Friday, September 25, 2009

What's in a website?

This week, while speaking with an upcoming author, she asked me what the standard is for a good website. The answer to that, I believe, is fairly subjective and varies according to your audience. What does not vary is the answer to these 2 questions:

Are customers glad they looked you up?
Do they want to come back/recommend your site to others as a resource?

Both answers should be a resounding YES, but what you put up on your site to make people say that is the subjective part.

Who is your audience and what do they value? To create a fan base, you need to know the answer to this question and supply it as an ongoing resource on your website.

My all-time favorite site to use as an example for knowing who their audience is and what they value is Another is Despair is a retail site and Free Rice is a charity site and after visiting once, nearly all of their target audience is likely to return.

Exercise: Of the following bestselling book series, which author do you think is magnifying their popularity with their online presence? Remember, I'm not typing this question for my health. This is for you! Take 5 minutes right, click on each link and vote on which one you think is most effective for the author/most visited. For extra credit, tell me why you think it is the strongest! (Some of you may want to skip clicking on this one as it is a YA Horror series)

And yes, that last one is a curve ball, and does not belong to a bestselling author. But can anyone tell me why I put it in there anyway?

Please leave all responses as comments and I look forward to reading them!


  1. Sheralyn, thanks for linking these. Obviously some great choices. I've seen Fablehaven and Dan Brown before. Fantastic, but EXPENSIVE. Ouch! I know what I paid for my site. I can only imagine what those cost. But, I think your point is that these sights, at least the best of them, engage their visitors. They invite visitors to do something while they visit. For example, the ten minutes I spent at testing my vocabulary prowesslessness. Thanks for the tutorial. I'll keep working on this.

  2. Thanks for putting in that last site. After seeing some of those fancy book sites I was beginning to wonder if I could make a website work without a big budget. Mr. Pratt made his site interesting by including the little-seen hebrew calendar. I'll get to work on my site and see what I can do.

  3. I liked the Fablehaven and Dan Brown ones, although disliked they took longer to load. Frank is right, they must have cost a lot to create (not to mention maintain). My favorite one was Rick Riordan. I liked it for the amount of information immediately available/ linked on the screen. All of them had good points to incorporate, though.

    I will be in town for conference next weekend and am taking Melissa Caldwell to lunch on Friday. Would you like to join us?

  4. Great assignment. I have been thinking of ways to better serve my audience and to take things up a step! I liked each of the websites for different reasons. A good variety to look at.

  5. YOu're right about many of the sites being expensive. Suzanne Colling and the last site are obvious exceptions, but are they any less of a website just because they don't have $50K in design/artwork and run on flash?

    The 3 sites mentioned where people stayed so far are: freerice, rickriordan and johnpratt.

    What do these 3 sites have in common?

  6. Great exercise for me. Thanks. I'm akin to like simplicity as opposed to "flash." And simple let's me also have hope that you don't have to have an enormous budget to get people interested. Dan Brown's took too long to load for me. It's beautiful but just too long. Suzanne's lost me but those who know her and like her work would surely read on. Jame's blog was interesting to me and laid out well. Elizabeth's had a "feel" to it that made me find out more. But it wasn't a quick audience click. Anyhow, that's some feedback from me.

  7. Becky, I would love to meet the two of you for lunch! Will you be in SLC?

  8. Since there were no guesses as to which site is mosthoghly ranked and why, I will skip on informing you of that and tell you why I included the last site.

    The last site belongs to an author who is potentially going to write a book on the Book of Enoch.

    When you visit his site, you may find it dry and boring, but the important part of his site is the content. There's TONS of it.

    Furthermore, he wants to write a book on the Book of Enoch and when you google "Book og Enoch" he is the #1 hit. Above wikipedia, above EVERYONE. According to the internet, he IS the specialist on what he's proposing he write about.

    That's why I included that site. Because if try to look up anything John Pratt specializes in online, he will be the first to pop to the top of the search, and THAT is more important than all the flash animation in the world ;)

  9. Maybe I'm a little late at getting into the discussion and my question has been answered elsewhere. However, WHY does John Pratt he have such great SEO? I can't see anything on the home page that would pull in search engines and put him on top.

    If we knew why, maybe we could duplicate his results with our own websites and blogs.

  10. John Pratt's website is a first generation website. In layman's terms: his website is so old school that it looks obsolete.

    Notice, however, its similarities to googles home page. It is clean, entirely content driven and avoids images wherever possible. Search engines have no problem with that. Plus, John knows that anyone going to his site is looking for information, not special effects. He is a scholar and his website is popular enough that he's had multiple people offer to update the site for free, just so he'll look more contemporary.

    His answer is no, for reasons all his own.

    Those of you who google his name today may notice that he is actually around #4 on the search results. This is a great lesson on google, which is not static in how it ranks sites. Google is constantly changing its algorithm as to how it ranks sites and why. That means that right now wikipedia is considered more relavent with the current algorithm.

    Just in case some of you are wondering why your sites move in the rankings every two weeks or so.