Volume 43, Issue 7 - July 2008

The Best of the Web
The First Annual Glass Industry Website Competition

So you know you need a website; customers are asking for your web address on a regular basis, and every other ad in the yellow pages leads your potential customers to someone else’s site. Or maybe you already have a dot com address, but it’s so outdated that even the spammers have given up on e-mailing you. But where do you start when it comes to designing or updating your site? 

We at USGlass felt the best place to start would be by browsing the pages your colleagues in the industry created. And not just any pages, but the best web pages out there. That’s why we held the First Annual Glass Industry Website Competition. We lined up four web-savvy judges to critique our nominees for the top supplier sites and the top retailer sites. Then, we contacted the top three winners in each category to see where they started when they decided to go online. With each interview, we included the comments from our judges about what they felt made that site stand out in order to better guide you in making your website an efficient marketing tool. For more great online marketing tips, be sure to turn to our Online Bylines column on page 10. 

Where else do you look for nominations of the best websites but on the web? In addition to selections from our editorial staff, readers of our www.USGNN.com™ daily newsletter nominated their favorite sites. These sites also were submitted to our judges, who ranked them based on the same six criterion used by the Webby Awards, the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet: 
• Content;
• Structure and navigation;
• Visual design; 
• Functionality; 
• Interactivity; and
• Overall experience.

Meet the Judges
Manny Hondroulis, marketing manager for EPD, and columnist for USGlass sister publication Window Film magazine www.epdwindowfilm.com

Bryan Hovey, web developer for Key Communications Inc. www.usglassmag.com and www.USGNN.com 

Scott Orth, director of Internet marketing services at GTS in Portland, Ore., and columnist for USGlass magazine www.gtsservices.com 

Laura Pitts, vice president of client services for Harp Interactive, a multimedia marketing firm www.harpinteractive.com 

And the Winners of the 2008 Best Retailer Site are …
1ST www.hellenbrandglass.com  
Why our judges liked it …

Manny: I loved the design of the website, which looks like a giant blueprint.
Bryan: This site made me think of Ah-ha’s “Take On Me” video. It has a nice use of flash, and I really like the casual-looking font they used for heading elements.
Scott: I felt this site showed an outstanding use of left-based, expandable navigation. Plus, the layout and overall structure is clean and user-friendly.
Laura: This was one of my favorite sites. I loved the blueprint drawing flash transition to the actual image. The design style and fonts are very contemporary. It features a great portfolio section, easy-to-use navigation and there is no excessive scrolling. Very nice job.

USGlass talks with Trent Hellenbrand, co-owner of Hellenbrand Glass LLC in Waunakee, Wis.
Q: Did someone in-house design the site or did you use a professional service?  
A: I had everything pulled together here with a lot of the division leaders and we submitted the information to the website designer, a group out of Iowa. As far as all the information and everything, which was actually most of the work, we had to pull that together, but the actual look and feel of the website was done by a designer. 

Q: When you set out to design the site, what was your biggest priority?   
A: We gave them the direction that we wanted to go. We had an idea of what we wanted it to look like. … [We wanted] ease-of-navigation, and to be able to get the right information to our current customers and also to attract new customers. We were looking to have a website that was easy to go through and attain the information quickly and easily without a lot of baloney to go through. 

Q: Do you track how many sales leads come from the site?
A: No, we don’t actually track it, but I do see a lot of e-mails that come to me for price quotes and everything that are from the website, so I know that it does pay and it is working. 

Q: What has been the biggest benefit of the site for you? 
A: We did a lot of work to make our website include really good information, so it’s really easy for us to tell potential customers to check out our website if they have any questions. And usually a lot of their questions are answered just by looking at our portfolio section, which shows a lot of different pictures of shower doors and mirrors and commercial jobs. People will call in and say, “Hey, I like the shower door on such and such page of your website, can you get me a quote on that?” That saves a lot of the footwork for us right there. 

2nd www.zieglerglass.com 
Why our judges liked it …
Manny:
The site featured very easy navigation, thanks to the bar at the top.
Bryan: Again, this site showed a good use of symmetry, and the green and gray color scheme is very nice. The navigation is easily recognizable and user-friendly.
Scott: The site showed a great use of organized design and structure. The automotive and residential service call-outs are excellent examples of clear, user-friendly design.
Laura: This site combines a solid structure with easy-to-use navigation. It presents a lot of information in an organized fashion with links through to more in-depth information as required. 

