a little bit of advise please


January 20, 2008, 11:42 PM

I am a web programmer by profession, and recently i took up a project to build a website for a friend of mine who runs a really cool hunting store. As lve been making the website, ive become somewhat interested in the subject.

I have some questions:
I am trying to make a website to sell some nice guns, knives and bows, what is the best way to accomplish this?
The owner of the store thinks that we need nothing more then gun specs, and the people who look for this stuff need nothing else.

also, how competitive is the pricing on the site? i have no idea what this stuff goes for.

site: http://TheTraditionalHunter.com

Last, can you suggest some places on the internet which might be interested in this stuff?

Thanks, i hope i dont come too much as an advertiser for something no one wants, that is not the intent

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January 21, 2008, 01:04 AM

Make it readable -- no red fonts on blue backgrounds and the like.

And fast loading. No fancy backgrounds.

He's the best judge of pricing.

Accomodate buyers who don't want to order on-line or use things like Paypal:barf: or credit cards.

Just the facts, ma'am, but thumbnails of wares ok.

Ask here which are folks' favorite catalog sites and why, and go imitate them, bearing in mind the above.

Don't trust spellcheckers. Have an honest-to-Goddess real, live, human who knows a little grammar and a lot of how to spell look over your text. Homonyms are your enemy: bare/bear, site/sight, breech/breach, its/it's, etc., are no-nos.

There is "A RAT" in sepARATe, and gauge is spelled alphabetically, with the "a" before the "u."

Some of us live in rural areas where nothing but 28.8 dial-up is available. Again, keep the site fast loading.

I don't know perzackly how it works, but I wonder if it might not be a good idea to try to keep "nanny software" from sensing that your site is firearms- or hunting- related. I don't know what to suggest for this, but I'm pretty sure "hunting" will make a nanny program wet its pants.

Just my take off the top of my iggerent little head, FWIW.

January 21, 2008, 09:48 AM
Thank you for a reply.

Those are all good points, some of them i didnt think about.
For example, i am working on improving overall site usability, fonts and colors, but i didnt think about giving the spelling and grammar a good hard look.

Ive been pushing for lots of high resolution pictures of the merchandise, but from what i am seeing on other websites, (and what you said) - this is not really needed?

January 21, 2008, 09:52 AM
Can anyone chime in to this conversation and tell me what catalog websites you guys like and why, as 230RN mentioned in his post.

Am i completely off base to think that really-awesome-looking site with lots of pictures and media will draw you guys in? =)

January 21, 2008, 10:11 AM
yeah, you're off base. you're thinking about technology and looks. those don't drive sales. PRICES drive sales. the best technology and good looks can do is NOT piss off the customer.

again, websites are a necessary evil like gas stations. features analogous to pay-at-the-pump help not piss people off, but PRICES and SERVICE win sales.

there are two excellent examples of sites:

great because everything they sell is on one page in simple, easy to compare tables
loads fast, no pictures, good prices
I order lots of stuff from them, but the stuff I order there is stuff that I already know what it is, and it's not complicated with hundreds of specs

is a great site for a wider variety of stuff, where i might not know exactly what it is i'm looking for.
it has small pictures that load fast, and can be enlarged, and basic info on the products
most important: it has a search feature that WORKS and that displays LOTS of results on a page (i hate grafs and others that only show 10 items/page... it's why i never shop there)

you need to ask yourself "do your customers already know what they want when they come to your site, and are just looking for prices?" or are they researching a dozen alternatives?
are you selling commodity stuff or name brand stuff?

