Volume 44, Issue 8 - August 2009


The Best of the Web
The Second Annual Glass Industry Website Contest

The nominations have been piling up since this time last year, when USGlass held its First Annual Best of the Web contest, as more and more glass industry companies work to create and update their websites. Now more than ever this marketing tool is critical as a first point of contact for engaging new customers.

To find the best of the best, our editorial staff, along with readers of the www.USGNN.comô daily newsletter, nominated their favorite glass industry sites. These sites were submitted to our talented judges, who ranked them based on the same six criterion used by the Webby Awards, the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet:

[Content; Structure and navigation; Visual design; Functionality; Interactivity; and Overall experience.]


Once our winners were selected, USGlass talked to the minds behind ten of the industryís top sites about their website dos and doníts. So if youíre looking for direction on where to take your website, then we have some tips for you. Once youíve taken these tips to heart, and feel that your site represents the best of the web, itís not too soon to submit your nomination for next year by e-mailing mheadley@glass.com.


Manny Hondroulis is the marketing manager for EPD, and columnist for USGlass sister publication Window Film magazine. He is an expert in web marketing. www.epdwindowfilm.com

Bryan Hovey is the web developer for Key Communications Inc., publisher of USGlass magazine.
www.usglassmag.com and www.usgnn.com

Scott Orth is a co-founder and current treasurer of the Search Engine Marketing Professionals of Portland (SEMpdx), organizer of the SearchFest conference. www.sempdx.org

And the Winners of the 2009 Best of Web Contest are Ö

Best Glass Fabricator Site
According to Christine Shaffer, marketing manager at Viracon in Owatonna, Minn.:

Website Dos: The two most important factors are visual appeal to draw users in and keep them intrigued and ease of navigation, so users can easily find what they came to your site for in the first place and not get frustrated and go elsewhere for the information.

Website Doníts: Introductory animation that is slow to load.

Best Metal Fabricator Site
According to Karen Zipfel, director of marketing for Kawneer North America in Norcross, Ga.:

Website Dos: One of the most important things to keep in mind when building a website is visual design. It is what initially attracts visitors to the site and often helps entice them to stay online. The visual design should also be consistent with and reflect your companyís brand and personality Ö

Another important feature in creating a successful website is ease of navigation. It is important that visitors are able to quickly and easily access the information/content they are seeking, rather than dig through numerous pages Ö

Website Doníts: Be careful not to rush when selecting the right vendor/service provider to create/update your site. Careful selection will help ensure that you can deliver the kind of overall experience you want to give your audience.

Try not to make the site too wordy Ö Visitors do not want to be bombarded with information or have to spend a great deal of time reading one item.

Best Site for Glass Machinery
According to Jay K. Molter, vice president of marketing and sales for Glasstech Inc. in Perrysburg, Ohio:

Website Dos: From our perspective, the site must have a clean look and enough information to be helpful to the user. Also, you donít want to have too many things going on that take too long to load.

Website Doníts: When creating or updating a website, donít overdo itóand make sure you have someone experienced helping you through the process. It is easy to get bogged down Ö

Best Site for a Window, Window Wall/Curtainwall Company
According to Angela Rossi, marketing manager for Novum Structures in Menomonee Falls, Wis.:

Website Dos: I would say the two most important features that make a website successful would be useful content and a combination of being user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

Website Doníts: I would caution others against not testing the user-friendliness of the site before making it live.

Best Site for a Primary Manufacturer
According to Chris Dolan, director of commercial glass programs, and Earnest Thompson, director of corporate marketing and brand management, for Guardian Glass in Auburn Hills, Mich.:

Website Dos: You have to make the site easy for the users to find what they are looking for. You need to have an idea of what they might be looking for and then make sure it is as intuitive as possible to find it. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find some information you know must be on the site somewhere.

Make sure you develop the site for the specific target audience, as we did for architects in the SunGuard site. This is more challenging for corporate or broad-based sites with lots of different types of users, but even then, be sure to have specific ďpersonasĒ in mind for each group; what they want, how they want to find it and use it and what sort of tools they may need to do their job.

Website Doníts: Donít use flashy graphics unless they are there for a purpose. Sites that load slowly with scrolling text are the complete opposite of what most people want.

Donít fail to make changing the site easy. The online world moves so fast that itís important to have an open design and an easy content management system. The site will need to be updated and kept fresh and thatís only possible if itís convenient and doesnít cost much.

Best Site of an IG/IG Component Supplier
According to Erin Johnson, director of marketing for Edgetech IG in Cambridge, Ohio, and Patsie Donisie of AKHIA Public Relations and Marketing Communications in Hudson, Ohio:

Website Dos: Navigation is the key to a good website. Companies have two to three seconds to capture a userís attention and give them the confidence that they are going to be able to find the information they need, otherwise they will move on to another site. The navigation of our site is user-friendly, enabling access to any information in two clicks or fewer. The homepage can be navigated by audiences so that users will be directed to content that is most relevant to them Ö To further add to the usability of the site, we incorporated a Google Custom Search bar on every page to easily locate any information on the site.

