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Publisher’s website: we care about representation, readers and security 

Social media presence and good web-sites became essential for publishers back in the days of lockdown. It was the only way for communication with their readers as well as an important platform for book selling. In 2020, online sales of Ukrainian publishers grew by 30%, and for some the gain reached 400%. Unfortunately, the war aggravated the process, since there are less and less offline means of interaction with the clients. Thus, convenient and user-friendly website is getting a must. And now it is not only about Ukrainian readers, but also about the foreign ones who get more and more interested in Ukrainian books. And this is an opportunity not to be missed.

We asked Liubomyr Oliinyk, IT expert and the founder of siteGist web-agency, about what a modern publisher’s website should be like so that it wouldn’t seem outdated and meet both Ukrainian and foreign readers’ needs. And, as a bonus, there are some pieces of advice from SEO specialists and digital security experts. 

 

WHAT ISSUES SHOUL PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE COVER? 

Every publisher’s work revolves around books. Cool books from interesting writers are the reason people are reaching a publisher. So, high-quality and effective representation and selling of books is the key purpose of any website. 

The optimal solution would be an online store at the website where one can purchase both paperbacks and e-books. What’s important is to efficiently represent publisher’s assortment – most popular and recognizable editions, renowned authors, new releases – and to outline book profile if they have specific audience (e.g., educational materials and course books, children’s or young adult literature, historical books etc.). Some companies’ business model is not restricted to selling their own books; they also sell other publishers’ books, but that’s an issue of cooperation, data synchronization etc. 

If creating an online store is not on your agenda or you cannot afford it yet, you better give your readers the ultimate guide on where they can find and purchase your books.  

Website is an official online representation of a publisher. Thus, you should show publisher’s life there, share news and plans, introduce your authors. And another important thing is a clear and user-friendly section with cooperation opportunities for all potential partners or clients: bookshops, libraries and corporate clients; contacts of publisher’s principal departments. And if we talk about selling rights for books, a publisher should take care of English version of their website, though it can be the compressed version.

What one should always keep in mind is website’s purpose which is to tell about the publisher or maintain a book store. And website’s structure, menu and visuals should be built according to this purpose. 

Convenient and user-friendly navigation menu is also important. If that’s a book store the principal elements are easy search and filters, intuitive and uncomplicated checkout process. 

And taking into account the age of target audience, publisher’s website or online bookstore is a website for grown-ups, so, their purpose is clearly to help people buy books or to find new business partners and corporate clients. Thus, website design should be oriented on those functions. It mostly refers to children’s book publishers. Website’s design can emphasize the book, but overall interface is aimed at adults who will eventually buy those books. That’s why the website must be very user-friendly, have distinct navigation elements, and its graphic or interactive objects should be properly displayed on any screen and shouldn’t slow down the website’s work. 

 

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISTAKES UKRAINIAN PUBLISHERS MAKE? 

First of all, I want to praise our publisher for the fact that most of them have state-of-art websites with all the necessary sections online stores. Some of them are thoroughly designed indeed. That’s why there are not many “big” mistakes. But there are some problems that are pretty common and they need to be addressed: 

 

  • Usability of mobile version of website. Modern trends show that more than 60% of users prefer to look through websites on their smartphones. This means that website should not only change to mobile version, it should also be convenient when used on the phone and comply with technical standards in order to be fast and efficient. 

 

  • Intuitive book search. Searching by key word is good when a user knows what title or author they are looking for. What would be more convenient for a user unfamiliar with the assortment is the search and selection of books by topic, category, series, age group, recommendations with 10-20 books that can be easily reviewed and compared. The same goes for mobile version, it should be easily accessible. Cross-linking in book descriptions would be useful, too, so that users could switch to other books of the same author, category, series or key words.

 

 

  • Search engine optimization (SEO). The existence of the website doesn’t make it effective for business. The users need to find the website before making a purchase. And if search by the name of a publishing house will most likely show good results, searching for its internal pages by key words requires proper website structure, internal pages to be technically optimized for search engines, to have proper HTML marking, micromarking (schema.org) in particular, to be optimized for good processing speed, to have written META and alt tags, H1, and thoroughly written texts. Another important factor is the number of external links to your website from other resources. So, don’t be shy about asking your partners to place your link on their website.

 

WHAT ARE 3 QUICK WAYS TO IMPROVE WEBSITE’S VISIBILITY IN SEARCH ENGINES? 

Before making any alterations to the website, especially newly developed ones, it is important to make sure that,

  • it is indexed in Google (for this, make the following search query site:your.website.address. In search results you’ll see the number of website pages indexed in Google), 
  • there are no mistakes in Search Console,
  • the sitemap and robots.txt are correct,
  • your Google Analytics or any other analytics is enabled.

