Please critique my website (again)


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Monkeyleg
March 21, 2004, 07:09 PM
About five or six weeks ago I posted a thread asking people to critique a website I've created that allows visitors to find gun shops by map, state, brand, etc. An hour or so later I decided it was too early to let me idea get out, fearing that the big gun sites out there might do something to squash my idea, and asked the moderators to delete the thread.

Anyway, the site is now just about done, and in another week I'll be calling gun shop owners to have them try out the site for free for six months.

I know from conversations with many, many shop owners nationwide that I'll get them to subscribe. What I'm looking for is input on how to make the site more attractive to visitors as well as shop owners.

Right now there are no actual shops on the site, just some tests in Wisconsin and Alabama. And the Legislative News and Industry News links aren't yet functional.

This is going to take months before I know whether or not it will be a viable enterprise, during which time I'm going to be humping away seven days a week on it as I have been the last month or two. Any input is much appreciated.

The site is at http://www.gunshopfinder.com

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CB900F
March 21, 2004, 07:14 PM
Monleyleg;

Don't know how it is where you're at, but around these parts ( Rocky Mtn West ) a lot of gun activity takes place in pawn shops. If I were you, I'd give serious thought to expanding the data base in that direction.

900F

KaceCoyote
March 21, 2004, 07:23 PM
Asthetically, the sight is very well layed out. Its a simple color scheme and it works verywell. Dont you dare change that. The little picture of the glock, needs to go. I wont use your site unless its a Marlin :neener:

As for the pawn shop thingy, eh lets roll with what'cha got later and try to phase them in at a later date. I thought the site was clear, precise and easy to navigate. Putting shooting ranges may be a nice addition and down the road putting gunshows on the map may be advisable. I liked the maps. I liked the font, the colors. I didnt like the glock. :D

P95Carry
March 21, 2004, 07:24 PM
Nice clean appearance. I can only guess at all the work you have put in ... and hope it'll work out for you. Feel free to get in touch with various of us with regards to names of shops in our locals ... we can perhaps help you with contact info initially.

One small point .. I noticed some links at bottom ... and they were a blue on black. Horrible to read!! May I suggest those links be perhaps white, cream or similar ... and active perhaps yellow (or another light color) and visited perhaps a light grey. Just a 2c.:)

SiG Lady
March 21, 2004, 07:40 PM
Monkeyleg--

I sent you a PM with some constructive ideas for greater dynamic. Graphics and Web support are us. No sense doing the laundry or giving away trade secrets in public.

More later,

SiG Lady

fjolnirsson
March 21, 2004, 07:44 PM
Clean, easy to use, very nice!

You done good, Monkeyleg!
I like it.

Greg L
March 21, 2004, 07:47 PM
Perhaps something that will search by zip code. You enter yours & it gives you a list of shops withing a 25 (50, 100? Maybe you can set the distance) mile radius. Where I live I would have to search three different state's listings to see who was near me.

Greg

Wildalaska
March 21, 2004, 08:30 PM
Gonna be tough to get people to subscibe to something they can get for free (a listing in a directory)...on the other hand, if ya charge $1 per year for the listing, and ya get 30,000 shops to subscribe...

WildcapitalismAlaska

Highland Ranger
March 21, 2004, 08:49 PM
User Experience: Front page is too wordy and shouldn't have to scroll.

Database is empty. Don't go live until it is not.

Re business model - they subscribe for free and then what? They pay? Sold yellow page ads in my youth; tough business and everyone uses the yellow pages. Web listing is that much harder because it is more nebulous.

How do you prove the listing is working? Or worth paying for?

You need to make some argument like if the web site gets you X new customers, then it paid for itself.

So you need to prove the site is driving traffic to the stores.

Suggest if you have the cash to offer a $25 (or some other amount that is worth bothering over) certificate from the site redeemable for purchases made at the gun shop for purchases over X amount. One shot deal per customer.

If the shop gets more than some number, they agree to suscribe to the site for some time period (you work out the math)

If they agree with the math it's a win-win deal. Might be expensive at first but . . . .

Combine that deal with some reporting of web stats, like we displayed your business listing 200 times this month and you may have something if you can drive the traffic there.

Monkeyleg
March 21, 2004, 11:44 PM
Thanks for the feedback. Wildalaska, at the end of the six-month trial period, they can choose to keep the shop's free listing, or pay $10 a month which includes the following: a full page on the site where the shop owner can enter as much information as he wants, including photos; unlimited classifed ads; being able to be found by map, city, or by the brands the shops carries.

In a couple of months, I'll be expanding the site so that those who have hard to find models can be found by just clicking "find it" on the product page. For example, let's say you've got an Ed Brown Kobra Carry on your shelves. Visitors who check out the Ed Brown Kobra Carry page will be able to click on the "Find It" button to locate shops who have that hard-to-find model available immediately, instead of waiting for their local shop to bring it in.

Highland Ranger, I've already done the "noindex/nofollow" meta tags, as well as the "disregard" lines in the robots.txt file. I won't let the search engines index the site until there's sufficient content to keep visitors happy. I figure that will probably be about 2 to 2 1/2 months out. As far as a certificate from the site is concerned, I'd certainly entertain the idea of shop owners including that on their webpage. But, from experience with doing just that for shops in my area, the owners didn't like giving away more free stuff just to gauge the effectiveness of their presence on the site. Given that I'll only be charging them $10 a month for all the benefits, I wonder if having coupons, etc would go beyond what the shops are willing to commit to have a web presence. Again, it's their call. Any other ideas are very much welcome. And, yes, the front page is too wordy. I have to figure a way to get all the selling points distilled into a couple of paragraphs.

CB900F, pawn shops are on my list to call as well.

P95Carry, the hard-to-read links at the bottom are just a temporary thing. All they do is duplicate the links shown on the left-side menu. I just have them there to remind myself which links have to be included in what will be the site map that the search engines like to crawl.

It wouldn't be impossible to give each shop an idea of how many visitors they're getting, but I question whether that would translate into actual sales that they could quantify. The example I always point to is Yellow Pages ads. How many new customers walk into a shop saying, "wow, I just saw your Yellow Pages ad and decided to shop here!" Barring the unusual kook, probably not many. But, given that a business-card size Yellow Pages ads runs about $300-$400 a month around here, I just have to believe that having a presence on a high-traffic site for so little cash is something that many shop owners will find attractive. Anecdotally, that's the feedback I've been getting.

I'll certainly give them traffic stats and the ability to look at the web stats. Keep in mind that, after the trial period is over, their cost to subscribe is $10 a month. If they don't want to pay that $10, they still get the shop name, city and phone number listed for free. If they want to pay, then they get the full web page and all the other stuff I described above.

Greg, the software required to locate by zip code is not only expensive, but also less than reliable. I'm hoping that people are sharp enough to be able to find themselves--or where they're going--on a map.

KaceCoyote, the Glock is just there for now on most of the pages. That line drawing icon will rotate from page to page, depending upon manufacturer.

I got to thinking about this site idea back in November, and started calling shops around the country for feedback. By December I decided that the idea had real potential. By January I decided that I'd commit this whole year--and money to keep food on the table--to making it work.

So, please, let the critiques keep coming. And I hope the moderators think that this thread is gun-related enough to keep it open.

J.J.
March 21, 2004, 11:59 PM
A thought.

Texas needs to be split up into multiple parts in the find by map section. Such a large state everything was shoved into a small area

Monkeyleg
March 22, 2004, 12:29 AM
JJ: "Texas needs to be split up into multiple parts in the find by map section. Such a large state everything was shoved into a small area."

Leave it to a Texan to want more real estate than anyone else. ;)

Seriously, are the shops down in TX concentrated pretty much in the urban areas, or are they spread out? If the shops are all over, I'll do two or four sections for Texas.

I'd do two or four sections of Alaska, except that bears haven't yet caught on to the idea of advertising. (Just waiting now for Wildalaska to come back at me for that).

NightWolfe
March 22, 2004, 06:46 AM
There is no reason the page should be longer than the content .. so make sure it cuts off .. also .. your bottom navigation IMHO should be at the bottom of your content .. and then your disclaimer/copyright stuff should be below that ..

Eskimo Jim
March 22, 2004, 01:59 PM
Monkeyleg,
I enjoyed your website, especially the books list. I'd write up a review of the book if you've read it.

As far as finding gun shops in states, I usually go to www.theultimates.com, choose yellow pages, and type in gun and the state that I want. The results are a list of gun shops in the state or city that chose.

If any interest me, I can then go immediately to a map or driving directions.

-Jim

Monkeyleg
March 22, 2004, 02:28 PM
Nightwolfe, there's a reason why the black and gray boxes extend so far down the page: because many of the pages are "dynamic," the amount of content may vary. Thus, the black box below the content "floats." If the black and gray boxes don't extend very far down the page, some pages will have the black end before the gray, or vice versa. I have yet to find a way to stop the scrolling past a certain point.

As mentioned in my previous posts, the navigation text in the black box at the bottom will be going away.

Jim, I'm glad you like the site. Certainly people can look online for the name and phone number of a shop. The purpose of this site is to give shop owners the opportunity to give a very complete, glowing description of their shop. For shop owners who don't want the hassle of a web site, this is I think a cheap alternative. Even those who already have sites will be able to link to their own off a page on my site. And, given what I've learned about and accomplished with search engine optimization, potential customers will find those shops on my site a lot faster than the shops' own sites.

Please keep the comments/criticisms coming!

sturmruger
March 22, 2004, 02:35 PM
Looks great Dick. I will add that to my favorites list and keep and eye on it.

Third_Rail
March 22, 2004, 02:44 PM
It's a fantastic idea, but $10/month is STEEP. I'd suggest having it $20/year if that'll keep you online. Again, think of how many shops would rather pay a smaller amount than pay more. You'd get more business in the end by charging less.

Eskimo Jim
March 22, 2004, 03:04 PM
Dic (Monkeyleg),

Third rail is right. If you keep it cheap enough, you will get more shops listed. Keep it low to get people onboard.

-Jim

Monkeyleg
March 22, 2004, 03:23 PM
When I started researching this idea, I mentioned the $10 a month figure to a number of shop owners, and they thought it was way too cheap. Interesting, Jim and Third_Rail, that you think it's steep. Perhaps I should gather opinions from more shop owners before committing to a price.

Third_Rail
March 22, 2004, 03:34 PM
Sounds much better. The reason I say no more than $20/year is that "smallish" gunstores that currently have websites would still be enticed, for they'd get a page and be paying less than it would cost them to host it.

Ironbarr
March 22, 2004, 04:14 PM
Well, what you could do is make a deal for a box of xyz ammo a month and/or a gun a year (or a reasonable - major - discount on any particular gun.

Hmmm... so much fun to have - so little time for fun.

Beware: You'll have to have a large storage for your armory/magazine... oh well... just charge the pawn shops money... they have it.

:D :evil: :what:

-Andy

Nando Aqui
March 23, 2004, 08:09 AM
Whether $10 a month is too much or $20 a year to little you won't really find out until you try it. I would suggest that whatever figure you choose, make it on an annual basis, otherwise they may cut and run before you have a chance to develop and grow the site. Perhaps $60/year?

Good luck!

Alex

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