“It Is Happening”: Reflections from UBC Press on launching a new website

Megan Malashewsky, agency and digital marketing coordinator at UBC Press, gives Read Local BC a behind-the-scenes look at the the trials of building a new website for the press—with some handy tips for others.

After many (many) years in the making, UBC Press is beyond proud to welcome you to our new website.

While it seems simple on the surface, building a website for a book publisher is a frustrating, bang-head-against-wall type of task. We needed to display, in the simplest and most attractive way possible, book information (or “metadata”) for thousands of books. We also needed these books to be buyable in a variety of formats. We have an outside distributor, the University of Toronto Press, who manages our sales and inventory, so we had to work closely with them to ensure a seamless online ordering process. Tricky!

I’ll breeze through the hours of meetings and thousands of emails and say that we (finally) came to launch time. How was the final stretch? I’m not sure. I took a vacation. But our fearless marketing leader, Laraine, did an amazing job getting the site live, coordinating with our web host, developer, distributor, and university. She texted me, “IT IS HAPPENING,” and I walked to my computer, refreshed my browser, and then this:

 

Screenshot of old UBC Press website

UBC Press’ former website, in all its bug-filled glory

Uh oh. This thing is never going live.

Just as I was deleting  “facilitated the creation of an e-commerce website” from my resume and OK Cupid profile, I clicked “refresh” again and this happened:

UBC Press' new website

UBC Press unveils it’s new website—fueled by flying pigs and a backlist of 900 titles in print.

TA DAAAA!!!!!

I think I speak for all my colleagues when I say that we’re proud of how our new site reflects and advances the UBC Press brand and mission. Our new website is cleaner and brighter, and it offers an easy browsing and shopping experience. We now have the ability to sell e-books (hurrah!), and to communicate current news and events to our devoted fans.

Of course we’d love to hear your (positive) feedback, so if there’s anything you’d like to see on our site, get in touch with me, Megan.

And with the hopes of imparting just a little bit of wisdom, I’ll leave you with this:

5 Tips for Building a Publisher’s Website (with E-Commerce!) from Someone Who Knows Basically Nothing About It:

  • Have a plan and seek input from everyone in your office. Everyone has a stake in the site’s success.
  • Research. Know exactly what you want to do before you start building. Solicit advice as you go along (see: user testing).
  • Be patient and encourage others to be patient. What’s high priority to you might not be high priority to everyone. Accept that other tasks might slide and that unforeseen problems will mess with your timeline.
  • Compromise. Even the little things have the potential to cause stress and disagreement, from the size of images to the colour of your hyperlinks, and each change has to be coded and implemented by your developers, which can take time and follow-up.
  • Ask for help! Research where you can, but hire professionals when you need to. If you’re lucky to have web designers on staff, fantastic! But most of us in publishing aren’t so lucky. People in publishing are amazing and have various skills, but ask us to configure a DNS redirect or to generate an SSL certificate and we’re stumped. Best to ask the experts.

One final piece of advice: When you see the beautiful Read Local BC website go live after mere months—not years—of development, don’t be jealous. We’re all in this together.

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