Monday, April 09, 2007

Calder website up and running

The full version of the Calder website is now up and running and we are now taking orders for classical guitar and violin cases.

The laptop case and cases for electrical and acoustic guitars will be available later this spring.

After 3 years R&D this is a proud moment for myself and all the people who build our cases.

It is also a happy moment for Fergus Noble who has worked so hard to get every detail of the website working perfectly and has patiently dealt with my many last minute requests for changes.

The site is here.


Calder blog home page
Calder website home page


Blogger Dave said...


I'm sorry to say I think the elegant design of your cases is in almost no way reflected in your website. The UI isn't too messy, but the experience is clumsy and slow, overall the site is frustrating and does not convey the information I think (think) you intend to. If I may offer a few criticisms and suggestions...

(1) Flash is death
There is almost NOTHING about your website that requires flash. All it gains you is smooth transitions between still pictures. What it loses you is huge: accessibility. Flash is:
-Slow (your movies took too long to load, even on my broadband connection. I've been following your story with great interest for a year and I still almost clicked away. The internet's attention span is stupid-short, and you need to accommodate it).
- Inaccssible to disabled readers. you can't change the font size, you can't highlight and select text for copy/pasting, you can't have voice software read your page. It's locked. If I have a huge screen with great resolution your text is tiny, if my screen is small it's huge and overflowing.
- Not universally accessible to all computer users. Not everyone has or wants to install flash, so why pigeon hole them?
- Hampers standard browser UI use. Suddenly my back button doesn't take me back to your homepage, it takes me to the splash page, all because I didn't learn your system. This is annoying in the least, arrogant in another as it demands users conform to your system instead of being flexible and using established standards

There are problems with flash, but these are the big ones. All your pretty image transitions are useless if no one sticks around for them or can't see them anyway. Plus you need an HTML version anyway for non-flash enabled customers. Why not cut the clutter and just go HTML from the get-go? Your customers will not remember how slick your flash is unless the UI is the primary feature of the sight and is mind blowing (hard) or unless it slows them down and distracts them from the experience you are trying to convey (what you seem to have done).

Also, if you really want people to be able to see a movie/slideshow, instead of just the gallery, then include a movie-button or thumbnail. Then they can wait for it to load if they want to. But consider this: a gallery allows users to select images that THEY care about instead of sitting through YOUR favorites, it's much faster and more responsive, and it gives people a sense of freedom instead of feeling like their being hand-fed information they aren't sure they want.

Go back, retool your site in HTML with javascripts to do all the image work you can. Realize that you are not selling yourself and that while your slow, smooth transitions look good after 20 uses, they are obnoxious for someone used to google-clean UI and no-nonsense surfing. At the very least you really really need to have a link to HTML versions of your site at the intro page (if you even need an intro page) so people can opt-out of flash.

(2) Include the stuff you care about.
Your opening page begins the story, it's your passion and it's what you are selling. You may be selling cases, but right now you are selling the case and it's story, which is your story. (Aside: don't apologize for your price right off the bat, it's a huge turn-off. If people see your quality, they'll know why it's costly. Don't dumb it down, it becomes insulting)

You have poured technical info, your struggles, your process, into your blog. While people can read it, it's not for the casual passer-by. Unfortunately your "product info" button (which does not need it's own subheading of "info", that's just extra clutter and clicks, ditch the info-[company/product] fork and put it up top) leads to a page which is text-heavy, cluttered, and uninspired. Your pages on the details are cookie cutter and without personal experience or merit. When you talk about carbon, talk about why YOU chose it, not what Hexcell puts on their product catalog pages. Talk about the hand-layups and the quality, and the people. Most of us know about where carbon is used, it's not super-secret anymore, but if you want to name drop that your shells are made right next to something like a Lotus hood, that's different: that's passion, that's real.

Also, put up some pictures. You have shots of carbon and leather being made, up close, etc, put them in there! For goodness sake, show off what you've got. You extol the parts and their greater-than-sum, show show us where this greatness comes from and its foundations.

And beyond the parts-level stuff, what about your products?!? There is NOTHING about what distinguishes your cases from the rabble in there. Your different sections for guitar, violin, and laptop are devoid of useful information that might prompt me to buy one. The galleries are very nice, good shots, good layout, but I need something other than pretty pictures.

I apologize if this sounds harsh, but I was sorely disappointed in this little showcase of your work. Many people will never get a sense of you ingenuity, your passion, and your style with what you have shown them. I really like your work, as I've noted in several other posts, so I want to see you succeed appropriately. If you plan on selling primarily online I think you really need to bring your A-game, and this isn't it. I believe you have more to offer, so please allow this to semi-annonymous internet voice to spur you on to the next level. I look forward to the next revision.


11:14 AM  
Blogger Nick Comer-Calder said...

Dave thanks for taking the time to write such an in depth critique.

I'm taken aback by the force of your criticism and at same time I am interested in what you say.

I have poured a huge amount of energy into creating a website that reflected my pursuit of simplicity and directness.

I will discuss your opinions on Flash with my designer and do some more research on this.

On the text I wanted to keep this minimal - and purely factual - I don't want to bombard visitors with massive amounts of information.

Nor did I want to website to be full of personal stuff - my belief is that belongs on the blog.

The ordering process is personal - I imagine every potential buyer will have their own set of questions which I can answer by phone or personal email.

I do plan to put up more images on the product information page - but wanted to roll the site out sooner rather than wait another month until every single option was in place.

I am on holiday with my family at the moment which is why I have kept this response so brief. I will add more later if I feel there is more to say.

7:20 PM  

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