Banner image for A Home For Random House Authors

Design and Engineering

Penguin Random House

A Home For Random House Authors

Actually, make that 27 million homes.

Penguin Random House prints 15,000 new titles every year. For each of those titles, there’s an author who wants to build a site that promotes their book and connects with their fans. In the past, each website was built from scratch using a mishmash of tools, designers and systems. This burdened the PRH tech team with an enormous amount of technical maintenance and support. Just to get things off the ground, authors had to become savvy managers of freelance designers to create their site. Random House’s marketing team challenged us to create a new system for them to easily spin-up new sites, customized to meet every author’s needs.

Part

1

A Versatile System

Mixing and Matching for Millions of Combinations

As we conceived of this new system, it was important that each site had a distinct look-and-feel. We made sure to build-in tons of variations for both layout and style. The last thing we wanted was to create a swarm of cookie-cutter sites.

Exquisite corpse illustration

In the end, we made something inspired by a very complex exquisite corpse. Rather than deliver a handful of templates, we used atomic design principles to create millions of permutations that allow Random House to spin-up a one-of-a-kind site in no time. Each design is unique: with custom colors, layouts, and content. We had to consider tons of possibilities: How many titles does the author have? Do they write mysteries? Romance? Children’s Books? Are we promoting the author or the title? Is the book written by more than one author? Do they blog? Do they still write? Are they even alive?

12
Unique layout configurations
Layout options animation
navigation options
16
15
Typographic combinations
bg-typeCreated with Sketch.
promo treatments
11
32
Color palettes & modes
Background textures
27
resultCreated with Sketch.27,371,520POSSIBLE UNIQUE PERMUTATIONS

Customization

Design Systems, No Coding Required

We built a huge library of parts that could go into the design. Each component of the site has its own variety of options: from the navigation to the layout. We souped-up the WordPress customizer to make it easy for a marketer or author to create a fresh website for their book. As a result, a process that once took weeks now takes minutes. Try (a simplified version of) it for yourself!

Walter Walker

“Walter Walker combines an experienced attorney’s sense of our flawed criminal justice system with a natural storyteller’s gift. Crime of Privilege is a twisting, engrossing, irresistible detective story.”

— William Landay, author of Defending Jacob

Walter Walker

Crime of Privilege

“Walter Walker combines an experienced attorney’s sense of our flawed criminal justice system with a natural storyteller’s gift. Crime of Privilege is a twisting, engrossing, irresistible detective story.”

— William Landay, author of Defending Jacob

Walter Walker

Site mockup author headshot

Walter Walker is a full-time trial attorney in San Francisco, and author of five novels, including the critically acclaimed Crime of Privilege.

I've been writing some things.

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Part

2

API Integration

Built Instantly From a Universe of Data

Each site isn’t built entirely by hand. After team makes key stylistic choices , most of the pages are generated automatically using data from the Random House API. Starting with an author, we can pull data about their books to populate each section.

api-graphicBLOG POSTSEVENTS CALENDARAUTHOR PHOTOAUTHOR BIOAUTHOR NAMEBOOK COVER PHOTOBOOK TITLESYNOPSISBISACISBNREVIEWSRETAILERS

The result is a complete site full of relevant information: from an author’s bio to a complete listing of all of their titles. The system will generate as many pages as it needs to accommodate an author’s books, formats, blog posts, and more.

Books
About
Press
Events
Book
Book
Book
Book
Book
Book
Book
Book

The sites give authors tons of options to make it their own. They can customize book pages with new info, add events to promote their book tour and blog to keep in touch with readers.

Screenshots of sites in the wild Screenshots of sites in the wild Screenshots of sites in the wild

Part

3

Results

Hundreds of New Sites and Counting

The new system has been a smash hit with authors and marketers alike. Since its debut, Random House has created over 150 new sites for authors like Andy Weir, Billy Collins and Rita Mae Brown.

$1 M.

in cost savings

400k

unique visits

$79k

in sales

100+

sites built

What We Did