*The following is a paid review.*
While I wouldn’t say that I’m a poker fanatic, I do enjoy the odd game of Texas Hold ‘Em now and then. In fact we finished off Christmas Day with a very enjoyable multi-hour session in which I made, oh, at least $5.
“Cardroom Supply”:http://www.cardroomsupply.com/ is a site that sells poker tables and chips as well as a few other poker-related sundries.
At first glance this site appears to be a pretty regular ecommerce site. The design is unremarkable but functional. However, once you spend a little time browsing around, you come to realize that a lot of things have been done right in terms of designing an effective online store.
When you arrive at the site, one of the first things you see is that shipping is free over $100.
This is useful to know given how heavy some of these items must be. There’s nothing worse than going through the ordering process for a product only to discover that shipping is going to cost a significant proportion of the cost of the product.
Cardroom Supply’s home page is a great example of the “five second test”:http://www.uie.com/articles/five_second_test/ in action. They have obviously identified what information is import to their customers and presented right upfront on the home page.
The tag line (“Poker Tables & Poker Chips Direct”) is also very clear and straight-forward, thus avoiding #5 of Jacob Nielsen’s “ten most violated home page design guidelines”:http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20031110.html.
Personally, I would recommend moving the tag line over to the left and getting rid of the decorative (and therefore unnecessary) ‘cards’ graphic so that the tag line is located in the top-left of the page — an area which “draws a lot of attention”:http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html when people first arrive at your site.
Oh yes, and the logo should be a link back to the home page.
Speaking of the home page, a variety of products are displayed there; however, it’s not clear why these products in particular are being presented so prominently. Are they the most popular or just the ones the company is trying hardest to get rid of?
Without having this context, I’m unlikely to browse the home page for long and will be more likely to head straight to the left hand navigation to find what I’m looking for.
The site also offers a newsletter subscription. However, there’s no sample for me to see whether it’s worth subscribing to and there’s no privacy information about what they will do with my email address.
If Cardroom Supply are serious about building up their newsletter subscriber-base, there’s a lot more they can do here.
Product display on the internal “gallery pages”:http://www.cardroomsupply.com/pokertables.html is okay, although the images are rather crammed together and there are no sorting options (e.g. by price, best sellers, etc).
According to Jared Spool, these are the “hardest working pages on your site”:http://www.uie.com/articles/galleries/ and so a little extra time and attention is warranted in their design.
The “individual product pages”:http://www.cardroomsupply.com/imma3gatabas.html are somewhat limited in terms of content. I would expect to see a little more copy about an item that costs upwards of $1000.
The size and quality of the larger images is very good, however. But it would be nice to see multiple images for each product.
When the restocking fee is 15% I want to be sure I’m buying the product I want and that I won’t have to return in. In situations like this, the more you can do to help the customer feel confident about their purchasing decision (e.g. adding more images), the better.
It might be a good idea to show the poker tables in situ to show how they would look in your house. Pottery Barn does this very well in their print catalogs and “carry it over”:http://www.potterybarn.com/shop/fur/furslc/index.cfm to their online store as well.
For some reason, the heading for each individual product page is in a small, gray font so that it is completely overshadowed by the huge text above it. I didn’t even notice it was there at first. I’d recommend making it much bigger.
Navigating around the site and using the checkout process is easy and everything works as expected. Unlike some online stores I can think of, if you want to buy something, at least you can pay for it.
CardroomSupply.com also has an “articles section”:http://www.cardroomsupply.com/links.html, which is a great idea for generating inbound links and improving your search engine rankings.
Unfortunately, they only have one article listed (although it has been heavily Dugg — but check the comments. Ouch) . With the current interest in the poker phenomenon, this comes across as an opportunity wasted.
The site does rank highly on the major search engines (nicely done considering how competitive that market must be), but you can never have too much link love.
The ‘About’ page for the site is functional but could be further developed. There isn’t much of a story there. A List Apart has a good “article on About pages”:http://alistapart.com/articles/aboutpagerobot. Here’s how they are described:
bq. An About page should provide context and necessary facts, but should also give the reader compelling reasons to do what you want them to do.
I’m also not sure why there is an ‘Info’ page as well as a ‘Contact’ page — they both have the same information. Better to get rid of the ‘Info’ page as it’s not needed.
I would also recommend adding a contact form to the contact page so that people can get in touch if they are away from their email.
There’s no search on the site, which is a little odd. It may be that they don’t have enough products to warrant it.
However, search is a nice convenience to provide for users. If I come to a site looking for a particular product or brand, I don’t want to have to waste time browsing around for it — I’d much prefer to be able to search right away for it.
Despite the niggles outlined above, “Cardroom Supply”:http://www.cardroomsupply.com is a well constructed site. It communicates well, is clearly laid out and is easy to use.
Given the high search engine rankings for their main keyword phrases, I’m sure it is a very effective ecommerce tool — which, at the end of the day, is all that matters.