Monday, March 1, 2010

The Holy Grail of Book Sites (Part Two)

Ok, enough slacking. Let's deal with the search function of the site today. We'll get to the layout, navigation, and such of the site next time.

Maybe google has me spoiled but it's my opinion that unless you specifically ask for extra options, you should get a search box, a search button, and precious little else. Without going to the advanced search, you should be searching Title, Series Name, Author(s), and ISBN. If you get results from more than one category, they should be displayed in that order.

Results should be displayed 20 or 25 per page. They should be terse; a few lines at most and not displaying covers (we'll get back to those later). Something along the lines of the following would be nice.

For Title, Author, and ISBN results
Title: Storm FrontShow Cover
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: The Dresden Files
Series Order: 1
Tags: [Fantasy] [Contemporary Fantasy] [Urban Fantasy] [Paranormal] [Vampires] [Wizards] [Faeries] [Chicago]

For Series results
Series: The Dresden FilesShow All Covers
Author: Jim Butcher
Books in Series: 12
Related Short Stories: 12
Tags: [Fantasy] [Contemporary Fantasy] [Urban Fantasy] [Paranormal] [Vampires] [Wizards] [Faeries] [Werewolves] [Zombies] [Demons] [Chicago]

Clicking on the Title link should take you to the book's page (we'll get to these later). One page per title+author, all versions of said combination--hardcover, paperback, audio, ebook, etc...--can be linked from there; there's no need to clutter up search results with seven different versions of the same book. The Author link should take you to the author's page and Series to the series page (these too).

Clicking on a tag should pop up a menu with three choices: require this tag, exclude this tag, and new search for this tag. Clicking on one of the first two should repeat your initial search either showing only entries with the selected tag or only entries without it, depending on which you chose. The third should drop all previous search criteria and preform a new advanced search for entries with the selected tag.

Simple and useful, yeah? That's the entire idea of the site, to help people find books they're interested in. People using a site like this are already wanting to buy, which is why we don't put advertising on the site. It would be like making customers at a car lot listen to commercials on the loudspeaker while they were trying to buy a car. You don't want anything distracting them from their quest to give you money in exchange for goods; you want to do your dead level best to facilitate it however possible.

This is also why we don't show covers by default. If you want to see covers there should be a link at the top of the results saying "Show Covers", and links to show only the cover of the individual book or series, but since they aren't generally helpful information there's no reason to waste someone's time and attention with them. Possibly even a user selected preference.

On to the author's page. It should read similar to a wikipedia entry on the author but be much less verbose. Three paragraphs with a max size of half a page on-screen, tops. Describe the books and series in preference to the author, that's what we're trying to sell. Add a Series by this author1 and an Individual books by this author heading and fill them with links to the appropriate book or series page. No descriptions other than the name of the series or book and the genre in parentheses to the side, simplicity and quickness here again. No tags on author pages, they'll be busy enough.

Book pages should include the cover, set to float:right, publishing date, a three paragraph or half page summary, a link to the author's page, a link to the series if applicable, a grouping of links to purchase each of the different versions of the book, and a listing of all tags appropriate to this book down at the bottom where it won't be in the way. The tag listing should initiate a new advanced search of whichever tag you click on.

Before I go on to the Series pages, let me take a moment to explain that you do not need to actually be purchasing the book from this particular site. Clicking on a purchase link of a particular version of a book could give you a listing of links to all the places it can be purchased online. Or you could set up an actual store where you can buy directly from this site, I really don't have a preference here since it doesn't impact the usefulness or advertising value of the site.

Series pages should have a link to the author's page, a half page description of the entire series, links to each book in the series, a tag listing at the bottom for the series as a whole, and, if applicable, links to purchase the entire series in different formats in one fell swoop. Hopefully at a discount but whatever blows the distributor's skirt up. Again, the tag listing should initiate a new advanced search of whichever tag you click on.

I didn't mentioned upcoming books on the Author or Series page because they should be treated by the site, for all intents and purposes, as if they were already released. Simply put a notation to the side saying something resembling (release date: 14 nov 2048).

I don't think I'll go into the details of the advanced search beyond saying it should be extremely fine tunable without being overly daunting. If someone decides they want to search for a paranormal romance novel, published before 2008, requiring vampires, excluding werewolves, and excluding M/M or F/F sex they they absolutely should be able to with a minimum of trouble.

That'll do for now. Next entry on the main page and whatever else I happen to think needs to be included in another day or two.

EDIT: I forgot there should be a link in search results and on Book pages linking to the first chapter or three. Just in html, there's no reason to bother with stuffing them in a pdf or other ebook type format. Quickness and simplicity again.

1 Did you know that the plural of "series" is "series"? Funky.

No comments: