Let the Makeover Begin

By Laura Rush | Posted October 06, 2003
A few weeks ago, Ecommerce-Guide.com announced the five finalists in its E-commerce Makeover series. The five companies represent the most worthy candidates of the doznes of store owners/managers who were willing to check their egos at the door and offer their site for public scrutiny in exchange for a chance to win a complete site redesign.

Editors from Jupitermedia's Small Business Channel made up the panel of judges that reviewed the initial entries. After a hot debate over lukewarm coffee, we compiled our short list of potential candidates. And then we left the final judging to you, ECommerce-Guide.com's readers.

An interactive poll, along with a thread in our discussion forums, asked for your input on selecting which e-commerce storefront was in most need of a makeover. Fully underscoring the age-old truism that it's always easier to point out the flaws in others, the response and feedback we received were great.

While most of you focused on the candidates' design, functionality, and navigation, there was some debate surrounding the fairness of judging a site based on whether or not it was perceived to be a valid business model. Our rationale is that the first criterion for a successful e-commerce site is a solid business model. The best design and most intuitive navigation won't matter if the basic premise of the business is flawed.

Some of you just offered thoughts on what you'd generally like to see on an e-commerce site, such as this pearl of wisdom from Jane in California: "Any site that is difficult to navigate without a compass and a sextant is wasting my time."

So, to review, here's our list of five finalists, along with some of the more insightful -- and colorful -- comments we received.

The Finalists
Lensworld.com: Mail order contact lens business.

Reader Feedback:
"Main focus is on cost, but I wonder whether this is the main criteria for contacts? I would think ensuring the health of my eyes would be top of my list and be wary of trusting an unseen Web site." --AMen, England.

"Boring. White text on blue (dark) background is difficult for users to read. Blue is too bright and tires the eyes ... While the photo of the woman is an example of what it is like to put contacts in, why emphasize the negative." --Brad, ClickBrain.com.

JBDylan.com: Unique gem and jewelry store.

Reader Feedback:
"JBDylan.com gets my vote. All the other sites are usable, if annoying in some way. I don't think this site can be used to sell, which is its purpose, I assume. Help these guys - they are burning $$ with little hope of results." --Kathy Cannon, KC Enterprises Internet Marketing.

"I never got through the whole site, it was too boring and slow. So I have no idea what his abandonment rate would be, but I would be afraid to look." --Ronn Troxel.

"Selling quality goods is always difficult if you can't sense the quality." -- AMen, from England.

Footballcardshop.com: Sports trading cards.

Reader Feedback:
"Needs a complete redesign as far as visual presentation. Needs to be more simple -- especially if you take into account the target audiences such as kids." --Itai Levitan Melbourne, Australia.

TheFeltSource.com: Felt toys and games for sales to elementary school teachers, and parents of young kids.

Reader Feedback:
"Busy is an understatement." --Brad Nickel, ClickBrain.com.

"If you love felt, will you look online, if you don't love felt will this convince you otherwise?" --Amen, England.

RoverPlusNine.com: Softball gear and clothing.

Reader Feedback:
"Kill the splash page! Ridiculous waste of space. Light text on dark background. Kill it." --Brad Nickel, ClickBrain.com.

"RoverPlusNine.com is screaming for a makeover! And the sooner the better!" --Mark Merkow.

"Needs improvement - design and mainly those darn colors make it look like a kid's Web site, not one of a business." --Itai Levitan, Melbourne, Australia.

And the Winner Is...
JBDylan.com! The site was nominated by Deborah Krier, JBDylan's Internet Marketing Manager. Geoffrey Meyer, the president of J.B. Dylan Gems & Jewels, told us a little more about his business.

"We've been mailing jewelry catalogs since January 2001," Meyer said. "We launched our Web site February 2002. It was designed and realized via interaction between our marketing staff (mostly our marketing director, Linda Vree) and a Web designer in Alaska who our Web host hooked us up with."

When asked to explain what he'd like to see improved on the site, Meyer added, "For my part, the only reason I am currently unhappy with the site is that it doesn't sell terribly much jewelry, except to our catalog customers. I'm not really sure whether the fault there lies more in the site's design or in our failure to find productive marketing channels... Essentially, functionally, at this point, the site serves as an Internet vehicle for our catalog customers to place orders. Obviously we would very much like for it to take on a life of its own, but so far it distinctly has not."

JBDylan.com is a division of Dazzle, a company own and operated by Meyer and his sister, Risa Meyer. They also operate another jewelry catalog and Web site, Merlite.com, which is a lower-end jewelry shop. Dazzle has been in business since 1999 -- although according to Meyer, the Merlite tradename dates back to the 1940s.

What's Next
All reader feedback has been submitted to our site designer/consultant Brad Nickel and his team at ClickBrain.com, who will implement the site makeover. Nickel will be working closely with Krier on the technical aspects of the new site, including resolving any site hosting issues, explaining the nuances of what will essentially be a new content management system, and most importantly, ensuring her approval and satisfaction with the new site design.

Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be checking in with the folks over at ClickBrain.com and JBDylan.com to see how the new design is progressing. Once completed, we'll sit down with Brad, who will offer play by play, as well as color, commentary on the changes, and take a peek under the hood at the new and improved JBDylan.com.

Stay tuned!

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