Websites also are important for building and maintaining the companyís brand identity. Edgetechís website was designed to be consistent with sites from its parent company, Lauren International, and other sister divisions.

Website Doníts: Many companies enter into websites thinking that itís something they will do once and not think about for a few years until itís time for a refresh. Websites are living organisms that must be built to accommodate growth, changes and content updates, which are all vital to ensuring users will want to check back often for updates Ö

Best Supplier Site
According to Aimee Davis, global marketing communications manager for Saflex, a unit of Solutia Inc., in St. Louis, Mo.

Website Dos: A successful website has two key things: updated and relevant information that speaks to your target audience and dynamic content. Seventy-five percent of people in North America use the internet (according to www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm), and they are used to the constant barrage of information that they find there. You need to decide what you want people to do as a result of visiting your website Ö Ensure that your content is externally focused on the customer, and does not use a lot of internal jargon. Also remember that people learn through a variety of styles, so use plenty of dynamic content, such as videos and interactive presentations, in addition to the more standard charts, project photos, white papers and technical data you already have to convey your message. You want to use all of the tools at your disposal to clearly communicate your message.

Website Doníts: Everyone these days has a great idea or an opinion about what a company ďshouldĒ be doing on the web, from creating profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn to posting YouTube videos, etc.  While many of these tools are powerful and can certainly add to your communications mix, I would caution against thinking that you have to have all of the latest bells and whistles to make your website relevant. Before adding RSS feeds, blogs, podcasts, etc., think about the resources you have internally to maintain and manage the information Ö

Best Site for a Scratch Removal Company
According to Lori Patch, marketing director of GlasWeld in Bend, Ore.:

Website Dos: Content is by far the most important part of any website. Visitors need to be able to find the information they are looking for quickly and easily. In addition, the content needs to be optimized to help searchability and search engine rankings. Content should be coupled with strong visual appeal that re-emphasizes the company brand. If you have a professional-level company, your web presence needs to portray that professionalism and build trust with visitors. It is often the first impression that customers or potential customers receive of your company and you want that impression to be pleasant.

Website Doníts:
Consider how any updates and changes to your site will affect current searchability and rankings in major search engines. Sometimes it takes a long time for the search engines to start ranking your site in organic listings. When changes are made, those hard-won rankings can swiftly fall again. 

Best Glass Retailer Site
According to Kenneth L. ďChipĒ Merritt, Jr., president of Merritt Glass Co. Inc. in Pensacola, Fla.:

Website Dos: I wanted the website to be from a consumer standpoint, as if they knew nothing about my business. I wanted the customer to be able to have an easy way to navigate. I wanted to make it simple, very user-friendly, not too many points or clicks that take them in directions that they didnít intend to go. If somebody wants a shower door I want them to go to shower doors when they hit that link without having to through the commercial, residential and automotive [sections]. I want them to get to where they want to go to quickly.

Website Doníts: When writing up what we wanted to have on the website, what I was doing was telling a great story about how great Merritt Glass wasówhich would put everyone to sleep. I realized I was telling more of a story than trying to balance it [with letting] my consumer look through my website and move around. I donít want it all to be ďOh arenít we great,Ē I want them to look around and find a product.

Best Glass Distributor Site
According to John Dwyer, president of Syracuse Glass in Syracuse, N.Y.:

Website Dos: Our IT fellow maintains our website so what makes it successful, I think, is that itís very current. Weíre able to very quickly add content or change content because we do it in-house. We do a much better job of keeping it current because we have an in-house resource rather than having to rely on [someone else] Ö Not too long ago we totally changed the look of it, refreshed it and reorganized it; youíve got to make a point to do that.

We have a lot of technical information on our siteówe try to really add a lot of one page or one topic-type resources and it takes a long time to develop those.

Best Fire-Rated Glass Site
According to Jeff Razwick, vice president of business development of Technical Glass Products in Snoqualmie, Wash.:

Website Dos: A successful website needs to be both content-rich and well-organized; it is the front door of customer service. Product information, specs and industry standards need to be concise, clear and able to quickly demonstrate product benefits to capture and retain user interest.

Site information should also be easy-to-access and navigate. Let users know what products can do for them at-a-glance and make sure the website presents a clear path to purchasing the product Ö

Website Doníts: The main goal of a website redesign should be to narrow in on who you are as a brand and focus more on your target marketóbut it can be easy to lose sight of these goals among the new technology and design trends. Make sure you are balancing brand goals with technology, and continually evaluating site performance.

Also, in this age of digital communications, donít forget to make sure your site is search engine optimized. Identify key terms or phrases you want to be associated withóand that a user would identify the product withóand then clearly incorporate those in the website.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.