It seems as though all the major booksellers are giving their websites a facelift these days. Information about Borders and their soon-to-launch initiative was floating around a couple of weeks ago. Amazon also tweaked their look and now B&N has overhauled their home page. Some initial thoughts and reactions:
- Again with the Flash... Yep, I guess it's official now. Everyone on the planet is simply Flash-happy. The rolling set of covers is a nice look and all, but it squeezes just about everything else off the landing page. I like the serendipity this feature adds but I question whether it takes up too much real estate. How about some configuration options (more later)? I don't care about most of those books that scroll by, so why not let me tell you what topics I'm interested in and just show me new releases from those areas? At the very least, I think they need to add some forward/reverse controls to the lonely pause button. There's nothing more maddening than seeing an interesting title just as it scrolls off the side. How many people will wait for it to come back around?
- B&N Review looks like a nice feature, especially with so many newspapers cutting back on their book review sections. I'm pretty sure there's no RSS feed capability for this though and that's a big hole. Some customers will come back periodically to see what's new here but they could reach a much broader audience if they'd implement RSS.
- I'm not a big fan of tag/search clouds. In fact, based on some wise advice I read elsewhere I removed the tag cloud from my blog a month or so ago. I haven't missed it and it freed up some useful surface area on the page. When I first saw B&N's search cloud at the bottom of their home page I had the same reaction. The results are somewhat interesting though not surprising, and I have to wonder how many people will actually click on any of those tags. As a result, it still feels kind of gimmicky to me. On the other hand, I think this could be more interesting if they'd take it deeper into their site. Right now it appears only on the home page. Wouldn't it be cool if they'd offer it on the category and product pages? For example, I'd like to see what the most popular search terms are from the Computers & Internet page. Or how about showing a cloud with all the search phrases that led to this particular title's product page? Maybe this is just more interesting to me as a computer book publisher than as a consumer, but since they've built the tool they might as well get some mileage out of it.
- After reporting on Amazon's widget program it was disappointing to see that B&N's page has nothing to offer on the widget front.
- Finally, how about some customization options? Wouldn't it be cool if they'd allow you, the customer, to create a MyB&N home page that fits your needs and interests? They could offer a bunch of content feed blocks that could be moved around the screen, much like the Facebook interface. Even if a core set (as defined by B&N) had to remain in place somewhere on the page, I think it would be very cool to know that when I go to bn.com I'm going to see all the latest and greatest news related to my selections. Isn't it surprising that nobody has done this yet? Yes, many customers won't bother with this, but what a great way for B&N to steal some traffic and business from Amazon by offering it first. Also, they could provide several pre-configured templates for the most popular topic areas, thereby making it even easier for customers to implement.