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Mike Swope critiques the Preemies R Us web site. Continued from the previous page

Preemies R Us

Change the default graphics for a more harmonious look...

Following the axiom of developing a more harmonious web site; some of the other default graphics that have not been removed or changed, however, also stand out in significant contrast to the otherwise baby blue and pink scheme of the site. Although the white arrows in the sidebar boxes are part of osCommerce's default installation, they blend into the Preemies R Us site well enough. On the other hand, the psychedelic green arrows in the account management pages distinctly clash with the soft tone of the site. These green arrows could be changed to a complementary color quite easily. I suspect that the Preemies R Us team already knows this. Just as garish as the green arrows are the default Union blue buttons that appear throughout the site. These are not as easy to change as the arrows. There are 28 of these buttons to be changed. Not too difficult, but a mechanical task, nonetheless. Unfortunately, these buttons appear on all product pages in the site, so they are seen frequently and color (no pun intended) the visitor's experience. If a visitor has seen these buttons elsewhere, they will appear familiar and suggest to the visitor a "canned" solution has been used but not thoroughly customized. Not the best impression for visitors. So it is highly recommended that these buttons be changed to strengthen the baby blue and pink color scheme. Of course, other default graphics not mentioned that do not complement the scheme should likewise be changed.

The Preemies R Us team has also made insertions outside the database-driven catalog. One beneficial insertion is the free shipping image/link (advertisement) in the top right hand corner. Its style matches the PreemiesRUs logo, and it seems to be placed where it is by design, so it is a good insertion.

A beneficial but poorly placed insertion is the text which describes the site's offerings. The text would seem to be good fodder for search engines, but its placement at the bottom of the page makes it less valuable to search engines than if it were placed at the top of the page, as recommended by osCommerce's step-by-step instructions. It may be that this copy has been placed at the foot of the page to help raise content in the browser window, to get more products above the "fold," or bottom of the window. Whatever the case, I recommend moving this copy to the top of the page. It is valuable for visitors since it describes the site's offerings specifically, but it is also valuable for search engines which give preference to text which appears high on the page. This copy, thus placed, would do more work for the success of the site.

If the Preemies R Us team is concerned about raising content higher in the browser window, the team should consider replacing the additional bar on the front page with the copy discussed above, for the reasons discussed above. The inserted bar does little to contribute to the site's mission: to sell preemie clothes. The 3 sentences in this bar could be edited into a short tag line below the logo, appearing on every page of the site at that point. Removing this bar would bring the content 209 pixels higher in the browser window, which is a considerable chunk of browser real estate. This would place navigation and links to products that much higher in the window. The same advice applies to all pages that have similar additional bars (there are several).

Besides the great customization, Preemies R Us' product photography is also well done. If these product shots are taken by the web team, the team should be commended. In general, they present products either photographed against a white backdrop or cut out from the background. There are no disconcerting shadows in the background. The photos are exactly what I would expect from an online shopping site who takes pride in their products, their business and their customers.

An important feature of all e-commerce shopping cart sites is the omnipresent search box. In the case of Preemies R Us, this search feature is curiously missing! Though there is a sidebar box typical of osCommerce installations, the text field is missing but the default text instructions and a link to the Advanced Search page remain. Due to the high level of customization of the Preemies R Us site, I suspect that perhaps this missing text field is a coding error. If it is not, the team should consider either removing or editing the sidebar box which contains the search information, or re-inserting the search form field so that it is immediately available to visitors.

Unfortunately, there isn't room to cover every aspect of this site, but this review should provide some feedback and suggestions to be considered by the Preemies R Us team. Though it appears that the site does a brisk business, this feedback should help the development team to put a final polish on the site that it is otherwise lacking. Visitors expect a competent e-commerce site from Preemies R Us, and for the most part get one. The last spit shine will help this site stand out further among osCommerce sites, and other e-commerce sites, too.

Mike Swope

Swope Design


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