Winning websites1 October 2011
The new Website of the Year category in this year’s TTJ Awards attracted a bumper crop of entries from across the timber industry. Ecce Media’s Brant McNaughton, who helped judge the Award, reports
• The new TTJ Website of the Year Award was sponsored by Daltons Wadkin.
• The winner was Howarth Timber Group.
• Accsys Technologies for www.Accoya.com and Surreal Creative/ Sonae Industria for www.innovus.co were finalists.
The judges of the inaugural TTJ Website of the Year Award, sponsored by Daltons Wadkin, were equally impressed by the quality and calibre of the entries. As such it proved difficult whittling them down to our top three, but ultimately three websites shone out as exemplars of using web technology within the timber industry.
The winning pitch
The winner was Howarth Timber Group (www.howarth-timber.co.uk) whose redesigned website aimed to create an integrated web presence for the UK’s largest privately-owned and operated timber and building products group.
The brief for Harris Associates, a company that was already working with Howarth in a public relations capacity, was “to present the extensive array of products and services offered by the Group in an accessible and attractive way”.
The size, diversity, experience and professionalism of the Group also needed to be communicated clearly and the final site would be required to drive sales and deliver a strong return on investment.
Alongside the overall brief, the project called for the following objectives to be met:
• create a highly visual site, engaging and rich in both text and image content;
• incorporate good quality copywriting that would facilitate effective search engine optimisation (SEO);
• the inclusion of a full content management system (CMS), allowing for the site to be refreshed, expanded and developed simply and quickly by colleagues in the Howarth Timber Group;
• introduce and support supply partners within the site;
• drive sales and enquiries through the site;
• link to the Howarth Online store;
• incorporate social media facilities and interact with visitors through competitions and other means.
With hundreds of individual product ranges and dedicated window and door and timber engineering divisions, the need to create a simple and user-focused system of navigation was critical. The decision was made to create individual sections within the site, running under relevant branding, namely: Howarth Timber & Building Supplies; Howarth Windows & Doors; Howarth Timber Engineering; Howarth Self-Build.
Frontline navigation is broken down into clearly defined branded sections, maintaining corporate structure and also ensuring the visitor can easily locate relevant information. The approach also keeps navigational clicks to a minimum, allowing the visitor to move between sections simply and clearly.
Corporate information is kept separate from product-led information to help maintain defined sections and to reduce duplication – a central issue associated with the previous Howarth Timber Group website.
All “first level” product information is product-, rather than brand-led. This allows for more generic grouping and, compared with the previous site, a more user-friendly approach.
Lower levels of product pages introduce branding and also link to individual “supplier profiles”, one of the key requirements of the new site. The supplier profiles help to show the strong relationships the Group enjoys with its supply chain, while also promoting strong SEO and supporting individual suppliers.
With clear “enquire now” links on all relevant pages, the site has proven to be a great success in driving enquiries and sales leads, which have translated into actual sales.
The effectiveness of the site is evident from Google analytics. It is attracting an average of 30,000 visits a month, and the average time each visitor is spending on the site has increased to 2.3 minutes.
Visitor numbers to the Howarth Online store have also increased, from an average of 526 a month to nearly 6,000, as have online sales.
Added features such as competitions and free USB sticks containing Howarth’s literature, plus a satellite site – www.howarth-inspire.co.uk – featuring a collection of inspirational lifestyle and sustainability focused products, all add to the visitor experience.
At the heart of the site is a simple, intuitive CMS which incorporates time-saving features such as auto-resizing of images, image cropping and hiding pages rather than deleting them outright. This allows the site to be maintained in-house by Howarth and for the site to expand, providing an online presence for the Group for the foreseeable future.
The judges’ verdict
Howarth Timber Group is a perfect example of a company embracing the web to promote its brand, services and products effectively. One of the successes of the recent redesign for the timber group’s collection of sites is to combine its diverse range of services, together with its multiple business divisions, into a clear online presence.
As part of the redesign, careful consideration was given to the site architecture, producing a well thought-out change from the previous incarnation of the site. The resulting navigation scheme is user-friendly and allows the visitor to easily traverse the portfolio of sites.
In addition to the navigation, the engaging design and copy evident throughout Howarth’s site received equally high scores from the judges.
Showing a keen focus on a website’s need for a return on investment, the site directs the visitor to their desired goals. These clearly defined enquiry points are carried throughout the site, targeting and training visitors to make contact, driving leads and sales online.
Dispensing with the unnecessary bells, whistles and gimmicks that are now possible with newer web technologies, the site content is refreshingly informative, focusing on quality content, resulting in a solid, professional corporate image desired by the timber group.
By choosing to house this website within a content management system Howarth has enabled this quality content to be kept fresh and relevant by its in-house team.
By all accounts the online store is proving a great success. It is a deserving winner.