Why Most Product Websites Make Me Sad: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsightly

I recently got a comment on my Facebook page asking for examples of what I consider good home pages for websites selling physical products.

Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of a single one.  Yep, that’s right, I couldn’t bring to mind even one example from recent memory of a website selling physical products that made a lasting impression on me. 

Then I remembered I’d stumbled on some I loved in the last year or so, but dang it, I didn’t make a note of them at the time, so they disappeared from my memory like a fine vapor, just like that.

And that is unfortunate. 

But it highlights the big problem with many e-commerce and product sites: most are entirely forgettable.

What bugs me about the default kind of product website (examples coming up) is there’s no wooing of, and engaging with, the prospective buyer. Many of these sites feature tons of images with short and boring product descriptions (well, if they have to be boring, at least they’re short, right?), how to order info, and not much else. It’s all, “Well, here’s what we got; we couldn’t be bothered to make it look/feel/seem compelling or desirable in any way – so how many bracelets/hoodies/cheese logs do ya want?”

Plus, there’s not much to differentiate one site selling jewelry/clothing/food items/what-have-you from the next.  Most are soulless, corporate things that don’t move or excite the likely buyer, or call up any emotion at all, except for “Next!” as the potential customer hits the back button or navigates back to Google from whence they came.

Here’s what I’m talking about.  One of these sites is trying to sell us some lovely Wrangler Jeans, and the other, sterling silver jewelry:

Jeans {<– Click here}

Sterling Silver Jewelry  {<– Click here}

Notice the cold, impersonal feel.  Notice how everything is jammed together on the page, with nary a finely turned phrase anywhere to increase desire for or connection to the products, or paint a picture of how wonderful it would feel to own them.  This makes me sad.

What you want is personality.  Memorability.  Warmth and approachability. Copy that engages with the likely buyer on an emotional level, copy that forges a human connection. You want to give your web visitors an experience. We’ve talked about using personality to connect with ideal customers and stand out online before here and here.

Ok, you say, now I know what ineffective product site home pages look like, but what about product website homepages that get it (mostly) right, ones that exude warmth, personality and a sense of connection, sites that are memorable, engaging, and use copy well? Well, I toiled over my computer to find you a couple of examples, so let’s take a look at those, shall we?

Daniella Draper Jewellery 

Take a look at this site. {Click on company name above} It’s beautifully designed. It’s memorable. It’s evocative.  There’s a person looking directly at you as soon as you land on the page. There’s warmth and a sense of human connection. The likely buyer of this jewelry (or “jewellery,” as it’s spelled here) is going to be intrigued enough to want to scroll down and find out more.  It employs easy and intuitive web navigation.

Admittedly, there’s not much copy on the home page, but there are several markers of personality, warmth, and humanness, from the image of the young woman at the top of the page, to the picture of Daniella herself, to the Instagram feed featuring shots of Real! Live! People! wearing the jewelry and otherwise keeping it real, as the youngsters say.

Two of the brief bits of copy on the home page – “Beautifully British: Handcrafted Silver Jewellery,” and “Incredibly unique, designed and handmade by Daniella Draper” – begin to give you a glimmer of what you can expect from your experience here, and naturally compel you to explore more of the site if you’re the likely customer for this handmade jewelry.

Compare this site to the two I linked up above, where as many products as possible are crammed onto one page, making the products look janky and cheap, even if they’re not.

Hiut Denim Co. 

Again, notice the beautiful design and easy and intuitive web navigation. {Click on company name above}

The “Do One Thing Well” tagline instantly conveys passionate attention to detail, a love for going above and beyond to craft something amazing. And the images and home page copy all support the “do one thing well” ethos.  Very nice.

But here’s what I simply adore about the Hiut Denim site: its fantastic use of a Founder Story to set itself apart from all the other companies online selling premium denim.

Check out the “our story” copy on the home page to see what I mean. It’s actually more than just a founder story – it’s the story of how Hiut Denim helped Cardigan, a small town in Wales once home to the biggest jeans factory in Britain, get back on its feet again after the jeans manufacturing operation moved to Morocco.

