I`ve been reading here at SUN for quite a while, but haven`t gotten around to registering and being a contributing member until just now!
I`m the owner of a custom computer shop in Seattle. We`re an online company, so our website is everything! Most of our exposure is from SEO, search for "custom computers" or "gaming computers" and you`ll find us at or near the top. We have nearly a hundred phrases and terms we`re optimizing for, but those are the biggest and most accurately describe our niche. We build performance, quality machines. Our target market is the enthusiasts who know enough about hardware to know that quality is important, so that allows us to be a little more technical with our audience.
Our custom configuration pages (like http://www.pugetsystems.com/configure.php) get a lot of praise in their usability, so we`re confident we`ve accomplished a good tool there. Our simpler configure pages (like http://www.pugetsystems.com/certified_sys.php?sys_id=15) are designed more for people that don`t know as much about hardware. Being newer, we don`t have as much feedback about them.
I do virtually all our web design and copy writing (just one of the many job descriptions of this small business owner!). We have developed our website pretty much entirely from scratch (with the exceptions of a few things such as our forums). Our website represents years of learning and work. That`s not to say I`ll be hurt by the many suggestions I hope to get! I just mean that this isn`t a website I built last week and haven`t given good thought :)
As time went on over the last 6 years, the website became more and more complex. More additions, features, ad copy...it got to be huge, and frankly poorly maintained. We decided to focus on simplicity, to remove all the parts of our site that were not as relevant or were prone to being poorly maintained, and remove them. We wanted a site relevant to our niche, but still providing good information. I *thought* what we came up with was a great step in the right direction. Not perfect of course, but that`s no reason not to take that step!
What`s the problem? We`ve seen a drop off in sales, which started pretty much the day we went live with the new design, at the end of February. It has me truly baffled. I wish there was an archive of the old website I could show. The overall look hasn`t changed, it is more about the navigation. One of the biggest changes is that the newer, simplified configure pages are much more prominent.
So, this is a great time for some criticism! Perhaps I`m in too deep to have good perspective, and that`s exactly where people here can help. I look forward to your comments.
Jon Bach - President | Puget Custom Computers | www.pugetsystems.com