Companion Websites for Books

Below is the list of companion websites that you’ll analyze to figure out what features and technological needs and wants we might have for the RAW website. You should create your own criteria for analyzing the site based on needs and wants in relation to the “companion website” genre for these books. We will use these analyses to create a baseline list of features to implement in the RAW website next week in class. From there, we will form groups to take on different aspects of the website project. Post your group response (i.e., one analysis per group of two students) as a comment to this post. Remember that your comments will be live on the Internet and that authors could find your comments by searching their names/book titles, so write the analysis appropriately. Analyses are due by 8am next Wednesday. Make sure to put both your names in the post.

9 thoughts on “Companion Websites for Books

  1. Amber and Alison

    Companion website to Seeing and Writing 3:

    -First observation – not sure what the book is about. We don’t think we would have known it was first year composition if Cheryl hadn’t told us beforehand. Focus on art and its connection to writing.
    -Sample exercises that relate to each chapter of the text. Once a student completes these exercises they can email them to themselves and their professor. There is one visual exercise per chapter along with artist bios of the used images. Scroll bar on this section is limited. All the images themselves are diverse and the layout of the website (pictures and color scheme) are minimal, so the focus remains on the image being analyzed. Not a fan of the red text but overall layout is easy to red.
    -Constant tool bar at top of page
    -Research links: Annotated links for sites related to each chapter. Like the fact that they are annotated instead of just a list.
    -Interviews with artists featured in the text book: All text. Video and/or sound bites would have been helpful. After awhile the text becomes too much to read. Too much white space to the right of the page that could have been utilized.
    -Header is bland. Since the website is about visual art, we expected more.
    -Random link to Bedford/St. Martins (the publisher). Link is not aptly described, only titled “re:writing”. However, the link could be helpful too teachers and students in the course. Just needs to be identified better.
    -Instructor resources: This section is overwhelming. Very different from the minimalist design of the rest of the website. Includes a blog where instructors can share ideas but you must create a log in to participate. This blog is organized by different chapters of the book. Can download instructor manual and sample syllabi from different teachers. Tech Notes link is broken.
    -Included link to buy the book
    -a lot of blank space that could have been used but we liked the site overall. Easy to navigate and readable text size.

    Reply
  2. Kristen Urchell & Julia Drauden

    Compose, Design, Advocate

    We have a lot of criticism for this web site. The companion web site for the book entitled Compose, Design, Advocate does none of these things. Every page is based upon a sidebar of links, which when clicked, lead the user to even more links which often take the user to an outside site. Some of the links were broken.

    The pages are broken down by the chapter numbers, which are all found in the header of the site along with a “home” link. We liked that every chapter was accessible no matter what page we were currently using, but the significance of the numbers is not evident without reading tiny text on the home page (which nobody would take the time to do, because this page is boring and begs the user to skip over it).

    The design of the site is poorly done. In an effort to keep all text fit on the site without scrolling, the text is very small. The site itself has a blue and white color scheme to match the publisher’s logo and web site; it completely clashes with the colors and design of the actual book. There are two small images used to represent that book that look very out of place and almost unrelated.

    The purpose of a companion web site at all is not clear. This site is little more than a host of links to outside sources, which makes the creators of this site seem lazy. It brings one to wonder if these affiliations are even condoned by the outside sites. One particularly troubling link we found was a link to a Colorado State University page; it made us wonder if the authors are affiliated with CSU—they aren’t. We couldn’t figure this out on the companion web site, though, because there wasn’t any information on the author nor the book itself. We were linked to the publisher’s catalog page for this book.

    There is a bonus chapter found on this web site for the book. This is the only practical thing we could find. It was broken down into many sub sections in a very verbose and confusing way.

    There is also the option to create a “profile” on this web site to save “quiz results.” There are no quizzes on this site.

    For the RAW web site, there should be a clear purpose as to why the companion web site is needed. Outside links should be kept to a minimum, and listed on their own page. The user should always be able to navigate to any page from any page, especially the home page. The design should be consistent with the book design and coherent; it should help the user navigate and understand the site, not prohibit this.

    Reply
  3. Katie Ericsson

    Analysis for Katie Ericsson and Ariana Haze:

    The following is an evaluation of Diana Hacker’s Research and Documentation website, which serves as a companion to the book. Ariana and I both feel the website has strong positives and negatives, but the overall sentiment is that it does not take advantage of the features that a website can offer. The home page does not give a great first impression, but the rest of the site is put together quite coherently. Some of the color schemes and layouts would be potentially suitable for the RAW website, but the lack of symmetry on the page might not benefit us, specifically the placement of the page on the screen. The link is as follows: http://www.dianahacker.com/resdoc/home.html .

    Notes for Companion Website:

    First Impression- Both good and bad going on, screen not centered makes a big difference (symmetry might be better option). Screen should be in direct line of sight upon opening.

