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CascadeStar.com - Fine Jewelry Website

CascadeStarCascadeStar subscriber Posts: 3
edited February 2010 in Website Critique
Hello all,
www.cascadestar.comWe launched the CascadeStar.com website in October 2007 and have found some deficiencies in the web design (no SEO, some poor AJAX implementation, and several things) that we are planning to correct through a re-design.  In the meantime, I would appreciate some feedback on this website that I can forward to the web design team.  Thanks in advance for your feedback.- RushabhCascadeStar1/10/2008 9:17 PM


  • CascadeStarCascadeStar subscriber Posts: 3
    Thanks for your input.  We have analyzed the branding position and our proposition is that the online availability of high-end diamond jewelry designs and the tremendous value we offer are what separates us from others - you won`t be able to find similar high-end designs with similar diamond quality, carat weight, gold weight, etc. at better value anywhere else, online or offline (in fact, you would be hard-pressed to find such high-end jewelry for sale online except at sites like Tiffanys.com).  Sure you can find cheap design imitations elsewhere but if you want premium materials and superb craftmanship without the huge retail premium, CascadeStar.com is the place to be.Our design philosophy for the website is to give it the look-and-feel of an art gallery-cum-retail store so we aren`t trying to be anything like bluenile.com or ice.com with their complicated websites.  If you have suggestions as to how we may position our brand better on the website without taking away from the art gallery look, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Thanks! CascadeStar1/10/2008 7:47 PM
  • CascadeStarCascadeStar subscriber Posts: 3
    Okay, I can see that. However, there isn`t anything at the moment that
    speaks out about that high-end luxury jewelry.
    .What would you recommend in terms of website design or text that would get the message out to the visitors?  Is there another website that you think has a good design concept in showcasing luxury products?  I`m eager for some specific suggestions that could help maximize the brand positioning.  
    One option would be to hire a seriously professional product
    photographer, who not only does basic pictures, but can introduce some
    art-level quality to your images
    .The photography was developed by a professional jewelry photographer who has done photography work for jewelry designers in major magazine publications; the same photography has been vetted by our jewelry consultant with over 25 years of experience in the luxury jewelry market.  What deficiencies did you notice in the photography that we may have overlooked?The all-white background might be
    changed to then better show off your jewelry..The white background was meant to match the bridal theme which is one of our market segments.  
    Bottom line, although you`ve explained it here on the forum, the site
    itself seems to me to fall short of that explanation. Make sense?
    .It would be helpful if you could provide specific details that would give me an idea of why it falls short of the explanation.  CascadeStar1/11/2008 1:41 AM
  • vwebworldvwebworld subscriber Posts: 40
    Certainly some SEO work is needed, page titles, descriptions, etc.
    Another thing to do is to move all the style code into a CSS file and out of the web pages` html.
    As far as the site design, colors, etc... I find it to be good. It communicates a high end store. The images do not stand out as much as they would on a dark background, but it is fine as is.
    I`ve seen a lot of jewelry stores that display images on black or dark backgrounds, but I have also seem high end jewerly site with white or light backgrounds - more so lately.
  • CascadeStarCascadeStar subscriber Posts: 3
    hostclick, thank you for your great advice!  I appreciate that you took some time to look over the website.  Please feel free to email me more technical advice anytime!

    A couple things I would do:

    - For the product listing use pagination instead of the iframe / frame you are using. I think it *could* be confusing to some. [/quote]
    We did have pagination without iframe scrolling prior to the launch but changed it to a complete iframe layout for the simple reason that we did not want customers to click too many times to get to the jewelry designs they wanted to see.  Our design philosophy is to minimize the number of clicks for our customers (to save them time) by maximizing the visual information that they can access quickly.  That would explain why the left side of the sub-category pages (eg. Rings -> Fashion) shows a huge picture.  As the customer mouses over the thumbnails on the right, they can see a blown-up picture of that design and if they like it, they can click on it to get to the product page itself.  That saves a lot of time for the customer.
    - I would personally change the layout of product list page so that you don`t have a huge picture on the left side. I would make the list itself the main focus and put the large image on the product description page itself. I would make it so that if a user mouses over the smaller product image a larger one is displayed (so they don`t have to load the product page just to see the larger image).
    This is the effect that you see in the sub-category pages.  The huge picture on the left side changes with the mouse-over.  So when you mouse over from one thumbnail to another on the right side, the left side picture changes accordingly.  
    -The products seem to blend together to me so I would alter the color of each "row" or at a minimum put a border on the bottom to draw a distinct line between products.- Pad the small images so when the black border shows (onmouseover) it doesn`t shift everything.
    Yes, both changes are part of our re-design.   
    - Because your images are larger and they don`t display until the ajax request is complete sometimes they don`t show immediately and sometimes not at all (Firefox I would lose the ajax period and use macromedia`s mouseover code to preload the images (provided you switch to pagination and only load a couple products per page).
    I have communicated this information to the web design firm who is doing the re-design.  
    It looks like a custom cart in java and if this is the case I`m curious why you went that route instead of using an off the shelf product.
    We decided a long time ago that everything (including the live chat module which is based on open-source Crafty Syntax) would be custom so that we could scale to an enterprise-grade web site based on JSP, JBoss, Linux, and MySQL as the company grows.  The idea was to quickly implement the latest web technologies into the website and also to give us unlimited flexibility in customizing the shopping cart and checkout process experience. CascadeStar1/13/2008 12:33 AM
  • CascadeStarCascadeStar subscriber Posts: 3
    I just noticed the cart isn`t working properly. If I change the quantity the drop down menu is correct but the text above says:

