I wanted to bring you a little case study on web design, function and online activity. I believe this example will hold many insights for you to learn from and gain perhaps some inspiration from.
The case study I’m bringing you is that of Brownie’s Marine Group. The business is that of a surface supplied air diving system manufacturer located in Fort Lauderdale.
When I commenced helping Brownie’s with their website and other online marketing activities, their website was built on a Joomla platform and looked somewhat like this:
The above image is taken from a screenshot using the WayBack Machine, so in truth the site did have a banner up atop where the logo is and that did make it look a bit more pretty. Likewise as you can see there are two images in the mid content area that do not show on this image, whereas they would have on the website back then.
There are a number of things that I wish to comment on.
First, allow me to express that I do not wish to belittle of negatively criticize anyone’s work. Negative criticism is not what this is about, but if we can look at a few design options and question the choices so that we may create better designs and not least functionality then all the better.
So let’s just dive straight in, shall we?
The first thing I noticed even back then and I questioned for myself, was the choice of background color. As you can see it is a form of Marron or Red color. Let me note that the company doesn’t really make use of red color as a means of identification. Yes, they do have a red color as part of their logo (a brighter red as you can see). Possibly that red stems from the association with dive flags or perhaps more likely, it just makes a striking pose. The background color, however, does NOT make a striking pose, if you ask me and naturally, this is a case of personal preferences, but I am certain that you see my point.
That said. If the color is not specifically related to the business or the company, then I wouldn’t choose it. The color in this case is in addition not very related to the activities of the business either. As mentioned the company manufactures diving equipment, so a more naturally choice of color scheme or color palette might have been something related to blue such as in the blue of blue oceans or blue waters. Yes, this might have been deemed too typical, too obvious or something of that nature, but yet, that would have made sense and I do believe the associations would not have hurt the performance of the presentation.
The next point that I wish to draw your attention to is back to pure functionality. This particular company offers a lot of solutions and a lot of products and services and it can sometimes be a challenge to map it out in a natural way and in a fashion that makes for easy and intuitive navigation.
If you look closely, you will note that there are actually two navigation menus.
I don’t really advice for multiple navigation menus. I believe they cause confusion and that people get lost in where to go from here.
Somewhat related to this point, is my third observation, which has to do with too many choices. To me, there’s just too much going on on this website. Too many places I can go and too much chaos that I’m lost before I even begin to make myself a better impression about what this is all about.
There are many more things, that I never really liked about the site, but I think these three are about some of the major ones and they serve well as examples of considerations you too will have to make, when you have your website done.
I should perhaps make a brief pause here and admit that I will often make use of relative extensive footer areas that holds lots of links that can whisk visitors off to tangents. If you offer few very specific services or products, you may be much better off limiting your options to a bare minimum and rather arrive at a call to action sooner. When people are getting lost in too much stuff, they’ll usually not buy. In marketing we have a saying that goes like this: The confused mind will not buy.
So in truth, I do not entire follow my own advice and my craziest example would be that of my personal ego-website at http://www.mikkelpitzner.com that probably holds the worlds largest footer (at least at time of writing this).
Towards the end of 2012, the Joomla platform and this particular website encountered certain security risks. There would be somewhat substantial work involved in fixing the security issues and in truth I pressured and convinced the company that we should migrate it to the WordPress platform. And so done. We opened up for the new website some time in January of 2013 and it looked then much as it still does at this present moment of writing this post:
I think there are a number of things to make a note of.
First, not how I did away with the maroon colored background. I also limited the navigation to one, although it had to stretch two lines instead of what I would usually prefer; one line.
I also went for a more minimal design, that makes use of larger images and an altogether cleaner look. Naturally, I also chose to go with a true mobile responsive theme that converts nicely to the device on which you are looking at the site. Mobile phones, iPads and other tablets, laptops and desktops – the site performs nicely and is easily navigated and read. The former website was not a mobile friendly site and would have lost 60-80% of traffic this year if not fixed. See our previous series on mobile sites to learn of the importance of this.
You may also notice the text saying Learn More About Diving Made Easy, which is actually the opt in form or the sign up for our newsletter link. This link is repeated throughout all pages on the website and actually captures a number of visitors on an ongoing basis. It’s funny to note, that for long the text actually read: We Wanted You To Know.. and that that text seems to have captured a lot more visitors to be added to the list of leads.
The company didn’t like that text, however, so we changed it. But this is a perfect example of choices that some business owners or operators may go for that are not well rooted in empirical results. The text should probably be reverted back or one should test out other text options.
In fact, you should on an ongoing basis test out options and wordings.
Critiques that I have been able to pick up from visitors and even company investors, confirmed a happiness and preference for the new site. In fairness, however, I should state that the new site has not performed well, in regards to actual online sales. I believe the predominant factor for this is that the links to the BUY NOW are actually black and thus probably do not provoke an action online, but rather lead buyers to inquire via email or phone. I believe, it should be tested out to get a more conventional and typically seen YELLOW Buy Now button and I’m sure if that was implemented, it would soon result in major improvements.
Moving on, I wish to change gear a little.
Below, you will see a long image of the website traffic from the site over the years. I have also made a few marks to some interesting events, including the time of introducing a blog to the site (was first introduced on the previous site and then carried over with the new website), the time of new website being introduced and then finally, the point in time when I stopped my activities upholding the website and more. It may be noted that there were very little (almost none) paid advertising throughout the period of time these traffic numbers encompass.
For one, I think you can see a good effect of the blog being introduced. First off, a blog adds new material to the site. It gives a purpose to people to come back again to revisit and learn what’s new. You may notice a decline of number of pages viewed, but part of why this is, is the fact that I consolidated a lot of pages of the former site into fewer and more concentrated pages of the new site. Yes, you may see that as hurting the site statistics, but I see it as improving drastically the experience for the user.
You may also note there’s a bit of seasonality for the traffic to the site. this sis natural as it follows the seasonality of the business. In this particular case, seeing that we are talking about diving equipment, it follows the season of the weather that best allows for good diving.
Notice the improved traffic from first when blog is introduced and subsequently from when the new website is introduced. Also notice what happens when your activity suddenly ends.
I think, there are some valuable lesson here for you to take away. I hope you have enjoyed the article and love to hear from you.
I will leave you with a screenshot of the blog entry from when the new website was launched:Web Design Case Study: BWMG by Mikkel Pitzner