Help us with a home(page) remodel

We like to keep things fresh here at Lulu. But lately, we feel like our home page is getting a little stale.

So we’re ripping up the floors and bringing out the paint … or at least the wire frames and graphics. Our goal is to make Lulu.com a better experience for both of our customer groups: content creators and buyers. We want to highlight the diverse selection of content available on Lulu.com, help our creators sell more and make sure we remain a first stop for anyone publishing or buying books.  As with any remodel, we need some ideas. So help us out!

What should we keep on the Lulu.com homepage?
What should we take away?
What should we add?

If there are sites that you think are particularly well designed, let us know that, too.

We love the creativity of our community, so give us your thoughts. And stay tuned. We expect to have an updated look this spring.

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30 Comments

  1. kevin

    Remove the buttons that give the choice of media created on lulu or thirdparty content. Why should it be segregated in such a manner? There should in fact be two Homepages with two addresses. 1 for those who wish to create media here (lulu-create.com ?) and one for people who just want to buy from here (lulu-buymedia.com ?) And tagged as such too. Perhaps then people will not be put off by it being obvious that this is a self-publishing site … Possibly the best change you can make is to revamp the searchengine so it will ‘read’ more than one word. It would be better if it could read at least 3 like any modern engine (or Ask.com that can read and understand whole sentences.

  2. Perhaps the best thing you could do is for the front page put the biggest emphasis on the books you’re SELLING, and make the services for publishing you offer at the bottom of the home page.

  3. Joan Ellen

    I agree with Kevin and Dawson’s suggestions.

    I also hate the flashing slide shows. I like a website to just lie there.

    But my top recommendation would be to hire Ken Anderson re-design the page. He is obviously way more in tune with what the community wants than anybody who actually works for Lulu.

    Personally, I’m getting pretty tired of ripped up floors and fresh paint.

    Thanks for asking.

  4. Joan Ellen

    P.S. Why isn’t this posted at Official Announcements?

  5. Alan Fuller

    The thing most needed is a hit counter.

  6. I think Lulu going through a transition now. At first the goal was to attract people who would publish. You’ve done that. Now the goal likely has shifted to selling more so than attracting new authors as the word about self-publishing is out.

    To me, having the main page as a page to sell makes sense. Having an obvious but not too large “Publish Now’ type graphic on the main page would still take care of those wanting to publish. They could then be directed to a publishing page/site.

    On the main page, best sellers should be there and then media broken down by category and subject. Barnes and Noble’s site looks good. Categories, search, & checkout cart right at the top. All of these can be seen immediately without scrolling down.

    Borders looks like nice too and is easy to navigate. Author’s videos at the bottom plus payment options are right there. Their Magic Shelf is really good.

    Good luck with the facelift.

  7. veinglory

    You should add actual *books* to the front page.

    You should use graphics with age diversity.

    You should fix the forums and addess the issues being raised their about shipping costs and missing packages that Lulu refused torefund.

  8. Quote “…. And stay tuned. We expect to have an updated look this spring.”

    So we can expect another major period of downtime in the spring eh?

    I suggest that before any re-design takes place that you pull in half a dozen folks of the street and ask then to show you how they use the site at the moment. You need Lulu Virgins – those that just want to come and buy, then those who want to publish for the first time, as well as a few old hacks.

    Spend some dosh on getting some of the latter down for a few days and sit them in front of a few terminals with your ‘designer.’

  9. Lee Paxton

    I say leave it as it is. I’ve seen other websites change things just for some freshness and completely ruin it. I like the way Lulu’s homepage is.

  10. Diana Newsome

    “But my top recommendation would be to hire Ken Anderson re-design the page.”

    Who is Ken Anderson and why is he relevant to the homepage or Lulu?

  11. For awhile there I thought lulu was going to go under. You can’t call anyone, couldn’t talk to anyone, etc. I was seriously considering going somewhere else. Well, now it seems that has been in infusion of credit and a new team is on board. New teams always want to change things to make it their own. And they always over-compensate. What we need is SERVICE, SERVICE, SERVICE! Do put a lot of new things in just to demonstrate change. Think it through. What you’re doing affects US, NOT YOU! Don’t be egotistic and think that you have to leave your mark! It’s like Microsoft and their “Allow” button, totally unneeded, but they HAD to ADD SOMETHING to justify sales! Think, think, think what you are doing before you do it.

  12. STOP! Just stop, please! You are “fixing” things that aren’t necessarily broken but just “sprucing” them up for the heck of it.

