How is the Bass River Chairs website horrible?

After reading my story of a search for a simple wooden stool, which, in part, described my experiences at Bass River Chairs, the webmaster of the BassRiverChairs.com website sent a pleasant note, writing, in part, that their site isn’t really horrible as I suggested.
While I agree that horrible is a strong word, I stand behind my comments. Here’s why I don’t like their website:

  • There’s far too little information.. An Internet user’s thirst for information is unquenchable and no amount of [well-organized] information is too much. For example, why is there a section called Wood and the Environment which actually says nothing of value on wood or the environment? Where does Bass River Chairs get its wood? Do they buy only from ecologically sustainable forests? What kinds of wood do they use? How long will their furniture last? Web users want to know this kind of thing. Instead we get empty marketing jargon.
  • The site is much too graphically intensive for the amount of information that is there. I click on Products, for example, and I have to wait for 6 graphical headings (“Kitchen Ware,” etc.) to load? Once that wait is finished, I then click on any of the headings only to find that there’s next to no content provided. Does Bass River Chairs sell stools? You’d never know it from their website! Graphics are great when they help tell a story, but even the pictures of products are content-less feathered shots that give me little feel for their quality or design.
  • The website contains Java and JavaScript elements that add nothing to the content. And they take a long time to load. Why should I have to wait for my browser to start Java, then wait for an applet to load, then wait for the text to scroll, only to find about a “new line of Grohmann knives” after which I must then click on What’s New and then New Products and then Grohmann Oak X-tra Knives to find out more. If you want to highlight your Grohmann knives, make it easier for me to find them, and then tell me why they’re so great!
  • Typographically the site is all over the map. Graphical headers are made harder to read because they’re on a yellow mottled background; headlines on some pages are set ALL CAPS, which makes them hard to read; other heads are small and in red or large and in green; there’s a confusing combination of fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Courier); use of white space is poor.
  • Generally, the site lacks a soul. Bass River Chairs in the “real world” has a soul — you can tell when you walk in the door. The company takes great pains with store design and merchandising to build a image of consistent quality. They have good products. They have good staff. Alas the website hides these facts, and leaves one feeling more muddled and underfed than motivated to visit the stores. That’s too bad.
  • The site loads too slowly. Try this: go to the Kodak website. It’s just as graphically intensive as Bass River Chairs’ website, but it loads in half the time. In network-geography terms I’m closer to Bass River Chairs than I am to Kodak, so it’s not a network-dependent slowness. What’s going on?
I’m constantly warning my retailer friends about the dangers of creating a web presence without the resources behind it to make it zing like the rest of their operations. Sometimes it’s better not to have a website instead of having an anemic one which doesn’t do justice to the efforts you place to build your brand elsewhere.

Linda’s: up a notch

Linda’s, a former greasy spoon in lower Charlottetown, has cleaned up and now qualifies, I think, as a bona fide diner. They’ve renovated inside. They have a much broader menu (still focused on fried X, mind you). And they seem to have cut way back on their smoking clientele, which was what had kept me away for the last two or three years. At the corner of Queen and Water Streets in Charlottetown. Open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily..

Sneakers have landed

Regular readers will recall my vain search for Simple Shoes several weeks ago in Boston followed by a suggestion from Simple HQ in California that I order from Mortts in New Hampshire. I’m happy to report that the shoes arrived in fine form this afternoon, about a week after I ordered them. They fit and they are wonderful. Thanks Mortt!. On the downside, apparently NAFTA hasn’t kicked in for shoes yet, so I had to pay a whopping 20% duty on the shoes. Sigh. I suppose I must pay penance for robbing the children of Canadian shoe workers of their morning milk.

Best Dessert in Charlottetown

Dessert is spelled with two ‘s’s, my grade 4 teacher Mr. Dykstra told us, because you would always like more, so there are more ‘s’s than in desert (which is sandy and quite unappealing as an after-dinner course). After the demise of Arbys on PEI three or four years ago, the current holder of the Best Dessert title on PEI goes to Beanz on University Avenue in Charlottetown: their cappuccino Nanaimo bars are to die for. Runner up (though it’s more a drink than a dessert, really) is the COWS mocha iced cowppuccino.

What happened at Fiddles & Vittles?

We usually make it up to Fiddles & Vittles near Cavendish at least once a year. They’ve offered good food in an interesting atmosphere and there was nothing like a bowl of their lobster chowder after a walk on Cavendish Beach on a rainy day. Alas things seem to have taken a turn for the worse: we were up [in the rain] this past Saturday and found the magic was gone. The lobster chowder was gone from the menu, there weren’t any hot rolls offered with our meal, and when we inquired, we were served a couple of crusty day-olds. The lobster “burger” was a lobster roll in sheep’s clothing, and had about twice as much celery as it should have. The french fries — breaded, which is a crime in itself — were stone cold by the time they arrived at the table. Service was slow, especially given that we were one of only two tables in the place. Granted it was during the lull between lunch and dinner that we visited, but that doesn’t seem like a valid excuse for poor service and mediocre food. I can only hope they all got up on the wrong side of the bed Saturday. Sigh.

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