Cambridge Custom promises to be an impressive and effective site, but it falls short of this ideal for several reasons.
The launched pages are rather small - which means their font is very small. The visitor has no control over page or font size. The navigation menu's format further reduces useability.
The "about us" page, named index.jpg, is not an effective substitute for a "home" page. It does not answer the most basic question - where exactly in the Northwest can one have a home built by this business? If the visitor feels he has missed something and tries to go back somewhere to find more information, he may inadvertantly activate the splash page which then hides the "about us" image. Repeated clicking of the entry logo does not bring the image to the foreground. An inexperienced surfer might well leave in frustration. At the bottom of each page is a row of tiny thumbnails which are clickable but unlabelled. They are too small, and their placement is too far from the explanatory text above. Lack of informationI was disappointed by the paucity of text provided. A business promoting the best quality materials for home building should offer a paragraph or two describing those superior materials which make a custom home worth the expense.
I also felt as if a whole new set of photos is needed. Only the highest quality photos are appropriate for illustrating a high-end product. It might be better to save unconventional coding for a personal or specialty site where commerce does not figure into the equation.
Editor Notes: Good points, Bennie!
I've done a considerable amount of advertising and marketing materials for both builders and real estate developers. I've learned the hard way that the one thing a builder needs to do is instantly instill a feeling of confidence in the reader. So, repeat after me: Track record, track record, track record!
Seems simple, but you've got to get the image across that you are a) competent, b) cost effective, and c) have a successful track record for meeting the home owners' expectations. This is imperative.
The slant of this site seems to try to impress the viewer with the builder's own prowess. Wrong slant. If a future home owner is going to trust you with thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of their dollars, you need to show them happy, satisfied residents of homes you've built.
I would switch the slant of the 'arrival' toward testimonials of beaming home owners. I would start with the big picture, then draw the viewer into detail. You need your readers to find instant "friends" in your site, immediately upon arrival. You want your viewer to instantly say: "Hey, that's nice, let's look at that one..." -- draw them in -- draw them in effortlessly. The viewer shouldn't even have to think.
This is one example of how an "arrival" concept serves only bolster web designer's own self gratification. It booby-traps the viewer's arrival, and undermines their control and anticipation. In home construction, you need to get that prospect into the "romance" of the site as soon as you possibly can. Get them digging into your portfolio -- enjoying themselves -- and the "about" page and even navigation becomes merely secondary. Get them infatuated with the building experience, and they'll search you out.
Hey... thanks a lot, Bennie -- great review!