A Facelift for a Book List

The USA TODAY Best-Selling Books list has a new look and added interactivity, part of a relaunch of books coverage. It’s been a fun project that has been on my front burner for about three months.

I get to work with all kinds of data at USA TODAY, but the book list has been a constant. When I arrived at USAT in 1997, one of the first projects I took on was to build and analyze an archive of the list to mark its fifth anniversary. Since then, as that archive grew to hold nearly 18 years of data, we’ve used it to anchor stories about authors and trends in publishing. We’re awfully proud of the list, and people in the publishing industry tell us it’s one of the most accurate accounts of Americans’ weekly reading habits.

Last year, we opened the archives up to developers via a Best-Selling Books API. This year, giving the list itself a facelift was the next logical step.

We were fortunate to assemble a crack team of designers, developers and product managers who, in a short time, conceptualized, designed, redesigned, and coded an entirely new collection of book-related pages for our site. What’s new:

— The list itself has an all-new design, including book covers.
— You can filter the list by genre or type. Handy if you enjoy a certain kind of book.
— Dig into the archives. Search by title, author or in the book’s brief description. You also can see entire lists from earlier weeks. Here, for example, is the first book list USA TODAY published, on Oct. 28, 1993.
— Clicking a book title takes you to its own page, which includes stats, reviews from Goodreads and latest Tweets about the title (more reader reviews to come). Here’s the page for To Kill a Mockingbird, which has been on the list for 755 weeks so far.
— Links to buy the title from some of readers’ favorite sources. And since our developers optimized the site for tablets and phones, you can find, buy and read a book quickly.

All this is part of an overall redesign of books coverage, which in turn is part of a larger site redesign.

My role in all this was to help the team understand the intricacies and particulars of the list and suggest the most suitable interactions it could offer. Coding-wise, I wrote some SQL to support the fetching and searching of the lists and the individual title’s archive data.

What a great time, a nice next chapter after finishing our work on the Census 2010 P.L. 94 release. More to come …

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