This week we're looking at an e-commerce website for educational toys, Brainwaves Toys
. I met the proprietor, Karen, at Small Business Marketing Unleashed
last month. She's having a blast with the site because she's passionate
about what she sells, but she's new to website marketing and looking
for ways to improve.
As always, I asked three questions that are critical to guiding website analysis:
- Who is your target audience: Mothers, fathers, grandparents, other adults who care about a child's development. Homeschoolers, teachers, preschools.
- What is your unique selling proposition:
One stop shop for hand-picked toys and games that enhance a child's
learning, sense of play and educational development. Great resource for
homeschoolers and teachers. We can gift-wrap many toys before shipping.
- What is your main website goal: Online purchase.
current Brainwaves site has done many things well, especially usability
of the shopping cart and checkout process. However, it needs a little
help with design and navigation to get visitors to that point.Navigation: Which one do I use and where in the world do I start?
shows that confusing navigation is the number one way to lose
customers. If people have a hard time finding their way around your
website, they're just going to give up and leave. And when you have
great products that really sell themselves like Brainwaves does, you
don't want your navigation to get in the way of a sale.
you enter on the Brainwaves homepage, there are three different ways to
navigate the site. There is a global horizontal bar organized by age
group. There's a global vertical bar that's not particularly organized
at all and mixes functional (shop by price, age) with topical. And
there's another featured section in the middle that is also organized
by topic, some of which are in the left sidebar and some that aren't.
The housekeeping links such as about us and contact are buried in the
footer. While they need to be there, they also need to be more
prominent "above the fold" (visible without having to scroll).
the variety of toys for sale on Brainwaves, I like the idea of having
two sets of navigation: one for age and one for toy category. It seems
sensible that people would use one of those two systems to browse.
However, they should be kept entirely separate from each other.
also shows that users scan web pages, and won't bother to look at lists
with more than 5-7 links. If you have more than that, break them up
into categories and subcategories that are logical and easy to scan.
keep your customers in mind; organize your navigation in a way that
makes sense to them, call each link what they would call it
("educational toys" takes visitors to the home page, so call it
"home"!), and make it easy to scan and browse. If you aren't sure if
your organization or labeling (words in the links) make sense to your
customers, test it! Find a friend who is in your target market and ask
his/her opinion.Design: Use the header to say who/what you are and draw people in.
There is so much going on in the header of this website, that the main message is getting lost.
There are two items that should be in the header of every website:
- Company/website name
- Tagline/benefit statement.
header is your chance to tell visitors what this website is about and
why you are unique. It needs to be the first place people look. And be
sure to create the tagline as html, not in an image. Search engine
spiders ignore images, and a strong tagline that says what you are
about and uses your primary keywords help search engines and people to
classify your site.
This particular tagline "Educational Toys
for Gifted Children," uses a primary keyword and states simply what
visitors will find on the site. But it doesn't tell visitors why this
site is unique. And I'm afraid the phrase "gifted children" will turn a
good portion of visitors away. It really needs to be re-worked to
include the unique selling proposition. For example:
"Hand-picked educational toys that enhance learning, development, and sense of play"
says exactly what you'll find on the site, (toys to enhance learning,
development, and sense of play), includes a primary key phrase
(educational toys), and says why the site is unique (hand-picked). Images
the header to display images that target your audience and draw people
in. While the Verified Merchant and GeoTrust logos are good to include
on the site somewhere, they aren't important enough to take up such a
prominent location, and can go below the fold or in a sidebar. I'd love
to see an image of a child playing watched by a parent or a grandparent
... something colorful that screams "for kids."
Keep in mind
that the header should be consistent on every single page of the
website. Remember, on average only 5% of your visitors will enter at
the home page anyway (and that's a good thing!).Marketing: You've got a great personality, so use it!
best way for a small business to compete online with the big guys is to
let their personalities shine through. I've met Karen, so I know
first-hand that she's got a vivacious, passionate, knowledgeable, and
endearing personality. She's incredibly passionate about educational
toys that foster creativity and learning. She's a mom who has raised
three children. She surfs the internet and hand picks every one of the
toys that she sells through Brainwaves. What parent wouldn't connect
with that instead of a cold, distant corporation just looking to make a
There are ways to leverage a great personality both on and
off site. I'd love to see a letter from Karen and/or a bio on the about
page. She could really play up that Brainwaves is a "mom and pop" shop
run by a mom who is passionate about learning. Adding her voice to the
copy and using her personality as a main selling point would definitely
boost trust and interest in her target market. I'd even include a
picture of Karen and her family. On the contact form, say that visitors
are contacting Karen directly, not just a help desk. In the product
descriptions, incorporate the "hand-picked" unique selling point by
saying why each item was chosen.
This is the kind of situation
where I would definitely recommend that Karen start a blog. She's a
good writer, passionate about her product and site, and has a lot to
say. Her blog could feature cool new products as she finds them, talk
about child development and learning, and share personal stories of
raising her three kids. A blog would showcase her personality and
knowledge, build trust, and drive links and traffic to the Brainwaves
She could also build relationships by sharing her
expertise and passion by leaving comments on other blogs and getting
involved in parenting and education forums. Remember, you must always
contribute relevant information to the discussion; these ARE NOT place
to sell your products or just link to your site. Usability: An easy checkout process is key to sales.
The Brainwaves website does a great job of making it easy for users to buy:
- The view cart, checkout, and submit buttons are large and easy to find.
- The process is as simple and clean as possible.
- Errors are clearly marked and easy to fix.
- Visitors can easily go back a step to make changes to their cart or personal information
- There are short explanations of the process on each page.
- The steps in the process are well-labeled at the top of each page and indicate where you are in the process.
A few general issues I noticed:
site-wide font size is way too small. One of the primary targets is
grandparents, but there's no way they'll be able to read the site with
decreasing vision. Bump it up at least two sizes.
checkout page asks you to log in or register. However, the username and
password are not required fields, so it is possible to checkout without
actually registering. This needs to be explained, or have separate
options for "returning users," "create an account," or "go straight to
checkout." Some people will be more likely to buy if they know that
registration is optional.
a thank you page after submitting a message through the contact form.
However, it should provide links back to key content as well as saying
- There's too much happening on the homepage. It needs
to include just a few sentences (with keywords!) overviewing the site,
and then drive visitors to deeper content.
- Pull the customer
review section up under each product so that it is one of the first
boxes under the product description. When a customer makes a purchase,
ask them to come back and review the product on the confirmation
page/email and include the link back.
structure of the Brainwaves website is good and the product
descriptions are strong. With a few key changes to the navigation,
adding some personality, and re-focusing the header, this site could
really stand out. Thanks For Your Submissions
was overwhelmed over the past week by the many website submissions for
review in this column. If you submitted your site, it may be a while
until I get to it. I will email you a heads up the week that I review
If you are a small business and would like to
submit your site for review in this weekly column, email your URL and
the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- who are your primary and secondary target audiences?
- what is your unique selling proposition (what makes you stand out)?
- what is your main goal for your website (sales, leads, page views)?
May 9, 2008
Jackie Baker is an internet marketing analyst with SiteLogic Marketing (http://www.sitelogicmarketing.com) where she focuses on auditing websites as well as SEO, social media, usability, and information architecture consulting. She comes to the industry from a marketing/PR and website development background. Jackie maintains an active presence online through her blog RegardingHorses.com (http://www.regardinghorses.com) where she shares her love all things equine, particularly therapeutic riding.