make sure your site works with firefox

January 21, 2008, 10:17 AM
One thing I look for in a website selling something is an education with regard to the items up for sale. That is to say, it is frustrating that most retailers simply pull product descriptions from manufacturer’s product literature and stick it on their website. First, I've probably already visited the manufacturer’s website and seen the exact same descriptions. Secondly, no one ever seems to want to explain how a product is priced, or perhaps "positioned" is a better word, within the product line. I wish retailers would tell me WHY one product from company A is priced higher than another from the same company. It's as though they either are ashamed of their pricing methodology or they don't mind a confused buyer. Either situation is unacceptable. TELL US which model is the top of the line and WHY! Tell us what we're giving up by choosing a lower priced model. There is always a reason why one version of a product is more expensive than another...don't be afraid to explain why. Whatever price points your store owner picks, don't be ashamed to spell out why each item costs what it does. You can educate your customers about why products cost what they do and about other things as well. History of a represented company (not just from that company's home page!), suggested uses of the products for sale, or ways to enhance or personalize your products after a sale are some of the ways in which you can educate your customers. Top that off with a nice website that has good pictures with magnification capability and a navigation search engine that is as flexible as possible (show by price, by manufacturer, by use, by size, etc) and you've got a website that I will pay a bit more to shop through. Of course, the last and perhaps most important characteristic is OUTSTANDING customer service. If your store owner works to build customer loyalty instead of just customer satisfaction, he'll build customers for life. Good luck with your project.

January 21, 2008, 10:31 AM
230RN, any more seplling tips? I like those!

January 21, 2008, 10:45 AM
Thank you for the comments, they are indeed very useful to me.
I will try to incorporate your tips into the site as best i can.

January 21, 2008, 09:49 PM
You go "EEE!" when you are in a cEmEtEry."

Hokkmike, unfortunately, I only remember them when a doubtful word pops up. These few are just what happened to rise out of my wrinkled old cortex.

However, based on your question I googled [ spelling tips ] and found a bunch of sites (not sights) that looked helpful:


And "seplling," meaning "small tree," is spelled "sapling,"

Good luck!

TheTraditionalHunter, I didn't mean to imply that it should be bare (not bear) nekkid (not naked) of decorations. A couple of good hunting scenes or shots of range activities, or a boy cleaning his gun with his Dad and the like would be appropriate. But I've seen too many sites with animated gifs and scrolling text and whatnot that are just plain distracting. The site can be both attractive and practical without folderol. Too many sites have "bells and whistles" which seem to be stuck in just because the developer thought they were cool. A small blinking arrow for "specials" is OK, but having "Special!" zoom in and out of fonts or font sizes is a bit much, to my mind.

I hope your client has the same views as many of us do. I would bounce this thread off him to see his reaction before sitting down to code.

You are very smart to do this kind of market research. But don't forget to research what's in your client's mind.

Good luck to you, too!

January 21, 2008, 10:01 PM
A cool site I like to visit (Springfeild Armory)

I like to see all the tech stuff so I know exactly what im getting
I dont buy cuz of price I buy cuz I want or when I have the money
Right now I want a 50bmg but I aint got the $$$$.$$

I do like sales to!!

January 21, 2008, 10:22 PM
A picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand words downloads faster.

Overall a pretty good site. I would suggest cropping the pages to be rid of the horizontal scroll bars. I would also add the option of standard resolution photo's. I would suspect that a lot of this sites customers may live in rural areas and may be on dial up. Hi- Res and dial up access don't go well together.

January 21, 2008, 10:23 PM

Congratulations! A programmer who goes to the users, what a reasonable & therefore, in the software industry, radical idea.

Midway has been mentioned here before. A good site. Check their search function, it's very good. Note the way they use filters, it's well worth your time to examine that process & incorporate it into the site you're building.

People have emphasized price here, with good reason. But remember this; if your customer can't find it, it could be free, remain untaken, and still incur held inventory costs.


January 22, 2008, 09:05 AM
someone told me about the horizontal scroll bars, it is because of the stupid software i used to make the site, it made some elements 106% wide. Ill fix that today.

Also, i provide pictures of all products in different resolutions, if you click on the thumbnail of the product on the site - maybe this isnt very intuitive, because you wont know you can do that until you mouse over the image. Maybe i should provide instructions?

I will _never_ put anything on the site that does not serve the user's experience. I hate all scrolling, blinking crap. Luckily, i am making this site essentially for free, so have much more freedom in making the site how i think it aught to be.

So far, from what i understand, you guys want a minimal site (which works well on 56k modems), lots of descriptions, but also optionally, links to hi res images, and most of all, very good search.

I can do all of that soon, except for search, which will require me to rebuild the entire site in JSP, but i am working on that.