    Home page is bland and not cohesive. Colors are good, but words are broken up between bold headings and plain text. If possible, the author (along with centering the page) should add more white space and move the blurb about the book somewhere less obtrusive and make it smaller.

    Advertisement for book that corresponds to the website takes up too much of the page compared to the amount of other information on the page. It should bridge the gap between the website and the book, not just sit as an advertisement.

    File folder design is good, but bottom part is redundant. Drop down menu is nice.

    The rest of the website pages are much more designed and organized. The four discipline tabs are very cohesive. The sidebar menu works well and the color scheme makes sense.

    The fact that there are sample papers was also very helpful. The papers were in a good font and size for reading and the annotations were in colors that are easy to read. The amount of annotations were also well planned (they were not overbearing nor too minimal).

    The last three pages were necessary but kind of took up space. If possible, maybe the author could combine them in some way, but still present the links as separate entities.

    Potential improvements could include centering the page as opposed to keeping it left justified. The file folder design still works in the center. The size of the text and the information included on everything except the home page was relevant and effective.

    As a note, the website was word heavy. If possible, the author should include diverse media that would allow the website to take advantage of all of the possible features. Other than links, it does not seem like a website is totally necessary for this book.

    Reply
  4. Christina Pallack & Heather Stephenson

    Website: http://www.virtualpolitik.org and the mit press site on the book.
    Critiquing the mit website on the book our first impression of the site was that it was accessible and user friendly but the design elements were lacking. The site utilized a three column design and the colors were very basic and there wasn’t a central factor to draw the eye in. The site did a better job of selling the book rather than being a companion website to the book. All of the elements gave information on how to buy the book, a synopsis, author information, and endorsements. There was not any information, other than the sample chapters, that provided viewers with an idea of what the book was about. The only interactive aspect of the website was the table of contents and the sample chapters. Overall the mit site for the book is a good promotional tool. In terms of a learning tool it is lacking information wise as well as interaction wise.
    In terms of the author’s site on the book as well as her work it does a better job as being a companion site to her book. From the main page there are nine rollover links to different aspects of her work. In terms of design it’s very effective at grabbing viewers attention. A few of the links did provide problems for our review. The ‘Virtual Politik’ Link only goes to the mit site which is fine but it would have been more successful had the author written or created something to go along with it. The current projects page needs a caption under the picture to tell the audience what it is. The overall design is pretty good and it gives the audience a good deal of information. The ‘Elizabeth Losh’ site goes to her site as a teacher which is effective. The ‘Digital Rhetoric’ page is by far the best link. It is a good interactive learning page. The ‘Talks’ page is straightforward. The design is not too great but it still isn’t lacking either. The ‘Information Theory’ page is the least successful. The author does state that it is in progress but as of now it is a dull page that doesn’t seem to make sense with the rest of her site and her work. The ‘Blog’ page is very nice. It’s easy to read and it includes more personal details than any other page on her site. The ‘Online videos’ page, in our opinion needs a new title. There is a video on her book, which is to be expected, but the other videos seem a little random and their relevance is not explained. The ‘Media Manifesto’ page at first is interesting to look at but it still has some design flaws. First the talking links are a nice touch but they should only play one time, they get really annoying after a while. Second the titles on the name tags do not really have much relevance to the linked information. The redeeming quality of the page though is the animation which is interesting to look at. Also on each of the links from the homepage there is no link back to the homepage from the other pages, which is more of an accessability issue with the site. Overall we enjoyed the site despite a few kinks here and there. It creates a really good companion piece to the author’s work and for the most part makes sense as a whole.

    Reply
  5. Sean Lewis and Alli Bartus

    The companion website to N. Katherine Hayles’ book, Electronic Literature, provides us with a nice model for our own project. The layout is minimal and attractive. The color scheme matches that of the book’s cover. Users will experience very little confusion as to whether or not this is the official page for Hayles’ book. The menu tabs are self-explanatory. The rollover links also make navigation of the site simpler. The ‘About’ section seems like a good idea although it may have been unnecessary for such an intuitive design. The essays under the, er, ‘Essays’ tab may be the site’s best feature. Free content for the reader that also costs the publisher nothing to post. Great! The biographies are certainly longer than they would have been in the book. Also, many of the authors have links to their pages, which is very convenient. Finally, the site has some sample syllabi that teachers can use to help prepare for their courses in electronic literature.

    Although the site is organized well, there were still some cons we found. The blog and forum could have been great resources and outlets for people interested in the text and looking for more information. However, the blog only has two posts, the last one being from 2008. It could have been a way for the author to explain more about their text or to post information that relates to the text. The way it’s being used makes the blog seem almost an unnecessary part of the website. Furthermore, the forum was never actually created. The link takes the viewer to a page that says “coming soon,” even though the website was created two years ago. On a different note, the site doesn’t really have much to look at. It could be more visually pleasing if more images were involved. Even just a picture of the book cover itself would have been nice. The resource section is a good addition and I think people would take advantage of it, but there are only two resources listed. People might want more of a variety of resources that relate to Electronic Literature.

