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If you're a book lover, you may have noticed that the vast majority of book-related websites out there leave a bit to be desired when it comes to design and information architecture. In fact, some author and publisher websites make me feel like my eyes might bleed!
But there are some gems out there, and we've collected some of the best. If you know of any other fantastic book-related websites, whether they're for authors, individual books, publishing companies, or blogs, let us know in the comments.
Authors & Individual Book Sites
Author websites are some of the more challenging sites to design. If an author has a large backlist, it can be difficult to figure out how to showcase all of their work effectively. And if the author has only published one or two books, it can be hard to have an effective site that doesn't feel empty.
And in reality, there are a lot of things an author's site needs to accomplish. It needs to provide readers and potential readers with information about the books and why they might be interested in reading them. It needs to give booksellers information about the books, and why they should stock them. And it needs to act as a constant promotional tool that will help the author sell more books and gain more fans.
Dear Author has a great post on what many author websites are lacking. The list includes things like a printable book list, a link on the home page to contact the author, and a highly visible "coming soon" section. Check out the full list for more points to keep in mind if you're designing an author's website.
Here are a few great author and book websites you should be sure to check out for inspiration and ideas.
No One Belongs Here More Than You
This is one of the most creative books websites I've ever seen. While it's not the most user-friendly of sites, it suits its purpose and does well to hold reader interest.
An excellent, clean-looking design that still has plenty of character. Her books are prominently displayed on the home page, along with links to her blog, about information, and other important parts. She also includes information about events, interviews, and specific book info on the home page, a big plus for readers and book sellers.
Stephen King's presents its own challenges to a designer, mainly the sheer volume of information it needs to contain. King has written well over sixty books, has had a number of his books adapted for the screen, and has written numerous short stories. But his site manages to include all the pertinent information a visitor might be looking for while also showcasing his best and most recent works, all while maintaining a very streamlined and professional design.
Cherry Adair's website fits well with the types of books she writes. The only downside to the site is that it's entirely Flash-based, though the interface itself is slick and very responsive. She includes all of the information one would expect on an author site, including a printable, PDF booklist.
Jim Collins' site takes a much more minimalist design approach than many of the others on this list. The color scheme is limited and sophisticated, there's plenty of white space, and only necessary content is included.
Jean Chatzky's website is well-suited to the types of books she writes and the brand she's built for herself (you may recognize her from her regular appearances on the Today Show). It's professional but unintimidating and has a friendly feel to it. It also provides all the necessary information you'd expect and is easy to navigate.
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Hank Phillippi Ryan's website is bright and colorful, which matches the covers and style of her books. The layout is reminiscent of a grid layout and makes good use of negative space.
Caroline Tiger's site has some of the best use of color of any author site I've seen. Navigation is simple and straightforward, the emphasis is placed squarely on her books, and the overall impression is professional but relaxed.
Nicholas Sparks' website makes great use of large background images and transparency. It's easy to find the information you might be looking for, with prominent links to his books and movies, as well as appearances and biography information.
Publisher websites have to be many things to many people; not always an easy task to do well. They have to showcase their books to potential readers. They have to appeal to booksellers and convince them to stock more of their books. They have to give information to prospective authors, either in the form of submission guidelines or guidelines that tell them they don't accept unagented submissions. They have to provide information to the media and book reviewers. And sometimes, in the case of the larger publishing conglomerates, they also have to present a united front across multipe imprints.
The best publisher sites showcase recent books as well as best sellers. They make it easy for readers and booksellers to make decisions regarding book purchases. And they provide all the necessary information about the company, the books, and the authors for anyone looking.
Here are some of the best book publisher websites out there. They run the gamut from small publishers with only a handful of books to large publishing houses that publish hundreds of titles each year. What they all have in common is good information architecture, a clean style, and excellent user experience.