Thanks again for your responses, and if you want to add anything, such as something awesome you wish a site had, please PM me, or leave a message on this thread, i would love to make this site really awesome.

January 22, 2008, 09:26 AM
See your PMs.

Edited to add: I decided to post my PM to you anyhow:

"so have much more freedom in making the site how i think it aught to be."

"aught" = an older word for "zero"

"ought" = equivalent to "should."

These are "homonyms," words which sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things.

Remember: don't trust your spellchecker. Both words are correctly spelled, so the spellchecker will skip right over the error.

--Terry, 230RN

January 22, 2008, 09:35 AM
Am i completely off base to think that really-awesome-looking site with lots of pictures and media will draw you guys in? =)

So I will throw in my 2 cents, and hope I don't offend anyone along the way.

There are lots of folks in the market you seem to be targeting in the older (50+) age range simply because hunting is not growing as fast in the young age ranges.

For a lot of these folks broadband and super high speed pipes are just not something they are into. And frankly there are lots of people that are just not THAT into the Internet thing anyway.

There are still LOTS of people out there with dial-up so don't make it too nasty at dialup speeds or consider offering a low resolution version at the main page with smaller pictures.

If someone is on a slower connection and they have to wait for pics, they will simply move on past your site.

January 22, 2008, 11:10 AM
blah, you are right. Ill have someone other then myself look over the website. (my posts are another matter)

TexasRifleman: Point well made, if i can have 2 versions of the website, without making it too painful to update, then i will do it. This is probably going to be easier after i move away from .html and go dynamic.

January 22, 2008, 11:23 AM
fwiw, i think the site is excellent as is.

i know i said search was important, but you don't really need a search if you're only offering 100 or so items that neatly fit into intuitively obvious categories.

January 22, 2008, 11:25 AM
I am using a relatively small screen. I did not like either the size or the font of the text. I found it a bit stark and difficult to read.

I dislike web sites that force you to go through all kinds of gyrations to get where you want to go. Make it as simple as possible to get to the meat.

I do not believe prices are the only thing that drives sales. A lot of times a well thought out and fair return policy makes a difference, as does a fair shipping policy. A lot of web sites seem to make as much off the shipping as they do on the products. I hate sites that won't tell you what the total price (including shipping) is until after you enter your CC number.

I would want to see a section devoted to product manuals, hopefully keyed to the product itself so you can access it from the product description. I also like user comments. I know that is a little risky from the vender's POV, but it makes me feel a lot more comfortable. A negative comment about a product might steer me away from a mistake.

January 22, 2008, 11:31 AM
I do a bit of graphics work... so I can comment on the looks of the site.

That looks really nice. Minimalist and professional. Good use of color.

Grandpa Shooter
January 22, 2008, 12:07 PM
As one of the cranky old "pharts" on this and other forums, I will make a few comments.

A lot of older people use computers only because they need one to get by in the world. Our view of computers is that they are a keyboard hooked up to a TV screen which yanks info out of a file cabinet we can't see. We don't understand about tabs and buttons worked into the format of the screen. I for one had to ask how to look up a member because I got tired of scrolling through pages and pages of names and "handles". I didn't even see the search button since it was the same color as the background. Please consider making stark contrasts when setting up important features and functions of the site.

I agree that animation and spectacular displays just piss me off. I don't want a fancy laptop or gift card to MacDonalds so please don't tell me I am the 10,000 nth visitor and tie me up with pop ups and other similar trashy ads. I go to the internet like I visit the library, to get information on a particular subject. I want it quiet, well organized, neat and simple. Please don't make me have to go past something you think I might want to see. I am old enough to make up my own mind.

Keep it simple. The Midway site is ok, the Lee Precision site is terrible. If you are going to add a search function, keep the search parameters broad enough that an ordinary person with a working knowledge of the subject or area of interest can put in a simple phrase and have the search engine bring up the related items. Gunbroker is a great site for me. I go to the home page, scroll (or mouse) down to the firearms section, choose revolvers, type in Taurus or Taurus 38, or Taurus 357, and poof it gives me what I want to look at. Makes it very simple. I don't need to drool over hand guns which are way out of my budget, or Curio and Relics which you can only own but not shoot.

