Top Quality – Consumer focused websites

Recently I wrote about my poor experiences in researching a lawn mower and the hurdles I came across in finding out the basic information I needed to make an informed choice. The manufacturer sites were all flawed in one fashion or another, with the summation of faults being a mix of poor execution or just plain devoid of any semblance of usability or consistency in the areas of:

  • information presentation
  • content quality including  clarity of writing, accuracy and relevence
  • image use
  • corporate identity & brand mark execution
  • construction artifacts such as font use, breadcrumbs, navigation features & highlights

The end result is that I found the usability and the ability to perform specific tasks was found wanting in many of the sites. As a consequence a poor User Experience was the hallmark of my interaction, which led to frustration  in finding the information I was looking for. Not good for the brands in question, particularly if I was looking for a lawn mower to be reliable and “just work” I could, like many users, be tainted by my online experience with the brand in question. Really.

So, with that in mind, what do I think are good websites which portray products and consumer driven information well? I’ve chosen the below 3 for entirely different reasons. Each is markedly different in their information presentaion, layout and fucntionality, however at the heart, each IMHO meets its target audience really nicely.

Rushfaster Australia http://www.rushfaster.com.au
An online based retailer specialising in showcasing bags. The areas which stand out head and shoulders above most sites are:

  • Photography: simply put, it is stunning. Well shot, clear, and taken in context as to how you would want to investigate a bag, short of being there touching it yourself. There is no doubt in my mind that these guys spend big money getting professional photo shoots of the products done, as in many cases they are a cut above the bag manufacturers site itself.In
  • Image Size: little irritates me more than a product site with small, useless images. Rushfaster has got it right – good image size, small file size, crystal clear.
  • Search: using key traits of what you look for – size, type, style, brand, price – it just works. I also particularly like the calculator which works out if your laptop will fit into the bag you are looking at and offer alternatives if it doesn’t.
  • Shopping Cart/Checkout: easy to use, offers cross links of other product, easy to signup. Can exit and return back in at any stage.
  • Information Design: layout is clear, logical, comprehensive, consistant and well written, cross linked promotions and similar items are presented

Citizen Watch Australia http://www.citizenwatches.com.au
Noted by a work colleague who was searching for a watch for his girlfriends birthday. Whilst you can’t actually purchase online from this site, it is a good showcase of the products and presents a useful reference point for you to visit a store. On that, slightly annoying that such a nice website is totally let down by this one area – no list of dealers to purchase from.

  • Watch Search: selector with its persistant right hand side navigation bar is absolutely fantastic in its functionality and speed with which it whittles down literally hundreds of models.
  • Fat Footer: I’m a professed fan of the big fat footer which sits at the bottom of pages with all the ‘floating’ navigation items you are likely to want whilst browsing.
  • Information Design: Again, like Rushfaster, lots of consistantly arranged information and groupings of features.
  • Images: Watches are very personal items – the quality photography here illustrates each watch in fine detail, giving a sense of the product.

Ping Golf http://www.pinggolf.com
Now, I don’t play golf as such (yet) but know alot of people that do and the underlying thread of all these people is that when they are spending their money on new clubs, drivers and bags/buggys, they do an immense ammount of research. As a consequence, their baseline understanding is somewhat higher than your average consumer. But. The big thing about the Ping website which I noticed is that if you were a first time researcher or visitor, this would quickly become the default standard by which you rate all the other big brands like King Cobra, Calloway, Titlelist, Taylor Made, Wilson and so forth. The site really takes you on a journey in presenting information and illustrative examples which are relevent, supportive and most of all, don’t leave you lost as you make your way through the site. Really good. A nice touch is the Ping Golf Club owner letters being read out by the staff, who albeit from their biased point of view, extol the virtues of the products and make you see how everybody else is using them.

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