    Personally, as a creator, I really don’t care what the homepage I look at looks like. Most days, I don’t even look there.

    There are things that are “broken” that need to be fixed before you “fix” the home page:

    1. There’s been a bug recently occuring in the publishing wizard meaning that creators who have obtained/entered their ISBN can’t get a link to purchase distribution packages.

    2. There’ve been bugs with coupons Lulu’s given to creators, meaning the coupons weren’t working. And if you can’t get coupons that you offer us working right, how can we believe that you’ll get the redesign of the home page right!

    3. I’ve been BEGGING you since September 2009 to make a change to the publishing
    wizard (and fix a complete and utter screw-up you made) ever since you changed the distribution packages “for the better”. I can no longer enter my own ISBNs and use Lulu Marketplace pricing for my books if I don’t want a Lulu distribution package. Some of us DON’T want a Lulu distribution package for some books, yet you’re forcing me into ridiculous retail pricing if I want to enter my own ISBN and only sell on the Lulu Marketplace!

    4. BETA TESTING! Beta testing of any “new improved” system! You need to get your creators to test the functionality of your ideas BEFORE you implement them, to see if they actually achieve what creators want and need, rather than having the engineers test them to see if the coding “works”. Eg, I understand that the forum software may have needed fixing (as some parts of it were broken beyond repair), but it’s a prime example of why beta testing BY YOUR PRIMARY CUSTOMERS, your creators, is necessary.

    If your “goal is to make Lulu.com a better experience for both of our customer groups: content creators and buyers”, then first fix things to make things easier for creators to create.

    Then, listen to us put in place things we’ve been suggesting to you and asking for for years (Julie Dawson has been banging her head against a wall for years trying to get you to put in place simple ideas that will work for us), and put those things into place before you redesign the front page just for the sake of it.

    Because if you don’t make it easier for creators to create, and give us the tools to make it easier for us to sell, then buyers will have nothing to buy. Once you’ve fixed the things that are actually broken, then please consider fixing up the home page for creators.

  13. Julie – The forums DID need to be changed. They were running on the same platform that phpBB was built on and that’s gotta be one of the worst piles of trash I’ve ever seen. But I agree with you, the newer ones are even SO MUCH WORSE.

    That said, I’m gonna side with Dawson and say you need to put more emphasis on the books that are being sold. I would think that this would attract more people looking to self-publish. I remember when I first found Lulu about four years ago, there was a random image script on the homepage that featured an author with their book. That made me want to publish–to see my work on Lulu’s homepage. Unfortunately, by the time I published, that feature was gone. I would say bring that back. You guys are kind of on that track with the Author Success stories, but that’s so small and I seem to see the same three books there every time I logon.

    I noticed on the drivethru site Julie linked to, they have a “Hottest Items” column. That could be one way to showcase some of the authors’ works. Barnes and Noble and Amazon’s sites have bestseller columns on their front page that are updated hourly/daily/weekly.

    I personally think the homepage needs some reworking, again emphasizing the books being sold on Lulu–let people know what US CREATORS can do with your site! With that said, I also agree with Julie that there’s no need to change the homepage all the time. Come up with something and stick to it.

    Thanks for taking us into consideration!

  14. Nuno Gomes

    This is great! I said our community was passionate and creative, and I really do appreciate all of your feedback. I should’ve been clearer on this point: The goal is not to change the home page for the sake of change. Our goal is to help you be more successful. The home page is the most visited part of our site, and we want to make sure it’s working hard to sell content. And helping buyers discover new content. Our creators have told us in other forums that should be a priority, and that’s what we’re working on. So please keep the feedback coming. It truly is helpful.

  15. Have a flash opening

  16. Everything is too fragmented, to many pages with too many different setting. Too much redundancy, I shouldn’t have to upload my avatar multiple times.

    If you want to see what else is wrong, sign up for a blurb account and see how they did it.

  17. Joan Ellen

    Diana Newsome wrote: “Who is Ken Anderson and why is he relevant to the homepage or Lulu?”

    Ken Anderson is a longtime Lulu author who quickly set up a useable forum for us at
    http://www.luluforums.com/
    shortly after Lulu nuked our forums earlier this month.

  18. Julie Dawson wrote:
    “If you want an example of a well done e-retail site that has figured out how to cater to multiple markets, visit http://www.drivethrurpg.com. You’ll notice in the top right corner options that say FICTION, COMICS, etc. When you click on one, you get a completely different home page.”

