A while ago we wrote an article for local businesses about tips for being found online and looked at things local companies can do to gain exposure online. Today we are going to look at a handful of websites for local businesses in Hastings, MN and review each web design to see what is happening for trends in the area. We wanted to find a variety of different businesses for the review and found 3 restaurants, a confectionaire, a couple manufacturers, a beauty school and the Chamber of Commerce. There were many websites in Hastings MN to choose from, but we started off with a few criteria by which a website would need to pass to be in this review.
- The website had to be found by searching in google for local Hastings, MN businesses and services.
- The web design had to be built (or appear to be) professionally, because we wanted to avoid web designs that I would review mostly negatively.
- The had to be located in Hastings, MN
- The website must not have been worked on by Mind Blossom Creations
We’ll start off with the Hastings Beauty School. At first glance, the website is soft to the eye, built on WordPress and clean cut, though I must admit I felt that the background image (kind of a woodsy background) was a bit busy and took some focus away from the logo. The navigation was straight forward, heavy emphasis on social media which by the way, the twitter and facebook pages were nicely designed.
One very intelligently designed areas of the site was the “Get Started Now” box that was prominently placed throughout areas of the site. This is a very effective technique for website that are looking to gain leads and open a door to obtain contact information from potential customers.
One are of the site where I found a user interface issue was on the photo gallery page. While I was delighted to see the photo gallery thumbnails nicely designed and a lightbox for the photo gallery, there wasn’t any clear way to close the photo. Not an “X” in the top right corner, or a “Close” link either; you had to actually click on the photo to close the lightbox window. I found it to be kind of an odd and unexpected quirk.
Next we will take a look at two important manufacturers located in Hastings, MN. Both of these companies have been a part of the Hastings, MN business community for many years.
Intek Plastics is a manufacturer that creates custom plastic extrusions. They have been doing business in Hastings, MN for many years and their web design is one of the more corporate feeling designs in the city.
For a company that serves many significant industries such as: construction, agriculture, recreation, appliance, telecommunications, transportation, windows and doors, commercial refrigeration, and LED lighting industries; it is important that there website feels established and corporate. I really feel that the color scheme for this particular company works very well. It is clean, it’s corporate, and all in all professional.
The layout however, I feel could use a little improving. Many of the pages have a simple paragraph and a photo to the right; what this does is creates kind of a bland horizontal space on many of the pages. With a goal-oriented design, a few small modifications to the layout could turn each page on the website into a compelling piece of content that would garner better results.
Smead Manufacturing Company has been in business for over 100 years and a valuable part of the community Hastings, MN. They produce all kinds products that aim to keep people and businesses organized. In 1906, Charles Smead created the Bandless File, a revolutionary product that changed the way people stayed organized. There website does a handful of things really well.
They highlight critical goal-driven components in prominent positions on the homepage, this demonstrates that the company is quite aware of the marketing potential of their website. They quite nicely tie their social media efforts into their marketing / brand push called Organomics.
One thing I’m not sure on is the the Smead bar tiled horizontally across the bottom of the site, but perhaps it has some brand recognition tie in that I’m not aware of. At some point they will most likely need to look at a mobile ready version of the site, given how active they are in social media and customer retention programs. Mobile really is going to play a huge role in the future of the web, especially when consumers are involved.
Next up is the Hastings MN Chamber of Commerce. This Chamber of commerce describes themselves as “an organization of businesses and individuals who work together to advance the commercial, financial, industrial and civic interest of the community”. We can not downplay the importance of the role a Chambers of Commerce plays in small communities when their primary interest is to serve the business community.
The Hastings MN Chamber of Commerce website is very appealing to eye when you first open their website. The blues are calming and reminiscent of a rivertown and the header image slideshow instantly tell you this is a chamber in a small community. There are a couple issues that possibly are greatly affecting the performance of the site. First off the main navigation and header of the website are developed using Adobe Flash, which renders them virtually invisible to the search engines. And every web developer knows how important the websites navigation is to a search engine determining your rank in search results. The buttons themselves (the actual graphic) could use a little updating, as they appear a few years old in style.