Under the bonnet of our new website

The new all-singing, all-dancing WF website. We're already talking about the next one.

When we started Wilkins Farago back in 1998, the web really wasn’t that big a deal. Most publishing businesses had some kind of web presence (mostly because we’d been hyped into it) but sites were mostly online catalogues or glorified business cards.

No-one really knew how to drive traffic to their sites, and e-commerce was expensive to do. And who was buying online anyway? (Amazon.com had only listed the previous year and Australians at least had yet to trust their credit cards to online shopping carts in a big way.)

Over four and a half years later, we’ve finally got a proper website, launched this week.

For years we did without a website altogether, mostly because we weren’t publishing much. Then, in March 2005, I ‘borrowed’ a simple design from a site I’d designed for a client, switched around the colours, put our logo on it, whacked in some content and lo, we were online. That’ll do for now, I thought, intending to put something more permanent together soon thereafter.

Over four and a half years later, we’ve finally got a proper website, launched this week.

It wasn’t until we started using Google Analytics in July 2006 that we started to understand how people were finding our site and how they were using it. It made us realise we need to organise it better, allow people to search it and provide some way of letting people buy our books if they wanted to.

The old site grew as we published more books, getting increasingly unwieldy and, as larger computer screens became more common, looking ever smaller in its 600 x 400 pixels.

So, for the geeks (or more likely the wannabe geeks like us, as the geeks already know all this), here are some of the features—both great and small—of the new site:

  • It’s fully searchable, using Google Custom Search, meaning visitors (especially booksellers) can type in an ISBN, title or author name and go straight the most relevant pages.
  • It has an online shopping cart, courtesy of SPUNC
  • It provides an online sign-up form so people can subscribe to our regular e-newsletters (created using Mailchimp)
  • It now has a dedicated page for the free teachers’ notes we produce on our kids’ books
  • Each page features an AddThis ‘Bookmark and Share’ panel so that people can print the page, email it to someone, or post it to one of 199 different social networking sites
  • Every book and author now has its own unique page
  • The home page publishes the latest headlines from our new Wordpress blog (which we use to keep track of publicity and other WF news), using an RSS feed
  • The site features a breadcrumb trail so you always know where you are on the site
  • There are links to our Facebook, Twitter and MySpace pages and our blog’s RSS feed
  • The design features illustrations from nearly all the books we have published and was put together using Adobe Dreamweaver Version 9 (CS3)
  • Visitor statistics related to the site are measured using Google Analytics
  • Traffic to the site is partly driven by Google Adwords
  • The site  has a favicon (that dinky little logo in the address bar of your browser, which you’ll also find in your bookmarks/favourites list if you save our site there), generated by a favicon generator
  • We plan to feature promotional videos on our books soon, once we’ve figured out the best format

We’ve tried to keep costs down as much as possible, using free or nearly free features wherever possible.

This all sounds like a lot now that I’ve listed it all. Most of it’s been put together by Anna, our GM, based on designs by Combined Media, and Andrew Wrathall, who crunched the search and RSS code for us.

The total cost? Well, we’ve tried to keep costs down as much as possible, using free or nearly free features wherever possible. At a guess, I’d say the whole project cost about $1500—that is, if we don’t cost in our own time.

If we did cost in our time, then we probably wouldn’t already be talking about the next version of the site! To wit, feel free to let us know what you think and what else you’d like to see.