I’ve been a fan of John Sandford’s for some time now. The Prey novels are excellent police thrillers, and Lucas Davenport is one of my favourite series characters–right up there with Elvis Cole, Spenser, Kinsey Millhone, and Miles Vorkosigan. But it’s only today that I stumbled across John Sandford’s web site–and it’s a cracker.
Looking at it in terms of my criteria for what makes a “good” web site, the Sandford site excels in a number of areas:
- Content: lots of it. For most of his novels, there is a brief synopsis, the book’s first chapter, author comments (actually by the author’s son), and also pictures of the covers of all published editions. This is great stuff! Basic facts about the books, as well as insight from the writer himself.
- Indexing/findability. The Information architecture for the site is beautifully simple and perfectly effective. On the left hand side of the page there is a sidebar with links to main page for each book, and links to the other key sections of the site (FAQ, author bio, etc.). This sidebar is consistent, and always visible on each page. On the book sub-sections of the site, there are contextual navigation links at the top of the page. These allow you to switch between the pages that are available for that book: synopsis, chapter, covers, etc. There is no search facility, but the site is simple enough that it doesn’t need one.
- Community. The site has a message board. Nothing complicated, but it allows fans to interact.
- Connectedness. All of the book pages are internally hyperlinked to each other, so if you’re reading the comments for Chosen Prey, and see a reference to Easy Prey, it takes you there. Simple and effective. There is also a links page, which hooks you up to a number of rare book sites and other author sites.
There are a few things that could be improved, for example allowing you to navigate directly to a book’s comments page, rather than having to go via its index, but overall the site is just damn good. It also mirrors exactly what I’m planning to do with my Bob Shaw project.
For some years now I have been on a quest to collect copies of all editions of Bob Shaw’s novels. I’m up to about a hundred or so now, and am probably about half to two-thirds of the way there–for the English-language editions. (I haven’t started on the foreign editions yet.) My intention is to create an “Encyclopedia of Shaw” on the web, containing detailed information about each book, reviews, comments, and all sorts of other things.
I made an abortive attempt at doing this back in 1998 (for some reason Compuserve is still maintaining the page, even though I left them long ago). It was just plain HTML, it was a pig to maintain, and I didn’t really have the time to put into it. Now, in 2003 I still don’t really have the time to spend on it, but Movable Type is going to make it so much more functional (Comments! Trackbacks!) and easier to maintain when I do get round to it.
I really ought to buckle down and get to work on it. It would be kinda cool. And it would be a lovely memorial to a fantastic writer.