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I am the webmaster of a plain old e-commerce site. The store is quite simple and fairly 'amazon-ish' in look & feel. The company however is brick n clicks, i.e. has a real shop too....
Currently, customers going to our homepage go straight to the departments/products types page where they can easily choose from widget types, new widgets, special offers etc.
Our client wants to put in a splash page with a nice picture of the shop and 'enter store button'. The jpeg I have takes 7 seconds to download @ 56k, broadband is fine. However shop is 'boutique' style so pic looks very charming.
Should I be concerned at this e.g. extra download time/click - will some customers be put off? or will the opposite happen (quaint shop pic?) Any experiences/advice?
It just doesn't seem like a good idea to risk unnecessary confusion.
Now that I think of it, it actually does happen in big stores, they use two sets of doors. But that's done to preserve the heat in the store IMO.
But I think you can probably placate the client by doing something else on the site.
If it were my client I would explain very carefully and very thoroughly the difference between online shopping and bricks 'n mortar shopping ... and discuss how easy it is to lose someone off the home page if they don't see what they're looking for, fast.
Then I would suggest something similar to what dragonlady7 recommended:
Put the quaint shop pic somewhere else. Perhaps have a more "quaint" decorating scheme internally
Or a really cool "about us" section using the quaint shop pic as a background or a template or a "virtual tour" or something. Something that tells the client, "I understand how important it is for you to have this on your site. and for the purposes of efficient ecommerce, THIS is the correct place to put it."
You are the expert - you're there to guide your client and help them make the right choices. Good luck!
Other than that straight to home.
If your e-commerce section is working efficiently, I can see no need to change things so dramatically. Add to the site? Yes, but without upsetting what may be working well (little tweaks here and there are often good, though).
But if you must do a splashy intro, make sure you have a very clear "click here to enter" TEXT link, so that dial up modem users don't have to wait that 7 seconds for the image to load. If the "click here to enter" is an image button, some dial up users won't wait around long enough to see it.
However, I completely agree about having the pics in the about us section instead. I think establishing the fact the client is originally a brick & mortar w/ a proven track record can help tremendously w/ trust issues.
Along the lines of what Hawkgirl said, there may be very good reasons to include the store photo(s). For one, the client wants it. But they probably do know something about their business, and it could be that their boutique-like environment is an important part of their bricks & mortar success. So, figure out how to accomplish that without adding barriers to purchasing. Tie in the site theme if appropriate. HG's virtual tour idea is great if the store is up to it.
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Take a real brick/mortar store as an example. On a nice day we'd open our door and traffic would go way up (so would heat/AC loss and maybe shoplifting!). Stores in large enclosed malls never have traditional doors, just gates to lock the store at night.
Tent sales are even better. no door or walls, just a canvas top and a few poles!
Likewise we want people to easily enter our ecommerce site thru the main page and thru the walls (interior pages) too.
As a shopper, I run from any commerce site that has a flash intro page. You know the whole process is going to be slow.
[edited by: USMerch at 10:07 pm (utc) on July 15, 2003]
1) Most repeat visitors will not want to see the page (get straight to the content) and will not like a splash page
2) Many new users will come via search engines and will probably get thrown deep into the site, thus missing out the splash page
So the people you want to see this work of art may never see it and those that you don't want to see it, get annoyed by it.
Being stopped by a splash page as you enter a site is like having a store owner standing in the door and demanding that you admire how wonderful all the work he put into the store is before being allowed into it.
I'm sure he's rightfully proud of his store, and the charming boutique atmosphere is worth capturing in the site in some way. But at the expense of the customers' shopping experience? No way!
1. the page has got no use at all for the visitor.
2. It takes time to load (in which the visitor can get distracted and chose to do something else)
3. the visitor will notice that the site owner puts his self-glorification above the user's needs
4. It takes some effort for the visitor to determine how to enter the site proper, even with "Click here to enter site" link. A lot of sites do not even have this kind of link - I have seen lots of sites with only a graphic on the splash page, leaving the visitor to figure out that he needs to click on the graphic to access the site. In some cases the link was not even the main graphic but another graphic with the company logo...
5. the splash page typically has little or no text with keywords relevant to the site's subject, making it invisible to search engines
6. as incoming links typically go to the main URL (that of the splas page) link poularity of the "real" pages of the site suffers
7. The splash page may lead to broken incoming links: Other sites/directories may decide to link not to the splash page, but to the "real" home page. I have done this myself in quite a few cases where the link to the rest of the site was so well hidden that a lot of visitors could be expected not to find it. When this is the case, and the URLs of the site are restructured external links will get broken.
Conclusion: 'splash' pages should be renamed to 'Admire me. Go away' pages.