Unless you intend to operate a club, please don't make me sign in. I won't remember what I used for a screen name or password anyway, and all it does is make me leave the site. That business about your server feeding my computer cookies really bugs me. My computer should only be loyal to me, not to whomever has the best tasting cookies. I don't want to have to remember all that stuff. Even if I write it down I'll lose the note.

Put everything about purchasing or ordering a product in a simple easy to read and understand format. I frequently will go to a website to look at a product I might be interested in, and then call customer service to actually buy it since I prefer to speak with human beings. I basically don't like dealing with computers and am put off by being told I have to "trust" someone's website to function properly. That is like handing you my wallet and trust you will keep it safe for me. At least if I can hear a human voice I can get a sense of who the person might be. I want the person to confirm what I have read, and take my order so that I know I did pick the right stuff and, Yes, that is how much it will cost.

Don't make any assumptions as to how computer literate your customers might be. Check it out with other grumpy old men and see if it works in the real world of faulty memories and fat fingers. Remember that we can't set up our own cell phones, get the stupid VCR to cooperate with us, or get the signal restored on our satellite TV thingamabobby. We can however build rifle loads that will put 3 bullets inside of a quarter at 100 yards since it is a process with controllable variables that we can get our hands on and wrap our minds around.

Thanks from Gramps.

January 22, 2008, 12:35 PM

I applaud your choice in not using Flash elements which require users to download plugins. Your site is easy to navigate and well laid out as to content. If you are looking for different design software you might look at Dreamweaver.

January 22, 2008, 12:42 PM
From an ex-IT technical propeller head geek to another.
First - let me compliment you on asking the questions - and listening - to the 'Real' eyes that will potentially be scanning the web site you are building. Obviously also make sure that the 'owner', for who you are building the site, is happy with the end result.

But,ultimately - KISS - simple and fast, but with enough appropriate 'eye candie' to get and keep the attention of the surfer.
-beware of too many clicks
-beware of unnecessary technical buzz words - if used, use them in context.

January 22, 2008, 01:04 PM
Let's not forget about bandwidth. I don't know how many websites I've left because the images bogged it down. One example is Fusion Firearms website. Clean layout, but the images take forever to download. I can go make breakfast and it will still be downloading. Thumbnails! Click for larger image.
Not all of us see the necessity of getting faster than dial-up. At least not yet.

Oh, dropdown menus can be annoying. It may save on layout space but it is annoying for a lot of users. Especially if badly designed on the page. Which they almost always are. A prime example would be Chevrolet's website. I've said more than my allotment of expletives whenever I go to that site.

January 22, 2008, 01:06 PM
Unfortunately, if you have a small screen resolution, there is only so much i can do for you, since if i make the pages fit on a small screen they will look weird on the resolution that everyone elses.

here are the stats so far, by the way:
44.84% - 1024x768
39.33% - 1280x1024
9.11% - Unknown
4.56% - 800x600
2.16% - 1152x864

Thanks to everyone who says they think the site looks good. I am in the process of converting some layouts so hopefully it will only be getting better.

I hate flash, i am going to stick with javascript and css. I actually fired up dreamweaver the other day because i was so fed up with adobe contribute (what i use now). Though, its looking like i am going to be doing most of it in notepad.

By the way, the owner is very hesitant to offer credit card payments and paypal because he has heard of people getting screwed out of money online. i dont know how valid this is, but i dont make many transactions online, so i dont know. Can someone confirm or deny this. You guys buy/sell guns online, how do you make sure you dont get screwed?

Doggy Daddy
January 22, 2008, 01:25 PM
Very nice looking site, but I had a bit of a problem with navigation:

Once I went to the high res gallery, I couldn't find a direct way back to the rest of the site without hitting my "back" button repeatedly.

Hard to buy when you can't get out of the pictures. :D

January 22, 2008, 01:30 PM
A strong search feature is a must. Thumbnail previews of search results is great.

Strong navigation. Clean lines and appearance.

I personally like frames, as they keep navigation always close at hand.

