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This Is What A Web Site Should Be

August 16, 2012
If you have been reading my blog over the past few months, you know I’ve ranted about some vendor web sites that I considered pretty awful.  In this blog, I want to rave about The Pride Family Brands web site. It has undergone a recent upgrade and is so good, I think it should be the model for all of the vendors in our industry. Let me tell you why.

First and foremost, the web site makes no attempt to sell to the consumer. Instead, if a consumer has been on the site and wants to buy from Pride, the site offers a dealer locater. When I clicked on that button, a map window opened with the locations of all of the Pride Dealers close to my present location. Now, think about this for a second. Typically, the dealer locator requires a consumer to enter their location. If they want to find other dealers to get competitive pricing, a consumer can easily enter another location. While Pride’s site does offer the consumer the ability to enter another location, by having the site default to retailers in their local area, Pride is subtly encouraging consumers to shop at the retailers closest to them.

The next thing that impresses is the way they present their collections. Most web sites list all of their collection names in a drop down menu. There is no picture of the design associated with the collection name; so, how does a consumer know which to choose? Well, they ave to click on a collection name and wait for a new window to open with (hopefully) pictures of the design. If they don’t like the design, they have to start all over.  It can take several clicks before a consumer finds a design they like. Users don’t like it when a web site wastes their time doing something like this.

Pride’s web site does present a list of their collections but as a left hand vertical navigation bar. Then, as you hover your mouse over a collection’s name, a large picture of the design comes up immediately to the right. The flow is smooth and elegant. Again, this is a very subtle design point; but, one which will resonate with consumers and make them stay on the site longer.

Consumers go to vendors’ web sites for information. Not only do they want to find a design they like, they want to know why they should spend their good money on a manufacturer’s line. Because of this, I think consumers are going to love the “videos” section of the Pride site. In particular, the “Attention to Detail” video shows consumers (and retailers) how much hand work goes into creating a piece of furniture in their factory. The have a light and they aren’t hiding under a bushel!

But wait, there is more - - - the “Customization” section of their site. Here a consumer can pick their frame color, main fabric color, welt color, and kidney pillow color and see a picture showing them exactly what their furniture will look like. Some vendors have implemented this feature on their web sites. Pride does it better than any I have seen; it is smooth and detailed. Not only is it a great selling resource, it is fun to play with. When a web site is fun, consumers stick around and come back.

Many vendors show their fabric and frame swatches on their sites. Pride’s presentation is particularly useful. Click on any fabric (or frame color) and a new window opens with a large version of the fabric including all of its details (repeats, grade, type of material, how it can be used, etc.). Then, as you roll over the fabric or frame swatch, a magnified version of the section your mouse is in appears to the right of the small swatch. Not only does this give a better view of the pattern, it gives a much better feeling of the true color.

Finally, Pride includes a “Room Planner” section on their site. It has all of the standard functions you would expect. You can create standard and custom room layouts and then add items which can be moved, rotated and duplicated. If you register at their site, you can save you room layouts. What I really like about this room planner is you can add pieces from the furniture customization page. After customizing a chair in the frame, fabric, welt, and kidney pillow you want, just click on the “Add to Room Planner” button on the same screen and the piece is added to you room plan. Everything is done from one window. Very convenient.

By adding a piece from the customization page, all of the customization is carried over to the room planner. The pieces you add are shown in your customized finishes on the left side of the room planner panel. They are also shown in black and white in the layout part of the room planner window. When you click on the information icon on a piece in the layout, an inset window opens showing it in full color with other useful information. I am not sure who developed their room planner function; but, it is great.

My only complaint with the site is that parts of it don't work on our iPads, the "Room Planner" for example. I have a feeling this won't be a problem for long, though.

This is a site that I look forward to using with customers while doing a sales presentation. It is easy to use and has functions that are important to closing a sale. And, since Pride isn’t also trying to sell product on its site, I feel comfortable directing clients to it so they can play on their own. Whoever designed the functionality of the site (I’m betting Jamie and Steve), they knew what consumers want and need. I congratulate them for getting it right.

Good vendor web sites in our industry are far and few between. If you know of one that you think should be highlighted, please add a comment to this blog with the web address and the reasons why you like it.

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce