Research, planning ease creation of site
June 16, 2014
When Haws Corp. launched its new Web site in April, the Sparks company had spent more than a year on the project.
But Rob Woods, who manages demand programs and digital marketing for Haws, says the task was simplified by two critical decisions early in the process:
The manufacturer of emergency response and hydration systems decided that the Web site would serve primarily as an extension of its sales effort, with a secondary focus on establishment of the company as a thought leader in its sector.
The company worked closely with Reno-based Noble Studios to conduct extensive research to determine how potential customers use Hawsco.com and to learn about the improvements they wanted.
"The research was the trump card. All that research became the cornerstone of this design," says Woods. "We had to make some pretty tough decisions, which were heavily influenced by the outside research."
Like many companies with longstanding Web sites, Haws Corp. began taking a fresh look at its old site when it became difficult to manage.
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While the graphic design of the old site was attractive enough, Woods noted that its back end had been developed in the late 1990s. As time passed, only two remaining members of the Haws staff knew how to update product information on the site.
And up-to-date product information is the key element of the Haws Web site.
The company sells more than 400 products — everything from wall-mounted drinking fountains to nozzles for emergency eyewash systems. Users of the old site told the company's researchers that they sometimes struggled to find the products they needed.
As Woods used Google Analytics to take a close look at the old site, he also learned that navigation of the site was too busy, and visitors to the site were using only a handful of the options presented to them on the home page.
Finally, the Haws staff and Noble Studios recognized the need to develop a site that that was useful for mobile as well as traditional applications.
While Haws sells almost entirely into business-to-business and government procurement markets, much of the new site has much of the feel of a consumer e-commerce site.
Top navigation on the home page now includes only four options.
Users who click on "Products" can filter their options. A customer looking for a drinking fountain, for instance, can filter dozens of potential choices by applications, finishes, installation type and more than a dozen features.
When visitors click on a product, the site also displays related products — a fairly difficult piece of work to pull off, Woods says. Users get detailed 360-degree views of products.
Visitors to the site also can create "My Project" lists to keep track of numerous purchases from the site.
And even though Haws sells through distributors and independent sales representatives, Woods' team developed a "Buy Now" process that takes users from the Haws Corp. site directly to the sites of distributors or helps them make a connection with a regional sales representative.
Throughout the site, the company keeps its Engineered Safety Solutions — essentially, custom-designed safety systems using Haws products — in front of customers.
The company's goal to position itself as thought leader in emergency response as well as hydration is reflected in a streamlined section of the site that provides white papers, video, case studies and details of codes and certifications.
"We have a lot of different audiences," says Woods.
But for all the changes in the back end of the Web site, including the decision to move to a cloud-based content management system to make future updates easier, the graphic design of the new site is little changed from the old version.
That, Wood says, reflects the company's disciplined approach to its brand standards.