The Ten Commandments of What Makes a Good (or Bad) Website

This article was adapted from MAI’s recent webinar, “Build a Better Publishing House Website,” with Sam Richardson, CEO of SPCK Sam Richardson 2Publishers.

A good publisher website is one that meets the needs of different users. But a great publisher website increases the reach of the publisher beyond these audiences. To go from good to great, you first need to do the basics right in order to attract consumers and stop annoying them.

1. Your website must come up when you search for your company name on Google. This is easier if you have a unique name. If you have a common name like “Bible publisher” it will be hard for people to find you. If you have a common name with a lot of competition, consider paying for Google key words to ensure people can find you on Google.

2. Your website must not automatically play sound and video. It can be very embarrassing if you’re sitting in the middle of an office. It’s considered outdated.

3. Your website must be responsive (compatible with multiple devices—like tablets, smartphones, etc.). Google relegates websites lower in searches if they aren’t responsive, so it’s increasingly important to be compatible.

4. You must not have an ugly homepage. The  homepage (landing page) of your website is the first thing that people see about you. It’s a great chance to show people your beautiful ads and book covers, as well as your great words. Make the most of your assets.

5. You must not have an unclear menu structure. Whether your menu is down the left side or along the top, which is more popular now, it’s really important people can find your contact information, your store (shop), etc.

6. You must update your homepage regularly. Your super fans, those you really want to connect with, may visit your website every week. If you show them updated contact, it will encourage them to come back. Rotate your titles on the front page, show your social media links, post news items. There are many things you can do without much work.

7. You must not have broken links. If you can get rid of them on your website, this will improve your search engine ranking on Google and Yahoo a lot.

8. You must not hide your contact details. Customers often go to your website because they’re looking for your contact information. It’s tempting to try and hide them, but that will frustrate people. Consider setting up an email address just for website inquiries. People are happier sending an email than filling in a web form.

9. You shall have one website only. We used to have one web site for SPCK as a mission agency and one for our publishing. It confused Google, Yahoo, our customers and retailers. Have only one website if at all possible.

10. The user must be able to find what she wants. Different users have different needs.

Watch the full video of “Build a Better Publishing House Website.”

Check out our upcoming free webinars on publishing-related topics and videos of recent webinars.

The E-Reader Project

Robin Pippin

Robin Pippin shows the Kindle Paperwhites used in the E-Reader Project

By Robin Pippin

In the libraries of many theological schools in Africa, most books are very old and dated—and even at that, the collection is very limited. Given the cost of shipping books to and within the African continent, the scarcity of books is not a surprise.

In 2012, when staff of Discipleship Resources International (DRI) met with the faculty of Gbarnga School of Theology (GST) in Liberia, a United-Methodist-related school, we were surprised to learn that their classes were conducted with the use of only one book—the teacher’s. Students had no books, and if they intended to read an assignment before class, they had to take the book to the nearest town, where they had to pay a copy center for copies of each chapter.

Robin Pippin solar power

This solar charger can charge up to 10 e-readers at one time

Add to this situation the lack of electricity, running water, and internet at the school—and we realized this would be the perfect place to pilot the E-Reader Project—an initiative to bring E-readers filled with Bibles, reference books and helpful theological texts to under-resourced theological schools of the United Methodist Church. In 2013-14, our staff brought e-readers to faculty and students at GST, fully trained them on the care and use of the e-readers, and made periodic visits to evaluate their effectiveness.

Not surprisingly, GST students reported a marked increase in their reading for their courses and in reading overall. This mobile “e-library” suddenly provided reading materials that had never been available to them before. Recent graduate Wuo Laywhyee said that the Kindle has increased his “appetite to read.”

A glimpse of the hardware needed to load the e-readers

A glimpse of the hardware needed to load the e-readers

Student Brenda Taylor explained that her increased reading had helped to expand her knowledge of the English language. For many GST students, English is a second language to their indigenous language. The built-in dictionary feature is often mentioned by students as being extremely helpful in their reading comprehension.

The success of the pilot project has led DRI and its partners to expand the project to 18 theological schools in Africa and 6 in the Philippines. We offer the e-readers in Portuguese and French, in addition to English. Finding appropriate and affordable content for the e-readers is an ongoing challenge. To date, we have launched the project with two-thirds of these schools. Our vision includes expanding e-readers to more pastors, who have often have very little access to resources they need for ministry.

For more information or to support the project, see http://umcereader.org/

Robin Pippin is Director of Contextual Resource Development and Distribution for Discipleship Resources International, a division of Discipleship Ministries, an agency of The United Methodist Church, located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Robin is married to Tim Pippin and they have three young-adult age children.