If all of the above is ok, then work on these: 

  • Fix technical errors, first and foremost check if H1, H2, H3 are used correctly and whether all key words for your pages are mentioned in headings and the text on the page; make sure there are not too many links with errors (404) or redirecting (3xx), and then enhance the processing speed by optimizing the size of images on pages, and optimize the execution of scripts on website’s pages
  • Set the micromarking (schema.org, Open Graph), that enables search engines to understand the content and purpose of each page better, and therefore to show it more qualitatively and relevantly in the search results for the relevant search queries
  • Register in Google My Business or other companies catalogues to get external links for your website. 

These three easy steps will significantly improve your websites visibility in search engines. And the general advice would be to work on and develop your website and its content regularly. 

You can use these services to check:

 

After analyzing a range of publisher’s websites, I’d like to point out the websites of Nash Format and Old Lion Publishing House. These are websites whose main focus is on online store, yet they have the sections that show publishers’ position, their news and cooperation opportunities. Zhupansky Publisher and Laboratoria Publishing House also have up-to-date and pretty clear websites.

There are some websites that were designed long time ago and are morally obsolete. They are operating, but have critical problems. For instance, they are not adapted for smartphone use: website is note being rearranged, it just zooms in-out, which is pretty uncomfortable. And it is a sign for search engines that this website is not worth showing among the first search results. 

Another group of websites need more work on stylistic design, use-friendliness of the menu and higher quality/accuracy of mobile versions. And the problem that most of websites have is poor SEO. 

 

A PUBLISHER WANTS TO REDESIGN THEIR WEBSITE. WHERE TO BEGIN? 

I would recommend to start with defining the purpose of your website and looking through the websites of the best Ukrainian and foreign publishers. 

After that, begin working on SEO optimized website structure. Most likely, you will have to create a bunch of extra pages, but it is worth the efforts. Eventually, it will positively influence the speed and efficient search engine indexation.  

The next step is gathering materials for the website (texts, photos, videos) and searching for web-agency. 

 

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO DESIGN A WEBSITE FROM SCRATCH? 

The price depends on many factors, such as: 

  • the complexity of structure;
  • the complexity of design;
  • functional complexity and complexity of internal integration of website with other systems, such as internal accounting or other systems of assortment renewal, online-payment systems, receipt forming service, paperback delivery services, services for selling and protecting e-books, loyalty cabinets, etc. 

It all comes down to the time that different specialists need to develop your website. The process involves: managers, UX/UI designers, software engineers, system administrators, QA specialists and others. 

 

Nota Bene!

Meanwhile, technologies are rapidly changing, so in 3-5 years the website gets morally outdated and will definitely need certain changes. It is important to analyze whether the website still fulfills the assigned tasks. If not, it needs changes or remake. 

 

PROS AND CONS OF SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR PLATFORMS 

 

 

WordPress + WooCommerce: 

 

  • pros: relative simplicity and flexibility in setting the templates, availability of wide range of templates, convenience of most future website management operations, opportunity to add ready-to-use plugins for delivery service and payment systems
  • cons: there are difficulties in conceptual changes to online store templates, one has to constantly monitor and update WordPress and all the plugins’ versions  

 

OpenCart, Magento etc:

 

  • pros: a wide range of templates, specialized systems with wide spectrum of online store functions, high processing speed with the big number of items represented in the store 
  • cons: attachment to the structure of typical templates, less specialists that can set the website properly 

 

Horoshop and similar solutions:

 

  • pros: ready-made solutions for online stores, integrations, quick solutions 
  • cons: attachment to extraneous system and its opportunities, monthly fee 

 

Own developments: 

 

  • pros: complete flexibility in terms of setting the design and templates, scalability and processing speed, opportunity to create your own functions and specific integrations 
  • cons: needs qualified specialists, high price.

 

Opinion

Nowadays, people are not inclined to spend a lot of time dealing with new technologies or approaches, but the opportunity to easily buy a book increases the chances of its purchase. Therefore, it is worth constantly working on improving your websites, effective book and author search, and properly developed marketing strategy will help keep readers informed of book events and encourage them to read new books.

As for distributing of Ukrainian literature in general, the essential decision will be to expand e-book market. As other countries’ experience shows, increase in producing e-books doesn’t lead to decrease in paperback sales which means that overall sales grow.

To decrease the pirating threats, it would be better to use special platforms that provide book protection with unique watermarks when selling them to end users. They also facilitate getting Ukrainian books to such platforms as Amazon, iTunes, OverDrive and libraries all over the world.

 

ORIENTATION TOWARDS FOREIGN MARKET

Translation doesn’t work 100%. You have to rewrite the website, not just translate it. That is if you want to make an English version of your website, you better check, with the help of special software, what your target foreign audience is searching for and write necessary keywords and requests for their needs.  

