Wednesday 19 Sep 2007
Some months ago, we were approached by a family business that really interested me. The Robbins family have been purveyors of replacement china for 10 years from their Kentucky-based business. Their inventory is absolutely vast. If you are looking for a specific china pattern, chances are, Robbins Nest has got it or can find it for you. They struck me immediately as the the kind of devoted, conscientious small business owners who genuinely make customer satisfaction their number one priority, and this is the type of client it’s a pleasure for us to take on.
The Website Redesign Challenge
Like many small business owners, the Robbins had been doing-it-themselves for years, learning HTML basics in order to get their inventory online. Yet, as their business grew, their website got out of hand. It lost a sense of structure, causing Usability issues for human visitors, and, no doubt, making an unwanted maze for search engine bots. This is not an uncommon situation. A small business owner starts out with a small site…maybe just a few pages…but as the inventory grows, a lack of pre-planned architecture can result in a hodgepodge effect that is extremely difficult for the user to navigate.
The Robbins had been doing their best, of course, but realized that the issues with their site couldn’t be getting them optimum conversions. They wanted help with getting things cleaned up and organized. The key goal for me with this project would be to get their navigation into much better working order, eliminating menus that were appearing all over the place on different pages, and pulling all the eggs into one basket, so to speak, so that users could easily find what they want to find and go where they need to go with a strong, thorough, consistent system of navigation.
They also wanted a more professional presentation for their business. I had browsed around the replacement china industry in the past, searching for some American-made Franciscanware which I absolutely love, and I took note at the time of how little care was being taken by the top ranked companies to provide even a remotely charming presentation of what ought to be a very charming product – pretty china! I agreed with the Robbins family that some simple, professional design work would absolutely promote brand recognition and help repeat customers to know they’d arrived at the right place, hitting the site. The screen shot below will show you what Robbins Nest looked like when we first saw it.
With an inventory as good as theirs, this company deserved much more than a cluttered, industrial-looking website and my husband I set to work by drawing up a list of our goals for the redesign:
- Develop a system of navigation that includes all major site categories and is consistently placed on each and every page of the website.
- Create a homepage and 6 templates to be used to format the 6 different kinds of pages present on the site.
- Develop a distinct visual look for this company that sets them obviously apart from their competition.
- Hand the pages over to the client for implementation throughout their website
The New Robbins Nest!
The above screenshot shows the redesign we created for Robbins Nest. You can click the image to see the actual website. As you can see, we kept things very simple. Far from suggesting that they further clutter up their site with heavy graphics or other distraction, I simply wanted to infuse a bit of Robin’s-egg blue into the site, to continue their theme, and to create a logo that would be instantly recognizable and memorable. As most of my readers know, I’m a wild bird illustrator…so, seriously, if you’ve got a bird-related business of any kind, I’d like to work with you. This handsome American Robin perched on a nest of replacement china was fun to create and truly delighted the company. The navigation has been organized and now serves as a useful tool, rather than a game of musical chairs, and should instill confidence and comfort in the user. Overall, you see a more professional, usable website.
With thousands of different china replacements in stock, it’s unlikely that a small business like this could have afforded to hire us to implement the design throughout their great big website. Fortunately, the business owners’ HTML skills stood them in good stead here, enabling them to take our 7 pages and rework their pages themselves, according to the new design. They tell me they are 99% finished with the job now, and they must have worked like crazy to accomplish this in a couple of months’ time. Having experienced this family’s work ethic and business ethic first-hand, I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone looking for replacement china!
Looking to the Future
I’m sure the whole Robbins clan would like a vacation at this point. They’ve worked very hard to get their website in shape, but now that they’ve achieved this goal and have a site that they can be proud of, the company needs to begin thinking about next steps. Though rich in products, the site needs links and needs to begin developing a new body of interesting reading materials in order to take a broader approach to doing business on the web. Products aren’t enough these days, with Google’s emphasis on content and links, and this business will benefit from pursuing the following:
- Developing a library of articles about their area of expertise. These folks know china, and the history and lore surrounding china companies and patterns would make for exceptionally good reading.
- Building a blog into the site would be super. Think of all the Q&A that would be associated with identifying old china patterns, caring for old china, decorating with vintage china, etc.
- Starting to build up the reading materials offered by the company will naturally lead to the acquisition of voluntary links from readers, but will also provide something for the company to approach bloggers and siteowners with, asking those influential people if they’d be interested in writing about various articles Robbins Nest has published.
These are just a couple of suggestions that basically boil down to writing and networking – the two things all smart small business owners are learning are so important to success on the web these days. Paid advertising would undoubtedly be useful, too, but we tend to suggest the least expensive options first because we understand the small business budget.
For me, the greatest satisfaction in redesigning websites for small businesses is that I know, after working with us, they own a site that is ready to go. They can add to it, market it, take it anywhere they want it to go. What could be more valuable than this?
Do you have a website that looks behind-the-times or is functioning poorly for your users? Contact Solas Web Design today to tell us about your business.