Improve Design to Promote Usability

Note: This post was originally published as NextStage Evolution Evolution Technology Case Study

The Client

The client is a manufacturer of industrial plumbing supplies and upscale plumbing fixtures based in the southeast US with annual revenues projected at US$10mm for 2005. They’ve been in business for 10 years serving a growing but small statewide market.

The Problem

The company’s president came to NextStage and stated the following, “Our site has won Best-in-Show awards several years running but it’s not getting us any business. Can you help?”

NextStage performed an analysis of the client’s website using The NextStage Sentiment Analysis Tool and presented the results to the company’s president and members of senior management. NextStage’s Sentiment Analysis determined that, while visually stunning and rich in detail, the site

  • was not communicating an ability to help visitors achieve any goal (“We Can Help” and “We Can Help You” values were low)
  • was communicating a “sales” message so strongly most visitors would stop listening (Influencer and “We’re A Leader” values were too high compared to other values)
  • was not communicating any social affinity or trust in the audience (Trust and Affinity values were low, Negative value was high)

The COO turned to their senior marketer and said, “I recommend you tell the web designers not to care so much about any design theory. This isn’t a showcase for their talent, it’s a business tool.”

The Solution

NextStage installed its NextStage OnSite tool on the client site and learned the following in less than one month’s time:

  • the general form of the website was excellent
  • the site was completely unnavigable and totally non-intuitive to the client’s online audience

Specific problems included:

  • There was no clear separation of product lines in the visitors’ minds
  • The same language (tone, voice, mood, verbiage) was used for both industrial plumbing supplies and upscale plumbing fixtures
  • Flash was used to cycle through stock images rather than client specific offerings, training, teaching, informational or introductory content
  • the content and layout of online forms was both tiring and distracting to visitors
  • visitor confusion and dissatisfaction increased exponentially as visitors penetrated deeper into the site
  • the deeper a visitor penetrated the site the less interested they were in doing business with the client company

NextStage’s suggestions included:

  • remove all “flash” images from the site
  • bulletize benefits page
  • change fonts on all pages
  • edit text on all pages to use language more in keeping with site visitors’ language patterns
  • move menu from left column to top bar

The Result

The client has grown from US$1mm net to US$10mm from 2005-2008 and recently signed provider agreements with HomeDepot and Lowe’s. The client’s online business has fueled the majority of that growth.

NextStage continues to work closely with the client to improve website and marketing performance.

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