Website Critiques for the Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America Journal

A few days ago I received an interesting request to review a couple of jeweler Web sites from Gerry Davies, the managing editor of MJSA Journal, the official publication of the Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America. What do I know about jewelry? Not much. But I do know what makes a Web site work or not work from a usability perspective, and that was the gist of their query.
The two sites are shown in thumbnail below: home page thumbnail MaryaDabrowski home page thumbnail

Before you read what I wrote about the two sites, have a quick look for yourself and draw some of your own conclusions about whether they’re effectively designed, engaging, attractive and suitable to sell multi-thousand-dollar items of jewelry.

Ready? Here’s what I sent in to the publication:


The first thing that immediately jumps out is that these rings look dirty and lack that certain sparkle that would make me want to buy one for my own engagement. The colors are wrong on this first page, really: the text should be the light gray and the rings themselves should gleam, just jumping off the page and immediately catching my eye. That happens with the rollover (that is, when the cursor is placed over the image) but it needs to be interesting before I take any action. Instead, the rollover could add a light reflection from the diamond facets themselves, perhaps, or a warm glow around that particular ring.
From a search engine perspective, there’s another problem on this home page: the key word and phrase isn’t mentioned much at all. I’d like to see “ring”, or “wedding ring” or “custom wedding rings” or similar mentioned at least once, if not 3-4 times. That would help the search engines understand what the site is about. For example, “Timeless Classics” could be called “Timeless Classics: Wedding Rings For All Tastes” or similar.
On sub-pages, the muted images problem is even more pronounced: on Timeless Classics [link], I almost can’t even see any jewelry on my Mac screen, just single word links Pendants, Bracelets, Necklaces, etc. Further, there’s no “cookie trail” on the site, no indication on a subpage of where I am and what other areas I could explore. I suggest that tabs that lead people to the primary areas could work well here and is time-tested by major e-commerce sites as a design element.
You also have to be careful of jargon. One link is “Coutured” but I don’t know what that means. Perhaps a subhead that defines the word or offers up a layman’s description? I’d also like to see more happy customers on the subpages too: after all, it’s not about the jewelry, but about the happiness it brings the customer / the recipient.
P810 PendantThere are also some loading problems. When I go to the P810 pendant, for example [link, shown to right], I see a “Click to Enlarge” and a small picture of this pretty Tourmaline pendant. But I can’t click to enlarge. Indeed, it’d be nice to have “see it worn” links that pop up photographs of models with these pieces of jewelry on: again, making it about people, not the items themselves.
Two more nits before I wrap up: When I go to Your Couture and click on “Timeless Perfection Bands” [link] I see “Comming [sic] Soon”. If I’m considering a multi-thousand dollar jewelry purchase from your company, I don’t want to see spelling errors! Also, the Store Locator should be better called “Retail Locator” or similar, and it should never return no results without some sort of useful message. Search on “Colorado” and you’ll see what I mean. Why not say “We don’t yet have any retail partners in Colorado, but if you see something you like, why not give us a call?”


Love the home page. Fun, interesting, colorful jewelry, good use of depth-of-field with the photographs, clean, elegant white background. Very simple and attractive. Except one thing: I want to be able to click on the bracelet and learn more about it. Or at least have it take me into the Collections page. Now it’s just useless and you force the visitor to use your navigation elements. Why?
Etruscan?It’s a subtlety, but the Collections page [link] needs to have the labels under the different families of jewelry in smaller type and closer to the image it describes. As it is, it’s hard to know if “Etruscan” [shown on left], for example, describes the second or third image on the left column. Another way to do that would be to remove the boxes around the individual images and instead use some very subtle light gray horizontal rules to help define the relationship between the “Necklaces | Bracelets | Earrings | Rings” words and the images.
Briolette NecklaceWhen you dig down into the individual items the site takes a bit of a turn for the worse, sorry to say. The visual design is still delightful and easy, but all of a sudden I’m seeing internal product names. For example, the Briolette Necklace “brionkamyegg” [link, shown on right] is wonderful, but why is it shown with the product name “18k_Egg_Cl_Nk_A_Aq_Ap_P”? What the heck?
Instead, this is a perfect place to have a nice product name and a few sentences from the artist about what she’s done, what she’s trying to evoke, her inspiration, a customer testimonial, etc etc. There’s so much that could be done on the individual product pages that is omitted here, it’s really a shame given the gorgeous jewelry.
I also want to be able to click on a piece of jewelry and get to some sort of “next step”, whether it’s a pop up that shows the contact number of the artist or even an email contact request that has that particular piece already specified as the subject of the message. Something. Now it just leaves me hanging, wondering what I’m supposed to do next (note that “Contact” is often used to get to the administrator of a site, so most people aren’t going to think “that’s how I get ahold of the artist” here).
Finally, I really like the Artist Info page [link] – again, a lovely open design with terrific pieces and very good product photographs – but I want to see a picture of the artist too. Who is Marya Dabrowski? The text explains it, but I’d like to see a photograph or two, or even some “snapshots” of her earlier work. This not only helps engage the customer but also helps humanize the artist and differentiate them from the anonymous factories of the Pacific Rim and elsewhere.
That was my submission to the MJSA Journal. What would you have said about these two sites if you’d been asked to critique them?

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