On the Spot
DWM Critiques Five Industry Websites
by Holly Biller
Effective websites are a culmination of various elements, utilized in a manner that is both user-friendly, aesthetically pleasing and to the point—all while still
portraying a sense of company branding.
This combination is not an easy balance to find and many companies outsource this task for that very reason. When designing a company website, it is important to think through the purpose of the site thoroughly before playing with any bells and whistles. An effective site is one that the user can navigate easily, find what he needs and move on with the retention of what the site provided.
We’ve critiqued five company sites that are well-visited and for good reason. Looking at these sites and at the critiques found below may give you ideas on how to improve your website or create one if your company doesn’t currently have a site.
The sites are measured based on five different variables. Their overall appearance, meaning what the site visitor sees; navigation, how easily the viewer can select and move around the site; content, informational material presented to the viewer; download times, how quickly the pages will load and refresh; and user satisfaction, how the viewer feels after visiting the site.
About: Roofing, Windows, Insulation, Siding, Fencing
With a creative intro, this site proves you don’t need animation to catch your viewer’s attention. A large residential image is divided down the middle; the left side being the exterior, in color, is a link for homeowners to enter the site and the right side is a blueprint of the house, which provides a link for industry professionals. It is creative, simple and very effective. The entire site is colorful and full of images pertinent to the information being portrayed.
Considering the amount of information the site covers, the navigation is very well done. Instead of extensive drop down menus of subheads, each page refreshes with new left-side navigation offering the various sidebars regarding the topic selected.
There is a great deal to cover on this site and the viewer can get bogged down in the multi-layers of pages, but the final product is a success.
As mentioned, this is a content-heavy site. There are so many product lines that they require entering your region, which then leads the viewer to another set of pages pertaining to their area. It’s as well laid out as one can hope for, but still sometimes a bit cumbersome to wade through. Considering the breadth this site covers though, it is done well.
Very quick to refresh and upload the next page, which makes it enjoyable to navigate.
Overall, it’s a well-thought out site. Obvious care and thought went into its construction, with a successful blend of creativity-and it shows. The end product is extensive and effective, a goal many websites strive to reach and continually come up short. Company information was provided, as well as a calendar in PDF format of trade shows where the company’s products could be seen.
Kolbe Window and Door Improvement Gallery
About: Window & Door Replacement
Designed By: Digital Dialogue
The home page provides a soft, diffused lighting look, which continues throughout the various informational pages, with a slight watermark background of a residential site. The color scheme is followed through nicely, even with the inclusion of a hue change on the scroll bar to coordinate with the blue and gray tones of the overall site. Very well-laid-out pages, with the ideal use of graphics—not too busy but effective in their usage. Tables for the technical data area are aesthetically pleasing and helpful in organizing the information.
Clean, well-explained headers on the navigation bar open subheads when selected. Crisp rollovers of a simple underline provide the user an easy way to identify what he is about to select. Each page is concise so not a great deal of scrolling is necessary. The folio of the name and phone number at the base of each page is also a nice touch.
The content was well-organized, thorough and well-dispersed, offering technical information as well as personal testimonies to appeal to all types of site users. The information was well-written, to draw in the readers and make them feel comfortable with the site and encourage them to continue utilizing the various resources within the website.
Everything was very quick to download. There were no pauses in text. A few of the side graphics were a bit delayed, but nothing that a viewer wouldn’t wait for, especially since the content was already available for reading.
This site is very user friendly, easy on the eyes, welcoming and well laid out for an overall outstanding rating. I was able to find the company’s contact information easily and the shop locator was a nice touch as well. There’s not much I would change, aside from the continual image of the before-and-after window that seems to be a part of the navigation bar on the left side. It isn’t as clear as it could be and a bit redundant after the first few pages. Otherwise, it’s quite well done and a site worth visiting.
Burns, Morris & Stewart L.P.
About: Door Frames and Systems
Site has a very clean home page, with the logo and tag line. Crisp, bright colors and a straight-forward navigation bar on the left side were welcoming. The text inset is very close to the color block for the navigation bar and the Framesaver logo is almost one with the bar, but other than the lack of enough inset, the site is very appealing.
Framesaver.com offers a look into the product lines, easy access to contact information, the latest news on the company, as well as related links, kit information and company background. An additional level of multi-media is available through optional viewing of a video and images of Bob Villa with the product line. The site developers were also forward enough in thought to include a link for a free download of the media player to use.
The site is concise, well-organized, founded in its product claims and easy to understand. A well-thought-out informational plan was used by walking the viewer step-by-step down the navigation links as it builds the need for the product in the viewer’s mind.
Though the pages are colorful and well-placed with graphics to demonstrate certain points, on our DSL system there were a few pages that took a bit of time to load, and the video page never completed loading. If I was working on a 56.6 modem connection it would be a very tedious process to load–and I might not stay to see the final product.
Though the final product is good overall, there are two spots I would arrange differently. First the video page, which after five minutes still wouldn’t load the bottom two images or video link, needs to be revamped and compressed for easier access and viewing. Second, the colors used for text on the architectural specs page, red and blue, can be a bit difficult when wading through the large quantity of information.
Overall, as a user, I was satisfied. I always search for the company’s contact information so I can call or find where they are located, and it was very simple to find. I also like to know what I’m looking at within the first 1-2 minutes when I’m on a site so I can determine whether I want to stay longer or move to another site. Framesaver was good at getting the initial message across and keeping my interest throughout the site.
WTE Wintech Enterprises Inc.
About: PVC Bending Systems
Designed by: Mr. B. Sangalli
Video by: Leboe-Grice MultiMedia
Very impressive introduction, offering a one-page fact sheet in PDF format, a downloadable presentation and a standard entrance into the site itself. Animation is utilized continually, which keeps the viewer’s attention as well as guiding the pattern the viewer’s eyes take throughout the site. The site has a clean-cut feeling overall and complimentary color choices.
