In continuing with my quest to build a better website, I decided to hop over to Janet Evanovich's site. (Okay, I was actually looking to see when her next Stephanie Plum novel will be released—June 22—but once I was on the site, I thought it'd make a great one to critique.)
If you've been a fan of Evanovich's for a while, you probably went by her site before it got its recent major overhaul. Gone are the eye-flinching teal pages and difficult navigation menus. Now, you'll find a professional site with gradated color, a clear tab system, and an interactive bar above the fold that changes to correspond with each tab. Her site used to be my least favorite author site, and now I think it's one of the best-designed ones I've seen.
Overall Impression: I could spend a good four hours on this site and not see it all! There's more information packed on these pages than some people include in a novel. For a woman who based an entire book on the questions and answers from her original website (How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author with Ina Yalof), Evanovich still packs a lot of fresh information everywhere on her site, including her FAQ page.
Favorite Feature: I don't think I can narrow this one down, so here are my top three:
1. On the FAQ page, she (or her daughter, who runs her site), offers weekly answers to fans' questions. I love the immediacy of this! Since Evanovich doesn't keep a blog or twitter account going, this is a nice way to keep updated (as a fan) and a good way to keep people returning to the site (as an author) to keep them updated on new releases.
2. The interactive bar at the top of the page is far better than any static image. On the "Fun Stuff" page, you can scroll over the cartoon renditions of the characters and read some of their funny quotes. On the "Bio" page, each picture of Evanovich expands and some even turn from black and white to color. On the "News" page, each picture comes with a caption that relates to the stories.
3. News is updated daily on the "News" page. It's not all about releases, but it's another way for the fans and author to interact. (It's not enough to draw me back to her website daily, like a blog would, but it's something that every month or so I could read through to catch up on Evanovich news.)
The key thing about all these favorite items, and about the website in general, is that everything stays in theme with the novels: everything is fun, upbeat, and doesn't take itself too seriously. It's nice to have the whole author experience correspond with the novels.
Least Favorite Feature: The store doesn't correspond in any way with the rest of the look and feel of the site. What's with the snowflakes? The flat blue color? The white border? It's so ugly after everything else has been so attractive.
What Translates to the As-of-yet-unpublished Author's Site: Much of what's listed on the "Fun Stuff" page can be translated to a site like mine. I love all the extra information about the characters—stuff that doesn't traditionally make it into books, but things that an author might work up about characters to get to know them better. For example, the "Actor's Studio" page has a set of interview questions answered by each of the Plum characters. Tidbits like this give future readers a sneak peak at the types of characters they can expect to encounter. Granted, this information is more fun for people who've read the novel, but it can also potentially work like a good teaser.