Call me a nitpicker. A vending machines armchair expert. A design hypocrite. After all, I’m preaching to all my clients that form should derive from function. But today, I am going to challenge myself and embrace a more flashy take on web design. Call it a Thursday evening rant, but don’t leave it unsanctioned if you think it crosses the line.
Case study? The VendingWorld website, snapshot above – the online front-end of an established company trading in sunny California, USA. I stumbled upon it mainly by accident and now I cannot get it out of my mind. Is it working for them? I guess it does. But here are the few usability / design points I’d like to make – feel free to add your own:
Make Your Site Easy To Read
The font is small. The menu is designed with mouse-type precision in mind. There is a lot of information on the homepage, and also a lot to take in. For many sites the homepage is the top of the funnel, and this site seems to be heavily optimized for organic search. But it should not do that at the expense of clean layout and navigation. Even Google will one day start to understand it’s not about how much content you put out there, but how your users interact with it.
Contextual Navigation Is Key
Anywhere you land on the VendingWorld site, the focus is on vending machines, their parts, their industry and supporting business model. But the visitor can easily be overwhelmed and not sure what he or she is expected to do. Clearly – to click somewhere and go to the next page, but what would that be? Calls-to-action could be highlighted better – sometimes leaving some white space around and making them bigger really helps CTAs stand out and lead visitors to the next page on their journey.
Clear Taxonomy Improves Navigation
Looking at the menu categories, it all seems to make sense. Until you realize certain models of used vending machines are supposed to be put forward, part of a time-limited sale (Sale Machines). Since they are not vending machines that dispense “sale” of any kind, they should not mingle with the rest of the machine models (snack, beverage, energy etc). Simple fix: create a separate menu entry, and highlight the time-limited factor to induce some pressure towards clicking on it. And don’t take my word for it – run an A/B test and figure it out properly. Maybe the purchase cycle for vending machines does not suit time-limited promotions and you’d be better discarding it altogether in favor of simplifying the site or better, replace it with another discount model (volume buy, value upsells etc).
Don’t Contact Us, We’ll Contact You – Email Submission Form
Okay, maybe not ask for quote, but ask a question. Leave your details. Enroll to our newsletter. Damn it, I will say it: “give us your e-mail address”. Sites bring leads. Leads bring business. Just do it and save yourself the embarrassment of NOT having a list. And if you’re at it, maybe offer me a visible phone number to reach you and even a live chat box during your opening hours.
Anyone For Vending Machines Photos?
When certain businesses go online, you know they are doomed with content challenges – my favorite ones are B2C coaching and consulting sites. They simply cannot provide any meaningful photos because their service and relation with the client is not visual in any way. But physical products, and especially some that have more detail and intricacies than wooden pellets or spare bulbs? Snap them and film them and put everything out there – Google Images is part of Universal Search results, and that drives real visits plus gives you a lot of cred in your industry. Gone already looking for the camera?
Mobile Is Not A Fad
Vending machines are by definition operating in locations remote from their owners – see about vending routes and all that. So it’s likely for your vending machine owner to be browsing from his mobile or tablet from some movie hall, school ground or train station, looking for advice, a spare part or a bargain on used vending machines someone already has in stock and ready to ship. Go mobile-friendly and snap that business early – just because the vending industry is venerable it does not mean your site has to be, too.
I hope these ideas help other businesses as well, or at least make my savvy readers reconsider who is it that they build websites for. If you have your own stories or critique to share, do not hesitate to reach out and submit your piece for publication. Have fun!
Trackback from your site.