over the place, but at least you can get to it).

The site is plain but the books are shown up front. I very quickly got a feeling for what the books on sale were about and for the writer’s enthusiasm for these subjects. Point of sale links could be a little more prominent but were easy to find. A functional site.

Yikes! Cons: nearly everything. Screams amateur and late 80s. We could do without that pic in the background, which makes the text hard to read. Every font color and size possible was used and doesn't help. Every page is completely different - you'd never know they were all at the same site. Navigation is easy, but the first page doesn't make me want to go further. Pros: Looks the same in all browsers, even the old ones.

The site give some feel for the author with clear covers and links to point of sale—but no information about the prose fiction and little about the poetry. This is a start but I think the site needs more content.

Cons: Suffers many of the same problems as the previous, though not as bad. The background is distracting but not to the point of not being able to read the text. The look is inconsistent (like a scrapbook rather than an organized presentation).
Pros: as before, works in any browser.

Em: (#3)
I like the look of the site except for the intrusive google ads. There are stories and all sorts of interesting information but there really needs to be something to smooth the way for the new reader—like an overall summary and index to help them get their bearings. The purple font on aqua background is a bit hard on the eyes when it comes to reading full stories.

Cons: Google ads right at the top! At least move them below a header of sorts so we know it's your site, not google's. It's blah, purple text on a pale blue background just doesn't do it for me.

Pros: Shows in all browsers; actually looks better in the 4.x generation where the google ads don't show up and it's basically white background and black text with graphics.

Em: (#1)
An excellent design. A nice blend of professionalism and informality with clear links to books and stories. Very impressive and full of information with intuitive navigation and no clutter.

Liz: (#2)
Cons: Lacking somewhat in eye candy (color, graphics, logo). But that may be the look they were going for...

Pros: Clean, simple. You won't get lost. Not pretty in older browsers, but shows up in all of them. Very well organized. Visual effects (such as underlining links on mouse over) are nice. Consistent look across the whole site.

This would be my second favorite, and it's very close - I like the consistency, organization and cleanness of this site much better than the one above, but I like the other's visual appeal better.

Easy to get around easy to buy the book. I would suggest making the front page more about the book and less about the author but otherwise this is a friendly website and easy to understand and navigate.

Cons: In those browsers not configured to override the site's font, it's bold, italic and serif! Nearly impossible to read! Looks very amateur. Suffers from minor inconsistent details between pages.

Pros: Shows in all browsers, even old. Navigation is easy, if not totally consistent. Look is mostly consistent.


Chris Gerrib said...

Thanks for the review. Sorry Em's browser had problems - it was done in Microsoft FrontPage with Garamond font.

Tabitha said...

Thank you for the review of Your comments please me because I have achieved my goal of creating a site that is easy to navigate with any browser and offers suprises on every page. Yes, it looks amateurish: that's the point. Yes, it looks like something from an earlier decade, and that is also intentional. My books are about Baby Boomer nostalgia for the '50's, '60's, '70's, and '80's. Screw the giant corporations! My books are researched and written by an amateur, a real person.

illuminati said...

If this were my job, to view and review these websites, I think that I'd rather sit on a sidewalk somewhere with a cardboard sign reading, "Will design websites for food".

As far as most are concerned, I would be hard pressed to find "pros" to offset the "cons".

Of them all, I'd give highest marks to , and although I'm trying to stay away from content criticism, her site could be a lot more about books than about Hannah.

Next, avoiding content and my own anti-homosexual beliefs, is clean, clear and to the point. I'd use a different and larger font, but there is little to criticize here. offset to the left is ANNOYING, and so is the tiny print navigation (at top of page). In general, the purpose of the site is lost on me. First impression..."Move on".
OMG! Boring and ugly! Not a web design, just a disaster. It's a boring blog that does NOT encourage me to read, buy or investigate further.
Background SUCKS!!
Hate the left centered text with centered products below.
IMHO, a few simple fixes could turn this into a website.
I DID like the fact that he kept it short and sweet and focus was primarily on the poetry collections.
(in my best Mr. Rogers voice...)"Can you say 'ABYSMAL'?"
This website has NOTHING to recommend it. If they're trying to sell a product, this is not the way to go about it. It hurt my eyes!!

In case you're wondering who the hell I am...I'm just a guy surfing sites that may interest me. I'm an author who's turning his first book into an audio offering and writing a sequel to it (and procrastinating by writing lengthy comments on other peoples sites).