    Reply
  6. Alexander Browne & Haley Drucker

    MIT Press Site: http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=8830
    Looking at the MIT page for Lev Manovich’s book The Language of New Media the first thing I noticed was a brief summary of the book and a very short about the author explaining his background and expertise. I found these items beneficial because they explain why I should listen to what the author has to say and tell me a little about his book. Above the summary is a link to the table of contents and excerpts from the first two chapters of the book. These short excerpts allow me to understand more about the book and what the author’s main argument is. At the top of the table of contents is a link to other works by the author allowing the reader to research other books and subjects Manovich has written about.

    The main page clearly states the price of the book and other pertinent publishing information for a possible buyer or researcher to look at. There is also a drop down menu allowing a user to share the site on numerous social networking websites, this would help spread the word out about the book and theoretically increase the sales.

    Author’s Book Site: http://www.manovich.net/
    Manovich’s website includes a page devoted entirely to The Language of New Media. This is a good resource, and including it on his personal site increases the visibility of the book. However, this is not a terribly well designed website and serves mostly as an example of what not to do. Aesthetically, it is very dull, with few images and very small print that is hard to read. It is set up in two columns with their own scroll bars, which could get confusing, and there are so many links in the sidebar it is hard to figure out what is most important.

    Structurally, the biggest problem here is that at least half of the links on this site don’t work. Even some of the “Order” links are broken—which interferes with people’s ability to actually buy the book. And the organization is confusing. There are a lot of links: some that don’t open, some that open on the same page, and some that open to a new page or to an attached document.

    However, there is a lot of good information on these pages. Manovich includes a Table of Contents and an excerpt from the Introduction, which helps people get a feel for what the book’s style and content. There are also “Text Updates,” which include extra information the author feels is related to the book and would appeal to the same audience. Links to reviews and interviews give the viewer a clearer picture of what the book is about, its quality, and who the author is. And the “Order” links are fairly prominent, which is important because the ultimate goal of the site is (or should be) to sell the book. All this information would be important to include on the RAW website. This author also mentions that the book is available in different translations, but doesn’t include a link to where you can buy those translations. If there are other translations of RAW, we should include further information about them on the site.

    Overall, then, the strength of this site is the information it includes. More sample chapters would be a good addition, but there is enough information already to help the reader make an informed choice about whether they want to buy the book (at least there would be if all the links worked). In addition, there are a few resources for people who already have the book to enrich their reading, although there should probably be more such resources. The design is a weakness, though, and don’t inspire confidence in the author, particularly since he’s writing about digital text. We would expect the companion website to a book about digital text to be dynamic and interactive. This site is static and very much like a print text. It would benefit from clearer organization and hierarchies, more interactivity, and better use of visuals.

    Reply
  7. Carly Xagas and Sarah Fasen

    http://ccdigitalpress.org/tes/

    The intro page was a bit confusing to us. It had competing graphics, and for a while, we didn’t know how to navigate or what portion of the page should have our attention. Our eyes were directly drawn to the reviews on the right, but this shouldn’t have been the highlight of the page–the link to the eBook itself should have been. The link to “View eBook” is very small and not centered; we had to really search for it. Apparently, you end up at the same place if you click this link and if you click the graphic header, so we didn’t know why it was necessary to have two links that go to the same place so close together.

    The right sidebar for reviews was a little bit distracting because the text was larger than the book description. Again, we didn’t know what the hierarchy of importance was–do the reviews supersede the eBook? The reviews placed after the description seemed like a good location and it did not seem necessary to have two separate sections for reviews of the book. We did find the left sidebar to be helpful, though. It listed citations, author bios, and copyright information. When you click on those links, they bring you automatically to the section you clicked on. This is a helpful tool if there was a lot of info to wade through, but because everything was very condensed as it was, this feature didn’t seem necessary.

    After actually getting to the e-book, which could be a little more easily accessible, the additional supplemental materials were poorly labeled and difficult to retrieve. Each article in the supplemental material had the same title as the chapter and we were never sure what exactly we were clicking on. There was also a lack of consistency in the types of documents. Some of the documents were presented as pdfs and some were word documents (the word documents switched between rtf and doc without any known reason).