But nice clean, small, fast loading pictures, that can be clicked and opened in a new popup window in greater detail.

January 22, 2008, 02:53 PM
Doggy Daddy:

Good call, ill try to fix that asap

Does this board not have a quote feature or am i just blind?

Doggy Daddy
January 22, 2008, 03:42 PM
Manually copy and paste the text you want to quote into the reply editing window. Highlight the quoted text, then click on the icon above the edit window that looks like a cartoon quote balloon.

January 22, 2008, 05:37 PM
Or you can use BBC code tags: left straight bracket, the word QUOTE in caps, right straight bracket, and close with left straight bracket, the cancelling slash (/), the word QUOTE in caps, and right straight bracket.

If you use the highlight and click method, you'll see this coding come out that way in the posting text window.

For me, this method works better, especially if I'm doing quotes within quotes. But I don't mind typing stuff out.

I know, I know, I'm just wierd. I know.

January 22, 2008, 05:42 PM
I like search functions where I can tell it to look in one specific subcatagory. I hate sites that have a ton of products, I want one specific thing, say 30-06 ammo, so I click on 'ammunition' and now A)I must click on rimfire/centerfire, then on handgun rifle shotgun, then on a list of calibers to finally get to the 30-06 OR B) there is a huge list of all the ammo, I am viewing 20 items per page, and there are 17 pages of stuff.

If I encouter A or B, I'd like to be able to just go to a search function and type in 30-06, and have it search ammo only (with the option to search the entire site) but most places only search the whole site, and with ammo names being numbers, I get a ton of false hits off of price, measurements, etc, in addition to all the guns the site has chambered in 30-06, 30-06 cleaning kits, 30-06 christmas ornaments, 30-06 cigarette lighters, "this belt ammo holder securely holds any common rifle catridges, like 30-06" etc etc so I still have a ton of stuff to wade through.

While this site is pretty sparse now, who knows what will eventually fit it, but I can already see someone who remembers a colt revolver with a certain grip material, say elk horn trying to find it again, and getting all the knives with elk horn grips rather than the one pistol he is trying to find, or put in a cartridge length for some of the oldies with different lenght cartidge options, and gettin knives with the same length blade, or vice versa.

January 22, 2008, 06:04 PM
I really like it.

I don't have much to add, except make sure and keep the breadcrumbs. Those really help me when looking around. Especially after a search really doesn't find what I need, I can at least use the crumbs to fall into the category I need.

January 22, 2008, 06:44 PM
Here are my two cents:

- Search is a must if you have lots of products

- Must have good navigation. Often this includes a toolbar menu with drop downs, a "cookie crumb" along the top to indicate the path navigated and hyperlinks to backtrack, AND a left side frame for an outline style. Don't make me drill through six layers of navigation to find something and then to change I have to back out

- As another poster said, give me some INFO about the products. I hate it when you see five similar products at different prices and no info about why I should spend $30 per mag instead of $10. At a minimum copy the text from the manufacturer, but add your own expertise/observations.

- Really nice to have links to review pages. These could be pages on another site, or articles you arranged to have permission to place on your own pages. Further down the road you could add the ability for customers to add their own comments. I love this capability and research products at Amazon (and often buy there) mainly because of the excellent input from other consumers.

- Consider using AJAX for your data controls if you have long selection lists and are changing the display based on selections. AJAX controls will directly interact with the server database without having to wait for the web page to be refreshed. The controls and page performance are much better.

- Make it font size browser scalable friendly. Many of us older guys have more money to buy stuff, but declining near vision. I like to change my browser to use larger fonts. But if you are placing text inside frames at absolute positions then the larger fonts cause the text to run together and overlap. Make your web page friendly to various display sizes and font sizes by keeping everything relational not absolute positioning and sized.

- Also, to help those of us with poor near vision, make sure the font is a good contrast to the background. Some sites like to use a lot of black background and blue or red text. Yuck! very bad for some of us. Most high volume sites have figured out that a mostly white background is not only the clearest to view but also very fast to display. Nothing wrong with white background and black or navy blue text.

