Design Critique: Stone 2 Furniture

Jill and Dwayne Cranford have a unique product. They make one of a kind pieces of outdoor furniture out of slabs of stone. Dwayne says of his work:

“My rock chairs have been compared to something found on the set of the Flintstones, but great care is given to ensure they are both aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. The stone added to discarded steel results in functional furniture inspired by Mother Nature. They are not only weatherproof, but integrate easily into landscapes and city scapes without intruding on the surrounding beauty.”

His work is amazing. And if you think the stone furniture is something, you need to take a look at his metal sculptures too.

Recently, Dwayne’s wife Jill and asked us if we’d critique their Stone 2 Furniture site. What else could we say but “Yes!”

The first thing we notice when landing on the site doesn’t have anything to do with looks. Stone 2 Furniture is a little slow to load. It gets hung up even in Chrome. The fix for this is easy, the background tile (the stone texture behind everything) needs to go from the huge 1400 x 550 px to at least a quarter of that.

When you do reduce the size of the tile, make sure you create the new tile with seamless edges, or else you’ll get that hard line between them like you can see down by where the sidebar says “Wine Buddy”.

First Impressions

Stone is big. Stone is impressive. Stone makes a very strong statement. Unfortunately, this site doesn’t carry the same presence as the product.

The narrow width of the site and tabbed navigation buttons across the top give the site a dated look. That was fine in the mid-90s. Widths have increased to accommodate wider screens and navigation bars have become more streamlined. The bits of white poking out from between each rounded corner reduce the professionalism .

If Jill and Dwayne were to upgrade, we would suggest a single navigation bar and consolidating the pages into parent and child pages. For example, they would have a single button for “Products” and when it’s moused over, a drop down menu appears with everything listed in the current bottom row of navigation.

The links on the top navigation section need adjusting. Clicking on a few of them opens a new tab for that page. The tabs add up fast and make the browser cluttered and confusing.

The Header

Small, small, small. This header does nothing to show off the grand designs of Dwayne’s work. We’d like to see the banner much wider (at least an average width of 960 px instead of the 700 px it is now) and make it taller, increasing the height from the current 80px to 200 or 250px at the very least.

The stone Dwayne uses, when polished, has so much texture and beautiful color hidden in it. Creating a new banner using that texture and pulling colors from it for the rest of the site’s color pallet would work wonders. We can see that stone as a background with a couple of product images on top of it.

The Sidebar

Size matters here too. Their most important items, the optin and the link to Metal 2 Sculpture are so tiny and difficult to read.

By increasing the width of the site as a whole, there will be more room in the sidebars to work with.  Give the sidebar some kind of background of it’s own or a vertical rule line to separate it from the content. Everything is floating now, so it ends up looking a little haphazard on the page. It’s most apparent at the top where the Wine Buddy is so close to the large patio image, and further down where the grouping of photos of varying sizes are posted.

The Content

We love your pictures. Your product is so unique and the shots of all these marvelous patios makes us want the same thing. But the way the images are arranged and displayed doesn’t do the site justice.

You have a very visual, physical product. Everything about the site needs to show off those images in the best way possible. A theme that caters to the images first and the copy second would work great for this.

It doesn’t look like you’re on a WordPress platform and your site is using straight HTML. You may want to consider doing a re-design and switching over to WordPress, or consider doing something similar to what you did with your Metal 2 Sculpture site. That site does a beautiful job of showcasing the sculptures. There’s no reason why you couldn’t do the same thing for Stone 2 Furniture.

We also noticed your Metal 2 Sculpture is already on WordPress. Bravo!

Also take a look at Brian Gardner’s Genesis Framework. He has several child themes that are geared specifically for photo galleries and plug into the main Genesis theme.

Continuing with the content, your galleries would benefit from the shadowboxes in WordPress. If you click on the image of the site in this post, you’ll see the screen darkens and expands. This would work beautifully with the various sets and pieces available.

Your images are what drive the site, people want to see them large and as up close as possible. With the shadowboxes, you can do that. You can still have a tasteful arrangement of thumbnails on the page, plus the ability for a magnified view without having to create a whole new page to house it on.

A site with a product like this has the potential to be so rich in visuals. We would absolutely recommend re-designing and upgrading to a platform like WordPress. Maybe even consider including a blog. We’d love to hear more about Dwayne’s process and his artistic insight.

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Entrepreneurs Jill & Dwayne Cranford are devoted to creating sustainable, eco-friendly outdoor furniture. In addition Dwayne creates life-sized steel sculptures, business sculpture and fine art.

Pictured at left: The Cranford Family: Dwayne, Riely, Cailey & Jill

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Deb, What a great review of our website! You gave us much needed advice on how to improve our site. An outside opinion from a “fresh pair of eyes” is a huge help. Thank you we truly appreciate your work, you are very good at design.

  2. Deb Dorchak says

    Thank you both and you’re very welcome. I think between James Roche and us, you’ve got plenty of help right at your fingertips. :)

  3. Deb Dorchak says

    Thank you Laura. In the case of Stone 2 Furniture, it’s the background image that’s slowing down the loading process, not the images of the product.

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