    "Your cart contains [1] item(s)"

    Even though the cart has 5 items. Worse yet if I hit "Continue to Checkout" I get the following:

    "Please select at least one item to check out."

    Thanks for this info.  This is why we`re doing the re-design of the whole checkout process - those are the little problems that need to be fixed.  As for the error message "Please select at least one item to check out",  you are getting that because you need to check the checkbox to the left of the item in the cart to select them for the checkout process.  This allows you to choose only the jewelry designs that you want to purchase while leaving the rest in your shopping cart for later purchase.  
  • CascadeStarCascadeStar subscriber Posts: 3

    Certainly some SEO work is needed, page titles, descriptions, etc. Another thing to do is to move all the style code into a CSS file and out of the web pages` html. As far as the site design, colors, etc... I find it to be good. It communicates a high end store. The images do not stand out as much as they would on a dark background, but it is fine as is. I`ve seen a lot of jewelry stores that display images on black or dark backgrounds, but I have also seem high end jewerly site with white or light backgrounds - more so lately. ~Roland

    Roland,  Thank you for your comments and for taking the time in viewing the website.  I have forwarded your comments about the CSS to the web designers.  We`re going to incorporate SEO into the re-design.  Feel free to email me more comments anytime.  
  • LiveWiseLiveWise subscriber Posts: 5
    I think your jewelry is very nice, however, there is a reason that jewerly is almost always dispalyed against a dark, rich color (However, I forgot why since I don`t work in the jewelry field.  I think it was to set off the brilliance and sparkle more.)  Seems like the colors are black, deep blue, and deep red.
    I was also unimpressed with the store front.  No image appeared and it was just the thumbnails.  Also, expensive jewelry is not something I would buy over the internet.  I want to try on several styles, wear it, see the sparkle, and see the eyes of my boyfriend when they how much it costs. 
  • vwebworldvwebworld subscriber Posts: 40
    There are a lot of diamond and jewelry stores that use a light or white background.
    A quick search on diamonds and jewelry found these:http://www.diamondsafe.com/diamonds.asp







    Shopping online for high ticket jewelry does demand a high degree of trust to be built between the seller and buyer. One way to help is to have a good return policy and good customer service and help with the purchase process like an online chat feature or telephone number the potential buyer can call to ask any questions about selecting the prefect jewelry item.
    CascadeStar does have a return policy similar the the major jewelry stores (30 days). You might make that more prominent "30 day money back guarantee" or something like that...plus have real customer testimonials to assure potential buyers that this is a safe purchase.
    vwebworld1/14/2008 9:28 AM
  • CascadeStarCascadeStar subscriber Posts: 3

    I was also unimpressed with the store front.  No image appeared and it was just the thumbnails.  Also, expensive jewelry is not something I would buy over the internet.  I want to try on several styles, wear it, see the sparkle, and see the eyes of my boyfriend when they how much it costs. 