Dragon International Independent Arts
The DIIArts site packs a lot of information into a small space while maintaining an uncluttered and clean-looking layout. Their main nav includes nine tabs while still leaving some breathing room. The use of icons throughout the site helps to unify everything, as does the light color scheme.
Arcadia Publishing's site fits its business perfectly. It has a vintage feel to it, which fits them since they're publishers of historical nonfiction. The site is easy to navigate and effectively showcases important information (like the fact that they offer free shipping).
Melville House Publishing
The Melville House Publishing website has a simple blue and white theme throughout. It has a minimalist, grid-based layout nad a lot of white space. Information is easy to find and their books are displayed prominently.
Princeton Architectural Press
Princeton Architectural Press's website is great because it's design is a bit unexpected. The bright yellow background and grid-based layout are visually striking, which is entirely appropriate for a publishign company that focuses so heavily on design, but also a bit unexpected for a site in such a conservative industry.
Penguin Group USA
Among all of the big-name publishers out there, Penguin has one of the most attractive websites. Their layout is well-ordered, the color palette is refined, and they place emphasis where appropriate. There's a ton of information on the site, and yet it feels uncluttered.
The Timber Press website makes great use of color and has a fantastic layout. The design is eye-catching and easy to navigate, with a well-implemented slideshow showcasing some of their books on the home page.
Llewellyn's website uses a muted color palette and three column layout that creates a sophisticated and professional feel to their site. They make it easy to browse their books, as well as to find other information about the company and their authors.
Storey Publishing is another company that opted for a muted color palette and simple layout. The green accents on the site fit well with the country-living and outdoor-themed books they publish, as do the graphics throughout the site.
Gibbs Smith makes great use of Flash to showcase books on their home page, but otherwise keeps their layout fairly simple. They emphasize their best-sellers but make it easy to browse their entire catalog or find information about their authors. The red, burgundy and gray color scheme is sophisticated and feels very neutral.
Publisher and author websites aren't the only sites out there that target book lovers. There are communities for readers (and writers), blogs and book review sites, and service sites for readers and writers alike.
The sites below target many different demographics, but each focuses on great user experience and simple architecture. Each has its own distinct style that adds to the user's overall impression of the site and the company or people behind it. And each one has a clear purpose and mission that they accomplish well.
IndieBound is a community for independent bookstores and their customers. Their site is well-laid-out, has a great color scheme, and a unique design. They have a lot of information on the site, but it remains easy to navigate and find the information you need. They even manage to make the wide variety of graphics used on the site appear cohesive.
The Fiction Project
The Fiction Project at Art House Co-Op has a really awesome site design. The overall look represents the artistic sensibility of the project, but all information about the project is easily found and legible.
Self-publishing company Lulu has a well-designed website that focuses on user experience. They keep graphics simple and use them specifically to highlight their services. The color scheme is consistent (white, blue and orange), and there's plenty of negative space in the design. What sets Lulu's site apart from many other self-publishing sites is that they've made it just as easy for book buyers to use the site as they have for authors.
Readerville uses a simple two-column design with brownish-orange, burgundy, and muted blue accent colors. Readability is given the utmost importance in this design, with usability a very close second. While the site is no longer updated, it is still a great example of a book-related site design.
DailyLit, a service that delivers daily reading to your email inbox, has a fantastic website that uses a muted, cool color palette and grid-based layout. The site is easily navigated and showcases their services and the books available.
Blurb is another self-publishing service that puts more emphasis on style than many other self-publishing sites. They offer good user experience for both authors and book buyers, and showcase "staff picks" on the home page (something many self-publishing companies don't bother with).
The Millions is a book review and culture site that uses a grid layout and mostly-black and white color scheme with bright orange accents. The layout of the site is fantastic, and the entire thing feels very modern and refreshing.
Guys Read is a literacy site for boys that places a heavy emphasis on typography. The site uses a red-white-and-blue color scheme and plenty of white space. It uses a mostly two-column layout and has a very masculine feel to it without feeling stuffy or staid.