    It pains me to disagree with anything Julie Dawson says ;-) but personally, I wouldn’t like to see Lulu take Drivethru as a design model – to my eye, there is something slightly amateurish in the look of the site. I didn’t notice the ‘FICTION, COMICS, etc.’ in the upper left because it just looked to me like a logo, not like separate items you could click on.

    Otherwise, I agree with pretty much everything else being said here, especially:
    –Place more emphasis on selling;
    –Fix what’s broken before ‘freshening up’ anything else;
    –Get community input BEFORE making changes; and
    –Beta test (and then fix) new code BEFORE going live with re-designs.

    And I do have to agree with Julie on this one:
    I’ll believe it when I see it.

  19. Marlene Lawson

    I have only been with LuLu a very short while, maybe two months. I am a self publisher and I had only one problem in the publishing and that was putting my own picture on the front cover. It just wouldn’t accept it and it wasn’t explained well enough for me to fix what ever was wrong. Since I joined LuLu with my very first Ebook I have only sold one copy even though I have been working very hard to get it promoted. I would like to see LuLu maybe put in something that might help the first time author too, maybe a tab that will lead the customer to new authors, new Ebooks, just something that might help us sell more. I don’t mean that LuLu should do all the work for us, we, as authors need to promote and work on selling our own books as well. But it would be more helpful if LuLu could help us out in a small way like I mentioned above. Sincerely, Marlene Lawson

  20. The product is different but one model might be successful companies like zazzle that divide their focus bewteen creatores and customers.

  21. Well, here’s something you can do with the home page BEFORE you change how it looks: get the search function that’s already on the home page to work, so buyers can actually FIND a creator’s work.

  22. Kevin

    Well yes, Home pages are almost always the first hit but that does not mean a thing. What is important is if they just close it or stay to look around, and if lulu have any sense there should be hitcounters (often hidden) that track hits and gather enough detail about the viewer to work out just what they do on the entire site and how long they stay for, and if they return. That is one of the best tools any web designer can have, mainly because it tells you how long they wait for the page to open nevermind how long they read it for! (Lulu’s pages open very slowly and people nowadays will not wait and simply move on.
    PS: I was only able to use the new forums for a day, after that the page is blank …)

  23. My apologies if this seems out of left field, but since Lulu’s asking for suggestions….

    STOP the Author’s sales contests! Or, at least, do them differently than they’re being done now. The folks who are already selling the most books in any given month don’t need the additional publicity! Those of us who are having trouble getting folks to know that our books exist need the help!

  24. I suppose that if you really do have to redesign the home page then the most important thing is to make clear and simple.
    We know that Lulu has big playpen full of fancy gizmos, flash bits & bobs and scripted devices – but throw all those away for simple straightforward HTML coding that opens quickly and works with all the popular browers.
    …and if you need a picture of a group of Lulu users then get faces that represent us out here in the real world and that bunch of students you gleaned from somewhere.

  25. By the way Nuno – why does this Blog page Home button not take me back to http://www.lulu.com?

  26. Nuno Gomes

    Ken, I agree, we need to move towards a more clear and simple design. The blog “home” button should take you back to the blog home, and the Lulu logo in the top right takes you to Lulu.com.

  27. I think a design like this http://img90.imageshack.us/img90/998/lulufrontpage.png would be cool.

    Dawon

  28. Diana Newsome

    Dawson, your design is bold, but what does it really accomplish? Why did you change the colors in the logo? Don’t you think people would be confused if they came to the site and the logo and colors were totally different?

    It’s perhaps more simple in form, but it doesn’t really say anything about what Lulu is. I personally don’t think a simpler design is the answer – maybe clarity is a goal, but that can be accomplished in complex ways.0

  29. I agree completely with Kevin and Dawson. Lulu’s home page has always been confusingly schizoid about selling versus publishing, and I have wondered that any of my buyers ever successfully got past it to actually purchase a book. As Kevin says well, the solution is to have lulu.com be oriented toward buyers, and have a separate home page for those who are logging on to undertake publishing. (You could have a link from the first to the second, just keep it subtle as in “Interested in publishing your manuscript on Lulu? Click here.”)

  30. Diana,

    I only changed the shades of colors–that usually doesn’t confuse folks too much. The logo is purposefully similar to the original that is now up.

    People don’t WANT to look at a complicated website. People want to know where they are and what it is. What I was planning was to have featured books in the “books for you” section…I should have stipulated that in there, but I assumed you would assume that the main homepage content would go there.

    Dawson

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