The site itself was easy to use. There are only three pages: the company information, the products and what they refer to as “raves.” Each offers a reduced image of the original navigation with the same images in the windows and rollovers so you can select another area once you’ve read the first. Very simple and well-done in presentation.
It’s a bit lacking, with only three main pages of information. While each of the first two pages was easy to read, used effective animation and was all contained within one page, the raves page is blank, aside from the background image. I suspect this has the opposite effect of what the creators hoped for. Instead of offering positive testimonies–it seems as if there are no raves about the product line to offer. “Under construction” content would be better than a blank page.
Considering the large amount of animation and flash or fireworks programs they utilized, it loads quickly which is a tribute to the creator’s forward thinking and understanding that some users are still on slower modem connections.
Very high. It’s an easy site to weave through. It’s simple to pick up on the main points and the contact information is available on quite a few of the pages, which is a huge benefit to the viewer. The information on the products themselves could be a bit more in-depth, but the general points do come across, so it’s not a necessity. The animation is enjoyable, but not inhibiting to the navigation, which is also a benefit. One main point to consider is that it is better to take a page down or place it under construction rather than having it sit bare, as that simply leaves the viewer confused and waiting to see if something will eventually download.
About: Window Sash Systems
Designed by: Sashlite Marketing Department
Quite an impressive site. The viewer is treated to an audio/visual masterpiece of not only what Sashlite does, but the process itself with play-by-play graphics and subtitles for those without sound cards. While the viewer is entertained and educated, there is also the option to select the topic you are most interested in–wherein the presentation will cater to that portion of information and offer either a static page or more dynamic pages.
Practically on auto-pilot from the initial click-through. The site is clear regarding how to select the topic of interest and quick to accommodate. The media player is always available if the viewer wishes to pause or alter the presentation being shown, and for a nice tie-in, the Sashlite logo is the marker along the movie line as it progresses through its routine.
Thoroughly presented, offers news relating to the company back through 2003, as well as alliances, company bios and various other elements in which the viewer may take great interest. Regarding the site, the fenestration technology is broken out, advantages and product performance aspects are explored in addition to the standard FAQ and contact pages.
Considering the elaborate site and media used, it was a very quick upload to view. Seems to be well-compressed and prepared for a variety of viewers.
Not only does this site provide the information in a fun-to-view medium, but it covers all the basics and branches into more of the details that would interest industry members. The contact information was easily accessible and offered an added bonus of a free newsletter sign-up when submitting personal information for updates and the latest company news. Sashlite has a well thought out site with effective animation and construction that is both robust and user-friendly.
The Annual Guide to Industry Websites
Following is a list of many suppliers, and other companies involved in the window and door industry,
who offer sites on the World Wide Web.
Acer Industrial Ltd.
AFG Industries Inc.
Albat + Wirsam North America Inc.
Alumet Manufacturing Inc.
Amerimax Building Products
American Architectural Manufacturers Association
Amesbury Group Inc.-Balance
AquaSurTech Coating Products
Ashland Hardware Systems
Atlas Material Testing Technology
ATOFINA Chemicals Inc.
Azon USA Inc.
Billco Manufacturing Inc.
Bodycote Materials Testing Canada Inc.
Bronze Craft Corp.
BSI Hardware/Amesbury Group
Caldwell Manufacturing Co.
Capital Tape Co.
Carlson Wegoma LLC
Chelsea Building Products
Computers Mean Business Inc.
CraftMaster Manufacturing Inc.
DAC Products Inc.
Deceuninck North America
Deles Industries Inc.
Door and Window Maker Magazine
Dow Corning Corp.
Edgetech I.G. Inc.
Electronic Design to Market
Elumatec USA Inc.
Emes Marketing Inc.
Erdman Automation Corp.
Fasco Die Cast
Frank Lowe Rubber & Gasket Co. Inc.
Glasslam N.G.I. Inc.
Glas-Weld Systems Inc.
Grafted Coatings Inc.
H.B. Fuller Co.
HOPPE North America Inc.
Imperial Products Inc.
Insulating Glass Certification Council
Insulating Glass Manufacturers Association
John Evans’ Sons Inc
Johnson Brothers Metal Forming Co.
Joseph Machine Company Inc.
McKeegan Equipment & Supply
Mikron Industries Inc.
National Starch & Chemical Co.
Pemko Manufacturing Co.
Petit Industries Inc.
PH Tech Inc.
Pilkington North America
Pistorius Machine Co. Inc.
Preferred Engineering Products
Pres-On Tape & Gasket Corp.
PMC Software Inc.
Product Design and Development Inc.
Pro-Tech Machinery Inc
Protecto Wrap Co.
Ramapo Sales and Marketing
Republic Windows & Doors
Resiver Patio Doors Inc.
Roto Frank of America
Round Top Window Products
Royal Mouldings Limited
Sampson Automation Co. Inc.
Sash Controls/Amesbury Group
Schlegel Systems Inc.
Screen Center Sales
Screenco Manufacturing Ltd.
Soft Tech America Inc.
Sommer & Maca
Spadix Technologies Inc.
SRD Design Corp.
Sturtz Machinery Inc.
Surface Specialties UCB
TPC Metals Inc.
Triple Seal Ltd.
Ultra Hardware Products LLC
Vinyl Building Products LLC
Vision Industries Group Inc.
VSM Software Enterprises Inc.
Wasco Products Inc.
W & F Manufacturing Inc.
Window and Door Manufacturers Association
Windoor North America
Window Shapes Inc.
Witte North America Ltd.
Wood’s Powr-Grip Co. Inc.
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