eCommerce Site Advice

    June 17, 2003

Hi Jim, I know you are busy so I’ll make this short. Would you if you have time, look at my web site and tell me what needs to be changed if anything.

I have no one else to look at it that has your knowledge. The URL is

– Ruth Ann

You don’t say what your issue is (if any)… are you not seeing the sales volume you think you should be getting?

First off, I really like the site. I’m sure a lot of techie people would disagree with that, but I don’t think web sites need to be “state of the art” to sell. I have clients doing $400K a year with a Frontpage site their kid put up. Retail on the web is about the “Big 4”: product, message, usability, and traffic.

Knowing nothing else, I’d say if you aren’t pleased with your sales, it has more to do with a lack of traffic than anything with the site itself. Let’s take a look at how you are doing on the first 3 of the Big 4 one at a time:

Product – perfect for the web. Very specialized niche area but not so tiny that the potential audience is 5 people. Great for attracting searchers. No problems here.

Message – web sites tend to be “cold” and the most successful web retailers find a way to break though this by creating personality and warmth. Your site is dripping with personality and warmth. The “About Us” link is right at the top of the home page and leads to a fabulous description of who you are and why you are doing this. Excellent.

However, your testimonials are buried, and they lack “meat”. You should put a “See What Others Say” link right under the “About Us” link in the main navigation. Also, I’m sure you have descriptive testimonials that go beyond the “eBay” style ones you have now. Let people tell the whole story and put it up for everyone to see. Ideally, you want pages and pages of them so it seems like they “go on forever”. How do you get them? One easy way is to encourage buyers to “tell their story” to you in the order confirmation e-mails you send out.

Usability – Straight up HTML navigation, good. On pages with lots of “story”, it looks to me like you have indented the first sentence of each paragraph, I think it would be easier to read if you had it all flush left so that the beginning of each line is in the same location. This is a convention that is different on the web than in books, for example. Also, skip a line between paragraphs.

The red type on brown for links in the navigation bar is a bit hard to read, you might consider lightening the brown and going to black type, and you could make the type a size larger for easier reading. The red type also makes it hard to see if a link has already been clicked on, so you might consider using black type for all links. Unless you absolutely need it for some reason, I would take down the visit counter, it’s a distraction and not really a benefit.

When you get down into item selection (after you click the category link), I would make sure people understand they can click the item link for a description. This is potentially the most important change you can make; not everybody understands how web sites work and you need to lead them to it.

So instead of:


WormGuard Plus Super Concentrate For Horses, 1 lb.

PastureGuard Super Concentrate For Horses, 1 lb

spell it out for them:

Item (click item link for detailed description)

WormGuard Plus Super Concentrate For Horses, 1 lb.

PastureGuard Super Concentrate For Horses, 1 lb

so that people know they can get more detail by clicking the link.

The PayPal functionality seems fine, but the credit card could use some help. When somebody clicks on the credit card link, you want to take them to the place on the plugpay.htm form where that item is, not to the top of the form. In FrontPage this is called “bookmarking”, you want to create a bookmark at each item line and then have the “Credit Card” link use the bookmark to take them right to the item. See Help in Frontpage if you don’t understand bookmarks.

Also on the plugpay.htm page, I would create a link the name of every item back to the description. That way if people see something they are interested in they can go right to it, rather than reverse navigating out to the home page.

So, all in all, a good effort. The hardest parts – Product and Message – you seem to have well in hand. Usability is good but could be a bit better. Traffic might need some help but that’s another, much longer story. Perhaps you could ask Expert Shari Thurow about that!


Jim Novo has nearly 20 years of experience using customer data to increase profits. He is co-author of The Guide to Web Analytics and author of Drilling Down:Turning Customer Data into Profits with a Spreadsheet. If you want more visitors to take action on your web site, try using the free conversion metrics calculator, downloadable here. If you need to sell more to customers while reducing marketing expenses, get the first nine chapters of the Drilling Down book free at

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