- Use thumbnail pictures for the main page and allow those to be clicked on for a larger image to keep performance up and save on page real estate.

- For the few large images on the main pages (company logo, etc.) you can use some version of Flash graphics which display quickly and don;t take a huge amount of space.

Basically you need to decide if your site is going to be popular because it delivers products at the cheapest price, or whether you iff a competitive price but superior customer experience. If your boss is using low price as a competitive differentiator, than you can;t afford to spend a lot of effort and equipment on the web page. Keep it simple and invest more on search and navigation.

But, if customer experience is the differentiator, than think about what your company has to offer in terms of information and knowledge that can help the visiting customer. for instance, if some parts are often used together than TELL US THAT. I hate going to sites where you want to buy parts that are supposed to work together, and you may not know what are all of the parts that should be included. If you know it, then tell your customers. Even package it as an optional kit, but at least say something like, if you are buying Part 100 then you might also want to get Part 101, 102 and 103 as they are often used as a subassembly. You could even post instruction on how to use certain parts or equipment.

If customer experience is important and not so much on price, then make sure you have parts IN STOCK! and a selection to choose from, and pictures of them and info as to why someone would want to buy one item versus a similar cheaper one.

For instance, I was browsing for AR15 and M!4 mags. You wouldn't believe the number of sites that just list "AR15 mag, 30 rd. green follower" OK, but why do I want the $12.95 version with a orange follower rather than the $9.95 version with a green one. same with the M14, but in this case there is a huge difference and much lying about whether an M14 mag is USGI, current CMI milspec production, or third party knock-offs. In this case I would like to know for each mag:
- Is it USGI milspec? Who is the manufacturer or importer?
- What is the country of origin (I won't buy made in China and am willing to pay a premium for US made, or at least German made)
- What are the distinguishing features? (Is a green follower more or less reliable? Why would I want steel versus aluminum mags, etc.?)

For each item, pretend I walked into your store and said something like "I need to get some parts to do such and such, what do you recommend and why?" If you assume I know exactly what I want then the only thing you can compete on is selction and price.

January 22, 2008, 07:00 PM
Traditional Hunter,

When clicking on some of the pics, set your picture to open in _blank, its easy on dreamweaver, that way pics will open in a new window and you won't have to back out of the document.

Keep all backgrounds the same color, the switch to black from the tan background, made me think I was in a new site for a second.

I will have to look more later, but I am in class right now.

January 22, 2008, 07:08 PM
Your knife section is nice. It should be searchable so that someone looking for a specific make/model can find it. You could also lay out all the knives as small thumbnails that would all fit on a page that the customer could toggle to see your current product package. That way they see the whole inventory, look at the particular product with the specs and can still toggle onto the middle size image to get to the detailed images.

January 22, 2008, 09:27 PM
I looked into using ajax for some stuff on the site, but my current hosting is to crappy and it kills the load times. I do use some crazy javascript to make product boxes, actually. Your other suggestions about search will probably start applying to my site if the inventory shown on the site doubles. At that point ill probably be using JSPs and i can implement.
As far as better descriptions, i will talk to the owner, maybe he can provide them soon.
What kind of extra descriptions do you want to see other then the specs? I -personally- have no idea what else you can write about a gun, but thats because i never wrote much about any guns.

good call about the backgrounds, i will fix that soon. I use open source gallery software to drive the image galleries on the site, so integrating the two so they look nice is something i need to work on.
I am not a big fan of using too much _black targets, i think they are somewhat annoying if there are too many of them, plus lots of people block popups these days.

i like your idea about having just the pictures in a grid or something, when i move to jsp + database i will add that kind of a view, right now it would be too much extra work to keep all different views up to date by hand.

January 23, 2008, 09:49 AM
Unfortunately, if you have a small screen resolution, there is only so much i can do for you, since if i make the pages fit on a small screen they will look weird on the resolution that everyone elses.
I just found the text a little hard to read. My screen is a laptop, 1024X768. I thin k a different font, and maybe one step larger would make it much easier to read. it just comes across as stark. That is the only word I can use to describe it.

January 23, 2008, 09:52 AM
Ill see what i can do =)

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