Why Books Make Great Metaphors for Websites

Many articles refer to websites in ways that were once reserved for books and publishing. Website elements that you encounter on a daily basis are the same elements that we use to describe books.

They Include the Same Things

A book should have an enticing cover that draws in the reader and should reflect the content of the book. The synopsis or teaser should be easy to find and make the reader want to know more about the story. A website should have an appealing landing page. It should catch the eye of the visitor and reflect the website’s purpose. The content on the landing page should be intriguing enough to make the visitor want to click through the rest of the website.

The process of creating a book is like that of a website. The design and content of a book are equally important, just like a website. The design should be consistent both visually, through font and art style, and conceptually, through the tone of the writing and the message. Some books even include a table of contents just as websites include a navigation and site map.

Once an author finishes a book, the book needs a way to reach people. It needs a publisher, even if that means self-publishing. A website also needs a way to reach people. It needs a server, even if that means buying your own and self-hosting. Without publishers and hosts, books and websites are just things you keep around to show friends when they come over for dinner.

They Use the Same Terms

Look up at your browser’s menu bar. Odds are, somewhere up there, you have a list of bookmarks. It is someplace that you have been, that you then had to navigate away from, but that you will want to return to. The basic function of a bookmark is the same no matter what context you are using it in. You can even customize your website’s bookmark icon just like you can customize your physical bookmarks.

Websites and Books are Similar

Websites are more fluid, and they can change more often, but their roots are still tied to their book ancestor. With the increase in e-books and digital readers, books can change much more frequently than before. This closes the gap between the two even more.

Books and authors are marketed just like websites and companies. A website is your pitch, a way to share information or sell products, a way to further the company’s or individual’s message and exposure. A book is a way for the author to share the story or message.

And just like with a book, a well-informed visitor (reader) can tell when a website (book) tries to take shortcuts. They know when quality is sacrificed for savings or deadlines. Just because a website is easier to publish doesn’t mean all guidelines are now irrelevant.

If books scrolled like websites.
Image from XKCD 1309

You always have to keep the user in mind. Treat your website like a book and handle it with care.