USGlass talks with Thad C. Ziegler, operations officer for Thad Ziegler Glass in San Antonio.
Q: Did someone in-house design the site or did you use a professional service?  
A: We worked closely with a company called Internet Direct—a local San Antonio Internet provider—to create the overall look of our site. 

Q: When you set out to design the site, what was your biggest priority?   
A: We wanted a site that was pleasing to the eye, easy to navigate through without having to click too many times and filled with as much information as possible. We avoided animation or any other “fluff” that would make the pages difficult to download. 

Q: Do you track how many sales leads come from the site?
A: It’s hard to track the number of sales generated from the site since our site is mainly informational, but we do track the number of daily hits we receive and it is very interesting to watch. 

Q: What has been the biggest benefit of the site for you? 
A: We feel that more people nowadays are using the Internet to search for service companies rather than looking in the yellow pages. Also, people want to know that they are working with established companies, and we feel that having a quality website helps give that impression. 

3rd www.ventanaman.com 
Why our judges liked it …
Manny:
I liked the catchy design of this site; the brushed steel background and the cartoonish man in the lower right corner both were eye-catching. 
Bryan: This site had a neat flash intro as well; it didn’t take too long, like some do. The site also features simple navigation and a nice use of graphic elements in the design.
Scott: The site is visually appealing and employs great use of images to show the quality of products and services.
Laura: I liked the cute icon (Ventana man). This site features a nice graphic user interface, using the look and feel of a glass panel, and also a great portfolio section and simple navigation scheme. Some of the flash and images load a little slow, but overall the site is very attractive. Nicely done.

USGlass talks with Carole George, customer consultant for Anchor Ventana in Round Rock, Texas.
Q: Did someone in-house design the site or did you use a professional service?  
A: The layout of our site was designed and is maintained by our advertising agency, but our team of customer consultants decide which pictures will be shown. Most of the pictures on our site are of jobs we have installed with photos taken by one of our employees.

Q: When you set out to design the site, what was your biggest priority?   
A: Our biggest priority was to educate the customer and to drive them to visit one of our showrooms.  

Q: Do you track how many sales leads come from the site?
A: Yes, we receive a yearly report. We also track our showroom walk-ins, our daily calls and service tickets. 

Q: What has been the biggest benefit of the site for you? 
A: Our customers see what we can do with glass that they might not have thought of. This leads them to call our sales teams who can educate them and walk them through the process of accomplishing their goals. The site also sparks their imaginations and shows them a unique perspective of what they can have in their own homes.  

And the Winners of the 2008 Best Supplier Site are …
1st www.vistamatic.com  
Why our judges liked it …
Manny:
Upon entering the site, you can choose which country, driving you to the site that best suits your needs.
Bryan:
Two things actually stood out to me on this site.  First was the innovative use of flash animation for the navigation and main page visual effect (on the U.S. version of site). It loaded quickly and wasn’t a hindrance as it can be on some sites. Second was the straightforward navigation. There were no extensive dropdown menus to wade through, and the addition of the live help link and other additional resources at the bottom of the page, I felt, was a nice touch.
Scott:
There was a wonderful use of video demos and an image gallery to show the product’s use and applications.
Laura:
I thought that overall the site had a nice feel. The flash portion didn’t slow the performance of the site, which is good. Using video and photography to demonstrate product capabilities is great. The only thing I would change is to “shorten” the site a little so that the bottom navigation doorways don’t fall below the fold. Nice job.

USGlass talks with Kevin Roth, managing partner of Vistamatic in Coral Springs, Fla.
Q: Did someone in-house design the site or did you use a professional service?  
A: We used an agency called D & G Communications in Delray Beach, Fla. I told them what I wanted regarding the look and feel and they did the rest. We decided to use a pro so that we could get the best design and the outside focus, instead of us being to narrow in our choices.  

Q: When you set out to design the site, what was your biggest priority?   
A: The biggest focus for us was usability and information. I have been to so many sites where you get fed up trying to find the information you need, but find it is hidden beneath other pages or in with other information. We wanted the site to be very easy to use and have all the information that was necessary to help all of our clients. We also decided to put the video on the site as the Vistamatic is a very unique product and we felt that unless we showed what it did the visitors who did not know of us would still not know what it really was about. 