    Natalie,Thanks for your response.  I am surprised that you did not see the large image on the left.  What browser and platform are you on?  I would appreciate that info.Regarding your concerns about purchasing expensive jewelry on the website, that appears to be the most common issue that puts Cascade Star at a disadvantage compared to bricks & mortar retailers.  As Roland pointed out, we try to overcome this disadvantage by offering a friendly no-questions-asked return policy and excellent customer service.  In our re-design, we`re going to offer intensive education on jewelry buying, jewelry manufacturing, and jewelry care.  I think that the biggest advantage over retail stores that may overcome your concerns is the fact that we offer far better value than any retail store.  For example, if you see something on our website for $2,000, you can expect to pay at least $4,000 for a similar design at a retail store (just compare the total diamond carat size and gold weight to get an apples-to-apples comparison).   When folks say that they would prefer to buy from retail stores because they can try on and wear it, I often point out that they would be paying a healthy premium for that privilege (not to mention dealing with less-than-honest salespeople in some cases).  With our return policy, you can try out and wear it and return it within 30 days for any reason.  The only difference is that you have to go through FedEx instead of burning shoe leather and as you probably know, your purchase has ironclad protection through your credit card with a maximum of $50 liability.  
  • CascadeStarCascadeStar subscriber Posts: 3
    Hello all,
    We launched our re-designed website a few weeks ago.  We have made a lot of changes to the front-end, especially in the product page.  Let me know if the time and money were well worth spent on the re-design project.  Thanks!
  • cdbartworkcdbartwork subscriber Posts: 11
    I viewed the site from the first posting and it lacks color and drama. I understand that you have high end jewelry; diamonds etc. which are clear, bright and sparkling but you need some color within the site to have these pieces pop out and still look high end. There is definitely a difference between how you display in a brick and mortar store, which would be on a white or light background, and how the work should be displayed on the internet. Black can suck the color out of a piece in person, but this might work on the internet. I would give it a try.
  • infiltainfilta subscriber Posts: 8
    IDK, I like rings photos on white background, no blue or anything, unless they`re photographed on some fine fabric.
    Anyway, I don`t see a point in discussing your current site if you intend to redesign it soon. You need ideas for the future site, right?
  • CascadeStarCascadeStar subscriber Posts: 3
    Very nice Y`know, watching the image come in at the start of each
    category page (I found myself wandering around, looking at all the
    categories, so you`re definitely pulling me in...), I got to thinking.
    Would it be very time intensive if you were to use that category main picture as a sort of highlight on featured products?
    In other words, you`ve got all this extra whitespace around that image,
    and it could be working for you. If you were to put a featured
    bracelet, for example, as your main image for "Bracelets," you also
    have room for some sales text below that. It`d be discrete, nice, and
    go along with the overall site style, but it could bring people to
    maybe a whole page that`s devoted to special items? Maybe?

    Craig,  Thanks for your input.  Yes, what you are suggesting is something that I had in mind for a long time and it is on my list of minor tweaks to the re-design.  I intend to put the design title and price in the white space under the image so that folks will have more incentive to click on that image.  It will be very discreet text, though, so as not to take away from the "art gallery" look of the image (the large amount of white space you see is intentional).  
  • CascadeStarCascadeStar subscriber Posts: 3
    The usability is definitely better but I do have two suggestions:

    1. I like the zoomify effect but zoomed all the way out (which is the default) on most of the products makes the images blur a little. I would suggest starting them at zoom level 2. [/quote]
    I`m glad there is another person who is noticing this same blurring issue.  I thought it was just me or that it would escape attention but if you could see it, then so can my customers.  I`ll ask my developers to make the default zoom level at 2 or higher to avoid the blurring effect.  
    2. At the head of each category put a image that represents the category. The text links are ok but I think you would do better with image links.
    An image would mess up the navigation breadcrumb from an aesthetic point of view.  The reason is that the category will be an image but the rest of the breadcrumb will be text links (they have to be text links due to the dynamic nature of the breadcrumbs).  Not only that, but it will also make the pages look more busier which may take away from the "art gallery" look I`m trying to achieve.  
    Also in FF the "A" in the text blurb under pendants is not at the beginning of the sentence.
    Thanks!  This has been corrected.
  • VideographyVideography subscriber Posts: 401 Silver Level Member
    This is the first time I saw the site, and right off the top - the photos are perfect.

    Like Craig, I did find the site compelling to investigate, not just for the photos (my business), but for the information.  I would, however, add a photo on the landing page of a model`s hand and wrist (holding a bouquet) showing off some of your work.  Maybe the neckline of a bride wearing one of your necklaces.

    Get rid of the Site Pal cartoon characters.  They add nothing to the site and may be hurting your high-end image.I did enjoy reading about the process, etc.  I`ve never seen this much information on the web before - it almost looks like you are taking me on a tour of the facility.  Of course, I would recommend a video for this purpose, or at least a slide show with better narration and background music.I also agree with Craig that you need to reassure the client that they are safe spending this much money to an Internet Merchant.Hope this helps
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