Belinda Murrell, an accomplished children’s and YA author with 30+ books, sought a website that showcased her distinct style and the unique qualities of each book. With her publisher’s encouragement to invest in online marketing, she turned to Jin & Co. for a tailored solution.
The Design Challenge
While authors newly entering the online space of the book industry may find the going tough, established authors are also faced with their own unique set of challenges.
When Belinda first contacted us, she stated that her old site was at odds with her author personality.
Belinda has over 30 published books under her belt, written in a range of genres and for various age groups. This includes junior readers, a fantasy adventure trilogy for middle graders, a time-travel series based in Australian history, and a new book series, Pippa’s Island, about a young girl—Pippa—who moves from London to a tropical island.
Needless to say, Belinda’s authorial voice has been and continues to evolve with her substantial and growing body of work. While some characteristics of this voice are evergreen, being “enthralling, warm-hearted, intelligent, and well-researched,” new and nuanced facets of it also emerge with each new book.
Belinda’s new site needed to strike a balance between communicating a coherent brand general enough to capture the personality and style echoing in all of her work, without being so vague as to lose what makes each of her books individually special.
The Trial and Error
In the early stages of the design process, we quickly perceived the need to strike the right balance between a design that was too specific—which would have alienated some of Belinda’s wide range of readers—, and one that was too general—which would have compromised the unique qualities of each of Belinda’s books.
Belinda’s honest and in-depth feedback, informed by her own research into different website designs as well as advice from her publisher, Random House, played a key part in creating a process of trial and error. Despite Belinda expressing at one stage her fear that she might have been oversharing information during this process, our open and lengthy discussions allowed us to fine tune the design and successfully tackle the challenge of striking the right balance between the general and the specific.
At the beginning of the project, the general style of the website started off too specific, and not gender neutral.
Here’s one of the first mock-ups we showed to Belinda:
BM: “While personally, I love pink (and purple) as a colour… I don’t think it works for me as the main background colour. The main reason is that it is a very feminine and young… I’m trying to avoid being stereotyped as a girls’ writer… Also, some girls don’t like “girly” books and my characters are often tomboys, who are strong and bold.”
With this feedback, we tried a similar design with more emphasis on neutral colours rather than feminine ones, but it still wasn’t quite right:
Random House: “We felt the blue background was too cold and think it is really important to make all the pages feel warm, friendly, welcoming and soft (which of course your first choice of pink was much warmer). [Our In-House] designer suggested using a warmer blue with texture in the background [or a] white version to make the covers and photos stand out more. I was worried all white might feel too clinical.”
On the other hand, our initial designs for each of Belinda’s book series were too general.
The banners and pages we created didn’t quite capture the essence of each individual book series:
BM: “the banners at the top of the different book pages should be more closely linked to the book designs, particularly using the same font as the series and using cover design elements.”
The Creative Solution
Through the process of trail and error, informed by feedback from Belinda and Random House, we dipped the creative brush into all aspects of Belinda’s author persona to synthesise a coherent brand for her author website.
For the general style, we:
Removed the strong, explicit focus on the beach scene from Pippa’s Island, but kept a general, impressionistic sense of the seaside (wave at bottom of page). With colours of pastel blue and soft yellow which are welcoming and gender neutral, but not clinical and serious.
In de-emphasising the beach foliage, we were able to shift the broad concept of the design to be based on the idea of ‘photo frames’. In a profile with Joomag, Belinda is described as an ‘intrepid traveller’, which is clear in the world-trotting and era-spanning nature of her narratives, as well as the family travel photos Belinda asked us to share on her website. The ‘photo frames’ motif was therefore the perfect design concept to give a more accurate sense of Belinda as a person.
For the book series’, at Belinda’s suggestion, we took advantage of the design work already done on the book covers to capture each series’ individual style and tone. We re-contexualised their fonts, images, and colours for each series’ site banners to work within the general style.
Finally, we used animation to tie it all together, having moving ‘parts’ of the website to once again reflect the different ‘parts’ of Belinda’s work, whilst also making the site feel more lively for her younger audiences: