Well, I’ve been a busy little bee. I relaunched the website for Jessica Kingsley Publishers at the weekend. The site has been redesigned and recoded with a bit of extra functionality. The main thing that has changed is that the site now uses Smarty templates. I’ve always been reluctant to use formal templating systems in the past, but now I can’t remember why. Smarty really took the site forward, forcing me to think more clearly about separating my logic from my display. The really good thing is that Smarty has caching as standard, which is really going to help with our page download times, and reduce server load.
In terms of extra functionality, I’ve not done a great deal, but I have changes some things behind the scenes to make functionality easier to add. The biggest thing for most users of the site is a new feature on the book pages which shows what other people have bought in combination with that book. It’s been pretty interesting how intuitive those matches are on the whole. I know that shouldn’t be a great surprise, but I think it shows that functionality of that kind works well on a specialist site, and less well on Amazon, where people are more likely to be purchasing presents and odd combinations of items. I’ve certainly come across some strange matches on Amazon. I considered limiting the matches to only show combinations which had occurred more than once, but I’m going to see how it pans out. Since I order the list by number of times the combination occurred and then limit the number of titles displayed, this may not even be an issue.
The new design has quite a few similarities with the Bojates design, which goes to show my lack of imagination, but also that I tried out some of the ideas here first. I like that the site has more colour now, but I worry that it looks a little unprofessional. Crucially, we now make better use of pictures of the books, which helps us communicate the range of our titles and is less static than a text list of books. I’m still not happy with the design of many of the pages. The book pages lack balance, for example, and the category pages, and new books page are lists of books that are hard to penetrate. I think they are an improvement, but they could do with some more help.
Anyway, I’m pleased it’s live and will continue to work on it. As someone once said “a good website is always under construction” :-)