Anatomy of a Brilliant SiteWritten by Stefene Russell
I love sciplus.com. Not only because it sells Bomex separatory funnels, mug warmers, and gallon drums of plastic ants; not only because they have a great mascot named Jarvis; and not only because their URL is a clever play on words ("sciplus," sounds like Bugs Bunny saying "surplus." Surplus is their specialty, with an emphasis on science. In this short little url, they get both aspects in there--and turn it into a punchline to boot). I just dig whole thing, all around. I visit them to see what nifty gadgets they're hawking this week, but their hilarious catalog descriptions keep me coming back just to read content. "So," you may be asking, "who are these guys, anyway?"
Sciplus is actually online incarnation of American Science and Surplus, which has been in existence (in some form or other) for most of 20th Century. In 1937, Mr. Al Leubbers was just hanging around Chicago, working for Western Electric. He happened to be an optics buff, so when he noticed that warehouse next door was tossing out large numbers of reject lenses (Ping! Went lightbulb over Al's head) he asked company if he could buy rejects. They told him he could have them if he'd please just *take* them away. Al and his wife Buddy spent next several weeks polishing lenses at kitchen table. They placed an ad in Popular Mechanics, and started unloading them at 10 for $1, and American Lens and Photo was born. The company expanded to embrace general surplus after World War II, and became American Science Center. They officially became American Science and Surplus in early 90s, and have been online since '95. Though they're not a strictly e-business (they have real stores in Chicago, Geneva, and Milwaukee) I think anyone who's serious about having an online presence (especially if you're selling stuff) should take a look at what these cats are up to-because a business dedicated to "discovery and invention...[and] having fun along way," intuitively understands how to build an almost perfect site.
Want to know what their secret formula is? Well, part of it is an inborn, twisted sense of humor, but they're also clever businessmen. Launch your browser, pull up site, and let's take ten-cent educational tour...
1. Navigation: Their first brilliant move? They created a template page, so that all their pages would have a consistent look and feel. When you're cataloging as much information as sciplus, you need to have a template, not only for practicality's sake, but for navigation's sake. They don't make their users re- orient themselves every time they click to a new page. But that's not to say that static is always good. Hit "refresh." Notice anything? That's right. Their featured products rotated. When you first brought up page, you may have seen goo-goo-googly plastic eyes, hex keys and assorted plastic drums. Now you're looking at dino stencils, glass bowls and coffee grinders. They've programmed page to rotate up different products...smart!
They've also put their most important links at top (ordering, sale items, what's new) and then listed everything else on left-hand side of page. Also notice that these side links are broken down into categories: product listings are at very top, and then broken off in a box, we get fun (but less essential) stuff. We have "Help for stymied surpie," "Who is Jarvis?" and "Items flying out door." Below this are links for email updates and a check for users to be sure that site is secure.
But go back to those product listings. Click on "Containers." In orange, you'll see a complete listing of pages for every product that falls under header of "containers." That way, a user can immediately jump to page they're looking for, but not get lost in infinite sub-pages, because that left-side nav bar is always there to help them get back out again. Sciplus has thousands of items, and this is an ingenious way to make their content "transparent" no matter where a user is on site.
10 Concerns To Have Before Creating A Members Only Web Site!Written by Larry Dotson
1. What will be title of your member's only web site and will it have a subtitle? Will you have a logo, slogan or graphics for your member's only site?
2. What type of content will you include in your member's only web site? ebooks, articles, software, interview transcripts, etc.
3. Will your member's only web site host a member community? message boards, chat rooms, online classes, online consulting, etc.
4. Will you be only content provider or will there be other providers? Will your ask other members to contribute related content to your member's site?
5. How will you allow people to navigate, find or search for information in your members only site? Links, search engine, index, table of contents, etc.