Q: Do you track how many sales leads come from the site? 
A: Sort of. We use BoldChat, where we can see who is online and talk to them. It is a bit hit or miss really, and we are looking into better tracking at the moment.  

Q: What has been the biggest benefit of the site for you?  
A: Without a doubt, the information we provide. So many people comment on the fact that we make it easy for them to find and that it is informative. 

2nd www.safti.com 
Why our judges liked it …
Manny:
I like the right-hand side navigation that allows users to access the most useful links. I also appreciated the large pictures and intuitive feel of the site.
Bryan:
I’m a stickler for symmetry in design and they nailed it. It makes the site more visually appealing. It has a nice mix of images and text, the dropdown navigation isn’t too cumbersome and it functions nicely (some sites have issues where the menus will remain open even after you move your mouse off of them).  
Scott:
This site has an excellent use of imagery and clear, vibrant colors. The product selector pages are a great example of simple interactivity that engage site visitors.
Laura: This is a nice looking site. The product features are well laid out and easily comparable. It also features a nice project portfolio demonstrating the depth and breadth of projects. In addition, it provides access to all major points of information. The only improvement could be made in the navigation—sometimes the sub-navigation “gets lost” when you click, and you have to go out and re-enter to find the sub-navigation again. 

USGlass talks with Diana San Diego, marketing and communications manager for SAFTI FIRST Fire Rated Glazing Solutions in San Francisco. 
Q: Did someone in-house design the site or did you use a professional service?  
A: All of our marketing is produced in-house, and this includes designing and maintaining the website and producing print ads, online ads, direct mailing, product literature, articles and other collateral. We are very fortunate to have a team that is not only extremely creative (in design, web programming, etc.) but also knowledgeable in the industry (codes, testing, etc.). 

Q: When you set out to design the site, what was your biggest priority?   
A: When we re-designed our site, our priority was to present accurate, relevant information in a user-friendly format. The experience is centered around the user—making sure that he or she gets the information needed in the fastest way possible. The website also had to be engaging, which is why we built several interactive tools, such as the product selector, comparison chart and quick quote, and added streaming videos such as “Radiant Heat Testing” and our latest DVD, “A Fire and Impact Safety Case Study.” 

Q: Do you track how many sales leads come from the site?
A: Yes, we track our website’s activity on a regular basis because it’s a good way of knowing what products are in-demand or what issues are being talked about. We also have places on the site where people can submit questions, feedback or request a quote—all of which are important in creating a dialogue with existing and potential customers.

Q: What has been the biggest benefit of the site for you? 
A: I believe that having accurate, relevant information that people can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a tremendous benefit. This way, we are able to service our customers better by widening our reach and increasing our accessibility. 

3rd www.archdecoglass.com 
Why our judges liked it …
Manny:
I particularly liked the animated gif files on the opening page.
Bryan: This site showed another neat use of flash animation. I also really liked the color scheme of this site. Makes me think of 1960s interior design, which, being a child of the ’60s, is a nice trip down nostalgia lane.
Scott: This shows a great, modern design and site layout. It has an excellent mix of content and crisp, relevant imagery.
Laura:
This site features a nice color palette and attractive layout. The photo gallery is a great feature. For the catalog section, there is a software package called RichFX that could add some usability to viewing a catalog versus posting PDF files that have to be opened individually. Overall, this site is very nice.

USGlass talks with Max Perilstein, vice president of marketing for Arch Aluminum and Glass Co. Inc. in Tamarac, Fla.
Q: Did someone in-house design the site or did you use a professional service?  
A: The layout and look of the site was a brainchild of Scott Cook, who is one of our national account managers. He then took his vision to our ad agency, JAMAR Park, and they put it into play and made it pretty and functional. 

Q: When you set out to design the site, what was your biggest priority?   
A: We wanted it to look good, but we also wanted it to be easy to navigate. Too many times, good sites get ruined because there’s too much flash or too many things happening on the page. We wanted a healthy mix and I think we achieved that.

Q: Do you track how many sales leads come from the site?
A: We do track and it has been tremendous, so we are very pleased with that. It’s a great tool on not only attracting new business, but also keeping old business refreshed.

Q: What has been the biggest benefit of the site for you? 
A: The improved visibility for our decorative division. We have the largest decorative glass facility in North America and all it needed was more exposure. This site has been very effective in driving people to our products and it’s really achieved its goals.

USG
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