Master the Web By the Book
What it takes to build and manage a book publisher's Web site
by Tatyana Sinioukov
As a publishing medium, the Internet is "maturing," and many book publishers have gained significant experience in site management. We asked publishers and Web service providers what it takes to build--and maintain--a user-friendly Web site, what workflow models work best for book publishers, and what their hot buttons are when it comes to implementing the various workflow techniques.
Site management requires implementing smart workflow techniques, managing updating processes and files across networks and platforms, as well as handling time-sensitive content, automating site production, making the site searchable, promoting it, implementing e-commerce services and handling security issues.
Do the most complex Web sites require the most people and the most expertise?
"I wouldn't say necessarily more people," says Ardy Khazaei, director of Internet development at New York City-based HarperCollins (www.harpercollins.com). "Certainly a higher level of expertise because ... as the Web is getting more sophisticated the tools are also getting more sophisticated."
To begin defining staffing requirements, the question a book publisher should be asking, according to Khazaei, is what is the scope of my site? For example, if e-commerce capabilities are added to an editorial site, it changes the level of site maintenance needed and the amount of people involved. The opposite is true, too. A Web site used only for marketing purposes only can be built simply with HTML, says Duffy Mazan, CEO of Electric Press, Reston, VA. "As soon as you start to offer catalogued books, rapid changes are on the way," he offers. "It's not a marketing effort anymore. If you offer editorial content, you have increased the need to change the site."
David Tobey, Web Services Manager for the Perseus Book Group in Boulder, CO, agrees that the more features the Web site boasts the more laborious and proficient its maintenance will and should be. However, he adds, "Some very complex Web sites can be made to 'run themselves' to some degree through the use of dynamically-generated text and graphics," he notes.