How can you not love this? –> “So we decided 4 decades worth of know-how shouldn’t go to waste. That’s why the Hiut Denim Company was born: To get the town making jeans again.” Call me crazy, but that actually gives me chills.  

And talk about differentiation!  What a powerful and effective way to set themselves apart from other premium denim purveyors and forge an emotional connection with the likely buyer – because after all, you’re not just buying finely crafted and beautiful denim, you’re helping a town hold on to its livelihood.

The J. Peterman Company  

Ok, so this isn’t a product company home page, but I always have to share the genius of J. Peterman when I’m talking about pitch-perfect product copy, because it’s the pinnacle of gorgeous and evocative product copywriting. {Click on company name above}

The beautifully written copy here reads like a story, one you aspire to become a part of, or one you identify with, if you happen to be the likely buyer. (And that is who we’re talking to after all – we’re not trying to convince the unlikely buyer to buy our stuff, we’re trying to appeal to those with a predisposition or pre-existing hankering for the product.)

As humans, we’re hardwired to respond to stories, and the copy on the J. Peterman site taps into that longing brilliantly.

If your business sells products of any kind, your time would be well-spent studying the compelling product copy on the J. Peterman site.

Conclusion

What do these product company web pages have in common?  They are evocative. They convey warmth, soul, and personality.  They are approachable. They make an emotional connection.  There are actual human beings involved. They make you want to stick around and explore, even if you’re not planning to buy the goods right now.  They are memorable.

And importantly, the combination of web copy, photography, graphics, and the stories they choose to tell all work together to create an experience that will resonate with the likely buyer. This is what you want.  

In the comments below, I’d love for you to share your favorite product websites and tell me why they resonate with you.  (Even if it’s your own!) Go ahead, share your thoughts; I’d love to see what other product sites out there are making an impact!

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Comments

  1. Janet says:

    Hi ya Kimberly

    Such a great post. I too get sadden by the homepages i see. I just want to jump into the email and send the owner a heart felt email explaining why their homepage isn’t approachable. But i don’t. People don’t react good to strangers not like the thing they have slaved over for days or months. So i do it through my blog.

    Thinking on how we buy and what feels good to us is not mimicked on peoples own sites. I don’t get it. When i was starting out i was viewing all kinds of homepages who had huge marketing budgets. so i new what they did on their sites was not a decision taken lightly.

    I don’t have a store i can say yes. But i do have sites i use for examples when talking about this very issue a while ago. http://bellroy.com/ http://www.mrsbowtie.com/ & http://www.penshop.co.uk/ . I loved the pen site it was one of the sites i used myself back in the day. Why because it shows how a boring object to many has to become the most exciting thing on earth to the sellers and how they get that across to potential customers.

    Blessings Janet

    • Kimberly says:

      Hi Janet, thanks for stopping by to comment, I appreciate it.

      I agree — with the right kind of appeal to the likely buyer through effective copywriting, even the most boring thing can be compelling and crave-able!

      Cheers,
      Kimberly

  2. Tara says:

    Hi Kimberly,

    I believe that the Facebook post that you refer to in this blog post is mine : )

    After reading your newsletter about good home page examples, I asked for good examples of product store home pages. That newsletter came at a time when I was working on my own online store, which I’ve since launched at http://www.hazelandgray.com.

    Thank you again for the URLs that you provided! They were an inspiration to me, especially the Hiut Denim Co. website, which is one of the most original store sites that I’ve seen.

    To add to your list, here’s a minimal store site—not much text, but very clean design:
    https://www.harrys.com/

    Best regards,
    Tara

    • Kimberly says:

      Hi Tara,

      You’re right, the Facebook post I was referring to was yours, and thank you so much for the question, it was a great prompt for a blog post! :)

      I agree about the Hiut Denim website — it’s a great example of a product site that uses copy strategically to make an emotional connection with the likely buyer, plus it’s just darn gorgeous to look at.

      Thanks for the Harry’s example, I checked out the site and I love the clean white space and the fun and engaging web copy. Good stuff!

      And thanks for stopping by to comment, I appreciate it. :)

      Best,
      Kimberly

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