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Route 5: The Road Less Travelled

Tue, Dec 5, 2006

Arts | Author:

www.route5.com

Introduction

Route 5 is a website containing a gallery of American crafts for sale, sick with over 500 artisans contributing high quality contemporary crafts made of pottery, for sale glass, recipe metal and other materials. As an online shop, Route 5 is getting there, but needs more work to make it truly a unique and professional experience.

Form and Function

The opening page contains some interesting images and features the main categories of artwork (eg, Jewellery, Pottery, Home Décor etc). The images used for the product categories are excellent and well presented, however the textual links above the categories detract from the overall page, especially as they are in a blue colour, which doesn’t suit the natural tones of the page. The NEW featured products are listed below the product categories and unfortunately, can’t be viewed directly when the page is first opened – maybe moving these featured products up to the top might draw more attention to them?

The right menu bar seems well placed in relation to design and is a refreshing change from the usual left/top menu bar in most websites. It was good to see that the designer took time to check that the right menu bar moved appropriately when the page was viewed in 600 x 800 browser resolution. The menu bar itself is very simple and easy to navigate, but I felt that the font was a bit ordinary looking and could be spruced up. Maybe the blue product category text and the menu bar text could be changed to a more attractive font group and made a little smaller to enhance the images and other content on the page. I also feel that containing the product categories in a subtle box might help to give the impression of an online store when first entering the site.

On visiting the other pages, I was disappointed to see that the background colour, fonts, menu bar and design changed, lessening the consistency of the site. It would be a good idea to repeat the first page design (including fonts, menu bar and background) throughout the site to maintain consistency and give it that “natural” feel. The images on the product pages are once again excellent, but the loading time can be a bit slow. With the inclusion of buttons on these pages but not on the first page, maybe the buttons could be replaced with a simple textual link (like the first page) to speed up loading time, as well as optimising the images to smaller file sizes.

Not all of the products pictured have a link to “add to your shopping cart” and I would recommend that this be added to all, to ensure that as many as possible are sold. For example, even though I know that the Kevin Dyer Framed Wall Art 24″ x 24″ is a one-of-a-kind that isn’t for sale, maybe this needs to be separated from the online store as some customers might want to purchase it (maybe a craft gallery could help?)

Since there is a “Specials” section, I would mention this on the first page to attract attention – this would work best if a link to it was put near the “Featured Products” at the top of the page.

It’s good to see some security measures in place for the e-cart. I had a trial go at some online shopping and was disappointed that the only method of payment was a credit card. As a potential international buyer, there was no currency conversion or relevant shipping either, so I would not be able to purchase from the site. More attention needs to be given to different forms of payment and international customers.

Conclusion

Overall, the designer has tried hard to add uniqueness to Route 5 and I commend them on coming up with something that instantly communicates the “natural feel” of handmade products to their audience. However, while all the images look terrific, the pages are inconsistent with fonts, menu bars, buttons, backgrounds and layout and this does not portray the professional edge needed for the “trustworthy” quality of an e-shop.

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