Damashi Peer Review – Give Visitors An Incentive to Buy

    June 19, 2003

It’s a brave soul that puts their site up for a review and a smart one. In no particular order, I believe there are three main parts to a web site:

  • Appearance
  • Design
  • Content

You need to have all three in proper form to be a successful web site. Many times, design and appearance are confused. To me, design includes technical aspects as well as usability. A site can look great, but not work and vice-versa. Content will be argued as the most important priority, however, no one will bother to see your content, if the other two elements are ignored. All of these attributes must work together. I think that this is what Brian intuitively realizes as the problem while looking at Damashi. So, let me take these qualities step by step while reviewing his site. I’ll leave content as the last topic, because there is a very dark cloud hanging over it that may render the other points moot.

The first thought that comes to mind is “cluttered”. The graphics are too big, the colors clash, the font sizes and colors are all over the place. By the way, in most cases, blue text should be a link. I agree that the whole navbar has got to go. I would start by putting the logo to the traditional top left corner. Maybe include (in small font) under the logo, “Karate Books & Videos”. Outside of the text, nothing tells me at a glance that this is a web site about karate. Possibly the addition of a moderately sized image (photo or illustration) of someone in a karate uniform with a black belt. Look at some of the book covers for ideas.

I would relocate the phone number to the top part of the page and I would put the actual numerals that correspond to the letters of “Damashi” above or below. Sure it’s easy to remember 1-866-DAMASHI, but when I’m trying to dial the number I don’t want to search the keypad for the letters.

To view or check out using the shopping cart, I would put these links at the top of the page as well. However, I would have a much smaller shopping cart icon or a small button.

Rather than list the authors in a line of text, I would bulletize them and some titles. Clean up the page and focus more on getting the visitor to explore the site. I didn’t see the word “free” anywhere. Believe me, it is truly a magic word.

Fortunately, Brian has been fairly straightforward with his navigation. There is not much mystery to it (a good thing), but it is not laid out very nicely. I’m not sure why the “Order Guidelines” opens to a separate page. It’s good that he linked the logo to the home page, but not on the home page. Why would we need a link to the home page on the home page? On this site, there are two links to the home page on the home page. The navigation should not only be clear as to where you can go, but also to where you are. The current navbar should be changed, not just because of its appearance, but because it’s not clear that it is a navigational element. Especially “Karate Books” and “Karate Videos”. They look more like just a simple heading than a link.

What this site needs is some form. Start with an attractive navigational bar that lets you know where you are as well as where you can go. Maybe use some roller images. I would suggest putting it where most people expect it, on the left. I would also include text links, however they would be much smaller along the top. You could add them to the bottom, also. In the main body of the page I would put some text in a table that would limit its expansion across the screen. This text would have some bulleted points such as the authors, titles and offers (hint: I want to see the word “Free!” or “Save!”).

The file size of the home page is just about right. In the source code, I would move the title tag to be first right after <head>. I believe the title is good, except that I would move “Damashi” to the end of it, “Karate Videos and Books from Damashi”, and maybe remove the word “traditional”. or add it this way, “”Karate Videos and Books about Traditional Karate”. There are two content meta tags. Remove one. Brian made good use of alt tags. In fact, the entire page seems to be keyword paradise in the code. A quick Google search proves this with either using “karate books”, “karate videos” or narrowing it with the words “traditional karate books”. So, part of the trick will be to keep the keywords as they are in the coding while fixing the site’s appearance.

I’m focusing on the home page because the pages that follow should have the same consistent design. I think that the products should be in a table with thumbnails of the covers along with a blurb on the item. This image could then be clicked for a larger view. Also a small order button for each. Always give the visitor an opportunity to order the item! I really have to dig (click) to order a book on this site. Maybe have the best of each author on one page with a link to “More from this author”.

This site delivers just what it promises, karate books and videos. The only problem with the content is that this is David (Damashi) going up against Goliath (Amazon.com). Why would I order the “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Karate” from Damashi for $18.95 when I can get the exact same book from Amazon.com for $13.27? Heck, If I was Damashi, I’d simply place the customer’s order with Amazon and make five bucks! Of course, once the customer’s order arrives in the Amazon.com box, I doubt they will bother with Damashi. Unless Damashi offers something that Amazon can’t, this is a very big hurdle and I’m afraid all of the coding and designing in the world will fail to overcome it.

Dan Prinzing
DrTandem Web Page Design

Peer reviewers volunteer their time and effort to help other site owners with their websites. Please take time to visit this reviewer’s site and say that you think what they’re doing is valuable to the web business community. If you’d like your site reviewed, send an email to editors@ientry.com.