One better set hreflang and make sure that the languages do not get mixed up at Ukrainian and English versions of the website. 

 

UKRAINIAN PUBLISHERS THAT UPDATE THEIR WEBSITES

For us, information about the ways to improve our website as an online-store was pretty useful. Because improvement of website mechanisms will make the checkout process easier and more convenient which will positively affect the final percentage of completed orders.  

Among our further steps there is substantial revision of existing website or creating a new one. We’ll also work on the English version for our foreign users. We are planning to expand the assortment of e-books and audiobooks and add the function of their purchase both from our website and from our partners’ sites, since these formats are the most convenient to realize abroad. 

As of now we have moderate success in terms of international cooperation, that is targeted cooperation with book distributors in Lithuania, Poland, USA, Canada and some other countries. 

 

On the example of our website and similar resources, we’ve discussed targeted changes that need to be done in order to raise the efficiency of our website’s visibility for foreign audience. We’ll also work on our “For business” section and start creating the English version.

The share of e-book sales is also growing noticeably, so this area needs our attention and creative solutions. As for Ukrainian market, we need to take those niches that russian books had been occupying; we have to gradually grow our bookshops network, since it gives certain independence when it comes to decision-making.

We are selling our books to and have contracts signed with several dozens of foreign clients. We are actively working on our cooperation with Poland, Lithuania and Germany. We’ve recently sent the first order to Thailand and signed a contract with British representatives. We are constantly working on our export geography. Our main purpose now is to form a nucleus of stable and loyal partners, so that international cooperation was more than just short-lived bright spark. 

 

BONUS! A FEW WORDS ON WEB SECURITY

The issue of web security is a pressing issue nowadays since war hits the digital spere as well. And after russian invasion, Ukraine suffered DDoS-attacks thrice more than in previous years. Both state and media websites underwent those attacks. Though publishers are not media outlets, they still can be attacked due to their position and content. That’s why we decided to talk with Natalia Onyshchenko, web-security consultant at Digital Security Lab.  

Website security is a vast subject. In addition, there are various websites: WordPress is different from the website developed from scratch specifically for you.  

Yet there some basic pieces of advice aimed specifically at website woners (not developers), that won’t harm anyone: 

– you better discuss and settle with the studio, that developed your website, further support, so that you are not left alone with your website. At the very least, website might have the components that require regular updates, and someone needs to react if something goes off with the website. If you have a WordPress-based website there’s a point in turning on automatic security updates for it. Do not forget to update plugins, and under no circumstances do not install pirate versions of paid plugins. Otherwise, there’s high chance of you introducing malicious code to your website. 

website must have backup copies. This will allow to restore the website in case of attacks on it or other problems that may arise. These copies should be created automatically and stored separately from the hosting. The frequency of creating such copies is set by you and depends on how often you update the website and what amount of date you’re willing to lose painlessly.  

– it is worth paying attention to how access to the website is organized, and it should be available only to people who work with the website (and not, say, employees who have already resigned). Two-factor authentication (when possible) is usually a good idea. As for passwords, there are two main requirements for them: they must be long and unique (not to be used for other services). The advice to change the password every month, by the way, is now considered irrelevant: change it only when necessary (if something suspicious happened, the person who has this password should no longer have access, etc.)

– if there any specific threats that bother you, better discuss them with your studio and technical support team

Overall, the best strategy is to define what is the most important for you, what you’re afraid of losing, and build your security system in accordance with it. 

Denial of service attacks, when an attacker tries to make a website inaccessible to users, mainly by overloading it, have recently become more frequent on the Russian side. To protect against such attacks, there are special services, the most popular of which is Cloudflare. They act as a shield between the website and the outside world. These services can also provide additional services to identify and block common attack patterns. Another common way to damage the website is the so-called defacing (hackers, having gained access to the website, place something foreign, often offensive on it – russian flag, for example). There is no specific protection against this, because access to the website can be gained in many ways (using a vulnerability in the code, guessing a password, etc.). If you are very concerned about this, discuss the possibility of monitoring the integrity of the website’s pages with the support team of your website, so that at least you would find out about the problem sooner. Again, there are services that offer external monitoring of whether a page has been changed (e.g., Visualping).

And finally, it’s worth noting that website can get unavailable for reasons not related to external interference: people forget to pay for their domain, argue with a person to whom the hosting is registered, forget passwords, etc. Therefore, think through the system of reminders and storing of your important data so that you won’t lose everything if you lose any employee. 

 

Literature for export – 2022 is a professional educational and mentoring program from Book Arsenal focused on establishing new export potential for Ukrainian books under the conditions of russian-Ukrainian war. The Literature for export – 2022 program is supported by European Union within its program House of Europe. Chytomo is the project’s informational and analytical partner. 

Author: Oksana Khmelyovska