    Chapter 17 is in an entirely different format than the other chapters. Whereas the other chapters are pdfs, chapter 17 is presented as a separate but linked website. We liked that format better than the pdfs for accessibility reasons, but we couldn’t understand why only this chapter is different from the rest. Instead of having to wait for a pdf to load for each individual chapter, we could just click on the site, and any supplemental material could be easily embedded into the site rather than having multiple separate links for other material. We thought the pdf file would be best reserved for the full book file, but for quick reference, the individual chapter files should be similar to chapter 17. Additionally, we liked the video intros for each chapter.

    Reply
  8. Drew Whitney and Michael Bunce

    Michael and Drew
    Website – Picturing Texts

    The purpose of this website is that of a companion site for a textbook. For that purpose it does its job pretty well. All of the necessary text is present and almost all of the links work. Considering that most textbooks are only in use for a few years this seems pretty adequate for the majority of users. The site is very consistent between the pages and chapters. Layout and design stays the same and appealing while surfing the site.

    While the visual aspects of the page are appealing, representing that of a postcard, there are a large number of problems with the parts of the aesthetics. One of the first things we noticed is that the overall size of the pictures and text are quite small. Because of the page design it isn’t possible to enlarge the text through conventional zoom. The links that allow the user to change color at the top also do not work. On the right hand side where they list the title and the authors names it is unclear who the names actually represent.

    All of the links on the pages are in gold. On the right hand side where the chapter titles are they are also in this color, but are not links. If they were the same color as the other titles it would be easier to discern their purpose. When using one of the print links for an selected chapter it does not inform the user on the printed page which chapter has been printed. It also does not print the left hand side of the page. However it is very printer friendly, removing all of the postcard formatting and pictures.

    There are some problems that are less of an overall critique and more based on each chapter. On the front page in the third sentence it states, “suggested focus and responds,” when it should state “suggested focus and responses.” In chapter 2 on the left hand side there it states “Corbis Web” “Site.” The link here has been separated leaving “Site” as a stand alone link. Instead of opening in a new window it changes the current page. Chapter 5 the video link leads to a site that no longer has the correct videos posted on it. There are a few issues with the site not being updated, such as Dr. Ball still being in school and teaching at Michigan.

    Overall the site is pretty appealing, just with a number of problems that detract from the experience.

    Reply
  9. Haley Drucker & Alexander Browne

    MIT Press Site: http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=8830
    Looking at the MIT page for Lev Manovich’s book The Language of New Media the first thing I noticed was a brief summary of the book and a very short about the author explaining his background and expertise. I found these items beneficial because they explain why I should listen to what the author has to say and tell me a little about his book. Above the summary is a link to the table of contents and excerpts from the first two chapters of the book. These short excerpts allow me to understand more about the book and what the author’s main argument is. At the top of the table of contents is a link to other works by the author allowing the reader to research other books and subjects Manovich has written about.

    The main page clearly states the price of the book and other pertinent publishing information for a possible buyer or researcher to look at. There is also a drop down menu allowing a user to share the site on numerous social networking websites, this would help spread the word out about the book and theoretically increase the sales.

    Author’s Book Site: http://www.manovich.net/
    Manovich’s website includes a page devoted entirely to The Language of New Media. This is a good resource, and including it on his personal site increases the visibility of the book. However, this is not a terribly well designed website and serves mostly as an example of what not to do. Aesthetically, it is very dull, with few images and very small print that is hard to read. It is set up in two columns with their own scroll bars, which could get confusing, and there are so many links in the sidebar it is hard to figure out what is most important.

    Structurally, the biggest problem here is that at least half of the links on this site don’t work. Even some of the “Order” links are broken—which interferes with people’s ability to actually buy the book. And the organization is confusing. There are a lot of links: some that don’t open, some that open on the same page, and some that open to a new page or to an attached document.

    However, there is a lot of good information on these pages. Manovich includes a Table of Contents and an excerpt from the Introduction, which helps people get a feel for what the book’s style and content. There are also “Text Updates,” which include extra information the author feels is related to the book and would appeal to the same audience. Links to reviews and interviews give the viewer a clearer picture of what the book is about, its quality, and who the author is. And the “Order” links are fairly prominent, which is important because the ultimate goal of the site is (or should be) to sell the book. All this information would be important to include on the RAW website. This author also mentions that the book is available in different translations, but doesn’t include a link to where you can buy those translations. If there are other translations of RAW, we should include further information about them on the site.

    Overall, then, the strength of this site is the information it includes. More sample chapters would be a good addition, but there is enough information already to help the reader make an informed choice about whether they want to buy the book (at least there would be if all the links worked). In addition, there are a few resources for people who already have the book to enrich their reading, although there should probably be more such resources. The design is a weakness, though, and don’t inspire confidence in the author, particularly since he’s writing about digital text. We would expect the companion website to a book about digital text to be dynamic and interactive. This site is static and very much like a print text. It would benefit from clearer organization and hierarchies, more interactivity, and better use of visuals. Those are things we’ll want to keep in mind when we design the RAW website as well.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *